Happiness is... not being too hard on yourself

Posted by ~Summer~ on January 26, 2024
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If there's one thing that I would want my kids to learn, it's how to embrace failure in life. 

While we all love to taste the sweetness of success, it's important to remember that it usually goes hand-in-hand with failure and comes as a result of sheer hard work and determination. When we fail to achieve something, it is how we get the opportunity to learn, to figure out what went wrong, to develop a growth mindset, and to make ourselves stronger and more resilient as we set out to try again.

Instead of being putting ourselves down when the results don't meet our expectations, we should find our positive inner voice, stop the self-criticism and move on from the past. It doesn't mean that we don't work hard or we do things half-heartedly in life; it just means that we give ourselves credit, celebrate the small wins and remind ourselves that we are enough. In this post of "Happiness is...", it's about not being too hard on ourselves.

One of the highlights of July for us was the National Taekwondo Poomsae Championships which was held at Toa Payoh Sports Hall. Similar to last year, the three older kids joined in the siblings category and they were to perform a synchronised poomsae (a sequence of movement) together.

For weeks leading up to the competition, they trained hard together, got into bickers, got nagged at by their coaches and were pushed to their limits. It wasn't easy for them to execute the moves in sync and they also had to make sure they put in adequate strength and power into every punch and every kick. I was there to witness their trainings and help guide them along too, and I saw the effort, sweat and tears behind the scene.

On the big day, I could feel their nerves but they gave it their all on stage and I actually thought they did a much better job than expected and their timings were more synchronised than last year. Alas, we didn't manage to get onto the podium as they missed the bronze medal by just a tiny margin. Yup, it was really by just a small fraction of a point. 

Their disappointment was evident and could only watch on with envy as the winners collected their medals. It was easy to blame each other and feel guilty about not putting in more effort, but what I wanted them to know was that they already did their best and it wasn't easy standing in front of an intimidating panel of judges and doing a poomsae in front of hundreds of people.

So I gave them a pat on the back and told them we could learn from the experience and try again next year. The hubby treated us to a nice dinner, assured the kids they did a good job and we made sure they knew we were proud of them. To my dear kids, please remember that failure is a part of success and that it should motivate us to try harder in future. Instead of giving up on ourselves or each other, let's give support, show courage and be confident that we will only get better with experience and time. 

With four kids to keep me busy all day along, one of which is stuck to me 24/7, it's hard to always find time to get groceries to cook. I would love to have home cooked meals for my kids every day but I also realise that cooking (which also includes preparation and cleaning up) is a truly exhausting and time-consuming chore. 

On some days, I just choose to give myself a break from it all and we would make our way to the nearby coffee shops or food court for lunch or dinner. The kids love going on such trips too as they get to scoot, chat with me and get a breath of fresh air. Now that the youngest one is not a baby anymore, I guess it's really okay to eat outside food too, even though it is a tad saltier than what I cook at home.

I don't feel the guilt like I used to in the beginning because I know I can't do it all and yup, I can't be too hard on myself all the time too, right? In any case, I relish the joy of eating with my kids, no matter if it is home or out. Since the hubby comes home very late on weekdays, it means I have Mondays to Fridays to dine with my kids on my own and that is quite a lot of mother-and-kids time we are talking about. I love hearing all their stories in school, telling them about my own childhood secrets and just sharing about anything under the sun.

My sisters and I turned 40 this year and yup, this is the group of friends who have been my pals from Secondary 1 all the way to now. It's amazing that we still meet up whenever we can even though we are all mums now, and I love how our kids can play together too.

So yes, I might be a stay-at-home mum who has very limited me-time and friends-time because without any other caretaker or part-time helper, I have to be there for my kids and for my home. But I still find snippets of free time here and there to do the things I want to do and one of them is meeting up with friends where we can confide in each other, share parenting tips and reminisce the good old days.

We also did a mini family photoshoot with Bloom Photography at their new studio and I am deeply thankful for all the precious moments they have captured for our family over the years since 2020. We have done numerous shoots with them, including Christmas, maternity, cake smash and more, and every of them left behind such treasured memories that I hold dear.

That said, I do realise that we have likely been dropped from their list of influencers and I totally understand why as I have not been as active on social media or the blog as I had been in the past. It gets harder as the kids get older, even though I would never wanna give up writing and sharing about our lives. I feel a little sad when clients stop collaborating with us and it's easy to berate myself on why I am not doing as much as I could or being more pro-active in creating content.

However, I need to be at peace with the decisions I've made regarding how I wish to move on as a blogger, as a mum and as a person. So while I am still appreciative of any new 'job' or sponsor that comes knocking on our door, it's not my priority now and I need to be cool with that. If you have been a faithful reader all this while, I thank you from the bottom of my heart and please know that even if I tend to write less and at a slower pace these days, I am not going anywhere and I will still be me - a happy mum.

See our messy home? Toys strewn everywhere, a sofa forever filled with laundry, a dining table that also functions as a put-anything-and-everything-on-me table, dusty floors, buckets of dirty clothes, untidy study area, unmade beds and more. It's what I face every day and trust me, even if I get everything back in its place and make the whole home seem neater and cleaner, it lasts for barely a couple of hours before everything gets messed up again. It's a vicious cycle, isn't it? 

But you know what? We've all learned to close one eye and not mind the state of our home. Whenever I asked if we should get a part-time cleaner, the kids refused and said they do not want and that they can try to help out more (the key word is 'try') or that they are totally fine with the mess. 

Amazingly, our untidy living room is still the one place that we play, dance, have fun, watch movies, enjoy family time and make lots of memories. Yes, we still dance and exercise together from time to time even though I have not been posting about it on social media. I love seeing their happy faces and how they can all dance together, sometimes pairing up and sometimes piggybacking each other. The firstborn has less free time as she grows older and she much prefers to dance to Kpop than any other dance, but she still joins in from time to time and it is just a heartwarming sight to see them like that.

So yeah, never mind the mess but care more about the smiles and memories, right?

If you are reading this, please know that you are doing more than enough for your family too and it's okay to take credit for it and give yourself time to rest and relax every once in a while. Nothing can be perfect and there is no such thing as a perfect mum, a perfect kid or a perfect home, but we can see beyond the imperfections in our lives and realise how they all fall into place and let's just say that life is perfectly imperfect.

I love my life as a mum and I hope you are loving yours too. Till the next post on "Happiness is.."!

Our 4D3N family trip to Desaru

Posted by ~Summer~ on January 10, 2024
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We love travelling as a big family and are blessed to be able to bring our parents, who get along really well, on holidays overseas. Even though we gather quite often at our place for festivities, it's different when you visit a foreign place and go sightseeing together.

The last time we went abroad together was in December 2019, right before the pandemic hit. We went to Club Med in Bintan and it was an enjoyable trip for everyone. I do wish we can bring our parents to further places like Japan or even Europe but it costs a bomb even for our family of six alone, which is why we are still sticking to neighbouring countries for now. By that, I do mean Malaysia. Yup, but that's better than nothing, right?

Upon reading how there are activities catering to both the young and old, we decided on visiting Desaru during the June holidays. It turned out to be a wonderful, absolutely memorable 4D3N trip for us so here's sharing our itinerary and all the fun things we did as a family.

Day 1 - Check-in + SK Mall + Ostrich Farm + Dinner in Jade Garden Seafood Restaurant

While we drove our 7-seater Toyota Wish to Desaru so that we could have a car to ferry us around, it could only for the six of us as we had to make space for the luggage and lots of bags. Thus, we bought ferry tickets for the parents and picked them up at the terminal in Desaru when they arrived. The car ride didn't take longer than three hours and it was fairly easy to get to Desaru by following the GPS.

Since we had a big group of 10 pax, we rented an entire house that came with two stories, a huge living space, a fully equipped kitchen, a front porch and four bedrooms. This cost us less than S$180 per night which was really reasonable and affordable. I booked mine on Agoda and if you just key in Desaru and look around, there are plenty of homestay choices and we would take this over hotel anytime because it helps to save a significant amount of money. Granted, you do not get facilities and there is no breakfast provided, but we make do with what we have and we brought back our own breakfast each day - which is good since the parents can choose what they wanted to eat. Take a look at the house below.

For the boys, the highlight was this huge tub in the master bedroom and they were so happy playing in it together. I always remind Asher that it won't be too long till Ansel grows up and they both get too old for this, so cherish the brotherly, fun times while they last.

As for the girls, they fell with love with three cute cats who hung out at our porch and were tame enough to pat and be carried. So much so that they gave them each a name - Sparks, Oreo and Kopi.

While we waited for the hubby to pick the parents from the terminal, we hung out at a neighbourhall mall called SK Mall. There's not much shops to boast about but the kids did have fun playing on the kiddy car rides, claw machines, games and also enjoyed a candy floss treat. Sometimes, I prefer smaller and less crowded malls like this as compared to the bustling, megamalls. You know what I mean, right?

The highlight of Day 1 was visiting the Ostrich Farm which is about half an hour's drive from where we stayed. It wasn't our first time seeing and feeding ostriches up close but this was the first real Ostrich Farm so that made it kind of special. Not only did we see newborn chicks, we also stood on an ostrich's egg, saw how an ostrich egg has to be meticulously opened by drilling and nailing, and tasted a delicious ostrich egg omelette and sponge cake.

The kids enjoyed the feeding very much and all our parents had a go at giving the ostriches corn kernels and vegetables too. We also took a nice family photograph here which is the first one in this article and my favourite of the lot. It was also nice that the staff here spoke in both English and Mandarin so that our parents could understand the farm tour.

For dinner, we made our way to Jade Garden Seafood Restaurant which is not far from the ostrich farm. Yes, I think it's quite the norm to eat more seafood meals when you are in Malaysia since it is much cheaper than in Singapore. I have to say that my kids (and myself too) don't appreciate seafood much - yes, they don't really fancy crabs, lobsters and prawns even though we tell them these are expensive stuff - but it was nice that we were able to treat our parents to a delicious meal and see them happily tucking in. I supposed the kids would be happy just eating KFC, haha, which is what I would like too.

While our parents were eating heartily, the kids were happy to quickly finish their food and go for a night stroll with a beautiful view of the sea. I guess travelling in a big group means even if the likes and desires of everyone might differ vastly, you compromise, give in and do your best to make everyone happy. That's all we want from a holiday, right? Joy, relaxation and priceless memories.

Day 2 - Adventure Waterpark Desaru Coast + Dinner in Desaru Seafood Corner

On the second day, we made our way to the Adventure Waterpark for some splashing good times. The kids love going to waterparks and what this one so special is that my Dad and Mum joined us too, woohoo! While my parents-in-law decided to drive the car around to visit temples and go shopping, my parents told me that they would join us so they could play with the kids too. Awww, it's what I would wanna as a grandma too next time and hopefully, I can still go on exhilarating theme park rides with my grandchildren.

The weather was kind to us that day so we went on nearly all the rides around the park. I love how there is usually a kids zone so that the younger ones can hang out here while the older ones can go for more exciting rides. Ansel was just too happy to have his siblings with him and they took turns to take him down the slides. I love seeing all their smiles and besides being the caretaker, I am also the videographer because I make sure I capture those happy moments so we can compile them into a video to remember for a lifetime. 

The park is rather huge and there are some rather special rides and activities that we don't have back at home. For instance, you can go on an exciting viking ride, paddle boat against a waterfall backdrop, play a game of mini ball, play chess, go into the dunk tank or even go on a roller coaster ride that is sure to make waves.

See what I mean, right? I was so thankful that my mum was able and willing to go on the roller coaster ride with the kids so I could capture this very precious moment (I already sat with the kids before that, yeah? It's not like I wanna miss out on all the fun too because the kids will be very sad if I opt out of all the fun just to take photos). 

There is also a gigantic wave pool which was where Ansel hung out with the hubby while the rest of us wandered around. One of his favourites was the lazy river and he loves to sit on me in the float and just go round and round - which was exactly what we did for an hour or so. 

By the way, you can top up a fee to book a hut to get some shade from the sun, which was what we did so that my parents could rest when they needed to. Ours was located right in front of the wave pool and it was pretty awesome because there was real sand all around. Did we stay till the park closed? Of course, we did. 

For dinner, we went to Desaru Seafood Corner and our favourite dish there was the stir fried lala. The kids were all exhausted when we got home so we relaxed, played with the cats, and had a family movie night on the comfort of the couch.

Day 3 - Teluk Sengat Crocodile Farm + Desaru Fruit Farm + ATV Ride + Dinner in Nelayan Seafood By The Coast + Firefly Tour

For Day 3, I had booked a tour in advance and we were in for an exciting lineup of activities from morning to night. You can search for any tours you like as there are quite a lot to choose from but ours was booked with Desaru Fruit Farm and you can check out their list of tours here. When planning your itinerary, do check out whether the attractions are closed on any days, for instance the waterpark is closed every Tuesday, so you can avoid making any wasted trips.

Our first stop of the tour was to visit Teluk Sengat Crocodile Farm which is about half an hour's drive away from Desaru. I have to say that we were not very impressed by it and it pales in comparison to the Langkawi one which we went years ago. Initially, we were told that there was feeding activity available and the staff told me it cost RM20 for three pieces of chicken. So I reckoned all four of my kids and probably our parents would wanna try it out so I bought two sets of it, assuming that at least six people would get to 'feed' the crocodiles. It turned out that you merely pay to watch the staff feed the crocodiels and he did so from the second level and threw the chickens - yes, we are talking about whole chickens here - one by one into the pond.

So yup, we watched him throw a total of six chickens - he was surprised that we bought so many but well, the instructions weren't clear to begin with - and the crocodiles got to eat a little more that morning. The farm is small in size and can be completed with 30-45 minutes, including the feeding, so we said goodbye to the crocodiles and made our way to the next stop.

Our next stop was Desaru Fruit Farm and after walking along a trail to learn more about some locally grown fruits, the kids were delighted to see that there was a mini petting farm where they could feed rabbits, chickens and goats. Yup, there is no doubt that animals excite my kids much more than fruits, haha. There is also fish pond nearby and fish feed can be purchased. One very special animal that we fed here are the.... llamas! Yup, there was a pair of beautiful, tame llamas and I went with the kids to feed them some grass - this was done at a fee, of course. 

An activity that I was very much looking forward was the ATV ride, woohoo! For this, kids 16 and below had to ride as a pillion with an adult so thankfully, we had just enough pax to make it work.

While my mother-in-law was afraid to ride alone and chose to do with with my father-in-law, my parents, the hubby and I each took a kid with us so that made 10 of us on five double ATVs, woohoo! Once we put on our helmets and listened to the safety briefing, we were all set to go!

See, even Ansel had a terrific time! According to my mum who has been on a few ATV experiences (yes, she is quite an adventurous and daring mum as you can tell by now - that is where I get my genes from too), this one was considered quite long - a full 20 minutes or more - so it was pretty worthwhile since it was included in the tour package.

Both lunch and dinner were provided too. We had our lunch at the Fruit Farm and were totally impressed with wide range of super fresh fruits along with yummy dishes like fried chicken, green curry, prawns and tom yum soup. Dinner was by coast at the famous Nelayan Seafood Restaurant and we were treated to a nice meal including calamari, lobsters and steam fish. No, you don't get to pick from the menu for either meal so you just have to eat whatever is served. We were pretty satisfied and happy with what we got.

That's not all for this very happening day! After taking a walk by the beach where the kids found lots of crabs, we made our way to our boat ride which was going to take us on a firefly tour. How fun to do it with both the kids and the parents, right?

The big question: Did we see any fireflies? The answer is yes, we did! There was dozens of them which looked like flickering green dots and the captain made sure all of us on board were able to see them. One of the staff even took a leave which had a firefly on it to pass to Ansel so he could hold it. How nice! It was all too dark to be filmed, of course, but it is also the memories and experience that will live in our hearts.

Day 4 - Playground + Tanjung Balau Beach + Home Sweet Home

On the last day, our parents chose to go sightseeing together and the hubby gave them a lift after breakfast. The kids and I went to this nearby playground to have fun and what was awesome was that the cats were with us too, as if knowing that it was time to bid farewell.

We bought some pop pop snappers to let them try and it was Ansel's first time playing with them so it was quite amusing and heartwarming to see them smiling and having fun.

After packing up and checking out, we were not ready to head home just yet. The kids had been wanting to check out the beach so we made our way to Tanjung Balau. It was an awesome afternoon because not only was the weather good to us, the kids were also thrilled that the beach was teeming with marine life like small fishes and crabs. So we went fishing (and released them after), flew a kite, built sandcastles and just enjoyed our last day of holiday as a family. While it was awesome being with the parents, I also appreciated this afternoon that we had all to ourselves as a family of six too.

So we came home looking way more tanned than before, had lots of sand and dirt in our luggage, but also brought back a treasure trove of happy smiles and precious memories. It's always wonderful to go on family trips, even though we all know that underneath those joyful pictures are the usual tantrums, meltdowns and bickers.

I know we will cherish this trip for a long time to come and in fact, the kids have watched the video I made for them dozens of times already because it just feels nice to reminisce and talk about the happy times every once in a while. Here's the video, in case you are keen to watch it too.


That marks the end of our 4D3N stay in Desaru. Till our next overseas trip!