Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pictures of our Port Dickson trip and dad's birthday

Chicken pox

It's a three-day weekend with tomorrow being Malaysia's 52nd year of independence. This weekend also marks the end of the one-week school holiday. For ACE, the one-week holiday felt longer since Caitlin was already out of school for about 10 days before school closed due to the suspension of the Year 1 classes two weeks ago because of widespread viral fever among the kids. Then last week, one case of H1N1 flu was confirmed and we decided to keep her out of school as the school did not get the green light from the Ministry of Education to close.

Last Thursday, we went to Port Dickson for a night and a day, then we proceeded to my parents place in Seremban for the weekend to celebrate my dad's 70th birthday together with mum, younger brother and his family.

This Thursday, I noticed a small red spot on C's neck and a few on her arm and back when she complained of itchiness. My first thought was "either mosquito bite or chicken pox". The chicken pox virus has been going around these few weeks so that's what made me suspicious. I checked for fever but none. I made an 'unsure' conclusion it could be mosquito bites since our place has quite a lot of mosquitoes. I continued to monitor the next day to see if more spots developed. A few more appeared, still no fever and thoughts about chicken pox resurfaced. We decided to take her to the doctor for confirmation.

Based on my personal experience of chicken pox, the rashes spread rather rapidly, you'd feel pretty sick with fever, itchiness and even sore throat when the rashes form inside your mouth and throat. But for Caitlin, except for relatively few rashes, she was still very much her usual self. When I was 16 and had chicken pox, my entire body, face, scalp, everywhere was covered with those itchy, unsightly weeping bumps. I felt like it was the end of the world and I'd be scarred for life, depressed for being quarantined in my room for an entire week because I got it on Chinese New Year's eve. What a bummer then, missing out on all the visiting (less angpow!), CNY food and goodies.

The doctor confirmed chicken pox and said that it's because she had already been vaccinated for the disease that the rashes are not proliferating and fever is not present. He prescribed calamine lotion and anti-itch oral medication and suggested we feed her coconut water. He mentioned anti-viral meds but since they only act to suppress the condition, we (him and us) concurred to best let the condition run its course and manage it.

So, C has been like 'normal' apart from the occasional itchiness. Currently in the contagious stage, we're keeping her away from others as much as we can. A playdate and visit from two of my old classmates tomorrow has been cancelled much to her and her playdate and the three of us mamas' disappointment. And to avoid infecting her cousins, we won't be able to join family for dinner in Klang tonight.

She'll probably have to skip school for a few days when school reopens on Tuesday i.e. further extending her 'holiday'.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Port Dickson, sandflies and GPS

Last Thursday, we went to Port Dickson to spend one afternoon,night and morning (in other words, 24 hours) at the PD Yacht Club for Caitlin to play on the beach, swim in the sea and pool, and spend time with her cousins Sarah and Mark, uncle Tom and aunty Jo, and grandpa and grandma. They had loads of fun making sand castles on the beach, swimming, and playing at the playground.

We, however, didn't realise that the beach had lots of sandlfies so some of us got bitten. I haven't had sandfly bites for ages and this time, I got about 10 years' worth (50 bites to be exact, and yes, I counted every single one). It's been a week and my legs, arms, and back (was wearing swimsuit when 'frolicking' on the sand!)are still itching terribly. The bites are worse than mozzie bites, many times itchier and red and the scars will probably remain for a long time.

After lunch at Seaview Restaurant (the food was nothing to shout about but we were all very hungry!), we decided to take the road less traveled i.e. the trunk road from PD to go to my parents home in Seremban. Indeed, we did take the road less traveled. Our GPS was set to bring us to our destination via the shortest we went through some 'kampungs' (villages) along the way, and these are really the kampungs with narrow roads, Malay kampung houses.....until we reached a dead end!! We did wonder if the GPS was right (GPS fans, but not me, do swear on them and trust their lives to them!) but decided to be adventurous enough to see where the device would take us!

Actually when we followed the GPS to get to Seaview Restaurant, it also took us through a kampung, a convoluted route which got us wondering if the restaurant was located in the kampung...

Caitlin was oblivious to our PD-Seremban 'adventure' as she was too engrossed with the bagful of books she had with her, reading non-stop. We even tried to show her kampung houses, and all the various trees - banana trees, durian trees, coconut trees, trees with lots of flowers, colourful Chinese and Indian temples, Malay kampung houses on stilts...but her books were just too interesting, although she was reading them for the Nth time. It was only when the journey started to feel longer than it should to her that she started asking why it was taking so long.

So the usual half-hour drive via highway from PD to Seremban became an almost one-hour journey via the old roads and kampungs. We finally found our way back to the main trunk road and reached my parents' home safely.

And.... Eugene reset his GPS to take us to our destinations in the shortest TIME, instead of route.

Will post some pictures once I manage to locate the camera and upload the pics...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Twenty-first Century Parenting

Last week, Eugene and I attended a talk with the above title. It was organised by C's school PTA. It was a good session which helped us to stop and think and remind us of what we have or have not been doing as parents in this current day and age.

The speakers, Mike and Diane Constantine, are familiar with the Malaysian/Asian family and parenting scenario, having lived here for over 20 years. In his intro, Mike shared this, which can also be found in his book "Twenty-first Century Parenting":

Many twenty-first centruy parents feel like rats in a maze -- running, doing, achieving, earning. But even with all that rushing about, many also feel confused and unfulfilled. As American comedienne Lily Tomlin said, "The problem with the rat race is that even if you win, you still feel like a rat."

If you don't live in Southeast Asia, you might not be familiar with kiasu. But here, we know it all too well. It is a Chinese word for a win-at-all-costs attitude....

If that attitude controls you, you risk becoming a hyper-parent. Here's a brief description of hyper-parents. See how well it fits you.

Are you a hyper-parent?

. You often negatively compare your children with other children.
. You feel you are in competition with other parents to raise the best and brightest child.
. You can always find time for one more tuition class but no time for sitting with your child, talking, or play.
. You never turn off your hand phone(s). Some people have more than one. How electronically connected do we really have to be?
. You are always doing two or three things at once. Multi-tasking is necessary, especially for a busy mom. But the danger comes when our lives are stuck in the spin-cycle, like a broken washing machine.
. You are often distracted, seldom focused on the present moment.
. You have no energy to discipline your child.
. You value your child's achievements more than strong character and healthy relationships.
. You often feel you are not doing a good job at anything.
. You buy new programs, new methods, new products, whether proven or not.
. You scold and bully often, but listen seldom.

Much of the rest of the contents of his book can also be found here.

My additional two sen's worth: We need to be self-confident and believe that our children will turn out all right without that extra Kumon, Enopi, mental arithmetic, ballet, tennis, or golf lesson, especially when they are not interested and it takes them away from being the children they are supposed to be. I don't mean to put down parents who send their kids to any of these kind of extra lessons. I send Caitlin to some music, art and capoeira lessons too. But it's simply because she is interested and requested for some of them herself.

Before getting caught up in the rat race, we need to consider if they really need the extra activities and weigh the pros and cons if we are putting too much on their plates and ours as well. Better a wise kid than a smart kid.

Mike Constantine wrote: "What good is an education if a person doesn't know how to live? Can top grades guarantee a child's success as a human being? Haven't we all known intelligent, gifted people who didn't know how to live? They had a brain stuffed with information, but they lived reckless, thoughtless lives. They may have been at the top of their class, but because they lacked wisdom they sank to the bottom of the barrel. Remember: parents have the responsibility to raise wise kids. Teachers can help, but parents need to see teachers as assistants, not as substitutes. As parents we must approach the task of raising wise children as though no one else will do it."


When I read this, it reiterated to me once again why this country is in its current shape and how much I fear for the education of our children. It made me feel like puking reading all those badly translated exam questions. For example:

Diagram 8 shows the Pravina’s twelfth birthday. Her brother borns 3 years 6 months after Pravina borned. What is the age of her brother at 7th January 2014.

Diagram 10 shows the mass of a packet of flour. The flour is fill in three containers. First container fill in with 3.98 kg of flour. The rest of the flour in second and third container. Which of the flowing mass is for second and third container?

Bar chart in diagram 16 shows the number of events won by Red Spout in Annual Sport. Table 4 shows the mark of each places. Calculate the total mark of Red Sport in Annual sport.

For those who cannot afford international schools and overseas education, there is a lot we need to do ourselves if we want our kids to be properly educated. Homeschooling looks like a good alternative. However, it takes a lot of courage and patience to jump in, especially in an environment and country where homeschooling is not the norm.

I'm satisfied with Caitlin's school for now since its only primary school and her first year. While it has to follow the Malaysian school syllabus, there are some subjects that are supplemented with Singaporean and American syllabi. In the meantime, keeping alert to the well-rounded needs of the child is still in priority. I'm of the opinion that a string of A's in academic subjects does not make a clever or successful child.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Caitlin not in school

Just after I said yesterday that Caitlin is back in school after a week's closure of her Year 1 class, she's now back at home today. Late evening yesterday, word got passed around via her teacher that a kid in school has been confirmed with the H1N1 flu. Apparently the MOE has not allowed the school to be closed/quarantined. I wonder why. So those who did not get the news yesterday would probably have sent their kids to school this morning. A circular will be sent out to all parents today I heard. I hope to get the full story later when I call the school or get it online through the PTA group....

Monday, August 17, 2009

A chip off the old block

Me: Caitlin, why do you and daddy like to leave things lying around?

Caitlin: Since daddy does that and because I'm his daughter, I'm like him!

Weekly updates now

It looks like I've been rather slow in blogging lately. A weekly update pattern seems to be forming here. It's a combination of the weather, all the bad news in the media I keep getting everyday, and the toxins in my body probably that is sapping my energy, not to mention having Caitlin at home the entire week last week.

Caitlin is back to school today and I'm keeping my fingers crossed things are getting better at school where the viral fever situation is concerned. This week is the last week before school closes for a one-week break.

Life has been very boring and routine lately. There's still much to do to get the house in order. Many things are still strewn about, especially on the third floor. I've resigned myself to the fact that clutter is something I have to live. This family somehow has the hbait of accumulating and abandoning. Anywhere that has a flat surface, including the floor, there must be stuff on it. Stuff that at one moment is acquired on the impulse that it is needed but very soon abandoned because it has been forgotten.

Our home is a cleaner's nightmare. So I have given up on cleaning. The house gets a little cleaner when the part-time cleaners come and do their once-over vacuum-mop job once a week. Even after that, not the entire house is cleaned because there's not enough time to clean all three floors for what I pay them.

Lack of financial resources, no motivation and laziness has crept in too. If we were gung-ho all the way, I'm sure the house would be closer to a page out of an interior design magazine. So if any of you come for a visit, please don't mind the mess and clutter. And don't open any cabinets. We may have temporarily stashed the mess in some of them too in anticipation of your visit! Ha ha.

If it were up to me, I'd throw away a lot of stuff, especially those that have been lying around untouched for years. as for stuff that are still usable, I'd give to charity and upgrade to newer, more practical ones that cater to present needs more appropriately. But my hands are tied. Sentimental values and emotional attachments which I sometimes don't understand seem to take priority over practicality. I'm a practical person when it comes to material things so I sometimes don't get why we need to hang on to certain things that we have not looked at or touched for 10 years.

Okay, I guess this can go on if I were to grumble and rationalise further. I need to get ready to run errands on my way to school to fetch Caitlin.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Fever outbreak

Our environment is totally polluted - with chemical and biological contaminants. Currently, the more evidently threatening ones in Malaysia are the haze and the H1N1 flu virus. There is also some other non-H1N1 flu virus going around that is causing many people to fall sick. Fever is the symptom of the body's way of fighting infection.

Last week, more than half of one Year 6 class in Caitlin's school did not turn up on Monday due to fever. The school suspended lessons for that affected class for the entire week as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of whatever viral/bacterial infection among the children pending confirmation from the affected children's parents on whether they contracted the H1N1 virus or not. We kept Caitlin out of school for two days after hearing the news, just in case. The school later said that the Year 6 children reported viral and bacterial infection, including two with chicken pox. That class resumed lessons today.

Since Thursday, the school has been screening the temperature of all children as they enter the gates in the morning. Those detected with fever were sent home. Today, 43% of Year 1 students were absent. Nine were absent from Caitlin's Year 1class while 13 were absent from the other class, because of fever. At dismissal this afternoon, the school declared lessons suspended for the entire week for both Year 1 classes. I happened to be outside the class talking to a teacher when the vice principal stepped into Caitlin's class to make the announcement. Immediately I heard cheers of happiness from the kids. Caitlin came out happy and excited that she's getting a holiday the next four days.

As for me, I've to start wondering how to get her to do some things she should be doing while at home, like catch up on practising on her drums and piano, and polishing up her Malay language skills.

Hopefully, no kids in her class or the other class has contracted H1N1 flu.