Browsing Category

from around here

from around here

36 is where it’s at

36 years and this is the best birthday I’ve ever had.

So there’s the part where I’m 36 and I feel like I’m supposed to be bummed about being on the wrong side of 30, but if anything, this feels like the right side of 30.

//

The night before, the kids were delivering me very specific instructions on what I was supposed to do on my birthday. “You’re not allowed to get up early, you need to sleep in and we’ll make you breakfast in bed ok?

I already liked what I was hearing because sleeping in is one of my very special skills. “That sounds exactly like my kind of morning, tell me more!!” I said.

You can place your breakfast order tonight and the rest of it will be a surprise!” they told me excitedly.

I did as they instructed and slept in till it felt like almost too much. Haha, kidding, there’s no such thing as too much sleep but there was a lot of loud whispering and shushing and commotion outside so I decided to get up and skip right to part 2 of my surprise. Which was a welcome party with full on red carpet treatment for someone still in her pyjamas. They popped confetti and yelled “HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOMMM!!” before presenting me with breakfast and handmade cards and flowers and group hugged me with all the enthusiasm in the world.

The rest of the day was just as perfect – had lunch with my folks, got more hugs from my babies (so many hugs!!), ate cake, and then we capped off the night with Bruno Mars and like 7,000 other people.

The kids asked me what I wished for on my birthday and I thought really hard but I couldn’t think of a single thing because I look around me and it’s all here. Everything that I’ve ever wanted in my life is here.

I know, I’ve really lucked out big time.

//

I’ve really enjoyed being in my 30s. I don’t know why people talk about 30s like it’s somehow inferior to being a 20-something.

I’ll tell you right now, 20s are overrated. A lot of my 20s was spent figuring out who I was and trying so hard to get comfortable in my own skin.

You’re the only one who can be you, so don’t try to be anyone else,” they said, and I tried to embrace it because it all sounds very empowering in theory but for many years, I could never shake off the feeling that maybe being just me wasn’t the best thing to be. I mean, how could it when this other person seemed to be having a much better life? Or look at that person who’s smarter and wittier and more beautiful and generally more awesome. I couldn’t see how the best version of me would be better than a knock off version of someone else. I felt unsure about a lot of things a lot of the time.

It took a long time and a lot of work but sometime in my 30s, I finally got to a place where I’m happy being just me, and I can’t tell you how liberating that feels.

There’s also the part about just being better at stuff in your 30s. After making all the mistakes I’ve made and spending all those years learning the things that life makes you learn, I now get to spend less time being afraid that I’m not doing it right or not being good enough.

I’m really liking how 36 looks; I think I’m going to just soak it in for a bit.

from around here

A collection of things

I know I haven’t been entirely consistent with this blogging thing because life these days has me up to my eyeballs but I’ve grown to be very fond of this space here so I think I’ll try to stick around for a little bit.

To make up for my very poor effort in terms of consistency, I shall bring you an assortment of delightful things on this fine day.

One.

I gravitate towards humour and I’m very pleased that the big kids share my appreciation for different kinds of humour. *Perhaps here is where I should mention that I try my best to teach them important life lessons and make every moment a teachable moment so that they become excellent specimens of the human species but full disclosure, I usually only manage to keep that up for like a minute or so; it’s exhausting. I much prefer spending my time telling them about the things that made me laugh that day and they seem to enjoy it.

Last week, they came home looking very excited and proceeded to tell me a couple of yo momma jokes that really made my day.

Kirsten: Yo momma so fat, when she gets on the elevator, it ONLY GOES DOWN!!

Tru; Mom, how about this one? Yo momma so fat, I took a photo of her at Christmas and it’s still printing.

I told them right there that I’ve got the best kids in the world.

Two.

All that rain lately has put the kids in a mood for fort-building. They’ve always enjoyed building forts but there’s nothing like a massive thunderstorm and four other siblings to really get you feeling like you need to drag out all your blankets and hide underneath them together.

I discovered that I’m also a huge fan of this activity because at one point, I couldn’t find them anywhere in the house and all 5 of them were snuggled up in their fort whispering secret stories.

I was all “Okay that looks amazing, carry on! No, GET BACK INTO YOUR FORT, you guys should stay there for at least 3 more stories, maybe 20.

It turned out to be a very lovely afternoon for everyone involved.

Three.

What did I ever do to deserve these girls??

Sometimes I ask myself the same question about the boys too, like when they’re climbing all over the seats + random elderly ladies on the bus (there are always elderly ladies on buses at 10 in the morning and I have apologised to many of them), although clearly these are very different questions.

Sigh, I adore my 3 boys but I’ll never understand why they do the things they do. I suspect they don’t understand it either.

Girls though. Girls, I get. We enjoy our little bonding sessions and quality time and snuggly moments and I’ll forever be grateful to have these two girls in my life.

from around here

Eleven – my kind of heaven

Last Sunday, we celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary, yayyy party hat emoji! confetti emoji!! cake with strawberries + candles emoji!!

11 years is where you spend the day doing practical things like buying school shoes for your kid who’s starting Nursery 2 the next day, followed by trying to run errands but actually end up running after your 5 kids in a mall yelling at them to please not destroy stuff, and then having your big kids walk past a cake shop only to stop and be super excited like “Hey, you guys should get a cake since it’s your anniversary!!” but you’re like “Ummm, nah, we’re good“.

11 years is where you steal a moment in the crazy day to say “Happy anniversary, babe!! I still really like you.”

11 years is where you get to the evening and everyone is in bed and it’s finally all quiet and you just sit and enjoy a warm drink and some silence together.

11 years is where you feel like you should write a moving blog post about this momentous occasion because you’ve done it every year before this but then the husband is all sweet like “never mind lah, I won’t be offended if you don’t” but deep down inside, you want to do it because he’s kind of special.

11 years is waking up every morning being thankful that you’re opening your eyes to see your favourite person in the world.

from around here

The one with the unwelcome visitor

So this happened last week.

It was 5.45 in the morning and I was in the kitchen getting Truett’s breakfast ready. Out of the corner of my eye, I detect a flash of motion (something small and black and fast) near the fridge so I froze for a split second but it was too early and my brain wasn’t awake enough to adequately process what it was.

It’s nothing, probably just some gunk in my eye,” insisted my brain, so I went back to making Truett’s milo, taking my time to spoon the milo powder and calmly walking over to get milk from the fridge, completely oblivious to the amount of danger I was presently in. Moments later, I saw it again, a black mass darting across the kitchen floor right next to my toes. My ability to process information at 5.45am is very limited so it took me a while before I realized that this was a rat. AN ACTUAL RAT. In my kitchen.

Okay I’ve seen Ratatouille. I know that rats can turn out to be be excellent cooks that hide in your hat and take over your motor functions by yanking on your hair and we can all be friends. I was almost sold on the idea when there were happy accordion French tunes in the background and the adorable rats got the premium Pixar animators treatment.

But the monstrosity I was looking at was the Peter Pettigrew/Scabbers version rat. It was neither cute nor did it look like it could cook. It was full on beady eyes, twitchy whiskers and the whole suspicious disposition going on with this rat. Generally, it’s not a compliment when someone says you look like a rat and I think it’s because they were referring to this guy.

Normally, my self-preservation autopilot kicks in immediately but I have not amassed enough real life experience in my 35 years to deal with such a situation so I stood frozen in my spot while the rat (sensing my presence) scurried around the kitchen searching for an escape route. It decided to head for the living room, which is the point I finally processed the danger and activated my fight or flight response. I followed after the rat, running into the living room yelling “RAT RAT RAT!!!” because I felt like those were the 3 best words to get my message across. It was very succinct. Also, I wasn’t actually planning to get closer to rat, I just knew that I needed to be in a spot with a bigger floor area so that I had more surface area to work with if I needed to escape.

thankfully this all went down when baby Hayley wasn’t casually lying down here

My helper, Muan, came running in as well and by this time, the rat was darting everywhere serpentine style like it was drunk. The 3 of us were engaged in this high stakes game of Pepsi Cola 1-2-3 where we were trying to not let it touch our feet while staying close enough to maintain eyes on it because the only thing worse than having a rat in your house is not knowing exactly where it is.

Muan grabbed a shoe and valiantly threw it at the rat. She had an excellent arm and the first attempt made contact. The rat started squeaking like a manic squeaky toy while still running everywhere.

I was like “this isn’t going to work, we need to open all the doors and chase it out” but this rat seemed determined to not leave the house so we went with plan B, which was to trap it with an upside down bucket. Turns out that one needs to get very close to the rat in order to successfully trap it with a bucket and neither of us was willing to take that kind of risk.

Finally, it ran into the bathroom and we slammed the door shut, trapping it inside. It wasn’t in ideal solution but at least it was stuck in a confined space and the danger was temporarily contained.

Pest control came to get rid of it that afternoon and when they tried to search the entire bathroom for it, the rat was nowhere to be found. It disappeared like an apparition. The pest control guys were like “There’s no rat here. Maybe it scratched open the gully trap and went down the drain.

Yeah, and then politely closed the gully trap after himself? I don’t think so.

I was certain the rat was hiding in there somewhere just biding it’s time until the coast was clear. It’s a classic heist move, making everyone think you pulled a houdini when you’re actually still there; I watched it in The Inside Man. But after spending 20 minutes combing through the bathroom, they couldn’t find it so they left us with a couple of rat traps, wished us good luck and left.

//

I was certain the rat was still around but it was smart enough to lie low for the next 2 days. On Friday night, it surfaced again.

This time, the husband was determined not to let it get away. This valiant man chased it around the house and after a long, epic battle, managed to get it stuck on the rat trap. “Babe, I got it!” he yelled in triumph. I ran over to take a look and the moment I saw it (so gross!!), I knew that this wasn’t the rat we saw 2 days ago. This was much smaller, like two-thirds the size.

Still a win but you know what this means – there’s more than one rat and the original rat is probably coming back for revenge. We’re going to have to figure out a way to get it first.

from around here

Oh hey 2018

We’re ten days into 2018 and I had hoped to write this sooner but the first week of the year is always a little nuts. This year more than usual because it’s a new routine for everyone.

Kirsten and Finn are adjusting to new schools, Tru is adjusting to leaving the house at 6.05am to travel back to Gongshang Primary via school bus while waiting for a spot to open up at the new school, and Theo? This kid is having the best time not being in school because his waitlist hasn’t cleared either. He’s so pleased to be hanging out with his favourite girls at home all day.

//

It’s too early to tell what sort of year this one is going to be but what I can tell you is that this is the first time in 10 years where I’m not pregnant or breastfeeding or having my hands full with a newborn.

Actually, I’m excited. I’ve spent a whole decade in this pressure cooker of being needed by so many babies to do so many things all at once and this is the year I get to start easing the valve a little at a time.

My list of Mommy Duties I’m Done Doing is slowly getting longer. Things like:

Carry a whole human in my uterus

Make milk using my body

Sing the goodnight song 300 times in a row

Burping a baby

Childbirth

Two-hourly night feeds

Midnight poop changes

Hold a baby for 8 hours straight

Three-hourly night feeds

Night feeds in general

Sleep training

These days, with the big kids, it’s like “You’d like a sandwich? Of course! Just go make one yourself. In fact, make one for the babies while you’re at it, thanks!” Do you know how much extra non-sandwich making time I’ve got now? A lot. Enough time to make myself a sandwich and enjoy the whole thing like a normal person without inducing indigestion. Okay, I do have to supervise from a distance and preemptively nag at them to clean up any resulting mess and still eventually have to clean up the glob of egg mayo on the countertop myself but it’s progress and it’s really nice.

//

I think I’m ready for 2018.

I’m ready to be done with the baby making chapter and finally turn the page to something new. When the babies were tiny, the mom part of me overshadowed everything else and all the other parts got squashed into a corner and forgotten. Being a mom will always be the part I love the most but this year, I hope to have some of the other parts filled in so I can be a more complete me.

And if this is a year where this home is filled with delighted baby faces and a whole lot of love, that’s all I really need to be happy.

from around here

Home!

It’s good to be home! I’ve missed this face so much.

Leaving this baby for 3 weeks was hard and I cried so bad after dropping her off at my mom’s house. I had expected there to be tears, just not this much. Even after doing this a few times, having to leave a baby behind is one of those things that never gets easier. When we got to New York, I thought I’d feel better if I could spend some time on video chat with my baby but it was possibly worse. Poor baby was so sad and confused at having to look at all of us on the phone, she started tearing up and calling mama and then I wanted to cry too.

Now that we’re back and I get to hold my baby again, my heart is complete. All the kids have been smothering her with kisses since we got back to make up for all the time we had to spend without her.

And how was traveling with 4 kids? For the last 23 days, we spent every waking and sleeping moment together in close (sometimes too close) proximity. So in other words, it was amazing.

The kids woke up feeling like best friends every morning. We would hear Truett and Kirsten talking in hushed tones, planning their adventure for the day and then the boys would climb in with them and soon, all four of them would be snuggled up all squashed in that one double bed, giggling and whispering secrets.

We would shush them from time to time but really, I just enjoyed listening to those conversations.

Truett and Kirsten have really grown up and they were an incredible babysitting tag team during the trip. Tru would shower the two boys and help them put on their many layers of clothing. When they got out of control, he would nag at them to behave like civilized human beings, it was hilarious. While running after them at Disney one day, he told me “Watching these two boys is exhausting, I don’t know how you do it all the time. I do this for a few days and I cannot already.

Meanwhile, Kirsten would help them with their laces and moderate their squabbles. “Theo, you get to hold the bubble blower for 3 more minutes and then it’s kor kor Finn’s turn…urgh okay lah stop fighting, here, just take my toy and you both can have one each.” It was like watching a re-enactment of my life, I really enjoyed it.

//More details of the trip soon, right after I sort through all the photos and get us all settled back into some sort of routine around here. :)

from around here

Welcome to exam boot camp

Exam week is upon us, which only means one thing: much sorrow and weeping.

At the start of the year, I made Truett and Kirsten a deal – for the entire duration of the school term, they would only need to fulfil their basic academic requirements. As long as they paid attention in class, finished their homework, and learnt their spelling + 听写, any remaining free time were theirs to do as they wished. They could go to the playground, go for a swim, read a book, listen to music, create art.

2 weeks before their exams, we would embark on an exam boot camp where all of their free time would belong to me. On top of all their assignments/homework, they would have to complete assessment books and practice exam papers. It would be two weeks of getting whipped into shape before their final exams.

They were like “Ok! We get to relax for the whole year and only work hard for 2 weeks, sounds like a pretty good deal.” And all was well for the year (sort of).

Then two weeks before their exams came around and on day 1 of Mom’s Brutal Exam Boot Camp, I presented them with lovely presents made up of practice exam papers + a stack of assessment books from Popular. I don’t think I ever saw anyone so sad to receive such thoughtful gifts.

Here’s what I learnt from these past two weeks of suffering.

1. I’m so thankful I don’t homeschool. 

There is no universe in which I would be able to impart academic knowledge to my offspring without turning permanently into Deranged Mom. I die a little inside every time I have to explain fractions to the kids.

But 4/7 cannot minus 2/9, mom…

Yes it can. Remember what we just learnt about common denominators? What do we do if they’re not the same?

Ummmm just minus from the top?

What?? No. What minus from the top??? You can’t just make up your own rules in Math. Urgh, just breathe. To subtract fractions, the denominator has to be the same. How do we find a common denominator? We literally just did a similar question 10 minutes ago.

*long pause*

I think I need a snack. My brain needs energy.

No. No snacks. There will be no snacks until you’re done. During your exam, can you stop and ask the teacher for snacks? The answer is no.

But this is not the real thing and I’m like starving. How about just one glass of chocolate milk?

You’re not starving, we just had lunch. The sooner you finish this, the sooner you can have snacks. Just focus, how do we get a common denominator?

Uhhh…add them together?

Guys, I’m getting ulcers from this. I’ll go through this again and I need you to wake up your idea. Okay let’s take it from the top. First, you take both denominators and look at their multiples…

Clock wipe two hours later, my blood pressure is approaching 240/120 and I’m silently mourning the two hours of my life that I will never get back.

2. Problem sums are the story of my life

Every question is a variation of this: Amy has 20 candies. She gave 6 to John and 13 to Mary. They both gave her back half of what she gave them. Amy was like “Hey, you guys only gave me back half, it’s not fair. You need to give me back what I gave you” so John was like “But last week I gave you 8 candies and you didn’t give me back any” and Mary was like “Sorry I ate all already, I got no more,” and they spent the next 10 minutes going on and on about who ate more candies. How many candies did they have altogether?

Zero. The answer is zero candies because mom was sick and tired of listening to this nonsense so she took all the candies and ate them herself.

As it is, I have to deal with this in real life all day, every day and now I have to figure out who owes whom how many candies in a math paper. People with candies need to get it together and stop fighting over how many candies they have in the hand or a bush or in someone else’s mouth.

3. Hard work is hard but totally worth it

After 3 years of dealing with exams, I think the most important lesson I’m getting from this is that what I really want to see from the kids is genuine effort and a dedication to excellence. It’s rewarding to see the kids get good grades but there’s also a certain rush in watching them enjoy (okay maybe a little too much, let’s go with tolerate and occasionally delight in) the pursuit of learning.

I think they’re starting to get it too. In spite of all the bargaining and stalling techniques and general sense of sadness at having to work hard, they know that resistance is futile and it’s far easier for everyone involved if they just buckled down and did it. As I sent them off to school this morning, I told them that I was really proud of how hard they’ve worked and regardless of the results, I’d always be proud of them.

*Although if they end up doing poorly, it will be exam boot camp for everyone for the whole year instead of two weeks yayyyy!!

For now, I’m just glad this terrible ordeal is coming to an end.