Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Gong Xi Fa Cai!


Wishing one and all "Gong Xi Fa Cai" this Chinese Lunar New Year. May the Year of the Ox bring better health, happiness and prosperity. And like what all the others say, may this 'Niu' year for you be Oxpicious and Oxciting.

Happy Moo Year!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Inspirational songs

Two Sundays in a row at the two different churches (one Catholic and one Pentecostal) I attended respectively, this song was sung. Don Moen's songs have always been very nice and meaningful.

And last Sunday, this other Don Moen song was also sung. And Caitlin immediately recognised it as she said she learnt it during chapel in school.

Timetable for Primary 1 private 'kebangsaan' school

I just read MG's post about her daughter's timetable in a Chinese primary school. Once you break it down into the number of hours per week allocated for each subject, you'll be able to see what the school emphasises on.

Here's what Caitlin's school timetable is like per week:

English - 4.5 hours
Bahasa - 7.0 hours
Math - 5.0 hours
Science - 1.5 hours
Mandarin - 2.0 hours
Moral A - 0.5 hour
Moral B - 2.5 hours
Art - 1.0 hour
Computer - 1.0 hour
PE - 1.0 hour
Kesihatan - 0.5 hour
Music - 1.0 hour
Chapel - 1.0 hour

The school Caitlin goes to follows the national (government) school syllabus. The only difference is that since it's private, they choose to provide more time to teach English (5 hours vs 1 hour in MG's daughter's Chinese school) and Bahasa (7 hours). They provide extra English workbooks which are not in the national school's standard booklist. Meanwhile, time for Mandarin lessons (2 hours) is much less compared to a Chinese school (5 hours). And the standard of Mandarin taught is definitely lower than the one in Chinese schools, plus they use the Hanyu Pinyin method.

And since Caitlin's school is church-based, they also emphasise moral and wholistic (mind, body, spirit) education quite strongly as shown by the time allocated. Moral A is the subject in the government syllabus but Moral B are lessons based on the Bible, plus one chapel session every week. This brings back memories of my school days in MGS (Methodis Girls' School) which in those days was still a mission school. We had chapel too where we sang songs and listened to Bible stories.

I noticed that Caitlin's school allocates only 1.5 hours for Science which I feel is too little. It would be good if another half or one hour is given to Science, which could be taken from the Moral B allocation. Chinese schools on the other hand provide 3 hours of Science although 1.5 hours are taught in Mandarin and the other 1.5 hours in English. I wonder if what they learn in English and Mandarin are exactly the same. If they are, then what's the point other than learning the facts and scientific terms in two languages? I probably have to ask MG about this. And the poor kids have to take exams for one subject in both languages i.e. two papers.

Of course, it will be a totally new 'sickening' ballgame for everyone, especially the kids, if the government decides to revert to teaching Science and Math in Bahasa. This issue has been much debated over the past year. I vote for English for Science and Math. I learnt Science and Math in Bahasa during my time and did it help me when I got to university (I went to a local university for a Science degree where Bahasa was supposed to be the medium of instruction)? Nope. Were they applicable when I went out into the working world? Nope.

When will education in Malaysia be one where everyone can truly benefit from, regardless of race and income level mainly?

My journey into the writing world, and writing does not pay. At least not for me!

I've known for ages that writing does not pay and yet I'm doing it. It only pays when you've found loyal readers or won the Booker Prize after years of toil. I stumbled into the writing world when I chose a career in public relations after graduation and working for one year. Upon graduation with a degree in science majoring in microbiology, work as a fresh grad in that field in the early 90s was scarce and lowly-paid in some boondock place where they usually set up factories. If I had chosen to work in such a place, the salary I earned wouldn't have covered my living and transportation allowance. And peddling scientific equipment and pharma products was not my cup of tea. These days, with biotech and scientific development booming, I think it's much easier for a better start.

I ended doing a science degree thanks to the Malaysian education system. Enough said. Although I enjoyed studying science and discovering the world of microbes for medicine, biotechnology etc, and worked hard enough to graduate with honours, I couldn't picture a life-long career with microbes. My 'alter ego' also craved social interaction, creativity and the buzz of activity. I enjoyed participating in events and being in the action of organising them.

So after one year in a HR department organising teambuilding activities for their sales force, I had the opportunity to join a public-listed firm's PR department under a very experienced boss. I learnt on the job how to handle the media, write newsletters, speeches, press releases, anything and everything that involved English words and organise events from VIP dinners,launches, social work, media tours etc.

From then on, it was no turning back from one public-listed company to another and another for the next 14 years. Writing became part and parcel of life to earn my keep.

So after 'retiring' almost four years ago, I stumbled into blogging two years ago. I was interested to explore how blogging can make money so I blogged, firstly to keep my sanity (hence this journal) and secondly, if it could make me some money, wny not? To make big money in blogging, you need to know how to draw traffic (readers by the droves) to your blog. When that happens, the advertisers pay you for space in your blog when their ads get millions of views. Or blog and review products, food, places etc to help promote their stuff and get paid. Sounds easy but not that easy. Bloggers who make five-figure or more income this way are either very hardworking, committed and/or lucky. Not me, unfortunately.

Writing for the media and corporate clients as a freelancer doesn't really pay either. The time vs money thing makes it not worth the effort actually. Research, interviews, scouting around and making sense of it all to gel with what you think the client wants involves lots of time, energy and stress. And sometimes they are all in vain when the client changes their mind, simply because they had not earlier given proper thought to what they really want in the first place. That happened yesterday to me. Twelve hours' work, late nights, wee mornings (I am only free to write and write undisturbed then) has been practically wasted due to the client's lack of god-knows-what. On top of that, I had to initially bear the brunt of their own mistake before the boss finally saw proof from me that it was her own staff's inadequacy and her own oversight that caused it.

Now it's back to the drawing board for this client who is asking for the sky when I think I can only deliver the ceiling. Makes me feel like telling her she can have her deposit back. This job is taking longer and more time than I estimated and charged for. I'll go back to the drawing board for now and see how things move from there. Must be positive that I'll conquer this client! Or, I'll have to be quick soon in cutting my losses. Reiterates the fact why I never wanted to join any consultancy and deal with clients. In-house 'clients' within the company you work for was bad enough.

There's definitely lessons to be learnt here. I have to be more choosy with clients from now on. I didn't quit my good and reasonably well-paying career to get stressed out for some pocket money. Family health and happiness first. Money second. We'll simply survive without that 40" flat screen TV and wait longer for that trip to Disneyland.

Busy as usual....

Since my last post on Saturday, I've just been busy living day-to-day life. Nothing exciting to blog about. Between waking up at 6am every morning and going to bed anytime between 10pm and midnight this week, my activities include some writing, reading blogs and news, the daily 4-5 times chore of cleaning up after Rusty, feeding him and the goldfish, fetching Caitlin from school, monitoring her homework, cooking dinner, doing laundry, and attempting to pack up stuff to move.

Where does all the time go? I sometimes marvel at others who seem to be able to pack much more in a day. Or is it just an illusion that others seem to achieve more?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Info on Puppy Teeth

Puppies are born without teeth and get their puppy teeth between the 6th and 8th week of life and grow 28 teeth (called deciduous or baby teeth). The first teeth to emerge are the incisors at 2 to 3 weeks followed by the canines and the premolars. Puppies do not have molars. The upper and lower canines are at the back of the mouth and are larger teeth, with the upper and lower incisors in the middle.

Puppy teething continues on and off for several months just like in humans. Unfortunately like humans it can be painful or uncomfortable for your dog. You can tell when your dog is teething from her increased chewing and biting on everything imaginable.

Rusty! Stop chewing on the wires! Stop grabbing and running off playfully with Caitlin's slippers! Stop wrestling with the rag! Stop nibbling on my toes! Stop chewing your leash!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Rusty the Rascal

As the days go by, Rusty is showing his true Schnauzer colours - playful, intelligent, loves companionship, enjoys attention. He's cute and fun but still a handful as he's curious, greedy (he's a growing boy, no doubt about it!), hates being left alone and can't clean up after himself!

Right now, he's lying beside me as I'm typing this post, contentedly snoozing away, oblivious to the mess he created while Caitlin and I were out for dinner, resulting in the major cleanup I had to do. He's been good at doing his jobs on the designated 3x3 feet newspaper area which is his pen. Sometimes he misses when he decides to choose a spot at the edge of the paper.

But when he's all excited, desperate and clawing around when he thinks he's been left alone for too long, the papers shift, exposing the floor and most times, I'm unlucky enough that he chooses the exposed spot....it's worse when in his excitement he also overturns his water bowl... so give him a bath, pick up the poo, wipe and mop the floor, spray it with disinfectant, re-lay a fresh set of newspaper...Cleaning up after a pup feels harder than cleaning up a baby!

So with Rusty, Caitlin, household chores, new house matters, and occasional work, there's no wondering why I haven't been blogging these few days.

Okay, no time to waste rambling on here. Got to think about getting Caitlin to school tomorrow. It's the second Saturday she's to attend school to replace the coming extra Chinese New Year holidays most schools are declaring.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Caitlin's brother

We have pitter patter of tiny feet around our home again. I refer Caitlin to him as his "cheh cheh" (Chinese for 'big sister'). Cleaning up after him when he poos and pees has not been too much trouble so far. I'm talking about Rusty, our miniature Schnauzer pup.

We brought Rusty home yesterday. Since then, he's added some work to my portfolio. He's been pretty good and manageable since arriving home and behaving as a normal 10-week-old boy, curious, playful and in need of attention and company. He whined, barked, whimpered when he saw us turning off some lights (left a nighlight on) and walking away from his pen, and saying 'good night'. He wasn't bawling but he made his unhappiness known. Twenty minutes later, he layed down and slept. At 2am, he started again, this time more determined to make his unhappiness known. And since I didn't want the neighbours to complain, I switched on one light at the opposite end of the room and layed down on the sofa where he could see me. I pretended to sleep. Ten minutes later he slept again and I crept back to bed.

At 6am, he called out again, barking rather loudly, so I woke, cleaned his pen and gave him breakfast. His docked tail wagged hard and he was barking happily, asking to be let out.

He is Caitlin's dog as she so frequently reminds us when we try to make Rusty-related decisions or scold him for trying to bite stuff (being the protective 'cheh cheh'). But so far, although she's agreed from aeons ago when pleading for a pet dog that she'd do everything in caring for him, including picking up his poo, she's yet to do anything other than play with him and attempt to 'train' him.

I've got one more 'kid' to talk to and train now! It's been about 20 years since I was hands-on in caring for a pet dog. Hope I remember the ropes. He's so tiny that at times, when he follows me around I almost kick or step on him... :)

Rusty, aka Malibu Dreams (registered name), looking deceptively innocent in his playpen.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Data recovery

The company which we sent our hard disk to for data recovery managed to salvage 90% of our stuff....but it cost us a huge bomb. But we had to spend it. A large part of the disk contained our precious photographs.

The past three months have seen us dishing out plenty for a number of unexpected problems like for my car (thrice!) and the computer. And of course, the expenses for setting up the new house is no joke.

We resolve to remember to back up our important data from now on. I've even backed up my blogs and work. We spent some $ too on an external drive for more disk space and back-up use.

On a different matter, it looks like we need to take Rusty our schnauzer home tomorrow afternoon. The original owner was willing to help us look afer him till before Chinese New Year only. Again, there's been delay in our moving. Things just don't seem to be moving as fast as we envisioned earlier. And with a number of new things happening this new year, we can't seem to get everything settled at the same time. Oh well, que sera sera...

Rusty would make life different for us in our apartment until such time when we move to the house.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Getting the hang of things

Today was the fifth day in school for Caitlin. So far, I'm happy that she has not complained seriously about school (other than it's hot in the pick-up waiting area and the boys in her class are naughty!). Looks like she is getting the hang of things. Day by day, she's been easier in waking and getting ready for school in the mornings.

After daily reminders, she has gotten into the routine of knowing she needs to hand up her homework in the designated shelves for the respective subjects upon arrriving in class in the mornings, to bring her water bottle along with her to the canteen for lunch, and how to walk (along the yellow pedestrian lines) across the staff carpark to the waiting area for her to enter the car when I drive up to the front of the queue.

Upon hopping into the car today, she exclaimed, "School was AWESOME today!", even before I asked. Caitlin is one 'drama' queen and tends to use superfluos words to describe situations or feelings. Nevertheless, I was truly happy and excited to hear that. She said her teacher played a Numbers game with the class and it was fun (adding, "but the boys were naughty as usual!")

We chatted happily in the car all the way home. Her "school was awesome" statement still rings in my heart. It makes me feel all the work, frustration, hassle etc as a parent and in managing this milestone worth it.

Anyway, I'm pleased and reassured that we've made the right decision in sending her to this school vis-a-vis a Chinese-medium school which we earlier decided on. There are some good points about the school and its values that I like too.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Boys and girls

Caitlin's class has 27 children - nine girls and 18 boys. Just when I thought girls these days are as naughty and rowdy as boys, I was proven wrong after observing all the boys in her class on the first and second day of school.

Being the first few days of school, the children were generally a little reserved as they were in an unfamiliar environment with strangers. Some were quiet, a few were teary, whiny or simply just concentrating on holding back tears. The boys in general, however, warmed up pretty quickly and by lunch time were seen playing in the classroom among themselves, outside, and even while the teacher was talking!

A few were even literally rolling around on the cemented open-air badminton court outside the classroom during break time. One mother said her older son used to get his shirts dirty so quickly and easily that she had to buy new ones for him every six months!

After lunch, they have to line up outside the class to wait for the teacher to arrive. Most of the boys' shirts were untucked from their active playing. The teacher arrived and had a hard time settling them into their lines and making them stand STILL, tuck in their shirts and keep quiet by getting them to put their forefingers on their lips.

The nine girls were fast in following the rules and got to enter the classroom fairly quickly while it was some minutes before the boys were let in.

On the second day of school, a boy lost a loose tooth. His classmate (a boy of course) pulled it out for him while class was going on! So there was some drama then with a bit of crying and blood. I heard it from a girl classmate's mother and the class teacher who were discussing the incident during lunch. So funny....

Caitlin said yesterday that all the boys are soooo naughty. They walk here and there and don't sit at their desk. She however made friends with Nicholas. According to her he is 'okay'. They sat together in the canteen during morning break and she started a conversation with him apparently because she noticed he had a food container similar to hers, a free gift from Yamaha Music School, which they both attend (but at different locations obviously). Her other friends are a few girl classmates named Alyssa, Hui Sin and Chrisal.

The kids are given a locker each. The teacher however keeps the keys as she does not want them to lose the keys or to keep leaving the classroom, especially just when lessons are starting, to take books etc as they have yet to be able to organise themselves to have the right books at the right time. They might also unintentionally leave their homework in the locker. They can ask for the keys if they wish to keep unused exercise books, spare clothes/uniform, stationery in the lockers.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Daddy's Poem

While slowly retrieving old files and deleting unwanted ones following the crash of the old hard disk and installation of a new one, I came across an old floppy disk (yup, the oldies are still lying around...) labelled 'Personal'. I found many files which contained thoughts, notes and information revolving around Caitlin who was a newborn then.

One little file was titled 'Daddy's poem'. Eugene, being a rather non-communicative homo sapien in character and personality, especially pertaining to emotions and detailed descriptions (the typical male I'd say!), actually wrote a poem! This is the one and only poem I've seen him write in my entire life of knowing him since 15+ years ago! Even when we were courting, I could only DREAM of receiving flowers, let alone love notes or poems from him!

But on 27 Oct 2002, the day Caitlin was born, some magical angel dust fell on him and here's what the 'E' of ACE wrote:


You are my special angel.
When I think of you,
I am filled with so much emotion,
it makes me want to cry.
You’re the best thing that’s come into my life,
I thank God for such a special gift.
I am not sure if I am worthy of something
so precious and special.

Daddy, Eugene
27 October 2002

Caitlin, one day old, 28 Oct 2002

And since that fateful day, there has yet to be another poem or something similar to it that has sprung forth from the 'E' of ACE!

Caitlin, only you have Daddy around your little finger. Daddy (and Mummy) love you very much!

Caitlin, 5 years 5 months, March 2008

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

2nd day of school

This was taken yesterday - all smiles. This morning, we had to patiently bear with loads of tears of refusal to wake up, refusal to get into her school uniform and refusal to go to school. She complained that she was too tired to wake up. I guess it takes some time for her to adjust to having to rise early and get ready within a short window of time to get to school punctually. And before she stepped out the door with Eugene, she said she'd miss me. I assured her I'll be there to pick her up after school and reminded her to hand up her homework as how the teacher instructed yesterday.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Back but not in top gear, Caitlin's first day

We got a new hard disk. There's lots of space in it since all the old data in the old disk has yet to be recovered and re-stored into this new one, if there's any possibility of recovery....We've yet to hear from the supposedly professional people who specialise in data recovery of their diagnosis of our hard drive which let us down. Of course, we were too slow in backing up our files and didn't get around to doing it before it was too late....

The first day at primary school for Caitlin wasn't too bad. Here's a general run down of our day minus the pictures (because I've yet to re-install my photo downloader software for my phone to the PC, amongst a host of other downloads and uploads I've to re-do...)

6.00am Wakey, wakey Caitlin, "No, I'm too tired..."
6.20am Hurry up, brush your teeth etc etc, get into your uniform ....
6.30am Hurry up, eat your breakfast, we're running late. "I discovered I don't like going to Standard One...." :(. You haven't even gone yet!
6.55am Eugene, hurry up, we're ready
7.03am In the car to school
7.25am Phew, made it to school with smooth traffic conditions
7.30am Got to classroom and found a seat for Caitlin
7.45am Children line up outside class to head to hall for assembly
8.00am Assembly starts, parent hangers-on like me and Eugene were invited to join at the back of the hall, sing school song, national anthem, recite pledge, Principal speaks and makes announcements and briefings, in between firmly calling out names of children who talk, don't pay attention. I wondered if Caitlin knew what was going on as half the announcements were in Bahasa Malaysia.
8.30am Class teacher Puan Jackie addresses the class in the classroom, gives some instructions, takes them on a tour to the toilet, canteen, music room, library, bookshop, teachers' staff room.
9.45am Break time, line up to go canteen, we join her there for a while and bid goodbye....the dam breaks, some tears roll but no wailing or bawling. Phew...we head home, Eugene goes to work late. I run some errands, have early lunch
1.00pm I'm back at school. Had to park quite far away. School is on a hilly housing area so walk up to school was a torture to my legs, steep incline. Headed for the canteen to find her eating chicken rice. She's ok and asked if she could go home right after lunch. Told her no, there's still lessons and I'll wait. She asked me to wait at the corner where she can see me. I said I couldn't do that. Teacher won't allow and I won't be coming to school every day like that.
1.15pm - 2.40pm Networked with some other mothers and exchanged notes about school and education in general, shared insights and grouses on Chinese school, private school, international school etc etc, learnt some things from these mothers.
2.45pm School dismisses, happy to see me, we walk down the slope to the car to head home, complains about the steep walk DOWNhill...said she enjoyed her day when asked. Had one homework to do.

Friday, January 2, 2009

PC crashed!!

Yesterday, our home computer crashed :( taking along everything that we have stored in it... :( including lots of photographs and some of my work files. We had meant to back up our stuff but the computer did this to us before we managed to. I'm now blogging from Eugene's office notebook.

Looks like we'll be computer-less until we get a new hard drive etc etc. We've sent our hard drive somewhere today to see if they can recover any of our data and we'll only know in a few days' time if anything can be salvaged.

I can do without blogging or surfing but not email, Internet and Microsoft Word. Sigh, what a way to start the new year.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Ready for school?

Caitlin is cool as a cucumber about going to Year 1 in four days' time as she's one who lives in the moment. She's still in holiday mood and going about life happily with her books, toys, TV and games.

Meanwhile, mummy here is counting down and worried that she can't get up early enough to get to school on time. And been working 'hard' in getting her books wrapped and making sure her school uniform is ready. There are three more books to get. They are currently out of stock....and there's her iron-on school badge to stick onto her pinafore and her name tag to be sewed on below it. That's not done. I'm a lousy seamstress. Tried sewing on her name tag (embroidered cloth patch) onto the pinafore but failed miserably. Gotta take it to the shop to pay someone to do it I guess, to save me the frustration.