Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum

In my bid to spend more time in nature and to slow down our hurried lives, I took Kate to the Turtle museum. Not only has she never seen giant turtles, she has also never stepped foot in the Chinese Garden. Perfect outing for a Friday afternoon!

I expected the place to be fairly quiet, but was still surprised that there was only 1 other family there, and they were tourists. Must be because the place is so ulu (secluded), and I guess turtles doesn't seem exciting to kids (nor parents) these days. It is called a museum, but is more like a garden.

They have a really impressive collection of rare species from around the world, but all that was lost on Kate. She just wanted to see them and feed them.
Free to roam turtles
We purchased our tickets along with a bunch of long beans ($2) and entered the garden. As Kate approached the pond, the turtles seemed to know she was bearing food and started climbing out of the pond towards her. Seeing an army of turtles advancing, she ran away terrified!

Relating the story to the older kids at dinner, they were amused, "What kid is afraid of turtles? Kate, as-slow-as-a-turtle, you know?"
Hungry turtles
We moved away to the tortoises kept in the enclosures and she felt much safer. She fed them by dangling the beans and dropping them when they opened their mouths.
First time feeding tortoises
There are many different species of turtles housed in the tanks, and several strange looking ones like this pig-nosed turtle that I pointed out, but she was hardly interested in the amazing facts I was reading out to her.
Pig nosed turtle
She much preferred the open garden, and went back to look for the bigger turtles and tortoises. I encouraged her to go nearer, but she kept a good distance, thinking they might crawl to her very quickly like the small ones in the pond.

I demonstrated how to stick the long beans out, and we watched the turtle chomp on it.

Kate tried to be brave, and edged closer and closer, but chickened out and threw the beans from a safe distance before backing off. I was amused watching her doing that repeatedly.
"Here, for you!"
It was rather hot at 4pm, but Kate thought we were on an adventure and gayly explored the place. She found a (really) little cave and called out to me excitedly to come explore with her. City kids.

She asked to buy another round of beans and spent the rest of the time simply watching the turtles, as they climbed on top of one another to get to the food.

We spent more than an hour there and I'm happy that she is still at the stage where it does not take much to keep her entertained. I'm sure the older kids would have walked one round, fed 1 or 2 turtles, and ask to leave after 10 minutes complaining that it is "too boring".
Live Turtle Museum
In fact, Kate loved the experience so much that we went back to feed her "turtle friends" 2 more times!
Getting braver..
She managed to face her fears, and hung on to the beans instead of dropping them quickly. On our third visit, I was surprised when she wanted to challenge herself and finally dared to touch the ambling tortoise.

She was exclaiming jubilently, "I touched the shell! I touched the shell!"
and braver!
We bought a cold ribena from the auntie manning the entrance (she sells drinks and ice-cream) and sat here enjoying the silence and serenity.
Just what my soul needed, to wind down from a hectic week.
Great spot for 'me time'
The Chinese Garden is now top on my list of favourite outdoor spaces to unwind with the kids. They even have lovely picnic spots!
Garden picnic
The Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum is located within the Chinese Garden, near the entrace. Just walk up this slope and it's housed in the pavillion in the background.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Are we slowly killing ourselves?

We are just into the second week of January and I need a break. A vacation. The kind where you don't bring the kids so you can chill at a secluded beach, let the sound of the waves wash over you, and let your mind wander.

It's been a pretty full-on week. On top of working full-time, I squeezed in a JC Open House, charity event, orthodontic visit, church group discussion and met up with friends over dinner. And then there's the weekend with a meet-the-principal session, University open house, two birthday parties and a dinner. All while juggling the kids.

We are trying to fit too much into our lives, aren't we?

I was telling some mums who were concerned about their kids being over-scheduled that they are like sponges. There is only so much they can absorb and everything else will spill over.

It is no different with us. We are rushing from one place to another. Have we stopped to think about our lives? The quality of it? Our connection with others? Our connection with our kids? Are we always barking at them to hurry up? Ferrying them from one activity to another without spending time with them? Do we know what is on their minds and in their hearts?

It's funny how every time someone asks us, "How are you?" Somewhere in our answer will be "Busy lor, with work, kids, and whatever million other things we have on our plate."

Since when has being busy become a badge of honour?

Have we given much thought about how we really are feeling? C'mon, there's so much to do, who has time to stop to think if this is what we really want our lives to be, or if we are deep-down-contented happy.

There are bills to be paid, a household to run. And say, if we did reflect on how our lives are going, do we have the luxury to stop, if we find this is not how we want to live our lives?

#2 has been doing the JC Open house rounds with her schoolmates these past few days. They have 4 days to make a decision and fill in their 12 choices. She invited me to join her to check out her top choice (yes, now mummy can't just barge in to the teenagers' activities).

It was a vibrant scene. The aspirants were eager-faced and excited to join the big new JC world and the seniors and teachers were enthusiastic in answering their questions and encouraging them to join the school.

As I looked around the bustling hall filled with students, parents and teachers, as much as a part of me felt joyous that #2 will be embarking on a pivotal and memorable 2 years of her life where they will study hard, play hard and form solid friendships, I had a nagging feeling.

What have we, as a society, driven ourselves to?

Hearing about how hectic their week is going to be made me wonder if there can be another way.

Seems that for the subject combination she intends to choose, classes will end at 5pm most days, and CCAs are at 5-7pm on 2 days. #1's school was along this bus route, and even though it is 4 bus stops away, during peak hour the buses don't stop if they are full. Thus we expect #2 to be home between 7-8.30pm. Given that they leave the house at 7.30am, that is longer than a working day for adults! Factor in dinner, shower and homework, and it is beyond what a healthy day should look like.

I've heard from many that the weekends are not spared, and they spend it catching up on sleep, revising their work or meeting classmates for group work. My uncles who have been teaching in JCs for the past 30 years concur that times have changed and things have become much tougher than when we were in JC.

It is the same story for #1 who is in poly. She leaves the house at 8am and on days when she has CCA, she is back at 10pm.

This, my dear friends, is our school and work culture. We start over-scheduling our kids when they are in pre-school, the schools take over that job soon enough, and we enter the workforce where it is the norm. Somewhere down the line, we pause and wonder, how did we get here? This is not what I envisioned my life to be.

It is like the speedometer where you rev the car, the pointer is going up up up, and we keep revving, until it reaches the red point. It is no surprise that we have kids attempting suicide. There is only so much a person can take.

Something is seriously wrong. We are advancing so rapidly, but getting nowhere.

What can we do?

How can we slow down?

What can we cut out?

Running at full speed for months on end with only 2 long breaks in a year is hardly sufficient. How can we put more weekly breaks into our schedules so we don't become over-stretched. Both as parents, and for our children.

As parents, we don't even get the break we need (and truly deserve) during the weekends. There are still children to tend to and activities to get done.

I don't have the answers. It is even harder for us with big families as things are multiplied and magnified. The good, the bad, the busy.

All I know is I need to not stop searching for a better way. I hope never to fall into the trap of going with the flow and end up feeling tired, overwhelmed and dejected. Because if we, who are supposed to be the pillars for our children, are ourselves overburdened, how can we support them?

Everyone is running on their own treadmill. In a big family, yes, there are more siblings to share their worries and keep an eye on one another, but there are also more children, more unique personalities and a higher probability of one falling through the cracks. And I only have so many hours in a day, and too many kids who need my attention (although I hear the same cry from parents with only 2 kids!) I do worry.

I guess I'll start with baby steps. Spending time in silence always helps me to recalibrate. I need to be intentional about scheduling that at the end of every week to remove the build up of stress that has accumulated over the week of madness. And I have to engineer the weekends to be rejuvenating, instead of cramming too much in. Some things have to be relinquished.

The big question is, which ones?

You know what comes to mind? The story of the frogs. The one where if you throw a bunch of frogs into a pot of boiling water, they will jump out. But if you put them in water and slowly boil them, they wouldn't know any better as the temperature slowly creeps up on them.

Are we slowly killing ourselves?



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


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

Friday, 6 January 2017

Tackling the new school year

We made it! The first week of school has come to an end. What a week it has been. With the exception of #1 who is in the middle of her poly semester, there were lots of changes for the other kids.

We toned our activities down on Sunday and the younger ones were in bed by 8pm. I was all psyched and set my alarm for 5am.

I felt like a chef in a restaurant after watching Ratatouille too many times with the kids, and I'm proud to say I surpassed my own expectations! Managed to whip up a tasty and wholesome meal in 20 minutes and the kids wiped their plates clean and left for school in a jolly mood.
First day of school breakfast
We did not have a harrowing start with bag mix ups and mad bus chase like last year, but things did go downhill from that perfect morning.

With several kids and new routines, that is hardly surprising.

#4 started Sec 1 in a school in our neighbourhood, and she decided to walk home. We have driven past that direction on numerous occasions and she was confident of finding her way home and was unfazed by the 40-minute trek.

However, she got lost!

She was dismissed at 4pm and I had a call half an hour later. I told her to sit and wait at a bus stop and we would come get her after Kate's enrichment class ended.

She waited for more than an hour at the bus stop and needless to say, she was famished and tired. What an end to Day 1 where she was already feeling lost as there was not one student from her previous school and everything was new and strange.

At dinner, the older girls shared their first day of secondary school stories, which included both laughter and tears.

As for little Miss Kate, we had it all planned. We opted for extended day and she would stay in school till 3pm for afternoon activities. That would give me more time to work and I wouldn't need to rush around so much. She herself asked for it as she said she was a 'big girl' and wanted to stay back with her friends.

After the first day, although she did brilliant, she refused to stay back anymore and wanted to revert to the same 12.30pm dismissal as 2016. Perhaps the reality was not what she imagined! Did she envision just hanging around and playing? Possibly.

Sigh, it would have been a perfect arrangement. That one day of having her at school for the whole day spelt freedom! Having time from 9am to 3pm all to myself to work in peace was something I haven't experienced in many, many years.

Alas, she is not ready, and I shall not push her. After all, in the big scheme of things, she barely turned 4, and I will wait patiently and give her space and time to grow more independent. We've managed to squeeze in time for our short daily strolls to unwind and chat, and that is something she looks forward to.
"Pretty flower for you, mummy?"
#2 is awaiting her O level results and it was funny seeing her at home on a school day. Next week! Such exciting times! To see where the next step of her education will take her. She's been such a dear and came down to my centre to help with the cleaning and packing as we prepped for the new year.

#3 has moved up to Sec 3, and has a new set of classmates as they were streamed into the different subject combinations. It's going to be 2 of her most important and memorable years as she and her peers head full swing into preparing for their SYF performance, focusing on their chosen subjects, enjoying their school trips together, and form unbreakable bonds for life.

As for my one and only dear son, it's unbelieveable that he is already in P5. Seeing what #4 went through, I imagine the pace in school to pick up tremendously this year and I have to monitor his progress as well as make sure he is able to cope with the added demands of school.

Now that they are all nicely settled in school, I have time to devote to my work and do what I enjoy.

Speaking to the parents coming through my enrichment centre, I can see the tide turning and in the wake of the recent suicide cases, parents are worried about stressing their kids too much and are searching for a better way.

We are running parenting workshops over a relaxing high-tea session to share tips and ideas on how to help our kids tackle the academic year successfully with less stress. It will be an interactive talk with lots of opportunites to answer your questions.


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 - Get into the PSLE fray? Not me



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

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