Dear SAHM, you impact the world…

Children running with the wind.

When I made the decision to be a stay-home mom, I was terrified and clueless. I wondered if my time at home was worthwhile (I still do at times). Most say, leaving your job before 30 is career suicide.

Like many young women, I had dreams of making a difference for God. Going into the marketplace and impact the world for His glory. Isn’t that what we often hear from the pulpit?

Instead of important business meetings and nailing that presentation, my priorities become getting through today’s Chinese lesson and laundry while also buying groceries and Popsicle sticks for my kid’s craft.

I start to feel like my all-consuming tasks aren’t very important…

How can I use my gift to serve Him? How can I be missional as a SAHM?

True, I’m making a difference in my family. However, can I impact MORE than just my family?

Yes, you can.

Almost a year ago, I was chatting with an ex-colleague over WhatsApp. We’ve been keeping in contact now and then. In our conversation, she made a remark: “Zuo Ren Hen Nan” (translates: ‘Making’ a person is very difficult).

Curious, I probed further and found that she and her husband have been trying to have a baby. And yet, each time, they were left disappointed.

Her heartache plucked at my heartstrings. I went through a journey of anticipation as well. I’m fully aware of the emotional roller-coaster it has been for her as a woman and a wife. We shared our woes and fears. I assured her that I’ll be praying for her.

A few months later, I received good news from my friend. She was expecting! We rejoiced  and “hugged” over WhatsApp. Unfortunately, our rejoice turned into mourning as she suffered a miscarriage. I couldn’t help but cry alongside.

There were the “whys”, “hows” and “what if”…we can never understand why it happened. But I know God is sovereign and He holds our future in his hand. It wasn’t easy for me to convey God’s peace amidst the sadness; as we share different faith.

Through the weeks following, I did what I knew was best for them. Giving them time to grieve and reminding them that all is not lost.  Their precious one is in heaven, safe with Abba Father.  Although, we may never comprehend why such tragedy must take place, God has His perfect plan in His perfect time. We put our trust in Jeremiah 29:11:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

I recalled the snippet from “Heaven is for Real” – a little boy’s astounding trip to heaven and back. He speaks of meeting his unborn sister that died in a miscarriage whom no one had told him about. I hope by sharing this story, the couple will be somewhat comforted.

In one prayer session, I saw a vision of my friend and her husband. She was lying in a hospital bed, carrying a baby swaddled in blue cloth.

Seeing such vision isn’t a common thing for me…I wasn’t sure if it was all in my head or a psychological phenomenon. After much deliberation and prayer, I decided to step out in faith. “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26)

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. 

I told my friend of my vision and assured her that in God’s perfect timing, she will have a baby boy.

Months passed…I didn’t hear from my friend. Nevertheless, they were always in my prayers.

Finally, I received a message that she passed the first trimester. Praise God! And the baby’s gender? A boy! Their baby’s name means “God has given”.

Isn’t God amazing?

guide

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Pray for the Holy Spirit to help you.  You’ll never know whom God sends in your way. It could be that cashier whom you meet when you do your weekly grocery…the old lady who lives beside you…the child who plays with your children at the playground.

See how a shy child light up when you tell him God will use him; even when he has a quiet character. God created him just as he is for a purpose. And that it is okay if he needs time to warm up new environment or people.

While being a SAHM means being with your kids 24/7, we still impact the world. Not only through our children but every single soul we meet. God has you right where you are for a reason.  

YOU are important. And YOU can impact the world from where you are.

Read Aloud Books by Karen Kingsbury: Father-Daughter / Mother-Son Bond

Daddys-Princess-Book-Review-Karen-Kingsbury-Homeschool-Crafts.jpg

Does your little girl look to her Daddy as if he’s her superhero? Does your little boy make footprints in your heart?

Written by Karen Kingsbury, this set of books make a lovely read for your little boy and girl. I love the fact that there’s one for little boys and their mother, and another for little girls and their father. It is especially useful for us!

“Whatever You Grow Up to Be” documents a mother-son bond from infant to adulthood. Each page shows a life stage in the boy’s life, and his mother is always there to celebrate and encourage him along the way.

Now that I am a mother to a boy, I can fully relate to the story as I too, desire my boy to grow into the man that God has designed him to be.  Life is filled with endless possibilities and God has a special plan for him – whatever he grows up to be.

I’m reminded that these sleepless nights, leg-hugging moments, the whining and banging on your toilet door, the endless piles of food-stained laundry….is only for a season.

I have only but this season to influence my children; the values and lessons we impart last for a lifetime.

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“Always Daddy’s Princess” is the perfect book for little girls and their Daddies.  Hannah enjoys snuggling up with Daddy while reading this whimsical book (filled with lots of purple and pink too!).

Similar to “Whatever You Grow Up to Be”, the girl’s father is always there for her, in every stage of her life.  From tea parties to soccer games to boys and her wedding, she is her Daddy’s princess every moment.

The book provided a meaningful opportunity for Daddy to discuss with Hannah about life’s journey, God, her husband-to-be…and how she will always be important to Mama and Daddy.

Although it’s written in a Christian content, the stories will tug the heartstrings of any parent and child reading them.

Grab your copy at your nearest public library or bookstores. It’s a keeper. 😉

Late Talking: Looking Beyond the Mom Guilt and Whys

Over the past 5 months, our family struggled with a myriad of emotions.

My son who just turned 20 months hasn’t been speaking much. A lot of moms tell me that boys just develop at a slower pace. A part of me thought I was simply paranoid.

But something didn’t seem right when Elijah who was calling “Daddy”, “Mama”, “Jie Jie” (big sister in Chinese) suddenly stopped calling and spoke nothing.  He points to what he wants and scream when we don’t get him. He often try to drag us to the places he wants to go and grab our hands to show us what he wants.

As the main caregiver, one could imagine the kind of questions that went through my mind.

“Was it because of a head injury?” Elijah has always been an active child. He’s always climbing, running and prying into things.

“Could it be something I ate?” I wondered if the sashimi or caffeine I took affected my milk.

“Did I not pay enough attention to him?” The grandparents said this when they noticed Elijah’s lack of words.

A month ago, I finally had the courage to bring him to a friend who is a speech therapist for evaluation. She recommended some exercises to do with him, as she noticed he had difficulty focusing his attention.

Following that, I did more research.  I was now in “panic” mode. The red flags stated for Autism, Apraxia and ADD were relatively similar to Elijah’s situation.

I started to dread bedtime because my mind would try to reason for an answer in the stillness of the night. I was weary physically and spiritually. My pillow soaked in tears each night.

I had naturally assumed that talking would come quickly for Elijah because Hannah started talking early. By 18 months, she was already communicating fluently with us.

While I kept searching for the “why’s”, I persisted with my home exercises with Elijah. Things didn’t seem to improve after nearly a month. In fact, it seemed worse. He had more meltdowns and with that my firstborn felt left out. She started acting out more.

I tried to tell her that I needed more one-on-one time with her brother. Though it surely ain’t easy for someone whose love language is quality time to accept this.

She feels that Elijah is robbing away her time with her mother. And sometimes wish for her brother to go away. My heart broke when I heard those words.

Late talking: Siblings

I’m on my knees everyday. Asking for an answer. Praying for more love and understanding within the family. I couldn’t understand what God wanted us to learn.  I couldn’t understand why a perfect God allowed imperfection to enter into our lives. I am drained. I’ve ran out of logic.

By end of 3 weeks, I decided to bring Elijah to an ENT specialist to have his hearing checked.

The session was expensive because we didn’t seek a referral. But I knew I shouldn’t delay things. This nagging feeling of having his ears checked have been on my mind.

It turns out that it was a right decision. Elijah has impacted ear wax in both ears which affects his hearing (approx 10-20 decibels). We had the ear wax removed; terrifying experience for Elijah.

He then went for a hearing test. Results were positive. He has no hearing problems. The ENT specialist recommended a developmental pediatrician to evaluate Elijah’s development.

In the meantime, the husband reminded me of the upcoming church retreat in 2 weeks time.  I wasn’t looking forward to it having much dissonance within.

A week before we left for Malaysia, Elijah called out “Papa”.  My husband and I stared at each other in amazement.  He finally spoke something again!

I waited expectedly for more words. Nothing came.

The theme for our retreat was “Love Beyond Reason”. Dr. Peter Tan-chi of Christ’s Commission Fellowship was one of the guest speakers.  His sermons resonated most with us.  His sharing about his daughter’s tragedy; of pain and restoration were inspiring and compelling.

Did I receive a word from God during the camp?  No.  But I’m beginning to understand what Mother Teresa said:

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.

Mother Teresa

I do not know how our journey will unfold; how God will write Elijah’s life story.  Please pray together with us while we cling on to God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11

P/s: Elijah called “Mama” on the third day of our retreat, right after our service!  His every word spoken becomes so precious to me…

Happy Mother’s Day 2016

Happy Mother's Day 2016

Every year, on Mother’s Day, we thank our mothers for their selflessness and love. Although, we mothers, often question our choices and how we fall short of the idealistic image of a perfect mom.

Just a couple of days ago, a friend and I lamented about the weariness of raising a family.  We wondered why we chose to leave our careers and raise children who drive us insane.  There are times when we are envious of yummy mummies who get to dress up, wear high heels and still have time to head to the gym while we, in sweat-soaked tees, chase after monkeys children in our Mary Janes.

It is an intense period of hard work: physically, mentally and emotionally.  Often sleep deprived, we continue to entertain the little people in chirpy voices, singing the same song every time they say: “Sing again, Mama! We want to hear it.” and reading the same story until we’re able to rattle off every sentence without looking at the page.

On top of that, we handle “Hulk” moments a.k.a. spontaneous meltdowns and skilful negotiations.

Throw in cleaning, washing, cooking and picking up Lego pieces.

All these at an average of 12 hours a day. Every day.

Clearly, this isn’t going to end anytime soon.  So what’s a mother to do?

God reminds me that my children are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalms 139:14)

Look past the “Hulk” moments, the fidgeting as if they had ants in their pants, and past the “you can’t catch me…” even though you specifically told them to stop…

Those little hands and legs….their heart….them.

They are God’s masterpieces.

Fearfully and wonderfully made
Source: Darlene Schacht (Time-warp Wife)

It is extremely difficult to keep thinking the good when faced with a terrible, no good, very bad day.  It’s almost impossible to think that your child is God’s masterpiece when he/she is screaming right in your face.

The good news is, we aren’t to do everything on our own.  God promises us to be the source of help. (Psalms 73:26)  God is faithful. He will never give us more than what we can bear. (1 Cor 10:13)

God is the strength of my heart
Source: be-the-change via model me girl

As for my friend and I, we concluded we would make the very same choices, when given a second chance.

So why bother having such a conversation when the choice remains clear?  I’m not sure.  Perhaps, it’s just one of those things we had to talk it out of our system. 🙂

To you, weary mom who ask yourself the same question and yet raise your children anyway, Happy Mother’s Day!

Not forgetting you, yummy mummy, Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother's Day 2016

 

Unstuck: Looking Outward

Fly AwaySource

After much blog silence,  I’m back.  From my previous post, “Sitting on a Seesaw with God“, things hasn’t changed drastically but I’ve learned a lot (and still am learning) from this period of waiting.

Look beyond our problems

I’m starting to look outward and beyond the problems at hand.  One day, when I no longer feel the weight of the problem, then perhaps I might come to realise that the problem no longer exists.

Change your thoughts and you change your world.

Norman Vincent Peale

Count our blessings

Rather than focusing on the things that I have no control over, I’ve begun to thank God for the little things.  Like rejoicing the very breath that we hold!

Give and be an encouragement

Charles Dickens’ once said,

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.

Often, I’m stumped by situations at home: how can I get the children to eat better? What can I do to make Elijah sleep through?  How do I juggle homeschool and housework when I feel so drained?

Now, I try to pay more attention to people around me.  Praying for others and just being there for another really helps put things in perspective.  And well, reminds me that God hears my prayers.

Self-care is important

Most stay-home moms will agree that we tend to put our family first and neglect ourselves.  During this time, I’m reminded that self-care is equally important.

As Elijah continues to wake up at night, I don’t get quality sleep.  To get a good head start in the morning, I’ve started to turn in early.  That means, sacrificing my blogging hours. So I need to accept that there might come a time when no one reads my blog (except for my ever supportive husband!)

Also, I’ve been watching my diet.  I try to practice proper nutrition by snacking healthily (less chocolates!) and exercising whenever possible.

God is always constant

Above all else, I remember that God is always constant.  His love endures forever.  What He says, He will do.

To you, in need of an encouragement, do not be dismayed.

Your entire life is already written out in His master plan.  Take heart!

He hears your cries and saves your tears.  God will never leave you nor forsake you.

Hallelujah!

Sitting on a Seesaw with God

Source: jmettraux via Flickr CC

I’ve been silent for a couple of weeks. I have been contemplating whether to post this; it’s scary to be honest.

There’s an inner struggle within me. I’ve been seeking answers; hoping for solutions and having radio silence from God for a short period feels like forever…

Have you been through a dry period?

It doesn’t help when current reality shoves its ugliness in your face. When you’re feeling drained and weary, and things aren’t looking your way. You try to talk things out but “good advice” often feels like boiling water splashed over your wounded soul.

“Did you pray about it?”, “Oh, I’m just blessed that God heard my prayers…”, “Maybe you should pray like this…”

Of course, I’ve prayed a zillion gazillion times! Am I lacking in faith? Is there really a right prayer?

It gets to a point where I’m afraid to pray. Afraid I’d be upset with God when things seem worse after praying.

Like, I prayed for the baby to sleep a longer period at night. Instead I get woken up every hour or two.

As I rock him to sleep, my mind replays every little detail that happened during the day to figure out what went wrong: “Could it be this…. Or maybe…”

Have you experienced this before?

Source: Debbie via Flickr CC

When everything makes no sense, and I’m tired of gritting my teeth and dealing with things.

Right there, I’m back with God again. Surely there’s got to be some end to all these?

Over the past days, I am reminded:

Amidst the confusion and anxiety, He is God.

Amidst the weariness and mundane, He is God.

Amidst the loneliness and disappointment, He is God.

He has borne it all on the cross.

That is undeniable.

Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

Isaiah 53:4

I’m still in the process of reconciling my inner struggle.  Your prayers are much appreciated.

Reflections of a Mom: Hannah Turns 4!

Happy Birthday, Hannah

Just like that…my little girl turns 4! It’s crazy how children grow up right before your very eyes.  As I posted pictures of our birthday celebration, I looked back at those taken several months ago.  And boy, did I realised how much Hannah has grown! Not just her outward appearance, but also her budding maturity.  I guess, sometimes, we get so caught up with the everyday that we haven’t had the time to stop, look back and see the progress we’ve made.

Of course, as I reflect on the days, I can’t help but have regrets and guilt.  I wish I’m able to spend more time alone with her.  I wish I didn’t say some things I’ve said out of anger.  I wish I could take back some of my actions.  I wish I could have done more.

But what’s done cannot be undone.  I pray for strength to overcome the challenges I face within myself.  I pray for wisdom for the days ahead.  I pray for love…love that keeps us going day by day.

Over the weekend when we celebrated Hannah’s birthday with her Sunday School friends, her teachers (at least 2 of them) assumed I baked the birthday cake.  I was embarrassed to tell them that it was done by my friend.  That guilt of “I should be doing everything” haunts me every now and then.

As I search within myself.  I’ve come to realised that being a good mother isn’t about doing everything on your own.  It’s about seeking help when you need to.  It’s okay that I don’t bake or sew…and that I’m guilty of having takeouts every now and then.  But that doesn’t stop me from me a good mom.

In fact, I’m a GREAT mother to my children.  Simply because I am THEIR mother..there is no other.  No one can take that special place in my children’s heart.

Hello Hannah

As I thought about the things I wanted to pen down, the words to Lee Ann Womack’s “I hope you dance” filled my mind.  So I shall make the lyrics of the song as my closing.

To my firstborn, my little princess…

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger,
May you never take one single breath for granted,
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed,
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.

I hope you dance….I hope you dance.

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance,
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin’ might mean takin’ chances but they’re worth takin’,
Lovin’ might be a mistake but it’s worth makin’,
Don’t let some hell bent heart leave you bitter,
When you come close to sellin’ out reconsider,
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.

Dance….I hope you dance.
I hope you dance….

How Do I Carry On?

Turned Upside Down: Homeschool Crafts

I’ve been very quiet as life’s been turned upside down.  After the Lunar New Year, everyone in the family came down with a bad bug. Baby had the worst hit.  He was terribly sick for more than 2 weeks; coughing so hard every night and unable to drink well due to his blocked nose.  We had to see the pediatrician every 2 days for suction.  Nights were long and Hannah was often awoken from Elijah’s cries.  Nobody had a good sleep for several weeks…that didn’t help with our recovery at all.

Besides dealing with sickness, we’ve been having discipline issues with Hannah.  Probably the lack of good sleep made things far worse than it is, but every day at some point, there would be disobedience or outright defiance.  People often talked about the terrible twos.  For me, it’s the frightening fours (well, soon-to-be).

Every evening, I’d be so exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally.  I have little energy to blog, prepare curriculum or as a matter of fact, do anything at all.  I’ve stopped homeschooling to focus on appropriate behaviour, getting as much rest as I can, and keeping the house clean to stop the flu bug.

Baby Smile: Homeschool Crafts

Things were seemingly better until today.  Right now, Elijah’s down with fever.  Hannah got into trouble this week.  I just snapped.

I can’t hold back my tears.  I’m at a loss.  How do I carry on from here?

I’m stuck in a rut.  Desperately searching for answers but finding none.

Happy Winter Solstice (冬至节快乐)

Happy Winter Solstice!

Today is dong zhi 冬至 or Winter Solstice Festival.  It’s known to be the longest night of the year, depending which part of the world you reside in.  Singapore is one degree north of the equator so while we still get a shorter day, it barely makes any difference.

Nevertheless, it’s still celebrated by many Chinese families here.  It’s a time to get together and enjoy the evening eating tang yuan 汤圆 (glutinous rice balls).

These brightly coloured rice balls literally mean “round dumplings in sweet soup”, and symbolise family unity.  They may be plain or filled with paste, and eaten with either sweet or savoury soup.

We bought ours from the supermarket instead of making them from scratch.  The glutinous balls were made by a local company, “Chinatown”.  We bought those stuffed with peanut paste and cooked with ginger soup base.

Winter Solstice - Glutinous Rice Balls

It was a simple family fare but we enjoyed ourselves.  No prepared activities, no lesson plans, just basking in the warmth of family.  Happy Winter Solstice!

A happy family is but an earlier heaven.

George Bernard Shaw

Let It Go…

Let it Go: life at home with a newborn

Let it go, let it go…

Incidentally, as I was thinking of a title for today’s post, I realised it’s been a year since the movie, “Frozen” was premiered.  But the craze hasn’t fade away…(please just melt away!)

It’s hard for me to let go of stability. For the past month or so, I try to get my life back to “normal”.  Under the DiSC profile, I’m high on “S” (steadiness). People with “S” style often dread changes and loss of stability.  We expend much energy to adapt quickly to change and multitasking.

I’m adapting to how we homeschool now. I try to pick up where we’ve stopped. In the past, I plan specifically what I want to do for the week.  Now, we follow the lesson plans quite loosely.

These activity books have come in handy on (many) days when I just have no energy to do anything.  It’s another way to spend time with Hannah while feeding Elijah.  We do craft, revise our bible stories, learn Mandarin and Math with these books.

Preschool activity books for homeschooling

I’m learning to let go of our homeschool routine too.  Instead of having lessons in the morning, we have pockets of short lessons.  Often our lessons are disrupted by Elijah’s cries.  And though I try to wrap up our lesson before attending to Elijah, it isn’t easy for Hannah to pay attention (and me to give my attention) with a crying baby in the background.

After 3 weeks of staying home, I was excited to bring Hannah to meet our friends again and re-join our co-op.  But I’ve realised much haste meant less progress.  My stitches didn’t heal nicely, and I’m home bound again. 😦

Plus, the recent wet season meant more stay in too. It can get quite crazy staying home all day so  I try to bring the children to the playground before 9am and stay home in the afternoons, when it usually rains.

Then we do things like finger (or hand) painting…

Wet-weather activity: finger painting

…making gift cards for Christmas. Hannah enjoys stamping with Ikea’s Mala stamp pen.

Planning for Christmas: Stamping gift cards

And colour coordinate clothes for her baby brother.  By the way, this is a great way to revise one-to-one correspondence and colours.

Coordinating clothes for the newborn

All in all, I’m taking baby steps to adapt to changes.  Sometimes, it can be overwhelming.  It feels as if I’ve exhausted all my energy but I’m completely clueless as to what I’ve accomplished.

To help ease my anxiety and assure myself that things are moving, I start by tackling one task at a time.  Setting a to-do checklist helps too.

If all else fails, I take a deep breath…and just focus on the task at hand.  Then end the day with a hot Milo and reminding myself: things will only get better.

How do you cope with changes? How do you find your sense of balance amidst the chaos?