Always a team

Posted by ~Summer~ on July 29, 2022
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When I signed the three elder kids up for Taekwondo last year, I wasn't sure if they would like it but I thought it would make a good holiday activity. Being a PA course, it was also affordable for us because the fees were at $5 per lesson per kid, excluding uniform, grading or any miscellaneous fees. I love the fact that all three of them can be enrolled in the same class as it can be rare due to their different ages.

The class is held weekly near our home at HDB pavilion and these days, they make their way there on their own while I cook for the baby and feed him dinner. Then we would walk over to see what korkor and jiejies are doing in class - too bad the baby is too small to join in! - and all of us would walk home together.

Fast forward to today, it's been over half a year since we started and the kids are enjoying the sport more than expected. To quote their words, "I never knew I would like TKD so much", "I didn't like it so much in the beginning but now, I totally love it" and "I look forward to TKD class every week!".

A big part of the reason behind it is because they are blessed with kind and patient coaches who are strict when discipline is needed yet fun and friendly too. I remember how they let the kids pen notes and record videos on Mother's Day and Father's Day this year which was a thoughtful and sweet initiative. It always warms your heart when others go the extra mile for you, right? For that, we are deeply thankful.

So when the head coach suggested for them to take part in the National Taekwondo Poomsae Champions, all of us were skeptical but we wanted to give it a go because we didn't want to disappoint them. The kids were doubtful of whether they could do it, they didn't think they would work well together and they were even a little fearful of what to expect.

I guess in life, you just have to learn to take a leap of faith, right?



We worked hard in the weeks leading up to the competition. It wasn't always easy and we faced some hurdles along the way. For instance, our poomsae was changed just a fortnight ago as the coaches realised the initial one we practised was not allowed in the competition, and the coaches were not always free to pull them aside to teach them during class as there were other students to care for too. In view of the lack of time and I would say a bit of reluctance from the kids, could we really pull this off?

Not wanting to give up halfway, we made it a point to practise at home whenever we had time. I have to tell you it wasn't as easy or as smooth as it seems because I had a kid who wanted to pull out of the competition, another who couldn't stop criticising the siblings and making them feel inferior, and one who just didn't seem confident enough. Every practice session was filled with bickers, exchange of harsh and mean comments, tantrums and even tears too. 

They didn't seem to gel well as a team and instead of working through the differences, they insisted on their own individual opinions which made things worse when they realised they were totally not in sync. The entire poomsae might be just under a minute but if you wanna do it well as a team, it takes hours, days and weeks. It's truly a case of 台上一分钟,台下十年功. Okay, maybe not so exaggerated but you get my point.

On the day of the competition, we had to arrive over two hours early and as expected, there was plenty of waiting time. We watched some other teams in action and I could see that the kids felt both impressed and intimidated because this was a far cry from their level and we were nowhere as skilled or as synchronised as any of the teams we saw. However, seeing them also gave us hope, hope that we could one day reach that kind of standard and reach beyond what we thought we were capable of.

We took the time to practise for a few more rounds during the wait and even then, the kids were still complaining about each other - too slow, too fast, wrong leg, never kick high enough and so on and so forth. I kept assuring them that we were not expecting to win and all we wanted was for them to put in their effort and give it a go. The learning experience is more important than the outcome, right? After all, it was their maiden attempt and I didn't think we should have overly high expectations. In fact, as long as they completed the steps and didn't freeze or blank out halfway in front of all the judges, that would be satisfactory already.


Check out their performance below!

You can tell that Asher was feeling hesitant at the start and being confused by the yellow box in the middle, he didn't do as per practised to get to his standing position. Of course, the sisters chided him afterwards for it because they had to react impromptuly at the very last minute. However, I was very proud to see that in spite of that, all of them still spontaneously went through the poomsae and didn't forget any step! In fact, they were more synchronised than expected, they gave it all their strength and that was such a good sign. Yup, hard work pays off after all.

The first reaction they had when they got off the arena was to say "We surely won't win any medal." Oh come on, guys, have a little faith in each other and most importantly, in yourself, okay? The coaches and I already knew the results beforehand but we kept it under wraps till the last moment.

Can you imagine their surprise when they found out that they won 2nd place and were going to receive silver medals? Sure, there weren't that many participants in their category - four in total - but winning a medal, regardless of colour, was the icing on the cake that would boost their confidence and inspire them to go further in this journey.


******
Dear Angel, Ariel and Asher,

Congratulations on your achievement! While I am proud to see that you won medals, what heartens me most is that you persevered till the end and didn't give up halfway. The first time is always the hardest but you guys did it together.

Once a team, always a team. I hope the three of you realise that you have always been a team way before this competition. That is because you are siblings, and siblings make the strongest team because you will always love, protect and care for one another.

It doesn't mean that a team has to always see eye to eye. Nope, I think this experience has taught you that conflicts are bound to happen when you work together. The key is not to avoid them but to resolve them one by one. 

Papa reminded you that a team is only as strong as its weakest link so your job is not to pull each other down but to lift each other up. Encourage, motivate, teach and be a patient mentor, just like how your coaches guide you too. Don't let frustration take over you, learn to hold your tongue, think positively, give credit when credit is due and always, always have each other's back.

Having siblings is one of the greatest blessings in life and the best team you could ever ask for. May this be the start of an amazing journey for all three of you. We love you to the moon and back and we'll always be your best supporters.

Love, Mama

******

Heartfelt thanks to all the coaches for the loving guidance and for your reassuring presence that day. Till our next learning experience!


Happiness is... embracing the now

Posted by ~Summer~ on July 07, 2022
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Growing up, I've always stuck to the motto "知足常乐" and tried best to live life contentedly. Still, there were days when I couldn't help but feel that the grass was greener on the other side. Days when I got envious of my peers, days when I wished I could fast forward or rewind time, days when I see what other mums have accomplished and wonder about my own achievements, days when I feel like an utter failure, days when I ponder and wonder about life in general.

April marked the month that I turned 39 and when I looked around me, I realised there is absolutely nothing to complain about because I am living the best life I could ever dream about. Being a stay-at-home mum is a privilege and a blessing - and a job that I take seriously and slog through day in day out. It isn't a walk in the park - motherhood never was and never will be - but it is one that is filled with marvel, beauty, joy and rewards along the way.

Perhaps being at the halfway mark in my life makes it dawn upon me that I'd better do more to cherish and treasure everything I have and live in the present. In this post of "Happiness is..", it's about embracing the now and having a grateful heart with each day that comes.


I had an intimate and much appreciated birthday celebration with the kids. Yup, having more kids means birthdays are always merry and rowdy in our home. They don't have to be grand or big scale to be special and memorable. I like mine the way it is and deeply cherished all the thoughts and effort put in by the hubby, parents, kids and friends. Read more about my thoughts on turning 39 here.


Everyone loves staycation, right? So do we! We are not planning to go on a holiday for the time being so staycays are the next best thing. You know, we have not booked any staycation out of our pockets yet because I deem them as a luxury that is too expensive. That means every single one that we go on is because we were lucky to be invited for a media review but it also means I was working very hard nearly every moment of the stay and had lots of work to do upon returning home. Still, I know we are very fortunate to get one or two staycays every year and none of it is taken for granted.

We were the VIPs at Ibis Style Hotel during my birthday weekend and I was blown away by their attention to details and all the lovely birthday decor set up in our rooms. The helium balloons made the kids very happy and I loved the lychee flavoured birthday cake. It was more of a mum-and-kids staycation as the hubby was rather busy and despite all the nagging and bickers, I wouldn't have it any other way.

The highlight of the stay was the aqua egg hunt which the kids enjoyed thoroughly. The staff specially put in nearly 2000 eggs into the pool so we could have a preview of the Easter weekend activity and we actually felt bad about the hassle, which was why the kids helped to gather and pack up the eggs when the game ended. The task was to collect as many eggs as possible within a time limit and golden eggs were the bonus. So simple yet so fun!

We enjoyed the balloons, giant inflatables, water guns and most of all, the poolside cafe where it was possible to dine in our swimwear and grab a bite in between playing and swimming. If I could, I truly wouldn't mind lazing here with the kids all day. Sometimes, doing nothing brings you the most joy, don't you think so?

While I love that we have home cooked food a few times a week, I also like bringing the kids out for a meal. That means no washing up needed, haha! What I love is being able to breathe in fresh air, visit new places, eat our favourite food and enjoy each other's company. We are so good at this mum-and-four-kids outings now and it's a good thing that the older ones can help to take care of the toddler when I am busy ordering or carrying food back.

We brought my parents for a yummy steamboat lunch at Golden Mile - it's my mum's favourite and I grew up to like it too - and we also went to East Coast Park to to enjoy nature, let the kids play at the playground and blow bubbles, as well as have coffee and some snacks. It was a reminder for us to slow down our footsteps, take deep breaths, enjoy the sun and be thankful for having our loved ones beside us. Never keep thinking that "There's always next time" because most often than not, it makes you miss out on what you can do now.

If I'm feeling tired and late in writing my posts, it's because this toddler keeps me up at night and clings to me 24/7. Still, it's such a joy seeing him grow up day by day, getting taller and learning new things. At 14 months, he has started walking and that is a huge milestone, right? I guess Mama will need even more energy to keep up with you from now on! Thank you for being my bundle of sunshine, for assuring me that things will be all right and for brightening my every day with your cheerful, infectious smile.

After a long break - we are talking about years - it's finally time to bring back our BBQ gatherings! We had a cosy time with our parents and while the adults tucked into yummy, grilled food prepared by the hubby, the kids splashed in the pool and played all day long. When everyone is happy, I am even happier.

As the kids just recovered from Covid in January, we were advised to wait for three months before letting them take their vaccination. Finally, these two went for their first jab and it's nice that they got to do it together! I heard horror stories from friends about how some kids are fearful of the needle and would bawl or kick up a fuss when it was their turn. But thankfully, these two were as cool as a cucumber even though I know they were a little scared and apprehensive initially. Thank you for not giving me any trouble at all except having to travel and bring everyone big and small to the community club where you had your jab.

Carnivals are always so much fun! We saw this funfair in a nearby shopping mall and I let the kids play a couple of games and go on a ride or two. I must say these are not cheap anymore and we have to be really selective in order not to spend a bomb. These are the memories of their childhood and I hope my kids will have fond memories of pasar malams and carnivals like how I did.

It was our 14th wedding anniversary in April and while the hubby and I don't see the need for any lavish meal or fancy celebration, it was still nice to know that each other remembered. Our kids were the swetest because they actually went to the extent of making handmade cards for us. They didn't need to, but they did it anyway, and I truly appreciated that loving gesture. Thank you for all your kind wishes, my dears!

With kids, one of the best things we can do for free is to head to the neighbourhood playgrounds. My kids are always thrilled when we go to one, no matter how small or simple it is, and they always have so much fun together. Okay, they bicker too but that's part and parcel of being siblings. I like exploring new playgrounds and hope to bring them to more iconic playgrounds on our sunny island during the holidays.



Last but not least, I also met up with some of my jie meis for a long-awaited catch up and it was nice being able to sit together to chat once more. I do miss many of my friends from time to time and even though we can't meet up as much as we used to because life keeps each of us busy in one way or another, I'm glad to know that we are still doing it regularly and making an effort to set time aside for such meetups. These friends have known me since I was thirteen and it isn't easy to find friendship that lasts for decades so I'm definitely keeping them close to my heart.

Cherish, Summer, cherish. That is what I keep reminding myself each day. Don't take things for granted, don't fail to appreciate, don't live with (too many) regrets. Treasure the present, embrace the now and make each day count.

Not just for my kids, but for myself too. Till the next "Happiness is" post!


It's A Baby Shark Party - Ansel is 1!

Posted by ~Summer~ on June 27, 2022
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In the blink of an eye, baby Ansel has turned one year old.

Yup, it still seemed like yesterday when my water bag burst unexpectedly and I gave birth to this strong, healthy baby boy when he was just 35 weeks old. We overcame high jaundice, a frenotomy and his initial refusal to drink from the nipple in the first couple of months before settling into a comfortable routine. Every day, I am thankful for this little miracle who came into our lives and brought an immeasurable amount of joy and blessing to our humble family. 
 
Born during the pandemic, this precious little one turned one year old just a few weeks after he and his siblings recovered from Covid. With all the rules and limitations in place, we were not able to hold a grand celebration for him but that's not to say we couldn't do anything special, right? Firstly, we came up with a theme and that wasn't hard considering how much he loves dancing to Baby Shark these days. Next, we sprung into action, did the DIY decor together and I came up with game ideas for the kids. 

Here's sharing all about Ansel's 1st birthday party and how we had a soaking good time all in the comfort of our home.
 


 LET'S DECORATE
 
I love that every birthday party gives us a reason to come together to do some art and craft. For Ansel's party, we decided to transform our wall into something that looks under the sea so as to be in line with the theme. 





The "Happy Birthday" bunting was printed using our printer and I added the shark family onto a seabed background. I printed out colouring pictures of the sharks as well as sea animals and got the kids to work! Hee. They were only too happy to get creative with paint, markers and crayons.
 

The sea turtle done by Asher is one of my favourites! I love how he wasn't afraid to experiment with colours and the rainbow hues turned out to to be beautiful. He also splattered some small dots of brown paint onto its face and I thought it looked natural and nice. My other favourite is the Baby Shark which was done using scraps of yellow paper by Ariel. Creative and cute!
 



The big girl took charge of drawing bubble letters for Ansel's name since she has the neatest handwriting. The sister and I then proceeded to paint each of them and she told me she was so happy that she got to do painting with Mama, awwww. Yup, each of us had a different role to play but it was heartwarming to see how everything came together bit by bit.
 





One of the highlights is the gigantic number "1" and this took time and effort from all of us. While the three of them painted the backdrop with varying shades of blue and white, Asher and I then did a paper collage with yellow and orange paper for contrast.



There, here is our completed wall! The dark blue backdrop is done using felt bought from Daiso and the waves are made with crepe paper. Pretty good effort for a DIY wall, right? Every element contains our love and well wishes for the baby and that is why this wall is truly priceless and one-of-a-kind.





LET'S SET UP 
 
The party was held on his actual day which was a Wednesday so while the kids were in school, I set up the whole balcony to surprise them. It took me some time to clear away the laundry rack and the mess that we usually have so this wasn't as straightforward as it seemed.

I also surprised them with a huge inflatable pool so we could have our own mini onsen right in the comfort of home. That was the best part of the party and the highlight of it all. Yup, totally worth the time and effort spent in inflating it! How did I fill it up with water? Well, after the past few water play sessions where my back ached from all the lifting and carrying of heavy buckets, I decided to invest in a hose this time and it was such a lifesaver. Phew!

Add a mini bathtub that belongs to Ansel, a few buckets and empty bottles, an inflatable float, our mini slide, some fishing toys and water guns, and we are ALL READY!
 


That's right, all five of us got into the pool together! It was a bit of a squeeze but a warm and happy one. Literally because we put warm water inside and metaphorically because our hearts were so full of joy and gratitude. I was half thinking that I would spoil the pool but no way was I gonna miss soaking in this onsen with my kids and letting them know that Mama isn't too old to join in the fun.


LET'S PLAY

Time for the games! Yup, no party is complete without some fun so I racked my brain to come up with activities for the kids to enjoy. It's not always easy as my kids have quite a big age gap but the good thing is even though the kids are getting bigger, they still enjoy simple activities and will never hesitate to play kiddy games with the baby brother.

1) Hunt for the Sharks
 
The first challenge was to hunt for the sharks and scoop them up with a net within the fastest time. This was made harder with the addition of dozens of other fishes so you have to have a good eye and quick reflexes to be the winner.
 


2) Hook-a-fish

My kids love the hook-a-duck game at carnivals so I decided to let them do a fish version at home. I used a permanent marker to write random numbers onto every of the fish and these would add up to be their points. While the first game was totally by luck as they couldn't see the numbers from where they stood, the girls subsequently remembered in the second game which fish had the highest number (5 was the max) and would try to compete to fish those while Asher happily continued to choose his randomly. Haha. 
 



3) Aim and Shoot

This was a fun game that they loved! I got these fishing nets with tracing paper from Daiso and used them as shooting targets by hanging them from a stand. Good idea, right? There was extra paper provided in the pack which made this game a cheap but fun one. The kids just had to stand from a distance and shoot with their water guns! The highlight was being able to change your normal gun to a power Super Soaker for 10 seconds after every minute so you gotta make full use of that extra bonus and see who shoots the targets in the shortest time.
 


4) Let's Draw

It's always fun to draw and create so for the next activity, the kids were tasked to draw their own version of Baby Shark onto a kitchen towel. They had to do it carefully so as not to break it. Ta-dah, see their final masterpieces below!




5) Run Away

Guess what the artwork was gonna be used for? Well, the sharks are gonna run away!

Each of them took turns to be the 'shark' and had his/drawing hung in front of the chest. The other kids would then take the water guns and shoot away! You gotta wiggle, dance and spin around to protect your shark from getting wet or destroyed. See their funny antics in our video below, we had such a good laugh from this despite the fact that the ink smudged and stained the water in the pool and I had to change all of it halfway. It was still a joy to to see them happy!
 




6) Let's Dance

Of course, we can't miss out on doing the iconic Baby Shark dance, can we? This was a mum-and-kids moment to remember and I hope we will always be able to dance together.
 

While the birthday boy might not have been able to join in all the planned activities, he had a blast that afternoon. He loved the slide and went on it umpteen times, he was contented to play with a bucket of water and keep scooping fishes, he laughed when we danced and he was the happiest baby that day especially when we had the cake cutting ceremony.
 
FAMILY MATTERS
 
At night time, the hubby made an effort to come home earlier so that he could join in the ceremony too! Ansel is at the age where he loves hearing the birthday song, attempts to blow a candle even though he can't really do it yet, and then just keeps clapping and looking around in joy when we sing "Happy Birthday." It's such a joy and blessing to be able to do this with you, dear baby boy.
 


We make it a point to celebrate every of the kids' birthdays with our parents so it was no exception this time round. We had a cosy, delicious homecooked meal, thanks to the hubby chef, and the grandparents had a good time catching up with one another too. Sometimes, the kids would say that the grandparents only keep chatting during gatherings and don't play with them at all so I tried to include a Bingo game where everyone could take part together. Each person forks out $2 to get a Bingo card and the winner takes it all! Simple but fun, right? We ended up playing a few rounds because everyone from young to old enjoyed it.
 


Check out Ansel's special Baby Shark cake from Piece of Cake! Yup, this was where we got all the toppers and then used them as props for our games during the party, hee. I reckon he should at least get a prettier and nicer cake since it was his first birthday after all. He had a taste of it afterwards and it was his first ever cake! Makes it even more memorable, right?
 

Big thanks to the parents for taking time off to join us. to the hubby for cooking for everyone, to the kids for being the best siblings to Ansel and for taking care of him, doting on him and loving him to the moon and back. Just as we are blessed to have in our lives, he is also fortunate to have the three of you as his Korkor and Jiejies too. I sure hope everyone joined the Baby Shark Party and had lots of fun!

Ending off this post with a photo gallery because there are just too many precious pictures that speak to my heart. Yup, my last baby is officially a toddler, pardon me while I shed a few emotional tears.









******
 
Oh, and we have a video for those who wanna watch more of the party, this was the reason why it took so long for me to publish this post but compiling these priceless memories to keep for life is definitely worth it. I hope it makes you smile like how it makes my kids happy every time they watch it!


Till our next DIY birthday party!


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