Being a big brother

If you ask Truett, he’ll tell you that it’s not easy being the oldest kid around here and this is why.

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Just a year ago, he’d be watching baby Theo for 30 seconds and then start yelling “HELP, HELPPPPP!!! I’M HAVING A REALLY HARD TIME OVER HERE, MOM!!”

These days, he’s reading a book with baby Hayley on his lap like it’s nothing to him. He’ll prop her up with his left arm, which he also uses to skilfully flip the page when he’s done. Every now and then, he’ll kiss her on the head distractedly without taking his eyes off the book.

It’s not just reading either. He can also do this while clocking his Wii time or using the iPad.

Mad skills, this boy.

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He may not fuss over baby Hayley like Kirsten does but he’s got his own thing going with his baby sister, which is the sweetest thing to watch.

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And what was I doing while all this was going down? I’d like to say that I was off looking into something super important or fixing dinner or some other busy mom stuff but no, I was actually lying on the couch taking a break as Kirsten fed me grapes.

This almost makes me want to have another baby, but that’s what ligation is for, y’all. To make sure you don’t do anything stupid when your babies are being all sweet and adorable.


Hey Monday

It’s another Monday morning and I’ve just spent the last 5 minutes holding my large cup of coffee and staring into space. The big kids are off to school and the baby is still in bed. Theo is having a sandwich next to me and he’s happy because there’s food. This is my me time, a little pocket of minutes that belong only to me and I hold on to it as tightly as my mug of frothy latte.

I think of all my mornings, waking up and doing the same things, just plodding along chasing the next weekend. Then the weekend comes and I wonder why I was looking forward to it all week because it’s possibly even more tiring than the weekdays.

I think of how exhausting every single day of the past 8 years have been and I come to the conclusion that I really do enjoy being a mom.

Of all the things I’ve ever had to do in my life, this is the one thing that’s made me the happiest by far. How else would I have gotten to this place of 5 kids and no downtime?

Motherhood can drain your soul, but at the same time, it fills you up so that you find more to give the next day, and the next, and the next. It’s like carrying around a magical bag of love that fills up as you pour it out; that’s the only way moms can wake up every morning and keep doing what they do.

Do I look at the kids and wonder if we overestimated ourselves and bit off more than we can chew? All the time.

There are so many days when it feels like I took a huge mouthful and then realised that I can barely even bring my jaws together and bits of food is just falling out unglamorously and maybe I should just let it all fall out because my mouth is starting to hurt and I’m feeling chokey but I know I can’t just give up, so I try to shove everything back in with my hands and power through it slowly the best I know how. Just doing enough to keep it together till the end of each day so my magical love bag can fill up again.

So much of my day is exhausting and maddening and difficult, but also deeply satisfying.

Like for example, mealtime. Why is it so hard for kids to put healthy, (sort of) delicious food into their mouths? They know nothing about the journey of their lovingly-prepared dinners – mommy selecting the freshest produce from the market, paying for it, cleaning it, cooking it, arranging it beautifully on their plates. They just poke at it, make rude faces, walk around, decide to go poop midway because the food looks gross, spill it all over the floor. But then some days, they polish off everything in 5 minutes I’m filled with so much joy. I never thought I’d be so happy just watching another human being swallow food, but I am.

And then there’s bedtime. Putting a child to bed is the ultimate test of one’s patience and sanity. It’s when you discover answers to important questions like how many times can you say “lie down and close your eyes” before losing your mind. Kids have a special radar to know when you’re distracted or in a rush to do something else and they’ll deliberately slow things down until they know that you’re all in, it’s infuriating. I’ve learnt that the only way to do this with my sanity intact is to let it go and be fully present as I lie next to them with their heads snuggled up against my chest. I get to breathe in the faint scent of kids shampoo and feel their tubby hands in mine until all I hear are the long, deep breaths of a sleeping baby. I’ve had the chance to do this enough times and I’ll tell you right now, there’s no better therapy than having a baby drift off to sleep in your arms as you gently munch on chubby baby rolls.

How about homework time, the most miserable time of all? Should I even be a hardass about academics? There’s a lot of groaning and hair grabbing and sad faces (mostly by me) when I’m making them learn things. But when I see their eyes beaming with pride knowing that they killed it in a test, that’s all the payoff I need.

And also all the other in between time. Having to deal with a raging, tantrumy toddler and five minutes later, they’re holding my face and kissing me on the nose just because. One moment I’m physically breaking up fights and the next, they’re holding hands and feeding each other gummies. Urgh.

At the end of every day, I think about whether I’ve achieved anything at all, which is a sobering thought. I’ve driven kids around, fixed some snacks, read a few books, went through homework, cleaned snot from drippy noses, nothing noteworthy or important. There will be no medals or congratulatory high fives for the day.

Most days, I’m just getting into the trenches and just grinding out the routine but come bedtime, I look at my babies who are safe and healthy and thriving and I think, “I did it. These babies are still alive and happy because of me and that counts for something.

These guys are all the trophies I need.

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from around here

School holidays with 5 kids? NBD, got it covered.

We’re almost at the end of the school holidays, which is to say that we made it through this insane week. I will just take a moment to congratulate myself for a bit before I continue.

Here’s pretty much how my week went.

Early Monday morning, I woke up to cuddles from all my babies and thought to myself, “school holidays with 5 kids? I got this! I’ll just spend the whole week with these angels soaking up the love, how hard can it be?

The snuggles lasted for about 3 seconds and clock wipe 10 minutes later, I’m standing in the living room with messy hair and an exhausted, crazed look in my eye because I haven’t even had time for coffee and somebody’s already spilt chocolate milk everywhere, someone else is yelling for more “BIG, BIG BREAD”, and everyone is talking at me demanding to know what special activities we are having today.

What special activities?? How about the special activity is you guys get to do assessment books quietly for the next 3 hours?

This week has been challenging – it’s already Friday and I feel like I haven’t had time to stop and catch my breath. But it’s also been kind of fun.

We went to the Punggol Safra water playground, tried out a new meatball recipe (it’s like playdoh except edible!), hung out at the library, did a few grocery runs (because you forget things when you’re trying to stop your 5 children from destroying the supermarket), tried some experiments from Truett’s new library books (YEAH SCIENCE!), went pokemon hunting at the park, stopped by for cake (I’m sorry the lady next to us had to experience my family during her quiet afternoon tea break).

We could probably have done more. Educational museum trips for the big kids, some fancy Montessori type activities for my 2 and 4-year olds to pour stuff into other stuff, maybe some elaborate craft sessions to develop their artistic flair instead of “here’s a piece of paper and some colour pencils”, quickly followed by “here, just take the iPad and watch veggie tales.”

During bedtime yesterday, the kids were feeling a little bummed that their school holidays were almost over.

I’m sorry we didn’t get to do all the things we planned to do, mommy will try to make the next school holidays more fun ok,” I told them.

If there’s one thing I want for the kids, it’s that they can look back on their childhood and remember that it was a fun one filled with good memories but a lot of the time, I’m not sure if I’m succeeding at it. There’s a lot of scrambling involved in our day to day. A lot of just doing what needs to be done from moment to moment, which leaves very little time for creating special memories.

Thanks for spending time with us mom, it was actually very fun,” Truett said.

Ya, we don’t need to do special things all the time. Even normal things can be fun,” Kirsten added.

What did I do to deserve these kids? And they’re probably right, even normal things can be special if we get to do it together. I think as long as they look back and remember their days to be filled with love and laughter, those are good enough memories.

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My favourite part of the day, you guys.