Hello! This blog is where I ramble about motherhood and my ventures into scrapbooking, crafting and photography. We homeschool, and enjoy teaching our boys about God and dabbling with art. :) Thanks for visiting, do stay awhile, and I would love to hear from you! :)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Thankful Tuesday: 4 months

Oh you. Sweet, sweet little you. You have turned four months old in just a flash. It seems like I have been busy chasing a toddler, and doing laundry, and teaching phonics, when suddenly you have just grown up. You're one of the smiliest babies in our family, the one that chuckles at the littlest thing, the one that is so excited to see your brothers, the one that loves to gurgle and talk to us. Of course you are also the one that cries at the tiniest little thing, and the one that still needs to be patted in the carrier to go to sleep. 

But oh, how I thank God for you. For your happy sunshine-y nature, that makes all those tough days easier. For those chubby thighs. For your baby smell, and baby squishiness. For those baby snuggles and snuffles and kissable cheeks. 

You've been flipping back and forth like a pro for the past few weeks, you wriggle really fast, and you complain in baby "ahhhs!" when you are left alone in the cot. Your brothers love you so much, and can't help coming over to pat you or talk to you. You're sleeping a lot better at night on most days. You love to sit in our laps to listen to a book being read, and you love going out. 

I am just so thankful that God gave us you, you little sunshine boy. Keep smiling, and I am praying that He will keep you strong and healthy.

Papa and Mama.

Mum in the Making

Monday, April 14, 2014

Little Learning: Star Anise, Superstar! (Book review & giveaway)

Some time ago, author Linn Shekinah kindly sent us a copy of her new book, "Asian Spice Kids: Star Anise, Superstar". The storyline for the book is simple: Star Anise longs to be a superstar, and tries her hardest to be one. She plays the most instruments, she plays the loudest, but in the end gets rejected by those around her. However, there is a twist in the story, and she ends up saving her friends, and learns that a star is one that shares and gives. 

The boys enjoyed hearing the story, and I thought that the book's lesson was relevant to the kids, as they would face the issues of popularity and acceptance in the future. There are two bilingual editions of the book, in either English-Chinese or English-Malay. In our edition, there is a glossary at the back which includes various Chinese terms, their Hanyu pinyin as well as their meanings in both languages, which I found really helpful! Another lovely feature of the book was the insert, which had a game as well as other activities which the older kids could try their hand at:

Since the book introduced various spices, I thought it would be fun for the kids to try their hand at various spice-related activities. So we tried:

:: Examining and smelling the spices:

The kids really were enthusiastic about smelling them, and kept sniffing!

:: Painting with spices:

We mixed water with cinnamon powder and five-spice powder, and the kids had a go with their paintbrushes. They loved this activity and spent more time sniffing their papers as they did their paintings. 

:: Stamping with star anise: Ok, this one didn't turn out like I expected, as they tried stamping but the uneveness of the star anise made it hard to do printing with. So they did a couple of prints and started playing with the paints after.

:: Cooking with spices: I felt the best way to teach the kids how spices could work together to produce something flavorful was to cook something. So we cooked pho, and we cooked Taiwanese beef noodle (I've included the links to the recipes we used, but I modified them along the way), since both required most of the spices mentioned in the book, as well as others! Junior J had a good time helping me to stuff garlic, fennel, cloves, star anise and other spices into empty tea bags which we put into the pot to simmer. The soups turned out really yummy!

If you would like a copy of "Star Anise, Superstar" just pop over to Flip for Joy, which also stocks many great Chinese reads (you can read our review of some of the books they stock here). Oh, and we are also giving away a copy of the book to one blog reader! Just follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below to enter in the giveaway (please remember to leave your email address in the comments so we can contact you if you win!):

a Rafflecopter giveaway PS: You can follow our book recommendations over here at our Facebook page.

PPS: We received a copy of "Star Anise, Superstar"
for review purposes. No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions (and spices) are our own. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: A glimpse of crazy

We left the boys alone for 5 minutes. And came back to our room to see this:

They had emptied a whole bag of flowers and leaves over our bed. On newly changed bedsheets. What can I say? Life has never been the same again since the arrival of our boys!

Linking up with:
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My Little Drummer Boys

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Thankful Tuesday: When life spins...

... it sometimes seems to hurtle, out of control. I have been rushing, task to task. Cooking, cleaning, carrying the baby. Making that never-ending list, ticking things off as I go. Scolding, doing, making. Until that week where we were all forced to stop because of colds and coughs and fevers. 

That forced me to stop. To look. To see. To think about how we were sometimes running and chasing. Chasing what? Lost time? Learning opportunities? I don't know. I've been mulling over how hectic life has become, and how crazy things at home can be. We always seem to be panting and rushing to finish something. There is always this feeling of incompleteness, of needing this or that. Of only being able to be happy when something else is finally done or something is achieved. Do you get that feeling sometimes?

So I have been trying to slow down. To put down those dirty dishes, to push aside that overflowing laundry basket, to calm those crying needy kids. Can we make life simpler? Can we take it a step at a time? Can we focus and look at the important, and not get so caught up with the urgent? I don't know, but I think we can, and we must. 

And so, for the rest of the month, I'll be trying to declutter, so simplify, not just our stuff, but our schedules. And I'll be trying to clean up my thoughts and feelings too. And focusing on what matters. 

Meanwhile, I am thankful, for those little things of the ordinary that tend to slip us by in the rush of time passing us by. The quiet sound of happy children playing in carpets of fallen flowers. The perfect curve of a little one's ear, and those tiny fingers that are learning to grasp and hold.

The satisfaction of a new recipe learnt and warm happy tummies, and time together over a meal.

The daily messes that show that there are happy children who are at work.

What are you thankful for this week?

Mum in the Making

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Thankful Tuesdays: Taking it slow

It has been quite a crazy week. All the kids took turns falling sick with fevers and coughs. I fell sick. Now the hubby is sick, and baby J is coughing. We've been taking it day by day. The whole house is a huge mess as we just replaced some furniture.

So this week, I'm just thankful for God's grace. How He doesn't give us more than we can bear: the hubs and I took turns to fall sick, and the hubs was on leave when I fell ill, so we more or less took turns holding the fort. The fevers have more or less passed, the coughs are clearing, and we are slowly trying to get into the swing of daily life again. I am also glad that we are looking at a brand new month to start afresh.

So its over to you now, what are you thankful for this week?
Mum in the Making

Friday, March 28, 2014

Homeschool: Learning science together

Just a few weeks ago, another two mums and I banded together and formed a little learning group to explore science. I thought it would be fun to have other kids over to do some hands-on science, and thus far, we've met twice, and have dabbled in some simple activities.

We've been exploring plants for both sessions. The first was on the life cycle of flowering plants, where the kids got to learn more about the life cycle, as well as plant their own tomato seeds! They were pretty excited about seeing them grow (but ours are not doing too well, so we need to work out where to place them where they can get more light). 

These are Lil J's seedlings. For some reason, Junior J's have gotten an attack of the mold and have all died.
But that gave us an opportunity to talk about mold and competition for growth. ;)

Junior J figuring out how the life cycle works.

Our second session was on plant parts, and the kids got to do a collage to learn about the functions of the different parts of the plant. 

This was what Junior J and Lil J came up with (ok Lil J was more interested in the peeling the double-sided tape bit!): 

We added the parts bit by bit while talking about their functions.
We had straws that were slit to use as roots, green straws to represent the xylem
(the stem bit flips open to reveal the tubes), and leaves.
We also talked a lil about photosynthesis.

The boys helped to gather the leaves and flowers in the morning before the session, and had fun! It was nice to see how the kids all had different "plants", some with very little leaves, some with bushy ones, and some with rainbows (because they said there was sun and rain, so that would form a rainbow, which was pretty neat I guess!).

And as "homework", they got to put white flowers into coloured water, to see how the stem works to bring water up:

We got to discuss a little about how we need to keep all variables constant in a proper experiment,
except for the one we are studying.
So here is Junior J trying to distribute the water equally. 

One thing I've learnt from this experiment: you really have to be generous with your food colouring or the results would not be obvious!

It has been quite the learning experience for both the boys and myself. And I've been loving how we're bumbling along and figuring things out as we go!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Thankful Tuesdays: The old dining table

Just two days ago, I posted this photo of our dining table on FB. We were hoping to give the table away, since we purchased a new one from Ikea. It was almost nine years old, and had bumps at the edges due to spilt drinks. The two year old had also been scraping at the bottom edges which had started to peel, so the hubby decided it was time to get a new table. 

The response was surprising. Two friends indicated that they were interested in taking the table, and in the end, one confirmed that she would be collecting the table this week. What I didn't expect was the whole slew of comments from friends, reminiscing about our table. About how it had hosted countless bible studies, and carried food for potluck meals. Friends who had attended crops (scrapbooking sessions) remembered how the table could fit many. Schoolmates remembered the table where we gathered for project meetings.

That made me remember. It made me recall how we had purchased this huge table (it is 260 cm long), thinking that it would be perfect for hosting our bible study group. I remembered how we would lay newspapers on the table and feast on crabs and other local food, while sharing and chatting. It brought back memories of schoolmates discussing and working on our project presentations. I remembered how our dog used to prop his paws on the table, tongue lolling, eyes begging for the food on your plate. 

I remembered how the table was totally covered with papers during crops, as well as when I did my late-night crafting. It has been the place the hubs and I work on our laptops, while we chatted over a warm drink at night.

I recalled all the meals we've eaten at that table. I thought of how the table has seen the addition of one, then two, then three little boys, who have sat at the table during meals and made messes. 

I thought of all the birthday parties it had hosted, while it held feasts to be shared, and cakes to be cut. 

I remembered all the happy hours spent on art projects, where sticky fingers pasted and brushes painted on paper, as well as on the table itself. I thought of all the hours spent learning at the table, all the writing done by small hands, all the reading done, all the messes it bore on its surface.

And I was thankful. Thankful for how this bashed up, tired old table was a reminder of how beautifully full our lives was, and how blessed we were. Grateful that we had so many fond memories all wound up in our table, memories of learning, of eating as a family, of warm meals, of parties and gatherings, of messes. This heart of the home will be going off to be a part of another family's life, but we will be welcoming a new one soon, and I guess that is something to look forward too! 

Mum in the Making

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Why I breastfed for 33 months (or why breastfeeding is like running)

When I gave birth to Junior J, I was determined to breastfeed him for at least six months. We had not attended any classes or talks, however, I had read about the benefits of breastfeeding, and it all seemed so doable. After all, you just need to latch the fellow and he'll drink, and everything would be easy peasy, right? But it turned out to be not so easy after all: After ten hours of labour and and TWO epidurals, I was shivering and feeling nauseous after I delivered. He did manage to latch on, and I requested for him to room in with me, so I spent the night trying to feed him the best as I could. 

It became a lot more challenging when we went home, since the house was a mess (the baby room wasn't ready yet, as it formerly was a guest room and we had some relatives staying with us before that), and we were just scrambling to get everything in order. Junior J seemed to be hungry all the time, and kept crying as he didn't seem to be getting any milk, and I was struggling to get him to latch properly. In desperation, the hubby had to drive down to the hospital in the middle of the night to see if they could spare us more milk samples, and we ended up having to supplement his feeds with formula until my milk came in after a few days (I nursed him, then we topped up with formula).

Things got even worse, as we were exhausted, and there was a steady stream of visitors to entertain (it was Chinese New Year, and everyone was just so excited, since Junior J was the first grandchild of the family on both sides!). I was in pain and wasn't getting much rest. The boy refused to latch properly, and his shallow latch made nursing painful, and contributed to sore and bleeding nipples. Still, I was adamant on nursing him, so I took painkillers when it was unbearable, pumped when I could, and soldiered on.

The first month went by in a haze of naps caught in fifteen minute intervals, and marathon nursing sessions. Junior J had reflux, and I had to carry him upright after each feed. I was nursing him every two hours round the clock, because he could only take small feeds due to the reflux. I had multiple episodes of blocked ducts (which the lactation consultant helped to clear, with a lot of screaming from me), I got mastitis, I also had nipple thrush. I dreaded nursing sessions, which were painful, but I continued feeding, because I really wanted to. Six months, I told myself, just hang in there for six months. Those around us got rather worried. "Just feed him formula, and stop starving him!", I was told, when people saw me struggling with the long and frequent feeds. But I either ignored them, got into quarrels, and went on feeding, feeding and feeding.

Then after the first month, things became a little better. The boy's latch was improving, I knew how to deal with the frequent blocked ducts, I was getting used to the lack of sleep motherhood entails. And it progressively got easier. He was still nursing in two/three hour blocks, but at least I wasn't dreading the nursing sessions so much, and it was satisfying to see the little one put on weight and become chubbier.

I loved how chubby he was!

I was on maternity leave. However, I had to attend night lectures two weeks after giving birth, as I was doing my Masters then. So we learnt to juggle, where either my mum would take care of Junior J at home, or the hubby would bring the boy along to wait for me on campus. I would dash out during lecture breaks to pump, and was so thankful that there was a nursing room on campus where I could store milk and pump in peace. Pumping during lectures was still manageable, however, the time came when I also had to finish up my dissertation, which required me to be out in the field for my research. Initially, my supervisor was horrified when I refused to take up a proposed topic, which involved having to go offshore for half a day each time to gather data. I couldn't do that, how was I to pump when I was out in the wild? Even if I was to pump, it would not be feasible to store the milk in a cooler for half a day in the hot sun! Thankfully, I was able to find an alternative topic to research on, where I could pump at home, dash out during low tides to gather my data, and rush home after to pump again.

Amidst the juggling, the supply dropped, and I remember panicking at times when I was unable to pump much before leaving the house. However, eating fenugreek worked: the supply went up, and we managed to continue to feed the little one all the way until I finished my studies and research.

So the six months went past in a blur, and by then Junior J was a seasoned feeder. He was easy to feed outside, since he would drink quietly under a nursing cover, and I could more or less feed him anywhere. I didn't see any reason to stop, the boy was enjoying his feeds, it was no longer painful to nurse, and I hated the hassle of having to wash and sterilise bottles. So we just continued nursing. Travelling overseas and going out was much easier because I didn't need to carry bottles, and could just nurse him on the go, so we managed to travel and even went on a mission trip with him tagging along. By then I was glad that I had persevered with breastfeeding, and it was much easier as I eventually resigned from my job and stayed home to take care of him.

How could I say no to this boy?

The nursing went on, and on and on, and Junior J showed no inclination to wean, even after he hit his two year old birthday. By now we were facing a different challenge of feeding beyond the "norm" of six months, and I was getting strange looks when people saw toddler legs sticking out from under the cover when I had to feed him outside. People had all manner of comments about feeding an almost three year old, ranging from advice that I should wean him, or to nasty comments like "he'll turn out anti-social". Well, I just did the same thing as when I was told to stop starving my boy in the initial days. Which was to ignore, and continue feeding, because the boy wanted to nurse, and I didn't have the heart to stop him.

I tried to wean him when we learnt that we were expecting Lil J. We tried to tell him that nursing was only for babies, and that he was a big boy. However, he absolutely refused and continued feeding throughout the entire pregnancy. However, all that preparation helped, as once Lil J arrived, Junior J decided that he was a big boy, and did not ask to be nursed anymore. So that concluded my 33 month nursing stint with my oldest.

So he became a big brother. And "big boys don't drink nen nen".

So Lil J took over the nursing shift, but this time round, breastfeeding turned out to be much easier as I knew how to latch him. He turned out to be a great feeder, and the blocked ducts were less frequent (and he also cleared them pretty effectively!). Nursing him was smooth sailing, save for the couple of months where he only nursed when I was lying down.

I also nursed him while expecting baby J, and again, we prepared him for the arrival of his little brother. However, he refused to wean even with the arrival of the baby, and I ended up having to tandem feed both him and baby J for about a month or so, before he decided he was ok not drinking from mama. That period was rather stressful, as I was always worrying if baby J had enough. I made sure baby drank before Lil J could drink, but the advantage of feeding Lil J then was that it helped to prevent engorgement and cleared all those blocked ducts!

Lil J, taken just one day before I gave birth to baby J.
So now, baby J has taken over the milk shift, and it has been more than five years since I started this whole milkmaid business. I'm glad I tried to stick to my six months goal way back then!

And now, the one currently on the milk shift.

Finally, I thought I'd share some things I've learnt during this breastfeeding journey. Basically, breastfeeding is like running, because:

:: Each person's journey is different. There are those who like to run marathons, while others like to do a once a week 1 km jog in the park. Some are gym rats, while some prefer to run amidst nature. The distance, and how you do it doesn't matter, what matters is that you get out and start moving. It's the same for breastfeeding. It's no matter if you've fed for one month, six months, or four years, or whether you express or latch, what matters is that you've tried. Like how the distance you choose to run is a personal choice, it is not for others to judge someone who is still nursing her three year old child, or someone who nursed only for a week. Also, like how there may be those who would tell you how long you should run, there would be those who would like to share their thoughts and opinions on how long you should feed for. Just ignore them!

:: You need to be prepared. I did not read up much about latching the baby, as I thought it would be easy and natural, and I regretted it. Now I tell my friends who are expecting to read up and prepare, since that really helps. (Get some preparation tips here.) Also, having a small tin of formula on stand-by for the first few days would really help, so that you can top up after latching on, while waiting for your milk to come in.

:: It helps to get good gear: Like how good running shoes really help in supporting your feet, and how nice exercise wear may just motivate you to get moving, having a good pump and suitable bottles help if you intend to breastfeed and pump. Please get a double electric pump if you need to express frequently, instead of a  single or a manual pump. It's the equivalent of wearing proper running shoes compared to flip-flops when doing a 10 km run!

:: Starting may just be the hardest part of all: For those who don't run, the first few jogs would usually seem the hardest as you are not used to it. You huff and puff and its difficult. But it gets easier in the subsequent runs as your body gets used to it and it takes less effort to get moving. So its the same for breastfeeding. Most mums I know that nurse struggle in the first few months, but it usually gets easier as baby learns to latch and mama learns to handle the various challenges of breastfeeding.

:: It may not be smooth-sailing, and there may be pain involved, but having a goal really helps. Running can be a challenge when you've hit a wall and can't seem to move another step, but having an end goal in mind does help to push you on. For breastfeeding, it helps to set a goal so that you have something to push towards.

:: There are limitations, because we are only human. While running is good for the body, not everyone is able to run, since some might have health or physical issues (I used to run and I loved it, but these days I can't because of a knee problem). Likewise, while I'd encourage every mother to give breastfeeding a go, please remember that mothers have limitations too. Some may not be able to feed because of physical issues, others because of supply issues. Feeding a baby formula does not make you any less a good mother, what is important is that mama is FINE and baby is FED!

:: A trainer, or good advice also helps a lot: I don't think I would have lasted beyond the first month if not for the help of my lactation consultant. She was no-nonsense and practical. I remember how she told me matter-of-factly that I was to eat painkillers before I saw her for blocked ducts, because it was going to hurt real bad when she squeezed them out! And she was instrumental in helping me through all the nursing issues.

:: Support and cheerleaders are essential: Just like how a run is so much easier with a friend cheering you on or running with you, having family and friends to support you in this breastfeeding journey is key. My hubby really helped to encourage me in the first month, and bore with all my screaming and crying, and did what he could to help. I had friends to talk to, some just listened, some gave me helpful advice and patiently answered all my questions. 

:: It may or may not help you to lose weight: Running helps you to burn more calories, so does breastfeeding. However, weight loss has to do with using up more calories than you consume. So if you were to consume two pizzas for dinner after a 2 km run, I doubt you are going to lose weight. Likewise, breastfeeding does help you to lose weight, but if and only if you are consuming less calories than what you are burning by producing milk. I can vouch for this, as in the case of Junior J I lost a lot of weight, as I watched my diet very strictly, as we suspected that milk and soy were contributing to his reflux. However, for Lil J's case I actually lost very little weight, and subsequently gained some weight, simply because I was eating more (We were in Europe, and dairy was cheap. Who could resist those ice-creams and cheese!). On a side note, it is pregnancy that causes the saggy boobs, and not breastfeeding!

This post is part of a blog train hosted by Madeline at MadPsychMum. I have been most encouraged by all the stories on the breastfeeding journeys shared by other mums, which you can read by clicking on the icon below. 

Tomorrow, Angeline would be sharing her story. Angeline is a stay-home mom to two lovely children, who have given her new insights to life as she now finds herself on a journey of re-discovery of the world through their little eyes. She has breastfed since July 2008, tandem-fed for 9 months and is still currently breastfeeding her 29-month-old. Find out more tomorrow how she overcame the initial hiccups, and ended up extended breastfeeding in the end at Simply Mommie. 


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