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Hey 2019!

It’s 2019 and there are a lot of changes happening around here. Good ones!

Finn is off to Primary 1 and I’m so proud of him like a proud mama bear. He was so excited to start the first day of school with Kirsten in a proper big kid school with homework and everything! In preparing him for Primary school, the big kids were all “it’s a sad life – you need to do a lot of learning and homework and there’s very little time left to play” and Finn was his usual sweet, positive self like “I don’t mind learning and homework.

It’s true, he’s the only kid who says “thanks, mom!” when I buy him assessment books and then does them like it’s nbd. We picked up a fresh batch of assessment books at Popular last week and the big kids acted like I was buying them a basket of live rattlesnakes, like “PLEASE, NOOOO!!!! MY LIFE IS OVER!!

Just look at this adorable serious face on the first day of school.

He woke up at 6.30am on day one and the whole time, he had on his serious face for when he needs to focus on something really important.

When they got to school, Kirsten said, “follow me, Finn, I’ll bring you around” and he finally smiled. It must be nice to have a big sister watch out for you when you’re starting a huge new chapter in your life.

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After a year and a half on the waitlist, Tru still couldn’t get a spot in Kirsten’s school, so he decided to go for the next best option and transfer to the school further down the street. It’s a slightly longer walk but it beats having to take the school bus back to Tampines at 6.05 every morning.

He considered this for a long time, not wanting to say bye to all his friends and teachers from Gongshang Primary but it was a brutal commute, plus he had to loiter around in school for an hour while waiting for the return school bus after remedial classes several times a week.

He’s a good kid – he made a list of all the pros and cons and at the top of the pro list, he put <mom gets to save $240 in bus fare every month> right at the top, followed by <wake up at 6.45 instead of 5.45>. The cons list was much longer, but he still decided to go ahead with the transfer because “it’s the smartest thing to do“. 11 years old and already killing it at decision making skills.

//

Also after a year and a half on the waitlist, Theo finally got a spot in the preschool right next to our home. The waitlist for this was in the hundreds and it was a small miracle that he got a spot. There was no pros and cons list to be made because Theo doesn’t care for such lists in the same way he doesn’t care for going to school at all.

If it was up to him, he would spend his days hanging out with me and Hayley. He tried to make a case for it too. “I’ll miss you so much, mom…and Hayley will have someone to play with…I’m only 5, I can learn all the stuff at home anyway, don’t you want to spend time with me before I go to Primary school like kor kor Finn?

I’ll admit, that last part got me and I genuinely considered it for a moment because watching Finn go off to Primary school had me all emotional but then I snapped out of it because I suddenly realised what I was considering. Homeschooling??!! Some people possess the temperament required to homeschool a child. I do not. Homeschooling would eat me for breakfast and I wouldn’t last a week.

Theo was really sad the first day and that’s all it took for him to adjust. This morning, he considered bursting into tears again but he looked at his fun new school and his new friends and his lovely teacher (who happens to be Truett’s teacher at Starlearners 7 years ago!) and decided that all that fuss wasn’t worth the effort so he said bye and went in to class.

//

I really like new years. It always feels like a pause and a fresh start. We get to look back on the previous year and celebrate the things that were great about it. The not so good parts, we get to give it another go; do it differently and hopefully have it turn out a little better.

2018 had all of these parts. There were some pretty spectacular ones that will make it straight to the Epic Moments To Remember list. We did Melbourne with 5 kids. Iceland with 3 kidsNew York with no kids.

There were a lot of the average moments that turned into surprisingly great ones. All of the baby cuddles, the hilarious conversation I got to have with the kids, the long bus rides and spontaneous park outings and just being there to watch them grow up. I feel like I grew as a mom this year. Being a mom stopped being so hard now that the kids are bigger. I’ve always told myself to enjoy the journey but this year was the first time I honestly took that advice and savoured the moments. Even when I go out alone with 5 kids, it’s easy these days.

I saw a mom at the store a few days ago bouncing a fussy infant strapped in a carrier, holding a toddler in one hand and bags of groceries in the other and I immediately got severe PTSD. I think it was her eyes. She looked so exhausted, like all the life had been sucked out of her and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. I remember exactly how that feels and I wanted to give her a hug and tell her that it will get better.

2018 was also the first year I’ve managed to stick to my Get Fit goals. I’ve done my workout videos 5-6 days a week for about 9 months and developed all kinds of cool new muscles. I also feel stronger, possibly even more than I did at 16 playing basketball for the school team. I still draw the line at putting kale or quinoa into my mouth but there’s progress.

There were a whole bunch of not so great moments in 2018 too. Some were really not great at all and I’d much prefer to not have them ever again. If I could, I’d totally erase these moments from the year so I’d only be left with the good ones. But I think my life is supposed to be made up of all of these moments like one of those pictures that’s made up of a thousand smaller pictures. I mean, maybe a good life isn’t one that’s made up of only good moments because there are all of these other moments that are kind of sweet and funny and mediocre and sometimes sad that make up a really rad bigger picture and when you put all of them together and do a dramatic slow zoom out, you might just like what you see.

//

Have a good 2019, you guys!!

from around here

The ones we’d like to keep

Is it already the middle of November? You start a year and things happen and other things happen and then more things happen and suddenly you’re midway through November and you think about whether all the memories you made are the ones you’d like to keep.

::

Exams are all over and the kids are done with school and I’m very pleased about having all my babies home with me all day for the next 6 weeks. The older they get, the more I cherish these moments where I get to have all my babies to myself. We’ll play board games and go for walks and fix fun meals and work on comics and just sit and do nothing at all together.

Speaking of exams, the kids brought home their results and they’re like “Mom! I got my English paper back!” First of all, I love the enthusiasm because it suggests that they have done well enough to be suitably excited (whether or not that enthusiasm is warranted is another matter).

So right, my teacher says this paper was super hard and the highest in class was only 88…and I got 82.” Yeah, way to go to frame the conversation. Suddenly 82 goes from really not great to understandably ok and possibly decent with a bit of improvement.

It’s not what I was expecting,” he adds, “but it was really quite tough and I think I’ll do better next time.” Nice touch with the likelihood of improvement in the future.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you deliver news of mediocre results.

Although they still had to work on a revision schedule for the holidays because the two questions I always ask them is 1) Is this result an adequate representation of your ability and 2) Did you put in enough effort?

No? Congratulations, you’ve earned yourself a holiday revision plan!

::

One of the benefits of having siblings is that when you’re ill, you get lots of warm hugs. Tru was sick after church one weekend and all the other kids took turns hugging him super tight.

At first, I was like “No hugs!! Germs! Viruses! This is going to infect everyone!!” but then I look at them and urgh, fine, hug all you want, it’s too adorable.

And yes, everyone did fall sick eventually but was it worth it? Totally. Kind of. Okay not so much. Depending on when you asked me that question, it’s probably one of those 3.

::

Baby Hayley is a dainty little princess but she’s also possibly the most driven of them all. For a tiny baby, this girl can be very determined when she puts her mind to something.

We were cycling/scooting/jogging to a cafe near our place for brunch with some friends and all the kids were on their bikes and scooters. Baby Hayley was the only one on the stroller because it was about 1.5km away and that’s a long way for a baby who’s not particularly proficient on the scooter to scoot on her own.

On the way back from brunch, Theo fell and scraped his knee so baby Hayley volunteered to give up her stroller and scoot home instead. It was a treacherous journey back for her but she refused to stop even when her knees were buckling from exhaustion. Sweat was pouring from her little face and she looked like she was going to pass out. The husband offered to carry her several times and she kept saying “I CAN DO IT, PAPA!!”

She made it home like 20 minutes after everyone else but she was so pleased that she did it all by herself.

She now uses this experience as proof of her ability whenever I tell her that she’s not ready for something. “Remember I scoot home all by myself? I’m a big girl now, I can do it!

Can’t argue with that.

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.

::

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.

::

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.

from around here

H to the F to the M to the D

It’s been a proper circus around these parts over the last week because not one, not two, but three kids have been stricken with the dreaded HFMD.

In itself, HFMD isn’t the worst illness one could be stricken with; it’s not life threatening nor does it even require any real medical intervention. The doctor looked very sympathetic, then prescribed them paracetamol and a small dose of leftose syrup to reduce inflammation in the throat, which was clearly an afterthought placebo sort of situation, like here, take this to make your throat less painful (it won’t).

The worst thing about HFMD is mostly the discomfort of having your mouth covered in ulcers, although that’s a lot of discomfort for a baby (or adult) to handle. I had two ulcers that merged into a huge one some weeks back and I couldn’t shut up about it for days. I showed it to the kids frequently as an exhibit of my great suffering and this time, they returned the favour by making me peer at their ulcers many times throughout the day.

LOOK CLOSER, MOM, it’s right in there at the back,” they instructed me. I was already so close I could feel the condensation of their breath droplets on my face and the whole time, all I could think of was “I’m breathing in HFMD germs why have I brought this upon myself??

I still did it though, the peering. My babies were in pain and if my excellent observation skills could make them feel better, then here, I’ll volunteer as tribute. I was already mentally prepared to partake in their affliction so I really got in there to peer at their ulcers and hugged them and kissed them each time they wanted some mommy tlc. “Are you allowed to kiss me, mom? Will I make you sick?” Theo asked with mild concern. I gave him a big kiss and said “It’s ok, mommy has super immunity powers” and he beamed so wide, it was definitely worth it. For the record, I don’t have any immunity powers at all but I loaded up on all of the supplements and thankfully, I’m still clear, phew!

//

So how did this happen?

I don’t know. As in, I literally have no idea from whence cometh this terrible virus upon my kids because I’m paranoid about HFMD. When Finn’s school had an outbreak last year, I kept the kids at home for a whole month as a precautionary measure until the school was completely cleared. They were so thrilled to be on preventive HFMD holiday.

I was dropping Theo off at school last week when his teacher discovered a whole bunch of ulcers in his mouth during the customary health check at drop-off. She asked me to take a look and I was horrified when I saw it. The top and back of his mouth was speckled with white ulcers. I immediately led him away from the queue of kids behind him, half expecting a swarm of SWAT level CDC personnel to descend upon him yelling 23-19 like that scene in Monster, Inc.

I would have kept him at home if we even suspected any sign of HFMD but he had no fever and he didn’t even complain of any pain in his mouth. He was his usual cheery self and in fact, that morning he just had a full breakfast of pancakes + cereal like it was nothing. Clearly, his pain threshold is far superior to mine.

Upon confirmation at the doctor’s, I tried to quarantine him at my mom’s house for the next 2 days but it was too late, Finn + Hayley started displaying symptoms of HFMD the next day. And that’s how we have 3 babies down with the HFMD.

On the bright side, they were really happy to be able to hug again because hugs do make everything a little better.

 

from around here

Holiday shenanigans

So the kids are back in school this week and I discovered that I’ve grown fond of the school holidays. I really enjoyed having the house filled with rowdy kids for a whole month, I think it reminds me of a time where all my babies were small enough to be home all day keeping me company.

We had all the time in the world to go on spontaneous cycling trips to Coney Island or water play outings at Gardens by the Bay.

I used to breathe a sigh of relief once the start of the new school term rolls around again, but this last Monday morning when all the kids were back in school, I sat sipping my coffee in a quiet house (baby Hayley was quietly fixing her Peppa Pig puzzle beside me) feeling like my life is missing something.

This is probably why I said yes to the kids having bunnies. Now when everyone is in school and Hayley is napping, I’ll be hanging around the bunnies talking to them like they’re my babies.

The husband is like “give it 10 years when the kids are all big and you’ll have 2 dogs, 3 cats, and a whole family of bunnies.” That does seem like a very likely possibility.

***

Truett is 10 but he’s been eating like a bodybuilder who hasn’t seen food for days. He’s like Gaston on a rampage. Is this normal? It’s a lot of food and I don’t know where it all goes.

He wallops 2 double sliced tuna melt sandwiches + eggs + a large cup of chocolate milk for breakfast, an adult portion sized bowl of noodles + a side of 4 chicken wings for lunch, and 2 full bowls of rice + all the dishes for dinner. Right around dinner time everyday, he’ll be hanging around the kitchen asking “Hey mom, what’s for dinner?

I’ll say something like “Rice, ABC soup, salmon, spinach, steamed pork ribs” and he’ll be like “Is that all?? That’s like very little. How about pork chop? Can we have pork chop as well? Or remember the chicken you made that day? That was not bad, I don’t mind some of that chicken. Or maybe both? Chicken AND pork chop?

I don’t have time to do both on top of everything else but ok fine, some extra chicken coming right up, your highness!

And that’s only his regular meals. In between, he’s scavenging the fridge for snacks or asking me to fix him something. He came back from school yesterday and the first thing he said was “MOM I’M VERY HUNGRY, I NEED FOOD!!” He had already eaten lunch in school (noodles + mashed potato + milo) and he was still able to polish off half a rotisserie chicken + a hot dog sandwich + a whole bowl of grapes. It didn’t seem to affect his appetite for dinner either.

Amazingly, he’s still as skinny as ever, it’s like magic.

By the time all 3 boys become teenagers, I’ll have to operate an all day on demand food service at home. Or look into subsistence farming so I can make them grow their own food. You want potatoes for lunch? Here’s a shovel, go harvest some from the garden. You want scrambled eggs? Go get them from the chickens.

***

Watching Finn and Theo interact is one of my favourite things to do. In this relationship, Finn has to play the role of reluctant big brother even though it’s not really in his nature to be assertive. He has to be the one to teach Theo important things like the rules of UNO, and feed him snacks.

Theo, while being 2 years younger, has the personality of a hurricane so most of the time, he’s imposing his own ridiculous rules on Finn, who alternates between exasperation and resignation.

Negotiations for soft boiled eggs are taken very seriously around here

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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.

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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.