Memoirs of a Budget Mum

Mother to five, parent in progress and occasional kitchenista cookerella

Category: Family & Parenting (Page 2 of 4)

Why Change in the Education System Really Starts from Within Us

Each of us are change agents and change in the education system must start from within. Today’s performance of “Don’t Kancheong, Kiasu, Kiasi” drove this point home well.

A collaboration between 100 Voices and Bud’s Theatre with support by education platform Flying Cape; the interactive play held in forum theatre style, swiftly brought to fore hot button issues in education through familiar scenarios involving key stakeholders in the education system–students, parents, employers, educators and the education ministry.

The plot holds a mirror up to the current educational reality: escalating stress on our young, high parental expectations, KPI-driven education, weary teachers and jaded employers.

As a former educator and mum of five children (with children both homeschooling and in school), the script and action resonated on many fronts. The lines are familiar ones that I could have uttered from my own mouth as a Singaporean parent finding my footing in a Kancheong, Kiasu, Kiasi landscape. Here are some choice scenes:

Scene 1:  Tommy, just 10 years old has just failed his exam and his mother is having a fit over it. She hurls her worries and exasperation at Tommy’s father, who doesn’t seem to think it’s much of an issue. They can’t agree on how to respond to their son’s poor grades.

  
“Boy, if you don’t do well, you probably need to…have tuition.”says his weary father, not because he really believes tuition to be the remedy but because it could be the one solution to calm his livid wife. Frustrated Tommy, who sees his parents quarrelling, feels sorry for the trouble he’s caused and threatens suicide. 

Scene 2: Tommy’s form teacher is hurled an email and called to the Principal’s office to account for the suicide threat. 

 “When something good happens it’s always about good parenting or our good school system, but when something goes wrong, it’s always the teacher’s fault.”, she laments as she feels the weight of the system bearing down on her, piling on more responsibility than she is comfortable with. One blindspot she says is, “All parents want their kids to be number one. The only problem is there can only ever be one number one.”

Scene 3: The Principal meets her Superintendent who moots the idea of a (gasp)”suicide seminar”. “Our education system is the best.”says the official, obviously proud of the system’s efficacy and reputation across the world. He speaks of the latest changes: “With the new PSLE scoring system, let’s hope parents will stop pressurizing their children to chase the last mark?”

 

Scene 4: Tommy’s mother, who also holds a management position in an SME, bemoans to her HR manager the hiring woes she’s faced in employing locals. “…Every top scholar seems to come from China or India. I’m not going to hire locals, they are just too troublesome. When was the last local we hired? “James Lee Wei Wen.” How long? 15 days. Why? He quit to go scuba diving in the Philippines. ”  

Thrust into the thick of this action, the play invites the audience to “act” on the outcome. 

  
Traditionally, forum theatre, otherwise known as the “theatre of the oppressed” demands audience members to be change agents. The audience can stop a performance, suggest different actions for the actors to carry out on-stage or reenact a portion of the play. 

The interventionist nature of the play incites change and invokes action– which quite a number of audience members readily engaged in. Surprisingly, many spoke up, which is good, as change must always start with conversations. 

This is also why the play’s format is appealing: it nudges us to stop being passive consumers within the education system and to merely sit back, watch and complain. Given the power to change the plot, it is no longer acceptable to be an armchair critic or inert byproducts of a system that manufactures consent. 

In fact, it is not enough to speak up for change…we have to BE that change. 

That is the mental mindset we need to overcome. 

Rather than push the blame if you are a parent to the school, or as a teacher to the system, or as a ministry to the parents or as employers to the greater universe, we can start with ourselves. How can we invoke change where we already are? 

The play reminds us of the complex interactions between all stakeholders in education, pulling us into an intriguing exchange of perspectives. By representing the myriad of constraints and considerations on all ends, we get a glimpse of what attitudes and mindsets may ultimately inhibit us from moving forward. 

 Undeniably though, we HAVE inched closer in stitching together the fabric of conversations and I am grateful to the good people from 100 Voices for leading that change. 

The greatest tragedy that could result from this would be to make this a play that is “all talk, but no action”. 

We need to take action: to be that curious and unfazzled student, that supportive parent, that enlightened educator and employer.  Perhaps we don’t need the education ministry to first lead the way because real change begins with us.

 Image credit: Flying Cape

A Pressure Cooker Education System? #Giveaway# Tickets to “Don’t Kancheong, Kiasu, Kiasi.”

Today I asked my 10 year old son, who has attended Singapore mainstream school for a year, Australian public school for another and homeschooled locally thereafter; whether he thinks education in Singapore is “stressful”…like a pressure cooker.  Image credit: Smiletutor.sg

 This is his reply: 

[About homeschooling]: 

– “I like it coz we get to breathe fresh air…not “stress-air”…you know?”

– I get to do other things I like (hobbies) and spend more time with my family.

[Three things that can be done to relieve the pressure:]

– “MOE should make students feel that going to school is like going to play. It helps us that way.”

– “More outdoor time. Not just work work work.”

– “To have teachers that are really inspired by the syllabus. (“You mean you think some teachers are not?” I say) …yup, some teachers don’t inspire. If they were, they would teach from the heart. And not try to make it stressful.”

These insights are keenly felt for a little boy his age but I’m sure he’s not the only one feeling this way. The truth is, everyone of us, has something or other to say about the Singapore education system. More often than not though, we keep our grumbling to ourselves, nag out our frustrations on our kids and try to keep the lid of pressure down with remedies like tuition while trying to remind ourselves not to be caught up in the educational arms race. To be honest, nobody really wants to be left-behind and we end up like hamsters in a spin wheel trying to keep up. At the heart of the issue is: what drives us to be “kancheong”, “kiasu”or “kiasi” or rather, how NOT to be?

Well, a group of good people have come together to start this much-needed conversation. 

 

100 Voices, a parent-led advocacy group, together with Buds Theatre, are bringing to you “Don’t Kancheong, Kiasu, Kiasi”, an interactive production based an original piece written by Stanley Seah, conceptualised by Jack Sim (100 Voices) & Claire Devine (BTC).  This forum theatre play aims to challenge perspectives and help the audience to recognise the need for a more open and accepting society  and examine our educational challenges as a nation. I caught up with Dean Yap, founding member of 100 Voices who shares more about this production: 

1. In a nutshell, why this play and why forum theatre? What is at the heart of this work? 

For years, we have been in pressure-cooker education environment. There has been a lot of talk on this, but the situation remains. Why? Education is a complex subject involving many stakeholders. There is no single solution. To reform this, we need to have deep conversations with all stakeholders, so we grow understanding and empathy for each other. Only then, can we effect changes. 

“Don’t Kancheong, Kiasu & Kiasi’ facilitates this conversation by giving every stakeholder a voice to engage with one another.

2. What stories, narratives & conversations does this work hope to bring out? 

The actors will demonstrate the challenges and conflicts in the 4 acts below. 

– a family quarrelling over a child’s exam results.

– an overwhelmed teacher struggling with self-harming students.

– a Principal and MOE Director at a loss to eliminate youth suicides.

– a worry-stricken CEO who can’t find innovative local employees.

Audience can share their opinions, change the scenarios or offer alternative solutions to the actors in the hope of producing new outcomes. 

The forum theatre format helps us to see the perspectives of different stakeholders and start a conversation on the baseline of empathy and betterment. We hope the audience will walk away with broader perspectives and greater empathy for all stakeholders. We hope the work can trigger deeper self reflection and drive changes in our behavior that can alleviate pressure experienced by our children. We hope the audience can see the great misunderstanding that results in misaligned goals, which drive us all into a narrow rat race and pressure-cooker education culture.

3. Who should attend and why? 

Parents, children, youths, teachers, principals, MOE policy makers, college enrollment officers, recruiters, employers should watch this play as they are influential actors at different stages and parts of education system. 

If we can start off by understanding challenges faced by each stakeholder, we can then take the conversation to deeper level to uncover underlying reasons (or triggers). From there, we can explore solutions to reform our education in impactful and inclusive manner. Reform comes from everyone taking his/her own actions to make changes in alignment.

4. Three fun facts about the production 

1. You (the audience) don’t have to sit still and keep quiet throughout the play, unlike the typical performances.

2. You are the Director! You get to tell actors what to do.

3. Your suggestions will be heard by MOE Officials for consideration in shaping the education system.

You will get to know others who face similar challenges like you – you can take heart that you are not alone!

<<*Giveaway* >>2 Tickets to watch “Don’t KKK” on Sunday, 26 Feb 2017, 3pm

To enter the giveaway: 

1. Copy and Share this link on your Facebook Profile (Set to Public) 

2. Leave a comment on what makes you kancheong, kiasu or kiasi as a parent!

*The giveaway will end on Wednesday, 22 February. 

Tickets can be purchased here

My Year in Review

2016 was a monumental year for our family  for so many reasons. Some were big and some not but the days, always felt full and well-spent. 

We started off the year on unsure footing with the anticipation of welcoming our fifth child in the first quarter. We ended the year graduating our first into teenhood and a new phase of life.

In between that, Life showed up and we have been dealt with kindly, with generous portions of grace for each day. 

Here are some of our key takeaways from our family’s year in review: a necessary exercise in sobriety lest we forget that we have much, much, much to be thankful for. 

1. Recognize and Seize the Gifts

In 2016, we welcomed our fifth child, Jubilee into our family. I actually really gave birth to another human being! 

Although we were not quite sure we would be ready for big family dynamics (when will anyone ever be?), we felt real peace within when we received the news.

It was a peace that transcended the fluttering of anxiety, the fear of the unknown and the future, a peace that filled the void of lack, and a peace that sent societal expectations of what a standard family should look like, crashing. 

We let go of pragmatism and seized the gift. The gift of life is an extraordinary gift. There are no assets you could trade it for that could be worth its value. Such a gift deserves no excuses. 

  
Perhaps our days might be a little inconvenient or slightly topsy turvy, but…we knew we would somehow work it out. We had a precious bundle of life ready to kick her way into the universe and we couldn’t let our microscopic and myopic concerns steal away our joy! 

We spent a good part of the year enjoying our newborn and all the accompanying joys and stresses. Her cherubic smile is worth every ounce of effort and every extra brew of coffee.   

The kids all rose up to their “extra” duties in helping out around the house: not always autopilot but good enough! They know when to replenish her diaper stash and check for poo!  

The word “family” became a verb,  a collective effort . We were each challenged individually to pull our own weight and to do what we could to chip in to help the other. 

In between her siblings’ squabbles, this little one unifies with her adorable expressions and antics. We are a tighter and stronger ship because of her.

2. Flee Parenting Perils

In 2016, we persevered through our third year of homeschooling our two older children and graduated my firstborn through THE PSLE. Both my husband and I are relieved to have survived the aftermath

Was it tough? I don’t deny it was. It was hard because we had to juggle all the other family dynamics together with it. The year was well paced but also intense. We had to constantly evaluate why we do what we do and assess where we were heading, understanding the outcomes we valued and had in mind. 

  

Picture credit: momastery.com

We also had to conquer our fears of the PSLE and renew a vision of success and education that was broader and deeper than a mere T-score.

Ultimately, it was a test of our own parenting-speak and what we said we believed in. 

Through it, we had to remain grounded but at the same time, take leaps of faith. Parenting had never appeared more paradoxical and it was easy to jump into an abyss of insecurity and run with the tide in a mindless paper chase. 

Thankfully, we kept it real and our priorities ordered. The kids are happy with where they are at and ready to embrace the new year.

3. Streamline and Don’t Apologize

On the homefront, we had adjustments to make in order to accomodate all the above changes. The key discipline I had to learn this year was self-control. 

We had to be ruthless in determining how thin we spread ourselves across each 24 hour day. We took caution not to overschedule and overcommit. If that meant we had to cook less and order takeaways, so be it. 

In order to avoid a hectic lifestyle, we had to opt for less: forgo some activities, co-ops, get-togethers and consider them only when we have some breathing space. We also had to streamline logistics and cut out the non-essentials so that we wouldn’t need to do too much running around.

We also used and offered our home more as the base for interactions or for people and friends to drop by. Good friends always did and we never felt isolated nor like we were missing out. 

4. Never say Never 

Most surreal of all this year was stepping out of a comfortable and familiar place. For me, that was the home and in my years as a stay home mom… having a semblance of pursuing my passion was something rare and fleeting in the growing years. 

This year, I never thought it would happen but it did. I was invited to be a part of a panel of experts to share my views on the PSLE in the national newspapers.

  Source credit: The Straits Times

I also wrote a piece from my heart about the PSLE t-score which was published in The Straits Times. In addition, I have started to take on freelance writing and editorial projects on the side. It was a great honour to have the opportunity to enjoy my family and work at what I love doing at the same time. 

Things will always work out somehow. At the end of the year, we need to regale ourselves with such a sentiment. While 2016 sets on us, let us approach the new year with the hope and assurance for greater beginnings, with love from our family to yours.

 

First Flight

There’s a mixed pot of feelings you experience when your eldest child stands at the cusps of independence, perched ready to take off into full-fledged adolescence.

On one hand, there’s relief. You can move on from the crucial first six years of childhood where you’ve survived bumbling through one of the steepest learning curves of your life.  

On the other hand, its strangely nostalgic. That was you some 20 years ago. You can identify with this quest for identity and then suddenly not, because this brave new world has been swirling around you at a hurtling pace.  You’ve known this journey, yet you can’t tell what’s ahead. 

It is scary too, in many ways: to watch with baited breath,  the uncovering of a shell that we as parents have constructed over her, unfold. 

This same shield of good intentions that we have cloaked around her to protect her from the harsher realities of the outside universe, must soon be put to the test: Have we built the foundations right? Did we dig deep? 

Unchartered journey

Unchartered journey

 

This releasing of one’s child into a bigger world that’s not your nest can be an intimidating experience for both child and parent.  All too soon, she will be subject to the wider enclave of the unknown and unchartered- one that is governed by a different set of laws, risks and dangers. 

Intimidating though it may be, it is a necessary rite of passage that every parent knows must be carried out, if not sooner then later: it will affirm your little one’s ability to survive and allow her to win her first fruits of independence and success that is apart from your warm nurturing grasp. 

Just look at any creature of nature; perhaps the way a mother swallow releases her young for its first flight and watches from the side at how her baby gets tugged first by the weight of gravity, only to discover in mid-air relief, that its primal instinct to spread its wings will take it into its victoriously-sweet virgin ascent to freedom.

First Flight

First Flight

The gravitas of that moment hits home and is significant on its own. You pause for a moment to take stock and wonder if your child is resilient enough for these first few tests of Life. 

Your heart skips nervously as you pray that the world won’t swallow her up, or chip at her self-esteem or dull her senses or coat her with the first clothes of cynicism that you’ve worn yourself advertedly or inadvertedly in your 30-something, weary, wary adulthood. 

Obviously, you know the answer inside. Of course it will happen. Because that’s what happened to most of us. Until…Yes, until… we discovered that the wind that charted our course was not construed merely by this greater universe but by its Maker. 

These were the winds of Grace and breath of Salvation that rescued us from the brevity of flitting aimlessly in this strange world and the condemnation of waiting for the next unexpected turn to crash into us or for the next ruthless predator to swoop in for a kill. 

We can find shelter in the One  who gave us the form not merely to survive but to soar and to live beyond our wildest dreams, and who whispers purpose and destiny into our feeble Spirits. The One also, who has the ability to still a raging tempest both within and out.

  25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 

26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 

29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 

30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 

31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’

 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

And then, there is release…true release. Not just to anyone, but to the Father. Those fears, they are unfounded. Those worldly questions that have creeped into your mind on more than one occasion (“What school shall she go to?”, “How far can she go?”, ” What shall she eat?”, “What shall she wear?”) retreat and take on a sudden insignificance. You’re aligned to a broader vision and you look UP. You learn to let go and release your precious one onto the the wings of the Abba Father, to be carried by His Everlasting Arms. 

This is the necessary ritual that every parent who understands the heart of the Father partakes in. In fact, this is the primary step that will make a marked difference in that child’s life- and yours as a parent:

When you will sacrifice that burden of human effort, relinquish self-imposed determinism and lay down parenting trophies at the altar, you will await to receive the immeasurable grace and richness of God’s great plan that will far surpass any human plan you have for that child. 

Abraham did that for Isaac, the birds do that for their young and I will need to do that for my children. I need to follow Abraham up that mountain. And so I discover, as my child takes her first flight, that it is not so important what I do or what she does, but its more important what He will do, what He already does and what He’s already done. 

It is a coming-of-age development for me as a mother, to invite and not fear the unknown, with its risks and its dangers, its knocks and occasional devastations, by just finding peace in His love and will. By trusting God with my children- to trust that God will see them through every obstacle, every hurt, every temptation, every failure, every imperfection, every blessing, every joy. 

“Are you not much more valuable than they?” Indeed, we are. There is no doubt about that. Allow me to end with this poignant excerpt by Tim Keller in Counterfeit Gods:

Abraham took that journey, and only after that could Abraham love Isaac well and wisely. 

If Isaac had become the main hope and joy of Abraham’s life, his father would have either overdisciplined him (because he needed his son to be “perfect”) or underdisciplined him (because he couldnt bear his son’s displeasure or both. He would have overindulged him but also become overly angry and cruel, perhaps even violent, when his son disappointed him. 

Why? Isaac’s love and success would have become Abraham’s identity and joy. He would have become inordinately angry, anxious and depressed if Isaac ever failed to love and obey him. And fail he would have, since no child can bear the full weight of godhood. Abraham’s expectations would have driven him away or twisted and disfigured his spirit.

Here then, is the practical answer to the “Isaacs” in our lives. We must offer them up. We need to find a way to keep from clutching them too tightly. We will never do so by mouthing abstractions about how great God is. We have to know, to be assured, that God so loves cherishes, and delights in us that we can rest our hearts in Him for our significance and security and handle anything that happens in life. 

When the magnitude of what He did -by not withholding His One and Only Son on the cross of Calvary- dawns on us, it makes it possible finally to rest our hearts in him rather than in anything else.”

Slaying the PSLE Beast

There are weekends in life that come and go. Then there are weekends or rather, one special weekend to be exact–that’s sandwiched in between all others, which all parents and children eagerly pray for to be over and where time seems to stand a tad too still–the PSLE weekend.

This is when deliverance seems near, when hope peeks around the corner, where light emanates and where Life awaits to be picked up where we left of.

Seeing the Light

Indeed, taming the PSLE beast has been harder than I thought. As a first-time mum walking my child through this weighty national exam, these are some of my thoughts:

First comes the slaying of expectations. This is a slow and arduous process , perfectly punishing for any typically eager Singaporean parent with a checklist of ideals waiting to be fulfilled and unleashed. The PSLE forces us to reexamine this checklist for what it’s really worth: it is the process of holding a mirror out to ourselves and to our children. It means asking honest questions of what we want to see in our children in the final analysis and the “costs” and “casualties” it might take to get there.

These reflections can brutally expose some of the values which we need to revisit and times where we may have let our fears and worries chase after us.

Ultimately for us, this is how we have chosen and it is the core of our children we must protect: it is their laughter and their spirits. Their eyes must light and their hearts must be free to dream. It is the carefree abandonment of childhood we must hold dear.

Second, the months leading to its (PSLE’s) culmination are intense. Akin to preparing for a military attack are the requisite arsenal of rigorous worksheets and assessments. Brain numbing drill and practice characterises most of it, together with the consistency of pacing (sometimes plodding) towards the finish. 

PSLE

Onslaught of revision

 

It is also an intense mixed pot of feelings: some days feel good when we overcome roadblocks. Some days are worse, when we do not. Most days, are managing the multitude of emotions that come along with the ups and downs and then steering them back where they should be: quietly poised and positioned for what lies ahead.

Third, we are forced to choose our battles daily and wisely so.  It is not the number of wars we win but how we approach them with dignity and honour. In this case, it is not the score that determines our worth but our perseverance and attitude that truly matter. Our children may not necessarily be ready to peak now. They will do so when they are ready. Life is not always a sprint.

Most significantly, it is our relationships with our children that are the GOLD and not our certificates and trophies. Not all can be winners but certainly none are losers and many are unsung heroes. Fear failure we shall not. It is wise to demonstrate in our actions and speech that failure is no impediment but a mere stepping stone to greater victories. It will never be the final death knell as long as you believe so.

Above all, we have to seize this opportunity to exemplify love and support to our children in a time when they most need it. Our patience and endearment are the real badges of honour that we must valiantly bear with pride. We must be so genuinely and unabashedly embracing  of our children and who they have become in the process.  This growth, this struggle is worth its value because of its refinement of character both in them and within ourselves.

These are our humble lessons from our journey. Hope it will encourage all parents and children to the finish.

Days with our Children

There are so many ways I’m an imperfect mum. These are one of them: can’t keep a tidy house. This is breakfast, homemade bread in a my trusty loaf pan, taken haphazardly over toy knick-knacks strewn over the kitchen counter. 

This mess is a constant. It never really goes away. It nags and scratches at my seemingly capable veneer of motherhood.
The desire to want to be able to “keep a neat house” creeps in insidiously and I suddenly feel the urge to start yelling: “Who’s things are these…come and keep them!” for the umpteenth time…in a week or so, or more accurately many years or so…of picking up on toy trails and running after the little ones to keep house.

This desire…wells up…

  

But am glad it hits me fast. These terribly imperfect messes are actually really pretty perfect.

They are perfect traces of the days with our children. The times that they are with us, under our rainbow of care and love.

They are the perfect present of the NOW: the heady schedules, dirty laundry, tumble and fun, picking of fights, wiping little tears…

How utterly foolish we might be if we are tempted to strike them off as messy and undesirable, just because these don’t make US look good on the outside…

This amazing season of living with young children in our homes and hearts are not going to last forever.

In a flash, we would wish we were picking up toys. We would miss witnessing the crazy, bustling, messiness of life within the home. We would miss having breakfast and seeing traces of the children at every turn and corner in the echoes of our empty hallways. Our furniture would look and feel tidy but cold without a warm little body to snuggle close. Indeed,the days are long but the years are short.

This desire, it dissolves…

Only to return, in the thankfulness and resolve to live in the joy, abundance and the mess of each and every imperfect day…

I love tidy homes, but as a mum, I am convinced it is so much more important to keep a tidy heart. Weeding out our blatant insecurities, worries and expectations at the start of each day and enjoying, no, reveling in the spirit of a happy home filled with dirty laundry, tumble and fun and trailing toys ❤️.

#mumphilosophy #gratitude #keepingatidyheart

 

Enroute to Happiness: How we are coping with PSLE

We’re merely two months away from PSLE, the major high stakes national exam  in this country for primary schoolers. Concerned ones have been asking how we are coping and it seems like a concern: It’s a first for both of us: first time candidate, first time mother-of-candidate. It all seems like a big deal with quake-sized trepidations but… we’re glad that we’re managing.

  

We’re managing to shrug off the stress and the pressure cooker environment.

We’re managing to prioritize our relationships above the results.

We’re managing to keep our eyes on long term goals and not invest our all on a short term sprint.

We’re learning it’s important to pace, and enjoy the ride.

We’re managing our expectations of what it means to be successful and that it’s more than a t-score.

We’re managing to find our security in our faith rather than our fight.

The best part?

We’re managing to relate deeper and build into our collective memories as mother and daughter.

Spending a sizable chunk of our time talking and communicating is pivotal. There are crazy homeschooling days when our “home room” breaks out in spontaneous conversations about anything and everything! Sometimes there’s just so much to be done, but we just talk.

It is an absolute delight when the 11year old comes to me when she’s stressed or in need of a break and she goes on and on for 2-3 hours at a time, sharing what’s on her heart.

I confess it’s nerve wrecking at times when I’m in mumzilla-mode and think of how she could otherwise be using time more effectively scribbling on some practice paper or burrowed deep in a book somewhere. I’m thankful though that there’s a glitch in me that ensures I snap out of that faulty thinking.

When our children have that much to say…we should count it an absolute privilege to listen. We learn so much about them when we do: their encounters with friends through the week, their lofty ambitions and nagging anxieties, their perspective of life, their reactions to people and random situations, their hum-tune of the week & admiration of Megan Trainor.

Over the months, I’ve listened to her spiel memorized lines from my Baby Blues comic stash that she’s read from cover to cover, over and over. She artfully throws out choice quotes which so resemble my stay-home mum struggles that we both crack up and laugh our socks off. Laughing at ourselves is so important in times like these.

 

She has time to draw, which is priceless. All her random sketches, I don’t take them at all for granted. Every single one, an expression of who she is, and what she’s like at a single moment in time. She’s expressed her keenness in graphic design. It’s what I aspired towards when I was her age. Life comes a full circle, doesn’t it?

Whatever the future holds, I have faith she’ll find her way. If I may distill some thoughts on parenting a tween through this:

– Always welcome your children. When they want to talk, listen. Not listen while scrolling on your handphone, listen with your heart.

– Refrain from judging and over-evaluating. Many times they know what their offense is, but they need the moral courage to do what’s right. Knowing you’re on their side goes a long way.

– Pace them in their journey. It’s always a comfort for them to know they have you near. Stretch them with warm-ups. Be a running partner at times. Otherwise, cheer from the sidelines.

With the incessant demands of today’s pressure cooker society, these are happy gifts we can’t buy but can give freely to our children. They are, an open heart, an attentive mind, a willingness to connect. Top that with an ice cream, and we’re en route to happiness and happy children!

The little things matter. Everyday I become more and more mindful of the little things in our lives and how utterly significant they can be.

Face it, we all don’t have it all together and there are no perfect families. But when we begin to accept that it’s all ok and that we grow better and closer each day into togetherness and acceptance of one another, we stop making a big deal of the big things and start to treasure the little ones:

We notice what is present rather than what is absent.

We tune our hearts to leap at little growths and improvements. Efforts don’t need to be staggering before we take notice!

We see every missed step or failure as a potential for growth and impending victory.

Taking time to remember the little things that captured my day teaches my heart to be thankful and contented:

1. A warm cup of fennel tea made thoughtfully by the hubby to ease my indigestion.

2. Enjoying the innocence of the 4yo recounting her wide-eyed introduction to penguins, flamingos and snow owls.

3. Admiring these two cute feet pictured in the photo below and the memories that come with them.

4. A threatening storm and son’s quick offer and dash out to bring in all the clothes! I can nap in peace nowadays because of his watchfulness!

5. Seeing my 12yo find some headway over some geometry sums after an afternoon of hard work

6. Learning to work as a tag team: the 4yo had a pee accident on the carpet. We, the parents, swept the carpet up for a wash and scrub, 12yo swooped in to take the baby off us, 7yo took her wet and crying sister in for a bath, and 10yo rearranged the toys and vacuumed the room. Within 15minutes, everyone was happy and having dinner.

The little things are the big things after all, and help me get through my day with much love!

Setting Up Cosy Corners

What do you do when you have growing children and limited space? Other than bumping into walls and into each other, or secretly donating tired-looking toys to make more space around the house, it’s always nice if each child has a special secret place–call it a cosy corner of sorts. But what if you don’t technically have the space in the house for one? Your child may just come up with incentive just to create one with abit of imagination.

The little one doesn’t enjoy being in a separate playroom from her siblings who are all older and occupied with their own things. So she set up home near us—under the kitchen counter. It’s close to where I usually am (in the kitchen: prime real estate mind you) and where she is, she can “call out” to her siblings to come and play with her when she gets bored and to visit her “house”, which currently now is minimalistic with just two chairs and some knick knacks (*grateful*).She takes her stuffed animal friends for occasional walks on their stroller while I cook or clean and drops by to “enquire” of me once in awhile. How nice of her:).

Kids….let them be near you, while you work, and do life together:).

Cozy Corners

Cozy Corners

Love & Quiches – Easy Quiche for Valentine’s

Affection is a strange creature. Sometimes, it takes the form of extravagant public displays. Other times, more subtly, with love & quiches going together.

Let me explain. It was Valentine’s Day a few weekends ago, when the husband, I and all our kids in tow, walked past some university students hawking their Valentine’s wares: a single stalk or a bunch of roses of your choice. They gestured towards us and posed to my pram-pushing middle-aged gentleman, an irresistible opportunity:  “Would you like to buy a rose for you wife?” It was not a surprising proposition given that roses or flowers, for that matter, are the passionate one-gift-says-all redemption for all men on Valentine’s Day.

The hubs turned around; I could see him toying with the idea for a split second, till he met my gaze. In an instant, we read each others cues and both instinctively agreed not to…not because we didn’t believe in romance. But because it wouldn’t feel right, it wasn’t our kind of thing, to be honest.

It’s not that we don’t believe in romance, or all that heady, giddy stuff of that thing called love. But somehow, after 10 years and four kids after, our affection for one another couldn’t be surmised in a stalk of rose. What we had was not quite giddy, romanticized or idealized. Our feelings didn’t need to be exhibited for us to feel secure. We are thankful to have “smelt the roses” together without actually needing to hold some on Valentine’s Day.

It is the constancy of our married life that is a safe deep harbour. Our “displays” of affection veer towards constant gestures like how he fills my water bottle at the start of the day and never fails to bring out the trash. For me, making his favourite meat roast and running the tub. Affection for us spells subtle and nuanced, laced in a fond nudge or gentle word, quiet consideration for the other and the warmth and pleasure of familiarity.

Thus, it is just perfectly comfortable and natural that I would show my affection to my darlings in this delectable form of a ham and cheese quiche, which I serve up especially in times when I am thoroughly thankful for the aroma of love that fill our house. Love and quiches to you all! XXOO 🙂

Love quiches

Ham Quiche with lots of love

 

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Ham Quiche
To bake the crust, preheat oven to 180C, Line the pastry with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the crust is set, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove the paper and weights and bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on to prepare the egg custard.

Quiche custard recipe:
6- 8 slices of ham, cut to narrow strips
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 1/4 cups cream (35%fatmin)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup grated tasty cheese

1. Arrange the ham strips evenly over the bottom of the baked crust.
2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, yolks, and cream. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk to combine. Pour into the prepared crust and bake until the custard is golden, puffed, and set yet still slightly wiggly in the center, 30 to 35 minutes at 180C.

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