from around here

On being a big brother

Truett was never the classic big brother type. He’s very chill, almost to the point of having too much chill.

He doesn’t fuss over the babies like Kirsten does, or babytalk them like Finn does with Hayley. When he was younger, he would mostly be doing his own thing. I’d ask if he wanted to hang out with his baby and he’d be like “No thanks!” because “babies are boring” and fair enough, that is an accurate assessment.

Look at this squishy face trying to figure out what to do with his boring baby sister.

When he started preschool and got really bad separation anxiety, he would look to Kirsten for support because she’s the badass who waved bye and skipped into school at 18 months like it wasn’t even a thing.

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But now that he’s bigger and the other kids are bigger, Tru has grown to become a pretty rad big brother. He watches out for them and is affectionate in his non-committal manner.

One time, he was supposed to present something together with Kirsten and she was self conscious, like “Korkor, you do it, I’m shy” and Tru was equally reluctant but eventually he was all “Ok fine fine I’ll do it, don’t worry” and he did a fine job.

He’s still not the giving orders to everyone sort but it’s clear that all the other kids think he’s some kind of awesome.

These days, when the two younger boys are up to no good and I have a word with them, they’re usually just like “Ok mom, message received” and they run off but when Truett is even a little disappointed with them, their little hearts get broken and they immediately start to tear.

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Tru recently shifted up to the top bunk by himself and this was a huge blow to Finn, whose favourite part about sleeping was snuggling with his big brother.

In fact, they would all sleep like this together on the bottom bunk if they could.

We’re really sleeping, mom!” they would say, as if I was born yesterday. We all know that this is a setup for a play all night without sleep situation.

So now Tru gets the top bunk and every night, Finn would climb up and squeeze in next to him, which is sweet, but very uncomfortable for them both. At first, Truett tried to accommodate the squeeze but he would sleep poorly and end up being really tired the next day.

I told Finn he couldn’t go up to Tru’s bed anymore and he was so sad, like “I miss korkor and I can always sleep better next to him” but he knew it was rough on Tru so he tried his best not to go up for some snuggle time.

Few nights ago, he relapsed and slept-climbed his way up on autopilot. Instead of just shooing his brother away, he brought him down and told him he would snuggle next to him until he fell asleep. And he did. He stayed next to him until Finn fell asleep, then covered him with a blanket and went back up. By then, he was wide awake and couldn’t fall back asleep for the next hour. The craziest thing was that when he told me the next morning, he wasn’t even annoyed like a person who just had his sleep disturbed would be.

This is exactly why the smaller kids adore him and would do anything he says. Especially Finn. As far as Finn is concerned, Truett is the finest specimen of a human being in the history of humankind.

Hayley

The babiest baby of all

Baby Hayley has been keeping me company while her siblings are off at school and I’m having the best time.

This baby at this age is perfection.

We go to the library, run around at rooftop water play areas, go swimming, shop for groceries, share sandwiches, do workout videos together, take long bus rides and even longer walks. And the whole time, she gives me a hilarious running commentary of the experience, like “Look at me, I’m doing exercise, mom, ooofff this is so hard I think I need an ice cream…” or “WAIT FOR ME MOMMYYYY DON’T LEAVE ME BEHIND I’M JUST LOOKING AT ORANGES!!

I’m telling you this is a baby who knows how to have a good time.

Maybe it’s a last baby situation where I know this is the last time I’m ever going to enjoy this or it could be a fifth baby thing where everything is less stressful or maybe it’s a bit of both but wow, these days have been the greatest.

Sometimes I do wish that I enjoyed the process with the bigger kids a bit more. I remember being so overwhelmed with Truett and Kirsten as babies and just wishing the days would go by faster. Every day was a desperate crawl towards bedtime where I could take a breather from being a mom for just a moment. We’d go to the park and I’d be flat out exhausted the moment we got there. People would be telling me to enjoy the moment and I would try but deep down inside, I’d be like “I’m drowning here and it’s hard to enjoy this feeling of not being able to breathe.

If I could do it all over again, I don’t know, I really would have tried to soak in the moments a little bit more. I miss Tru’s baby giggles and Kirsten’s legendary cheeks and Finn’s heart melting smile and Theo’s cuddles and now they’re off doing their big kid growing up things.

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Baby Hayley right now is ridiculously adorable and she knows exactly how to make this momma swoon.

Out of the blue, she will walk up to me and say “Mom!! I love you!” and smile sweetly like the thought just occured to her and she needed to share the sentiment with me immediately.

And her sad bambi eyes? My heart can’t take it.

Baby Hayley is the master of turning on the charm with a “Please mom, pretty please??? Just a tiny bit? Please??

She has skills like I’ve never seen. The other day, she managed to talk me into getting her a surprise egg during a supermarket run and for some context, this mom doesn’t do surprise eggs for any of the kids ever. We were at the checkout counter and she saw a kinder surprise egg and said “Please mommy, can I get one?” And of course I said no because what?? no, I’ll get you a fruit instead. Hayley was all “Please mom?? Just a tiny one??” and I’m like “There’s no such thing as a tiny egg. They’re all the same size and oh, how about these cherry tomatoes?” Finally she said “Can I just hold it for a while? I’ll put it back.” And she did. She said bye to her egg and stacked it back on the shelf cheerfully when we were about to leave.

Okay yes, that was the point I wavered. I glanced at the shelf and it so happened that the egg was priced at $1 instead of the usual $2.10 and I looked at her face and I said “Would you really like to get it? Just today ok? This is a one time thing that probably won’t happen again…” and her eyes lit up like it was Christmas morning. “You mean this is for me? I can bring this home and eat it??? Yeahhhh thanks mommy!!!

So that’s the story of how baby Hayley got herself a surprise egg and enjoyed it tremendously.

These days, bedtime with this baby is a 3-hour affair that would have driven me mad 8 years ago but not now because these are 3 hours where I still get to have a baby to cuddle every night. We play supermarket check out where she sells me things for 2 pounds each. She orders me to hold her like a baby on my chest. She tells me about her favourite snacks and I tell her stories of a baby char siew bao who loved snacks and adventures.

“Tell me a story!!” she would say over and over again and I’d be like “I need time to think of these stories, and this is the fifth one tonight. I’m all out of char siew bao stories.

Please, please mom? Just one more.

Okay, so this one time, the baby char siew bao met a siew mai…

❤️

travel

Back to the big apple

We were in New York + DC for 10 days to celebrate the husband’s birthday (no kids!) and it was such a treat to have him all to myself for all that time.

This trip was planned this way back in January when I spotted an error fare from Hong Kong to Washington on Air Canada for $170 USD. Where did I spot this magical fare? Ah, let me introduce you to one of my favourite FB pages for travel planning: secret flying. Most of the flight deals posted depart from North America and Europe but once in a while, a gem pops up and one has to act fast.

It was the sort of decision that took us 2 minutes to make. Actually it took us no time at all to decide and the 2 minutes were spent scrambling to secure the booking. It required positioning in Hong Kong (which we redeemed using miles during the Singapore Airlines Spontaneous Escapes promo last month) plus a connecting flight from IAD to JFK on Delta for $68 USD. On the way back, it was an easy drive to DC, where we spent 2 nights before flying home.

The next step was to convince our parents to watch all 5 kids for 10 days. Turns out, it took no convincing at all because we have the best parents in the world.

They were all “go have fun, don’t worry about the kids” and we were like “SAY NO MORE! WE’RE OUTTA HERE!!

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The plan was to do the things we normally wouldn’t be able to do with the kids, like watch all the shows on Broadway and go for concerts and comedy clubs and late night drinks. The only way we could do Broadway during the last trip was to take turns to watch it alone while the other person watched babies.

So this time, we went all the way with Broadway. We went for Mean Girls…

We had a long discussion about whether to schedule a musical on the night of arrival in New York, mistakenly being all gungho like “the adrenaline should keep us awake, we’ll beat the jet lag for sure” but no, the jet lag always wins. After over 20 hours in transit, we were basically dead on arrival. I managed to catch like 65% of the show in my dazed stupor but the parts I was awake for were hilarious.

There was also Frozen…

I know the reviews for Frozen are sort of meh but our experience with Disney musicals have been very positive. Lion King, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast were all very fun productions so Frozen was definitely on the list.

Well, I loved it! They nailed all my favourite songs from the animation and the couple of new songs were great. It’s also very kid friendly so I’m definitely penciling in a revisit with my 2 girls once Hayley gets bigger.

And Dear Evan Hansen…

A story about a kid with social anxiety who writes letters to himself may not seem like the most compelling narrative but as a musical, it was very well done.

We also made it for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child…

This was so. much. fun. The set was incredible, the cast was stellar and it was like watching a live magic show together with the play. We did both parts in a day, which was a long commitment of almost 6 hours but those 6 hours were very well spent indeed.

And the best one of all, Hamilton.

We’ve been waiting to watch Hamilton ever since watching the opening number on youtube. I’ve since rewatched the clip another 40-50 times and listened to the soundtrack on repeat so let’s just say that there was no way we would not be watching Hamilton this trip.

Before the show, we were like “maybe we should manage our expectations for this” because our expectations were about bursting at the seams but I’m very pleased to tell you that you should go in with all of the expectations for this show. You will not be disappointed.

TL;DR: If you only have time for one show, that’s the one you want to watch. Solid 10/10, no question.

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In between all the shows, we switched gears a bit and went for a bike tour around Brooklyn.

We expected it to be a relaxing ride with many breaks for food and stuff but it was hardcore. We covered 15 miles around Brooklyn riding uphill, weaving in and out of traffic, blitzing through Prospect Park, cruising across DUMBO, all the while listening to interesting nuggets of information about these places from our guide. In short, it was fantastic. It was exactly the sort of thing we wouldn’t be able to do with the kids around and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

And you know what’s another really fun activity? Eating. At Smorgasburg.

It’s an open-air food market sort of like artbox, except with a different selection of food. I wouldn’t ever say better food because there is nowhere in the world with food as good as we have back home but Smorgasburg had a few very decent options.

So if you know me, you’ll know that meat makes me happy. I love beef, lamb, pork, venison, chicken, duck, goose, and I eat them in all manner of ways: grilled, smoked, seared, fried, baked, broiled, stewed, all of it. I can satisfy most of my meat cravings back home except for one: smoked short ribs with a beautiful dry rub (if you know of any good places in Singapore, let me know!!). And I found it here at Smorgasburg at a little food stand called Carnal.

I can tell you that this piece of meat made me a very, very happy girl. I still dream of that lovely afternoon by the East River with my fall-off-the-bone-tender short ribs and that delicious dry rub.

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From New York, we rented a Mustang Convertible and took a slow drive to Washington, DC. We only needed the car for a day and it didn’t cost much more than a compact car ($76 USD including the one-way drop off fee) so of course we went for the Mustang.

First stop was some outlet shopping at Jersey Shore Premium Outlets, then lunch at Jersey Shore, where we stopped for the most amazing coffee milkshake in the history of milkshakes. See, this is exactly why I like road trips, because it is on road trips where I’ve discovered unexpected tasty delights that made my mouth and tummy very happy.

We drove past an ice cream shop spelled with an extra “pe” as in “shoppe” and yes, this is one of the things that influence my decision making in life. I told the husband to pull over for a milkshake and tbh, I would have been happy to enjoy a totally average milkshake from a quaint little ice cream shoppe but instead, I had the most delightful coffee milkshake that was rich and subtle and full-flavoured but not too sweet and basically perfect.

After lunch, we wanted to swing by Atlantic City for a stroll on the Boardwalk and then stop in Philly for a cheesesteak but we are Singaporeans after all, so we traded that for more outlet shopping at Arundel Mills in Maryland before getting in to DC. #priorities

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Okay during the planning, DC was a bit of a throwaway stop because of the flight situation. We got in late the first night so all we had was one full day in the city in case all the monument-looking got a bit boring.

Well, I’m a little sad to have scheduled so little time for DC because we really enjoyed that one DC day. We did a segway tour around the National Mall, covering the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the White House, the US Capitol, and the Smithsonian museums. I had just watched Daniel Day Lewis in Spielberg’s Lincoln and it was quite something reading the Gettysburg address at the Lincoln Memorial.

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On this trip, I learnt that 10 days without the kids does crazy things to the brain. By the time we boarded the flight home, I was so happy to see babies on the plane, which for some reason, there were a lot of. There was like a record number of babies on that flight and it felt strangely comforting. I know most people are like “so many babies on the flight? Urgh, kill me now” but I was like “yay babies everywhere!! this feels like home.

I will admit to spending a large portion of that flight ogling at chubby babies and thinking of ways I could attempt to munch on someone else’s baby’s cheeks without being creepy. If you must know, there are none. At the end of the flight, I had munched on zero babies but on the bright side, I was home and free to munch on all the baby cheeks I wanted.

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Also, happy birthday to my favourite person in the world!