Tuesday, February 26, 2013

How Do You Do It?

As a family with 4 young kids, we get a lot of stares and double takes when we go out. And for people that are a bit bolder, they tend to come up to us and say things like:

"Are they triplets?" --Since the three older E's are pretty close in height these days.
"Are the girls twins? Are they identical?"
"Are (counting the kids) all of them yours?"
"You are so blessed to have the perfect balance of boys and girls!"

BUT the line that I get asked the most is:

"How Do You Do It?"

Most of the time I say something like, "With a lot of prayer and patience!"
Which is totally true because I do pray a lot for patience and wisdom on how to take care of the kids but that's not the only way I get through my day with 4 kids under 5. Today I'll share what I have learned so far on how to deal with 4 kids but please know that I am still learning as well and these are not necessarily the only way or perfect way to do things.

1) Set A Schedule and Stick To It
Kids, especially young kids, tend to function better when they know what to expect. I have found that there is usually less melt downs or tantrums that way. Another major melt down starter is hunger, so one of the times that I make sure I always stick to is meal time. I make sure lunch and dinner is ready at around the same time everyday, give or take maybe 15-20 mins. If you think 1 child having a melt down is bad, try 2 or 3 or even 4 at the same time! There is no easier way to drive a parent up the walls than multiple melt downs. Some things in our day may not happen at exactly the same time of day but I make sure sequences stay the same. For example, we might not always finish our meals at the same time each day but I always brush the kids teeth after lunch and before they go to bed. And we usually try to keep the sequence of who brushes first, second, and last the same. There is usually less resistance to do things that the kids don't particularly like to do, when they know it is about to happen. Does this mean we are never spontaneous? No, there is a block of time in the afternoon after lunch where I pretty much go with the flow of what the kids would like to do.

2) Why I'm Home In The First Place
I find it funny sometimes when I forget why I am staying at home in the first place--to take care of and spend time with my kids! All the work that needs to get done around the house sometimes fogs up my focus. So there are certain things that I make sure I leave till after the kids are sleeping or in school to do, like the laundry, mopping the floor, cleaning the bathroom. Though these things are important, the most important thing is that I'm spending time with my kids. I make sure I set aside time to read books, do silly exercises, color or draw, and simply play with them. This got to be a bit difficult when E4 was really young because he nursed every 3 hours and had to be put down for naps and I simply didn't have the time or energy to be with the three older children as much as I would like to, but good thing my mom was around to help me during the first 9 months of E4's life!

3) A Slightly Messy and Dirty House is OK
I am definitely a neat freak! Well, my mom might think that my cleaning standards are not quite up to par to hers, but I'm pretty obsessed when it comes to keeping a clean house. But boy is it hard to keep up my standards with a house full of kids! There are spilled milk splashes all over our sofas and chairs. Crumbs are scattered throughout my living room. Toys can be found in some of the most odd nooks and crannies. And the mirror in our powder room (the most used potty room by the kids) is always splattered with stains. Of course, all these things need to be cleaned up but it doesn't have to happen RIGHT AWAY! I used to feel the need to vacuum or sweep up those crumbs as they fell to the floor because I couldn't stand a messy house. I was a bit like Monica from Friends though I never had a vacuum for the small hand held vacuum. For all you Friends fans out there, you know the reference! NOW I have learned to relax and lower my standards of cleanliness. Usually by the end of the day, all toys are mostly picked up, crumbs have been vacuumed, and the sink is cleared BUT if I really just couldn't get to taking care of those crumbs at the end of a long day, I don't beat myself up over it, I can always get to them tomorrow they are not going anywhere =)

4) Don't Take Things Too Personally
I used to get really mad or upset when the kids were disobedient. Then I would get upset at myself for not being able to keep my cool. I knew I wasn't being a good parent to my kids acting that way, I was not setting a good example. Then I realized the main reason I was getting mad or upset was because I was taking each act of disobedience PERSONALLY. Now I understand that kids will be kids and they are disobedient because of their sinful nature. Their disobedience isn't always a reflection of me as a parent. Though I strongly believe that parents have the responsibility to teach their kids right from wrong and how to lead a God-centered life, if I take everything too personally and can't keep my cool, I'm not doing them any good.

5) Kids Learn to Share and Wait Their Turn
This is a good lesson for all kids to learn but is truly important and life saving when there is more than 1 child. Early on in my pregnancy with my twin girls, my husband and I had decided we would not buy them 2 of the same toys so they would always have to learn to share. Now maybe we may have bought 2 of the same elephant teething toys really early on in their life but other than that we have stuck with our rule. Just to clarify, we do dress them in the same outfits at times, it's just so cute and hard to resists as parents of twin girls! But when it comes to toys we do not buy duplicates. It has been a great way for us to teach all the kids how to share their toys and take turns. Also in terms of waiting their turn, E1 learned this especially early in his life. When the girls still required naps, I would tell him that it was time for me to put the girls down for their naps, he had to wait (in a safe place where he could play but I could still hear him if anything were to happen). And when the girls were down for their naps, I would explain to him that we could have some special time together and play some toys or games that we would not be able to play if the girls were around, like things with smaller parts or paper books when they were younger and would just put in their mouths. Now E1, E2, and E3, know that they need to wait when I put E4 down for a nap and they need to try their best to be quiet so that their brother can get some sleep. Don't get my wrong, there are still fights and arguments that happen over toys but it has become easier to mediate those once the kids understand the need to share and take turns.

I could probably go on with more things but I'll stop at these 5 points and hope you find these helpful.

Any good tips to share with me and other readers on how to handle the busy life as a mom? Would love to hear from you!


Friday, February 22, 2013

What is that mommy?

Gone with old and on with the new, some things my children will never use.
A rotary phone... on a cord?!  Records, a boombox? A typewriter and white-out? An encyclopedia?
Image from Wikipedia
Recently I read an article in Parents magazine and listened to a discussion on the radio about things/skills that our child(ren) will never have a use for.
Learning cursive.
I personally enjoyed practicing cursive in our workbooks back in elementary school.  I'm hoping my kids will still learn this skill. With emails and texts as ways to communicate, it's still nice to get a handwritten note.  I admire those who still write in cursive. Beautiful penmanship is like art.

How to tell time, analog vs digital.
I'm still teaching my kids to tell time with an analog clock. They get a better grasp of time by seeing the hands on the clock. They still use the clock I made for our road trip to Virginia.

Dewey decimal system.
Remember when you had to write a report you'd go to the library, flip through the card catalog and search for the books on the shelves. Now you just Google it, but of course you also have to check if the source online is reliable. However, the library is still a great place to go!

Reading maps.
In school we would have to learn how to read a map and write directions for how to get Jane to her grandmother's house. Now you just punch in the address and your GPS will tell you. Tho I must admit, I still look up the directions on a map and make sure the GPS is giving me the "right directions" before we go anywhere unfamiliar.

A new way to do math. 
Really? To me it seems like more work.
You be the judge... solve this 535-284.
New method: 535-200=335

It never ceases to amaze me how tech savvy kids are these days. Having my 4 year old teach me how to clear an Angry Bird stage or watching my 2 year old use the laptop with ease... swipe swipe, click. I sometimes wonder if I would have been able to use these tools with such ease at that age.

Last week I registered H for Kindergarten. Now I ask myself what will I need to learn just to be able to keep up and help her with her homework.
Do you have school age kids? What new things are they teaching in schools?


Friday, February 15, 2013

Special Skills of Motherhood

There are some special skills that you pick up as you enter into motherhood, like running on less sleep or interrupted sleep, changing diapers under a minute, changing diapers in the dark while you are half asleep, and what I would like to focus on today, using one hand to do almost everything!

This is true when you have one child but becomes even more relevant when you have more than one. And trust me, having 4 has really helped me hone this skill!

So here is a list of things I have learned to do with one hand while holding a child in my other:

1) Simple cooking. Of course nothing that would put the child I'm holding in danger, I would rather let them cry then put them in danger. But sometimes you just need to check on your soup or sauce and give it a quick stir without causing a major melt down from your child.

2) Using the toilet. Sorry if this is TMI but sometimes you really got to go and your child just won't let you go.

3) Getting food in a buffet line. Mommy has got to eat and can't let that one child in your arm and the other 3 holding on to your clothes stop you!

4) Helping an older child use the potty. When kids got to go, they got to go!

5) Putting on make-up. It's not always easy but sometimes you just need to get a little creative.

6) Giving an older child a bath. Now this only happened once under special circumstances but I sure never imagined having to do this before becoming a mother.

7) Pushing a shopping cart. Steering a cart with just one hand is always fun, especially when you have a cart with those wobbly wheels with a mind of their own.

8) Holding 2 other children while going up the stairs. A mother really couldn't ask for a better work out!

Funny side note, while I was searching for a good image to use in this post, I came across an article about a mother that was holding a child in one arm and robbing an older woman with her other, that is just crazy!

What are some of the special skills you have learned since becoming a mother? Would love to hear from you!


Thursday, February 14, 2013

For my sweet valentines!

Instead of giving my kids candy or sweets I wanted to make them something for Valentine's. I'm sure H will get plenty from school today and enough to share with N later.
When H saw me designing our lunch buddies logo she mentioned to me that she wanted a shirt like that. Take a peek of my Bumble & Dot inspired tees...
Do you see my special message I put on their shirts?

What was one of your favorite valentine's you ever received? 
Did you do something special for your kids or someone you love today? Love to hear your ideas!

Happy Heart Day!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Equal Treatment for Children

The other day all my children were playing in our basement play room and I looked at E4, thinking how cute he looked crawling around on the floor among his older siblings and it brought a smile to my face. Then another thought crossed my mind, that we really don't have too many pictures of him and I should probably go get the camera to capture some of these precious moments right now.

All this got me thinking back to about 3 1/2 years ago when I only had 1 child and was pregnant with twins. John and I would talk about making sure we made the extra effort to take many pictures of the girls even though they were 2nd and 3rd children, because we have SO MANY pictures and videos of E1 and we wanted to be fair. I am an only child so this was never really an issue in my life growing up so I have no personal experience to extract from. John is a second child, so he knows how it feels like, his older brother has so many more baby pictures than he does. When E2 and E3 arrived, we did take quite a lot of pictures and videos of them but not as many as we did with E1, life was busy with 3 kids under the age of 2, we didn't always have time to take out the camera!

Once the girls arrived, we talked about how we would make sure we are fair to all the children and do our best not to play favorites. We didn't want E1 to feel like once his sisters arrived, he wasn't important anymore since they would be getting quite a bit of attention being twins and all. For mothers of multiples out there, you know what I'm talking about. Everywhere you go, people are always staring and curious to know if they are indeed twins and if they are identical. You cannot imagine how many times we were stopped in public, especially when the girls were babies, just because people were curious and wanted a better look at them. So during the early months of the girls arrival, John would take E1 to a playground near our house for some one-on-one time with him. For the most part E1 was a very patient child and would be happy just sitting in his highchair playing with toys during those early months. In fact, secretly in the beginning, E1 was our "favorite" child, just because he was older and better at expressing himself and we had "known" him for a longer time. E2 and E3 were still new to us and it took some time to get acquainted to them, does that make any sense to other parents with more than 1 child? But of course, that was our little secret as parents and we never really let the kids know this, unless they read this in the future =P

By the time E4 arrived, our house had pretty much been "set up" for the 3 older kids. Their pictures decorate our walls and things were arranged for 3 kids, which took some rearranging and we will need to print out new pictures and redecorate some of our walls to include his pictures in the near future. Now that E4 is one and I look back at his first year, we definitely don't have as many pictures of him compared to the other 3. In fact, we even missed witnessing some of his firsts! Like when he first flipped over, it happened while we were all busy doing something and not paying attention, until we looked at him and found him on his tummy! Poor kid! Good thing we did get a video of him when he first started to crawl.

I feel bad sometimes that E4 doesn't have the same amount of pictures, videos, and at times, my attention, because I have 3 other kids to attend to. Then I realized, first of all, I can't beat myself up about it, since it is a fact of life that the 4th child probably won't get the same amount of certain things compared to his older siblings. And more importantly, I love him just as much as his siblings because he is my child! And some might even say I love him more because he is the baby and he is a great baby, really patient and not fussy, content with sitting and crawling around playing along with his brother and sisters. Only "complaint" I might have is that he still wakes up at nights which is getting to be pretty tiring for me but I know this phase will pass as well.

*Image from flickr.com

So after all this reflection, I've come to the conclusion that you can't always have the equal amount of THINGS such as pictures, videos, birthday parties, new toys for all your kids but as long as there is an equal amount of LOVE for all of them, it's all good!

Parents of multiple children, what do you do to make sure the kids are treated fairly? Any thoughts about this topic? 
Parents expecting your second child, have you thought about this topic? What are some of the things you came up with?
Parents with one child, do you have siblings? What are some of the things your parents did when you were growing up?


Monday, February 11, 2013

DIY Valentine craft: HEART!

Since H started school this year the making of valentine's for her classmates has begun. During my school years it was always fun to receive valentines. It was a simple card and maybe some conversation hearts in our cubbies. Now there are all sorts of things you can do and purchase.
Of course this year H's friends will be receiving BOJ's "You Warm Up My Heart" Valentines
(Don't forget we have FREE SHIPPING til Feb 14th!!! so check out our honeycomb store)

I also did a fun craft with H & N to give to their grandparents, aunt and uncle (my siblings).
It started with an inspiration from my kids. One day H came up to me out of the blue and  placed her hand on my chest and said "Heart!" and N quickly followed. I said "Thank you H, thank you N! What was that for?" H replied "I give you a heart mommy, because I love you!" Moments like that is what motherhood is all about.

Heavy weight paper
Paint (we used Crayola washable kids' paint)
Paint brush
Red/pink felt or construction paper

First paint child's hand with color of their choice. You can let them do it, I'm sure it's more fun for them this way. Place hand firmly on paper and slowly lift hand.
Once dry, cut out hand. Depending on the child's age, here's a chance for them to practice their cutting skills. Glue on heart and write your love note on the back.

This is sure to bring a smile to your valentine! You can even do this as a "valentine tradition" and see how your child's hand grows each year.

Who will you give your "HEART" to today? 
What are some unexpected moments in your life that made your day?


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Year of the Snake: DIY

Are you born in the year of the snake?
(2013, 2001 1989, 1977, 1965, 1953,1941)
According to Chinese myth, the animal ruling the year in which a person is born influences his or her behavior and traits.
Strengths: A deep thinker, wise and charming. Romantic, strong, intuitive, intense, passionate, and financially fortunate.
Weaknesses: Vain, selfish, a bit stingy and fickle.

My daughter has been asking me to make her a snake ever since she saw a snake plush that Zi's mom made for Quad E. So with that and Asianmommy's post on Build-A-Bear Year of the Snake plush, I got inspired and went to Joann's Fabric. I even got an extra 50% off the clearance price. I love deals like that, it was meant to be!

To start celebrating the new year here's my Year of the Snake plush. Meet "Mommy snake" as H&N call her. She is 42 inches long. And "Little snake" is 11 inches long.  It's very simple to make, the hardest part was flipping it inside out because of the fabric I used. For the tongue I used felt and beads for the eyes. If you have little ones use felt or stitch embroidery floss for the eyes.

STEP 1: Draw snake outline onto the backside of fabric. Place tongue in between fabric like this. Make sure the pattern sides are back to back.
STEP 2: Sew snake, but remember to leave a 2 inch opening in the end so you can reverse the fabric. Trim off extra fabric.
STEP 3: Flip fabric inside out and stuff will poly-fil. Sew the opening closed. Finish off by adding the eyes.
You're new year snake is born!
I was born the year of the rabbit. What animal year were you born in?

Health, happiness, prosperity and peace to you in the new year!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Valentine's Idea For Guys

Hi BOJ readers! This is Zi's husband, John. This post is for any male readers out there that may have been wondering for the past few weeks/months what to do for your girlfriend/fiance/wife for Valentine's Day. If you do not fall into this category, ie you are female, you can stop reading now, grab your S.O. and point him to this post. You can continue reading, but it'll just ruin it for you and take all the surprise away!

Ok, guys... are they gone? Some of you have really spent the last few weeks/months thinking about what to do, while the rest of you probably haven't given it much thought... until, say about, Feb. 13th. You know who you are! :) Admittedly, I've fallen into that latter category myself a few times. But shh!

Ok, here's the idea: a scavenger hunt. Yes, a scavenger hunt. The thrill of finding a prize will always please her. Just think about why she loves going shopping! "Look honey, I've just found the perfect shoe that matches my dress!" What she's really saying is, "Look honey, I've just found the perfect shoe out of all these billions of other shoes in this shoe store that matches my dress!" So yes, the scavenger hunt is an awesome idea and you can even "customize" it to make it more exciting/fun. Here's the gist of the idea:

1. First determine how many steps you want this scavenger hunt to go. Generally, you'd want it to be no less than 10 and no more than 25-30. Any less than 10 and it would seem too short. More than 25-30 and it does seem to drag on.
2. Next, when you've determined how many steps you want the "hunt" to go, tear out (cut out) that many scraps of paper. Of course you can make it as fancy as you want (you can even print out the instructions on card stock), but that's entirely up to you!
3. On one side, number the cards on the top left hand corner. And on the same side put down a story, riddle or some other reference in order to point your S.O. to the next hint. It can be as easy as, "Where we keep the extra soap" to as personal as "Remember when we played chess on the beach during our honeymoon?" (And you hide the next hint in the picture frame behind the picture of you guys playing chess on the beach during your honeymoon). How easy or hard you make it is entirely up to you... although, the harder it is the more incentive your S.O. has to...
4. Flip over the card! And this is where she will find the steps she will need to take in order to get another clue (or two). Details can be... "Stumped? Well, for just 1 hug you can get another clue!" or "... a kiss...", you get the idea. It can even be practical, "Stumped? Well, I think I forgot too... but I sure do love that strawberry smoothie you make... I'm sure I can remember another clue for the next hint with one of those!"
5. When she gets to the final card, the clue on that card should be the clue that will help her find her Valentine's Day gift... tickets to a Broadway show she's been dying to see followed by dinner. A candle-lit dinner you were secretly preparing while she was off looking for her next hint (it would help if none of the "hints" are in the dining room of course).
6. When you've finally determined where you will put all the cards and the gift, now's the time to put them in their respective spots. You keep the very first card and hand it to her on Valentine's Day. It may help to keep a list of where each numbered hint is in case YOU forget!

I remember doing these scavenger hunts for Zi on Valentine's Day after we got engaged and our first Valentine's Day after we got married. After having kids it's been harder just thinking of new ideas... if you guys have any ideas, please do share! :)


Do you have any romantic ideas for Valentine's Day? Any creative ideas for a Valentine's gift? Would love to hear from you and any Valentine's Day stories you may have had in the past that were memorable.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

DIY Chinese New Year red envelope

As a child, one of the highlights during Chinese New Year was receiving hong bao or red envelopes from my parents and relatives we visited during the new year. Usually it was filled with a few dollars but sometimes I'd be lucky and find $20 bills, that was like hitting the lottery!

I want to share an easy DIY red envelope that I created for Chinese New Year, which falls on February 10th this year. Click HERE for a free printable.

Red paper
Scissors or X-acto knife

STEP 1: Print and trim
STEP 2: Fold & glue
STEP 3: Insert "lucky money"

Join in the celebration and sharing the tradition of passing a red envelope to your child on Chinese New Year. It's suppose to bring luck to the person who gets it and to the person who gives it.

Do you have something that you do to "bring luck"?
Gung hey fat choi! May prosperity be with you!


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

DIY Red Paper Lanterns for CNY

To get the kids in the mood for Chinese New Year aka CNY, and to help make our basement playroom a bit more festive, I decided to make some easy paper lanterns with the 3 older E's recently.

Usually back in Malaysia, we would have made small lanterns out of red envelope paper and use them to decorate the small shrubs in our house but here in the US, I have a limited amount of red envelope paper so I wasn't willing to use those for this project. Instead, we just used red construction paper and I had the kids draw on them with darker shades of red hoping to add some more depth to them. This was also a great way for my 4 1/2 year old and 3 1/2 year olds to practice their paper cutting skills.

Things you will need:
1) Red construction paper
2) Sharpie or pen
3) Scissors
4) Tape or glue stick
5) Ribbon

First fold the construction paper in half length wise.
Draw cut lines, I only drew them on one side. And I did 1" away from the edge and about 1" increments but you can do whatever measurements you like.
I had my kids color on the paper before cutting but that is totally optional. You could add stickers or paint as well.
Cut along the lines that were drawn on.

Open up the construction paper and put together the 2 ends. Add tape or apply glue on the top and bottom to create the lantern.

Cut a small opening on opposite sides of the top of the lantern for the ribbon.
Thread the ribbon through the top from the outside in and knot the ends.

Voila! Your lantern is ready!

Here is a picture of the lanterns decorating the front porch of our play house.

Hope you enjoyed this super simple craft for your little ones!


Friday, February 1, 2013

"Did You Know?" #5

It seems like our "Did You Know?" series are pretty well received, so we think it'll be an on going thing for us from now on!

Well, for those of you who have been following our blog for a bit, you probably know that Eva and I are good friends that have known each other for a while. But did you know for how long exactly? It took us a while but we dug up what is most likely one of the first pictures of us "together".

As you can see from the date stamp, this was back in 1997!! Eva and I were in different church youth groups at the time but our groups had a joint outing to Longwood Gardens. Can't really say we got to know each other well at that point though, probably were more acquaintances. But boy do we look YOUNG in this picture!!

It wasn't till we met again after college when the churches that we attended had combined that we got to know each other better and found out we had really similar personalities and design tastes! I'm sure if you asked us back in 1997, we would have never imagined we would become such good friends and business partners.

And there is an extra little treat for many of our readers that know Lisa from expandng, because she is in this picture as well! If you don't know her or have never read her blog, go check it out, she is awesome!

Is there anyone in your life that you have known for a while but didn't become good friends with till after a long period of time?