Self Care – Setting Physical and Mental Health Goals

“I will take care of me for you if you will take care of you for me.” — Jim Rohn

It was the June holidays, and I thought I had all the time to do whatever I wanted. I could take El to a museum, Gar to a playground, or just let the two boys play together. Instead, I ended sick, with fever. After a few days, the fever finally subsided, but I had a cough that did not go away.

I went to my former GP, and took the medication. In the afternoon, I had a severe headache that would not go away. At night, I could not sleep at all and I felt my heart racing. The next day, I felt my head was going to burst. I ran my head under the cold water. I only felt better for a short moment.

My mother drove me to a 24-hour clinic just opposite my apartment. It was that bad that I could not even cross the road on my own. After checking the medicine and a dusty manual, the doctor said that I was probably having a bad reaction to codeine. That was one of the main ingredients in the cough mixture.

I took the new medication, but I still did not feel well enough. I went to another doctor, who gave me new medication, and after finishing the cough mixture, I was still coughing. He decided to change the medication, and this time round, I had the severe headache again. Up till today, I am not entirely sure why I had problems with certain cough mixtures.

For the next eight weeks when I had gone back to work, I was coughing all the time. I felt my sinus cavities filling up with mucus whenever I taught in the classroom. I had coughing fits, and there were lots of phlegm.

I avoided chicken (based on Chinese traditional medicine recommendations) and eggs. I avoided cooling fruits such as water melon and oranges. I ended up eating salmon with rice from the Japanese stall for the longest time. I have not eaten that dish ever since recovering.

I could not exercise, and felt breathless. I had taken my health for granted. I took herbal drinks and mixtures. I finally tried Chinese medicine, with one dosage costing $25, and after spending more than $150 for a few days worth of bitter powder, I finally recovered.

Unfortunately that led to a bad acne outbreak, something which I did not have since my awkward teen years. My flawless skin was no more, and I had lots of big angry red bumps. This was probably due to the heaty Chinese medicine, and the lack of Vitamin C.

My stamina was gone (I could only last 5 minutes in the swimming pool) and I was lethargic. I decided enough was enough, and I really needed to take good care of myself. My time with my children was limited to avoid passing the germs to them. It was a hectic term in school and I did not have enough energy for my students.

Just like what Jim Rohn said, we really need to have self care so that we would not be a burden to others. I am no superwoman. It is time to take care of myself. My children need me and my students need me. I need to be in tip top condition before I can really be there for others. I have signed up for a 100-day challenge, to finish 2014 strong, instead of waiting till 2015 to set new resolutions. I have decided on two types of health goals.

Physical Health Goals
1. Swim weekly. (The pool is just downstairs. What excuse can I use? Well, I could get myself a flattering new swimming costume because the tankini top is rolling up. I just can’t shed the post-pregnancy flab. Wait, those that I see in the nearby stores are just not nice enough.)

2. Sign up for a weekly Zumba or yoga class at a nearby Community Club. (I had procrastinated on it and some of the classes are full already. Why do I keep taking the schedule but not sign up? What am I waiting for? I guess I should find time to go off early from work. Exercise mats? I have so many playmats for my children. I could use them for my yoga poses at home.)

3. Run on the threadmill at gym at my place weekly. (I should get a new pair of exercise shoes one size bigger.)

4. Eat fruits daily. (I do that only when I am at work.)

5. Eat just enough calories and not more. (I take less rice, and avoid having two big meals at work.)

6. Go for regular facials so that I can look great. (I have already paid a fortune for lots of sessions. I just have to make sure I do not cancel.)

For my mental health goals, I shall focus on my hobbies and relaxation.

Mental Health Goals
1. Read weekly. (I get an hour and a half to myself when I wait for El to finish his Mandarin speech and drama lessons every week. I have read Singapore Noir, a really great book on fictional crimes in Singapore written in a fatalistic and sensational manner by some of the famous local writers. I am still reading The Leader In Me, about how to inculcate 7 highly effective habits in children and students.)

2. Limit my TV time. (I love to watch television, but I am more selective of the shows I watch. I like to read the synopsis ahead, to see whether the show is worth my time. Sometimes I watch cartoons with my children. Gar, my two-year-old, has watched Dinosaur Train so many times with his brother that he could say the names of those dinosaurs and name their colours before they appear. )

3. Spend time to do reflection on my work and goals weekly. (We should take time to reflect and think of how to become better.)

4. Laugh daily. (I love all the jokes and funny videos of cute animals and children. My children make me laugh with their funny quips and jokes. A happy person keeps the doctor away.)

5. Think positive. (I have improved much over the years, where I am more positive instead of negative. It is still a work in progress though.)

6. Have me time. (I realised that I have a quota of spending time with children after reading Tabitha Ferreira’s article on Mommy Needs A Time Out. I have overexcitabilities. Too much stimulation makes me uncomfortable. I spend hours in school with students, and sometimes after spending a few hours with my children at home in the evening, I just cannot wait to have my own me time. I need time to unwind, if not I will feel really frazzled.)

Well, these are my physical and mental health goals for 2014. What are yours? Share your top health goals (both physical and mental) here and be accountable for them. Check back here by the end of 2014 and see whether you have reached your goals.

This post is part of Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hops on Self Care.
Click next to view the next blog in the blog hop.

El’s Dinosaur Train Themed 5th Birthday Party

El turned 5 in October! With a few weeks before his birthday, he announced that he wanted a Dinosaur Train birthday celebration in his school. Originally he did not want, but he had changed his mind. Immediately, I started looking for bakers. I found one who had made a beautiful Dinosaur Train fondant cake, and checked whether she could make cupcakes. For the number of cupcakes I was looking at, it was so exorbitantly expensive that I might as well get a cake.

I asked my friends for suggestions. My brother gave me his friend’s contact, so I found the contact on FB and left a message. Other friends also provided contacts but I realised that his birthday was near Hari Raya Haji, so the Muslim bakers were busy. Finally, my brother’s friend from Two Bakers replied and we started communicating. I found the prices reasonable, and so I mixed and matched them.

I had 2 different 3D fondant designs. I left it up to the baker to decide, but thank goodness I had clarified with her that the dinosaurs were characters from Dinosaur Train.

I also ordered plain cupcakes with green cream acting as the grass base.

Then I searched the internet for cupcake toppers design, and found them.

How To DIY Dinosaur Train cupcake toppers
1. Find the designs online. I found free designs but cannot locate the blog right now .
2. Cut and paste them onto powerpoint slides.
3. Print out as pictures on 4R glossy photos.
printing dinosaur train pictures
4. Cut the pictures.
5. Paste the pictures on lollipop sticks, or in my case, unused Yakult sticks.

ned brachiosaurus

Gar saw them and loved them. He wanted a few.
don pteranadon peeking out from thomas the train bag

I found Don Pteranadon peeking out his bag.
gar and buddy

Then, I collected the cupcakes from Two Bakers, located at Horne Road in Jalan Basah. They were so new that they had not opened officially yet then.
cupcakes from two bakers

tiny pterandon dinosaur train 3d fondant cupcake

buddy tyrannosaurus
3D Fondant Dinosaur Train Cupcake Tiny Pterandon and Buddy Tyrannosaurus

don dinosaur topper cupcake
I gave instructions on how to put the cupcake toppers on the cupcakes, but when I saw the pictures, I realised that the teachers only gave out the sticks to the students and did not stick them on the cupcakes!

One of El’s friends liked the stegosaurus so much that he cried when he did not get it. Hence, I made one more for him.

El was extremely happy with the celebration and said the cupcake tasted yummylicious!

green tongue
We had spent a weekend trying to find dinosaur toys, dinosaur stamps and sweets for the goodie bag.

At night, we had a small celebration. El had requested for a soft toy, and he told my mother he wanted an owl.
birthday celebration at home
I had actually forgotten to give him a present, but I think he had many toys throughout the year. Originally I wanted to get him erasers with country designs, but the place I went to was out of stock.

eating cupcakes at home
I think it was after this celebration that Gar became a dinosaur train fan!

Another Hospital Stay

I was sitting in the front seat of the SCDF ambulance, and my husband was with Gar at the back. My tears were flowing nonstop and I wondered whether Gar was in serious trouble. As the driver kept pressing the buttons in front for the different sets of siren and sped through the expressway, I felt that this was even more serious than the other ambulance ride I took with my student who had complained of chest pains. (It turned out to be fake but that’s another story).

Gar was unconscious and extremely lethargic after having a febrile seizure minutes ago. We were already preparing to go to the hospital, but I decided that we should finish our dinner first, as it could be a long waiting time there. Just when I was brushing my teeth, I suddenly heard my husband shouting Gar’s name loudly. I rushed out and realised that Gar was having a fit. His eyes were lolling and he was having a convulsion.

I wanted to check my phone for what to do during a febrile seizure, but I could not find it. It was in the car. I searched for the iPad and found some information. It said to put the patient on the side. Do not shake the child. To my horror that my mother-in-law was going to put a metal spoon in his mouth. I quickly told her not to do that. My husband was afraid that Gar would bite his tongue, so he put his finger in, which he should not.

The seizure continued and we still did not know what to do. I took my husband’s phone and dialled 995. I told them that I have a two-year-old who was having a febrile fit and asked them what to do. The person immediately asked for my address. They said the ambulance would be on their way.

El did not really know what was happening and he was shouting in the room. I do not think he was affected by it. We quickly took the birth certificate and went downstairs. The person called me back and told me to put Gar straight up and prevent his tongue from falling backwards to prevent choking. I was anxious, and I told them we were downstairs already. They called again to confirm the location. Damn, almost everybody would miss our place because our block number was not obvious. I had already given additional instructions on the name of our place.

When they reached, the paramedics rushed down and asked who would be carrying the boy. They were checking his vital stats and said his temperature was 39 degrees Celsius.

Just a few days ago, we had brought Gar to a clinic on Wednesday evening. The doctor said he had a sore throat and a cough, so she prescribed liquid Ventolin. On Thursday, his cough worsened and he seemed to be having breathing difficulties. We decided to go to the A&E at KK Hospital. The doctor, who happened to be the same one who stitched El’s forehead, was our attending doctor. She said Gar had acute bronchitis and ordered him to have Ventolin puffs. Gar screamed and kicked me in the chest when we gave him the puffs using the spacer. It took 4 adults to hold him down.

The next few days, he refused to take the liquid medicine, and we had to mix with milk. Forcing down his throat did not work because he would just spit them out. He was a little more accustomed to the spacer. He also requested for a nasal spray for his runny nose, but refused oral medicine.


On Saturday morning, I noticed he was breathing extremely hard. I was very worried and took him back to the hospital. There were very few people there. The doctor said his lungs sounded clear and there was no wheezing. She ordered an x-ray for him just to see whether she had missed anything. She told us to continue with the Ventolin puffs. She said that he might have croup, which he had last year, and would probably need to go back to the hospital on Monday or Tuesday when it worsened. He would be given steroids to expand his airways, but that would not require hospitalisation.

We told her that he refused to take medication. She said there was nothing serious about his fever, especially if he appeared to be happy and jumping about, as paracetamol and brufen were mainly used to help relieve pain, and did not really bring the fever down. However, if he appeared lethargic and different, then we would have to be careful. The only way to give him medication was to use a syringe to shoot the medication into his cheek area, so that it was harder to spit it out.

After that, we went off. It happened to be some community day at the hospital, so there were acrobats on stilts.
There were some games too.
may the force be with you

acrobats on stilts

kindness bear

On Sunday, his temperature went up and down. We mixed the medication with milk, but he would not be fooled. He refused to drink the milk. In the afternoon, since I had neglected El for the past few days, and I needed to return the library books, I took him to the library. He took his time to read the books.

My husband then called and said that Gar had patches on his body and wanted to take him to the hospital. He had spidery veins surfacing all over his body. Since dinner was ready, I decided that we should eat first instead of going. My husband blamed me for delaying the trip, but in a way, I was glad that the seizure did not happen in the car. I felt terrible though.

So when we reached the hospital, the doctors and nurses were on standby and they gave him a suppository in his anus to bring his temperature down. They asked us about his history, such as when he had started walking, and whether he could speak one word or two. I told him Gar could speak in sentences now. He then asked me to go to Gar and ask Gar to identify me. Gar did not say anything.

They passed me a webpage printout on febrile seizures. This usually happens when there is a sudden spike in temperature. Basically, we should not interfere when children between six months to six years were having seizures. We should put them on the right side to let the saliva flow out and prevent them from chocking. We should not put anything into their mouth. Metal spoons may break their teeth. During a seizure, their muscles were contracting and teeth may drop out, which would be dangerous. It is not a worry that they would bite their tongues. They would be lethargic after that, and would require some rest. We should also time the length of the seizure.

It is highly likely that there might be a second seizure within 24 hours, so we need to manage the temperature. For most children, there would be no brain damage, and it would not lead to epilepsy.

We then went to the observation ward and they monitored his vital stats. When he was aroused from his sleepy state, we asked him who we were. He was able to recognise us then. He was finally admitted to the ward.

He did not require any more puffs. They would only monitor his temperature and give him medication to stop his runny nose. They would not give him cough mixture as they did not want to sedate him.

The nurse that was attending to us was extremely patient and clear in explaining what to do and what not to do during a febrile fit, and she was very gentle. As Gar preferred to have his father at night, my husband stayed until the wee hours before he headed back to rest. There was only one foldable bed. I went back to pack some clothes to stay the night.

At 7am, he woke up and played with his toys. One of his favourite dinosaur is cryolophosaurus.

It was hazy then, but the PSI cleared after in the late morning.
hazy and clear city view

Later on, my mother and helper came. Both did not sleep well as they were quite shocked. The doctors only came after 12pm. I guess there were many cases requiring admission over the weekend and there was a backlog. When he came, the consultant asked the MO to hear the breathing. I overheard him questioning whether he had heard correctly.

I went back to rest in the afternoon. They found him some toy cars to sit in to push him around and he was delighted.
mini car

At night, four adults had to pin Gar down in order to get him to take zyrtec. He had no problem with the paracetamol suppositories. He was on the mend and started talking loudly. We had to tell him to be quiet.

As my husband had to go back to work, he left. I was alone with Gar. During Gar’s previous hospital stay, I was the one who stayed with him all the nights as I was still nursing him. This time, he woke up at 2.15am, and as usual wanted his father. He cried loudly, and kept asking to go out. He wanted his father. I walked outside with him, and then back in. He continued crying, and I called my husband for SOS. He was prepared to come down.

A nurse finally came in and switched on a nearby light. Gar was taken aback when she asked him to sleep. He then finally wanted some milk, and finally decided to sleep in my arms. I then told my husband that he did not need to come down. He finally allowed me to put him back on the bed at 2.50am. I was totally exhausted by then.

Thinking the consultant and doctors would be late, I decided to go back to shower in the morning first before coming back, but my mother called when I was on my way back that Gar could be discharged. She had forgotten to ask for suppositories and the nurse said I had to wait for an hour. This boy was already itching to go back, and my mother had already delayed him by getting him a tub of dinosaur toys.

We finally left. Thank goodness he did not have to go on IV drip as we managed to get his water intake up. The previous night had seen two to three dry diapers with his milk refusal.

I went to three places before I found the suppositories. The nurse told me to get 150 mg or something, but there was only 125 (for babies) and 250 for children. However, the stores only had 125, so I got that. They had given him 2 pieces. Sigh, if only he did not refuse to take medicine this time round.

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