Monday, December 28, 2009

Sentosa Island, Singapore

This is the first part of my narrative on our visit to Sentosa.

In our recent trip to Singapore, we spent an entire day visiting Sentosa Island which is located off the southern part of Singapore. My last visit there was very long ago when I was around 16 or 18 years old. Back then the only way to the island was either by ferry or cable car. Now, you can get there by land too i.e. car, taxi, bus and even train (MRT and the Sentosa Express monorail), besides the cable car. However, the cable car is currently closed for upgrading. We drove there.

Upon arrival and after paying the necessary entry fees, we found our way to Imbiah Lookout and parked our car there. We didn't have to drive around Sentosa in our car as the internal transportation to get you from one place to another within the island is very efficient. They have various bus lines and vehicles to take you from one attraction to another free of charge.

At Imbiah, we viewed the iconic Merlion, a replica of the one on the main island. The Merlion is a mythical half-lion, half-fish creature. You can get up to the mouth of the Merlion to its Gallery Viewing Deck to get a 360° view of Sentosa and the southern part of Singapore.

However, we did not visit the Merlion up close or go up to its viewing deck. We walked around for a short while, taking photographs of the Merlion, Tiger Sky Tower and facade of the Images of Singapore building (looks like a colonial-type architecture).

Then, for the children's sake (before they start fussing and get bored), we purchased tickets to enter the Butterfly & Insect Park.

Other attractions located at Imbiah include the Nature Discovery, Luge and Skyride, 4D Magix and Cineblast but they were not suitable for the kids, to my disappointment actually, because I would have enjoyed these exciting rides. At the butterfly park, we had close encounters with colourful butterflies and saw insect exhibits.

After that, we took the Blue Line bus to the Fort Siloso area (Siloso Point) to visit Underwater World, a place much like KL's Aquaria KLCC but slightly smaller in area.

At the entrance of Underwater World, there was a man displaying two snakes which he used to attract visitors to get a picture taken holding one of the snakes. Caitlin was curious and touched one of the snakes which was left inside a basket.

Underwater World has various sections for hands-on encounters and exhibits of various sea creatures such as different species of fish, stingray, starfish, and jellyfish.

You could also buy some fish feed to feed the fishes or see them being fed during designated feeding times. There was also a section which took you on a conveyor belt through an 'underwater' aquarium where you could see huge sharks, rays, groupers etc swimming around and overhead.

From there, we exited via the souvenir shop, the only exit like all tourist attraction places, out to an open air food court serving local food. Since it was lunch time and two hours before the Sea Lion Show, we sat down for a leisurely lunch and enjoyed some sea breeze.

Since we had some more time to kill before the Sea Lion Show, we walked around outside Underwater World. Fort Siloso is opposite.

Like all the other attractions in Sentosa, you need to buy tickets to enter and view the fort and its exhibits. Since this was a historical site which is less attractive to kids without any kids-type fun, I took Caitlin for a short walk around the walls of the fort and showed her the posters of old b&w pictures of the fort during WW2. The fort became a POW camp when the Japanese invaded Southeast Asia.

As we were heading towards what used to the Dolphin Lagoon for the Sea Lion Show, it started to rain. We made a quick dash to grab the last remaining seats, thus not getting centrestage view for the show. The show was delayed slightly due to the rain. When it started, two sea lions appeared displaying some antics to illustrate the show host's commentary about sea lions. The host also highlighted some differences between sea lions and seals.

This Sea Lion Show is currently a replacement for the Dolphin Show. The latter is currently being relocated so we were not fortunate enough to see the dolphins. We only caught glimpses of one or two of them surfacing while swimming in their holding pool at a far corner.

The Sea Lion Show lasted all of 15 minutes and we were rather disappointed. After the show, we went across the road to Siloso Beach to see what it had to offer.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Jurong Bird Park, Singapore

On our first full day in Singapore, we visited the Jurong Bird Park. Getting there was fairly easy with the help of our GPS. The only thing was that my bro's GPS and ours were set to bring us to our destination differently. His was via the shortest route while ours was via the fastest route. So while we were on the road, we went on our separate routes halfway through the journey but ended up at the same place. Luckily we still managed to keep tabs with each other via our walkie talkies (making phone calls to each other would have been costlier). After that we decided to sync both units so that we could travel together. However, there were days when we travelled in one car together since my car could seat seven people albeit a tiny bit crammed in the third row at the back.

Upon arrival at the Jurong Bird Park, we were warmly greeted by the park crew who immediately ushered us to their group photo spot. Many tourist attractions offer their photography services, with a premium fee of course. You can view the photos later and select whichever ones you like to purchase if you wish. They will then print the pictures out and frame them for you in their customised cardboard frame as a souvenir. If you don't purchase them, that's all right too.

All ready to explore the park:

The birdpark is nicely planned with convenient facilities such as restrooms, drink/snack stations, and food outlets at appropriate locations. The landscaping was well done and spick and span too. We saw many birds (too many to name or even remember their names) and attended a show at the Fuji Hawk Walk (sponsored by Fuji film I guess, hence the name) which featured an assortment of birds, especially birds of prey. When the host requested for a child volunteer, Caitlin raised her hand and was lucky enough to get chosen. After introducing herself, she held up a pair of sticks with some meat at the tips for a hawk to swoop down and snatch it off with its beak.

There was also another photo opportunity where she let a bird perch on her leather-gloved hand.

We walked around admiring parrots, pelicans, flamingoes and many other birds, and read some interesting facts about them.

Caitlin comparing her 'wingspan' with that of a pelican's:

Penguins in the Penguin Exhibit:

We then proceeded to another show called Birds and Buddies. Many birds came on stage, flew up above, swooped down and some, like the parrots and eagles, performed tricks -- putting balls into nets ala basketball, flying through hoops held up by spectators, singing songs in various languages and counting.

Flamingoes made an appearance at the Birds and Buddies Show:
It so happened that when we were there, the park had some Latin American events promotion and right after the show, a group of capoeristas came on stage to introduce the Brazilian artform of capoeira, which Caitlin is learning back home. They shared with the spectators what capoeira is and demonstrated some moves. They then invited some children (again, Caitlin put up her hand and got chosen!) and adults to join them on stage to perform some moves.

After lunch, we took the panorail for a ride around the entire park. Shortly after we got inside the cabin, it started to rain heavily. We were fortunate to be sheltered in the aircon carriage which also had a running commentary of the spots we were passing overhead, providing information of the various birds in those areas.

Caitlin monkeying around inside the panorail:

After we alighted from the panorail, we decided to call it a day and headed back to our apartment to rest.

The tickets ACE bought at the birdpark were Parkhopper tickets which provided some savings for those who wanted to also visit the zoo or night safari. We purchased the Bird Park-Night Safari package, so after our afternoon rest, the three of us geared up for an evening out at the Night Safari, while my brother, sis-in-law, nephew and parents went out for dinner on their own.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Singapore, 18-23 Dec

Prelude and the journey there:
The six-week school holiday is coming to an end with one more week to go! Yikes!! How did the past five weeks go by so quickly? I have made mental notes several times this week that C must return to her normal bedtime starting next week. Otherwise it will be sheer torture come 4th January morning when we have to wake up at 6am to get ready for work and school. We've been sleeping and waking late the past few weeks.

So,when we made our trip to Singapore last Friday, it was tough for all of us to get up early to start the journey. Nevertheless we made good time, meeting our target of leaving KL at 7.30am to rendezvous with my bro and his family at my parents' home in Seremban. The plan was to leave Seremban by 9am. Unfortunately, at 8.30am, my bro who left slightly later than us in his own car called while we were feasting on fried meehoon and char siew pao at home in Seremban. His 2.5 year old son Ryan had thrown up in the car and they had to stop to clean up the mess. Upon arrival in Seremban, they rinsed out his dirty clothes and left them to soak, and then had breakfast. We left Seremban for Singapore at 10.30am, an hour and a half later than planned.

The drive was pleasant with Caitlin occupying herself with her books and occasional conversations with Kung Kung.

Caitlin hugging her favourite bolster while reading in the car:

But as expected, before we even reached Melaka, the famous question (are we there yet?) popped up. So I had to cook up something to make the journey feel less draggy for her, helping her to visualise and equate the length of the journey to other journeys she's been on before. So there was Journey Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 and every now and then, she'll ask for updates on how many minutes were there left before each part ends and the next part begins.

We stopped at JB Pelangi mall for lunch at around 1.30pm. After lunch, at about 3pm, we continued our much anticipated crossover of the causeway only to meet heavy, almost standstill traffic heading to the checkpoint.

Sigh, it was indeed a loooong ride just to cross the short causeway and clear both sides of immigration points because it was a Friday (weekend) AND a public holiday. It took us around 1.5 hours of crawling and stopping before our GPS could start showing us the route to our accommodation in Singapore. Of course, C was getting impatient so lots more tactics of distraction had to be employed to keep our stress levels down. Out came a new colouring book and colour pencils, and luckily that kept her preoccupied.

Arrival day:
We arrived at the serviced apartments off Orchard Road for check-in only at 5p.m. Our plans to go to the Night Safari that evening had to be postponed. After settling down in the apartment, we took a short walk to Orchard Road in search of dinner. The malls and Orchard strip were brightly lit and elaborately decked up for Christmas as is the case every year. The wide pedestrian walkways were very crowded with Christmas shoppers, tourists, festive sideshows and just about anyone and everyone who wanted to be there to soak up the atmosphere. It was literally a sea of people everywhere.

My brother JK and his son Ryan:

We also had to queue for quite some time to get seated at a restaurant for dinner. After dinner, we joined the crowds to see the lights, decor and attempted some photography, getting shots of heads and faces of passers by inside our frames more often than not. Hence the above photos which didn't do justice to the bright lights, decor, and hustle and bustle we experienced there.

After a while, we decided to head back to the apartment to rest and call it a night since we had planned to spend the next day at the Jurong Bird Park. That meant having to wake up on time for breakfast at the resident's lounge before driving to the Bird Park.

The spacious living room of the serviced apartment, with TV, DVD player and cable TV:
The dining area with 8-seater dining table:

The fully-equipped kitchen, with toaster, fridge, microwave, cooker, kettle, coffeemaker, pots and pans, crockery, cutlery, washer/dryer:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Christmas and New Year

ACE just returned from a six-day trip to Singapore today. Many things to catch up on before I can return to this blog and dedicate some TLC to it with stories and pictures of the past 10 days or so.

ACE will be heading to E's family home after dinner this evening to celebrate midnight mass, Christmas morning supper and family time together around the Christmas tree.

Here's wishing everyone a meaningful Christmas and wonderful New Year!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sony Ericsson Cybershot photos

Here are some random shots taken using my phone over the past few weeks. Somehow, they're mostly on food.

Life goes on....

It's been nine days since my last post. Those nine days flew by just like that and I sometimes wonder where did it all go. We've been mostly homebound the past week, going out only for short trips to the supermarket, coffee shop, restaurants and a few times to the mall on weekends. I've put on hold C's art and capoeira classes this month so that gives me a bit of a breather from having to chauffeur her for this class, that class. Also, because we'll be going on holiday next week and the following week is Christmas, I didn't relish the idea of having to pay a full month's tuition fee when she's only attending half month's worth. Music lessons are status quo however, although the past two weeks, piano has been postponed due to the teacher going on holiday.

In between, C and I have been working and playing. I've been trying to 'instil' the idea of 'work hard, play hard' in her. Of course she has no problems with the 'play hard' part but when she's not in the mood to work, that's when she starts grumbling about the 'work hard' part and says that this motto is only mine, not the family's, and that I'm trying to impose "everything you want only, only your way all the time"....

Anyway, I managed to get her to do a few pages of Malay language and math exercises in workbooks leftover from this year's 'home learning' supply every other day or so. Work is interspersed with play of her latest craze of Facebook games. Thanks to daddy's intro of such games to her, my Facebook account now carries two games, Cafeworld and Petville. We don't allow her to set up her own FB account as she is too young for social networking so she only plays games on FB using my account under our supervision. Prior to Petville, it was Fishville. But later when she saw Petville and wanted it, I said she could on condition that she gave up one. So Petville has replaced Fishville while I'm also 'looking after' her Cafeworld on her behalf. I find these games real time wasters. They could be fun initially and like any other game, rather addictive. I hear of some people even setting alarms on their mobile phones to remind themselves when their virtual food is ready to be served so that their cafe biz does not make losses from unserved food rotting and going to about being addicted, or worse still, 'kiasu'....

Apart from TV, reading, playing with her toys and games, I've also managed to get her to practise her musical instruments, the piano especially, more consistently. Been giving her a bit more room with the drums since she had just completed her exam.

As for me, I've managed to write my quota of articles for my fortnightly 'column' and submitted them early to the editor so that I don't have to worry about looming deadlines when I'm on holiday and celebrating Christmas, and then preparing for school re-opening....

So with all this supervision of the child, and household affairs, that leaves me with little time alone, compared to normal days where I have the mornings all to myself. Although the household routine is not much different between schooldays and holidays, I at least get the mornings to do everything in peace and quiet without having to look over my shoulder or shout from the top or bottom of the staircase to check on C. And the past week has been more tiresome because C somehow decided to sleep in every morning till about 9.30 or 10.00am, having a slow, leisurely breakfast which eats into nearly lunchtime, thus having late lunch which eats into nearly teatime resulting in late dinners and later bedtimes -- the vicious cylce.

While there's always the grand plan to pack more 'educational and structured' activities to 'further enrich' the kid, I've just about given up on those ideas. If I were to pursue it, it would mean more headaches sourcing for ideas, materials and spending more time which I don't have (No, I don't think I'm being selfish, just lazy!).There's always the alternative of signing her up with all those school holiday programmes offered by very entrepreneurial people out there but that means having to fork out large sums of $$ and extra time and energy to ferry her up and down to those places. And I don't think she'll lose out very much at this age if she didn't participate in certain activities. So que sera sera-lah.

Being focused with all these has left me sort of 'brain dead' when it comes to blogging about more interesting stuff, current affairs, observations and quirky thoughts and opinions. That's why this blog has been rather dry lately, with just narratives and accounts of our routine life. E still wakes in the mornings to get stuck in traffic getting to work, and gets home past dinner time. I still do the laundry, cook, and care for C and Rusty, Facebook, and write, but surfing the net, blog hopping and reading online news has reduced quite a fair bit without the opportunity to sit at the computer uninterrupted.

So there, our past nine days has gone by. Next week would probably be similar with the exception of having to get ready for a six-day, most likely activity-packed trip outstation visiting children's attractions and a few generations of relatives. Thereafter upon returning home, it will be Christmas with E's family tradition of getting together on the eve, going to mass and staying up for late (or rather, early morning) supper and opening presents. It's the once-a-year opportunity for the kids to stay up and go to bed only in the wee hours of the morning. I know for sure by Boxing Day I'd be totally drained.

That leaves us with one last, final week before the new year 2010 and when C goes to Year 2 at school. Wow, time indeed flies. And life goes on.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Christmas tree

We put up our Christmas tree considerably early this year compared to the past few years. Last Sunday afternoon, ACE decorated the tree with whatever existing trimmings we had. We also have two strings of lights. After checking, one was not working. Most likely one of the bulbs blew and we didn't have a spare.

That's the problem with such lights. If one bulb blows, the rest along the line can't light up. So we used one string of bulbs. And the option to make them blink is out -- I think the relevant bulb is also not working or something. Beats me when it comes to tech stuff. When lit, the tree is not as bright but it would suffice I guess.

We turn on the lights for a short while at night and turn them off before going to bed or when I think we've had enough of lights for that evening.

Our tree

Also, this is for safety reasons as I've heard about Christmas lights getting on fire. Coincidentally I received this piece in my email today.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Another god

Caitlin making up a story:...The two reindeer fell in love and mated. Then the female got pregnant.

Me trying to throw a spanner in: But they didn't get married... They have to get married first before they mate. God says must get married first, then only can mate and get pregnant.

Caitlin: They believe in another god lah...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ramblings after the music exam

After six months of learning her exam pieces, Caitlin finally completed her Grade 1 drum kit exam about 2.5 hours ago. She played her pieces well but it sounded like she was unsure and made some mistakes in the improvisation test. Whatever it is, I'm glad it's over. Being the non-practiser (she only started practising on a daily basis two weeks ago while averaging one practice a week on normal days), I think she has done well enough so far. While it would be great if she scored a distinction, just like how it'd be great if she scored straight A's in school, it's the effort that counts in the end as no one can be perfect at everything. Learning has to be fun, not a stressful chore.

I remember learning the piano as fun in my lower grades but when I reached grade 6 onwards, it started becoming a pain and a chore at times, especially nearing the exams. Those days, (I think even these days), most of the exams were the ABRSM ones which focused on classical pieces only, and required you to master the playing technics very well, and practise your scales, arpeggios like crazy. It was tiresome playing those three classical pieces over and over again for one whole year. Although the teacher also taught other pieces for leisure, most of them were still classical pieces. And the theory exams were also increasingly difficult with music history, composition and harmony in the higher grades, and all also classical based. Nevertheless, I managed to complete Grade 8.

Trinity Guildhall has non-classical syllabus but we didn't know about it then (the teachers did I'm sure but did not offer us the option). Trinity lets you play contemporary pieces like jazz for exams. And only Trinity has the syllabus for the drum kit (i.e. playing the entire drum set) while ABRSM's syllabus for the drum is only for the snare drum, under the percussion syllabus (more for classical/orchestral purpose I guess). If I had known about the Trinity syllabus, I'd probably have opted for that for my Grade 8 piano. While being able to play classical music well is good, I think it's better to be versatile with different styles of music and being able to play a variety of genres. Learning harmony only at Grade 6 is a bit too late in my opinion. Playing by ear is not even in the syllabus.

That's where I see the Yamaha Music syllabus giving the headstart and advantage for the child to develop his/her musical hearing, playing by ear, rhythm and composition abilities. At age 6, they are already leaning to compose songs, find the accompanying chords to given melodies and even transpose. Although not every child will be able to master these, at least they are learning it unlike ABRSM where I remember, only at age 15 or so, I learnt about writing chords and composing, and had not been given the opportunity to sharpen aural skills. I picked up playing by ear on my own but did not master it as I think I lacked the foundation (taking the ABRSM syllabus)and maybe also the natural talent.

Whatever it is, I think parents should be clear with the reasons they are giving their children music education. I had shared before (see here) why music education is beneficial. Like everything else, a child must not be forced or manipulated to learn something, simply because the parents think it would look good to have credentials for playing a musical instrument. Or even at least two musical instruments plus numerous co-curriculum activities in order to gain a place in a prestigious institution of higher learning. Or worse, if it is simply to keep up with the Joneses. The neighbour's child is learning the flute, violin and piano, so must their child....scary...why the need to compare, the need to be one up?

The child is the one who will be learning and playing the instrument(s) so it's best to ask the child if he/she is interested. (More here.) I believe care must also be exercised not to 'brainwash' the child to think that they will like a particular instrument of your personal choice. Also, whether they do well in the exams (if they do take them) should not be the measure of their worth. What's important is that they tried their best and are enjoying themselves learning.

I should remind myself of all these whenever I attempt to get Caitlin to practise or perfect a particular piece, or even in her studies. The piano and drums were after all her own choice even before I seriously considered starting her on musical instruments. I must learn to trust her to know what to do. We may think she's only seven and doesn't know what's good for herself but time and again she has shown she knows. Like drums and piano for instance. We nag at her to practise but when the time comes, at the last minute, she will practise on her own (even though we feel it could have been better if she started earlier!)I must not get caught up with the 'kiasu' mentality that's pretty rife in this ratrace society....

Meanwhile, there are many fun things awaiting us the next few weeks of the school holiday. Even getting C's Year 2 schoolbooks could be fun, with checking out the contents and wrapping the books, visiting some friends and their kids, taking short trips (hopefully) and a one-week holiday in Singapore visiting mostly kids' attraction places and catching up with relatives there.

First few days of long holiday

School officially ended last Friday although Caitlin skipped school that day. Her school was having 'gotong royong' on that day to clean the classrooms etc and since she was having slight runny nose and also gets into sneezing fits when she's in a dusty environment, I decided to keep her out of school.

Saturday was a rather slow start to the school holidays. We woke up late and I made frendch toast for breakfast. After doing some stuff around the house, we went out to lunch, hoping to catch the last day of the Isetan and Jusco sale to get some Christmas pressies for family. Caitlin likes to go to Jusco to play at the children's amusement place. It's a place where parents' money gets wasted in my opinion. Upon arrival at the mall, we had lunch first, then we headed to Isetan despite constant grumbles from C as she wanted to go to Jusco first. The grumbles got louder and louder and more annoying so after 15 minutes in Isetan and not having the freedom to shop around, we decided to head to Jusco. Managed to get a few presents in Jusco while Caitlin satisfied her craving at the amusement place.

Sunday morning saw me giving Rusty a much-needed bath. Caitlin offered to help because I said Rusty is actually her dog. But as usual, her helping was just a few minutes of holding the hose, getting some shampoo on her hands and rubbing his body a few times, and screaming everytime Rusty shakes.

After lunch, Caitlin and I headed to a friend's house for a birthday party. It was a chef's hat and cupcake decorating party for my friend's 6-year-old daughter. It was an all-girl party i.e. very manageable with 12-13 kids, minus the kungfu fighting type of rowdiness you tend to get with boys around. The girls in their pretty dresses just sat quietly drawing paterns, pictures, sticking stickers and glitter glue on the paper hat, no fights for the art materials etc. They then wore their hats and decorated cupcakes.

Yesterday (Monday), we went out to lunch before doing some grocery shopping. Then in the evening, Caitlin had her last drum lesson before her exam later today at noon.

I'm planning to take it easy today so that we're not too stressed out before her exam. After that, we'll head to lunch somewhere near the exam place. In the evening, she has her usual weekly art class. That leaves me free for two hours. I'll most likely visit the farmer's market nearby and pack some dinner from there. Hopefully it doesn't rain.

That's how the school holiday has been for us so far. I have to remind myself to go to school and get her school books for next year soon.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Last week of school

This week is the last week of school for 2009! I'm so happy that starting next week, Caitlin and I don't have to wake up at 6 a.m. on weekdays! Maybe Eugene also can wake up a bit later as he doesn't need to send Caitlin to school before heading to his office. But the dilemma is what I'm going to do with Caitlin. How to keep her occupied and out of my hair while I do the household chores and spend time on the computer? She'll probably want to use the computer too, and want my attention when it comes to playing, especially board games....and she has rather short attention span and is a pretty impatient girl. Books can keep her occupied but once she starts reading a book, she won't put it down. She can finish a book like Geronimo Stilton in less than an hour. This means I need to have a big stack ready....but one thing good is she'll re-read them many times over so hopefully she'll do that when she runs out of things to do.

She needs to practise more intensively this week for her drum exam which will take place next Tuesday. Hopefully, she will remember to play in the right tempo and expression. She is over-confident with her playing and tends to get carried away and plays too fast, and as a result, makes mistakes and ignores when she should be playing loud or soft or crescendo etc.

I've not made any structured plans to keep her occupied unlike some mothers. They are so hardworking that they'll plan a timetable with lots of entertaining and educational activities to occupy their kids during the holidays. And they'll sit down together with the kids to do all the activities like puzzle books, art and craft, computer-based learning, reading, games etc. I'm getting lazier over the years.

Other moms will look out for holiday programmes offered by all those expensive enrichment centres and enrol their kids there to keep them occupied and learn something. That's the easy and expensive way out. These exnrichment centres make extra income during school holidays. They know that parents are willing to pay any amount for their kids' benefit. Actually, some of the programmes they offer can be easily duplicated at home if you are hardworking enough to source for the info and materials yourself, especially from the Internet, and sacrifice your personal time to spend with and homeschool your kids. That's a better way I believe although some parents may argue that they are working, they are not experts in certain subjects etc. Whatever it is, to each their own I guess. We need to only bear in mind that our kids get a balanced, fun and healthy lifestyle during the holidays.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The boring subject of weather (continued)

I posted the earlier post this afternoon while seated at the waiting area of Caitlin's school. School dismisses at 2.35pm and I was there at 1.50pm i.e. 45 minutes early. These days, I prefer to get there earlier before it starts to pour. By going earlier, I also get a better chance to get a spot to park my car along the roadside nearer to the school entrance.

The school has a queue system for cars whereby we can queue and drive up to the school gate and display a placard with our child/children's name for the teacher on duty to call them out and they hop into the car when it's our turn. But that takes a very long time because sometimes the kids belonging to cars in front of us come out of their classrooms later or slower than mine. And some parents plus transporters are so kiasu that they want to be first in line, so they arrive at school 1.5 to 2 hours before dismissal, and park their car in line already.

Parents like me who don't want to get caught waiting for ages in line to pick up our kids will therefore park further down the road, walk up the steep slope and meet the kids at the waiting area and walk them back to the car. I get my daily exercise walking up the slope but that kind of puts a strain to my bad knee.

Sometimes, a mother of Caitlin's classmate gets there early around the same time as me so we chat. Today, I was extra early and I didn't bring any reading material with me so I decided to meddle with my mobile phone and check email, Facebook and finally decided to blog a bit. Blogging using my mobile phone is tedious and the connection is slow. And my mobile phone is not the type which has extra large screen or the qwerty keypad. Hence, the rather disjointed and abruptly ended post below.

Back to the weather. It looks like globally, the weather patterns have changed. Typhoons, floods, droughts etc seem to be more frequent and threatening. I remember years ago when the year-end monsoon season started only in December. Now, it's raining everyday heavily and continuously, causing floods in the northern states of Kedah, Kelantan and Trengganu. In the Klang Valley, flash floods and landslides threaten cars and commuters during peak traffic hours and houses, and high-rise apartments built on hillslopes are at risk....

The boring subject of weather

It has been raining everyday the past few weeks. The upside to that is I don't need to water my plants. The down side is that it always rains right at the time when school dismisses. It is a hassle getting Caitlin from school with the raincoat and umbrella plus having to carry her schoolbag. And her school is located on a hillslope.
Walking downhill with rainwater gushing down the road, we have to be very careful.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Good mind, bad mind

Caitlin was rather chatty at dinnertime today, telling numerous stories about school and her activities, sharing opinions and ideas. In the course of the conversation she used the word 'poophead'.

I seldom hear that particular word but it struck me as an alternative to "sh*thead" that people in general often use. So I asked her how and where she got that word from. Her reply was very simple, spontaneous and glib.

"I made it up myself. No, I didn't read it in any book or hear it in the TV. It's just the bad side of my mind that came up with it. The bad side infected the good side of my mind. The left side of my mind is the good side, the God side. The right side of my mind is the bad side, the Devil side...."

Aiyo, there goes my 'loyar buruk' again....

I'm back

Hello! I'm back here again. We actually got a new computer monitor last week, a slightly larger one, which somehow gives me the odd feeling like everything on the screen has become smaller!

I've recovered from the stress of the two parties I had to coordinate - the one at school for Children's Day and two days after that, Caitlin's birthday. I actually returned home rather hoarse from shouting at the top of my lungs at Caitlin's class to listen to instructions of the games we wanted them to play. Once the games got started, they lasted for about 10 minutes at best! These kids just didn't have the attention span and preferred to simply rough about, jump about, scream and shout, especially the boys who were the majority in Caitlin's class. Some of the games were literally abandoned with the kids (especially those at the back) just turning away to do their own thing, so we simply gave up on them after three games. It was only when we were about to dismiss them and hand out the goodie bags (the attention grabber) that they listened.

As for Caitlin's birthday party, it turned out well. About 21 (out of 26) kids from her class turned up! And we also had about 10 cousins, friends and some siblings of classmates. The activity organiser (luckily not me!) had her hands full getting them to dance to music and play games. There were games that included parents as well. The parents were very sporting, joining in the fun with loads of enthusiasm. Caitln's Pokemon-design birthday cake was a hit among some of the kids (especially the boys) and they came lining up repeatedly while I was cutting it to get their second, third, fourth helpings. Despite getting numerous food/drink breaks with ample food served, they must have been very hungry still after all the dancing, jumping and running.

Caitlin had a gala time opening all her presents that evening. But that was after she recovered from a rather long bout of sulking because some parent ate her favourite part of the cake with Pikachu's (a Pokemon character) picture on it. Partly my mistake. She had told me earlier she wanted it. I should have set it aside in a separate container since she didn't want to eat it then. After I served everyone, I had covered the cake box and set it aside in a corner, not expecting anyone to open it and help themselves to extra servings. But as Murphy's Law would have it, some parent (I was told) took the liberty to do so and unfortunately, it was that part that he or she cut off.....

Rusty turned one last Sunday. We didn't manage to celebrate it for him as we were simply busy catching up with stuff before the weekend ended. Poor thing...

About the weather -- it's been raining daily since mid last week. It usually starts in the late afternoon with drizzles and heavy downpours. On some days, it rains heavily in the middle of the night or early morning, making the next day a wet, gloomy day. Bad for laundry.

Caitlin brought home her report card for the recent year-end exams. Overall, she did better than we thought. When we got her exam papers for each subject, we felt she could have done better. But since she didn't put much effort into preparing for the exam, we accepted the results. On the whole, she scored above average marks. Glad that she got A's and a few B's, and no C's or D's or F's! Anyway, she's only in Year One. She's got a long way more to go where formal education is concerned so we should not be too 'kan cheong'. Her drum exam is coming up in 2.5 weeks' time. Expect her to be cool about it too.

I'd like to view her 'coolness' about exams positively. It's good in some ways that one should not be fazed by the tension of exams. They are simply a way of assessing if one has understood what he or she has learned. What good is it if you score straight A's simply because you are good at memorisingng facts and figures without fully understanding the subject? And different people learn at different paces, have different interests, talents, abilities. So we should not compare our children with others. So what if the neighbours kid scores 10 A's? So what if your friend's child can play the violin, piano, cello and dance ballet, jazz and hip hop? Am I going to copy what others are doing simply because I want to keep up, be one-up? It's scary when I see many parents filling up their kids' daily schedule with activity after activity, class after class in the name of trying to maximise their potential..... Sadly, this happens a lot in cities like Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My computer monitor is kaput. Writing this using my mobile phone. Not convenient at all. So no news here for the time being until the monitor is fixed or replaced.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Countdown to the parties

The past few days has seen me busily finalising stuff for the two parties on Friday and Sunday. Yesterday, I received the bulk of gifts and stuff contributed by parents for the children's hampers for Children's Day at school. The small bag for each child that I got using part of the PTA's sponsorship allocation was too small to contain the generous contributions, so luckily E brought home some freebie non-woven bags (the recyclable type that's so popular these days as corporate giveaways) for me and last night, we packed all the things into the bags. I'm expecting a few more packages today and on that day itself. The kids will be so happy to get them I'm sure. They'll be getting a lunch bag (with Ben 10 design for boys and Princess ones for girls), an activity puzzle book, a Rubik's cube, some stationery, toys and assorted snacks. The day will start off with entertainment (organised by the school) for the kids in the school hall. After that, we'll have the class party with food and games contributed and organised by parents.

As for Sunday's birthday party, we're expecting a very good turnout from Caitlin's classmates. Almost all of them (20+) will be coming based on the RSVPs. That will add up to about 30 kids (including cousins and friends) dancing and jumping around!I've also finished packing all the party packs and have just to finalise the food for that day. I should get it done by tomorrow as whoever I decide to get the food from will definitely need some notice. It shouldn't be too difficult as I'm not planning a large spread since it's around teatime. Some finger food for the adults and children alike plus drinks should do. Anyway, the venue is a dance studio and does not cater for proper sit-down functions.