Sunday, August 31, 2008

What a nut case!

I saw this in today's The Star.

JOHOR BARU: The welder who was hospitalised after he used a nut to elongate his penis was finally put out of his misery when doctors removed the offending spare part. Read more here.

What can I say? Some men are....

Friday, August 29, 2008

Different trains


Gone are the days when I had bosom buddies I could call on anytime simply to chat or get a shoulder to cry on. We'd burn the phone lines for at least half an hour catching up, gossipping, making plans to spend time together.

As we travel through life, we stop at many stations. I guess right now, the station I'm at is pretty deserted. Most people and friends are busy chugging along in different fast-moving life trains, live in different cities and countries. We may pass each other along the way and honk at each other but that's just about all we can do (because we are in bullet trains in this century!).

It takes lots of major effort from both parties if we want to stay in touch frequently so we've somehow arrived at unspoken agreements to stay in touch on birthdays, special occasions like weddings, business stopovers, or in times of special need. An email or two spread out over the year, an SMS or two, short chats online, and dropping by for a peek into our blogs (for those who blog) once a while.

So who are my daily or frequent face-to-face contacts at this current station? My daughter, my husband, my daughter's music teachers, my extended family members, my daughter's school and music classmates and their parents, the cashier at the supermarket, bookstore or departmental store, the meat, fish and vegetable sellers, restaurant waiters and owners, the cleaners and security guards at my apartment....

How do stay-at-home mums get out more and increase their face-to-face social circle? Join clubs and interest groups, start a business, turn online friends into face-to-face ones....? What else? Time is the issue here, unless you are a stay-at-home mum of the 'tai tai' version where all you do is care for your kids using your mouth i.e. giving instructions to your kids, maids, cooks, nanny, driver but not getting your manicured hands dirty ....

I guess we can't have our cake and eat it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wild, beautiful, powerful

I've trekked jungles countless times in my lifetime, mostly on a fortnightly basis continuously for two years between 1998 and 2000. If not for the experienced ex-army guides I had, I would have probably gotten lost among the thick bushes, towering trees and rugged terrain, despite having trekked along those several different routes more than once.

Never once during those treks have I not been reminded of how fragile the wild can be when you see the marks man has left on it, but in its fragility there is its power. It protects its inhabitants, the animals, providing food and shelter. From the various species of plants, man has found cures and made medicines, traditional and scientific. You can feel its 'power' more so at night, when darkness surronds you and you see absolutely nothing but thick blackness, not even your hand in front of your face, and all you hear is the sound of the wild making their calls and noises.

The wild jungle is beautiful and powerful -- the wonders of nature, trees, plants, rocks, soil, water, insects, animals all living in harmonious balance. Only when man comes into the picture that the harmony is spoilt.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

You are the new day



I will love you more than me
and more than yesterday
If you can but prove to me
you are the new day

Send the sun in time for dawn
Let the birds all hail the morning
Love of life will urge me say
you are the new day

When I lay me down at night
knowing we must pay
lie around me where they fall
before the new day

One more day when time is running out
for everyone
Like a breath I knew would come I reach for
the new day

Hope is my philosophy
Just needs days in which to be
Love of life means hope for me
borne on a new day

You are the new day

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Simple friendship

Caitlin met a girl who is also from Kuala Lumpur when we visited Kuala Gandah. She was there with her family, just like us, to spend a day with the elephants. They made friends with each other while waiting for the video show to start. After the show, they continued talking to each other while waiting for the gate to open for us to view the elephants. Once they got in, they went around together. They even held hands. Kids can become friends in such a simple way.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cream of corn soup

I've been 'cracking' my head lately on what soups I can cook other than the ones I already have in my recipe 'memory'. 'Memory' because I usually don't use recipe books to cook. My home cooking is all based on memory, taste and the 'dash of this, dash of that' style.

So the past few days, I've pulled out some old and even moldy (aargh!!) cookbooks from my collection and gleaned through them to get some ideas. They have to be soups that I can hedge on that Caitlin would eat... Yup, that's what mothers of picky eaters have to keep in mind.

I saw this simple recipe with a picture of it and showed it to my picky eater and asked if she would like to try that soup. The picture had the bowl of soup garnished with some seaweed strips (read green-coloured food...). She said no. I asked again if she'd like to try it without the green strips and she said ok.

Today, I made the soup. Here it is.


It's the pretty common cream of corn soup with minced chicken, minus the 'green'. She took a spoonful and shouted, "Mum, I like it!" Phew....

There are many versions of this recipe but here's the one I used which has an Asian touch, using seaweed and sesame oil.

Ingredients
1 can cream style sweet corn
80g minced chicken
1 egg, beaten
sufficient shredded seaweed (which I omitted for Caitlin)
750ml water

Seasoning
1/4 tsp each of salt and sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
dash of pepper and sesame oil
3 tbsp water

Method
Mix minced chicken with 3 tbsp water. Mix well seasoning. Bring 750ml water to boil, add cream style corn. Bring to boil and add minced chicken. When chicken is cooked, slowly stir in seasoning. Bring to boil and remove from heat. Dribble in beaten egg, dish up, garnish with shredded seaweed and serve.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rainy morning fun


It's a gray and rainy morning today. We're indoors. The part-time cleaner is here so we have to stay home till she's done. We played soccer along the corridor leading to our bedrooms with Caitlin's pink mini football. She worked up some sweat and is now doing some colouring.

With kids, mine at least, it's hard to keep to a schedule. I make plans for certain activities but they hardly get implemented. It's easier to just 'go with the flow' than torture ourselves with a schedule. Two days ago, she was into writing, so she wrote a letter to Eugene and we mailed it to him. Hah, at least she got some writing and spelling exercise! I think he should be surprised to receive it at his workplace today.

Now, while I'm blogging, she's finished colouring and is 'helping' the cleaner mop the floor. I guess as long as kids have fun, we can't really force them to do the things we want them to do. After all, it's when they have fun that they are more open to learning.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A draggy day

Caitlin's friend from school came over for a playdate today and was here almost the entire day. They started out fine playing together, practising piano pieces and singing for next week's Yamaha concert, and eating lunch together. After lunch, they played computer games and that's when the 'rift' started developing. They both wanted to play different games...

From then on, things started going downhill gradually. I started getting complaints separately from them on several occasions. So, as the 'umpire', I had to cajole, persuade, convince, rationalise, teach, explain and be as fair as possible. Both kids are competitive or rather, 'kiasu' to put it bluntly.

They tried to outdo each other in getting the plates, cups and cutlery for lunch. When one drank water, the other also did. When both needed the toilet at the same time, they rushed to get to the same one (although I have more than one bathroom!). When playing together, they rushed to grab the different pieces of toys to hoard for themselves. I had to resort to 'rock, paper, scissors' when they both tugged at one toy.

When I gave them a teatime snack in front of the TV, they quickly hoarded the biscuits in their hand....Should have given them their portions in separate bowls.

Each time, I had to butt in gently to point the way.

When one arranged the toys in a certain way, the other rearranged them, much to the annoyance of the former. Then the latter started sulking...

When walking the friend to the elevator to go home, both rushed to be the first to push the button. The 'winner' gloated, the 'loser' sulked. The friend got into the car and slumped down the seat, no goodbye wave.

Caitlin layed down on the sofa and watched Animal Planet. The friend's mum called to get more details on what happened. After my conversation with her, I walked over to Caitlin and found her in Dreamland. I carried her to bed and she's been asleep for three hours already. Three attempts in the past hour to wake her for dinner and a bath have been greeted with kicks and wails of protest.

What did I do today? Did some laundry, cooked lunch for the kids, helped them with their concert practice, tried to interest them in math activities which lasted all of 10 minutes, surfed a little while on standby as umpire, and cooked dinner which is still untouched. Eugene's craving for pizza last night was satisfied from a delivery order I made (how thoughtful of me, at the expense of the dinner I cooked!) and my sleeping child has yet to wake to eat dinner....and here I am blogging while Eugene is just starting his day at home after his pizza dinner in front of the TV and helping me with some household chores....

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Parents magazine


I used to get a copy of Parents magazine every month two years ago. I love their content, pictures, even the advertisements! Their writing style, layout and pictures make it easy reading. Their content is helpful with lots of parenting tips, advice and even humour. There were two columns I liked. They were titled "How Embarrasing" and "Baby Bloopers" with parents' accounts about kids being kids, saying and doing funny or embarrasing things.

I stopped buying it after deciding that it was a bit too costly. Subscription is only available within the US where they give great offers like pay for one year (US$12 only!) and get three years! I think I should start reading their online version ....

I would recommend this magazine/website to all parents and parents-to-be if they haven't already gotten hooked to it.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Internet relationships

Since the availability of the Internet, reaching out to people and making new friends near and far around the world has never been easier. Chat, friendship, dating, matchmaking, networking sites have mushroomed overnight. MySpace, Friendster, and Facebook are just a few the uninitiated me knows of. I bet nine out of 10 people you ask who have Internet access are on Facebook. Facebook is currently the top social networking site.

You can have literally thousands of friends around the world when you join such a site. Friendships can blossom and two people from the far ends of the earth can hook up, date online and even go a step further to what is known as cyber sex. Is this good or bad?

Definitely both, as time, people and real-life cases have proven. Some have had successful relationships which lead to marriage, some become close friends and soulmates, and some also become enemies and abandon the internet relationship.

Whatever it is, when we create internet relationships, we should be clear of what we want out of it. It is easy when it is with family and friends we have grown up with, known and spent time with face to face. We should however tread with caution when it is with people we have met briefly online (or even face to face), people we have yet to get to know well enough, strangers. It is easy for others to fake their identity, character, and personality online and that's where you are at risk of complications, problems, danger, and even threat to your life.

Malaysia's Olympic silver

picture from www.sun2surf.com

I'm sure by now the talk of today is Malaysia's badminton gold medal candidate Lee Chong Wei's loss to China's Lin Dan in last night's men's singles badminton final. I saw the whole game and it was disappointing to see Chong Wei's lack of control of the game. Lin Dan struck a cool and controlled pose as he attacked but Chong Wei seemed tensed and he let the pressure to secure the gold medal get the better of him.

Lin Dan cruised quite easily and stretched Chong Wei to return his shots, leading by a 50% margin in both matches to win the gold at 21-12 and 21-8. He immediately threw himself to the ground upon the final point, emotions finally unleashed after 39 minutes of focused play.

Well, Malaysia didnt' win the gold this time but I guess it's still a step up from the bronze we won in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics....

Friday, August 15, 2008

More random pictures

Caitlin, Chinese New Year 2008

Anna and best friends 2001

Anna and Eugene, wedding day November 2001

Anna's best friends at wedding, November 2001

Eugene in Rome, I was at home (sob sob!), September 2004

Caitlin and her Yamaha classmates singing in a concert, January 2008

Two thumbs up for sweet and sour fish rice, Caitlin, August 2008

Caitlin's mosquito trap


Caitlin got bitten by mosquitoes last night while asleep. We noticed the bites this morning. Very quickly she said we need to put mosquito traps and started describing how we could do it.

"First, we get leeches and let them suck our blood. Then we pull the leeches away and crush them to get the blood. We put the blood in a trap and when the mosquito comes to suck the blood, poop! they get trapped."

Eugene and I exchanged glances without saying anything. I raised my brows. Then Caitlin said, "I'm a genius, right?"

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Michael Phelps, super swimmer


I caught up with Olympic news from yesterday's newspaper (no prizes for guessing why I read yesterday's paper today). Michael Phelps is indeed AMAZING!! One sport that I like watching on TV is swimming. I've yet to really watch any this Olympic season actually. Again, no prizes for guessing why I've not watched TV...

As of yesterday, Michael Phelps has achieved historic Olympic record no Olympian has ever achieved, breaking world records, some of which he himself set a few years ago. In the 2004 Olympics, he had won six golds and he was only 19 then.

According to news agency AFP, he "captured the 10th and 11th gold medals of his Games career...with his world-record setting triumph in the men's 200m butterfly...an hour later he led the US to record-shattering victory in the 4X200m relay."

I read that he was diagnosed with ADHD when he was young and started swimming at age 7, partly because of this. So who says you can't achieve amazing feats if you have a certain condition, disease, disability? Time and again, many such people have put 'normal' fellow humans to shame by not letting their disadvantages hinder them or stop them from achieving their mother of all dreams.

Take for instance New Zealand mountaineer Mark Inglis who conquered Everest in 2006 with his two prosthetic legs. He lost both legs below the knee in a climbing accident and frostbite years ago but that did not stop him from climbing and becoming the first double amputee to summit Sagamartha (what Tibetans call Everest).

Another example is Dr William Tan, a physician who 'runs' marathons in his wheelchair. He was stricken with polio when young and has spent most of his life in a wheelchair but that didn't stop him from becoming a physician and marathon man. He even completed a marathon in the North Pole, and all his feats are for charitable causes.

In a press release, he was quoted saying "Disability should be regarded as a stepping stone in life, rather than an obstacle to overcome. I believe in promoting resilience and tenacity where we constantly strive to stretch our limits, reinvent ourselves, and transform adversity into advantage."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Definitely, Maybe

I watched this romantic movie called Definitely, Maybe last month on DVD. It's been a long time since I enjoyed a love story. It's about Will who is in the midst of a divorce when his 10-year-old daughter Maya asks him to tell her the story of his life before marriage and how her parents met. So he tells her about the girls in his life, giving them fictitious names, while Maya guesses which girl is her mum. Like most love stories, this movie has an ending that is sweet and feels good.

And I like one of the songs in this movie, an oldie called I've Got A Crush On You. I think by now you'd know I'm an oldies kind of person from all the YouTube videos I've posted! I'm certainly not from Generation X. (Anyone knows what the pre-Gen X is called? A few of my old classmates and I were wondering when we got together over the weekend).

Here it is:

Monday, August 11, 2008

Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary


Since I heard about the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary, I've had the idea that we should visit that place one day. The one-week school hols is next week so I wonder if we can squeeze in a day trip over this or next weekend.

I googled "Kuala Gandah Elephants" and found many sites referring to it and providing directions on how to get there.

According to the information, activities with the elephants including feeding and bathing them are held between 2.00pm and 4.00pm. There is also a place called Deerland which is nearby.

On a hot Monday afternoon

The sun is scorching. I would have liked it if I were lazing on a windy beach, listening to the surf and reading a superb book, sipping cocktail. Alas, such luxury only exists in my sleepy mind right now. Instead, the wind is from my ceiling fan. The 'surf' is the Internet and the sound of Higglytown Heroes on Playhouse Disney channel keeps reminding me of my reality....The heat is causing heavy eyelids, sluggish limbs, and tight muscles an earlier cup of coffee did not relieve...It's almost time to get Caitlin to practise her piano but as usual she is reluctant. Do I use the carrot or the stick?


When Caitlin was three and began showing her 'stubborn' side, I bought this book Parenting the Strong-Willed Child: The Clinically Proven Five-Week Program for Parents of Two- to Six-Year-Olds [Revised and Updated Edition]. I read it halfway, tried their practical exercises but did not follow through till the end. I took it out of my shelf a month ago thinking that maybe I should get on with it (almost three years later!) but I've yet to garner the discipline to read it again all the way to the end. And certainly not on this hot afternoon...

K2 tragedy


I just discovered that another tragedy took place recently in the mountain climbing circle, not surprisingly this time on dangerous K2, a peak that is reportedly as hard, if not harder, to climb than Everest. It is said that for every three people that reach the K2 summit, one dies trying.

In 1995, Scottish woman mountaineer Alison Hargreaves perished with five others on K2. Hargreaves was an accomplished climber, the first woman to have conquered Everest minus oxygen.

K2 is indeed one harsh mountain as described by Outside magazine in their article "The Mountain of Mountains".

Read about the latest tragedy here.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Caitlin's version of blogging


Happy thoughts after our Kuching trip


Loving thoughts after Daddy's effort to take her to Kuching


Expressing her reluctance to go to school one morning because Mental Arithmetic (which uses the abacus) will be taught that day and it is not her favourite subject

Olympics 2008

The Beijing 2008 Olympic Games has started! I caught the first two hours of its opening ceremony. I must say the choreography, costumes, and fireworks were spectacular, with the involvement of so many thousands of performers. Imagine how much practice, coordination, teamwork, manhours have been put in for just one night's show.

Managed to catch my country's team in the parade. I didn't like the colours of their costume - yellow and black. I could feel the pride in the hearts of the participants from all the countries, some with just a few in their contigent and some with hundreds of them, carrying and waving their country's flag as they walked into the Bird Nest stadium.

And I was surprised to see Sarah Brightman singing duet the theme song "You and Me" with another Chinese singer Liu Huan.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

J.K. Rowling's latest

This is latest news from Amazon.com.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling is now available for pre-order on Amazon. This book of fairy tales was written to supplement the Harry Potter series and will be published in two new editions on December 4, 2008. The Standard Edition features all five fairy tales from the original The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a new introduction by J.K. Rowling, illustrations reproduced from the original handcrafted book, and commentary on each of the tales by Professor Albus Dumbledore. Amazon’s exclusive Collector's Edition includes a reproduction of J.K. Rowling's handwritten introduction, as well as 10 additional illustrations not found in the Standard Edition.

To pre-order, do it here for the Standard edition and here for the Collector’s Edition.

Sleep remedies

What do you do when you can't sleep at night? Right now I'm bothered by an aching knee, itchy fingers (dermatitis problem), slight hunger and an overactive mind. I was tossing and turning in bed and decided it wasn't worth the torture.

I was contemplating reading or watching TV but the computer's little voice started calling out. Chatting, checking email, and blogging has managed to distract me slightly from the knee ache and itchy hands. The hunger is stifled slightly by a cup of warm chocolate. The overactive mind however is still, well, active.

So, how to sleep better? WebMD says:

A good mattress firmly supports the back, neck, and legs, and also offers cushion and recoil for comfort. (Okay, time to go mattress shopping)

Talk Yourself to Sleep. Try talk therapy to fight insomnia. It gets better results than sleeping pills. (Umm, talk to myself and the wall? My talking partner cannot talk while he is snoring away...)

Nix Late Naps. No matter how tired, don't nap after 3 p.m. Late naps make it harder to fall asleep at night. (What nap? I'd be lucky if I can just lie down for 3 minutes in the afternoon!)

Regular exercise deepens sleep in young adults. Be sure to exercise no later than three hours before bed. (Exercise? What is that? Am I a young or old adult?)

To read more, see here.

I think I shall move on to something else on the computer now....

Monday, August 4, 2008

Discipline and teachers

One aspect of the Chinese school system that makes it 'better' so to speak is that discipline is given emphasis. On the other hand, when the teachers do not act responsibly and intelligently as educators in this aspect, much is left to be desired.

I've heard quite a number of stories where children are punished, caned, ridiculed, belittled because they were just being children, unaware of their mistakes or simply not able to cope as well as others with the demands of schoolwork. Without proper balance at school and home, the discipline Chinese schools enforce on children will turn them either into 'robots' or kids with low self-esteem and lacking in confidence to speak their minds.

Today, I read about yet another case in my morning daily's letter-to-editor:

Wrong way to punish pupils

My son studies at a Chinese primary school in Cheras. Two pupils, one a Malay girl, have been punished by their class teacher and made to sit on the floor for months, while the others look on, some laughing, but many more feeling sorry for them, my son being one of these.

To punish pupils to this extent for so-called laziness is not right as there are many reasons why a pupil might not be able to complete his homework on time. Perhaps he is unable to keep up with his peers and has no one to guide him at home.

I don’t know whether asking students of a primary school to sit on the floor for months is the only way to punish them for failing to complete their homework, but I am very sure that it will affect their confidence, self-esteem, self-respect and dignity after being laughed at or being the object of sympathy.

In this context, I think the school has failed to maintain the basic right of every child to self-respect and dignity.

After a copy of a letter of complaint on the matter to the Public Complaints Bureau was given to the headmaster of the school, the girl was on the same day, granted a chair to sit on, permanently or temporarily, I do not know; but the boy continues to sit on the floor.

This is the attitude and stand of the school even after a parent steps in to complain.

I have done my part and my best as a parent to lodge a complaint after my son told me about the experience of his peers, his eyes brimming with tears.

On behalf of my son
Kajang

The Sun, 4 Aug 2008


While this and other cases could be out of the norm as some may claim, I believe it is an issue that requires serious scrutiny. Yes, there are children who have graduated from Chinese schools with flying colours to become great leaders in business, politics and academia, with the additional advantage of the Mandarin language, and probably without having been affected much psychologically from the strict discipline. But what about those that don't although they could have thanks to the 'bad' teachers? Is one child less important than another?

Having said this about Chinese schools, I am not saying that Kebangsaan or private schools are any better in this aspect. I know of a child in a renowned private school whose face was vandalised by the teacher with permanent marker pen just because he was an intelligent seven-year-old who could have been a little more precocious than others.

And when I was in Standard Three back in the late 1970s, our class teacher was one who did not spare the rod, whacking some of us 9-year-olds on the back with the long, thick wooden ruler used for drawing lines on the chalkboard, the chalk duster, and the feather duster if we couldn't answer correctly. I had my share of slaps on the cheek simply for being the first one to submit my finished work to her. And one girl was violently pushed against the wall, her head knocking the wall with a loud bang and falling to the floor because she was 'stupid'. And one, day, just because we were noisy, she did not let us out for recess, resulting in a few kids getting stomach aches/gastritis. A number of our parents complained to the headmistress about this teacher and it was only the following year's Standard Three pupils that were spared from such torture by this teacher, who continued to teach there till she retired...Till today, these images are still clear in my mind.

So back to my dilemma about which school to send Caitlin to....

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Conversations

Scene 1: Caitlin asked Eugene to play a game on the mobile phone. She cheers him on.

Caitlin: Come on daddy, you can do it. Go, go, never give up. Find a way. That's what winners do!

Me (surprised and puzzled): Where did you learn those phrases from?

Caitlin (eyes still fixed on phone, in a brush-off tone): From 'Surf's Up' lah! Daddy, come on....

Scene 2: Caitlin colouring a picture

Caitlin: See mum, I added a long sticky tongue for the frog and there's a fly on it. Is it nice?

Me: Yes, that's good.

Caitlin: Yeah, I'm so intelligent, huh....

Scene 3: At the toy section in a supermarket

Caitlin: Mum, can you please buy this for me?

Me: Where's the money you were saving to buy things?

Caitlin: No, you use your money!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Decisions, decisions

We have yet to do anything concrete in next-steps for Caitlin's enrolment in primary school. Caitlin's been sick this whole week and that leaves me no opportunity to leave the house and check out new alternatives. Doubts about whether all three of us can cope with everything that comes with the Chinese school 'package' are re-surfacing. I guess we need to really decide if Chinese school is the way to go. If it is, then we'll just have to bite the bullet.

The doubt is also now contributed by the fact that we are toying with the idea of a private school that is operated by a church. The syllabus they use follows the 'kebangsaan' schools but with more time provided for English and Mandarin. The other plus point is that the size of the classes are smaller, 28 children per class vis-a-vis around 50 per class in Chinese schools. And their fees are affordable, equivalent to what we are paying Caitlin's kindy right now. The only minor drawback is this school is pretty far away from our home.