Friday, August 19, 2016

Home 2.0 Before and After: The master bedroom wall

Hello! We've had many requests for a house tour, but to date we're still unpacking and getting our stuff sorted! I think it's probably going to take a long while, so instead of a final grand tour, I'll periodically be sharing peeks into various parts of our home as we get them done. (Meanwhile, you can follow most of our home updates over on Instagram @justtey.) 

Today, I wanted to show you a part of the master bedroom that I really love. The previous owners of our new home had a fair bit of built-in cabinetry done, and we had to decide which of these we wanted to keep, and which we wanted to demolish (since we didn't have the budget to overhaul everything). The master bedroom featured a walk-in wardrobe that was basically two sets of cupboards built facing each other, with the back of one acting to partition the wardrobe space off from the rest of the bedroom. Essentially (if you can see the lower left picture), the wall facing the bed was covered with a mid-brown tone laminate, along with a built-in cabinet that had some glass doors. The cabinet didn't work for us, since we needed drawer storage for clothes. I didn't like the glass doors too, since they were a hazard with the kids, plus I preferred that the mess inside was concealed. So we opted to hack away the cabinet. 

Now the question was, did we want to just replace the back of the wardrobe with a new sheet of laminate, or did we want to do something else? I thought that laminate didn't look nice, especially if we were to push our existing chest of drawers against the wall. So we decided to explore the idea of using wallpaper instead. 

A friend gave us a contact for a company that sold Korean wallpaper, but we couldn't find anything that we liked. The same friend had recently wallpapered part of her home using wallpapers from a Rice-Eijffinger collaboration, and I really loved them. These she purchased from Wallhub, so we paid them a visit. 

We met up with Avan from Wallhub, and he patiently showed us what they had in stock. The range was mind-boggling, and we initially were rather overwhelmed by how many wallpapers we liked and wanted to use! Wallhub stocks many European brands of wallpaper, and there were so many pretty designs. After flipping through stacks of catalogues and having a heated debate with the hubby, we managed to narrow our selection down to a few Rice wallpapers (I loved the bright colours and happy designs!), along with a few other designs from other brands. 

In the end, we decided to go with a lovely Van Gogh wallpaper by BN Wallpaper, instead of going with the Rice designs, which on second thought were a little too youthful for use in a master bedroom (I am still hoping we can do up some wall in the home with Rice wallpaper though!). We fell in love with the Van Gogh line, which features wallpaper that is richly textured, as though the painter scraped his palette knife across the walls itself. The designs were inspired by Van Gogh's various paintings, and we particularly liked the ones that were based on his painting "Almond Blossom", which were of a flowering almond tree. The original painting had the tree painted against a blue sky, but the wallpaper came in four background colours of dusky pink, white, blue (like the original) and a deep warm yellow. All four were gorgeous, but we thought the pink would be the most suited to our colour theme. 

Having chosen the wallpaper, we decided to get our contractor to put up a partition wall (you can see the thickness of the wall in the picture above), and have the wallpaper installed on that instead of the back of the wardrobe. This was because the wardrobe was pretty old and the back was rather flimsy, so I figured the partition wall would allow us to keep the wallpaper, should we decide to tear down the old wardrobes in a few years time. 

It was only after we had purchased the wallpaper did I discover the significance of the painting by Van Gogh. "Almond Blossom" was painted for Van Gogh's nephew, who was named after him, and the almond tree was selected as a symbol of new life. It was rather apt, since these almond tree branches would be sheltering our own little baby too, as she slept in the cot in our room.

The installation of the wallpaper was done by Wallhub, and was quick and fuss-free. The installers even cleaned up after themselves! I really don't know how they do it, but you cannot see where each piece of wallpaper connects to the next, and everything is seamlessly connected. 

We moved our ten year old chest of drawers over, to replace the built-in cabinets. It fitted the space perfectly, along with the massage chair. I'm trying to keep the dresser top as clear as possible, and it helps that I'm a no-frills person when it comes to skincare (plus I don't wear make-up). 

The tiffin carrier houses the few pieces of accessories that I wear, which these days are mainly silicon bead necklaces that the baby can chomp on. I couldn't resist adding flowers too (these are from a flower subscription, which I would be sharing more soon). We also took down the old existing blinds, had curtain rods installed, and bought some dark grey curtains from IKEA

Because of the lovely texture of the wallpaper, Baby J cannot resist running her hands over the walls. 

I think she approves. 

I do love how the wallpaper brightens up the room. No regrets choosing this over brown laminate! Now, on to sorting out the rest of the room...

Disclaimer: We were given a discount off installation costs at Wallhub, but we paid for the rolls of wallpaper. No monetary compensation was received and all opinions are my own. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Sew Nice: Bespoke blankets by KaynZac

Blankets. My kids love them. They drape tables with them and crawl underneath to hide. They slot them through the slats of the upper bunk bed and say they are exploring a forest. They blunder about blind, covered with one, proclaiming they are a monster and sending the rest of their siblings shrieking. And of course, the blankets serve their main purpose too: keeping the kids warm at night, since we don't use quilts at home. They are an essential piece of childhood, being incorporated into playtime and naptime, and providing comfort during sick days. 

Just as how blankets can be incredibly versatile, their quality can vary a fair bit too. We have blankets made from cotton purchased from the market, which can be scratchy. We have some lovely patchwork ones, which were used by hubby and myself when we were younger, and now have been passed to the kids to use. These days, as I declutter and think about the things that spark joy, I realize that I really want to only keep the blankets that were made by loving hands. I love it when I have to cover a sleeping child with a soft blanket that holds a history, one that is pieced together with lots of love. 

Which is why I immediately said yes, when Abigail wrote to me about sewing a blanket for Baby J. Abigail, who is the heart, head and hands behind KaynZac, is a stay-home mum of two. She makes incredibly lovely blankets, which comprise of three layers: The top layer is cotton, of which the design you can choose from her range of fabrics in her shop's FB page (or you can even have her source for something you have in mind), and the bottom layer is made of an organic cotton knit that is incredibly soft. She shares that she only uses more expensive organic cotton for the bottom layer, since it is the layer that is in contact with our children's skin.

I can vouch for the amazing softness of the blanket, because after the blanket arrived, it has been kidnapped by almost every member of the family, the hubby included. (He looked rather ridiculous using it, since it's too small for him, but he declared that the blanket was "so nice and soft!") When I was down with dengue, the rash made me feel like my nerves were on on fire, and every single blanket I tried felt scratchy and made the tingling sensation worse. Baby J's KaynZac blanket was the only one my extremely sensitive skin could tolerate, so I spent all my rest time curled up under it. It IS that soft and comfortable. 

Softness aside, Abigail adds another special touch to each blanket: she embroiders a name on it. Just like the fabric for the top layer, you can choose the colour of the lettering and the borders of the letters. You can also choose between two types of fonts. For Baby J's blanket, she helped me to source for the fabric I wanted, and we went with plain grey lettering with teal borders, and I loved how it turned out! 

The blanket has doubled up as a playmat, when Baby J was starting to do tummy time. It's thick enough for Baby J to be comfortable on the floor, yet thin enough for use in our hot, tropical weather. We love the blanket so much, that I am currently planning to order blankets from KaynZac for the rest of the boys as their birthday presents! These come in various sizes, so we'll probably get bigger ones for them so that they go a longer way. 

During this collaboration, I had such a good time chatting with Abigail, that I thought I should let her tell the story behind her shop instead: 

Me: Hi Abigail! Could you share a little more about how KaynZac was started? 

Abigail: KaynZac was started in 2014 by my mum and I, because we were both at home watching too many Korean dramas at that time (I’m kidding. She was watching too many dramas).  We started off with importing kids’ apparel, and I wanted to see how “easy” it was to start my own line, designing and sewing my own clothes. That was my impetus to learn sewing. 

I started off sewing, and still do sewing in front of my computer, because I needed to google every single thing. I learnt how to sew from YouTube and online tutorials and I’m happy to say, I’m a lot more competent these days! Every year for the last 2 years, I try to sew a birthday dress for my daughter. Her first Elsa dress was just abysmal, but she was three then, and I could force her to wear it. The second Ariel-inspired ball gown is still well-loved and worn today! 

So back to did I ever start a children’s line? Nope! It was too much hard work, and while I can probably copy and make knock-offs, sadly, fashion design isn’t my strength. So now that I know how to sew, this leads us to part II of our story. We were looking for blankets for our kids that were of good quality, safe for my girl’s sensitive skin (100% cotton) and most importantly, of her favourite characters (so she will use it). We were mildly surprised that it was so difficult to find something in the market that fulfills all these criteria! 

Since my husband thinks I’m a domestic goddess because I can sew, he suggested that I sew their blankets, and I remember scoffing at his suggestion. Anyway, I did my first organic cotton blanket for my son, with his name appliqu├ęd on it. It was a runaway hit! I think I overdid myself, because now when the blanket is sent for washing, he will fuss and cry, and insist on hugging a wet blanket to sleep. I did a couple of other iterations of it for my daughter - with minky, and I still offer the option because some like the material and the variety of colours - but my daughter has repeatedly requested for another blanket made in the organic cotton. Unfortunately, I’ve been so busy sewing other people’s blankets, but I’ve promised her I will do it before her 16th birthday! 

Me: I'm so glad you did take up your hubby's suggestion to try sewing blankets! How have your customers taken to your creations?

Abigail: I am very grateful that I have had a lot of support from friends and customers, and many of them become friends! Many come back to us again and again, as they purchase blankets as gifts for their friends who just gave birth, or to their friends’ children on their birthdays.

We’re very thankful for a particular customer whose son has extremely sensitive skin, which would have an allergic reaction when he used fleece blankets. She came to us requesting repeatedly that the blanket had to be made of 100% cotton. After we made one for him, she was happy enough to order another for her daughter, and she has asked us to make other things as well. So it was an assurance that our product is safe enough! 

We have customers who have upgraded and ordered larger blankets, as their kids have outgrown the blanket but are still using it every night. When people tell us their kids really hug their blankets to sleep each night, we know we’ve made a good product!  

Me: Do you find it challenging to juggle sewing and the business, while caring for the kids? How do you manage it all?

Abigail: I think running this business was something that brought me a lot of excitement, joy, and a bit of stress. It provided the mental stimulation that I found a bit lacking as a stay-home mum. There was a steep learning curve with the sewing, setting up a website, putting myself more out there on social media, etc, but I think these are all good experiences for growth. 

I try to be very clear that when my kids are around, I will not be working. Up till last year, that was very tough, because I could only sew late into the night and early mornings, after my kids went to bed. This year, as both are now in school, I try to accomplish a fair bit in the mornings before they come back from school, so my working hours have been more sane. 

However, time is always tight, and I still want to be very hands-on about my kids’ education. I do find myself quite torn, with wanting more time for the business, as well as teaching the kids and spending time with the family. My challenge is that I’m always on the phone! Messaging my clients, editing my photos, answering queries, or just sneaking off to use FB. I’m trying to be more present, and be more disciplined about putting the phone away when the kids and hubby are around. 

I’m still enjoying this journey! I’m secretly happy that my daughter sees me working, and asks to learn how to sew. More than the skills, I hope to show them that they too, can learn and do anything when they set their hearts on it!

I loved so much of what she has shared, don't you? I can identify with the struggle to manage our side-lines and interests as stay-home mums, while being present with the kids during the day. I also really love how her kids have a wonderful example of what life-long learning looks like, and it's amazing that she managed to learn how to sew through watching videos on YouTube! I've been meaning to learn how to sew clothes for the kids, and I think I am inspired to learn after talking to her. Thank you so much for the lovely blanket, and for being an inspiration, Abigail!


I'd love for all of you to be able to enjoy the loveliness of a blanket made by Abigail, so we're sharing a discount code that you can use at her little shop! Key in "makingmum5" at checkout (or quote this to her if you order via FB or IG), to get 5% off your order. Do like the KaynZac FB page to be kept updated on new blanket designs, as well as promotions. Her shop also stocks children apparel as well as toys, so do have a browse!

Finally, KaynZac is also kindly sponsoring a blanket for one reader of this blog. To participate in the giveaway, please follow the instructions given in the Rafflecopter app below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: We were given this lovely blanket for purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions (and chubby baby legs) are our own. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

J4 turns 6 months: Dearest Baby J...

Has it been six months already? It seemed like it was just last week that I first held you in my arms, and now you are already half way to your first birthday. Time slips by so fast these days with the four of you, and I savour those quiet moments when I get to nurse you before bed. I cradle you, little you with your messy crazy hair that I cannot bear to cut, and I breathe in that baby smell and try to lock it in the recesses of my memory. I will miss this baby stage, of flailing limbs to show your excitement, and all the squirming and cooing, and the intent look as you keep doing your baby pushups.

We thought you had a milder temperament, but these days it seems like your sleep has regressed. You've been waking up at crazy hours every night to play, and your naps haven't been great, so you do have cranky times. Sleep woes aside, I am thankful that you're usually content to be on the floor exploring when you are awake.

You've started on solids, and you've been enjoying it, along with trying to chew your bib to pieces. You are the noisiest during meal times, cooing and gurgling as you try to swallow your food (have I ever told you to never talk with your mouth full?). Your first two little teeth have erupted (which might explain your cranky nights), much to the delight of your oldest brother, who is now growing his adult front teeth. 

Seeing the four of you growing up together is just amazing. Each of you is so different in terms of personality, and yet all three of your brothers dote so much on you. Small J is always coming over to squeeze your cheeks and coo at you, and he sets aside all things pink and say they are for you. Lil J, who is usually not demonstrative by nature, is always getting toys for you and talking to you. He does the silliest things, like pretending to trip and fall, in an attempt to make you laugh. 

And your biggest koko? He loves you to bits. He's usually the one tasked to take care of you when we are busy (he does groan a little), and he loves making you laugh. He's the one who sits by your cot, reading, while you play. He does push-ups next to you when you are doing your baby push-ups. 

It is always so heart-warming (and also rather amusing) seeing how your brothers all naturally start talking to you in a high-pitched voice when they play with you. Seeing how they dote on you makes me think that your future boyfriend is going to be really intimidated, since you have four male protectors in the family! 

Happy half year, my dearest little girl, and we love you so very much!

Your Mama and Papa.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Out and about with four (and the BABYZEN YOYO+!)

We have four kids, and I am a little embarrassed to say this, but we have tried four different prams before we found one that really worked for us. Our first was purchased when we were excited young parents, and it was lightweight and really compact when folded. However, it was one of those with a really upright seat (which meant the kid had to be belted, or he would topple out), and Junior J absolutely refused to sit in it. Since we only had one kid then, we ended up baby-wearing him instead, so we sold off Pram number 1. 

We were wiser and more well-informed when we bought Pram number 2, this time with one toddler and one baby in mind. It was a lifesaver when we moved to Germany, since it had a attachable wheel-board for the toddler. This pram went a long way with us literally, seeing us through more than 10 countries. It was laden with groceries from the farmer's market each week. It rattled across the cobbled paths in the old cities that we explored, it's small wheels sometimes getting stuck in the cobbled stones. However, I found the pram challenging to manage when I was on my own with two littles, since it was rather heavy, and closing the pram required both hands. I always had to put the baby in the carrier, unload all my groceries on the ground, close the pram, and then lug the pram into the apartment while still carrying the baby. I really built up my arm muscles with that pram!

We knew Pram number 2 would be too heavy for me to manage when we returned to SG and had our third kid. I was bringing all three out for co-ops at the zoo on my own, and I didn't drive. So we decided to buy a pre-loved lightweight pram, one of those which could be opened and closed with just one hand. Enter Pram number 3, which again served us really well. I would wheel Lil J in the pram while baby-wearing Small J. We would load the pram up with all our stuff: lunchboxes for our meals, our water bottles, and all the various other things little people need, like change of clothes and diapers. Most of the stuff had to be hung from the pram handle, since the basket under the pram was tiny. The thing is, lightweight prams have a tendency to be rather flimsy. Each time the toddler crawled out of the pram, it would flip over due to the weight of our bags! I grew to be quite adept at pre-empting when the toddler would escape, and would do a quick shift of our bags over to the pram seat. 

Then came Baby J, and the chance to try Pram number 4, a BABYZEN YOYO+. After using this for the past few months, I have to say this pram is the best one for our needs right now.

Firstly, to be out and about with four, you'll need a relatively lightweight pram, especially if you are taking public transport. When you board a taxi or a bus, you'll need to hold little hands and carry what feels like a truckload of things. The last thing you want is to have to lug a heavy pram on top of everything! The YOYO+ weighs slightly over 6 kg (depending on the version), and that is quite manageable on top of carrying bags and a baby. The pram comes with a carry strap, which makes it even easier to carry about, especially if you have to board a bus. 

Speaking of carrying, this stroller closes up to be amazingly small: 52 cm in height, and 44 cm in width. This means the stroller is easy to load and unload from the boot of a car (compared to other lightweight prams which tend to be longer, requiring you to swing the closed pram at a larger angle to to get it in and out of the boot). It takes up less car boot space, and can be brought up on the bus easily.  It's smaller than cabin luggage size, which means you can actually bring the stroller on board a plane as hand luggage, and use it all the way to the plane door!

Photo source: BabyZen

One key distinguishing feature of the YOYO+ is how easily it can be folded up, something essential if you take public transport, or are moving about with a few kids. You don't want to be struggling with a pram, while trying to keep an eye on the kids at a bus-stop next to a busy road! Opening the stroller is a breeze since you more or less just need to flip open the stroller. Closing it requires two steps (you can see how it works here), of which the first step requires both your hands to fold the top handlebar down. However, this step can be done while the child is still seated in the pram, while the second step only requires one hand. Folding this is so much easier compared to our previous pram! Being able to fold the top handlebar down has an extra advantage of allowing the pram to fit into tight spaces like in a cafe or restaurant, while allowing your child to stay seated inside.

Even though it is lightweight, the stroller is still sturdy, and can take weights of up to 18 kg. It's 4-wheel suspension means a comfortable ride, with less of the bumping that we used to get with our lightweight pram. Trips outdoors are much smoother. 

The YOYO+ boasts of a larger basket compared to the older model. The bars running across the frame mean that you cannot fit bulky, inflexible objects underneath, such as a bag of library books. However, the basket is certainly roomier than many other lightweight prams. The stroller canopies come with UPF 50+ solar protection, as well as rain shields that provide full coverage.

The stroller uses a single brake, which is a lot safer and more convenient than those with separate brakes on either side. I remember how our other stroller with a double-brake used to swivel when I forgot to brake one side! The hubby did find the brake pedal a little small (and thus a little harder to locate) compared to one of our previous strollers, but this issue is minor compared to all the good points the BABYZEN YOYO+ has to offer. 

Of course, the YOYO+ has many other features that you find in good prams, such as a five point seat-belt, and the option of adding car seat adaptors to fit an infant car seat on the frame. These features aside, I really loved how all the fabric components are removable, and machine-washable (I know this makes me sound so aunty, but having to hand-wash pram fabrics can be such a pain, so this aspect really makes the YOYO+ a winner for me!). 

Baby J is now no longer content to lie down in the stroller, so we'll be switching out the 0+ seat for the 6+ seat this weekend. These seats can be purchased separately, which is great because you only buy what you need!

All in all, we are loving our BABYZEN YOYO+. It has won over even the fussy hubby, who tends to have really high expectations when it comes to these things. I've caught him repeatedly saying "I love this pram!" each time he folds or unfolds the YOYO+, so you know the stroller must be good! Our friends who use the stroller all rave about it, and you can read more reviews over at Life's Tiny Miracles, as well as Jayme's blog


The BABYZEN YOYO+ can be purchased from Mothercare. For those who are keen, Mothercare would be running a promotion at the upcoming SuperMom Bazaar:

Date: 12-14 August (Fri-Sun) 
Venue: Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre (Hall 403 to 406) [Available at Mothercare booth (G01 – G19)]

Each purchase of a YOYO+ stroller bundle (consisting of the frame, 0+ nest and 6+ seat) at the bazaar entitles you to a free travel bag for the stroller (worth $119) and insect net (worth $39). 

For more information or promotions, please visit the BabyZen Singapore FB page


Disclaimer: We were sponsored a YOYO+ for purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions are my own. 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Down with Dengue

It all started two weeks back. The hubby suddenly came down with a fever, and had a really bad tummy ache along with the chills. That was on Sunday, and it followed with Junior J having the same symptoms. We thought that it was food poisoning, since both of them had shared a plate of Japanese curry that day, and I had suffered from food poisoning eating the same dish just a week ago. The two of them spent most of Sunday and Monday in bed. Junior J couldn't stomach any food, and was throwing up every time he ate. The hubby was constantly on paracetamol for the pain.

Tuesday rolled around and Junior J seemed to be getting worse. He still wasn't eating, was complaining of a headache, and said his tummy was hurting more. He was starting a rash all over his body. The hubby was really sick and having severe aches and pains. We decided to bring Junior J to the hospital to have him checked (poor hubs had to bring him while I stayed home with the younger three). The folks there administered magnesium, and kept him under observation for awhile. The boy started feeling a lot better after the meds went in, so they sent him home.

It was such a relief to see Junior J up and walking and being able to stomach some watermelon. However, by then I started feeling unwell, and attributed it to the stress of having to care for everyone across the weekend. I had started a fever and aches too, so I took some paracetamol and soldiered on.

By Wednesday I was worse, and the hubby was still in pretty bad shape. We ended up having to do a sick parent relay, where whoever was feeling less sick would take care of the kids while the other rested. Thankfully my dad was around, and helped babysit so we could rest, and I tried to sleep here and there when the baby napped. Both of us were on meds just to cope with the pain. It was really all about survival: getting the kids fed and bathed. I ate paracetamol so that I could cook our meals and feed the toddler. Everything else went out of the window.

Junior J however was almost recovered, saved for a really bad rash that had spread across his entire body. We were still under the assumption that it was either food poisoning or some nasty virus, and that I was just coming down with some flu, since I seemed to be starting a cough and didn't have a painful tummy unlike the hubby.

Thursday rolled around. Junior J was still having a rash, but was back to eating and bugging his brothers (you always know they are better when they start fighting with their siblings!). The hubby said he felt better, so he headed back to work on Friday. He only lasted for half a day, and came back early and collapsed into bed, saying he felt feverish and that the pain was back.

The weekend crawled by, and it felt like the longest weekend of our life! The hubby started developing a rash on Friday, and on Saturday we noticed that the same rash that was creeping across my arms and spreading. By then, we finally concluded that it might not have been food poisoning, and started wondering if we might have contracted dengue, since our area was an active cluster just two weeks ago.

The rash worsened, and spread across our whole bodies. I looked as if I had a bad sunburn, and my skin was red all over. My hands and feet swelled. It not only itched, but it felt as if the virus had set fire to every single nerve ending in my body. Everything tingled and hurt. Using a towel after a shower felt like I was exfoliating off the top layer of my skin, and walking on the rough bathroom floor felt as if I was stepping on a bed of needles. It came to a point where I would dread getting out of bed, because standing would put pressure on my feet and it hurt like crazy to walk. But there was no choice, I still had to nurse a baby and put her to bed, and to add to it we now had stairs to climb at home! We spent those few days in a haze, hobbling around like old people, trying to care for the kids while resting whenever we could.

Monday finally came, and hubby and I went to see a doctor. We had our blood tested, and the test results came back positive for dengue. Our platelets were not too low, so we were advised to rest and do another blood count on Wednesday.

Wednesday's count showed that our platelets were back to normal, so the hubby headed back to work on Thursday. He said he was feeling much better, save that he was really tired. By Wednesday I was feeling more human, and the pain had lessened considerably. However, the exhaustion was rather debilitating: I struggled to climb the stairs while carrying the baby, and I felt tired all the time. I found the boys' usual raucous wrestling overwhelming, and even just trying to cook dinner felt like an impossible feat. There were days where all I could manage was to toast cheese on bread for our lunch!

I've heard that the symptoms for dengue can vary considerably in terms of severity. In our case, we were spared the worst of the disease, and managed to survive those two weeks caring for the kids while popping paracetamol. I think it was really God's grace that saw us through those two weeks, and we were blessed with help from my parents who lent us a hand with the kids. We had wonderful friends too, who came by with meals or even helped to clean up our place or babysat the kids, and many kept us in prayer, or offered to help with the groceries or meals. I am so so thankful for all of you! I am also really thankful that the younger three were spared, and that Junior J didn't get it as bad as we did.

It has been two weeks since, and I am so glad that the worst is over. The exhaustion still lingers though, and I think it would take another week or so before we are back to normal. We actually tried bringing the kids to the River Safari over the weekend. However, by the time we reached the pandas, we learnt that walking so much so soon wasn't such a good idea! The hubby was rather green in the face by the time we finished the whole loop, and my head was spinning and I felt like I couldn't walk another step. But of course, I had to, and we did make it home in one piece. I guess that's the thing about being parents: you become stronger because you have all these little ones depending on you. You are not given a choice about it. (Whatever the case, I'm glad a certain little someone had a lovely time, since he got to see his favourite pandas, PLUS have a chocolate panda pau all to himself!)

Being this sick has been a reminder for me to take good care of myself and take things slowly. I realize I've been just rushing about since we were so busy with the reno and move, and this has forced me to slow down. I really need to take the time to rest. I must find the time to be still. I realize I enjoy Baby J's babyness so much more these days, because I am forced to go slow and do less. I admit it is frustrating to have the housework and other work pile up as I try to gather my strength, but I am learning to further eliminate and concentrate, and just do the things that matter. The rest can and will wait. I have to take it slow, but perhaps slow is the better way to go.

PS: Yes, you've all heard about those steps to wipe out those mozzies, and I can't emphasize how important those steps are. Dengue isn't fun at all, and we can make it so much safer for everyone if we take those few steps to ensure we don't breed those mosquitoes. Remember to slather on the repellent too when you bring the kids outdoors!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Dear husband to a stay-home mum...

Us SAHMs (and work at home mums too) can be a queer lot. I know. My husband sometimes says that. Some days, you come home to a tidy home and a happy wife and everything's balmy. Some days though, anything you say seems to set off an explosion at home, and the house is a wreck (of course, experience has taught you not to say anything about that though!).

After ten years of marriage and seven over years of learning how to raise kids, I thought I'd share some tips on how to care for and understand that lovely person who is your wife and mother to your children (and hey, many of these tips will apply to working mums too!).

For starters, try imagining if your day at work involved dealing with three clients. Yes, just three. Now, you have to provide meals for these folk, and they all have different preferences. The youngest client likes to eat around the clock, and demands milk feeds every three hours. It doesn't matter if you are sleeping. The client is always right. Then the other two have decidedly different taste buds. What is yummy to one is yucky to another. So your interesting and challenging job is to figure out how to cook for, and ensure that all the clients get fed, PLUS clean up any mess that ensues.

Now cooking portfolio aside, you also have KPIs on providing attentive service: you need to wash butts when they get dirty, and you need to answer endless questions about everything and anything,   You are not allowed to visit the toilet unsupervised, because a certain client needs to know how big your poo is and wether you are hiding in the toilet to eat something yummy that you don't want them to have. Your workplace is generally very noisy, and crying can be quite a common occurrence.

Besides having to be vigilant and ensuring your clients don't fight and will get along well, you also need to read many stories. Sometimes you have to read one story, many times. Again, the customer is always right, so don't try to get yourself off this duty. You need to mediate fights if they happen, and sometimes risk getting socked in the eye when you wade into the fray to separate your angry clients apart.

Speaking of angry, your clients tend to go a little berserk if they don't have a nap. So another important duty you have is to ensure they sleep. But for some strange reason, you'll find that getting them to sleep is akin to getting your clients to drink bitter medicine when they are sick: they declare they don't need it (though they obviously do) and will fight you tooth and nail about it.

Add all this to other duties, such as the laundry and folding clothes (if you don't have a full-time helper) and overseeing your clients to ensure they do their homework, and washing countless dishes and cleaning floors that get grimy after just one hour. And then take away any real adult interaction or conversations in person, and monetary renumeration, and any healthcare benefits and sick leave. This is more or less the "job" that a SAHM does, Which is why:

:: SAHMs tend to be very concerned about what time you are ending work. 
No, we don't intend to lie in wait at the door at 5 pm to shove the fighting kids over to you and go off to watch TV. But when we are in the midst of trying to cook dinner with a baby in a carrier and a toddler clinging on to one leg, we can't help sending you a message with that question. It gives us hope. It gives us a time when we can be a little less vigilant, because we are no longer the only adult in the house. We know you are tired from work. Trust me, we don't enjoy having to ask for help the minute you step into the house. But we really look forward to you coming home, all of us do. And of course, we also look forward to the time where we are able to go to the toilet without a chaperone, and perhaps cook dinner without sweating buckets while carrying a baby.

:: You may be the first adult we really talk to at the end of a long day. So what you say really matters.
According to research, our brains are wired to have a negativity bias, and we remember negative comments more than positive ones. In fact, for married couples, it takes five positive comments to offset one negative comment! A SAHM who spends her day with the kids, who are usually not generous with praise and tend to pepper their conversations with "no!", "don't want" or "don't like!" might feel defeated by the end of a hard day, and encouraging words will always be really welcome.

:: SAHMs may need to rant to you about their day. But we just need a listening ear, not a solution to our problems.
After a full day of wiping butts and breaking up fights and trying to put a baby back to sleep after a screaming toddler woke him up, we usually need to do a little ranting to you to let off steam, and listening to us is the best thing you could do. In most cases, some reassurance that we're doing ok, or even some praise for a yummy dinner would help. Please don't overanalyze and try to offer solutions, we just needed to talk!

:: SAHMs may need some time to do some mindless scrolling of their FB feed, or engage in some random chats on Watsapp. 
You see, many of us may not get alot of adult interaction in the day, and we spend most of our time talking to little people, who can be amazingly funny and cute... but they are still little people. Social media and our mobile phones becomes our base for connecting with other adults, never mind if it's not exactly real-life interaction. So please don't begrudge us that time.

:: For SAHMs who are introverts, we may be too exhausted and drained at night to chat with you. 
It's not personal. It's just that being around little people all the time can be really draining, and we may need some alone to recharge those batteries.

:: Mess bothers us. Because we are the ones who usually have to clean it up.
Which is why we we do cry over spilt milk (whoever coined that term obviously didn't have kids), and why we are so insistent on clean-up time. And why we get really upset with you when you rummage through your drawers and rumple all the neatly folded stacks of clothes. And why we love it when you help out with the chores!

:: We may struggle with self-worth issues, and really need your encouragement.
It's a lot harder to be a mum in this age of social media. Pinterest posts scream at us that we need to make pretty bentos to be a good mum. Instagram photos depict picture-perfect homes with happy children, while we struggle to get past each day without the kids fighting all the time. It's silly and we know it, but we do compare ourselves with those we encounter on social media. Please help us, by being generous with your encouragement. Remind us that what we have now is real life, and our real life is worth living fully, not grudgingly in the shadow of someone else's highlight reel. Oh, and please buy us happy food (even though you think we need to lose a few pounds of our pregnancy weight)!

:: We need a day off occasionally. 
It's probably difficult when the kids are younger, but a day off really works wonders for refreshing a SAHM's spirit. We know a day off for us is a day of "work" for you, but I think we do need that occasional break from the kids. Or if it's possible, rope in the grands to babysit, and then schedule a date night! I remember how much I looked forward to my Pilates sessions each week when I was expecting Baby J, it was just 3 hours away from home, but it helped so much.

:: You could pray for, and with her.
Because we always need God's grace, and we always could do with someone praying hard for us.

PS: I blog this from my viewpoint as a SAHM. SAHMs take a lot of flak: we get labelled as "tai tai" when our lives are anything but, and we get criticized about getting our degrees and higher education since it's apparently a waste of money. However, this is not to say the working mums have it any easier, and theirs is a different set of challenges (now for working mums, if you could write to your hubbies, what would you let him know?). I am thankful that over the years, the hubby has been a great pillar of support, and we are learning how to care for, and meet each other's needs better.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

#Hippostrikesagain: Conversations with J3

We've been having a spate of food poisoning cases at home. I was down on two consecutive Mondays, and over the weekend the hubs and Junior J were hit. We suspect it was a certain dish that we ate for lunch on Sunday during our grocery runs, since I had the same dish as the affected two on separate occasions before the symptoms started. It has been really hard, since the hubs could barely walk, and Junior J couldn't eat at all and was in bed for more than two days. I am hoping things will take a turn for the better soon!

Meanwhile, life still has to go on with the other three littles (thankfully they ate other dishes and were not affected), and J3 has been constantly amusing us with the funny things he says. He's a really chatty fellow, and has decided that he is a hippo, and I thought his speeches were worth a blog post on its own! 

So ladies and gentlemen, presenting to you our family's very own self-declared hippo:

Diet: Constant forager of larders. Biscuit-ivore, subsists mainly on Meiji crackers and chocolate, and always demanding for snacks. He sometimes sneaks into the kitchen and helps himself to bread and other food.

Habitat: Semi-aquatic, usually found in the shower stall playing with water and soap. Extremely difficult to extract from his bath tub habitat.

Care instructions: Must handle with caution. May poop on floor (because "ippos poopoo on the ground"). Dangerous as "it can bite a coco-dile into two" (as demo-ed in the photo above). May be hard to dress as "ippos don't wear clothes".

Environmental status: Endangered, there is only one left. And we love him so!

While playing with his little sister:

J3: Baby J, this is a yalt-water cocodile (he still drops his "s"s, which I find really cute!). You are a yalt-water crocodile, and I am a hippo, so I am going to bite you into two! (Proceeds to demonstrate by pretending to eat her.)


Just the other day, after the nth number of fights with J2 which involved him biting his brother: 

Me: I know hippos can bite, but you cannot bite your brother. Good hippos don't do that. 

J3: Ok Mama. 

Me: So next time, what do you do if you get angry? (We keep telling them to walk away, or punch a pillow.) 

J3 (solemnly): I won't bite him, but I will punch him instead. 

This hippo tends to cry at every tiny reason and shouts a lot. So some days he loses his voice a little. The brothers sometimes call him a cry baby, which brings on more crying and protests that he is not.

J1: You sound hoarse today.

J3: I am not a horse!

J1: I mean your voice sounds hoarse.

J3 (starts crying, again): NO I AM NOT A HORSE I AM A HIPPO!!!


The hippo sometimes has an identity crisis and decides to be a different animal:

[J3 asks hubby to carry him. Then he starts flapping his arms.]

J3: I am a bumblebee! I am going to sting you! [Pokes hubby hard in the ribs.]

J3: DING! I stung you. Now I have to die. [Flops over and plays dead.]

On Saturday, when I was just too exhausted to cook dinner after a week of cooking, and we decided to call Papa to tabao Macs on his way home from work:

Me (on speaker with the kids clustered around): Hello dear, can you tabao macs please?

Hubs: Yup what does everyone want?

J1: I want a burger with pickles please.

J2: I also want a burger with pickles (he tends to follow koko).

J3: I wan... Fish an chips an chicken nuggets an wench (French) fries an burger an milo an...

Me: There's no fish and chips in Macs, do you want a fish burger? Or a cheese burger?

J3: I wan a burger with NO meat.

Me: So we will buy you a fish burger ok? This hippo can eat fish right?

J3: Yes I am a ippo not a fish, so you cannot put me in the burger and eat me.


Oh hippo, you've brought us so much joy and laughter you know? 


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