Monday, March 26, 2012

A flea market Sunday

Yesterday, C had a first-hand experience of entrepreneurship. A few weeks ago, our residents' association announced their plan to organise a flea market/bazaar and C got excited when I told her about it. She said she wanted to earn some pocket money by selling something, so we registered ourselves to take up one stall at a mere RM5 token fee.

Then we started thinking about what we could sell -- her pre-school level story books that she's outgrown? Food? Handmade craft items? We decided on food because her books were too precious for me to part with, and we're not good at craftwork. So food it was, but what kind? Since it was to be HER 'business', I wanted her to be involved in it as much as possible, with us helping. So I suggested something simple which didn't involve much cooking and we finally settled on selling marshmallow pops.

She wrote the shopping list for me and I went to the supermarket to help her get the items. Then ACE worked together to make the marshmallow pops the afternoon before the sale. We made 93 sticks altogether. We could have had a few more sticks if we didn't gobble up some of the marshmallows ourselves along the way!

Marshmallow pops

Miss Camera-Shy at her stall

After setting up our stall between 9 to 10am, we sat and waited for customers. As it was a hot and sunny Sunday morning, the neighbours were a little slow, trickling in around 10.30am. Most people walked around the stalls, just browsing. To ensure we sold as much as we could, I told C to be more vocal to tell people what she was selling. So she rolled up a piece of paper like a loud hailer and started peddling her ware. Then I told her to walk around with the marshmallows and approach the people to ask them to buy.

The bazaar was for four hours. After two hours, we broke even. The afternoon was getting too hot and humid and C asked if she could go home. I told her she could only after she finished selling her marshmallows. I'm glad she stuck it out and started walking around again trying to get people to buy her goods.

By the end, she sold 85 sticks, gave away three sticks to the little girl at the stall next to ours, and took home the last five sticks. C counted her takings, deducted the cost and came away with a 53.3 per cent profit. Not bad for a first-time job I'd say.

I also managed to sell extremely cheaply some old, but 'new' i.e. unused items we had lying around the house, like aromatherapy items and tea sets. I also gave out brochures about this powerful antioxidant concentrate  ACE has been consuming for the past six months and found it helps greatly with our joint pain, allergy symptoms and digestive ailments like constipation.

Other foodstalls sold pasta and pizza, cupcakes, cookies, and lemonade, or promoted some slimming teas. There were stalls which sold used household and children's items, toys, and handmade jewellery. A stall beside ours offered air-conditioner servicing services.

Toys

Free samples of pizza, pasta and mushroom soup 

Handmade jewellery

All in all, I think it was a good hands-on learning experience for C. Besides experiencing the act of selling, we had also briefed her about cost, profit, loss, pricing and marketing.

Check it out here on how to make marshmallow pops.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Karaoke weekend

This week has just gone by so quickly and it's Saturday again tomorrow! Last weekend felt like it was just yesterday. Last Saturday, ACE made a spontaneous decision to go to a karaoke for a few hours of fun. E was the person in charge of keying in the song selection while C was the main entertainer. We had a microphone each and sang the songs we were familiar with -- oldies from the 60s, 70s and 80s (40s too), and current pop favourites which were mostly those that C liked and were familiar with. They included songs by Justin Bieber (there's no escaping!), Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, Christina Perri (had to ask C how to spell this name) and not missing the famous Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO. We also couldn't resist trying to do the shuffle in the room while singing that song!

Two days ago, in the course of a conversation about our karaoke activity, C stated that she doesn't want her friends to know that we, her parents, sang those current hits with her. When asked why, she said we're too 'old' like 'aunty' and 'uncle', and it would spoil her reputation.....Geez, talk about the typical teenage syndrome of feeling embarrassed by being associated with the parents! She's not even in her teens yet, let alone celebrated her 10th birthday, and already behaving like a 15-year-old....

Our pre-teen in action
(picture quality poor due to dim lighting and use of camera phone with limited capabilities)


Time passes so quickly and we can't stop aging that's for sure. It felt like only yesterday --"Only yesterday, when I was sad and I was lonely ...." Remember this Carpenters hit? Incidentally, this 'aunty' did sing this song at the karaoke :) -- that C was still a tiny bundle the length of my forearm....



And now, she's an American Idol wannabe, singing and dancing, and telling me just a few hours ago about Girls Generation (and I said "What? Who's that?").

Hmm, the teenage years are fast approaching, and I hope it will not last "a thousand years" (cue Christina Perri).



In the meantime, I guess we should just KEEP ROCKIN' (and rollin'! -- can't deny my 60s roots :D) with whatever comes our way, and be grateful for each new day.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

School break this week

Local schools here are having their one-week break this week. Since it's only for one week, I didn't manage to plan anything interesting to keep C occupied. She still has her extra activities i.e. piano and drum lessons and on Monday, she attended a workshop at school. In between, she's done some homework from school, practised her music, read and watched TV.

Recently, she started writing a 'novel' of her own based on one of her current favourite book series. She has consistently been writing everyday since last week, and sometimes for quite a few hours straight, in a notepad. She usually has rather messy handwriting and the level of 'messiness' correlates with how much interest she has in what she is doing. When it's a subject that she dislikes, her handwriting is usually very large, scrawly and all over the place, as what the Malay idiom refers to as 'cakar ayam' (chicken scratchings). In this 'book' she's writing, her handwriting is small and very neat, with the titles for each chapter written in a stylised format using coloured ink.  She's even formatted the story with a cast list of the characters, complete with names and descriptions, prologue, and she's now at Chapter Five. And of course, no one is allowed to read what she has written so far!

Best-selling author in the making, in her favourite sitting position!

It would be great if she could channel such similar focus and interest to some other work that she is required to pay more attention to! But I guess that's asking a bit too much. It is just our nature to prefer doing something we like and enjoy and give more attention to it compared to something we don't like.

Monday, March 12, 2012

March-ing on

Every year, the month of March holds a certain significance for me in my motherhood journey. It was in March 2005 that I made a snap decision to leave my career and relatively good salary to stay at home to look after C and tend to household matters. It was because depending on others for childcare was problematic and it drove me to decide that I should just do it myself. It's been exactly seven years since.

The journey has not been the easiest, neither the most enjoyable.That's an honest admission. I'm one who likes to be active, being outdoors, trying out new stuff or experiences every chance I get. I like going out, meeting people, trying new food, travelling to places I've never been to before. Till today, I struggle with stifling my wanderlust. An aching longing wells up when I watch travel shows, hear or read about other people's wonderful holidays. Also till today, we struggle with managing the change of lifestyle, from a two-salary to a one-salary household, having to always remind ourselves that we can no longer afford 'wants', but only 'needs'. Despite that, it's been rewarding as I look back the past seven years, considering the opportunities of  'being there' watching C grow from a cute toddler to a I-know-what-I-want, strong-willed pre-teen. 'Conscious' parenting is what I try to practise, and it's been a trial-and-error journey filled with ups and downs.

The past year, my seventh, has been the most challenging. If the 'seven year itch' is true for marriages, I'd term my seventh year at home as 'itchy'. I've been restless, lacking drive or purpose, depressed, always thinking of leaving reality for a blissful holiday somewhere exotic...and probably never return! I kept (and still am now sometimes) wanting to 'get busy', but had to remind myself of reality's limitations. It was in this seventh year that I also took a one-year break from writing for pocket money.  Before this, I had spent three years writing a fortnightly column in a local daily.

Over the years, I've experimented with various ways within my capability (skills, time, interest) to find ways to earn some money while at home. I tried blogging, writing and writing-related work, and even direct selling. I found out the latter is just not for me. Trying to convince people that they should buy something, because they need it and because it's good, is just not me. And I didn't like living with grudges when friends who did not understand the business talked behind my back or threw insults, intentionally or otherwise. As for blogging, I've never ventured into seriously monetizing any of my blogs and have earned only some bits from some marketing communications type of blogging. I still view blogging as something that I want to have fun with, or something for journaling purposes like this blog.

Call me idealistic, unrealistic or whatever, but I think although money is important, I won't die if I have less of it (but that doesn't mean I won't complain, hehe!). We'll just have to do with what we have, and walk in faith day by day. It's my way of trying to stay sane because parenting is already a full-time job.

I've had, and still am having, people (who don't read my blog) hint, tell me directly or even suggest various employment possibilities that I should consider. They mean well of course, but I guess they fail to remember that their opinion and what they see is from using the spectacles tailor-made only for their eyes, and they don't know me as well as I know myself :)

At the start of my eighth year as a stay-home mum this March, I'm about to embark on a new fortnightly column, in addition to the occasional writing/proofreading/editing assignments I get. I don't actively seek out jobs for fear of biting off more than I can chew. Life is simply too short to be working too hard. We all need to march to our own drumbeat and be thankful for what we have.

What shall I be writing about here next March 2013?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Mortality

Yesterday, we received a jolt to our run-of-the-mill morning -- a stark, blunt, no beating-about-the-bush, no-fluff-no-frills kind of reminder of our mortality, our state of being human, that we will face death. Whether it's sooner or later, we don't know for sure, until it happens.

A cousin of ours, from E's side of the family, left us unexpectedly the night before, leaving his beloved wife and two sons, the eldest being the same age as C. He was in his early forties, and generally healthy. It was a stroke that took him.

We are saddened, C included, as she knows this uncle. But we have faith that he has gone to a better place and is resting in peace. We, especially E, will cherish the memories of him, the time they spent together with all the other cousins since their childhood days. We trust that his family and loved ones will remain strong and find comfort and support with each other and the extended family.

When something like this happens, especially when it involves people close to our hearts, we feel a deeper realisation of how fragile and precious life is. It makes us think again. Is toiling so hard while making compromises with our health and family time, collecting a string of A's and certificates, trying to be 'supermom'  or 'super careerperson', and making our kids take up a zillion 'enrichment' activities as we call them, all really worth the time, money and energy spent? How 'enriched' are with all these?

In this day and age, many of us, whether we realise it or not, are trying to pile too much on our plate, or plates! For the achievement-oriented types among us, we are over-zealous in wanting to be the best, to have the best, in the name of self-improvement, self-fulfillment, self-actualisation (hehe, I remember my Psychology 101!). And as parents, we do want the ultimate best for our kids. And I'm not saying there's anything wrong with all these. It's only wrong when we go to the extremes.

I had said in an earlier post that I need to stop and smell the roses more. I'm still working on that. We, especially those who live in urban, competitive, fast-paced cities, need to do that. It does not mean we have to drop everything and do a 'Eat, Pray, Love' ala Elizabeth Gilbert, although I do wish sometimes I could do just that. Finding the middle ground may be hard but I believe we can do it. We may not want or be able to do what others did in finding their Ground Middle, but we can surely clear a path of our own to get there. I'm writing this to remind and motivate myself!

Meanwhile, the weekend is nigh. We shall bid farewell to cousin Eric tomorrow. Bon voyage and rest in peace, Eric.