Truett’s been having a difficult time sleeping the past couple of weeks. Insomnia is rough for an adult to deal with and I can’t imagine how much worse it is when you’re 11. He wakes up several times a night and has trouble falling back asleep so he just lies there in bed, sometimes for hours, feeling the creeping frustration that insomnia brings.
We tried every hack for curing insomnia and so far none of it has really worked. Sticking to a bedtime schedule, a warm bath, bedtime routine, calming music, essential oils, breathing techniques, light reading if it gets too long. We pray for him and sit with him in his room till he falls back asleep and tell him that he can come over to our room if he can’t sleep.
It’s been a long time since he’s wanted to cuddle up in our bed and it’s nice to have him over; it reminds me of all those nights when he would try to fall asleep in our bed as a tiny baby. He used to crawl around in bed jabbing my eyelids and yanking my hair trying to get me to wake up and play. There’s much less jabbing and yanking now but I hear him tossing and turning next to me and I reach over to tousle his hair like I used to when he was a baby. I’m not sure if it helps him to fall back asleep but I think maybe it’s a little comforting.
We talk to him about coping with anxiety and the one good thing that has come out of this is that he’s been writing us long letters about how he’s feeling, which is the sweetest.
The other kids know that he’s been going through a rough time and they’re all rallying around him trying to see what they can do to help him feel better. Finn offered to trade places and take the upper deck alone so that Tru can have some company when he sleeps, even though he’d much rather be the one sleeping next to his big brother all night. But he knows Theo isn’t going to take the upper deck alone so he volunteered. That’s what true love looks like.
Kirsten tells him to wake her up anytime so she can hang out with him in the middle of the night. Theo is like “don’t worry, kor kor, I will pat you to sleep,” then promptly falls asleep and starts snoring because he can’t even. Baby Hayley offered him her stuffed lamb, “but only for a while and I’m gonna need it back OKAY?!”
We’re all a little sad that Tru is having a difficult time and we’re not quite sure how to help but this experience has reminded us that this is what family means. It’s knowing that there are people who’ve got your back and are there for you for as long as you need it.
We brought the kids to Switzerland for 10 days during the March school holidays – yes we took 5 babies on a plane 14 hours to Zurich and lived to tell the tale.
Normally, we wouldn’t do Europe with so little time but the Krisflyer Spontaneous Escapes promo that dropped in Feb was too good of a deal to resist. It was 50% off the miles required to fly to Zurich, which made it only 19,000 miles one way (that’s significantly cheaper than a redemption ticket to Tokyo) for travel in March only, so y’know, YOLO and all that.
How was it like bringing 5 kids to Switzerland? A lot less crazy than it sounds.
In fact, it was a very acceptable level of crazy. I’ll credit it to the fact that these kids are the best travelers and they’re the reason why we even dare to attempt these crazy adventures. They helped with the luggage and strollers and kept a lookout for one another and had zero meltdowns the entire trip. I was prepared for a bit of madness but it was all very smooth and easy.
March is a really nice time to be in Switzerland. We started in Lucerne, a gorgeous city an hour from Zurich.
Lucerne is the kind of dreamy that is just straight up unfair. Nestled between the breathtaking Swiss alps of Mt Pilatus and Mt Rigi, the city is a mix of old world medieval architecture and modern shopping malls. Our hotel was 3 minutes from the Reuss and we spent most of our time walking beside the river, along the Chapel bridge, then to the colourful Altstadt to explore the cobbled laneways of the charming old town.
The husband says that I’m like 85 on the inside but I’ll embrace being an old soul because my enduring love for cobblestones and old school charm will probably never go away.
I still like trips where there’s a lot to do, but I’m also starting to really enjoy just being with my favourite people in the world, walking and talking.
On our second day, we sat by the Lion of Lucerne for an unusually long time, during which we saw bus loads of tour groups coming by to snap selfies furiously and then leave. The place was strangely moving and the kids didn’t seem to be in a hurry to leave so we sat by the little pond quacking at 2 ducks and googling details of the French Revolution.
The big kids were fascinated and even Hayley was like “Why is the lion so sad?? Did he lose his mommy? I think we need to give him some snacks to cheer him up.”
To mix things up a bit, we also took a cruise around Lake Lucerne. After the ridiculous fjord cruise in Norway, we’ve developed a love for boat rides. There’s something about having the cold wind in your hair as you stand on the deck looking out on miles and miles of pretty blue water.
Part 2 of the trip took us to Lauterbrunnen, our base from which we explored the Jungfrau region.
Instead of renting a car, we decided to rely on the Swiss Railway to get around. Turned out to be a great decision because the trains are convenient and comfortable. Okay, lugging the suitcases + strollers up and down the trains was a bit of a hassle but totally manageable.
Lauterbrunnen is nuts, you guys. This tiny little Swiss town is in a valley flanked by towering rocks and we woke up each morning to this.
Before we arrived, I read all about how Lauterbrunnen is one of the most beautiful places in the world and I took it with a pinch of salt because hyperbole, but when we got there, we were all a little speechless.
During the 3 days we spent in Jungfrau, we explored Lauterbrunnen, Interlaken, Grindelwald, and took the cogwheel train to Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in Europe. It’s 3,466m above sea level, which is a lot of numbers but I really understood how high that really was when we reached the peak and I felt the ground start to give way beneath me. My head was throbbing and I had to draw sharp breaths and I felt nauseous so I found a corner to do my Asian squat with my head between my knees for a bit. I peered over at the husband and he was also looking rather green so we high fived on both being afflicted with altitude sickness.
I thought some time to acclimatise would help but not by much, so we powered on ahead to visit the viewing deck and some of the touristy indoor attractions.
One of the stops was the ice palace, which is an entire place covered in ice and ice sculptures. The floor and walls were solid ice and there were ice sculptures of penguins and bears and a dog, I think. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time to explore because on our way in, Finn slipped on the solid ice floor and cut open the top of his left brow. It was pretty brutal – when I saw it, there was so much blood I thought he had lost his left eye. Thankfully, it was just a very, very bad gash that was deep and raw and angry. I don’t think I ever want to see this much exposed flesh ever again in my life.
I kept pressure on his brow while the husband carried him back to the first aid centre. They couldn’t do much up on the mountain so we had to rush him back down to the nearest doctor 2 hours away in Lauterbrunnen.
Poor baby had to take 4 stitches to the head like a trooper and I held his hand as he cried and cried while they injected anaesthesia into his exposed flesh and stitched him up. Yeah that wasn’t fun.
On the way back from the doctor, Tru said sadly “maybe if we didn’t come for the holiday, Finn would be ok and not injured.”
But also what kind of life would it be if we don’t do stuff because we’re afraid bad things might happen? We plan and take precautions and make calculated risks and then we go for it.
Although in retrospect, the only thing we might not do again is go back up Jungfraujoch and mostly because it’s more touristy than we expected + the altitude sickness makes for a less than enjoyable experience.
After sleeping it off for a night, Finn was almost completely recovered the next day. We asked him if he wanted to rest in the apartment but he would have none of it. He wasn’t going to sit around all day when the option to go sledding in Grindelwald was the alternative.
And Grindelwald? So much fun. The town as the base of the mountain is adorable and we spent the better part of our afternoon sledding at Bodmi, a super fun kids play area. This was Hayley and Theo’s first real experience with snow and they were in heaven.
They made snowballs and snow angels and snow castles and went up + down the hill squealing like well, very happy kids.
It had already been a spectacular experience in Switzerland but the pièce de résistance of this trip was definitely the stunning car-free ski town of Zermatt. It was like stepping into another world, like we had walked into Diagon Alley, except maybe even more magical.
I try not to rave too much about my babies…okay that is totally not true and I rave about my babies every chance I get, but consider this my full on rave mode because this baby right here is in the most perfect stage (she’s been for the past year or so). She brings me so much joy but at the same time, every day that passes makes me a little sad knowing that I have one less day left of her babyness.
As it is, I’m devastated that I’m done having more babies and will henceforth have to be content with holding other people’s babies. I’m now the kind of person who does a double take when I walk past a newborn.
Nobody’s newborns are safe from now on – friends who have newborns know that I’ll be all over them in a heartbeat and even strangers, well let’s just say that I may or may not have used my baby as bait to start up a conversation.
Having big kids is great and I’m all for the benefits like savouring my full nights of sleep or having some semblance of my life back but I’m not prepared for this sadness that comes with letting go of 10 years of enjoying the weight of a tiny baby on my chest anytime I want.
Hayley is a everything I could possibly want in a baby right now. She is so easy that it makes my life easy and some days I wonder if it’s because I’m a much better mom than I was when I started (those days were brutal) or if it’s just that this baby is such a dream. Probably the second one.
Here’s what a day with this baby looks like:
– go for walks along the Punggol waterway where she tells me about fending off lizards and alligators. (It’s my duty to prepare her for life’s catastrophes so she knows that if she’s ever attacked by an alligator, she needs to “JAB IT IN THE NOSE SO IT WILL LET GO AND RUN AWAY!!“)
Walks with simba - Vimeo
– have snacks!! This baby is a snack monster whose entire life is about eating more snacks. “I haven’t had gummies for a long time (not true, it’s only been 24 hours)”, “how about tomatoes? Tomatoes are good for you right?“, “Is that chocolate?? I love chocolate it’s so delicious!”
On the topic of gummies, she will try to pick out clumps of gummies that got stuck together after being in the fridge and try to pass them off as 1 gummy. “Look, this is stuck together into 1 piece so I have no choice but to take it.” Even when they’re not stuck, she will pick one piece and roll it around the bag like a katamari in hope of picking up more pieces. It’s genius.
– have a nap. Her, not me, although one of these days I’ll just live dangerously and join her for a nap.
– have fun with all the other kids. Her favourite time of the day is when everyone is back from school.
A post shared by Daphne (@daphneling) on Mar 7, 2019 at 7:33pm PST
– fix dinner. I remember a time where fixing dinner was an ordeal, having to bounce a fussy baby while scrambling to throw stuff into a pan. These days, she enjoys helping to crack eggs and wash rice and hold vegetables to determine how squishy they are. And me, I just enjoy the company.
She hardly ever has a bad day. No terrible twos to speak of, no meltdowns or overall grouchiness. One time, she woke up 20 minutes into a nap and was generally upset at everything so I recommended a follow up nap to solve the problem. She laid down next to me, then sat right up and said, “I don’t need to nap, mom. I won’t be grouchy any more.”
“Are you sure? You’ll feel better after a nap and I’ll be right her till you fall asleep.”
“I’m sure. I will be cheerful now,” she told me, flashing me a huge grin.
It was worth a shot and just like that, she was in a fabulous mood for the rest of the day. Later that day, she came up to me looking very pleased and said, “see, I told you I will be cheerful right? I did it.”
I have to give it to this kid. She’s made the experience of having a last baby pretty perfect.
February and I aren’t like the best of friends. We try to get along but it’s awkwardly cordial at best, with the possibility of being straight up dysfunctional far more often.
You always know what to expect with January. There’s the residual high from the year-end break coupled with the start of a new year to keep things exciting but come February, it’s pretty much just a sad reminder of how much of the year you have to get through before you reach the next December.
In this particular February, I feel like I’m already redlining it two months into the new year.
It reminds me of the time I attempted to take up running like all the cool kids. With much determination, I laced up my trainers, did my warm ups and started what was meant to be my easy breezy 5km jog. About a minute in, all of my insides were starting to hurt. Another minute later, my lungs were on fire and I felt like I was about to die. At this point, I started feeling like, “I’ve done about 200 metres out of 5000, just another 4800 metres to go and at this rate, I will be 100% super dead by the time I reach the end.”
That particular run didn’t last very much longer and it was probably the reason I didn’t attempt another run for the next um, 15 years. I started running again last year and I still feel the soul crushing pain about two minutes into every run. I look at how much further I have to go and will immediately feel the need to give up on life but I’ve learnt that if I just keep going, my brain stops registering the pain after a couple more minutes.
I think Februarys are a bit like that for me. It’s that point where the routine feels like a weight and I’m not quite on my game. I’m exhausted way too early for me to plausibly make it to the end in one piece and things aren’t looking all that great. Maybe I’ll catch a second wind or maybe it’ll be one of those runs that feel painful all the way through but the only way to find out is to keep going.
Drink some water. Put on some music. Find that little bit of joy or whatever it is that adds a boost to keep those legs moving until I find my mojo.
On that note, Finn and Theo are the definition of best bros around here these days and watching them hang out has been asking a lot of my ovaries. These two boys have spending hours every day just talking to each other about secret missions and simulating special powers and being in their little world with very complicated rules that only the two of them understand.
They take this very seriously – there are a lot of charts and many pages with lengthy descriptions of special abilities. Finn will do all the writing and then they will huddle over the pages intently like it’s their 武林秘籍.
These two have the most adorable dynamics. Occasionally Theo will yell “kor kor Finn is getting all the powers” and Finn will try to explain himself like “no, we both have the same number of powers, Theo has 5 and I have 5“, to which Theo will yell “but his powers are more powerful than mine” and Finn be will like “WHAT?? He chose those powers himself and they are the same kind of powerful and it’s all imaginary. Urgh ok ok fine we can swap powers” and Theo will nuzzle his head into Finn’s arm affectionately because he knows that a big brother like this is something special.
Sometimes I watch them together and it’s exactly how I imagined their relationship would be like and that makes me smile.
I realise I haven’t really talked about the little 3-day trip we took to Hong Kong Disneyland last month. It was meant to be Hayley’s first introduction to Disney and also for us to get in some quality time with the two babies.
The trip was only 72 hours but both of those things were achieved to varying degrees of success. Turns out that this baby is terrified of even the slowest baby rides and is not a fan of all rides in general. Her first ride was on the Slinky Dog Spin (a very relaxing ride) and she basically lost it from that point on. The moment we started moving, she grabbed me in terror and screamed “I WANT TO GET OFF NOW!!! LET ME OOOOUUUTTTTTT!!”
We managed to talk her into riding the carousel, and the flying carpets, both of which ended up the same way – with a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth. So that was that for this baby.
She’s more of a “let’s walk around and soak in the magical Disney atmosphere” kind of kid so that’s what we spent our time doing. Munching on popcorn, watching parades, and enjoying the cool Disney air. On the bright side, she was happy to chill out while the husband and I took turns to ride Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars like 14 times one evening when it was a walk on. Also, why have I never done this ride before? It’s amazing, possibly right up there in my list of top 3 rides of all time. Disney World’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad used to be in that spot but this is definitely better in terms of pacing, backward drops and overall excitement factor.
I’ll always miss the other kids who didn’t get to go but traveling with 2 kids was almost too easy. And they get to have our attention divided by 2 instead of 5, which they really enjoyed.
Before I became a mom, I didn’t think I’d be spending this much time planning for my kids’ meals and worrying about whether they got enough nutrition + energy for the day. I need to think about how much they’re eating, what they’re eating, and how much this all costs, because feeding 5 kids can be quite a challenge.
Truett used to be a picky eater as a baby, but he has grown up to be a very adventurous eater and I love it. I’ll be enjoying some smoked beef short ribs or kurobuta pork with miso and he’ll come up next to me like “wow that looks delicious!” and I’ll laugh because just a few years ago, I’ll try to offer him a bite of my food and he’ll scrunch up his face like I’m making him eat prison food. He’s now my designated food assistant. On weekend mornings, Tru gets up and takes breakfast orders from the smaller kids, then makes them all queue up for their orders, it’s so adorable.
Perhaps due to the extra responsibilities, Tru is constantly hungry so I need to ensure I keep him fuelled for the day. This boy eats all the time and he’s usually asking me questions like “mom, is there a snack? What are we having for dinner? FOOOODDD, MORE FOOOOOOOOOODDDDD!!” In between meals, there’s milk to save the day.
GROW School contains all-rounded nutrition with a combination of 26 vitamins and minerals, DHA, Choline, Taurine and Prebiotics to support active school-going kids. It’s great that GROW is more nutritious than regular fresh milk, and the convenient ready-to-drink packs make it super easy to bring along to school as a quick boost for the day.
Kirsten is my designated Hayley-whisperer and all round handy helper who does everything at home on top of all her school activities. On an average school day, she’s in school from 7 in the morning till about 2pm. When she’s back, she has her lunch, does her homework, packs her stuff for the next day and spends what’s left of her afternoon hanging out with her favourite baby. In her own words, “it’s exhausting!” and I fully agree. I try to make it easier by cheering her on (not particularly helpful) and making sure she’s getting all the nutrition she needs (way more helpful).
I also pack GROW ready-to-drink milk for her snack time in school, which gives her a nutrition boost to stay energetic till she gets home. Then at night, she drinks a glass of GROW School milk before bed. With GROW being certified as a Healthier Choice milk for school-going kids, I feel better knowing that she’s getting the nutrition she needs to keep up her energy levels for a looooong day in school. I’m glad I have one less thing to worry about. With GROW, she can fulfill her nutrition and energy needs for school, play, and growth.
Finn is in a bit of a transitional phase. He’s 60% big kid and wants to be exactly like Tru to do all the big kid things, but there’s still the baby part of him that I’m happy to hang on to for as long as I can.
During our trip to Iceland last December, he was so happy about having short days because it would get dark at 4.30pm and that meant plenty of time for game night. We had the most epic 3-hour monopoly sessions in the hotel lounge and there would be other guests hovering around to watch the game. There was this group of Korean ladies watching us play with such enthusiasm that I wanted to ask them to join in. Then after game night, Finn would be my baby again, asking for me to cuddle him in bed and YES PLEASE!! There’s nothing I love more than offering my cuddle services.
The baby part of him also still enjoys his milk every night. Now that he’s in Primary 1, we’ve got a deal where he takes his milk from a regular cup every alternate night, but when he gets to drift off to sleep while drinking his favourite GROW Preschool milk from his favourite sippy cup, he’s the happiest boy in the world. This makes me the happiest mom because I know it’s a great source of nutrition to help my not-so-baby keep up his energy levels for school and other activities.
I’m pleased to announce Theo is still the best eater among all the kids and I’m pretty sure he’s getting all the nutrition he needs. :) Today, he just came up to me and said, “Hey mom!! If you have anything like super yummy food, you can give it to me” and I was like “Whenever I have super yummy food, you’re the first person I think of!! But give me 20 minutes, we’ll be having lunch in just a bit” and he positively beamed before running off to play.
We try to make sure all the kids have a healthy, balanced diet, but with Theo, it’s more about cutting down on sugar and snacks since he enjoys tomatoes just as much as a pack of gummies. One of the things that is sure to put a smile on his face is GROW Preschool, which he declared to be “very delicious!!” I’m glad he’s drinking milk that is 25% lower in sugar and 25% higher in calcium than other fresh milk, making it the healthier choice.
We were in Disneyland Hong Kong with the two babies last month and as a special treat, we brought some GROW ready-to-drink packs along for Theo. These are so convenient to bring along to the theme park and Theo was super thrilled to be enjoying his milk while walking down Disneyland main street.
Baby Hayley will forever be my baby and I’m just enjoying babying her for as long as she wants me to. The big kids are back in school and I’ve got another year with this baby before she joins them in school. Part of being a mom is wanting to give the best to our kids and I’ve learnt that best does not necessarily mean the most expensive. Especially with 5 kids, I’ve gotten pretty good at identifying great quality products at a fab price. Like when it comes to formula milk, I’ve learned that having more DHA in a tin doesn’t mean it’s better. What’s most important is how much DHA gets absorbed by the baby.
Studies have shown that formulas with no palm oil have better DHA absorption – clinical tests showed 6.5 times lower DHA loss through stools! So, less loss means more DHA is absorbed by your little one. No palm oil formulations also improve calcium absorption, bone mineral content and bone mineral density.
This baby drinks GROW Stage 3 milk before bed (and nap) every day and once she’s done, she will hold out her cup and ask in the sweetest voice “More milky, please??” I’ll be like “you just finished a whole cup, I think we’re done, baby” and she’ll do her “PLEASE?? SMALL TINY ONLY…” and eventually, I’ll cave and she will cheer like it’s a huge victory.
It’s great that GROW Stage 3 has a formulation with no palm oil, and it provides all-rounded nutrition including DHA for brain development, calcium for growth with strong bones and iron for immunity. A new discovery that I found is that the type of fats used in formula can affect the type and texture of stools your baby passes. So, mummies, instead of just looking out for the amount of DHA in formula, also take note of fat blends because they can help to support better absorption of DHA.
GROW grows with my kids, offering them the all-rounded nutrition they need at each stage of their growing-up years. As an added bonus for a mom with 5 kids, GROW provides high-quality nutrition at an affordable price. This gives me the best value when it comes to nutrition compared to other fresh milk.
Get this savvy deal and apply my promo code, ‘GROW5D’ when you checkout to get a 5% off on your next purchase.
Last Sunday morning, Truett, Kirsten and I had the chance to take part in something really special. We were up bright and early to help out in Project Refresh, an initiative organised by Young NTUC (YNTUC) and North East Community Development Council (CDC) to refresh the homes of low-income seniors who are living alone in Tampines.
Since 2017, YNTUC has joined hands with North East CDC to run five Project Refresh in the North East District, making last weekend’s edition the sixth, and the largest in terms of scale, by far. Over 1,000 volunteers from unions, schools, corporate organisations, grassroots and Tampines residents came together to conduct refurbishment works in 96 household units in Tampines. These included cleaning, decluttering, painting and furniture replacement.
Many of the volunteers were students and it was really cool to see so many teenagers spending their Sunday helping to scrub dirt from the houses of these elderly. They were all cheerful and enthusiastic while really going at the stubborn grime in the kitchen, it was actually very inspiring to watch.
The big kids had previously helped out with a similar home cleaning project so they had some idea of what to expect. We have also been watching a lot of Marie Kondo (Kirsten loves it!) so we were all ready to help spark some serious joy. The kids got right down to the simpler tasks like wiping the stove and fridge and windows.
In addition to the cleaning, we were able to chat with some of these seniors who are living alone. One of the elderly ladies seemed happy to talk to the kids, asking them about their school and hobbies. She was like “Wah very good, you all can help to clean. Go home you must help your mommy and daddy clean up also” and they were like “Um, orh okay…” and I got to be all “YEAHHH I’m totally down for this!! Please continue this lovely conversation.”
This spring cleaning was perfect timing with Lunar New Year right around the corner. Some of the volunteers from the PAP Community Foundation (PCF) and Tampines grassroots also contributed their time towards preparing hand-made Lunar New Year decorations and greeting cards to decorate 59 Chinese households. There were booths for calligraphy and origami and everyone was hard at work.
We were glad to be able to be a part of this amazing initiative. Spending a day to help someone clean up their home may not seem like a lot but if it can bring a smile to someone who’s living alone and in need of assistance, then it’s a small step that makes a difference. Also, it’s a beautiful display of the kampung spirit, and how we can connect and understand each other better.
I’ve finally gotten around to part 2 of our Icelandic + Nordic adventure last year (read part 1 here).
Norway is a different kind of beautiful – way more chill with all the nature; it’s got more of a calming picturesque wallpaper vibe. No boiling water shooting out of the ground or scary snow storms. Even the waterfalls are gentler and you don’t feel like like a catastrophe might befall you at any moment. The sense of adventure in Iceland was fun but it was a nice change of pace in Norway.
From Reykjavík, we flew into Bergen where we spent 2 days in the prettiest little town surrounded by water and mountains and fjords.
Oh wait, remember our bus ride out to catch the northern lights in Iceland? We had the most disinterested tour guide who spent the drive out being all like “you need a lot of patience and luck to see the northern lights. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes not so lucky and you have to try again for many days…” and that was that. Turns out that we didn’t get lucky and as a consolation prize on the drive back, he decided to tell us a story about Grýla, a terrible ogre who ate naughty children. We were all dozing off on the bus and we didn’t expect the story to escalate very quickly into how Grýla would round up all the badly behaved kids, put them in her sack, haul them home and cook them in her cauldron. This was the only time he came alive with excitement, and he enjoyed telling the story so much that it was almost worth the trip out. Yeahhh maybe not, but it was a hilarious story.
And guess who we saw at Reykjavík airport? Grýla!! With her cauldron and everything!
The kids had a great time hanging out in Grýla’s cauldron making like they were getting cooked for dinner. Meanwhile, the other Icelandic kids at the airport were like “these guys are nuts, we’re staying over here where it’s safe.”
Bergen is my kind of small town. I loved those 2 days walking along colourful houses by the wharf, looking at fish in an old school fish market, riding the Fløibanen funicular railway, and hanging out at Mt Fløyen, the spot where you get the best view of all of Bergen.
As far as food goes, there were more hotdogs and fish and chips to be had, but we were nearing the limit of fish and chips a person could put into one’s mouth so we had other delightful food such as burgers, nuggets and ham sandwiches. When we finally came upon a food hall with (very decent) katsudon in Oslo, the kids cried tears of joy and gave thanks for their food with more enthusiasm than they have ever done before.
In the evenings, we had crepes + mulled wine at the Christmas market, then went back to the hotel for more board games.
Getting to Oslo from Bergen was one of the highlights of this trip. We did what was essentially the Norway in a Nutshell tour, except that instead of buying it as a package from the tour company, we purchased all the tickets separately on our own, saving about $200 in total. It is way more convenient buying it as a package but um $200 in savings for some research? I’m in.
From Bergen, we took a train ride to Voss, hopped on a bus to Gudvangen, then took a gorgeous cruise to Flam, where we spent the night before taking two more train rides to Oslo. This could have been done in one day (11 hours) but we decided to take it easy and split up the journey.
It’s actually very easy to do and I highly recommend it. I was a little nervous about missing the connections but the entire journey is customised for tourists and there’s no way of getting lost along the way. If you’re unsure, the conductors are really friendly or just follow all the other tourists and you’ll be fine.
The fjord cruise was jaw-dropping level of magnificent. It was the first time I’ve seen a fjord and it was one of those “why have I waited so long to see this?” sort of moment. It was cold and windy but the water was perfectly still and there were mountains on both sides, with small clusters of pretty houses along the edge of the water.
Norway is number 2 on the list of happiest countries in the world and as I stood on the deck of the fjord cruise with the wind in my hair, it was easy to see why. There’s a certain lightness in the air and I think if you’re looking at something so beautiful every day, the madness that life throws at you suddenly seems a little less overwhelming.
Upon arriving in Flam, we spent the rest of the day at an Airbnb overlooking the water in Aurland (about 15 minutes away). The hosts were lovely and we managed to chat a little about life in Aurland vs life in Singapore. They bike down the mountain in the summer, brew their own beer for fun, and spend most of their free time enjoying the beautiful view and fresh air. I feel like I want to be the kind of person who thrives in an environment like this but when she told me about having to drive out 2 hours to buy Christmas decorations, that was a straight up dealbreaker for me.
So that night, we had planned to head out for a quick dinner at the town centre (a very tiny town centre with 1 grocery store and a handful of diners) nearby. It was supposed to be a 20 minute walk out but by 6pm, it was already pitch dark with zero street lamps around. We brought a torch along and walked for 3 minutes before turning around and heading back because the 3G was spotty and walking for 20 minutes in complete darkness without secure internet connection seemed like a very bad idea.
There was no food delivery service or McD’s or pizza, plus we were also out of grocery supplies so the kids shared the last 2 packets of instant noodles while the husband and I shared a can of Christmas beer, a cup of Milo and half a leftover cookie. We were all too hungry to play board games so we spent the night talking about how we were dying of hunger, it..
It’s 2019 and there are a lot of changes happening around here. Good ones!
Finn is off to Primary 1 and I’m so proud of him like a proud mama bear. He was so excited to start the first day of school with Kirsten in a proper big kid school with homework and everything! In preparing him for Primary school, the big kids were all “it’s a sad life – you need to do a lot of learning and homework and there’s very little time left to play” and Finn was his usual sweet, positive self like “I don’t mind learning and homework.”
It’s true, he’s the only kid who says “thanks, mom!” when I buy him assessment books and then does them like it’s nbd. We picked up a fresh batch of assessment books at Popular last week and the big kids acted like I was buying them a basket of live rattlesnakes, like “PLEASE, NOOOO!!!! MY LIFE IS OVER!!”
Just look at this adorable serious face on the first day of school.
He woke up at 6.30am on day one and the whole time, he had on his serious face for when he needs to focus on something really important.
When they got to school, Kirsten said, “follow me, Finn, I’ll bring you around” and he finally smiled. It must be nice to have a big sister watch out for you when you’re starting a huge new chapter in your life.
After a year and a half on the waitlist, Tru still couldn’t get a spot in Kirsten’s school, so he decided to go for the next best option and transfer to the school further down the street. It’s a slightly longer walk but it beats having to take the school bus back to Tampines at 6.05 every morning.
He considered this for a long time, not wanting to say bye to all his friends and teachers from Gongshang Primary but it was a brutal commute, plus he had to loiter around in school for an hour while waiting for the return school bus after remedial classes several times a week.
He’s a good kid – he made a list of all the pros and cons and at the top of the pro list, he put <mom gets to save $240 in bus fare every month> right at the top, followed by <wake up at 6.45 instead of 5.45>. The cons list was much longer, but he still decided to go ahead with the transfer because “it’s the smartest thing to do“. 11 years old and already killing it at decision making skills.
Also after a year and a half on the waitlist, Theo finally got a spot in the preschool right next to our home. The waitlist for this was in the hundreds and it was a small miracle that he got a spot. There was no pros and cons list to be made because Theo doesn’t care for such lists in the same way he doesn’t care for going to school at all.
If it was up to him, he would spend his days hanging out with me and Hayley. He tried to make a case for it too. “I’ll miss you so much, mom…and Hayley will have someone to play with…I’m only 5, I can learn all the stuff at home anyway, don’t you want to spend time with me before I go to Primary school like kor kor Finn?”
I’ll admit, that last part got me and I genuinely considered it for a moment because watching Finn go off to Primary school had me all emotional but then I snapped out of it because I suddenly realised what I was considering. Homeschooling??!! Some people possess the temperament required to homeschool a child. I do not. Homeschooling would eat me for breakfast and I wouldn’t last a week.
Theo was really sad the first day and that’s all it took for him to adjust. This morning, he considered bursting into tears again but he looked at his fun new school and his new friends and his lovely teacher (who happens to be Truett’s teacher at Starlearners 7 years ago!) and decided that all that fuss wasn’t worth the effort so he said bye and went in to class.
I really like new years. It always feels like a pause and a fresh start. We get to look back on the previous year and celebrate the things that were great about it. The not so good parts, we get to give it another go; do it differently and hopefully have it turn out a little better.
There were a lot of the average moments that turned into surprisingly great ones. All of the baby cuddles, the hilarious conversation I got to have with the kids, the long bus rides and spontaneous park outings and just being there to watch them grow up. I feel like I grew as a mom this year. Being a mom stopped being so hard now that the kids are bigger. I’ve always told myself to enjoy the journey but this year was the first time I honestly took that advice and savoured the moments. Even when I go out alone with 5 kids, it’s easy these days.
I saw a mom at the store a few days ago bouncing a fussy infant strapped in a carrier, holding a toddler in one hand and bags of groceries in the other and I immediately got severe PTSD. I think it was her eyes. She looked so exhausted, like all the life had been sucked out of her and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. I remember exactly how that feels and I wanted to give her a hug and tell her that it will get better.
2018 was also the first year I’ve managed to stick to my Get Fit goals. I’ve done my workout videos 5-6 days a week for about 9 months and developed all kinds of cool new muscles. I also feel stronger, possibly even more than I did at 16 playing basketball for the school team. I still draw the line at putting kale or quinoa into my mouth but there’s progress.
There were a whole bunch of not so great moments in 2018 too. Some were really not great at all and I’d much prefer to not have them ever again. If I could, I’d totally erase these moments from the year so I’d only be left with the good ones. But I think my life is supposed to be made up of all of these moments like one of those pictures that’s made up of a thousand smaller pictures. I mean, maybe a good life isn’t one that’s made up of only good moments because there are all of these other moments that are kind of sweet and funny and mediocre and sometimes sad that make up a really rad bigger picture and when you put all of them together and do a dramatic slow zoom out, you might just like what you see.
We’re back from a 2-week trip to Iceland + Norway with the big kids and I’ve got lots to update!!
As with most of our adventures, this particular one began with the discovery of an excellent airfare to Oslo. Norway has been on my travel list after watching Frozen and turns out, Qatar Airways was flying to Oslo for a sweet $660 per person. After some research (that the airfare onwards to Reykjavík was $90 each), we decided it was gonna be Iceland -> Bergen -> Oslo -> Trysil with Tru, Kirsten and Finn.
We went back and forth on whether could bring the 2 babies along but 5 kids in unfamiliar territory did seem a little reckless, plus the minimum age for most of the activities like snowmobiling and ice cave exploration was 6 years old so the babies stayed home for this one :(
You guys, Iceland is like a dream.
I still have difficulty wrapping my head around the fact that a place like this exists in the world. There are waterfalls and geysers and volcanic rocks and black sand and ice caves and floating ice diamonds and the sky is painted in pink and purple and orange and the prettiest shade of blue. I can’t say that I’m a fan of rocks but I spent a lot of time looking out on the horizon feeling like “wow ok, these rocks are something else.”
Most places, you drive several hours to get to one magnificent spot but in Iceland, every spot is trying to outdo the last one like it’s a competition for how we can make nature more breathtaking. Like “Oh you liked the waterfall? Here are a couple more, and here’s some boiling water shooting out of the ground, and look at these giant ice diamonds in a glacial lake and how about a solid blue ice cave right here?”
In 6 days, we went to the Golden Circle, drove along the south coast all the way to Jokulsarlon and then back again to Reykjavík.
Okay I love trip planning and I have the most fun putting together all our trips but planning this one was by far the most challenging ever. This was largely caused by the decision to make the drive in an Icelandic winter. According to most of the forums, Icelandic winters are brutal, with insane snow storms, whiteouts with basically zero visibility and winds that can blow your car door right off. The dude at the car rental made it a point to repeat that many car doors have been blown off and the insurance does not cover missing car doors so if there’s a storm, sit tight and whatever you do, do not open the car door.
The consensus on the forums were mostly “unless you’re an expert at this, you must be insane to self drive in an Icelandic winter” and yes, we are just about insane enough to try because we find tour groups insufferable and there’s nothing like an exciting road trip where your life might be in a tiny bit of danger.
J/k, we are very responsible parents so I had planned for several contingencies. There were plans A to E with multiple backups in case of bad weather, which meant having to keep the itinerary fluid. I usually have everything planned and booked way in advance but for this trip, I was booking some of the hotels 12 hours prior, after we decided it was safe to make the drive for that day.
Thankfully, we had the most beautiful weather for all 6 days so it turned out to be plan A all the way, which is this:
Day 1: Reykjavík (explore the city, try to get over jet lag). We stayed at Fosshotel Baron – nice location, decent rooms, excellent breakfast.
Day 2: 1-hour drive to the Golden Circle, starting at Thingvellir, to Geysir, Gullfoss, then back to Laugarvatn for a night swim at Fontana Spa, a geothermal lagoon. We stayed at an Airbnb cabin in the middle of nowhere and it was amazing.
Day 3: 2.5-hour drive to Vik, visiting Skogafoss and the black sand beach along the way. We stayed 2 nights at Icelandair Hotel Vik – fab rooms, not so great breakfast. Go grab a croissant from the cafe across the street instead.
Day 4: 2.5-hour drive to Jokulsarlon to look at floaty ice diamonds + ice cave expedition. Drove back to Vik for the night. We wouldn’t have done this 5-hour drive to and fro if the weather had been rough but it turned out to be a beautiful sunny day and this was probably my favourite day in Iceland.
Day 5: Back to Gullfoss for another ice cave tour + snowmobiling, nose-nuzzled some horses along the way. Spent the night at Bjork Guesthouse at Laugarvatn – superb rooms and only for $150 a night. My second favourite day.
Day 6: Back to Reykjavík. We went shopping at Kringlan, grabbed hot dogs at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, hung out at the old harbour and Seltjarnarnes, then went swimming at Laugardalslaug. Spent our final night at 41 A Townhouse Hotel – gorgeous rooms, amazing location.
These are some of the things you might want to know if you’re planning a trip to Iceland.
1. Iceland is beautiful. If you’re sort of sitting on the fence about this, I’m here to tell you that it is absolutely worth the trip.
2. It’s very kid friendly. The only thing you’d want to consider is that some of the activities have a minimum age requirement of 6-12, so if you’re bringing young kids, one adult will have to sit out on them.
3. Food is pricey. The mains at an average restaurant costs about $35-50 and a straight up black coffee from a cart is $5. Even at food trucks, it will cost $25 for a box of fish and chips. Only hot dogs are okayish, at $5.50 each. Also, they’re deliciously lamby (yeahhh meat!!) and pretty perfect topped with a mountain of crispy onions.
4. Kronan and Bonus supermarkets are your best friends. Considering the cost of food in Iceland, the supermarkets are surprisingly reasonable. Stock up on fruits, milk, beverages, snacks, sandwiches – your wallet will thank you.
5. Pack your swimsuits. Icelanders love their pools and I can totally see why. There’s nothing quite like being dressed in your swimwear in -2 degree weather and then jumping into a delightfully warm geothermal pool.
At Laugardalslaug, the kids went up on a slide multiple times at and the pool with the slide was considerably colder than the hot tub I was in. Like unacceptable level of cold in the winter and I had to follow them to make sure they were ok.
It was cold, hot, cold, hot, cold, COLD, COLD COOOLDDDD I’M DYING OF HYPOTHERMIA GUYS I LOVE YOU BUT I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN PLEASE DON’T DROWN!!
6. Dress warm. As they say in Norway, there’s no bad such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. With good thermals, fleece or wool layers, a water-resistant coat, proper gloves and snow boots, you’ll be..
Is it already the middle of November? You start a year and things happen and other things happen and then more things happen and suddenly you’re midway through November and you think about whether all the memories you made are the ones you’d like to keep.
Exams are all over and the kids are done with school and I’m very pleased about having all my babies home with me all day for the next 6 weeks. The older they get, the more I cherish these moments where I get to have all my babies to myself. We’ll play board games and go for walks and fix fun meals and work on comics and just sit and do nothing at all together.
Speaking of exams, the kids brought home their results and they’re like “Mom! I got my English paper back!” First of all, I love the enthusiasm because it suggests that they have done well enough to be suitably excited (whether or not that enthusiasm is warranted is another matter).
“So right, my teacher says this paper was super hard and the highest in class was only 88…and I got 82.” Yeah, way to go to frame the conversation. Suddenly 82 goes from really not great to understandably ok and possibly decent with a bit of improvement.
“It’s not what I was expecting,” he adds, “but it was really quite tough and I think I’ll do better next time.” Nice touch with the likelihood of improvement in the future.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you deliver news of mediocre results.
Although they still had to work on a revision schedule for the holidays because the two questions I always ask them is 1) Is this result an adequate representation of your ability and 2) Did you put in enough effort?
No? Congratulations, you’ve earned yourself a holiday revision plan!
One of the benefits of having siblings is that when you’re ill, you get lots of warm hugs. Tru was sick after church one weekend and all the other kids took turns hugging him super tight.
At first, I was like “No hugs!! Germs! Viruses! This is going to infect everyone!!” but then I look at them and urgh, fine, hug all you want, it’s too adorable.
And yes, everyone did fall sick eventually but was it worth it? Totally. Kind of. Okay not so much. Depending on when you asked me that question, it’s probably one of those 3.
Baby Hayley is a dainty little princess but she’s also possibly the most driven of them all. For a tiny baby, this girl can be very determined when she puts her mind to something.
We were cycling/scooting/jogging to a cafe near our place for brunch with some friends and all the kids were on their bikes and scooters. Baby Hayley was the only one on the stroller because it was about 1.5km away and that’s a long way for a baby who’s not particularly proficient on the scooter to scoot on her own.
On the way back from brunch, Theo fell and scraped his knee so baby Hayley volunteered to give up her stroller and scoot home instead. It was a treacherous journey back for her but she refused to stop even when her knees were buckling from exhaustion. Sweat was pouring from her little face and she looked like she was going to pass out. The husband offered to carry her several times and she kept saying “I CAN DO IT, PAPA!!”
She made it home like 20 minutes after everyone else but she was so pleased that she did it all by herself.
Hayley on the scooter - Vimeo
She now uses this experience as proof of her ability whenever I tell her that she’s not ready for something. “Remember I scoot home all by myself? I’m a big girl now, I can do it!”