Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Post Swim Shower

Every mum has something that she dreads. Something that she knows she has to do just right or else everything will crumble and she will risk losing her head in public. For me, it's everything. But particularly, it is the post swim shower.

Bringing the kids out for a swim makes me feel awesome. Because they are so happy in the pool and seeing them happy makes me happy. I would call it happiness by osmosis but since we're in the pool then my Science lessons kick in and I ask, should it be called happiness by diffusion instead?

Whatever. They're happy. I'm happy. 

But then after the swim - wait, before the after swim, there is the "time to go now" part, which ranges from 5 minutes to an hour - there is the shower. Now, we don't live in a place with a pool so there's the question of whether or not to have a full shower at the pool's shower facilities. There are pros and cons to having a full shower versus just a wipe down. 

At times when we choose the full shower, I take a deep breath and remind myself that it means we can take our time to head home because the girls won't need to rush to wash and dry their hair before bed. Which is a good thing because they're likely to be cranky by the time we're home. 

But showering at a public toilet with two kids can be challenging. 

For purposes of illustration, we are clothed in the drawings. Naturally we are like any other normal human beings and do not wear clothes in the shower. So you'll just have to imagine that. Wait actually no, don't imagine us clothe-less. Just take it that we shower with clothes. That would make things easier. 

First up is question of the shower head. Is it a powerful spray? Is it a mere trickle? Is it even working. A trickle would be frustrating for adults because that would mean you'd have to almost press your body against the wall for an hour to get all your soap off. A powerful spray can sometimes present itself in the form of vapour almost and it could also take a while to get clean. 

But having two slippery squealing kids just adds on to the fun. We follow the law of gravity even in the shower so it's hair then body. But in order for shampoo to be rinsed off easily, head needs first to get wet. 

Water too cold? Water too hot? Water spray too strong! Water flow too weak? Whatever it is, the chances of screams are high. And in a small cubicle, be prepared for echoes. 

So I adopt the car wash approach. Shampoo for one, shampoo for the other. Soap one, followed by the other. Rise one off, then the other. Towel to big one, towel off small one. 

But sometimes I also feel a need to be clean and fresh. Somewhat like a sanitary napkin I guess. So I shower too. With the two of then in audience. 

So strict instructions follow, barked loud enough for the entire toilet to hear. "Stand right here! Don't move! Don't touch anything! Don't let your towel touch the floor! Don't get soapy again! Stop splashing!" 

My shower is usually done in 3 minutes flat. But there's plenty of time for plenty of this. 

Until one cries or yells or screams. But mostly it's "She pushed me"s and "She started it"s. 

And then it stops and they both find something in common - they're pointing and laughing at something. I realize it's me. 

"Mama's best!" My small one says. 

O.... Kay. A weird moment to declare her admiration for me but alright, I accept it anyway. 

The big one clarifies. 

"Breast! I can sell breast! B-R-E-A-S-T!"

Oh. Great. I'm now a real-time biological specimen. 

So there's a bit more pointing, a lot more laughing, followed by more "Mama what's that? NIP-PLE! Hahah Mama's nipple! Hahahaha"

Yes. Apparently it's hilarious. 

So we get dressed and try not to drop our clean clothes on the slippery public toilet floor. There's a lot of balancing and "hold my shoulders!" "Don't pull my hair!" "Ouch" and all. 

And then we're done and leave, ready to face the world again. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Being Fair to the Second Child

I manned the Sick Bay today; they were both home with a low grade fever. I held off TV for as long as I could, but they reminded me of their request every couple of minutes. Eventually, they got tired of me reading to them, and crumpling paper to toss into buckets got boring.

The thing about them being both under the weather at the same time, is that they weren't in the mood to fight. And when they couldn't agree on doing the same thing, they allowed me to spend time with each of them individually without fighting for my attention. It was a weirdish kind of day for me.

Some time during the day, Poppy got stuck in a good book so I tried to teach Calla the game of Pick Up Sticks. Remember? The black stick was worth 50 points? It didn't work out the way I'd intended. She was just happy to pick the sticks up and sort them by colour. And then we made this flower/sun thing together.

Actually I started making it, and invited her to help. She said, "I will help you by passing the sticks to you, and then you make the sun. OK, Mama?"

While that comment amused me a little - because at that age, Poppy wanted to be part of everything, which meant that many things got destroyed quickly - it also made me wonder.

Have I been unconsciouly planning activities around Poppy and neglecting Calla's well-being that she now thinks it's natural to not be part of the main action? Does she think that she should always be content with second place? Does she not feel confident enough to attempt to do things? And worst of all, is it all because I have not been a fair mother?

I know, not everyone wants to or needs to lead. Or perhaps, this just wasn't her kind of thing and she recognised that, and was just happy to play a supporting role today, but when the right opportunity presented itself, she would rise up to the challenge and lead the socks of us all.

But because I'm a mother, it is my job to worry, and to be riddled with guilt. So I wonder.

The thing about the first child is that when your second is born, you feel this horrible guilt toward your first because she's had to share you with the younger sibling. The second child on the other hand, has never known what it means to have mummy exclusive to her. So you in a way, try to 'make it up' to your elder one while the younger one just kind of tags along. I wonder if I am so dreadfully guilty of that.

Calla's recently turned 3 and while she'll always be my baby, she's technically also no longer a baby. Not even a toddler. A preschooler now, she is. Have I missed her precious first years by simply dragging her along to Poppy's playdates, school concerts, and parties? Have I made my second child's childhood simply a shadow of my first's?

In not so many years, they will be teenagers and their favourite phrase will be "It's not fair". And I fear that they may be right and I will have nothing to combat that.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Crab Bee Hoon, Melben Style

Are you a fan of crab? I so am. No, I did not mean "So am I". I really meant "I SO am a fan of crab!" But ordering crab dishes when eating out are saved for very special occasions because they cost too much. I'm just not prepared to shell out $50 and more for one dish.

I've made chilli crab before (and it was delicious but a lot of work), so I thought I'd try to recreate another favourite - crab bee hoon, made famous by Melben restaurant. And to be honest, I will never again order this dish when I'm out because it's really easy to recreate! - My mum loved it, my husband loved it and I practically licked the pot. My 6 year old didn't want to have anything to do with it but that was the only time I didn't insist she try and try again; I was even happy to eat her leftovers!

Crab Bee Hoon by Adora Tan/Gingerbreadmum, adapted from Rasa Malaysia
Serves 4 reasonably hungry adults

Thick white bee hoon - I prefer buying from the market because the pre packed ones don't feel as springy. Just tell the stallkeeper how many people you're serving
6-8 pieces ginger, sliced with skin on
3 cups fish stock*
1/2 cup evaporated milk
3 tablespoons butter
2 medium sized Sri Lankan crabs, cleaned and cut (this dish will not work with flower crabs)
1 handful bok choy or chye sim
2 tbsp hua tiao wine
1 tsp fish sauce

*How to make fish stock
1. Fry dried sole (tee poh), sliced ginger and ikan bilis in oil
2. Add fish bones. Fry till flesh is white
3. Add water and bring to boil then simmer for about half an hour

1. Boil noodles till almost cooked then rinse with cold water and drain. Set aside
2. Melt butter and add ginger.
3. Once fragrant, add stock. Once water boils, add crab and evaporated milk
4. When crab shell turns red, add the vegetables, hua tiao wine, fish sauce and allow to simmer for a further 5 minutes or so
5. Dish up with noodles and serve.

Mmmmm. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Pre- Workout Workout

Every mum knows the pre-workout workout. The workout itself is whatever we form of exercise we chose to indulge in while the kids are in school. "Me-time", if we may be so bold. But that time, despite it being time that we will spend sweatin away while pushing our tired bodies past their already tired limits, is not to be served on a silver platter. Thus, the need of a pre-workout workout.

Our kids understand that well. And they take their role in creating that workout for us very seriously. Which is totally acceptable, because every workout needs a good warm-up session anyway. 

This morning, mine presented itself thus:

At 3 in the morning - or maybe it was 5 or 6, I'm not sure. Anyway, the sun wasn't up, so it's all the same. So, early in the morning. I'm summonded to the throne. Where my 7 year old sits and bestows the dreaded words upon me. 

"I don't want to go to school". 

What follows is a very calm, albeit sleepy, debate of why one doesn't simply resign itself to its fears and should rise up to challenges, even if they should come in the form of little pencil-snatching kids. Each attempt to retreat from the throne is followed by a pull back with the age old command of "Mama!"

After a series of reminders to put pocket monies in pockets, and socks before shoes, the mad dash to the bus stop occurs. We don't even need to check the time, we simply dash. We make it in time for a quick kiss before the firstborn boards the bus. 

Adrenalin pumps through my veins as I do the morning marketing and with 5kg weights in the form of raw meats and vegetables, I climb 100 steps to my dwelling. 

Then, the scene is somewhat replicated with the baby. The constant reminders of "eat your breakfast!" and "drink your milk!" echo through the house as I race around, digging out her school uniform and appropriate exercise gear for myself.  

Water spills as I close up her water bottle. She tries to help by using the magic clean sweeper and leaves clumps of dust around. More instructions are barked. "Brush all your teeth! Gargle! Spit!" I leave no stone unturned. 

And then we get dressed. She prefers undressing her dolls instead. I think of an ingenious idea. "I'll race you! Let's both get dressed and see who wins!"

My plan gets gunned down. 

"I don't want to win, Mama. I'll let you win" 

Just as well. I wouldn't have won anyway, I thought, while struggling with the sports bra. Have you ever worn a sports bra? Did you know it was designed by contortionists? 

First you put your head through, then a hand, and somehow your elbow tries to get into the action. You practically huff and puff as you squeeze one hand through something so tight that clearly was made for something half your size.

Then before you can heave your sigh of relief, there's the other arm, which is even worse, because the damn contraption is already stretched beyond being stretched but yet you can't quite go out with one boob covered and the other showing. You're not Tarzan. 

So finally your arm goes through as you almost dislocate your shoulder. And then in your mammaries go, one by one, squeezed into the support device. 

The rest of the clothing, exercisey looking top and shorts, are a walk in the park compared to the sports bra. 

Fully dressed now, and already in a sweat, I see her. Still in her pajamas. Which incidently, looks nothing like her school uniform. So I help her. But she needs to do the buttons herself. Which takes an hour. 

The socks. They make her feet itch, or so she says. Actually it's that wretched line at the toe area of her socks. They need to be positioned just right or they'll cause her grief. It's one of those things. 

So I squat and help. Which isn't easy for me because I have my phone in my pocket so it jabs at my waist roll, the same one I'm trying to lose by going on this morning workout. Or wait, maybe it's the roll on top of THAT roll that I'm trying to lose. Well, one of them anyway. 

I help her fix her socks and shoes and realize that while doing so, she has helped to untie my shoelaces. 

We race down the stairs. Rather, I do, while she bobs in my arms and laughs. We do not walk to the bus stop, no. Walking is for sissies. We run. We fly like aeroplanes. We walk sideways like crabs. 

Then she needs a drink. So I put my bottle (my 6 year old's Lego water bottle - very sporty, very professional) between my knees and get her bottle out of her bag. She decides she needs to sit to drink. Away from me. So I have to walk after her in a half squat with a bottle squeezed between my knees, and another in my hands. 

We play Ring a Ring a Rosies, we fall down. She asks to be swung round and round (has she watched The Titanic?). We hug. We kiss. I put kisses in her pocket. Then her bus comes. Up she goes on it. I blow more kisses. And her bus turns out of sight. 

I look at my the bus time predictor thing on my phone. 0 minutes to the bus, 11 minutes to the next. Plenty of time to walk. So I do. But it zooms by me. Pushed my instinct, fueled by adrenalin, powered by Nike shoes, I sprint. And catch the bus. 

And here I sit, typing out about my morning's pre-workout workout. Yet to face the trail on the hill that is to be climbed, but I'm already tired. 

Happy healthy week to you!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Balance versus Perfection

Some days you meet mums that seem to be doing everything right. Their kids are polite and smiling, they arrive everywhere on time, they know the answers to everything, they've got nice pedicures under clean shoes, nothing is spilling out of their bags. It's hard to not be affected by that, especially when I always feeling like I'm juggling and dropping way too many balls.

From time to time, I find myself wondering what kind of mother I'm growing to be, and if it's differing from the kind of mother I want to be.

I want to sooth my children when they cry. I want to cheer for them when they do well. I want to encourage them when they're down. I want to hug them when they've had a rough day.

I want to teach them to be responsible people, to pick up after themselves. I want to let them sort out their own disagreements, to learn how to play together. I want them to learn to entertain themselves, to pick up a book or to draw or to just be bored.

I want to bring them places to widen their horizons. I want to teach them that there's more to life than just good grades. I want them to try out new things. I want them to enjoy the simple joys of life. I want to shield them from all things bad.

There are so many things I want to do for my children, but it's just not possible to do everything. It's easy to lose ourselves in the things we want to do for our kids. But there is the danger of going overboard and neglecting oneself. Or ignoring one's husband. Or putting one's own parents on hold.

By not focusing all my efforts on my children, I hope to teach them the most important lesson of all - that the world does not revolve around them. That they are important to me, but it does not mean that I will cease to exist as an individual just because I strive to be a good mother to them.

I've learnt that being a 'good' mother doesn't necessarily equatemean I have to be a 'perfect' one. And so I strive for balance. And like every other mother-related decision I make, I pray that it's the right one. Because so far, it's far from perfect, but yet, it's so perfect.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What Motherhood Means to Me

This post is part of a blog train which was orchestrated months ago among 25 mum bloggers. The train started in mid-March and I am posting my portion so as not to disrupt its journey. For the next 6 days however, I will join the rest of my friends in Singapore in mourning our founding father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and will have no interaction via this blog, TheGingerbreadmumBlog Facebook page, nor on the @gingerbreadmum instagram account.

Photo taken on a regular bus ride, on a regular day of simply being mum.

Motherhood is waking early
But we also sleep real late
Two napping kids in the afternoon
Is reason to celebrate

Our days are filled with invisible tasks
That take up all our time
Like mopping floors and cooking meals
And cleaning toilet grime

It's about ignoring strangers' advice
It's about following our gut
And pretending to be energetic
When the day is anything but

We chase our kids at libraries
We shush them on the bus
We're afraid to see a viral video a stranger made
And gulp and say "That's us"

It makes us appreciate the tiniest of moments
That may go unnoticed by the untrained eye
But we never let the opportunity to say "Good job"
Or a chance to kiss a pudgy cheek slip by

Motherhood is about sharing meals
With little ones who may or may not eat
It's about hiding at the laundry area
With our own chocolate or some other treat

We're up to date with TV stars
Like Dora and her monkey
We can tell you everyone who's on
The cast of My Little Pony

Our bodies are aching like never before
From carrying and squating and lifting
Our minds are stretched beyond limits
From our preschooler's questioning

We take too many photos
Of every smile and frown
Just because we need to remember
The people who turned our lives upside down

Sometimes our days are full to the brim
But sometimes we're so lonely
For no one else can empathise
But a mother and a mother only

It's about losing touch with all your friends 
And getting irritated with your partner
And putting your own life on hold
While you nurse and nourish and nurture 

We ignore our better judgement
As we learn to let it go
While we observe playground politics
And watch the kids settle on their own

We relearn and revisit things from our past
Like Santa and Tooth Fairies
So we can fill our kids' childhoods
With our own precious memories

We may happy or we may angry
We may be brave or weak
But we love and hug unconditionally
And give kisses by the heap

We read the same book 30 times
Even if it bores us to the core
Simply because it's the favourite book
Of a little one we adore

It's about taking deep breaths
And saying "This stage will soon pass"
When we step on Lego blocks
Or Barbie dolls and cars

How many moons does Jupiter have?
What are the words to Yankee Doodle?
For all the questions we don't have answers to
Our new best friend is Google

Private toilet time is a luxury
We've learnt to appreciate
Sometimes we sneak away with phone in hand
And fake a tummy ache

"No", "Maybe", "Come on, let's go"
Are weaved into everything we say
Like plastered smiles and exasperated sighs
That's just how we roll day by day

We have to watch what we say
We never know who's around
Perhaps our little ones with sharp ears
Or busybodies around town

Unsolicited advice, like "That's not the way"
You know, that kind of thing
We get that a lot on a daily basis
Some we can laugh off, but some will sting

We may have been regular women
Who did regular things for fun
But once we had our babies
We became Public Enemy Number One

Suddenly we faced public scrunity
In the choices we made every day
Babywearing, breastfeeding, schooling, discipline
Everyone had something to say

Motherhood is like some strange time continium
Which no one can understand
The minutes drag like hours
But the years fly by like days on end

Our worlds may topsy-turvy
Our lives, whirled and twirled
But this never ending exhausting job?
We wouldn't trade it for the world

It's unbelievably fulfilling to receive hugs and kisses
Even if faces are dirty and sticky
Because our hearts just melt without us knowing
When they mutter "I love you, Mummy"


More about motherhood, and my other attempt to rhyme, when I wrote about being "That Kind of Mum"

Up next!
Jennifer or DinoMama as she is fondly known as to some, is a full time working mum who believes home cooked meals are the best and tries to cook healthy meals for her family as often as possible. When she's done coaching DinoBoy with his school work or is not playing & bonding with him, she will be sitting at a comfy corner in the house busy working on something on her crochet hook. One day she hopes she will be able to be a full time stay at home mum where she can fuss over her family 24/7.

This post was written as part of a "What motherhood means to me" blog train hosted by Dominique from Dominique's Desk. You can read all the posts here.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Learning from The Lees

We all know him from the things he's done for this country. But among all the things I've read about him, what's struck me the most was that he was, above all his work commitments, a family man and a loving husband. And the relationship they had was indeed a beautiful one.

This isn't a post about politics. Or my love for the country. It's about a man and a woman who had such great love for each other, and what we can learn from their 60-year marriage. 

1. Always make time for your family, no matter how busy you are.
She went home for lunch every day just so she could spend time with the kids. 

2. Always show love for your spouse
She laid out all his ties for him when they travelled together, and only went out of the hotel after she was sure he was alright. She remained in case he needed her for anything. 

3. Always make time for your spouse
When she had a stroke, he continued his work as first Senior Minister then Minister Mentor, and worked his schedules around her so that he could spend time with her. 

After she passed, he changed his spot at the dining table to face the wall, where he placed pictures of himself with his wife in their old age. 

4. Be a dutiful spouse
After she had a stroke, the highlight of both their days was the time spent with her every night, reading and talking to her. 

5. Keep your displays for affection only for your spouse
There's no need to show the world how much you love your spouse; what matters is that he/she knows. 

6. Have mutual respect
It never bothered him that she was older than he was, or that she, in his own words, was smarter than he. He always consulted her on her opinion and she was the one who vetted his speeches and important documents. 

7. Accepting advice
When she had her first stroke, he encouraged her to continue swimming. One day she said "It's a public holiday, can I take a rest?" He said "go for a swim, you'll feel better". She swam. 

8. Always remember your spouse's needs
So that she could continue to swim in comfort, he had colourful wet suits made for her. So she could swim in any weather without fear of getting cold 

For more personal and beautifully written accounts, here are consolidated posts written by their daughter, Prof Lee.

Friday, March 13, 2015

What is Primary 1 Really Like for Kids?

There are several wonderful posts on how you can prepare your child for Primary 1 - how to prepare her academically, teaching her to care for her belongings, showing her how to count her money and buy food.

Today's post however, is slightly different. I've asked 50 parents to share on their Primary 1 kids' real experiences in school. A timely post since these wonderful kids have all completed their first term of formal education, don't you think?

"After 10 weeks of school, I realised my son didn't know that a vending machine gives change." - Neresa

"Every day after school, I ask what he had at recess. Every day, his answer would be 'fish ball noodles'. Every single day. Today we are in week 9." - Marilyn.

"She said, 'I didn't know that the school canteen is so big! I can eat from a different stall each day!'" - Angeline.

"There's some lunchbox black market thing going on. And the one who brings the Oreos commands the highest bids!" - Susan. 

"My daughter brings $1 to school daily. On the first week, I gave it to her all in 10-cent coins, thinking it would help her count better. Every day she would spent all her money on two pieces of sushi. I thought that was very expensive sushi, until last week when I gave her a $1 coin, and she started bringing home change. That's when I realised that she's been overpaid!" - Jiahui 

"'I can buy chicken rice, or Ribena. But I cannot buy chicken rice, and Ribena. Because Mummy only gives me $1.50.'" - Celine.
  "No matter what I pack in her lunchbox, no matter how much or little I pack, she never finishes her food!". - June.
  "For the first 3 weeks I was the typical bento mum. Now I've given up preparing packed lunches. Because play is more important to him, and sleep is more important to me." - Heather.

"She came home one day and announced that she bought 20 fish balls at 10 cents each. I asked her why and she said 'Cos I had 2 dollars!'". - Cindy.

"'I have to be very careful when I bring my food to the table. If I drop the fish ball, I have to buy another one.'" - Mabel.

"Pei Pei has realised that the bookshop is a great place to visit during recess! In the past 10 weeks, she has bought 6 packets of colour paper, 1 correction tape and probably some other things I don't know of!" - Waiwai.

"Let's just say my daughter and the school bookshop owner have become quite close friends." - Grace.

"My 7-year old daughter is doing the exact same thing as me when I was 7. Pocket money is for bookshop expenditure and not for food." - Adeline.

"She didn't even know about the bookshop. Until one day I asked her to get an extra pair of school shorts. There has been no turning back." - Christine.

"6 packs of coloured paper! Will we ever get down to using 6 packs of coloured paper!" - Valerie.

"The school bookshop. It's a dangerous place." - Carrie.

"At the end of the first day, my son ran up excitedly to me and said, 'Mummy, there are 2 other Kaydens in my class! The teacher has to call us by our full names!'" - Jasmine. 

"At dinner we all share about our days. My Primary 1 girl's days are always the most interesting, filled with 'Today so-and-so farted in class and we all laughed' and 'So-and-so got scolded for losing her water bottle'." - Pei Ling.

"Belle tells me that C's father is a teacher too, that P has 2 brothers, and that M is so chatty in class that she always gets scolded. I am up to date with the class gossip." - Frances. 

"Apparently they have to work together in groups and that doesn't always work out well!" - Melanie.

"'We have to stick with our buddies all the time. Like glue.'" - Colin.

"Our son Mike goes to an all-boys school. On his very first day, he came back telling us that the toilets were 'really smelly.'" - Nicole.

"Apparently there's no toilet paper in the cubicles." - Sassy.

"'When our teacher tells us to all go to the toilet, it's very fun because we run there and laugh'". - Kai.

"'We have to go to the toilet two by two.'" - June.

"There was a really short honeymoon period and then it started. Homework, homework, homework! So much homework!" - Kelly.

"Her favourite lesson is PE. Because there's no homework involved!" - Alicia.

"He claims to like homework. We'll see how long that lasts! - Janice. 

"I've decided to leave the class Wassap chat group. Because all the parents were stressing each other out about homework." - Mei.

"'I don't like homework. I just want to play.'" - Huiling.

"Kayden finally realized why every student bows to a particular teacher after 4 weeks. He found out this teacher is actually his principal..." - Joycelyn.

"I asked what her form teacher was like. 'She doesn't say quiet or shhh. She just frowns a bit and says 'Girls...' and then we all keep quiet.' Sounds like magic to me." - Aileen.
"My twins both decided that their teachers were stricter than their parents after about week 4." - Jeremy.

"'I love my teacher,' she says. Which is a good thing, I suppose." - Evelyn. 

"Josh kept getting scolded for talking too much before classes started. But he failed to mention that it was during 'silent reading' time." - May.

"Our daughter's teacher is really on-the-ball! She emails us once a week to keep us updated with the things the kids have been doing and need to do." - Adeline.

"Both her English and PE teachers are called Mr Tan; she finds that very amusing!'" - Angeline.

"'Mrs Lee is the Discipline Teacher. She is quite fierce but she can also smile." - Wei.

"'Miss Hamidah's shoes are noisy.'" - Jacklyn.


"After crying in the morning for a month, one day she suddenly stopped. Today however, she came home from school and told me "Mummy, I have bad news for you. I still don't like school'." - Catherine

"Two water bottles, one wallet, one shoe (yes, one) and countless pencils. That's our lost and not found count for now." - Josephine.
"She said, 'Father Barre's garden (within the school grounds) is magical! Every day I pick up a coin when I walk there!'" - Joanne.

"It's been ten weeks but he still doesn't know what time school starts. I suppose it's because we're the ones doing all the rushing in the morning on his behalf." - Michelle.

"Jake says he feels like a sheep because the students are always rounded up and 'herded' from one place to another throughout the day." - Kimmy.

"'I think I want to wear shorts under the pinafore. Because C (classmate) always like to lift my skirt." - Josephine. 

"Shoes get washed on Friday, and turn black on Monday. I wonder if girls are like that too." - Maryann.

"When the school circular advised us to label everything, I thought they were overreacting. I was wrong." Hayley.

"'I'm the energy fairy of my class!'" - Crystal.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Can Your Relationship Survive a Trip to IKEA?

Next month, Le Husband and I will be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. In the course of our life together, we sailed through some decisions (like how we bought our house the very day we saw it ) and we disagreed about many things.

The funny thing is that we seldom fight about the children. Or the parents. Or the house. Or money. Or jobs. Or friends. Over the course of 12 years we have lived together, I can narrow it down to the one thing that brings out the worst in us; I can even tell you where it always happens.

At a big blue and yellow box called IKEA.

Yup, the place that has contributed to furnishing countless homes around the world, including the very one we love, is the very place that has most seen us frustrated and angry. At each other. It's where we roll our eyes and click our tongues more than ever. At each other. Nowhere else on earth have we ever walked away from each other, apart from IKEA. There are a million and one things that could spark off a disagreement on any given shopping trip to IKEA.

The main problem is that there are just so many decisions to make at IKEA - meatballs or salmon? KLIPPAN or EKTORP? Delivery service or get a back ache? Flat trolley or yellow bag? Ketchup or mustard? BILLY or KALLAX?

Plus, someone is bound to get distracted. Not that you can blame them, we're talking 20,000 products after all.

Someone is bound to get lost. Presumably because of distractions. And by the way, "Where are you?" is probably the worst question to ask at IKEA. And the worst answer is "I'll come to you". Because by the time you actually find your way to your other half, he would have wandered off to another location. Again, not that he is to blame. See above.

If you've been dating someone for a while but aren't sure if he's the right one? Buy a piece of furniture and fix it up together. Relationship dynamics will come into play right away - You'll see how you both handle stress together, and how you react to each other in a stressful situation. What better way to shove a starry-eyed couple into a real-life situation than to give them the task of working together to assemble a complicated thing in a small space, in a short time? And if you survive this, please sign up for the next season of The Amazing Race.

The thing about fixing up furniture is that you've got to do it alone. Or you'll just end up being in each other's way. Because everyone has their own way or organising those thousands of screws and bolts and dowels, and a specific place to put their allen key. You've got to work together in a small space, yet give each other space. You've got to cooperate. You've got to have a system. And you won't have time on your side. Do you tear off all the packaging and stack it neatly somewhere? Or leave it to fly around in the wind? Do you read all the steps of the instructions first, or do you fix as you go?

Perhaps the best, yet at the same time worst, thing for us was that our lives together coincided with the beginning of my career at IKEA. And my job orientation included a product fix-up component. So I knew exactly what to do, yet couldn't command Le Husband to follow. Simply because of the whole "I man, make fire, hunt animal; you woman, cook animal, clean cave" thing. I blame the early cavemen. Not to say that I married one of those chauvinistic types. No, on the contrary, I married a rather open-minded "we are all equal" kind of dude. But, it was still early days, and I didn't want to crush his ego. Not that early anway.

I'm happy to update that after 12 years together and many pieces of furniture after, we still shop at IKEA. But now we know what works for us. One person politely proposes a product, the other one politely accepts. Any counter proposal is presented with carefully chosen words and laced with honeys and darlings. We know to take our time. And when we finally agree, we shake on it. The children play for an hour at Smaland while we zip in for a quick coffee and then to get the proposed - and only the proposed - product, then we zip out. There is no buffer for any distractions or detours. Then we bring said product home via cab, carry it up a zillion flight of stairs, where one of us will fix it up while the other engages in some other activity, only to return when said product is assembled and to praise partner with a high five and a "Good job!" compliment. It works. We're still married.

Why do we not simply pay someone to deliver it and fix it up for us? Because we're cheap. And that is one thing we both agree on. Which is probably why we're still married. To each other. Because if a marriage can survive IKEA, the marriage can survive anything.

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by IKEA. For real. Oh, it knows that it plays a crucial part in making or breaking marriages. It knows alright.

The other two posts I wrote in this partnership with IKEA can be found here and here

Monday, March 9, 2015

Once a Cardboard Box, Not Always a Cardboard Box

My friend and fellow blogger Summer from A Happy Mum runs something called a Creativity linky twice a month. It pushes me to stretch my creativity to make stuff for my kids, at least twice a month. So this month, because we had a cardboard box lying around, we made these. And did it take long? And a lot of effort? Nope. One Mama, one paintbrush, one sponge and one hour. That's it! And paint, of course.

The original box came from a new TV bench we bought last month. The box sat in our storeroom for a long time because I had no idea what to do with it. We made a cardboard home many years ago when we bought our washing machine, but the TV bench box was quite flat so I didn't think I could make a 'home' with it. 

Then out of the blue I realised that it didn't need to be an entire house for the kids which allowed the kids to go in and out. So I ended up making just the front of the houses. Or to be precise, a shop and a house. Because the box came in two parts, and I have two kids. Which was great (that I had two things for the kids to play with, not that I had two kids. Well, also great that I have two kids) because they could both play at the same time, and it wasn't one playing and the other crying.

Those little flowers? They were a last minute add-on, and the 2.5 year old really loved making them. How easy are they! The 6.5 said "oh they're so simple, Mama" but that didn't stop her from making some as well to decorate her shop with.

We played at selling food, selling dolls, selling furniture. It's great money practice for older kids and fun counting practice for the little ones as well. But what's most important was that it was fun for them. Till the next creativity burst!

This post is part of A Happy Mum's Creativity 521 linky series. Hop over to her blog for more fun and creative ideas that she does often with and for her two gorgeous little girls!

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