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from around here


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. :)

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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.

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Thoughts on moving 

1. I like to think that I’m the sort who’s always ready for a challenge but I will tell you straight up right now that I will not be doing this simultaneous moving/renovating/living like gypsy again ever. Or at least until the next time it happens and I have to question my decision making ability all over again.

This moving in first then renovate and sort out furniture along the way plan seemed considerably less problematic in my head than it has been in actual execution.

In reality, it has meant living without lights for 2 weeks (so romantic doing everything by candle light, but mostly just a lot of “guys be careful, please don’t set the toilet on fire!!“), eating on the floor like it’s a picnic every day (okay, that part’s pretty fun), emergency laundry at my mom’s house while waiting for the washer to arrive (I learnt that the number of days we can go without doing laundry is 3 and a half) packing, repacking, moving things around and cleaning ridiculous amounts of dust caused by all the drilling and installing of various things.

On the bright side, we’re about 80% done and I feel like I can finally come up for air.

2. Basically unrelated but look at these two sharing lollies. Who needs furniture, mom? We have lollies!

3. I’ve lived in the east all my life and it’s a bit of an adjustment moving to Punggol. I think about people moving across continents and here I am moving 15 minutes to a new neighbourhood feeling like we’re discovering a whole new place. It’s been an adventure looking for new eating places, new playgrounds, new parks, new heartland malls.

The first Sunday we moved in, we woke up feeling rather brunchy, so of course the husband turned to google for assistance. We were thrilled to discover a cluster of hipster cafes at Tebing Lane, just 2 minutes from our new place because now we can have all the avocado toasts we desire on Sunday mornings, which turns out to be zero avocado toasts. I try to be hip but sadly, I’ve never been able to desire an avocado toast. I’m an old fashioned kind of girl, just give me all of the bacon.

4. The school situation has been a logistical challenge. The plan was to shift the kids to a school in the punggol vicinity (there are 3 schools within a stone’s/javelin’s throw, if the person doing the throwing is the Night King) but apparently, one does not just anyhowly shift one’s kids in the middle of the school year. All the schools we applied for are presently full so we can either wait it out or take our chances and apply for a transfer using MOE’s Student Transfer Exercise for Primary Schools at the end of the year. It would require giving up their spots in the current school and accepting the school assigned by the system (within 3km) but I’m not sure if playing roulette with my kids’ education is a good parental move. We don’t need them to get into the best school but it has to be a good fit so we’re still mulling over this one.

The kids have been really good about the move though. Having to transfer schools is a big deal and they are sad about leaving their friends + a little nervous about adjusting to a new environment but they’ve been really positive about it, trying to focus on important things like “WAH this school got a Popular bookshop inside??!!!” or “this canteen got chicken rice?? I love chicken rice!”

For now, commuting to school is a 20-minute drive in the morning and a 50-minute trip via bus + bus + LRT in the afternoon each way.

5. Much to the delight of baby Theo, we discovered that there’s a family of komodo dragons living at the waterway just behind our house. They would come up to the pathway for a tan or a meal (of small children, as I keep telling the kids but no one will listen) on most afternoons while we go for our little walks. Evidently, I was far less delighted to discover this.

On one of our brunches at Whisk and Paddle, my beautiful children whom I love with all my heart took one of the rubbery toy komodo dragons from the play pit and casually put it on my shoulder. Kids, mommy loves you dearly but if this nonsense happens again, I am not above giving away my offspring, am I clear?

*Edit: so apparently there aren’t any komodo dragons living in the punggol vicinity and it is most likely just friendly neighbourhood monitor lizards. I will however, maintain that they still might eat small children for lunch so one should avoid them as one would avoid an actual dragon, komodo or otherwise. 

from around here

Moving day

These past few weeks have been crazier than usual because we’re moving this weekend. After being in this rental apartment for almost two years, the owners  have decided to sell the place so what this means is that we will have to vacate the premises at the end of the lease, which is in two days time.

Amazingly, we received notification that our new place is ready ahead of schedule and we’ll be getting our keys today (cutting it very close, I know!). This gives us no time at all to prep the new place before shifting but on the bright side, we won’t be homeless so that’s something to be thankful for. We’ll have to work on the minor renovations after we shift in, which is not ideal, but I’ll take it.

Since the start of the month, I’ve begun progressively packing stuff and clearing our furniture on carousell. The kids were like “MOMMMMM where’s the sofa and dining table and bed??? Where will we sit and eat and sleep?” and I had to tell them that minimalist living is all the rage these days. I don’t think they bought it.

This process of packing up my life into large boxes has been very cathartic. Shifting homes is an excellent time to go all out and ruthlessly declutter like Japanese cleaning guru Marie Kondo. I’ve been very inspired to Kondo my life after watching a video of this dude who has less than 50 items in his entire home. Like a spoon is 1 item, a tshirt is 1 item, a toothbrush is 1 item…the guy has a total of 50 items in his life. So I’m like, okay, I have 8 people living here, we are allowed 400 items, surely I can make it under 400.

I grabbed a large trash bag, double bagged it as a signal of intent, and went around my home looking for stuff to clear. First stop was the kids’ toy bin. I peered into the lego box and there were about 200 pieces in there, mixed in with random stray parts from other toys. This was going to be more challenging than I thought. Maybe if I build it into a large structure, it would count as 1 item? And then maybe if I stuff that and all their other toys into a large bin, it would also count as 1 item? Looks like I’ll have to improvise the nesting doll application of the KonMari method.

I also tried to explain the concept of decluttering to the kids, like “guys, we need to be ruthless. If you look at an item and it doesn’t bring you joy, we need to let it go to a better home” and Truett immediately went to his stack of 新天地 magazines and said “mom, I think we need to let these go, they bring me zero joy.” Smarty pants. I told him to consider if it would bring him even less joy to have to explain to his Chinese teacher why his homework has been sent away to a new home. That would be in the negative zone of joy.


We’ll miss this place we called home for the past two years; it’s been good to us and we’ve made some awesome memories here. The next couple of weeks will be exciting though, but then new beginnings always are.

More updates to come after we settle in to the new place. :)

from around here

School holidays? Yes please!

Okay whaaattt it’s june and we’re in the middle of another school term break again??

You know I love spending time with my delightful offspring and does anything sound more delightful than having all my babies all to myself all day every day for a whole month? Ummm, yeah, no, not a single thing!!

This is, as they say, not my first rodeo so I’ve been buckling down and getting ready for the human hurricane, but it still hits you hard no matter how you’ve been bracing yourself for it.

Here are some things you need to know about kids on school holidays:

//School holidaying kids have no chill. There’s something about not having to spend half a day following rules and walking in line and having meals at designated times that makes them all jacked up on adrenaline. I can see it in their eyes the moment they wake up in the morning – instead of the usual undead zombie eyes, school holidaying eyes are ALIVE like them hills with the sound of music.

//Somebody is getting all up in my business at any given time. I make a coffee and someone is next to me going “Is that coffee, mommy?? Are you making coffee? Can I have some coffee like you? It’s super delicious!!” I go to the toilet and there’s yelling for “MOMMY I MISS YOU, YOU NEED TO COME OUTSIDE NOW!” I open up my emails and someone else is literally breathing down my neck like “What are you doing, mommy? I need to help you do some work, can I? Can? Can?? Can????” and I’m like “OKAY THAT’S IT, I’m declaring this a no baby zone, nobody breathe near me I just need to have 5 minutes understand.

//Time passes slower in June and Nov/Dec. There’s some magical time freezing voodoo that goes on during the school holiday months that make it go extra slowly. I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if scientists discover some precession of the equinoxes rotational axis wobble that’s causing an actual slow down of time during these months. That or 5 kids are wearing me down more rapidly, such that I’m completely exhausted by 11.45 in the am. By 4.30, I’ve basically lost the will to live, much less survive the daily dinner apocalypse.

//On the bright side, they’re in a fabulous mood all the time. By fabulous, I mean that there’s extra bouncing on furniture, running around the house at full speed, inventing of crazy games, and a general increase of happy squeals. On that note, they get so excited with every small activity, it makes me feel like a legit celebrity.

“Guys, let’s go to the library!” and they’re like “YAYYY thank you thank you thank you, you’re the best mom ever!”

“And tomorrow, who wants to go to ah ma’s house?”

“ME ME ME!! I like to go to ah ma’s house!!”

“There’s also bible boot camp on Wednesday, followed by grandma’s house on Thursday!”


And I’m like “hold the applause, guys, because next week, we’re going to Sentosa.”

**The crowd goes wild**

Yeah ok, school holidays ain’t so bad.

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That’s what they said

I love that the kids are turning out to be genuinely fun to talk to. As a newly minted stay home mom, the one thing I missed the most was having a decent conversation with someone, anyone.

Most days, it was just me going on a monologue all day, and even when the kids started using words, it hardly counted as a conversation because nothing toddlers say is remotely interesting. I might have looked like I was interested in what they were saying, but it’s only because they are my babies and I’d do anything for them, including having to participate enthusiastically in the most boring conversation in the world. If those words were coming out from anyone else’s mouth, I am not even tryna do it.

But big kids, they’re actually wonderful to talk to.


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Truett and Kirsten were telling me about a kid who was very popular in school.

Kirsten: [this kid] is so popular, I think everyone in the whole school knows who she is.

Tru: Ya. Everyone definitely knows her.

Me: Wah that popular??!! Would you guys like to be popular too?

Kirsten: Of course! If you’re famous, everyone will be like “can you please sign my autograph?!!”

Me: Hahaha, okay fair enough, popularity has its perks.

Tru: And people will treat you like royalty everywhere you go.

Me: Where are you guys learning these things?? Although that is also true. But hey, being popular is not the most important thing. You know what’s better than being popular?

<I was setting it up for a teaching moment here, expecting them to be all like “what mom? Please impart to us your great wisdom on life and other important topics”>

Tru: RICH!!

Me: Hahahhahahh What? No. WHAT?? I wasn’t expecting that answer. Okay, here’s the thing, when you look back on your primary school years, the things you’ll remember fondly are the friends you had and the fun moments you spent together. Also, being a good person is more important than being popular. Be kind, help people, make a difference – you guys don’t need to be rich or famous to do that.

Tru: HUH? That’s it?? That’s kind of boring, mom.

Me: Haiyah, one day you’ll remember this conversation and realize that I’m right, as I am with most things.


Kirsten: You know why it’s better to be a girl?

Me: Why?

Kirsten: When boys grow up, they have to go to work, earn money. Girls can just stay home and play with babies all day, good right?

Me: Whatever gave you that idea???

Kirsten: You lah. And papa.

Me: First of all, not all girls want to have babies. And having babies doesn’t mean you have to stop working, plenty of moms keep working after they have babies. When Hayley is bigger, I’ll totally go back to work. What do you think mommy does all day anyway?

Kirsten: Hang out with the babies, play toys, read books, go pick us from school, go playground, eat dinner…all the fun things.

Me: Okay, when you put it that way…

Kirsten: And if I work when I have babies, then who will take care of them?

Me: I’ll watch your kids for you if you like, I’m pretty good at it. How many are we talking about here?

Kirsten: At least 5-6.

Me: Wow nice.

Kirsten: Kor kor says he only wants 2-3 kids, then plus Finn and Theo and Hayley, maybe 15?

Me: Hahhahahahahhahaa ok challenge accepted.

Kirsten: Just kidding lah. When I have kids, I will take care of them myself. My husband will work hard like daddy.

from around here

Getting ready to paaaarty

It’s been a very long three weeks but we made it. My helper is back and I can finally take a bit of a breather. In fact, we will immediately celebrate tonight by going for Coldplay!!

I’ll be dropping all the kids off at my mom’s house and then RUNNING out of there like…


Imma get a whole evening without any babies getting all up in my face yelling “MOMMY LOOK AT ME I WANT…”?? That alone is enough to guarantee that it’ll be a glorious night. Also, sorry guys, mommy will definitely not be looking at you because I’ll be looking at my delicious dinner at a place where people are not allowed to speak above 30 decibels and then after that I will be too busy looking at Chris Martin instead.


I’d like to say in retrospect that the past several weeks weren’t so bad but then I’d be lying. It was pretty bad. I hope I never have to do it again without significant advancements in the field of cloning. Kidding. I’d be totally weirded out if I had a clone, that would never work.

On the bright side, here are some of the things I’ve learnt from having to manage 5 kids alone for 3 weeks.

1. Kids are actually very useful. 

No question about it, I would not have survived without the help of these kids who took on everything from babysitting to food prep to packing and even laundry. You know how when you try to get the kids to do stuff and they’re not very good so they end up doing a half-assed job and you have to redo it and you’re like “okay, it would have been so much easier to just do this myself?

I learnt that sometimes, a half-assed job is better than a no-assed job, and after they get in enough practice, they’ll be able to full-ass the thing, so everybody wins.

2. As are husbands. 

Husbands are extremely useful for tagging in when you need to go lie down and cry into your pillow at the end of the day.

3. I can be a better parent when things are in order. 

When I was younger, I used to have a very respectable tolerance for mess – an organized mess, I used to call it (which is basically an excuse to not clean my room). My room could look like I just got robbed and it wouldn’t bother me one bit.

These days, for better or worse, I feel my cortisol levels rise when the house in a state of disarray, like my world is spinning out of control. Which makes it very hard to be all “don’t worry about the mess, I’ll just be over here carpe-ing the diem with these babies for 5 hours straight“. If I bought into the whole cleaning can wait, just enjoy the moment with the kids all day nonsense, I’d be living in an actual slum by day 3.

I realized that while it seems counterproductive to pack and repack and rerepack multiple times a day, it makes me feel like a better parent who can seize the day when my world is in order.

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4. A little slack goes a long way. 

Few nights ago, it was one of those exceptionally rough days. The post dinner mayhem was in full swing, the babies were refusing to shower, Kirsten’s eye was hurting and Tru was all “why do I have to be the one to clean up this ridiculous mess? I didn’t even play with all this stuff!

Because I spent years packing up after you and now it’s your turn to do the same, it’s called the circle of packing,” I wanted to say. “And we’re a family, it’s what we do. We clean up each other’s messes.

But I knew this was a lot to ask from a 9-year-old. He had already done a lot of cleaning up after his siblings the past several weeks, much more than I had expected. So I told him that it’s ok and he could take a break.

Hey Tru, you can go get a can of 100 plus and read for a bit. Just make sure you’re ready for bed by 8 okay?

I went about bathing the little ones and getting them in their jammies and when I came out, I saw that Truett had cleaned up the entire house. And it wasn’t a shoddy job either. It was like the gold standard of packing, all the toys were put away neatly and everything was in order.

Thanks Tru, that was an amazing job! Why did you decide to do it?” I asked.

I just wanted to help you. And everything was so messy, I couldn’t take it.

I think I’m just gonna go ahead and keep these kids. :)