Sunday, November 23, 2014

No Mum is an Island

I've been making a lot of lemonade these past few weeks. Not in a set up a little stall with buntings next to the road and selling iced cold drinks kind of way. More like a if God gave you lemons kind if way.

Going back to work has been nothing short of amazing. The rusted parts of my brain have been oiled and put to good use, and regular family life is carrying on with little disturbances. 

But I've been doing quite a bit of thinking of late. I blame alone-travel time. 

There's so much more that I want to do with the kids. So many more places that I want to explore with them. Sometimes I plan, sometimes I decide on the spur of the moment. 

But my mood dips the moment the 6-year old decides that she'd rather stay home in her pajamas and read than visit some awesome place that I'd researched on. A place I know she would absolutely enjoy, if she'd only let me bring her out of the house. Without a scowl on her face or 20 minutes of the "We're going/But I don't want to go/We haven't been out of the house today/But I want to stay home" debate.

Sometimes we make it out of the house, sometimes we don't. But sometimes it's hard to remind myself that I'm the adult, and she's a child, and I shouldn't let her mood affect mine, and that it isn't her responsibility but mine to cater for multiple Plan Bs. Sometimes though, I may be an adult, but I'm also human.

A human who's also a mum. A mum who also needs to take care of the needs of the family on top of contributing toward paying household bills.

Needs like, say.... fruits? You know, those colourful edible balls you see at the supermarket? You can either crunch into them or cut them up? They're usually sweet and juicy? And have seeds? Those things, yes. I think my family may not know fruits if I didn't buy them, cut them, and bring them to the table. When I teach my kids about how plants grow, they must think I'm crazy to tell them about soil and seeds and fertilizers because to them, fruits simply appear at the dinner table, all cut up into bite sized portions with little forks stuck in them.

There is definitely a direct relation between the number of hours I work, and the amount of fruit my family eats. It's come to a point where I make my husband promise to buy fruits regularly for the kids if I should so die before he does.

But, Vitamin C discussions aside, there's also the "I really have to rush this assignment but I also have the kids with me" guilt trip. I think that many mums believe that the level of how good or bad a mother is, is pegged at mum's level of exhaustion at the end of the day.

For instance, if your energy is hovering at the dangerous red zone level of about 3% and you will absolutely need to be peeled off the floor if you don't have another (maybe your third or fourth) coffee, but yet you drag yourself to read a bedtime story to the kids and they fall asleep without any screaming or crying (either yours or theirs) then congratulations, you are the winner of the Best Mum Award. But if at the end of the day, you're still skipping around scrolling on Facebook while there are still unwashed paintbrushes on the dining table and dirty socks on the bathroom floor then my goodness me, do you really call yourself a mother? You know, stuff like that.

I think that as mums, we complain a lot about how people from all over are judging us and our choices - if we sling our babies, if we give them juice before they turn 2, if they eat fries, if they play in the sand, if they go to childcare, if they watch TV, if they run around barefooted, if they forget to brush their teeth - but we are the worst judges of all.

We want to do everything and cannot accept that it is impossible to do everything. We cannot accept that we are not, like our friends like to call us, "Supermum", who can juggle a million tasks and never feel tired. It's not possible, it really isn't. It's not possible to work, and be physically there for the kids, and to treat them equally, give the spouse equal attention, have a hobby, meet up with friends, and maintain the house all the time. Something's got to give. Some sacrificices have to be made. Sometimes we have to - much as I dislike the word - outsource some tasks.

We can have everything, just in different percentages and quantities. We need to remind ourselves that it's OK not to know everything. It's OK to not have all the answers. It's OK to make mistakes. We need to accept help from others when we can't manage, and recognise when we can't manage. And once we can accept that, we will feel less guilty about everything. Or at least I hope. I'm still striving for guilt-free parenting.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Sick Kids, Tired Mums

The thing about parenting websites and guide books is that they tell you that typically a fever lasts X number of days. So you know that in X number of days, your life will be back to normal again. 

They tell you that during these X number of days, your feverish child might be a little whiney. A little is a little subjective, I think. 

They don't tell you that your usually smiley and happy toddler will turn into a crying machine and follow you around the house, governed by an unseen magnetic force. They don't tell you that she will raise her arms to you and asked to be carried everywhere. 

They don't tell you that her nose will be drippy and her face will be tear-stained from all that crying, but she will refused for you to clean her. 

They tell you to administer medicines but don't tell you that the spoon will be pushed away, and they certainly don't tell you how sticky and sweet medicine can be, particularly on a white sofa. 

They tell you that your child might exhibit unusual behavior but don't specify that it includes taking a nap at noon on the sofa while dressed in pajamas. They don't tell you that prior attempts to nap may last no more than five minutes because they'll wake up crying because they don't understand what's going on, and why they aren't running around like they're used to and why their heads feel fuzzy. 

And that all that confusion will make them throw up on your shoulder when you pick them up to soothe them. They also don't tell you that despite that, you will remain calm and continue to soothe and rock your child, then lead her gently to the bathroom to wash off all the vomit. 

They don't tell you that you will ignore the vomit that's on you temporarily, because clearing the floor and bedsheets is more important, so that your sick child can plonk back on the bed and try to have a comfortable sleep. Also, the last thing that you want is your child walking through vomit. 

They tell you to consider the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, apples, toast I think) and not to worry if your child has no appetite but don't tell you that as your child's mother, "don't worry" means nothing. 

They don't tell you that vomit can smell like bourbon, and that your house should always be stocked with kitchen towels and old nappies in case of such emergencies. 

They don't tell you about how you will constantly smell your child's head and pray that they will feel better soon, and that your other kids don't get the same thing because you know you can only afford so many vomitty bedsheets. 

They don't tell you that despite knowing that germs can be transmitted through touch, you will still kiss your little sickie and that your motherly instinct will be on full mode. 

They don't tell you that despite a looming deadline, you will ignore your work until your baby is better again. They don't tell you that all rules will be broken, and you will allow the sickie to watch as much television as she wants if it makes her feel better. 

They don't tell you that it may not be you with the flu, but you sure wished it were, instead of your kids. 

Sick kids. Tired mums. The end. 

Village Hotel Katong Staycation

The invitation to staycate at Village Hotel Katong came at the right time. I spent most of my youth in the East. Katong in particular. And this week, my old school is getting torn down. Staying in Village Hotel Katong gave me the opportunity to roam around Katong, just like I used to as a teenager.

Upon reaching the hotel, I was hit by a wave of nostalgia. Heyyyyy - This was the old Paramount Hotel, at which my parents brought me as a child during Chinese New Year (when all other food outlets were closed)!

But the hotel's changed so much that so my blast from the past was shortlived. The hotel underwent a makeover to keep up with the times. Our room was clean and bright, with little Peranakan touches to reflect the Peranakan influence of the neighbouring Katong and Joo Chiat area.

I remember a time when I used to work in a hotel - room keys were really room keys. With a big plastic tag on them. What a thing from the past eh? Now every hotel has got those electronic key card thingies. Though I'm not entirely sure I felt comfortable without having an actual lock and chain on my room door though.

The bathroom included the usual amenities, and we thought that the sliding door was such a great space saving idea. Until one of us tried to put the girls to bed while the other was in the shower. Turns out frosted glass doesn't keep light out as well as we thought. The rain shower was nice, as rain showers always are. And I really liked that the bathroom allowed natural light to enter. But what felt strange was that the contractors seemed to have forgotten about changing the bathroom windows while renovating the hotel - they looked like they belonged to a different era, and not in a deliberate way.

I think all the levels had different works of art; I wish we could have gone around to explore more but our access card only allowed us access to our floor, and the public areas. Yes of course, all in the name of safety and security.

Well, no matter, our kids were well entertained with the wardrobe, and enjoyed a good splash at the pool. The pool's a bit of a walk from the (rather cold) lift lobby so make use of the bathrobes from the room!

Of course, when you're in Katong, it is expected of you to have Katong laksa. It's like going to Paris and not visiting the Eiffel Tower. So we laksa-ed. And otak-ed. And well, ate more than I'm proud to disclose.

Of course, there's the customary hotel buffet breakfast where you'll go for rounds of local fare while your husband stares at your with his mouth open, wondering if you've been replaced by an unstoppable eating machine. Oh wait, that's just me.

There's so much to explore around Katong, but I must confess that the walk about meant more to me than the rest of the family. I guess after a while, the kids got bored of hearing me say, "This place! Oh I remember this place! It's where I ________ (fell and scraped my knee / went on dates before I met your father / learnt to bowl / discovered the best kueh pie tee). This Katong though, isn't the same as the one I remember. So much of it has changed. I whined about the Katong I remember here: Where did my Katong go!

Don't know where to go? Pick up a handy little booklet from the hotel lobby!

When roaming around Katong takes its toil on the kids, head East-ward (that's "turn right when you get to the main road - East Coast Road" for you non directionally inclined folk). You'll see Holy Family Church (oh the Saturday evenings I spent singing in the choir!), followed by Jago Close. Go through Jago Close and there'll be a little playground there with slides and swings and a sandpit - perfect for the little ones. 

It was kinda nice to watch a different generation enjoy the same area in a different way. Did I lose you in that last sentence?


Thanks for the stay, Village Hotel Katong, and thanks for welcoming me back with open arms, Katong!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Mama's Been Chopping Onions Again

We ran and caught the bus in time. The bus ride itself was uneventful. The walk to the school was uneventful. Except that we passed a playground and the girls asked to play but we just didn't have the time. We walked really fast because we were going to be late.

Like many of our outings, we were rushing. At the school, I barely had a moment to heave a sigh of relief when the instructions came.

"Look for your child's class and leave her with her teacher. Parents, please proceed up to the assembly hall". 

I didn't have the time before to give her a hug and a kiss like I usually do before we part, so I jumped into the lines made up of 6 year old girls and grabbed mine for a fierce hug while squishing the baby at the same time. She was nervous too. I could tell because she hugged me back. She usually dismisses my need to hug her.

"Are you alright?" I asked.

I had to. I needed to know. Because if she had said no, I would have half considered homeschooling her. Thankfully she gave a timid nod.

"You'll be fine. I'll see you later!"

I smiled but it was fake. I didn't believe it. I wanted to be with her. But I couldn't.

But I wasn't the only reluctant parent. We all lingered. Until we had to be sheparded to the assembly hall. I craned my neck all the way. I blew kisses. I waved. And then I disappeared into the crowd, leaving my 6 year old sitting crossed-legged on the floor with strangers.

All around me were fellow parents. The only difference was that most of them were there with their other halves. At that point, I not only felt extremely envious, but also a little shortchanged. I not only was there alone, I also had the 2.5 year old with me. The very active 2.5 year old who wanted nothing to do with any of the 500 chairs set out in the assembly hall and kept me on my feet all the way. 

Over the 2.5 hour talk by the principal, she granted me about 15 minutes of colouring and puzzle book flipping. The rest of the time was spent walking up and down the corridor, climbing, browsing the goodies sold by parent volunteers, rolling on the floor, and dancing.

Oh, she danced. While the principal talked about the school's beliefs, while the parent volunteer representative shared her thoughts, while we were introduced to the rules of the school, while her sister was getting to know her new classmates, my little girl danced.

Well, mostly she spun round and round. And then fell from the dizzyness. And then got up laughing and walking like a drunkard.

I may not have heard everything the principal said, but what I heard reassured me that we made the right choice with Poppy's school. And with the thought of her starting big girl school in about 2 months, my focus suddenly shifted. I no longer felt envious of the other parents. Instead, I was glad that I had my little companion for company. I was relieved that she was there to distract me from bawling. I was thankful that I had her around to remind me that Primary 1 for one girl doesn't mean the end of all good things for everyone.

And of course, I squeezed her tight and made her promise not to grow up too quick.

Parenting Quotes to Live By

A dear friend recently asked me for some parenting advice. I said "Well, I mostly just stumble along, use a lot of common sense, pray often and hope for the best". I realise that while it is very true and practical, she might have been hoping for something more concrete and shall I say, less useless?

These parenting quotes however, are good enough to share :)

With one kid going into Primary 1 and another starting Pre-Nursery next year (be still, my heart!), I'm learning to let go. I'm learning to keep my hands to myself when Poppy takes an extra minute to tie her shoelaces. I'm learning to keep a smile plastered on my face while Calla makes a mess when she feeds herself. I remind myself that I'm training them for independance, and it's starting to feel a little liberating.

More about letting go! I'm their mother so that means that by default, I'm responsible for everything that involves them. As mothers, we want to give them the world. We want to do everything for them but we have to sometimes learn to take a step back and let them take some responsibility and do things on their own, even if it means it takes a longer time or things aren't done the way we are used to. Because even if we wanted to, we aren't going to be around forever. Besides, I don't think any mum wants to be wiping snotty noses forever.

These two constantly remind me that it's so easy to find joy in simple pleasures. They remind me that it only takes a little to be happy. They remind me that there is more to life than work and things more important than social media. They've taught me what it really means to be rich. My bank account disagrees though.

You know, we say it all the time to our kids, that they can be anything they want to be. But yet we make the mistaken of babying them and not letting them learn at their own pace, of laying things out for them, of picking up after them. Of handing them their water bottle and opening it for them (guilty!). Not that it's our fault; we're built to love them and care for them and spoil them after all. I'm still learning.

Too often, I find myself searching for things to do with the kids, places to bring them, preparing crafts for them, choosing the right library books for them, preparing food for them.... so much so that I neglect them. Ironic, isn't it? I think that as parents, it's important for us to draw a balance between doing things with them, and doing things for them. Sometimes it's also fun to hang out together and not do anything.

Possibly one of my biggest mistakes of parenting two children, is stepping in to break up their fights. Generally I try to let them resolve their disagreements but it's hard to ignore when one is shrieking and the other is crying. "Maybe your sister just wants to borrow that? Could you let her have it for just a little while?" "I think Jiejie is not done with that, why don't you play with something else first?".

How much of it is me trying to help them understand, and how much of it is trying to solve the problem? And by helping to solve the problem, am I creating another problem by taking away their opportunity to learn to work things out on their own? Oh dear. (Did I mention that I pray a lot? I did, didn't I?)

As Ms Frizzle from the Magic Schoolbus so rightly points out, kids have to "Take chances! Make mistakes!"; that's the only way for them to learn.  It's so easy to push their little hands aside and fit the jigsaw pieces together for them, or to beautify their scribbles or to erase their mistakes in their books properly for them. Hard as it is now to watch them make mistakes, let us remind ourselves that independence is a good life skill!

I think at some point, most parents are guilty of this. We always want the best for our kids but sometimes we fail to recognise that they may be little but they are individuals too and have their own way of thinking and doing things. Instead of spending our time trying to change them, we might as well focus on how we can make the best of our relationships with them. The main thing for me? To be less snappy and more patient with them.

As guilty as I am? Well, recognising it is half the battle won! Happy parenting, everyone!

Do you have a particular quote you live by?

Just for you, Gingerbreadmum readers!
Enjoy 20% off regular-priced items (min 2 pcs) at all Pumpkin Patch stores when you quote "Gingerbreadmum" from now until 30 Nov. Yippee!
*Not valid with other on-going promos, Patch privileges, sales items and purchase of gift certificates*

Poppy and Calla are wearing Pumpkin Patch's fall range of clothing. Thanks Pumpkin Patch for sponsoring their outfits!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Fun for Free Friday #7 - Clarke Quay Fountain

The Clarke Quay of my youth looked the same, yet different. The buildings are the same, but the tenants have changed. There used to be antique shops to browse in, and an old barber shop on display. Clarke Quay today is full of wonderful food options and of couse, there are always boats to watch and wave at by the Singapore River.

In recent years, Central Fountain Square sprouted up. In the middle of all the shops and restaurants. A beautiful almost fully sheltered water fountain with tiles that have relatively good grip. All we needed was an extra change of clothes. Which I so happened to have :)

Time: Set aside about half an hour at least
Bring: A change of clothes and a towel


As public water fountain/play areas go, it's pretty big for what it is. Don't expect any fancy jets and pouring buckets because there aren't any, just good ole sprays from the ground. The great thing is that kids can go play in it and get soaked, while the distance between the jets makes it possible for parents to stay reasonably dry even if they have to follow their kids into the play area.

This was one of those times I wished I had a good fast camera which could allow me to capture sharp images of all their happy faces!

How to get there: The closest MRT station is Clarke Quay station on the NEL. It's also accessible by bus - 54, 32 or 195 stop you at Liang Court, while 2, 12, 33, 51, 54, 61, 63, 80, 124, 145, 147, 166, 174, 190, 197, 851 and 961 stop you along Eu Tong Sen Street, directly in front of Central Shopping Mall. The fountain is located within the old godowns.

If you're walking from Central, walk along the river till you get to the bridge at Swisshotel Merchant Court Hotel. Cross the bridge and the fountain will be visible. If you get off at Liang Court, you'll have to go through Liang Court and cross over to Clarke Quay.

The fountain is open daily from 11am, but closed if there are functions.
More fun for free ideas here! Till next week on Fun for Free Friday! Got a fun for free place to share? Link up with me here!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

LET'S PLAY! - Rainy Day Activities

If you missed the first and second parts of the LET'S PLAY! series, you can get them here and here.

Yikes, we're in for rain and haze in the coming weeks, both of which mean home-based days and potentially crazy Mamas. Here are ten ideas to make your home-based day go easier!

1. Map reading
City maps are easily available. Grab one from any visitor centre, hotel or major place of attraction and engage your preschooler in a little game of "Can you find the ______?". Look for places of interest, road names, MRT stations, or even teach them how to locate placemarks in specific grids.  

2. Marble run
I have a (pardon the pun but-) sh*tload of toilet rolls at home! Yes, people collect precious stones or coins or stamps and I collect toilet rolls; it's my thing. But hey, you can't make a marble run with coins or stamps, but you can make an awesome one with toilet rolls, kitchen rolls and electric tape. Works well with marbles or pompoms.

3. Sewing
I remember threading needles for my late grandmother when I was about Poppy's age. I had the sewing kit out one day to fix a loose button, and Poppy joined me so I gave her some scrap cloth to sew on. Then Calla joined us so I gave her a baby friendly version made of styrofoam (it came with our vegetables) - holes were poked with a chopstick, and instead of needle and thread, she used yarn. It's excellent for hand-eye coordination, to practice fine motor skills and to train concentration!

4. Hide and Seek
This is the reason my little one thinks that it's not 'eleven' that comes after 'ten', but "Ready or not, here I come!".

5. Computer time
Our kids live in the age of technology. My 6-year old loves typing on my laptop and feeling very grown up.

6. Making and moulding
We have an old bottle of body soap that we didn't like so we mixed it with corn flour to see what would turn out (1/2 cup soap + 1 cup corn flour). At first it was pretty yucky but then it grew to be quite a cool stretchy material! We didn't keep it but it did entertain both my kids for almost 90 minutes though!

7. Train tracks
Ever since she saw an electric train set, Poppy's been asking me to get one. I've been resisting the urge to buy one simply because they are so expensive. Of course, she's 6 so she's learnt the word "boring" and uses it on our regular wooden train track but Mama here thinks that a wooden set involves the kids far more than an electric one at a fraction of the cost!  

8. Jewellery making
This was something we did when Poppy had some friends over. The big girls made little necklaces for their little sisters /love love love!/

9. Bingo
Don't have a real Bingo set? No problem. All you need is paper and a pen. Write the numbers 1-25 in boxes and take turns calling out numbers and striking them off. I usually draw the boxes for Poppy and she fills in the numbers on her own. This is a great game to play at restaurants while waiting for meals too.

10. Hopscotch
Can't go out and draw on the pavement? No need for boo-hoos. Bring the outdoors in with this suuuuuper amazing thing that's called washi tape. 

And there we have it! A list of 10 things to do at home when it's too rainy or hazy or lazy (wait, that's just me) to go out! I hope to keep this list updated as we go - Feel free to link up if you've got ideas on how to keep kids happy at home without the iPad!

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