Friday, October 26, 2012

Children's Day and C's birthday at school

C's school celebrated Chidren's Day yesterday. The teachers organised a day of fun, food and games for the children. The celebration started off with a time of singing in the school hall, a speech by the headmistress and another by the PTA Chairman. Then children from Years 3,4 and 6 peformed on stage. C and seven other girls represented Year 4 with their rendition of One Direction's 'One Thing'.

Then a clown entertained the kids with his funny antics.

C's birthday falls on Saturday so we took the opportunity to celebrate it alongside Children's Day. At break time, the children sat in the canteen and had a feast of chicken rice, muffins, ice cream and drinks. I brought a cake, the one which C asked me to make (see previous post), and C distributed the party packs to her friends which contained some candy, a CD of Christina Perri's single 'A Thousand Years' and of course, the cookies we had made.

This is the chocolate cake with buttercream icing, decorated with chocolatge fingers and jellybeans I laboured through the afternoon (and night!) before. I had initially planned to spell out her name with the jellybeans but it didn't turn out well. Removing the jellybeans would have damaged the icing so I improvised. It was too painstaking to cover the entire surface with jellybeans so I turned it into a cross design instead, making it look like a cake for Easter! However, I felt it was also appropriate since it is our hope that our faith will be more meaningful to her as she begins life as a pre-teen. As it is, she is already showing some annoying teenager behaviour and attitude....

After eating, the kids proceeded to the field to play some telematch games. School dismissed early and everyone went home happy with snacks and souvenirs.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cookie-cutter shortbread cookies

Yesterday afternoon, C made more cookies. The 'moon rocks' and 'meteor showers' she made last week had all been devoured, mostly by E and her. This time, she used another recipe, a basic one for shortbread cookies. After rolling out the dough, she was excited about using cookie cutters to cut out the various shapes.

They turned out quite well considering it's her first time baking shortbread cookies, and after tasting one, she said she liked it. She made two trays of them to be packed into the goody bags she wants to give her classmates when she celebrates her birthday at school next week. However, these two trays will not be enough so I guess I'll have to help her make more in the next few days, plus pack them into the little plastic bags I bought for her from the baking supplies shop.
I am bracing myself too to bake and decorate a chocolate cake to bring to school for her birthday. It'll be my very first time making a cake for public viewing and consumption! I prepared her by telling her that if it doesn't turn out right, I'll have to buy one from a bakery at the last minute that day!
This is the kind of cake she wants (scroll all the way down the page to see the picture), which I hope and think is simple enough for me to make.  We were browsing through foodgawker together one day and she said she wanted it for the coming birthday. I'm not too keen on filling the top of the cake with so much jellybeans, so the compromise is that I'll spell out her name on the cake with jellybeans.
Watch this space for further updates on how our baking endeavours for her birthday turns out.....

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Caitlin's homemade cookies

Caitlin got interested in making some cookies from a children's baking book I bought recently. So after lunch on Sunday, she took the book out and thawed the butter while I gathered the required ingredients in the kitchen. I told her she'd have to do everything herself from measuring to making the cookies. They are actually what I know as 'rock buns'. I also said she had to wash up after cooking, and only when she needed help should she call on me.

It went fine until she realised she didn't plan well enough. She was impatient and didn't follow the book's instruction to "collect the ingredients together, then turn the page to receive instructions for moon rock contruction". After measuring the flour and butter she started rubbing them together and getting both hands all messy. She had yet to measure and set aside the other ingredients, so she asked for help....she learned her lesson for not following the book's instructions and listening to my advice to plan for everything she needed.

After that little snag, she went on to make the cookies. They turned out fine and edible, although a little dry for my liking. She was proud of her first attempt at baking cookies all by herself. She is planning to try other recipes and bake more soon to include them into the party packs she wants to give her classmates when she celebrates her birthday at school next week. We'll see how that works out soon....

The novice baker at work.

The book calls this 'moon rocks'. The exposed raisins got burnt and tasted a little bitter :)

This is 'meteor shower'. The same recipe, raisins substituted with colourful sugar strands.

Monday, October 15, 2012

World Girls' Ice Hockey Weekend

Last weekend, Malaysia participated in the World Girls' Ice Hockey Weekend event which took place simultaneously in various countries worldwide. Take a look here to see where it was held. Thanks to a good friend of mine who told me about the event (she brought her daughter too), we took C to the Sunway Pyramid ice skating rink to get her first experience skating and 'playing' ice hockey. The event was open to girls age 17 and below.

Registration and waiting in line to get the right-sized t-shirt, skates, helmet, shin guards and hockey stick plus putting them on took about an hour as the turnout was quite good. Upon entering the rink, the coaches lined the girls up and helped them practise moving from one end of the rink to the other. After learning the basic moves and getting used to falling and keeping their balance on the ice, they moved on to holding the hockey sticks while skating and going through simple obstacles. As most of the girls were inexperienced, they did not play a real ice hockey game. After two hours, they took a group photograph and called it a day.

C quite enjoyed it and said she would like to go ice skating again.

C (in blue jeans) waiting for her turn to skate
Group photo of all the participants (picture borrowed from here which has more pictures)
Click on the picture to see if you can spot C who had removed her helmet.
The event did create some awareness about this sport in Malaysia, and especially for me, I didn't know before this that we have a female ice hockey team :)

Post-exam ramblings

It's somewhat a relief for ME that C's year-end exam at school is over and done with. It's hard to put aside that 'exam fever' stress that people my generation are so accustomed to -- exam time means studying hard, revising, burning the midnight oil as they say. And marks and grades are the ultimate measure of how clever you are and your potential to be successful in life i.e to be a doctor, lawyer or accountant! Also, having good grades meant better chances of getting a university degree which translates into getting a good job and a good life, and living in heaven on earth, if I may exaggerate. That's the idea that had been pounded into many of our heads from the time we started school and for the next 17-18 years of our academic life assuming we pursued tertiary education.

Many of us, including the generation before mine, i.e. my parents' generation, still continue to hold fast to that notion, failing to realise that times and things have changed. We can't blame ourselves as we grew up in those times when becoming a doctor, lawyer or accountant was indeed proven to be better than being a musician, designer or chef. I personally need to remind myself to shake that idea off  as I grew up that way and even more so because I had been a diligent student all my academic life and got quite good grades most of the time. A university degree and a good job in a multinational company with company car and chauffeur, club membership, travel benefits etc is no longer the only way to success in life in current times.  That's my personal opinion, anyway, in case I tread on some sensitive toes...

That brings me to the point about my struggle with leaving things be with C who is the total opposite of me -- nonchalant about good grades, pursuing only what interests her, not bowing to pressure or competition (or threats!) in almost everything in her corner of the world. It's a challenge, as a parent, to find the balance and draw the delicate line between nurturing independence, teaching responsibility for consequences of decisions/actions taken, allowing freedom to explore, and instilling perseverance for things you don't like but need to do (in her case, it's learning/mastering the national language), focus and discipline, to name a few.

My friends and I frequently wonder aloud now and again why our kids are the way they are, while we, during our time, did our homework and studied without anyone reminding or nagging us. I guess the answer lies again in how different life is nowadays. There are much more stuff that capture our attention and distract us. There are more opportunities and choices in life. Our kids have it better as they are more privileged, because we had worked hard to be able to give them a better life. The challenge is to not allow them to feel entitled, to help them see there are others less privileged than them, to mould their hearts to be down-to-earh, compassionate and godly, to know their purpose in life. A fulfilled life is not all about money and material things, although we tend to tell our kids, "You'd better study hard if you want to have a nice house and car next time, or you'll end up becoming like that homeless man." What should we actually say instead of this?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lethargic musings

It appears that the frequency of my posts is much less nowadays compared to a few years back when the enthusiasm to blog was still burning. Those days, I could just write a few within a day. Whatever musings and happenings would just be recorded here for remembrance or simply for the sake of ranting.

Seasons change. So do people and routines. But part of the reason why I 'talk' less here is because of Facebook. I 'talk' there more these days. I find it easier because the people there appear more 'present' than here. And it's much faster to post one liners of thoughts, rants and info, share pictures and videos through Facebook. It's much more 'instant'. It's more accessible as I can use my Android phone for it. I could use my phone to blog too but it's such a pain to be typing with one fingertip on the phone screen. And I keep pressing the wrong letters and many words end up being misspelled. That's one of my pet grouses of a touch-screen phone. With a computer keyboard, I can type much faster using 10 fingers, thanks to old-fashioned typewriting lessons I took during my free time after the Form 3 exams which was then known as SRP....

I've been feeling lethargic lately. Unmotivated. Unenthusiastic. Lazy. Tired. Sluggish. No mood, as they say. It's more of a mental state than a physical condition -- my personal diagnosis. But daily stuff still need to be done. And they have been done albeit without enthusiasm, barely meeting my personal standards of quality :)

C appears to have morphed from cheery and manageable pre-schooler to a sometimes sullen, grumpy, impatient and strong-minded rebel tween overnight. To say the least, it's been mentally and emotionally exhausting for me. I wonder how mothers with more than one such child cope and get through their days happy and not depressed. They must be yogis with nary a drop of impatience traversing within their veins if they manage to maintain a smile and go about mopping their floor singing 'Oh what a beautiful morning...' However, in my opinion, there's no such thing about 'supermom' being able to save the day. In actual fact, whoever coined that term 'supermom' probably didn't think it through enough. Something has got to give. As capable as one can be, one cannot cover all bases perfectly. Mothers can do incredible feats and juggle enormous responsibilities but we're still human.

 I whine, I complain, I rant and rave. Then I'm gentle, understanding and forgiving. I'm Dr Jekyll and Mrs Hyde at times or maybe, always.  Aha! Maybe that's why I feel drained! Oops, this self-analysing is a strange thing to be doing here. I wonder if other overworked mothers behave strangely like me.

Beneath or beyond all these, I have drawn strength in the mire of lethargy from spiritual reflection, prayer and inspirational songs.It is that Special Spirit within me that guides me back to the straight path. It is the notion that all things will fall into place regardless of how much or how little I possess, how much or how little I have achieved. I strive to view all that I possess and accomplish, tangible and intangible, as temporary. "Naked a man comes from his mother's womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand."

This brings to mind the 'kiasu' concept. Why should we want to be 'one up'? Where's our self-confidence? That's something C's disposition reminds me occasionally. She chugs along life not worried about who's better than her at school or in anything else she does, and not caught up with wanting to be better than the best. Some call it nonchalance, lacking competitive spirit, lacking desire to achieve. I think it's still too early to stick any labels on her where that's concerned, although I myself have often pasted some other labels out of frustration.

I think it's good to have, within certain limits, that Mad magazine guy's "what, me worry?" stance at times. Life is more peaceful and calm that way. It's crazy to measure everyone, especially our kids, with the same yardstick. I say po-tay-to, you say po-tah-to, so be it.

I view this lethargy or maybe, depressive vegetative state as helping me, the perfectionist, to slow down and not be in a hurry to get things done efficiently all the time, to not be so selfless but a little selfish at times, to quit worrying about cooking a healthy dinner and get lost in a different world browsing at a bookstore! That's what I did today, and left the shop almost RM200 poorer, oops......(But yet again, I veered towards selflessness, buying only one book for myself, and the other eight or more, for loved ones....)