Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Toddle: Thoughtful shopping made easy


We've been decluttering a fair bit these days, in preparation for our move. One of the areas that I've tackled are the kids' toys, since I realized that they have accumulated a fair bit, and their mess was driving me nuts! 

Sorting through their stuff and reflecting on their play habits was enlightening. I was reminded that the less specific the function, the more mileage we could obtain from the toy. That you generally need to pay for quality, and that wooden toys really last longer than their plastic counterparts. The hassle of having to donate or sell the toys that I cleared from their toy pile was a painful reminder that I needed to be very intentional when it comes to shopping for the kids. I know that I tend to go a little crazy when it comes to shopping for toys, and I can't resist good offers, even though the quality of the toys may be circumspect. 


Enter Toddle, an online shop that aims to provide a thoughtful shopping experience when you have to purchase kid-related items online. Some time ago, I was invited by Silviana, one of the founders of Toddle, to try shopping at their web-store. I admit I was torn on wether to take up the invite. On one hand, I wanted to say no, because I had enough of dealing with kiddy stuff after all that decluttering. On the other hand, who could resist shopping for stuff for the kids? 

I decided to browse the shop before giving her a definitive reply. I liked what I saw: The site was a breeze to navigate both on desktop and mobile, and each product listing was informative and detailed. However, the turning point came when I looked through their selection of toys. Toddle claims to carefully curate their selection of merchandise, and pick items based on their criteria which they have termed as Toddle Tags.  Their criteria go by the abbreviation "S.H.I.N.E" (for smart, healthy, investment, necessity and eco-friendly). 


The thing is, any shop can claim that they curate their toys and state a list of criteria. It's just like how retailers can box up any plastic thing that blinks and goes beep at a press of a button, and claim it aids in teaching hand-eye co-ordination and manual dexterity. But the true test in this case would be in the selection of toys they sell. A quick browse through their listings showed many of our favourite brands. I spotted Hape, a mid-range German brand which we loved because of it's affordability and their focus on sustainability, as well as Plan Toys, which uses organic rubberwood in their products. I also found many Melissa and Doug products, one of the brands that stocks the most affordable wooden toys. Toddle seems to take the business of curating products seriously, and there was not a single plastic thingamajig in sight. I really loved this idea of providing a thoughtful shopping experience, so I said yes. 


I really appreciated the efforts to equip buyers to make well-informed purchase decisions, from the detailed product descriptions, to providing more information on their blog and in their info guides. The folks at Toddle frequently share informative posts on their blog, which range from tips for choosing a car seat, to how to prevent mold from growing in baby's feeding gear. The site also provides info guides to help shoppers in their purchase process. I found that these were really well-written: each guide lists down the available options for the relevant type of product, tips on how to refine your selection, as well as features to consider. 

Toddle also prioritizes customer service, as can be seen from their 14-day return guarantee, as well as their fast delivery times. They aim to ship orders within 1-3 business days, and delivery is free for orders above $70. In our case, our item was delivered really quickly: we ordered our items on a Saturday evening, and the items were delivered on Monday afternoon!


Seeing how the whole shopping experience was so thoughtfully planned out made me curious about the folks behind Toddle. I had a chat with Silviana, who shared with me about how she and her partner Gabriel set up shop hoping to provide quality toys, to counter the problem of low-quality toys in the current market. Initially, the couple sourced their toys from China and other SEA countries, but found that the quality was still not up to scratch. Since then, they have spread their nets further, in order to bring in toys that meet their quality standards. Their goal for Toddle was to provide a wholesome shopping experience and value-added service, where useful information is provided on top of selling the physical products.

Silviana and Gabriel do not have kids yet, but what they lack in terms of parenting experience they make up by having a sense of objectivity, as well as innovativeness. Toddle boasts a buying team that is made up of a diverse group of people, all united by their love of innovative products for children. The shop constantly updates their range of products, and I noticed that they recently added great new selections such as Tegu blocks, Magnatiles and Cuboro. The couple are now working on partnering complementary businesses, medical professionals (such as lactation consultants and pediatricians) and educators to bring about new initiatives for Toddle. I love their drive and creativity, as well as their thoughtful approach to bringing up this "baby" of theirs. Indeed, as Silviana shares, their approach is embodied by their company name "Toddle", which is a verb - all good things start from the smallest of steps.


So what did we buy? We chose to go with a Hape Quadrilla marble run, since I figured the parts were simple enough for Small J to stack up, and the older two boys could use them to build complicated marble runs. I thought a marble run with wooden parts would be great, since it would last and the toy would have plenty of mileage, especially with four kids!


I loved watching them work together to build the marble run. The older two would help each other to balance the various parts while stacking the blocks. They tested the run again and again, and spent over an hour just taking turns to drop marbles into the run and watching as the marbles rolled along. 


It was great fun, and seeing them play reminded me about how good toys are those that can cater to a wide range of ages, and are open-ended enough to allow for creativity in play. This marble run is definitely something that will last, both physically (since it's made of wood), as well as in terms of engaging the kids (they can make a different run each time). 


Thank you Toddle, for reminding us to play hard, and play well! 

~~~~~~~

Toddle is offering a promotion for readers of this blog, where you can get 15% off purchases above $70! Just type in "JUSTINA15" at checkout. This code is valid until the 25th of June 2016, and cannot be used concurrently with other promo codes. (PS: This is a good time to grab those magnatiles!)


They are also giving away a "K's Kids Pull-Back Auto Vehicle Set" to one reader of this blog! To take part in this giveaway, please follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below. For more information, please visit their website, and FB page (this is regularly updated with interesting links, so do like their page!).

Note:
1. If you can, do share about this giveaway with your friends (but this is not compulsory).

2. Do hop by to our Instagram account (@justtey) later today, as we'll be running another Toddle giveaway over there!

3. Please note that you have to like and comment on this FB post to enter, and all incomplete entries or entries using fake FB accounts (accounts set up purely to take part in giveaways) would be disqualified.

Disclaimer: We received shopping credits from Toddle for purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions are my own. This giveaway is not sponsored, endorsed or associated with Facebook.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Easy shipping via myGermany.com


For those who have been following this blog for awhile, you would know that we did a one year stint in Germany for the hubby's work attachment. Then, we had just two kids: Junior J was three, and Lil J was 5 months old. That one year away was quite an eye-opener, and I've shared about some of the things we miss about staying in that country.

I sometimes think back fondly about our trips to the farmers' market, struggling with our pram as its wheels got caught in the cobblestones, while taking in the colours and smells around us. I do miss the slower pace of life there. And I must admit, I also miss the shopping there.

Shopping in Germany is quite an enjoyable experience. Aside from the usual Easter and Christmas sales, you'd find that products are priced pretty reasonably. The Germans really take pride in making good quality products, and many products display the words "Made in Germany" on their packaging in large lettering. What I especially loved was the craftmanship culture when it came to various products, such as children's toys (oh, such lovely wooden toys!) and decorative items (think Christmas decorations such as nutcrackers, and home decor items). 


I confess, I went a little crazy shopping when we were there. We rummaged at flea markets. I bid for pre-loved wooden toys on eBay (wooden toys wear and last longer than plastic ones, so there is a really good market for pre-loved toys). I was even tempted by the typewriters, but I didn't get one in the end as the German keyboard is slightly different from the English one. We visited department stores during Easter sales and bought Playmobil (which can be really cheap during sales!). Amazon deliveries were a common occurrence in our home since we needed books for the kids, and there were pretty good deals for toys (again Playmobil, and other popular brands like Haba, Selecta and those wonderful Schleich figures). The toys were of good quality (unlike some of the wooden toys made elsewhere), and were priced really reasonably. 

One of my regrets was not purchasing some wooden toys by Grimm's Spiel Und Holz Design, which makes some of the loveliest wooden toys around. The price of their toys seemed a little high to me, so I hesitated and didn't get any. However, I came back to Singapore, and had a rude shock when I tried finding their products here, as the prices here can be triple to quadruple the amount! These toys would probably be cheaper if I were to buy them in Germany, and then have them shipped back. However, I never got down to doing it, since it is tricky to find a shipping company to ship to SG at a reasonable price. 


So you could have imagined my happiness, when the folks at myGermany.com wrote to me about their shipping service to Singapore, and I had to say "yes!" to trying out their services for a review. Unlike most third-party shipping companies which tend to be huge corporations, myGermany is a small company set up by two friends who saw the demand of German products in other parts of the world. Since it's humble beginnings in 2012, where the founders ran the company on top of working their regular jobs, the company has expanded and now includes friends and family who are part of the team. 

I find that dealing with small companies has its perks: their service tends to be more personalized, and you don't feel like your emails get lost in a labyrinth of correspondence, unlike the normally large shipping companies. I also loved how the company tried to add value to their services. Christian Schmalisch, one of the founders of the company, shared with me how their company has delivered used shoes to Africa. He also shared about how they hired someone who previously had trouble finding employment because of health issues, and how this individual is now a key warehouse personnel in the company. This company, though small, seems to be one with lots of heart, and you can read more about their team here


The purchasing and shipping process itself was straightforward. You just need to purchase your product from an online shop or site based in Germany, such as Amazon.de and ebay.de (you can view more shop listings here). I already knew I wanted to buy a wooden set from Grimm's, however, it turned out that the particular set I wanted was out of stock on their website, as well as on Amazon. However, I found it on another online shop's website (I just copied and pasted the item name in German and googled it), and at an even cheaper price! 


Purchasing an item off a German site can be a little tricky, since everything is in German. However, you can use a browser that allows for language translation (I use Google Chrome, which automatically translates foreign websites into English), and you can copy and paste the German names of the items when searching for them online. 

Once you have found the item you would like to purchase, you can either make the purchase on your own, and have it shipped to the personalized address provided by myGermany after you've registered on their site (that costs 1 Euro, and you can read more about the process here), or you can opt for their Concierge service to assist you in the purchase (more about that here). 

I had a chance to try out their Concierge service, which helps you to purchase the items for you for a handling fee of 10% of the product price. This way, all you have to do is provide the URL of the page of the specific item you are trying to purchase, and myGermany would handle the purchasing and shipping of the item for you. This made it really easy, since I didn't have to check-out the item on an unfamiliar website, or track the shipment! There is also a pickup service provided at a flat rate of 20 Euros, should your items need to be self-collected (such as in the case of ebay purchases). 


myGermany also provides the usual services such as repacking and consolidation of purchases, a shipping cost calculator, as well as goods inspection. The last feature I found was really useful, since they help to check your items after they are delivered, to ensure they are in good condition, before shipping it out to you. They even include a photograph of the actual item in your Inbox (see below)! 


The checkout process is simple, and similar to most other shipping companies. You are sent an email notification once your item is in, and you just need to click a few buttons to choose your mode of shipping and make payment, and you're done! 


The boys have been loving this set! I foresee that we'll be shopping more on German-based websites with the availability of such a fuss-free shipping option to Singapore. Shipping is so simple, that Christian shares that they have almost built a BMW overseas, as one individual has shipped almost 200 packages of BMW car parts with them. Thank you, myGermany, for letting us try out your services!

~~~~~~~


myGermany is offering a promotion for readers of this blog, where you can get 20% off your first shipment with them. Just type in "MAKINGMUM20" in the promotion code box, when you register with them on this page

They are also sponsoring free shipping for up to $150 Euro for one reader of this blog! To take part in this giveaway, please follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below. Do note that you have to like and comment on this FB post to enter, and complete the steps stated below. For more information, do visit their website and like their FB page to get more information and updates on promotions.

a Rafflecopter giveaway Disclaimer: We received free shipping from myGermany for purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions are my own. This giveaway is not sponsored, endorsed or associated with Facebook.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

To my little girl


Dearest baby,

You had to wait for Mama today. I had to apply ointment for two of your brothers, and feed medicines, and puff them. You were tired, you fussed a little, but you waited. I had to rush to get your brother ready for class, and the repairman decided to come earlier to repair the washing machine, and I couldn't attend to you. You waited. Your brother had a pee accident on the floor, and I was rushing around like a crazy woman, and you waited. 

Some days I feel so bad, that you have to do so much waiting. You are only three months old, but you seem to know that Mama is up to her neck in trying to care for all of you. So you fuss when you need me, like any baby would, but you tend to wait longer and you don't scream as much. I think God knew, and blessed me with you, with your milder temperament and better ability to self-sooth. 

They say it gets easier with each baby, but it isn't true, since it really depends on baby's temperament and a whole lot of other factors. I am so thankful that in this crazy time, you've been quite the angel, and I thank God everyday for the blessing that is you.

Love,
Your Mama.

Monday, May 9, 2016

April showers, and the month that's passed


April has zoomed by for us, with it's swelteringly hot weather peppered with thunderstorms. It has been one really busy month for us, with our home renovations in full swing ever since we received the keys to the place earlier in the month. 


This feeling of being crazy busy didn't sit too well with us. We were running many errands, trying to check out showers and faucets and tiles, debating on paint colours and layouts and materials. We spent many evenings dashing out to settle some reno matter, then rushing back to feed the kids. I was staying up late to draw and redraw out plans for our kitchen and other parts of the house, and felt like I was almost running on empty.

I am thankful that this really busy period is slowly drawing to a close. I'm starting to catch a little more sleep, and it is gratifying to know that our hard work goes towards building our home where the kids would grow up in (no more moving for me, thank.you.very.much.). On the bright side, me and hubby had more "couple time" together (never mind the little lightbulb), exploring various far-flung areas of Singapore which we would not have visited if not for those errands we had to run.

It has been exciting seeing the home come together, bit by bit, from seeing the tiles being pieced together on the floors and walls, to all the other pieces being delivered from there and there. I've been getting so many questions about our contractor and renovation details, and I really wish I could blog about it... but that will have to wait until slightly later (meanwhile you can track our progress here).


Family time took a hit because of the renovations. We did try to involve the kids as much as possible, and they have been paying occasional visits to the house to explore and feed the fish in the pond. However, it was just such a big challenge bringing four kiddos out on errands (not to mention it took triple the time to do anything!) that we relied heavily on my parents to help babysit when we made our mad dashes out. They are really excited about the move though. 


I am still struggling to find a rhythm that works for us in this current season. It has been hard just getting meals on the table on time, while trying to care for a baby. The toddler is still in the phase of fighting sleep, and takes ages to go down for his afternoon nap. Yet he still needs his nap or his sleep at night is affected, so we're still trying to figure this bit out. 

Yet, amidst these challenges, we've still stuck to certain routines, and these moments of family and togetherness are the things I treasure and cling to these days. The boys have taken to re-enacting scenes from nature documentaries that they have been watching at my parents' place, pretending to be dung beetles and rolling up blankets as dung and carrying them all over the house (much to my amusement!). They are starting to enjoy playing board games together. They fight all the time, but they forgive and forget easily. 

And they grow so so fast. Just last week, I had to change their worn out Crocs, and both the older two needed one size up. Taking those new footwear out made me realize how fleeting these growing up years are, and how we need to treasure these little moments.


And speaking of little, the baby of the family is now three months old. She's had to stay home most days as there were some issues with her recent blood test results. I tend to panic a little whenever someone sneezes or coughs near her, but we're praying she'll get better. Meanwhile, she's been growing well. She's learnt how to flip, and is one chatty little girl! 

I am enjoying and drinking in this baby stage in big, grateful gulps. Everything is simple in this stage: there are no tantrums or meltdowns, no emotional or disciplinary minefields to navigate, just cries to communicate. There's a lot of coo-ing and smiles and finger-holding, and I am so grateful for these times. 


May is looking to be slightly quieter, but we'll be busy packing and decluttering for the move in June. (Side point: I've teamed up with a few friends to sell some of the stuff we're decluttering, and you can browse them here.) I am trying to take it one day at a time, but I am thankful for the new month!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Confinement 101: Myths or must do?


I've always been rather fascinated about the whole list of dos and don'ts that accompany the practice of confinement. Some seem rather tough, such as not showering for the entire confinement period. However, certain practices, such as ensuring the mother gets nutritious food, seems to be common sense. I've shared about how we've done each confinement differently in my previous confinement post, and this round I thought I'd just ask around to see who did what, and which practices were deemed to be effective and useful.


:: Bath practices: 
Traditionally for the Chinese, showers and baths are not allowed during the confinement period. But with our humid weather, the idea of not being able to shower for one day is just not possible for me! After all, you are not just dealing with sweat, but also leaking milk as well as lochia. I insisted on showering everyday for all four of my confinements, and from what I know, most of my friends did the same. According to my massage lady, many Chinese still do ascribe to the no bath rule during the confinement period. However, showering during confinement did not seem to have any adverse effects on myself or friends. But many friends did state that we have to be careful to only take hot showers, and not bathe too late at night, in case we catch a chill. My mum and MIL also insisted that I blow-dry my hair for the same reasons (I usually do not bother, except during the confinement period).

For the earlier three confinements, I just had regular showers. Some of my friends took herbal baths, which are said to help expel wind and promote circulation. So I thought I'd try those herbal baths for this confinement, to see if they made any difference. To be honest, I didn't manage to do it regularly, as I found that being able to take a shower was already a luxury! Most times I was rushing, because I had to shower, dry my hair, feed the baby and help settle the other kids before the massage lady came to do my postnatal massage. So it was a challenge to add the extra step of preparing the herbal bath.


However, if herbal baths are a must for you, the ones from Mummamia make bath preparation quick and fuss-free. The herbs come pre-packed in a bag that you just need to steep in hot water. There's no need to boil stuff in a pot over the stove, and that makes it much faster and less messy. I found the bags so much easier to use (it felt like I was making myself a giant pot of tea). However, do be careful if you do try squeeze out the liquid in the bag after steeping, as I found the bag sometimes tears if you are not careful. To be honest, I didn't find the baths particularly helpful in recovery, but then again, I wasn't able to take these herbal baths regularly from the lack of time.


:: Keeping the chills away: Many friends I chatted with shared that this was important during the confinement period, and I found out it was true, the hard way! Some friends shared with me how I should avoid frequent contact with water (eg. when washing the dishes), but I brushed those warnings aside. After all, if I didn't wash stuff up, then who would? However, I found that my finger joints started to hurt really bad after awhile, to the point that it was painful to clench and unclench my fists. The pain subsided after I started reducing my dish-washing frequency.

That aside, some friends also reminded me to cover-up well if we were using the air-con. (I know that some folks even avoid using the air-conditioning. Some others even avoid using the fan.) I did try to cover-up, since the weather was just too hot and I found I really needed the air-con (especially since I was downing so much hot soup!). However, there were times when I went to bed without a blanket, thanks to the boys who usually run off with mine to play. Mid-way through my confinement, after a few days of sleeping without a blanket, I found myself having such bad aches in my legs, that I was limping for a couple of days! After that painful episode, I ensured that I wore socks and used a blanket when sleeping in an air-conditioned room.

Some folks would also recommend drinking a certain amount of alcohol to "keep warm". However, I opted not to, since I don't take too well to alcohol and hated the after-effects. That aside, I did follow the advice to blow-dry my hair, and take warm showers though.

I used to pooh-pooh these ideas about catching a chill and keeping warm during the confinement period. After all, you are in Singapore! However, I've learnt that it really pays to follow advice when it comes to this aspect, even though there is no scientific backing to it.


:: Expelling wind: Having a newborn to hold and cuddle is a wonderful experience, but your body post-delivery is usually far from glamourous. Aside from the aches and pains after the labour, there's also the issue of wind and bloating. The stool softeners that are frequently prescribed after birth doesn't exactly help, since I think it does cause a certain amount of gas. I found that post-natal massage was pretty effective in helping with both the wind and bloatedness, and the issue of gas more or less resolved after I stopped consuming the stool softeners.

The Mom Series Confinement Package from Mummamia contains various supplements that claim to help with regards to this issue. The Su Ho Wan pills are supposed to help with expelling wind, as well provide symptomatic relief from headaches, stomachaches and coughs. The Su Ho oil helps with expelling wind and is used to treat muscular aches and sprains as well as stomachaches. The Pai Fong pills are supposed to help regulate menstruation and aid in general health. 

While these were provided to me to try, I was only able to test the pills and oil only once, as baby J had jaundice and I was advised to stay off any traditional Chinese medicines in case the herbs aggravate the situation. They seemed to help with regards to the wind, but I can't vouch for their effectiveness since I only managed to consume the supplements once.


:: Nutrition for nursing: A key feature of confinement is going on a specific diet, which aims to help in recovery post-delivery, as well as promote milk production. My mum cooked my meals during this confinement period, and I think having those nutritious meals and herbal soups really helped (however, we had to cut down on the ginger and herbs due to the jaundice, and I only consumed the herbal soups after Baby J's bilirubin levels were lower). 

One difference during this confinement was that I tried the nursing herbal soups from Mummamia. For my first three babies, I found that my milk only came in after four days or so, and we had to top up with formula after latching for the first four days. However, this round, my milk came in earlier, and we didn't have to buy any formula (we did have to top up in the first two days but the hospital nursery could settle that). I am not sure if this was due to the nursing herbal soups, but perhaps they may have helped in milk production, because I had to stop consuming the soups after awhile due to overproduction! These nursing herbal soups come prepacked, just like the other herbal soups that we tried, and are easy to prepare. 

All in all, I think having the confinement period is a good practice, since it allows the mother to have time and extra help (unless you opt not to have a nanny or other help from relatives/friends) to recover. However, I'd say you don't need to follow all the prescribed practices. Just pick and choose those that work! ;)

~~~~~~~

Mummamia is offering a promotion for readers of this blog, where you will receive 1 free box of nursing herbal soup (worth $43) with every 30 days worth of confinement herbs purchased (ie. 3 sets, since each set has 10 packets). Just use the code MKGMUM0216 at checkout!   

They are also sponsoring a box of nursing herbal soups for one reader of this blog! To take part in this giveaway, please follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below. Do note that you have to like and comment on this FB post to enter. For more information, do visit their website and FB page.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclaimer: We received Mummamia products for purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions are my own. This giveaway is not sponsored, endorsed or associated with Facebook.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

So how do you do it all?


I have been getting this question rather frequently these days. "How do you do it?" I am asked. "How do you settle your renovation, homeschool, tend to a newborn, care for three other kids, do the housework, while not having a maid?"  Many a times, I wonder if the person is waiting for me to share some secret tip to doing it all, or waiting for me to reassure them that it isn't possible, and that life is a mess right now.

Whatever the case, the truth is that I have no answer to that question.

There is no secret tip to doing it all. I've learnt that you can't have it all. You can't have three kids and a newborn, homeschool, and renovate a house while keeping your own home spick and span, especially if your cleaning lady has to leave Singapore for home for three weeks. You can't care for a newborn and do pin-worthy learning activities while ensuring that the meals get cooked. You can't clear out the study for an impending visit, pack to move, plan your new kitchen, while writing regular blog posts. Something has to give. Life isn't a non-stop series of Instagram-worthy moments, and most of what isn't captured isn't pretty.

Which is why, yes, I can reassure you it isn't possible to do it all, and yes, life is quite a mess right now. I am so tired from staying up late to pack, to settle chores, to work out our renovation details. Yet while we try to get as much done as possible, there are always more things to be tackled, more messes to be cleaned up.

As I write this, the floor is littered with a confetti of cut paper that the toddler has spilt after a snowflake cutting activity that the older two have been doing. I still need to clear out the study, and it is a huge mess of half-packed boxes. The laundry is running, because the toddler has taken to peeing on the bed once in a while. The house is filthy, because I've no time or energy to vacuum, and our regular cleaning lady is away (so I've resorted to calling an alternative cleaner, thanks to a friend's recommendation). The home is a far cry from looking like this. The baby will wake up soon to nurse. Our dryer is spoilt and we have loaned my mum's one for the moment until we move, and it is now chugging along inside the study room (because there was no place else for it). We've not done much school these days, save for spelling and reading. And I am very very tired.

So yes, I am not doing it all, and I don't intend to. After all, I am human, not some robot that doesn't need to sleep. But whatever the case, this period of craziness has taught me some lessons:

:: Just do the next thing. As always. Because the only way to go is through.

:: Eliminate to concentrate. Because we can only do so much, and we need to stay focused.

:: We must fight, to choose joy. Because everyday can be a battle, but we can fight to count our blessings.

:: God enables when you are unable. Because we are treasures in jars of clay, and He patches us up with gold when we crack under pressure.

:: Our thorns are what keep us pinned close to God:

"The weaknesses, failures, and sins of our family are the places where we learn that we need grace too. It is there, in those dark mercies, that God teaches us to be humbly dependent. It is there that He draws near to us and sweetly reveals His grace. Paul's suffering teaches us to reinterpret our thorn. Instead of seeing it as a curse, we are to see it as the very thing that keeps us "pinned close to the Lord." 
- Elyse M Fitzpatrick

These days have been days of tears, of exhaustion, but these have been days of witnessing God's grace over and over again. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Home: An update


So we've gotten the keys to our new place, and renovations have already started. Our contractor is really on the ball, so everything has been moving at breakneck speed! We couldn't do much before we actually got the keys, so we've been spending the past few days running around settling things. Some days we are so busy I don't realize we're way past lunch time, and only realize I am famished when I finally start eating! 

Renovating a home has been both exciting, and exhausting. We've visited six tile companies to shop for tiles, and have had so many heated debates about this and that. Like toilet bowls. The hubby had to have this specific WC, because he watched a video that demonstrated how it could flush down 15 golf balls. However, I didn't like how it looked, so we compromised by letting him choose one WC, while I chose the other. Oh, and those tiles. Don't get me started on tiles!

Moving to a landed place has it's challenges, but it has been quite interesting learning more about all these technical things about building a home. I am looking forward to having more space for the kids, and a backyard for them to play in!


We've had to bring along the kids with us for errands when my parents were not available to babysit, and Baby J basically follows me everywhere I go. Going anywhere with four has been a challenge, and sometimes we resort to letting them play games on the phone, so that they don't run wild in the house that is now filled with debris and all manner of construction material.


The kids are excited about the new home, but are also worried about their drawings and toys. "Will we get to bring these over?" is a common question these days. Whatever the case, I'm taking this opportunity to declutter our stuff, so watch out for our moving house sale (probably on IG) soon!

I don't enjoy the craziness during this period. It feels like we're so busy, it's hard to breathe! But I know that things would go back to their regular rhythms, as the dust literally settles. Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to sorting out our very long to-do list!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Life with four


Life with four has been crazy. 

It's the kind of crazy that turns you into an active volcano, one that is simmering and bubbling and all ready to explode. It's the kind of crazy that warrants me sneaking into the kitchen, for "just one bite of chocolate", until at the end of the day, you realize you have eaten half a huge bar of chocolate. It's the kind of crazy that has you flopped on the bed exhausted from having to babywear most of the day, wondering what on earth you did, aside from keep yourself and four little beings alive. 

These days, there seems always to be at least one kid crying, two kids fighting, and some new mess that needs to be cleaned up. We think Small J is on the verge of dropping his nap, and hence his whole schedule is pretty much messed up. He fights sleep, even though he's tired, and sometimes I find it impossible to make him nap. However, an early bedtime for him is challenging, because the hubby puts all three boys to bed, and can't be in two places at one time. So I try my best to make him nap, and find myself grinding my teeth and trying not to yell in the hour or two that he tosses and plays until he falls asleep. We're still figuring out a way to ensure he gets enough rest, but meanwhile, we end up with a really cranky and whiny kid who is also at the peak of his terrible twos.

Mealtimes are a huge challenge. Just the other day, Small J was melting down after lunch, because he had woken up early. His screaming woke the baby, whom I had to put in her chair because I had to carry the upset toddler. Lil J wasn't eating his lunch, and decided there and then he had to go poo. So I had to leave the crying baby, pacify the screaming toddler (figs did the trick), and clean up Lil J. 

Today, Lil J kept disturbing Small J, and the toddler decided that he couldn't take it any longer and messed up a Perler bead creation that Lil J was working on. Lil J lost it, and both started to go for each other. The shouting and crying woke the baby. I had to drag Lil J to the room to cool down, rush to finish lunch prep, while asking Junior J to help to repair Lil J's creation. Thankfully my dad was around, so he helped to carry the baby, while I had a talk with Lil J. Later, Lil J decided he was too upset to eat. And Small J also decided not to eat, and proceeded to spit every single mouthful I fed him. He then proceeded to demand for a chocolate egg, which of course, he didn't get. He went to bed hungry, after a fair bit of screaming and struggling, and then took ages to fall asleep. 

I catch myself wishing I was an octopus, and envision myself with waving tentacles deftly cooking, wielding the cane, separating fighting siblings, and eating my chocolate... all at the same time. 


But octopus I am not. And so, it has been prayer and prayer and more prayer. And chocolate. Lots of it. And sometimes, outbursts of crying. 

However, amidst the madness there are always bittersweet moments, that help you to think that having four and choosing to stay home isn't that bad. Sometimes it's seeing how Junior J has risen up to the occasion, and helps care for his younger siblings. Or how the older two are now helping to prepare dinner by chopping up stuff. Or those sweet moments where all four are hanging out together, and no one is fighting. There are also those times when you realize that they grow so, so fast. Or the times when you discover that they are making progress in an area that they were struggling. And suddenly, the world stops spinning at a dizzying rate, and slows down for your heart to capture a snapshot to remember forever.


And of course baby smiles. Baby smiles always make things better. 


They say God never gives you more than you can bear, and life these days are a testament to that. His mercies are truly new every morning, and I know things will get better as time passes. Meanwhile, there's always prayer, and more chocolate. :) 

PS: I've hardly the time to blog these days, so for more snippets of crazy, head over here!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Thankful Tuesday: Living in the "in-between"


I've been living in a state of "in-between" these days. It's an uncomfortable state, one where you feel like you are waiting, with baited breath, for something to happen, for things to get better.

It's how the boxes of various things purchased for the new home pile up around the house, as we wait the legal matters to be sorted, and the keys to be handed over. It's how I literally suck in my breath, and hold in the abdominal muscles, when I put the baby in the carrier to gain back the use of my hands, even though I've read that babywearing may make my diastasis recti worse. It's how we pat and rock the baby, knowing that it gets better in a few months. It's how I sit by the toddler who tosses and turns and talks and does everything but nap, knowing that he is is teetering on the edge of the parenting crazy cliff called "I need a nap", and wondering when he will finally reach the stage where he will truly not need one. It is how I feel, clogged and congested, with my second bug in a row, wondering when I will ever stop coughing.


I don't do transitions well. So I struggle with these "in-betweens", always hoping for things to settle down. But I am reminded that change is our only constant... and that a Christian's life is always in that state of "in-between", as we wait here on earth for Christ to come again. And this stage of being stuck means there is something to look forward to: moving to our new home, not having to rush home for the afternoon nap (until the youngest starts being unable to nap on the go), recovering and feeling better, the delightful months of cooing and gurgling that follow the initial demands of the newborn stage. (Oh how fast they grow, especially in the first two years!) And of course, ultimately, our home in heaven.


So I keep praying, and thinking of the things that are to come. The "in-betweens" start feeling a little less like hindrances, but more like building blocks of anticipation and hope. Meanwhile, I look around me and see so many blessings: these four little children, who are learning to care and love each other, the hubby, who has stepped up so much, our parents, who tirelessly help out and shower so much love on the kids, my friends, who help in practical ways and send prayers when I need them most. And I am so thankful.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Love Letters: Love in the ordinary


My dearest children,
Papa and Mama celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary a few weeks back.  It marked the end of Mama's confinement period, and I was craving beef. A juicy burger, to be exact. So I suggested that we head to Burger King for our celebratory dinner, much to Papa's horror.

I didn't get my burger. But I did get really good prime beef short ribs that I had to cook on a sizzling lava rock, and a huge bunch of flowers to boot. The bouquet had one sunflower, ten roses (for our ten years), and four carnations (representing the four of you). The florist told Papa he had chosen the strangest combination, however I begged to differ.


It was a lovely dinner, and the food was excellent. You could taste the effort that went into creating each dish: the layers of texture and flavours, all expertly blended together. You would have thought it would have been one of those romantic dinners, with candlelight, wine and some life-changing conversation. Instead, it was like a scene from one of our meals at home, except everyone was better dressed, and thankfully we only had one child to feed. 

Baby J, you chose to poop first thing upon us reaching our destination, and the building that the restaurant was housed in did not have a changing table. We had to change you in the balcony, you perched upon the table with nothing between you and a eight metre drop, while I held on tightly to you. You fretted most of the time during dinner, and I ate half of the delicious food surreptitiously standing up in a corner, as I rocked you. We didn't have life-changing conversations. However, we did enjoy some quiet chit-chat, without the usual interruptions of having to bring a kid to the potty, or chasing a wandering toddler. 


Many would say that romance disappears after the wedding. It does, if you are looking for it in all the wrong places. The bouquets and letters might decrease in number, the celebratory moments may become fewer and far between. This is even more so when there are kids in the picture. You can't really enjoy a quiet candlelit dinner when there are toddlers about: they need to be chased and fed, and sometimes might try to burn down the house with the candle. 

But love? It doesn't slip away, making a quiet exit because everyone is just too busy trying to survive and care for the kids. Instead it grows, but you need to look carefully to spot it. You can find it in the kitchen, when one person does the dishes so the other can rest. You feel it in the hands of the person who volunteers to clean up the puke or the pee accident. You see it in the everyday moments, when one person decides to put the other's needs above their own. You sense it even in the quarrels, when one learns to control the tongue, and put aside pride to say "I'm sorry". 

This kind of love is quiet. It's not showy with loud proclamations of adoration, but always there. As 1st Corinthians 13 puts it: "It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." 

I once read that while our God is all-powerful, we meet Him mainly in the plain moments of everyday life:

"We encounter God in the ordinariness of life: 
not in the search for spiritual highs and extraordinary, mystical experiences 
but in our simple presence in life.”  
- Brennan Manning

I think it is the same when it comes to love, since we are only able to love through Him. We find love in the everyday moments, in our daily grind, in the grittiness of real life. Of course there are the high points, of celebrations and romantic dinners. These are not wrong in and of themselves. However, be careful not to use these as a barometer for a relationship, because it is much easier to buy flowers, than commit to doing the vacuuming week after week. Look hard for love in the ordinary, and be thankful for it when you do find it.

One day you will grow up, and you would start looking for love in that special someone. I pray that you'll look for love in the right places. Meanwhile, we pray that we'll be able to love each other and love you as God has loved us. 

Love, 
Your Mama and Papa.

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