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Big kids, big problems

Now that Truett and Kirsten are 9 and 10, parenting looks very different from when they were helpless little babies. In most regards, it’s a whole lot easier when you can use words to communicate (as opposed to screamy voices and tears). On the downside, using words can be frustrating because they are talking back like smartypants big kids and questioning all my rules and I’m like “Okay new rule, I’m the only one who gets to talk here, you guys.

Few days ago, I had a situation with them whereby Tru and Kirsten got themselves banned from all electronic devices for a day.

The infraction? Overusing their allocated time and refusing to stop even when they were asked to.

All they had to do was abide by the ban for 24 hours and they were done.

But instead of being good about it, they decided to secretly use the phone for 5 minutes hoping that we wouldn’t find out. I know that in the grand scheme of things, it was just 5 minutes and the actual using of the phone wasn’t a big deal. The issue was being duplicitous and blatantly disregarding instructions instead of having a conversation about it (we usually encourage them to talk it out if they wanted us to reconsider the ban – it works about 50% of the time, which are fantastic odds).

Well, I did find out and I had a very strong word with them about the importance of earning trust. I told them how disappointed I was that they went behind my back and that if I couldn’t trust them, they would have all their privileges revoked. Consequently, I extended their ban for another 7 days.

They were both visibly subdued and retreated to their respective corners with a book for the rest of the day.

That evening, while putting the big kids to bed, the husband was talking to them about whether they thought we were too strict.

Kirsten: Yah, sometimes.

Truett: Actually, for me it’s ok. The things that you guys are strict about are important so I think it’s fair.

Husband: Wow, that’s very thoughtful and I’m so glad to hear that. Kirsten, do you want to tell daddy about how you feel?

Kirsten: Oh, um, exactly what he said.

I often think about whether I should be so strict with the kids because am I overreacting to them using the phone for 5 minutes? I remember feeling frustrated about my parents being too strict when I was a teenager and now, having to be the strict parent is a difficult place to be in. It’s not that I need their adoration or approval in the face of being disciplined (although wouldn’t that be nice??!), but I need them to understand that we have their best interests at heart even when it doesn’t seem like it.

Hearing them say this makes me feel like maybe we’re not doing such a bad job. :)


Get out of jail free pass

From time to time, the kids will be up to no good and they’ll end up in various forms of trouble which is fairly normal, but what’s fascinating is that they each have a very different coping mechanism when they get disciplined. To their credit, they’ve learnt very quickly that the least effective method of getting out of trouble around here is to be all sulky or have a meltdown.

Instead, they’ve each discovered their own get out of jail free pass and practiced it to perfection.

The Negotiator

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We make it a point to maintain an open communication with the kids so we tell them that they can always talk to us and we’ll try our best to hear them out even during the times where my blood pressure is rapidly escalating. The good thing is that they will talk to us when they’re upset but this also means that they are very good at negotiating their way out of problems.

Tru: Um, mom, remember you said that we can talk to you even when you are angry? Ummm…how about can you like make us face the wall instead?

Me: No. Wall facing is way too easy for you guys now.

Tru: Or how about no iPad for a week?

Me: Also too easy.

Tru: Okay, 1 month no iPad? And I’ll do extra chores as well.

Me: Eh, this is not a fish market where you get to haggle but fine, I’ll consider it.


The Leniency Pleader

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Kirsten has nailed a very effective method wherein she quickly owns the mistake with a lot of remorse and straight up asks for another chance. It’s hard to say no to a kid who tells you they’re sorry and wants another chance, especially one who tries her best to be a good kid all the time.

Kirsten: I’m sorry mom, I know it’s wrong, can you please give me another chance?

Me: This is how deterrence works, to help you to learn not to do it again.

Kirsten: I will learn, I promise. I will try my best not to do it again. Just give me one more chance.

Me: Sighhhhhhh


The Fate Acceptor

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This is a killer move patented by Finn and his doleful heartbreaker eyes. When he’s in trouble, this kid just puts on his brave face and accepts his punishment without complaining. And it’s not like a reverse psychology ploy either because I’ve called his bluff several times and he just takes it, which makes it even more effective.

Finn: You can make me face the wall if you like mom.

Me: Baby, it’s not that I like to give you a timeout, but I need you to listen can?

Finn: Ok, I will listen and be a good boy. Do I still need to face the wall?

*stands at the wall looking all sad*

Me: Fine, just go play.


The Charmer

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Theo is impossible to discipline because this baby is disarmingly adorable and too smart for his own good. Or exactly the right amount of smart for his own good.

Me: Hey, no snatching toys, Theo!

Theo: *flashes me his widest smile*

Me: I’m serious, baby. Don’t flash me that smile right now.

Theo: Baby Theo is so cute right?

Me: I know you’re cute, but no snatching allowed. Go say sorry to kor kor Finn.


Me: You have to mean it and not do it again ok?

Theo: Ok. Um mom…can I have a hug?

Me: Yes but URGH!!


Being a big brother

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

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

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

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

Mad skills, this boy.

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

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

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


Life with five

One of the questions I get asked the most is what life looks like with 5 kids. How do we manage 5 tiny humans? What kind of madness goes on around here?

I don’t even know where to start with this.

Maybe I should begin with a photo like so, where the kids that aren’t screaming or bickering or whining.


But a picture like this might give you the wrong idea because there is plenty of screaming and bickering and whining, along with unwashed laundry, spilled food, toy messes, poop on the bed, poop on the floor, poop on my clothes, poop in all kinds of places it really shouldn’t be in.

Perhaps I could talk about how a day around here looks like:

5.30am – baby Hayley’s pre-dawn feed

6.15am – Tru and Kirsten get ready for school

6.45am – the husband drops the 2 big kids off at school

7.30 to 8am – Finn and Theo get up and have breakfast

8.30am – drop Finn off at preschool, grab a quick breakfast with the husband + 1 baby (either Theo or Hayley, depending on when the baby last fed), drop the husband off at work

11am – run some errands, maybe a quick grocery run with 1 baby

12.30pm – swap the baby for the other baby, pick Finn from school, circle back to pick Truett & Kirsten, then head home for lunch

<<I imagine this is what the life of an uber driver looks like. I also briefly considered being an actual uber driver, and why not? I could pick up a passenger on my way back from town after dropping the husband off in the morning, another on the way back to town when I’d return to pick him up, plus several more in between. The only thing that stopped me was the thought of having to put on real pants, a top that wasn’t comfortably oversized or stained with baby vomit, and some make up. That or I’d have to pick up perfectly-coiffed young executive types looking like I’d just come off a shift at the market, which would give me zero stars on my uber profile.>>

2pm – I’ll try to get Theo to nap while he fake poops and sings on the bed until I come to my senses about how futile this attempt really is. Abort mission.

2.30pm – I’ll spend what’s left of the afternoon feeding the baby, breaking up squabbles, cleaning poop, kissing imaginary boo boos that have healed 2 weeks ago, looking into homework/spelling/听写/show and tell, fixing puzzles, fixing snacks, fixing blocks, fixing more snacks, fixing a  dinner that my eldest son describes as prison food (usually rice and soup and fish and chicken and vegetables), making everyone eat enough of said dinner while watching them make vomit faces, before cleaning everything up and sending them all off to bed.

8pm – bedtime for Truett, Kirsten, Finn and Theo

8.30pm – once the 4 big kids are asleep, I’ll bring Hayley along with me to pick the husband up from work.

11pm – Hayley goes to bed for the night, and so do I. And then we’ll have fun with the 2-3 hour feed/burp/walk/bounce routine for the rest of the night.

I have a domestic helper who helps me out in managing the madness throughout the day, which is a lifesaver but some days, I can tell that she wonders why she ever agreed to come work at a family with 5 kids.

Multitask. At any given moment, I’m probably holding a baby, helping one kid practice spelling, having another kid tell me to “PUT BABY HAYLEY DOWN AND CARRY ME TO THE KITCHEN TO GET STRAWBERRIES!!”, checking homework, while listening to someone else tell me he’s “very tired and needs milk” but will not actually sleep after he’s done with the milk.

Get the kids involved because big kids are very useful. With the exception of baby Hayley, all of them (even Theo) help to pack up toys, pick up trash from the floor, watch out for each other, sing to the baby. This gives me time to take a shower or eat a cookie without being harassed.

It’s probably not very different from the days of most stay home moms, except maybe with a few more snacks to fix and more messes to clean.


But I think the real question most people want to ask is WHY. Why do we do this?

It sounds crazy but I really do like having all the kids at home with me even though they’re so demanding and they leave a trail of destruction in their wake.

Like last week, they decided to set up a shop selling all my possessions to each other for actual money. My money. Which they acquired from my wallet while I was distracted with the baby. After they were done, EVERYTHING WAS EVERYWHERE. Coins under the sofa, stray puzzle pieces in the toilet, a $10 note flapping in the balcony, scrap paper on the table, random toy parts covering just about every inch of floor area in the house.

I was already exhausted – the baby and I had a rough night – and looking at the mess made me want to cry but looking at the mess also made me smile because it was the result of 4 hours of crazy fun where Truett and Kirsten gave the two smaller boys a wallet stuffed full of coins each and taught them how to buy stuff from a shop.

I can’t tell you how much feels I had just watching them play that afternoon.

It makes me feel thankful that I’ve got messes to clean and tears to wipe away because it means that I’ve got all my 5 babies here to make them. I know that someday soon, I’ll wake up to an immaculate living room with no towels thrown on the floor or a trail of cookie crumbs (and ants!!) leading to the kitchen, but for me, that will be a sad, sad day.

Motherhood takes a lot from you, it’s true. Sometimes it takes everything that you’ve got and then some more even when you feel like you’ve got nothing left to give. Sometimes it makes you feel like you’re not doing enough or doing it right. Sometimes it makes you feel like someone else is living the dream while you’re stuck here knee deep in baby poop.

But I can’t shake the feeling that right here in the midst of all the madness is my highlight reel. This is where it’s at.

All the chocolate stained faces I get to clean and little hands that I get to hold and the sleepy faces I get to kiss, this is the part that really matters and I’m glad I still get to do it everyday.


Love Wins

This is a story of unrequited love. At least, that’s how it all began.

We have Kirsten, the big sister who adores her cute little chubby baby with all of her heart. And one baby Theo, the chubby baby who is intent on rejecting her advances.

From the day Theo was born, Kirsten has been all in 100% in lavishing him with affection. She’s the sweetest, most patient and attentive big sister – watching out for him and giving in to him all the time and letting him destroy her stuff without getting even a little bit mad. She takes the time to read to him and bring him out for rides on her scooter and share all her favourite food with him.

(To be fair, Tru and Finn both love him in their own way, but it’s far less effusive and they certainly don’t baby him like Kirsten does.)

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I don’t know, maybe it’s a boy thing. Baby Theo is naturally drawn to the boys team and all the mischief they get up to. (WHY???!!!) Kirsten will be fussing over him and he’ll squeal “DON’T LIKE JIE JIE KISS!!“, then run after his two big brothers instead.

Maybe his ridiculously high levels of testosterone makes him predisposed to not wanting to be babied by his big sister. And she loves to baby him so. She’ll hug him and kiss him and hold his hand and follow him everywhere and I think he feels it’s too stifling.

Or maybe he’s just playing hard to get. I suppose this particular skill of being all coy with girls will probably come in handy in another 15 years or so, but it’s way too early to start practicing.

Sometimes, I’ll make Theo apologise and give her a hug (which he does reluctantly), but as a parent, it’s hard to force a relationship with perfunctory gestures. The best thing I could do was explain to Kirsten that babies don’t think before doing stuff and one day, he’ll realise how loved he is and how good he’s got it. Incredibly, Kirsten has taken it in the best manner a 7-year-old possibly can. I can tell that she feels hurt when the baby pushes her away, but she’ll still try to cheer him up with his favourite toy or put up a funny dance to make him smile.

I think it’s been paying off because lately, baby Theo has been all about his big sister. He’ll ask for Kirsten when he’s going to bed, and demand that she hold his hand when we go out.

HOLD HANDS, JIE JIE!!” he’ll yell and I’ll see a tiny smile form on his big sister’s face.

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Watching the kids develop a relationship on their own is one of the very best parts about having this many kids.


Too much testosterone

It’s way too late for me to do anything about it at this point, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever get used to having 3 boys.

As it is, I’m not a girly girl and I thought I had a pretty good idea of what it would be like to raise 3 boys, but some days, I just have no words.


I was fixing puzzles with baby Theo when out of nowhere, I get punched really hard in the eye. Not like a nudge or a pretend punch. It was a full on fist into eye sort of wallop. WHICH REALLY HURT!

When I finally regained some sight in my right eye, I realised it was Finn who delivered the blinding blow, and he was wearing an oven mitt on his right fist.

OI! What was that for?? That really hurts, ouch!!

It’s my superpower. When I wear this special glove, I got special powers, I need to punch the bad guys,” he explained.

He wasn’t mad or being malicious, just very matter of fact, like he couldn’t help himself. Stereotypical as it may be, Kirsten’s usage of this particular oven mitt has been of a far less violent nature. In fact, it was often accompanied by delicious pretend meals which I got to pretend eat.

Okayyy, but I’m not a bad guy and no more punching, Finn. You need to find another superpower, this isn’t working out. Go make plants grow at super speed or something.

Sorry, mom. Here’s a flower for you.

He kissed me on the eye before running off with his oven mitt still firmly intact. And I was already too exhausted to make him take it off.

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I’ve discovered that outdoor time means very different things for Kirsten and the boys. We usually set off together and Kirsten will be doing normal things like cycling or looking at flowers or hanging out at the playground.

Meanwhile, the boys will be off searching for all manner of super gross crawling things, which I subtly try to steer them away from. It almost never works. This one time, they found a snail and they were so thrilled it was like they discovered buried treasure. They spent 15 minutes completely fascinated by it.

Can we keep it, please please please??? We promise to take care of it.

I usually try to work out a compromise when they flash me those doleful eyes but a snail pet in my house?? Hahahahaha NO WAY that’s ever happening.



Have I already mentioned that I’m really glad Hayley is a girl? Because I am. It’ll be so nice to have another girl around here.


Best bros forever

This is going to be a quick one and I’m putting it here in the category of things I need to write down before too much time passes and I forget it ever happened.

I like that the kids can sometimes still surprise me with moments that make parenting such a delight.


It was kind of a rough day for Truett, who was sent to his room after a series of rather serious behavioural infractions. The last one had involved some shoving and pettiness, so I had a very stern word with him, removed all his privileges for a week and sent him to the room for 20 minutes to calm down and think about it while I went to sort out the rest of the kids in what is known as our usual Post-Dinner Mayhem.

Finn came out from his shower, saw his big brother sobbing quietly in the corner of his room and went over to sit down next to him, bare naked bottom and all. I was about to make him put on some clothes first, but he put one tiny arm around Tru’s shoulder and said, “It’s ok kor kor, it’s just me, Finn Kao.”

He’s never had to comfort anyone before and I think he didn’t know what else to say so that’s all he said several times. “It’s ok, it’s just me, Finn Kao Kai Feng.”

And then they just sat in silence together for a long time, one naked baby gently patting his sobbing big brother on the shoulder.

It was like that scene from Inside Out where Sadness just sat with Bing Bong until he felt better, except one had no clothes and the other cried real tears instead of candy.  And because sometimes when you’re really sad, all you need is someone to sit there beside you.

After several minutes, Finn came to me and whispered, “can you give kor kor one more chance because he’s very super sad…”

I’m supposed to stick to my guns and be a firm disciplinarian and all but I have like zero resolve in the face of such moments.

Well played, boys.

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