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When Mummy Is Sick… Updated Version!

On Sunday afternoon I started feeling unwell, headache and sore throat. Carried on in slow-mo, luckily there wasn’t much to do as it was a weekend and Hubby would buy dinner back. But by evening, I was feeling terrible. Was going to nap for 30 minutes before sending meimei to bed, then Hubby said he would do it and told me to go to bed. Yay! So, I slept from 7pm to 7.30am. (Of course I didn’t get up at 6am to prepare big breakfast… I am not a masochist!)

But, I was still not well in the morning, and Hubby had to go to work. Good thing was, after giving the kids a simple breakfast (bread with cheese and their morning milk), I lay down on the sofa and napped for two hours! The kids played on their own without disturbing me at all! This was so different from what happened exactly two years ago, heehee. Then I got up to serve lunch… which was the same as two years ago, LOL. Hurray for processed convenience food! #noguilt.

After lunch, it was their nap/quiet time, so I took another nap. Then it was time to go out for our afternoon appointment, luckily I was feeling better by then. Truly, it’s so much faster to recover when one gets sufficient rest! Thank you, Hubby and kids!

Didi made this for me amd kept asking me to lie down : )

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Back To Basics

For the longest time, I had been wondering how to get the boys to help out regularly with housework. Not that they were (too) unwilling to do…. but sometimes I forgot… sometimes we headed out very early (once they finished their milk). For instance, if the plan was to spend the whole day outdoors, I might feel that we might as well bring our breakfast out for a picnic or eat out, as the eating and cleaning up would take quite a while, especially for Meimei who was messy and un-threatenable.

It’s great to spend more time in the great outdoors. But eventually, the boys’ chorelessness got to me too much, and I decided that again, we had to make a choice – chores or outdoors? Chores won, cos we do not have to completely give up on outdoor time, just have to cut down (and say goodbye to our 1000 hours, boo hoo. Oh well, no pain no gain.)

‘Worse’, as I am trying to let the kids eat more homecooked food, and also because they are usually able to go to bed earlier if I come home and cook, we are further cutting down on outdoor time as we leave for home earlier. So…. go out later, come back earlier… oops..

Our current routine

730am Milk & breakfast

The boys have to finish by 830am, or else they don’t have to finish the food/milk and will lose a privilege for the day. Good thing is they usually do finish on time. (But how are they going to have one hour to eat when they start primary school?? Gloomy.)

After breakfast, it’s time for housework followed by wushu practice (just some simple exercises cos mummy is NOT a wushu exponent. Urmm, or wushu practitioner at all :P)

It’s a different chore everyday, something simple. The main purpose is to get the boys in the habit of doing housework, and to drill into them that they are supposed to do housework. (You are welcome, Future Daughters-in-Law.) I clean the house on my own too, so what the boys do are all extra. The house will not be any diritier if they don’t do their chores… this is so that I won’t get stressed about them doing the chore well (i.e. up to my standards) Previously, they helped when I was really cleaning the toilet. I would be rushing to finish the cleaning and feeling very stressed by time ticking by while the boys were either fooling around (not clean!) or very serious about their work (taking too long!)

One chore a day – dust the shelves & wipe the balcony, clean the playmat, mop the bedrooms (with Magiclean wipes), wash the toilet, wash the dishes for one meal, cook one dish each (with heaps of help from me).. Sunday is rest day!

They are done by 9am and run off to do their own thing. (read or Lego or random toys or just playing or run around the house) I continue with my chores if any (I vacuum the house daily at least. Monday is Housework Day and I wash the toilets and mop as well. It is also Child Neglect Day until lunchtime.)

I start lunch prep by 10.30am. So in-between I am free for about an hour to play with the kids or help them out if they need my help (crafts or Lego or they might request I read to them).

Depending on the dishes, we eat at 11am or latest 11.30am. After lunch and fruits and washing up, it’s around 12.15pm. I start dinner prep now especially if we are going out. Then, by right,12.30pm or thereabouts is Meimei’s naptime especially if we are going out for swim class or wushu class in the afternoon. When she goes for her nap, I spend 30 minutes one-to-one with each child. While I am with Didi, Kor Kor usually disappears into his bedroom (reading or doing Lego). Then Didi goes for his nap and I spend time with Kor Kor. After that, Kor Kor goes for one hour of quiet time (ya, no prize for guessing, he reads or plays with Lego). And it’s my rest time for about an hour! Well, I get to rest (i.e. check facebook!) once I finish up some (and there is always some!) miscellaneous tasks around the house.

BUT as the Princess Monster has not been sleeping well recently, I have to spend time coaxing her to sleep. (This traumatic event shall be documented once I survive it.) So one-to-one time with the boys is tentative for now.. depending on how long Meimei takes to KO.

Around 2-3pm (depending on which class we are heading to), the kids resurface and we go out. Reach home by 6pm after class, have dinner, shower and start bedtime routine.

If we do not have class that day, I prefer to bring them out in the morning, after breakfast, housework and wushu practice. Go out around 9am, lunch out, reach home 1pm+ for their naps and quiet time. I unpack from the morning outing and start dinner prep if necessary.

You might have noticed there is no reading time, no one-to-one time when we go out in the morning. I think it’s ok, because when we are outdoors, I am not so distracted by housework or cooking and can pay them more attention, which sorta make up for the one-to-one. As for reading.. back to basics, remember? And the fundamental is my sanity. Not gonna squeeze it in.. though we usually do end up reading unless I am really too tired or busy.

So now, our priorities are, ample sleep for the kids, mummy’s sanity, routine, chores, free play, outdoors, reading, other engagements, roughly in that order. We used to play board games together almost every afternoon, as the kids got to choose the activity for their time with mummy. (They often chose to do two-to-one as they wanted to play board games together.) But I realised that meant they wouldn’t get much readalouds for the day, only two bedtime stories at night. Frankly speaking, I admit that the daddy and I were not too keen to read loooong stories or explain things properly to them at that time of the day. So, prioritize readalouds over board games! The best part? The boys have been playing board games by themselves quite a lot! We have a board game night once a week, with Daddy too, when we play the more challenging ones which Didi can’t manage yet. Sometimes we play simple games too, just for fun and laughs! 😀

By 8.30pm, the boys are in bed. Meimei goes to bed earlier, timing depends on how fast I finish the dinner wash up.

“When you have the choice, choose outdoors.”

That is still our mantra – we choose outdoors over other outings (museums, indoor playgrounds, Science Centre, watching plays, etc). Beaches, parks, water playgrounds, cycling, hiking, yes!

 

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Wait Till Mummy Is Free…

One commonality of the numerous routines I have thought up for my kids is to leave blocks of free time for them. The amount of time I manage to crave out varies, and I am on an ongoing quest toward more and longer stretches.

Our current routine includes a 3-hour block of free time for the kids. And the boys have free, unlimited access to a wide variety of art materials, building materials, etc. I have set up many learning corners / play areas for them, hoping to create a conducive environment to support their free play and exploration. But it seemed that despite the abundance of things, somehow at the end of each day, I felt that they had not really done anything much. And I really don’t think the problem was having too many things, because I am quite confident that I have done a pretty good job of decluttering and arranging, and our home is neat and organized. (This is actually part of the problem….)

I guess as with many other situations in life, the first steps are awareness followed by observation. I made an effort to take note of how our morning went, and the very first morning, the answer was loud and clear. Everytime they asked for my help…

“Mummy is not free now. Wait for me to finish…. (cleaning/cutting/cooking/whatever)”

“Now is not the time for… (doing craft/playing whatever/making a mess)”

…………………………

In my own defense, I am not scared of the kids making a mess. I am very ok with them making a mess creating art with lots of glue or tearing paper into a million small pieces for a collage or scattering beads everywhere. The thing is, they often need my help to get started or just with a couple of steps. Wanna do science experiments? Need mummy to bring the stuff outside. Wanna make something with egg cartons? Need mummy to cut the egg carton into the correct sizes first. (They have access to scissors but egg carton is too thick for them.) Wanna paint? Need mummy to squeeze the paint from the near-empty bottles first. Wanna whatever? I have to get Meimei settled so that she can copy whatever her brothers are doing. (E.g. I might only have to squeeze paint for the boys, but I also have to get paper and brushes for Meimei. And most likely, stop her from grabbing her brothers’ stuff.)

So how is being neat and organized part of the problem? Because the root issue is my Type A personality! I don’t have much difficulty keeping the house tidy and reinstating everything to its place every night, but being task-oriented has its price. Thus, even though the kids have so much free time everyday, it’s far from the same for me. My ‘automatic’ mode is to try to complete all the chores first – put the dirty clothes in the washing machine, boil a kettle of water, wash all the breakfast dishes, do the meal prep (everything except the actual cooking), wipe the table, dry and put away the clean dishes, and the list goes on. All these seem like simple tasks but they add up. By the time I am done, maybe there’s only 20 minutes left before I have to start cooking lunch. AND if the kids are engaged in an activity then, I won’t interrupt them, which means one whole morning would have gone by without mummy doing anything with them.

Yes, child-led, self-initiated free play is important. (I would say it’s the most important.) But at their young ages, I think it’s fair and reasonable for my kids to require some help from me. Furthermore, children need some undivided attention and time so that they will not engage in attention-seeking behaviours (i.e. being naughty!). To have three hours of free time…. and to wait and wait more than two hours before mummy is finally free for them…? : (

Realistically, I can’t possibly be as free as my kids. Fact is I have to cook and clean. I don’t subscribe to the saying that a clean house is a waste of time and I believe a clean house is necessary as a conducive environment for learning. But I have been trying something different – stop trying to finish the chores first. Help the kids whenever they need my help. Allocate a certain amount of time for chores and try not to do anything before it’s time for the chores. This way, I will have about two hours of ‘free’ time for the kids.

Prioritize. I am reminded of the story about putting the pebbles in the bottle before adding the sand. Somehow, I am still able to do all the chores and spend time with the kids!

[Tell you a joke. When I first started on the current routine with three hours of free time for the kids, I was wondering what I should do with this extra free time for myself. I mean, I used to spend this time rushing about, setting up activities for the kids. Was deliberating betwen cross-stitching or… In the end, I did not manage to do anything extra at all. Flitted the time away, somehow. Cross-stitch? Ha.]

 

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The Best Season

I feel like we are finally where I want us to be.

We have settled into a routine where each day is predictable. Mornings are usually spent at home, so that the kids have their fill of free play. Classes and outings are mostly in the afternoon. So the kids know that it’s time to go out after their nap almost everyday. I like this routine too, because I feel accomplished by the time the kids go for their nap/quiet time – even if we do nothing else, the kids have played the whole morning!

Kor Kor has started attending the classes which I envisioned him to take up since he was very young – swimming, wushu and Mandarin speech & drama. Before this, he was too young for the classes… and also too young for the daddy to be willing to pay for his lessons 😛 Three classes is a bit too much on top of school I think, so we will stop the speech & drama classes before he starts primary school in a year’s time.

Didi is also attending wushu. Though a bit young, he’s happy and enjoys the classes : ) Now, just waiting for a vacancy at swim class! And for Meimei to be old enough to start ballet and guzheng, heehee.

Now that the kids are older, we can be more flexible in terms of naps when we do go out the whole day. The boys can go without a nap occasionally, and it is quite easy to get Meimei to nap in her stroller. This means that it’s easier for us to go for nature outings, yay! (I am exploring joining Nature Society as a family. Shall update if it’s interesting!)

I am also loving our home environment. The last round of decluttering was very successful. But it’s definitely not just one round of decluttering that did the job – it’s the accumulated results of many, many rounds. I read Simplicity Parenting almost one year ago, and it’s still having a huge impact on my parenting now. I love our work spaces / activity corners around the house – art station (which I have added on to since the post), playroom, reading nook, science lab, nature table (post coming!), construction area (very new), and others. (some areas have made way though :P)

Most importantly, my firstborn is growing up to be so sensible! He gives in to Meimei a lot and offers his help when I am tired or busy. To be frank, Didi is still very whiney at 3.5 years old… But he’s really very super cute! Makes me laugh at the most tired or stressed times : ) And Meimei, our princess, she’s getting spoilt and naughty, but never mind, she’s our princess! It’s good training for the boys anyway, to learn to give in to younger ones and girls. And urmm, I am confident of correcting her wayward behaviors, hiak hiak hiak, no more always getting your way now that you are older, Meimei!

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Yes, I am happy and love my days together with my children. I love being able to be with them and to seek learning opportunities together.

But let there be no illusion. Happy is one thing, TIRED is still very real. Just because I manage to do it, doesn’t mean I don’t feel exhausted. I am half-dead by mid-day, after the lunchtime rush. I don’t know what my point is here, just want to say, I am really very, very tired. Oh well 😛

 

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Our Home Science Lab

A couple of months ago, I started thinking hard about setting up a mini science lab at home. I knew that it must be at the corridor if I wanted to allow the boys the freedom of playing scientist whenever they felt like doing so, instead of waiting for me to set up or waiting for me to be free to ‘catch’ the mess. Because I also knew that it would be pretty impossible for me to agree to spontaneous requests when I was usually rushing around like a headless chicken -.-”

So, I bought a foldable table. It’s supposed to be a picnic table, so it can withstand some outdoor abuse, like the monthly block wash or other liquid spillages. Initially, my idea was to leave all the ‘chemicals’ out at the corridor, but I did not want the boys to start playing with them without permission if they were out at the corridor playing with sand or mud or water.

Finally, I decided to prepare everything and keep them all in a tray, so that I would be ready whenever the boys asked to ‘be scientist’.

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(But actually, it’s not really ‘whenever’. Kor Kor has two slots a day for such activities, i.e. when he’s not busy with lessons or chores and I am free to assist/prepare/clean up.)

Most of our ‘chemicals’ are from the kitchen. Took me a while to think of a variety of ingredients! The essentials are definitely baking soda and vinegar. Other ingredients seldom give much visible reactions other than the physical ones like dissolving or changing colours. And so many flours all look the same.. all white and powdery.. quite boring.. So, what’s in our DIY Chemistry Kit?

  • baking soda
  • vinegar
  • cornflour
  • rock salt
  • pepper
  • turmeric
  • effervescent vitamin
  • alcohol
  • dishwashing detergent
  • tap water
  • tap water with various food colouring

 

  • test tubes (glass for Kor Kor, from Artfriend. Plastic for Didi, from Learning Store)
  • test tube racks
  • straws (as stirrers)
  • disposable droppers (but I reuse unless it’s too dirty)
  • glass droppers
  • glass beakers
  • various plastic & glass containers (some storebought, some recycled)

I also bought a microscope recently. But I find that it takes intentional effort to prepare minuscule amount of tiny stuff to look at through the microscope. Furthermore the view isn’t exactly exciting 😛 Thus, for preschoolers, I recommend using magnifying glasses instead, which the child can grab anytime to look at anything that catches his fancy.

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I know that the younger ones will want to do whatever Kor Kor is doing, so it took me some braincracking thinking to free up the time slots. Very limited if Kor Kor can only do it during the younger ones’ naps. So, ta-ta! Meimei gets her own science kit! Just mixing of colours for now, and she’s happy!

The reason why the lab must be outside!

The reason why the lab must be outside!

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Decluttered!

Last week, I suddenly got the urge to declutter. OK, it wasn’t just a random feeling, it was because I was inspired (again!) by Mum In The Making. I love her home decor!

I think the first step to a beautiful home is neatness (and of course basic cleanliness). I had done a few rounds of decluttering prior to this, but somehow, there were still lots more to clear! Once I got into the groove, I gave away many things and kept many things away in the storeroom and storage boxes.

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The result of my hard work over three days

The difference is not very obvious in the photo. (It’s like housework – very obvious if not done, not so obvious when it’s painstakingly done!) I cleared ALL surfaces in the WHOLE house, from kitchen to bedroom! Tidied and dusted the display shelves and cleared everything on top of cabinets and shelves (which was such a convenient place to deposit stuff!).

I used to try to keep the top surfaces neat, perhaps just one small filing rack. But everytime, more and more stuff ended up there.. until it was ‘overflowing’. So I decided to keep surfaces bare – everything must go inside drawers or cupboards. I can tidy the insides when I am free, but at least the house will look neat. If there isn’t any more storage space, that means it’s time to throw things!

This nth round of decluttering, I finally feel different. I feel liberated. In the mornings, I wake up feeling yay, the house is clean and neat. At night, if I get an idea about an activity to do with the kids the next day, I feel like anything is possible. And most importantly, I finally feel like I want to stop buying things for the kids. (If my hubby is reading this, he is probably jumping for joy haha)

So, having been a shopaholic-mummy (a very dangerous combi, cos there are just too much kid-related stuff out there!) for the past five years (the buying started before the baby arrived) and now a newly-converted minimalist (haha), what are my insights?

There is really no need to buy too many toys or educational whatnots. Not that the toy is useless, but there simply isn’t enough time to do all of them with the child. I have had sooooo many good toys, but I realised hey, the kids hardly touched them…

Take for example, a stacking toy. By the time the boys finally played with it, they were already old enough to do the stacking on their own, despite never having been ‘taught’ before… Which means, they ‘learnt’ how to do it without the toy… and without anyone teaching them… And since they now know how to do it, there was never a need for the toy in the first place! Argh!

Letting the kids see me giving away their toys is therapeutic. I posted on a freecycling group the items which I wanted to give away, and the recipients came to my place to collect. So the boys watched with their own eyes (in horror??) people going away with their toys. It was an effect I did not expect, otherwise I would have made full use of the impact. Now the boys know I am serious about giving away their toys and I REALLY will do it.

(I never had any qualms about carrying out my ‘promises’, but I knew that if I had to throw their toys away, I would feel quite sad. But now I actually feel zen and I think I will be quite happy if I get to clear more toys out! *rub hands in glee*)

When I first told the boys I would be giving away some of their toys, the boys cried and wailed and said they wanted to play with the toys. But seriously?? They had not touched the toys for years!

Kids’ imagination increase as their toys decrease. Perhaps it’s having more physical space, perhaps it’s having fewer things competing for their brainspace.. The very first afternoon after I started decluttering, the boys started using their remaining toys to ‘substitute’ for the toys they lost.. by pretending! And we are still in Week One After Decluttering. I am sure I will see more improvements in their play. Click here to read why fewer toys will benefit your kids.

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Why I Choose To Homeschool

When Kor Kor was very young, I had thought I would be sending him to preschool like most kids. I had even decided on the school. A few months before Didi was born, my mummy friends whose second child was also due around the same time enrolled their firstborns in schools. But it was then that I first felt the reluctance. Mine, not Kor Kor’s. He was about 1.5 years old then, and I didn’t want him to be away from me for so many hours everyday. I felt that I might be able to manage taking care of two young children on my own.

As he grew older and as I read more, I became more certain that I wanted to homeschool him.

More Time With Siblings

This sounds crazy, right? We are all living in the same flat, Kor Kor and DIdi are sharing a bedroom with their beds right next to each other, and that’s still not enough time together? Hmm, one of the common reasons for sending the child is for socialization and to learn social skills. I think the kids need to spend more time to learn how to socialize with one another first! This is the reason why I have three kids close in age – so that they have playmates (socialization) and learn how not to kill one another despite being together ALL the time.

More Time For Rest And Play

If the kids are going to school, I would have to plan their naptimes and activities around schoolhours. And waste time traveling to and from the school. As it is, I am already having a hard time juggling three kids’ naptimes, especially since their KO time keeps changing as they grow. By homeschooling, there is no need to wake them up in the morning – they can sleep till they wake naturally. We can customize our schedule, e.g. if we have had a busy weekend, we can rest on Monday. When there is an interesting exhibition in town, we can go on a weekday and avoid the crowd.

The Age To Explore

One of my guiding principles for choosing activities and books for the children is that it should preferably be something they do not get to do in school. I mean, if they are going to do it when they go to primary school anyway, why do it now? That’s double ‘work’!

I Can Teach My Children

Ahem, fact is.. I am probably more highly educated than preschool teachers. And I have the great advantage of being the mother, and mother knows her child best, ya? I am confident I can teach my children at least as well as preschool teachers, though it is not likely that any parent can teach her child everything. And it’s ok, my children can learn as they grow, there is no need for them to learn everything right now.

More importantly, it’s not just about academics, or even things like independence or social skills (important as they are). I don’t see myself as a control freak, but I would sure like to know and to control what my children are learning and whom they learn from. I think I would absolutely hate it if they came home with a bad habit and I couldn’t trace where they picked it up!

Protect The Love For Learning

This is not such a good reason… because it stems from fear.. and it’s never a good reason to do something because of fear… I believe that all children have a natural love for learning, and I am scared that premature formal schooling would drown this love. It’s not that children should not be stressed, but I believe it makes a difference whether the child is ready. For example, if Kor Kor were in kindergarten now, he would have to write. From what I observe as a result of him never being made to write, he CAN’T write yet. I am not sure how well he would be able to write if he had no choice but to do so, though I have no doubt he would definitely be able to do so under pressure from teachers and peers. Yet, it is developmentally appropriate for him to only write around seven years old, so why force him?

Saveguard Self-Confidence

Given that I do not want to do academic stuff with my kids at the preschool age, if they do go to kindergarten, I would not go through their homework or spelling with them. (And please, no chance of me doing their projects for them!) But… what happens when they do badly on the tests? What if the teacher labels my child as learning-disabled or lazy? What if the classmates laugh at him for his low scores? How will his self-confidence suffer??? A caterpillar cannot fly, and if it is told that it will never be able to fly, it might not even try to fly when it becomes a butterfly.

I don’t wanna hothouse my seedlings. I wanna greenhouse them until they grow into tall, strong trees. A small seedling cannot survive the heavy rains and strong winds out there, but the tree can.

Image source

A pine tree survived the 2011 tsunami (Image source)

I will be letting the kids start formal education at primary one though. Because by then, they will be old enough (and hopefully tough enough) and developmentally ready to do what the P1 curriculum expects of them. Which brings us back to the preschool curriculum… I think most preschool curriculums are not age-appropriate. If I could find a preschool which does not really school the kids, I might be less worried. But such preschools are rare in Singapore… and I have other good reasons to keep the kids at home! See above : )

The one he wrote for Didi became part of Didi's glue collage :P

The one he wrote for Didi became part of Didi’s glue collage 😛

One fine day, Kor Kor suddenly wrote his name, and Didi’s name, then ‘Mummy’. I know of many 4.5-year-olds who can already write way better by now, but what Kor Kor did was totally unguided (we have never taught him or asked him to write) and he did it when he was ready. I have faith that when he is ready, he will write more and write more legibly.

Baobei, mummy wait for you : )

There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?

Robert Kennedy

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