Countdown to Joash's 6th Birthday

Lilypie - Personal pictureLilypie Kids Birthday tickers

Countdown to Jayna's 5th Birthday

Lilypie - Personal pictureLilypie Kids Birthday tickers

Countdown to Jaide's 3rd Birthday

Lilypie - Personal pictureLilypie Third Birthday tickers

Countdown to Joram's 1st Birthday

Lilypie - Personal pictureLilypie Second Birthday tickers

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sleep Training

I've been asked to share regarding this topic countless times by both new and experienced mothers but I find that the ones who benefit from my sharing are those with newborns because the younger they are, the easier it is to train. 

There are as many sleep training books out there as there are books which advice against any form of sleep training. I didn't start my motherhood journey with sleep training in mind. It was after one and a half months of sleeplessness for my husband and I with my first newborn son that I decided to sleep train. I am someone who can't function without proper sleep so sleep training was essential for me. I didn't quite follow any single method, just whatever makes sense and works for me, after prayerful thought.

A Separate Dedicated Sleeping Place

Sleep training is not possible unless the child has a proper sleeping place not in the same room as where the parents sleep. It has to be baby/child-proofed thoroughly and it has to be a place dedicated to sleeping and nothing else so as not to confuse the baby. The sleeping place can be different for daytime naps and nighttime sleep though e.g. naps-bouncer, night-cot. Having a baby-monitor or/and a surveillance camera can be very helpful too. 

Fill Up The Love Tank

I find that in order for the baby to feel secure enough to be without Mummy's company during sleeping time, he must receive plenty of love during non-sleeping times. It is much easier for me as a homemaker to do that because I get to be with the kid throughout the day. I make sure I give lots of hugs, kisses, attention and playtime when the baby is awake so that I can send him off to La-la land with a smile and a goodnight kiss with a clear conscience. 

Providing Sleep Cues

There are many types of sleep cues you can give. It depends on what you feel comfortable doing ALL the time. Some give the pacifier but I find it tedious to keep popping it back for the baby. Others will give a lovey but I avoid putting anything that might suffocate the baby without me physically around to supervise. Nursing to sleep will lead to comfort nursing eventually and it is next to impossible to wean.

First, I make sure that the baby has no reason to complain. Here's a checklist which is helpful for me:
1) Comfortable clothes
2) Well ventilated and cool environment
3) Clean diaper
4) Fed and thoroughly burped
5) White noise to mask sudden loud noises - I use the fan and the air purifier. I add in soft instrumental worship music during the day as daytime noise tends to be louder.

Note: It is advisable to put baby to bed on his back to prevent suffocation and SID. 

Differentiating Night and Day

I basically work with the natural properties of night and day.

Daytime naps are characterised by the noise of the daily hustle and bustle plus natural light. When the baby wakes up during the day, there will be lots of interaction, noise and activity even during nursing and diaper-changing. However, at night, the bedroom is kept dark and quiet. I try to use low yellow light and avoid talking or eye contact when I nurse and change diapers before I put him back to bed after each night feed. Every movement is calm and smooth at night.

During the day, I only put the baby to bed if he looks sleepy and tired after some form of activity/interaction for a period of time. Obviously, the length of awake time will depend on the age of the baby and different babies can have different capacity too. At night, I will put the baby to bed right after feed and diaper change whether or not he looks sleepy. 

I am also more relaxed and indulgent during the day regarding sleep cues. I allowed falling asleep in the baby sling because I went out with the baby/children very often so it was convenient for me that way. I actually patted my second one to sleep during naps when she was a toddler and I still lie beside my third kid till she falls asleep as part of my special alone time with her for the day.

However, I am very strict when it comes to night-time. I explain to my children that I need my rest at night so that I can be recharged and alert to take good care of them during the day. They know that I will not go to them unless there is an emergency.

Establish a bedtime routine

In order to differentiate between the day and night properly, there has to be a clear bedtime routine to mark the start of the night sleep. I prefer to keep it simple. After the dinner feed, I will give the baby a nice warm bath with lullaby music, a light massage with moisturiser, dress him in PJs, say a short bedtime prayer and off to bed he goes. 

Traditionally, parents read books right before bedtime but I find that this can potentially become a way for the kid to delay bedtime when he gets older by asking for more books or longer stories. Instead, I do all my reading to the children during the daytime. But I guess, this will be hard to do for working parents. 

To signal the end of the night time, we'll go into the room bright and cheery to greet the baby in the morning. 

Be consistent

Once you have a sleep routine, it is paramount to keep to it ALL the time so as not to give the child mixed signals. The younger the child is, the more important it is to not have exceptions. It can be very difficult in the beginning. We had to give up on night engagements so that we can keep the bedtime sacred. It was also difficult when the baby cried to sleep initially. However, if we give in even once, the baby will assume that if he cries long or hard enough, we will go and pick him up. This is counter-productive. It also interferes with the baby's learning of self-soothing techniques. As difficult as it is, we have to keep in mind that the crying will not last for long. Non of our children cried before falling asleep for more than two weeks.

Even during times of illness, other than giving medication and checking temperature, we try not to vary too much from the standard practice. The TLC (tender loving care) is given mainly during the day. Even when there is a need for changing of bedsheets at night due to vomiting or soiling, it is back to bed for everyone after a short prayer.

Obviously, the baby will nurse round the clock when he is a newborn. However, if you keep to the routine and make sure he is well fed and given enough attention during the day, he will be able to eventually sleep through the night. Here's when each of my kids starts to sleep through the night (8pm-7am):
Joash - 4.5 mths old
Jayna - 3.5 mths old
Jaide - 5.5 mths old
Joram - 3 mths old

Ultimately, each family and individual is different. What is beneficial for my family may not be so for another. Some simply love co-sleeping while others enjoy the night comfort nursing. Yet others have baby's health concerns to grapple with and thus do not have the option to sleep train. The important thing is for the family to be comfortable with the arrangement. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pretend-play

Imitating Mummy putting her
baby in the sling! ROFL 

The girls had a school holiday today because they are going on a school-wide excursion tomorrow. It's been a long while since I've spent so much time with them on a weekday. I decided to lay off cooking and delve into an intense session of pretend-play with them. We played doctor and patient; hairdresser and customer, complete with mani/pedi services. The scarves I provided turned from a hospital blanket to a throw-away on the salon chair, followed by a make-shift halter-neck dress and then a hairdressing cape and finally a sarong sling for the Hello Kitty babies. There seems no end to the creativity of young imaginations! 

Despite my illness and extreme tiredness, I'm glad I made the effort to join in their play. Although I sacrificed a whole bunch of my hair to the tugging of eager hands and my wrist and neck are sore from their over-enthusiastic administrations, the brilliant smiles on my daughters' faces made it all worthwhile. 

Jayna had an additional opportunity to play the role of Elsa while the younger sister napped. She absolutely loved the costume I recently bought for her. Doesn't she look gorgeous? *wink*

The Snow Queen

Let it go, let it go...
*magic sparkles*

The beautiful long train

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Happy Birthday Singapore!

All raring to go!

We were off to the swimming pool again on National Day. Jaide has grown much over the past one year. Previously, she was so scared of entering the water, but this year, she is an active participant in the water fun. Way to go, my feisty one! 

However, it is Joram's turn to be afraid of the water. He was utterly miserable even though I carried him most of the time. After trying for 15 min, we finally brought him out of the water to prevent further "trauma". But experience with the older siblings taught me that he will outgrow it soon enough. Hee hee... In another year or two perhaps. 

In our bathing suits

Poor Joram...

Big sister taking
care of little sister

Literally having a ball!

I couldn't resist joining in the fun... LOL

Yum yum!

What better way to end the pool workout under the hot blazing sun than a nice icy popsicle? After which, it was time to rummage through the gift bags their aunt got for the kids. All in their designated colours! Next up: watching the NDP on our rarely used flat-screen TV, another highlight of National Day. 

However, our Canadian Pizza dinner never did arrive. Poor kids were famished halfway through the show. I had no choice but to whip up a quick dinner with what was left in the fridge: milk, grapes and fried eggs topped with pork floss. At least we made up for their disappointment by bringing them to a pizza place for lunch the next day. We'll probably stick to Pizza Hut in the future. *frown*

The NDP 2014 Funpacks

Digging for treasures

I've got one too!!!

The show has started!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Two New Ones


Now I know why he has been often found putting his left index finger into the left side of his mouth lately... LOL

Monday, August 4, 2014

Staying on top of things


"How do you manage with 4 very young kids without a helper and yet the house remains neat and tidy?"

I've been asked this question way too often so it's probably high time to write a post about it. It's not so easy to give an answer because it truly is the result of a rather complex combination of systems and strategies. 

Of course, I have had my fair share of disastrous days and moments of stress so great that I broke down in tears. I have my own unique struggles such as not being able to eat a proper meal while the kids are awake. However, it is a definitely not a given to live in a messy and chaotic place or not being on time for appointments just because we have children. 

There are a few things I had done since day one which are harder to implement for those whose kids are beyond the baby years. These are topics which deserve their own blog posts.

1) Sleep training the children from birth. [Mine all sleep by themselves from 8.30pm to 8am thereabout] (Click HERE for a post about this topic)
2) Teach the children to be responsible for keeping their own belongings and toys after use.
3) Help the kids learn to play by themselves. (Click HERE for a post about this topic)
4) Encourage independence in each child and nurture a spirit of helping one another do things. (My older two are fabulous at taking care of the younger two.)

However, there are some things which can be implemented right away.

Dependence on God

God always answers our cries for help. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I will mutter breath prayers on the go. I even ask my children to pray with or for me. I recite verses to encourage myself. There are even times when I lock myself up in the bedroom/toilet to re-centre my mind and emotions on God and His empowering grace before coming out again to face the challenges anew. I also ask my CG sisters to pray for me when I feel myself going under.

Work out a schedule

Children thrive on routines. They feel confident when they know what is supposed to happen all the time. Of course, we need to keep in mind that unforeseen circumstances will always crop up. What works for me is to focus on the sequence of events rather than the timing of the events themselves. For example, the children know that right after breakfast, the older brother has to do his homework while the younger three have to go to their room to play by themselves while I finish up the chores and cooking. When I'm done, I'll go to the room to end playtime and start the preparations for school. Depending on how long breakfast took and the number of tantrums I needed to handle, the playtime can range from 1 to 2.5 hours. No matter what, they know that the moment I enter the room to pick the little brother up to feed him milk, it's time to keep their toys and change into their uniforms. 

Streamline the chores

It makes sense to ensure frequently repeated chores take up as little time as possible or else they will become really tedious. 

a) Cooking
I plan meals which are nutritious and easy to cook. I come up with my own recipes and create shortcuts in the cooking process so that I can finish meal preparation in 30 to 45 mins. The food may not be the most delicious, but they still taste decent enough. I don't have to be a gourmet chef in order to feel good about myself even though given enough time, I definitely can cook better meals. I decide that 60% is a good enough standard.

b) Laundry
Doing laundry (and hanging them up indoors to dry) everyday no matter rain or shine helps to keep the load manageable. I have a laundry schedule: 

Mon & Fri - adult load
Tue, Thur & Sat - children load
Wed - special load (bedsheets/towels/floor mats depending on which week of the month it is)
Sun - Sabbath (no chores)

It also helps to hang up the clothes according to where they'll be kept. I will place all the clothes belonging to the same person in the same section and bring them down together for folding.

Declutter the house

Only keep things that are absolutely necessary. For example, everybody in my family only needs 5 sets of home clothes according to my laundry schedule. Other than a few spares, whatever not needed immediately are given away. Resist the urge to horde because God will provide when the need arises. It is also not important to have duplicate toys as the children can be taught to share and take turns. I just make sure that there is one representative of each type of wholesome toy e.g. a bag of building blocks, a box of train tracks, one set of plastic fruits/vegetables, one beach ball etc. In fact, the children's imagination is the best "toy" they ever truly need.

Next, make sure everything has its own place. Put things back where they belong after use. It reduces a lot of time wastage in looking for missing items. Keep as few things out in the open as possible. This is to reduce the need for dusting and cleaning surfaces will become so much easier. Try not to have things lying around, taking up floor space. Hang things up or keep them out of sight so that sweeping or mopping the floor everyday will be a breeze. 

Contain the mess

Only allow eating or drinking (other than plain water) at the dining table during mealtimes. At playtime, the toys are to be kept within the playroom. All seat work are to be done at the study area. Reading should be mostly done in the living room area where the book shelves are. This way, there is less mess to clean up.

Another way to keep mess within control is to store potentially messy items out of the reach of the younger children. Items such as markers, paint, play dough, glue, scissors, small lego pieces, card games and puzzles should be placed in hard-to-reach places. When the older ones want to access them, they have to ask me for permission and I will usually tell them to use them at the dining table where I can supervise while I work and the baby can't get his hands on the stuff.

Keep short accounts

Procrastination is the greatest enemy to staying on top of things. Make sure all the chores for the day are done within the day. Try not to put anything off to the next day. Once you start accumulating chores, it becomes increasingly harder to get out of the rut. 

Dedicate personal time with each child

The children will be less needy once they know that they can have Mummy all to themselves at a certain time of the day. If one-to-one attention is not possible, make sure that there is an activity which speaks the love language of the child. For example, tummy tickling, drawing together, napping together (till the kid falls asleep), reading, etc.

Deciding what you can let go of when you are in a pinch

When I fall very ill or when the kids need emergency attention, the thing I give up readily is cooking especially since I live near coffee shops and food courts. I can always pack food back. I also buy disposable eating utensils to eliminate washing dishes on such occasions. For some, this may not be possible due to dietary restrictions of the kids or health issues. If money is not a problem, employing part-time cleaners, catering home-delivered meals or making use of laundry services during the stressful periods can bring much relief for the short term. 

Factor in buffer time

The more kids you have, the longer it takes to get everyone ready. We have to take into account tantrums/meltdowns over unexpected issues. We will know our kids well enough to remove as many tantrum triggers as possible and we should more or less know how long it takes for them to do certain tasks. I make sure I give my kids half an hour lead time to get ready before we need to catch the school bus. All their bags are packed beforehand so there won't be a last minute scramble for things. Each child has their own checklist before stepping out of the house. I may give reminders but ultimately, they are responsible for their own things. If they forget anything, too bad for them. They'll just have to do without the items and/or face the music themselves.

Humour

Telling jokes or making something into a competition/playacting can make things easier during crunch time. I like to pretend to be a military officer shouting out orders in an accent when we are running late so as to create a sense of urgency in a fun way. Sometimes, I pretend that there is an impending national disaster that will happen if we don't make it on time. This works way better than pure nagging or scolding the children for being slow. 

At the end of the day, I find that I'm able to enjoy the children a lot more when the home operations are running smoothly, like well-oiled machinery. The time I devote to simply hang out with them during the lazy afternoons becomes relaxing and guilt-free, knowing that all the chores and cooking for the day have been done. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Jayna is 5 now!


Blessed birthday, my princess Jayna! Today, we were all dressed in her favourite colour to celebrate her natal day. She chose a red scooter as her birthday gift this time round so the strider can be passed on to her little sister who had been eyeing it for a long time. LOL We'll have three "vehicles" to ride for the older three children when we go outdoors from now on. Yippee! 

She is still crazy about Disney princesses thus, as with last year, she was dressed in her princess Aurora gown; and bought a princess balloon and a princess birthday cake. The birthday candles were bought many months ago because she was worried that we would not be able to find it on short notice when the time comes. Talk about planning in advance! 

God has been so gracious to mature Jayna into a true princess of God from the inside out. She has become my wonderful helper and she often comforts and prays for me when I get distressed by Jaide's wilfulness. May God continue to grow her gift of empathy and give her a missionary's heart!

Jaide also wanted to be
dressed like a princess,
following her older
sis's footsteps

Pink Power!!!

The Pink Cake



PINK overload!!!

Yumz!
Her favourite filling:
chocolate crunchy

Rainbow loom accessories lovingly
hand-made by her Aunt as her present.
Thank you so much! *kiss*

Red Scooter

Jaide:
"Now the strider is mine!
Bwahahahaha!"
 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Last Batch

Jayna's:
A symphony of
pink, yellow and white.

Jaide's:
A balance of
yellow, orange and brown.

At the accessories workshop which I conducted during the June school holidays, the CG girls had the opportunity to choose their favourite beads and design their own accessories. The above are the choices made by Jaide and Jayna. Jayna, being the older and more mature one, was allowed to do the beading herself. She was absolutely delighted to wear her own piece of work!


I have always wanted to make an accessorised watch for myself in my favourite colours and style but I never got down to it. I made one out of left-over beads in my secondary school days but the teacher forbade me to wear it since it looked too much like a bracelet. 

I finally went to purchase the necessary material to create one, combining cat's eye beads and Swarovski crystals. The cost price was under $10 and the length fit me perfectly since it was custom-made. I am satisfied by this last bit of work. Due to certain constrains, this would most likely mark the end of my current accessory-making phase. Hopefully, I'll be able to resume some time in the future... *wistful*