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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.

from around here

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!”

“WHAT??? SO AWESOME THIS IS THE BEST WEEK OF MY LIFE!”

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.