Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Looking back -- 2015 and 2016

Since my last post here, there have been many events, activities, milestones that I've yet to record, more for myself to remember. I'm glad that Facebook has this Facebook Memories feature that reminds you of what you posted on the exact same date one, two or however many years ago since you joined FB (as long as you didn't delete the old posts).

Today, FB reminded me that two years ago on 4th January 2015, it was the first day of school.  This year, the school term started yesterday.

In 2014, Caitlin started her secondary education in a new school. It is actually what we call a 'learning centre', which is quite a common thing now in Malaysia. Learning centres are privately set up places that run like a school but on a smaller scale. These 'schools' offer private education -- international school curriculum, mostly the UK-based curriculum, although there are some which offer USA-based ones using various homeschooling curriculum, Australian-based or religious-based ones. Unlike full-fledged international schools that charge very high school fees, these learning centres are more affordable. They, however, do not come with expatriate teachers, fancy facilities like tennis courts, Olympic-size pools, large teaching and admin staff, broad spectrum of extra curricular activities and elective subjects. For parents who can't afford exorbitant school fees yet have decided to opt out of the public school system, they would either homeschool their children themselves at home (it has caught on and grown quickly here), or look to such learning centres for adequate coverage of academic subjects and extra-curricular activities without the fancy frills.

When C started in this learning centre for Year 7 in 2014, I was offered a teaching position in the pre-school section in June 2014. It was my first time going back to a full-time job after nine years of staying at home. As the assistant teacher to a class of 25 five-year-old children, it proved to be too much. The hours were long and the salary didn't match the work and stress involved, simply because the industry norms are such in this country. The class teacher I was assisting took advantage of having me as her assistant, the school despite not having a qualified special needs teacher, accepted a special needs student in that class. Needless to say, after two months, I decided to quit because I couldn't stand the stress -- more time was spent in trying to manage disruption, scolding, punishing, than providing a caring and conducive learning environment.

However, I remained as a subject teacher where I focused on teaching the children phonics reading on a one-on-one basis. That continued for a little over 1.5 years, until February 2016 when I decided it wasn't worth my time and energy traveling twice -- for my work and then to fetch C, as her school hours were different from mine.

My voluntary work at church, which I started in late 2013, was also taking up some of my time, in addition to the existing commitment of writing a fortnightly column since 2012.

Fast forward to the present, three years later....what took place in between has been shared mainly in this post. So now I'm sharing from where I left to fill in some gaps for 2015/6.

Highlights of 2015 and 2016 in pictures:

April 2015 was when Eugene turned 50. We had a family feast at home with his family.


My two nieces from USA came to Malaysia for a visit in June/July 2015. It was good spending time with them for some cousin bonding! Precious moments to cherish.


Thirty years after we left Form 5, our class organised a reunion in November 2015. About a third of the class made it for the reunion where we visited our old school and had hi-tea at the Majestic Hotel in Malacca.



Right after we graduated from university, four of us gal pals made a trip to Pulau Besar in Malacca. In November 2015, 20 years later, we decided to re-live our trip by getting together in Bentong for two nights of food and relaxation. It took some planning between the four of us busy bees to find a suitable date but we made it!


In December 2015, my church held is bi-annual Christmas Cantata. Caitlin and I participated in the one in 2013 but this time, only I took part, singing in the alto section.


Also in December 2015, Caitlin passed her Grade 3 drum exam with distinction, and performed in her music school's annual concert. Since then, she has moved on to Grade 5 and has also taken up the electric guitar.


In late 2015, Eugene and I attended the Alpha Parenting course at my church, culminating with the final session in Teluk Intan in January 2016 as my Pastor had been transfered there in December 2015. It was a good time of getting together with the fellow parents of this course, our children and a few other church members who came along to join us in visiting our pastor and playing tourist in Teluk Intan. This pictures show us at the leaning tower of Teluk Intan.



In February 2016, we celebrated Chinese New Year. Every year, we would have the reunion dinner and also spend the first day of CNY with Eugene's side of the family. On the second day, we went to my parents' home and feasted again.



In March 2016, Caitlin wanted to add on a cymbal to her drum kit, so we encouraged and helped her to raise funds for the purchase by baking and selling chocolate and coffee chip cookies. She did all the baking and I helped with advertising, packaging and delivery. After some sweat and agony of hard work, she made quite a fair bit of money, and with the pocket and angpow money she had saved, she managed to get what she wanted.



In March 2016, we went to Penang to attend Eugene's cousin's wedding. I decided to take the opportunity to meet up with old friends from my university days whom I had not seen for many years. Some of them bought Caitlin's cookies!


In April 2016, Caitlin participated in the 4 X 100m event in her school's Sports Day. Her team emerged with the silver medal.


In May 2016, Caitlin and I went to Malacca for my church Family Camp. We had a good time of learning and fun, which included a walking treasure hunt around the historical area.



During the June 2016 school holidays, Caitlin and I took a trip to Cherating, and left Eugene at home to toil in the office ;-p We made a pit stop in Kuantan for lunch before proceeding to Club Med. Before checking in, we visited the Turtle Sanctuary located beside the resort. we spent four days relaxing and participating in some of the activities. Caitlin joined the Teens' Club and made friends with other teens, participated in outdoor activities like archery and swinging (or rather falling!) on the trapeze. I enjoyed the open space, greenery, beach, a short hike up a hill, the nightly shows, the food and the long drive to and fro. We also went kayaking together.


June 2016 included the Chinese Dumpling Festival. We were invited to the home of a church member to join a few families in some fun, making the rice dumplings from scratch, and learning how to assemble, wrap and tie up the dumplings with leaves and strings. It was hard work trying to get them in the right shape and tying them up correctly.


 My dad celebrated his 77th birthday in August 2016. We didn't have a big party so it was just a small slice of cake and coffee one Sunday afternoon when he and mum visited us in KL.


We also made a trip to Ipoh in August 2016 to join the extended family of Eugene's mum in celebrating his aunt and uncle's 70th birthday. It was a big gathering of the clan and a reunion of sorts, as aunt and uncle came all the way from Seattle to celebrate with family. Other aunts, uncles and cousins also made the effort to come from Seattle, Japan, Penang, and Kuala Lumpur.


In September 2016, we joined my younger brother and his family on an impromptu visit to Legoland. It was our first time there so we had great fun at the theme park, on the rides, looking at all the marvelous Lego-built stuff and going on all the water slides repetitively.


In mid 2016, I began exploring other part-time jobs and found one in teaching a six-year-old how to read during his summer holidays. After seven weeks of reading with him daily on weekdays, he improved his reading skills and made me a thank-you card before he went back to school in September.



In October 2016, Caitlin turned 14. It was another party at home with family and the highlight was the pandan jelly cake from the famous bakery in Klang whose owner was the creator of this cake (that's been duplicated and sold by others over the years).


The picture below shows three good old friends who have known each other since they were eight. There are a few more of us in this 'gang' but they are currently living in other countries. We try to meet up at least once a year to catch up so we managed to do so in October 2016 at a coffee and cake place in The Atria, Damansara, chatting and exchanging notes about parenting our teenage and young-adult children.


Caitlin's school year, her third year (Year 9) at the learning centre, ended in November 2016 with the customary year-end concert to celebrate the students' achievements. Her class presented a song-and-dance performance. This picture is of her with her school mates singing an action song at the finale. This year, she enters Year 10 to start her IGCSE O Level studies until next year.....How quickly they grow up.....



The year-end school holidays in November 2016 began with us hosting two wonderful homeschooled children for a few days while their parents attended a conference away from home. We had lots of fun doing stuff together like baking cookies, making jelly, playing with Rusty, and best of all, forming a mini band to present a song to their mum as a birthday surprise. Children are fun to be with and they learn and adapt so quickly. Within a few practices, they got the song right.



December is always a busy month with church and family activities centred around Christmas. December 2016 was not any different as I conducted carolling practice at church for our carolling visits to members' homes and the Wesley Home for the old folk. The Ongs also continued with the family tradition of attending midnight mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Klang, followed by midnight supper of roast lamb and chicken before opening presents till the wee hours of the morning. The 2016 Christmas family photo theme was 'Christmas in white'; idea credit goes to Eugene.



In early December 2016, ACE made a trip to Penang to 'jalan jalan, cari makan'. It was four days of foodie adventure and we ate to our hearts' content. We also did the necessary street art tour and visited an upside down 'museum', featuring an upside down house where we could pose for silly shots.





Last but not least, I must not leave out my faithful and loyal boy, Rusty, our four-legged furkid who celebrated his 8th birthday on 1st November 2016. As  he gets older, he tends to have some skin problems every now and then so he's been rather clean shaven these days compared to the past. He continues to enjoy being by my side wherever I may be at home. If he is not snoozing, he would be nudging me for pats and food, of course.





And finally, we've come to the end of this post chronicling the highlights of 1.5 years' worth of our lives. It took me the entire morning, right into my lunch time to search for the pictures from my unorganised folders, mobile phone and Facebook to compile them chronologically here. I hope I'm better organised in 2017!!

Friday, March 13, 2015

After 10 years at home

This blog
I wrote the very first post in this blog on 20 March 2007, and up to the post before this one, there had been 797 others in the span of eight years. It covered a mish mash of topics, but mainly about things that matter to me i.e. my child, family, things we did, places we visited, my weird thoughts and feelings. In the early days of my blog, when my life was very focused on growing my toddler, I wrote several posts a day. As time passed and things changed, it was reduced to one post a day, one post a week, one post a fortnight, then one post a month and now, it looks like it's one post a year! One post a year is the very least I should do, so I'm writing one now as March appears to be a significant month when I left my 13-year career in corporate communication in March 2005, making it 10 years already now.

The past year, 2014, and present 2015
A few important and significant events and achievements I can remember off-hand right now:

Family Travels
During the March 2014 school holidays, we made a short trip to Ipoh. Besides enjoying Ipoh's yummy food, we visited Lost World of Tambun. The rides there were nothing to shout about, but we enjoyed its closeness to the limestone hills, and soaking in the hot spring.



We went on our very first cruise to Phuket and Krabi in May 2014 on Star Cruises. It was a fun and educational family holiday.

In November 2014, we spent a few days by the beach in Penang, savoured hawker fare, got C hooked on 'ice kacang', and attended a relative's wedding at the Blue Mansion. We drove on the Second 'Crooked' Bridge for the very first time, visited Penang Hill and the 3D Museum.


In February 2015, we travelled to Seremban and Melaka for Chinese New Year.

Caitlin
C switched to a new school in January 2014, and began her first secondary school year. It took off on a bad note with a class bully targeting her. It was a rough patch which tested our perseverance and wisdom as parents. After a few dramatic incidents and the dismissal of the student, the rest of the school year moved on generally well. She joined her school floorball team and participated in two tournaments, both with victory, considering the team was only less than two months old. She continues to attend training every week.


She also performed a solo 'Hairspray' number in the year-end school concert. She and her friends practised hard singing and dancing with the guidance of good teachers. She also won 'Best Achievement' awards for English (her favourite subject) and ICT.



C still plays the drums and is into her seventh year making a ruckus at home when she practises. She is into her second year playing in church two Sundays a month. She also started vocal lessons.

In November, C insisted on adopting a rescued pup from Malaysian Dogs Deserve Better, much against our desire for practical reasons. We relented hoping that she would learn to be less self-centred and more responsible. We are still hoping *grit teeth and grin*. She named the pup Mocha. Mocha is a thriving, up-to-mischief, active six-month-old now.


Eugene
E remains in his current job and continues to be the main breadwinner for our little family. He took up cycling seriously and had spent a considerable amount of time and money on this renewed interest, cycling with a group every weekend. He participated in his first 'century ride' (100 miles) in Trengganu. He has signed up for another century ride this May 2015 in Perak.


He is also exercising regularly by running on the treadmill, and for short distances with the dogs when he walks them in the evenings. Next, he would probably consider swimming...and the Ironman Triathlon, maybe?? As work and exercise take up most of his time, the rest is spent exercising his fingers on the TV remote, iPad or mobile phone....but he also spends a considerable amount of time picking up where I left off (the Cantonese would say 'mo ngan thai' or 'no eye see') in dealing with a strong-willed teenager, talking about stuff and giving pep talks at the dining table.

Anna
Ten years at home. And to say my oft-said phrase, time flies. In the span of 10 years, I have, and am still, raising a girl who is quite like me in some ways (strong-willed and opinionated to say the least); therefore I continue to struggle with constant battles of knowing when to release and when to pull in the kite strings. Parenthood is a treacherous yet weirdly fulfilling journey. All other responsibilities as a cook, chauffeur, housekeeper, administrator, nurse, teacher, gardener, laundrywoman, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, aunt, sister, etc., remain unchanged.

In 10 years, I have earned some supplementary income, mainly through writing and writing-related work. I tried making money by blogging and writing sponsored posts but discovered it just wasn't me to write stuff I wasn't interested in simply to earn some peanuts. It was different when I was in employment to do that. So I turned to writing about stuff I like. I had a fortnightly parenting column in a local daily for two years. Then I shifted to a different column under a pseudonym, and am still doing so. In between, I got random assignments to write interviews, website articles on parenting and educational subjects, transcribing and proofreading.

In June 2014, I was approached by C's principal to teach at their kindergarten. As I enjoyed being around children, and given the opportunity to teach them how to read, I accepted the offer. It started off quite uncomfortably with assisting a rather bossy co-worker, and other unexpected additional work, but progressed well with me becoming a part-time teacher, responsible for teaching reading only. As the timing and travel arrangements were not practical, I stopped teaching last month. Next month, I shall be helping a few kindergarten and primary school children in that school, guiding them with their homework in the afternoon. This arrangement would be better for me.

I am resuming my interest in reading books, not just articles on the internet. It is about time as I feel totally guilty hoarding books but never making the time to read them. So this month, being in-between jobs, I've managed to read three books and have started another one.

In the past three years, I've also become more active in my faith, by going to church every Sunday where possible, and serving in a few areas.

By God's grace and strength, I hope to continue doing everything I do with a joyful and generous heart. I have learned much in 10 years, too much to list out here.

2014 was a good year with many new things for us. May 2015 be as good, if not better.

Last but not least, another family member says, 'Hi!' Dear Rusty has been a good boy the past year. Unfortunately, he has not been getting as much attention since Mocha joined the family.




Monday, April 7, 2014

Nine years already?

Last month marked exactly nine years of my life as a homemaker mainly. Again, as I always say, how time flies. In a blink of an eye, the 2+ year old kid I stayed at home for is now 11+ going on 17. So much has changed.

We've moved homes, we've changed cars, changed schools, we've gotten plants and pets, we've experienced more of life as we grow older. She was knee-high then and now she can almost look me straight in the eye. She makes smart remarks not to amuse me but more to annoy me now. She had to be fed and changed but now she can cook (some food) and refuses to wear dresses and skirts, only jeans and tshirts or cool-looking blouses. She had to be read to but now she reads loads more books than me on her own. I can go on about her like how most mums would love to but I guess it's enough for now.

Is nine years a milestone? I'm not sure. Over these nine years, I've learned, seen, experienced, felt, eaten, visited, cooked, created, laughed, cried, screamed, shouted, made mistakes, thought, wrote, sang, played, made new friends. I could add more verbs if I continue to ramble.

Nine years of riding on a rollercoaster up and down, and driving in slow and fast lanes, and now in the middle lane. It would be good to cruise on autopilot but yet, there are some, just some areas that need piloting manually still. Such is life.

Glad and thankful I can rely on Higher Power all the time. Tasks and responsibilities seem to be increasing. So is the number of grey hairs, and the reading on the weighing scale! While the selfish me finds it a chore and pain at times in doing things as a service to others, I always end up feeling good. It is good to be generous, kind and helpful. It improves your spirit and soul. Never mind about looking good on the outside with branded clothes and shoes, and saying pretentious things to impress others. It's more fulfilling to look good on the inside, secretly, so to speak, where only you and your Creator know.

So what's next? Many tell me to, or ask if I'd go back to my 'old' life i.e. go back to employment. Should I? Do I know when? Will I ever? Do I want to? I don't know. Am I directionless? I doubt it. Was my education and work experience wasted? Only if you're narrow minded enough to think that. I do the little I can for now to supplement our income so that it's just enough to meet our needs. After nine years, I can't picture myself going back into the corporate world and running the rat race. I will run it only if I'm convinced it's good for me and my family, if it's something I'm passionate about.

Sometimes, you may plan all you want to get to your dream destination, but there could be unexpected detours. As the saying goes, yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift. Enjoy the gift and share it.

One of my favourite flowers :)


Monday, March 3, 2014

Time

We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Do we spend it with purpose,  or are we so rooted in our daily routines that we've forgotten why we are doing certain things, that everything is on autopilot? A message a friend sent me on Whatsapp a few days ago prompted this thought.

This friend had shared with me an online business opportunity which she recently joined. She asked me to look into it as she said that in the past eight days, she had already made USD1000. I haven't made the time to do some research on this business she recommended, but one of my questions to her was how much time did she have to spend on the business daily? I told her I am always faced with the 'too much to do, too little time' conundrum. And it got me thinking that we all have 24 hours a day. We need to choose wisely and make conscious decisions on how we use our time and for what purpose we use it. This is because, as I always tell C when reminding her not to waste time, when we run out of things or money, we can always find ways to get more, but with time, once we pass that moment, it's gone forever, We cannot turn back the clock.

It's time to evaluate and take stock of what I do in a day, in a week, in a month. When we list and break down our chores, responsibilities and needs, and the time spent on them, we will know how effectively we have used our time. I'm not saying that our lives must be run like a precision machine with no margin for error and no flexibility to steal a catnap or take a long holiday. I am the first to confess that I waste way too much time, especially online. Although my blogging hours have much reduced, they've been replaced by Facebook and reading stuff online. I'm a sucker for information.

Yeah, so I Facebook and read stuff online daily. Apart from that, my time is used daily and weekly:

. making 3.5 meals a day
. using the washer to wash laundry, hanging them out in the sun, taking them in, folding and ironing
. going to the market and supermarket for food and household stuff
. rinsing the car porch off Rusty's pee every morning, he loves my car tyres :(
. feeding Rusty and all the fish in our small aquarium and water lily jars
. reading and sending email
. sweeping the car porch floor
. watering plants, pruning, pulling weeds, planting, uprooting
. washing bathrooms
. fetching C from school
. sending/fetching C to/from music lessons
. making beds
. blogging
. writing an average of one article a week
. preparing weekly church bulletin
. going to church
. going out for meals on weekends
. visiting my parents
. giving Rusty a bath
. supervising, advising, nagging, discussing, arguing, helping, teaching, caring for C
. cooking extra food to try out or create new recipes, or for freezing
. paying (a stack of) bills
. attending to household matters that crop up ever so often
. watching 1-2 hours of tv (a week)
. learning a language (when I remember to)
. planning ahead (projects, holidays) -- I trrry to.....
. sleeping 7-8 hours every night if possible
. eating
. attending to personal hygiene

I've not included the 'tidying up, clearing clutter' part which I keep procrastinating, and another important activity I have yet to get motivated on -- exercising.

"The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is." -- C. S. Lewis

Friday, February 21, 2014

Tailgated?

While driving on the middle lane of life, I sometimes feel as if I'm being tailgated, that another 'vehicle' is tailing me so closely that I'm forced to either speed up, or shift gears and move to the slower lane.

That's life. You sometimes cannot move at the speed you choose because of external forces around you. I was hoping for a good start to C's school year, a steady, problem-free transition to a new school, and for her to settle in quickly with her studies in her first year of secondary school. But alas, she had the challenge of having to deal with a class bully who targeted her more because she is one who does not take things sitting down. Anyway, that situation has improved after intervention by the teacher and principal and I hope it will continue to improve.

Then, there are minor changes to the school timetable. That's to be expected at the start of the school year as the school tries to find balance in distributing their teachers' time to match the needs of each class. C is re-learning Mandarin as she didn't learn much in her previous school, partly because she wasn't interested, and partly because the teacher wasn't 'interested' too. So for one day a week, her school hours are extended by an extra 30 minutes for Mandarin, an extra hour for extra-curricular activities. By the time she reaches home, it's late afternoon. It's a good thing there's not much homework so far. With music lessons two days in a week, that's about all we can handle for now. 

Lunch at school didn't seem like value for money after January's trial so I'm now preparing breakfast, snack and lunch every morning for her. That means having to wake up 15 minutes earlier every morning, and planning and preparing some food the night before so it's ready to be cooked in the morning.

The weather has been very hot and dry since Chinese New Year. Water levels are low so many areas in the Klang Valley are facing water rationing. Last Friday, water supply was intermittent at my place right up to yesterday. It's a good thing we are a small family so it's not impacting us too much. We're not short of water yet, only facing the inconvenience of not having running taps in the kitchen and having to be more careful and not waste what we have in our storage tank. Laundry is done at odd hours when water supply is temporarily restored, regardless of day or night. Cooking is minimised so food stalls and restaurants are getting more business from us.

I smell smoke in the air today. Is the haze back?

The one-week school holiday is coming soon in March. I wish to go somewhere nearby since we didn't go anywhere the last long, year-end holidays. The task of finding some place affordable nearby is not so easy. I would like a beach holiday but C does not. E is indifferent. Local destinations are more affordable but will surely be fully-booked if I don't decide early. And they will surely be crowded too. Hmmm, I'm being tailgated by choices and decisions too....

Que sera sera.

By the way, did you know that 'que sera sera' is not exactly Spanish or Italian? Here's what Wikipedia says:

The popularity of the song has led to curiosity about the origins of the saying and the identity of its language. Both the Spanish-like spelling used by Livingston and Evans and an Italian-like form, "che sarà sarà", are first documented, in the 16th century, as an English heraldic motto.[6] The "Spanish" form appears on a brass plaque in a village church in Surrey, dated 1559.[7] The "Italian" form was first adopted as a family motto by either John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford, or his son, Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford. It is said by some sources to have been adopted by the elder Russell after his experience at the Battle of Pavia (1525), and to be engraved on his tomb (1555 N.S.).[8][9] The 2nd Earl's adoption of the motto is commemorated in a manuscript dated 1582.[10] Their successors—Earls and, later, Dukes of Bedford ("Sixth Creation"), as well as other aristocratic families—continued to use the motto. Soon after its adoption as a heraldic motto, it appeared in Christopher Marlowe's play Doctor Faustus (written ca. 1590; published 1604), whose text[11] (Act 1, Scene 1) contains a line with the archaic Italian spelling "Che sera, sera / What will be, shall be").[12] Early in the 17th century the saying begins to appear in the speech and thoughts of fictional characters as a spontaneous expression of a fatalistic attitude, always in an English-speaking context.
The saying has no history in Spain, Italy, or France, and in fact is ungrammatical in all three of these Romance languages.[13] It is composed of Spanish or Italian words superimposed on English syntax. It was evidently formed by a word-for-word mistranslation of English "What will be will be", merging the free relative pronoun what (= "that which") with the interrogative what?[14]
Livingston and Evans had some knowledge of Spanish, and early in their career they worked together as musicians on cruise ships to the Caribbean and South America. Composer Jay Livingston had seen the 1954 Hollywood film The Barefoot Contessa, in which a fictional Italian family has the motto "Che sarà sarà" carved in stone at their ancestral mansion. He immediately wrote it down as a possible song title, and he and lyricist Ray Evans later gave it a Spanish spelling "because there are so many Spanish-speaking people in the world".[15][16][17]
In modern times, thanks to the popularity of the song and its many translations, the phrase has been adopted in countries around the world to name a variety of entities, including books, movies, restaurants, vacation rentals, airplanes, and race horses.[18]