Countdown to Joash's 6th Birthday

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Countdown to Jayna's 5th Birthday

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Countdown to Jaide's Birthday

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Countdown to Joram's 4th Birthday

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Same Lesson, New Challenge

I never thought that I would ever say this of my own child but I can't deny it: 
I don't like Jaide. 
And I'm understating... A LOT.

After the turbulent journey with my second born which had a happy ending shortly after she accepted Christ, I thought the same would be true for Jaide. (Read about her salvation story HERE) Unfortunately, the improvement in her behaviour has been marginal. She constantly chooses intentionally to disobey. Jesus may have given her the resources to make good choices but she still has the will to decide if she wants to use those resources, as do all believers. 

And how do I know it is a deliberate choice? She behaves remarkably well in school, at church and whenever she deems beneficial to her. She only shows her true ugly self to her own family.

It is impossible to teach Jaide regarding hygiene. She has no qualms eating from her hands after touching poop or other equally disgusting stuff which makes her very susceptible to stomachaches and food poisoning. She loves to dig her nose and scatter her boogers everywhere, especially on her siblings' beds, much to their horror. And when she makes a mess, she refuses to tell anyone about it till the mess becomes much more widespread from unknowing feet tracking it all over the place. She treats her own drawers as a rubbish dump and picks up trash from the dustbin to play with! Perhaps, she'll be right at home in the future helping needy people at places without proper sanitation? I'm just trying to look on the bright side...

Jaide knows exactly what she wants and has no patience to wait. Unlike most kids who can be persuaded and distracted, she has the persistence to throw a mega tantrum if things don't go her way for an impossibly long time. Just when I think that she has finally gotten over it, her long memory will prompt her to kick a major fuss much later. Yet, she is particularly fond of changing her mind. She is prone to give something to her sibling only to regret her decision and violently reclaim it from the unsuspecting individual. She tends to make a choice one moment, but scream murder the next, falsely accusing us of getting her the wrong thing. 

On top of that, she is extremely reckless and does not heed safety warnings. She has fallen down and injured herself countless times because she simply refuses to listen when we tell her not to play dangerously. She not only hurts herself because of her own wilfulness. She endangers everyone around her as well. 

Jaide is the only one in the family with a high 'D' (Dominant) personality, making it terribly hard for any of us to understand her. It puzzles me to no end why she would refuse to do the things she knows how to do for herself and yet stubbornly insists on doing the things that are way too difficult for her and ruining everything in the process. 

I have even tried to find out if her obstinate trait has a medical cause but she turns out to be the most healthy child in the family. And yet, even though she does not have eczema like 2 of her siblings, she will purposely scratch her skin out of anger till she bleeds. Coupled with her numerous bruises and wounds from her own foolhardy actions, I'm surprised that no one mistakenly believes her to be a victim of abuse!

Nothing that I've tried works consistently; not strict discipline, not soft approach, not reverse psychology, not encouragement, not positive reinforcement, not logical consequences, not countless prep talks and counselling, not even catering to her personality by giving her reasonable freedom to make her own choices. Nothing. She'll purposely refuse to do what I tell her to do and do what I explicitly tell her NOT to do. It is expected that young kids will be mischievous and disobedient from time to time. But she is like that 95% of the time. Those 5% when she does obey, I praise her profusely in the hope she'll be more motivated to behave. Sadly, she goes right back to her default obnoxious mode in no time at all. 

Under such circumstances, it is a remarkably tall order for me to love her like I love the rest of my kids. But I have to train myself. Even though I cringe every time she asks for a hug, I still do so in the same way I do for my other children. No matter how unloveable she is to me, I choose daily to ignore my aversion and champion her whenever her siblings do her injustice. I kiss her, stroke her gently and smile at her sweetly as often as I do for the rest. The last thing I want is for her to think that I treat her unfairly due to bias. Unfortunately, the reality is, I do discipline her so much more often because of her persistent defiance. 

It does not help matters that I have increased workload, suffer from unexplainable puritus and is diagnosed with clinical depression this year. I lack my normal physical and emotional capacity to deal with her constant fussiness and end up yelling at her more often than not. As much as I hate to admit it, she is the main reason why I feel so much like an epic failure as a parent. 

I didn't notice how disruptive Jaide is to our family life till my mother-in-law graciously helps me look after her for a while. All of a sudden, there is peace at home. There's no longer someone who would bully the little brother or lead him into mischief. There's no one to annoy or fight with the older two kids. There is no one to constantly push my buttons anymore. The yelling stops. I feel sane for the first time in many years. I am starting to enjoy my other 3 children once again. In fact, my elder girl told me, "It is so nice and quiet without Jaide around."

God has shown me that Jaide will become a powerful leader when she grows up. But in the meantime, how do I survive till then? Other than the perennial lesson in patience and unconditional love while parenting, I now literally have to force myself to see Jaide through the eyes of God. Despite seeming as if her "terrible twos" is never ending, I continually remind myself that her strong stubborn character needs a lot more time to channel towards the positive end and that 5 years old is still considered very young. I fear that her tempestuous personality will get her into more and more serious trouble as she grows older but only God can truly protect her from herself. I can only do my best to ENDURE, press on and pray for her.

"For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had..."
Romans 15:4-5

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Works in Progress

It was a hot and humid afternoon. My skin itch had returned with a vengeance and my body had barely recuperated from the exertion of the June holidays.

I entered the establishment with four children who refuse to drink my homemade broth and instead, hanker after the tomato soup of the fast-food outlet. The lunch-time crowd was in and yet those four little human beings insisted on squeezing past the press of bodies in the queue to look at the menu at the counter as though they did not know what was available. Four excited voices piped enthusiastically their orders and they changed their minds so quickly and often that I lost track of who wanted what. Combined with my constant admonishment for the children not to destroy public property and desperate appeals for them not to be a nuisance to other people with their monkeying around, we were exceedingly noisy and rowdy, my self-respect in pieces.

Everyday, I ask myself, when will this chaos end? I had many who encourage me that things will get easier as they grow up but that is a dangerous expectation. Even though it is true that there is less physical care-giving needed as the kids grow more independent, the battles of the will correspondingly increase in intensity. One child would loathe to put in any hard work to the point of declining a supplementary class, generously offered by the school, meant to help him improve. Another would blatantly ignore pleas to take care of her skin. There is also the constant tantrum-filled balking at every single instruction given and the wilful refusal to drink water by himself although perfectly capable of doing so.

No. Things will definitely not get easier. It will only get different. To think otherwise is to lose hope whenever the children refuse to obey even though it is all for their own sake. More than ever, I need the resilience that comes from putting my faith and hope in Christ and not trust what I see. I need to hang onto the vision which God entrusted me years ago and the journey is far from over. I need to put things in the right perspective. I must nail my disappointments in my children and myself to the cross and move on. Even as I extend grace to my own flesh and blood, I must extend the same grace to myself whenever I feel like such an epic failure. I am similarly a work in progress. God is not finished with us yet. Although depleted both physically and emotionally, I can rely on God's empowerment each day to give me a second wind. Indeed, to live is Christ. 

“Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” (Hebrews 10:35)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Outings Galore!

This June holidays, I went utterly crazy with scheduling outings for the kids. Given my reduced energy levels, deteriorating health condition and my increased workload in terms of household chores, I gave up cooking entirely for almost 4 weeks. I concentrated my efforts on bringing the kids out, which I'm very sure they appreciate far more than mere home-cooked food. (Sad but nonetheless true) 

With the help of my husband who took quite a few days of leave, we actually clocked about 3 outings per week! That meant that we stayed home only for 2 weekdays each week. That is the most often the kids went out during the holidays. There were, of course, less significant visits to the various malls with their playgrounds and libraries. Here are some of the more notable outings:

The kids specially requested for this. With Joram much more agile and daring now than the previous time we went, he could thoroughly enjoy himself and thus I had a more rigorous workout than before. 

Vacation Bible School
Previously, only Joash qualified for the camp. This time, the three older ones could participate. Transport was thankfully provided. I went with them for the first day dragging Joram along because it was an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people. While the camp was going on, I went City Square Mall to hang out with the little brother and took the transport home together after they are done for the day. 

I thought that it would be a good opportunity for the older two to learn how to give back to the community by distributing food to the home-bound elderly. Thus, Joshua went with them while I stayed home to take care of the younger ones.

I promised my elder girl that she'd have the chance to go ice-skating when she reaches P1, so I fulfilled my promise and brought the older two to The Rink. It was Joshua's turn to take care of the younger two instead for this trip. 

Movie Outing
For the first time, the younger ones are old enough to appreciate the silver screen and we went to watch Finding Dory together as a family. 

Kids Stop
Another special request from the kids. Things are really so different as the children grow older and become more independent. Joshua and I could have some nice couple time while the kids all went exploring the place by themselves. No more infant in arms/carrier or watching over the toddling and fearful ones. Yay!!!

ArtScience Museum
The kids really loved the Future World. They almost didn't want to leave despite starting to feel hungry as it was way past their normal lunch time. It was mostly dark however so I had very few pictures of them inside. 

Brought home jewel crafts as souvenirs

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Bento Lesson

Dinner is served!

My elder girl asked me to teach her how to make bentos. Thus, even though we did not intend to have a picnic outside due to the weather conditions, we made a bento-ish dinner. It took me twice as long teaching her to do it as opposed to doing it on my own, especially since it is a far more delicate process than normal cooking. The panda bear ended up not looking as nice as I wanted because we had to rush towards the end. As it was, dinner started half an hour late. Despite the difficulty level, I'm glad to teach my little apprentice something she enjoys doing and eating. *grin*

Peeling the carrot

Punching out the stars & flowers

Cutting up the sausage

Poking the raw spaghetti
through the sausage

Making the Hello Kitty ham

Boiled and cooked

Her favourite part of the bento

Big brother's "sleeping" panda bear

Apple ladybugs for the rest

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Belated Mothers' Day

Since the Mothers' Day weekend was reserved for the grandmas on both sides of the family, my own celebration was postponed to the following Saturday. I did briefly have some fun on the actual day itself doing paddle boats with the older three kids though. Joram was too afraid to try, so he stayed on the shore. Poor boy... If only the weather were not so blazing hot. 

Receiving cards from my children becomes increasingly meaningful as they grow older and are able to write more interesting and thoughtful things. I look forward to better expressions of their love in the future. *wink*

Black Pepper Crab

Chili Crab

Blueberry Bingsu

Red Bean Bingsu

Joshua took me out on a date in the effort to make up for my sacrifice but I simply can't take a break from being a homemaker. My idea of fun these days is actually leisurely purchasing household things and stuff for my kids at Daiso! (As opposed to going through my shopping list at supersonic speed while being torn in 5 different directions.) At least, I got to eat my favourite food (crabs) and try something new (bingsu). The best part was that the Long Beach Restaurant offer the option of de-shelling the crabs for their customers. This was the first time I ate crabs without soiling my own fingers! Yippee!

Another item on our agenda was going for a couple's massage but the slots were fully booked for today. I look forward to the appointment we made for two weeks later. *beam*

I can't believe that a few years ago, I would have taken the opportunity of such special occasions to try the reverse bungee G-Max or the Wild Wild Wet. However, the thought of such things now simply makes me tired. Alas, parenting has truly aged me beyond belief. :P

My prayers as a mother are that by this time next year:
1) Kid no. 1 will learn the value of diligence
2) Kid no. 2 will be totally healed of her eczema
3) Jaide will mature exponentially
4) Joram will be toilet trained and drop his afternoon nap
5) Most importantly, for the older three to have deep personal encounters with God and for Joram to finally accept Jesus as his Lord and Saviour.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Joram Turns Three

When I asked my littlest one whether he preferred to go somewhere special or to buy a toy for his birthday, he wanted a toy without hesitation. And thus, we set off to Kiddy Palace to get his present and replace his broken shoes by the way. But first, we needed to settle our lunch where Joram had his favourite smiley-face potato from Yoshinoya.

Smiley boy with smiley potato

Joram was really picky when it came to buying his shoes. He wanted green ones but they did not carry his small size for those. Then, he wanted one with blinking lights, but he found them too uncomfortable. After that, he was interested the squeaky shoes but the largest available were too tight for him. Finally, he decided upon the minions crocs. It was far easier getting his present, thankfully. It took him all but 5 minutes to zoom in on the Leapfrog educational laptop. He had all along been eyeing on his older brother's blue one which has spoilt recently. Great timing!

Eh? R is for rabbit?

New Minions shoes!

We went Baskin Robbins for his birthday cake and he chose the one with the soccer ball theme, very likely because it had his favourite colour green and, of course, the soccer ball. However, he realised he didn't like the taste of the green "grass" (icing) in the end! Haha... Like his older brother, he loves the vanilla flavour. And what birthday celebration in our family is complete without a helium balloon? :P 

The candles are lit!

Hello, balloon.

We chanced upon these cute old-school TV keychains which light up with static sound effects when you press the channel buttons. Might as well buy one for each kiddo. Hee... Couldn't find a green one for Joram though, so he had to make do with the black one. Poor boy. But he quickly forgot about his disappointment as he kept pressing the buttons all the way home. LOL Blessed birthday, Joram! May God continue to help you be the most obedient and mild-mannered child in the family.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Crucible

Battle scars

I have a very high tolerance for pain. It is no stranger to me to continue functioning while enduring severe pain. However, I can never stand itch. I'm the kind who would purposely scratch a mosquito bite till it bleeds so that it becomes painful rather than itchy.

So, it was a special kind of hell for me when I started having puritus (extreme itch) all over my body 6 weeks ago. It began with my calves, then my thighs, followed by my arms. It spread to my face so that even my eyelids, ears and scalp were unbearably tingling with the overwhelming urge to be scratched. I tried not to give in to the instinct, just like I advised my daughter with eczema all these years. However, I kept waking up subconsciously clawing all over my body the moment I fell asleep. Needless to say, I tore through my skin and stained my bedsheets with my blood.

I hardly slept at night and my days were pure torture because my homemaking work is mostly very physical and sweaty. Each drop of perspiration stung my irritated skin like a needle piercing me. The sunlight was like fire to me and the unprecedented heat wave of March increased the itch manifold. Even the wind felt like sandpaper. Cooking is no longer enjoyable because the oil fumes and the heat totally exacerbate my condition.

My children, being young and immature, could not extend much sympathy towards me regarding my condition, especially when I still forced myself to be functional and continued caring for them as well as I could. But the number of breakdowns in front of them I had over the past month rivalled the number I had in a normal year. It was so painful for me to see the fear in their eyes when they witnessed the wretchedness of their suffering mother. 

As much as my wonderful and self-sacrificing husband bent over backwards to help me through it, this valley of darkness was mine alone. Only God was with me in the middle of the night when I cried out to Him in agony and sheer exhaustion. Multiple trips to the doctor and all sorts of medication did not work. Friends rallied in prayer and I simply collapsed helpless before the Lord in a mess of tears, snot and shredded skin day in, day out. I hardly stepped out of the house apart from buying groceries. I wailed to Him all alone. God was the only One who stood between me and dangerous suicidal thoughts.

As I study the book of Revelations this year with BSF, I am comforted by the promise of the victor's crown at the end. The precious intimacy of the new name on the white stone known only to me, given by my Saviour. Though I am of little strength, God would not burden me with more and exhorts me only to hold on to what I already have. That I could do. I clung on to my Lord who has already forgiven me all the hurt I caused in my loved ones while I lashed out in frustration in my suffering. God did not promise to remove us from trials and tribulation but He promised His presence. It was His love and mercy at work even during the times when I turned my anger and yelling towards Him. He simply lifted me up from my miry clay.

Through a divine appointment, I went to see a doctor who is a fellow believer and he gave me a different type of medication.. I took his advice and changed the laundry detergent. After doing countless loads of laundry with a new organic washing powder, my condition improved by 80%. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! For the first time in a long while, I could sleep through the night. The dark clouds of sleep deprivation slowly parted. The fog of depression has lifted. There is finally light at the end of the tunnel.

Even though I am not yet fully recovered, I am grateful to Jesus for being with me through it all. I had never felt more alone and misunderstood before. Even when I was incapacitated in my pregnancies, people still somewhat understood my misery. But this? Those experienced with eczema kept telling me that my condition is not really serious because the itch did not come with visible rashes. No one could tell the extent of my suffering because I didn't look as bad as I feel. My family doctor actually said there was nothing he could do for me. Even my own mother asked me not to visit her because she thought I had the measles! 

As I trust God to eventually heal me completely, I will rest in Him. Even if I do not recover 100%, I will still praise my Lord! Amen.