Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Looking back -- 2015 and 2016

Since my last post here, there have been many events, activities, milestones that I've yet to record, more for myself to remember. I'm glad that Facebook has this Facebook Memories feature that reminds you of what you posted on the exact same date one, two or however many years ago since you joined FB (as long as you didn't delete the old posts).

Today, FB reminded me that two years ago on 4th January 2015, it was the first day of school.  This year, the school term started yesterday.

In 2014, Caitlin started her secondary education in a new school. It is actually what we call a 'learning centre', which is quite a common thing now in Malaysia. Learning centres are privately set up places that run like a school but on a smaller scale. These 'schools' offer private education -- international school curriculum, mostly the UK-based curriculum, although there are some which offer USA-based ones using various homeschooling curriculum, Australian-based or religious-based ones. Unlike full-fledged international schools that charge very high school fees, these learning centres are more affordable. They, however, do not come with expatriate teachers, fancy facilities like tennis courts, Olympic-size pools, large teaching and admin staff, broad spectrum of extra curricular activities and elective subjects. For parents who can't afford exorbitant school fees yet have decided to opt out of the public school system, they would either homeschool their children themselves at home (it has caught on and grown quickly here), or look to such learning centres for adequate coverage of academic subjects and extra-curricular activities without the fancy frills.

When C started in this learning centre for Year 7 in 2014, I was offered a teaching position in the pre-school section in June 2014. It was my first time going back to a full-time job after nine years of staying at home. As the assistant teacher to a class of 25 five-year-old children, it proved to be too much. The hours were long and the salary didn't match the work and stress involved, simply because the industry norms are such in this country. The class teacher I was assisting took advantage of having me as her assistant, the school despite not having a qualified special needs teacher, accepted a special needs student in that class. Needless to say, after two months, I decided to quit because I couldn't stand the stress -- more time was spent in trying to manage disruption, scolding, punishing, than providing a caring and conducive learning environment.

However, I remained as a subject teacher where I focused on teaching the children phonics reading on a one-on-one basis. That continued for a little over 1.5 years, until February 2016 when I decided it wasn't worth my time and energy traveling twice -- for my work and then to fetch C, as her school hours were different from mine.

My voluntary work at church, which I started in late 2013, was also taking up some of my time, in addition to the existing commitment of writing a fortnightly column since 2012.

Fast forward to the present, three years later....what took place in between has been shared mainly in this post. So now I'm sharing from where I left to fill in some gaps for 2015/6.

Highlights of 2015 and 2016 in pictures:

April 2015 was when Eugene turned 50. We had a family feast at home with his family.

My two nieces from USA came to Malaysia for a visit in June/July 2015. It was good spending time with them for some cousin bonding! Precious moments to cherish.

Thirty years after we left Form 5, our class organised a reunion in November 2015. About a third of the class made it for the reunion where we visited our old school and had hi-tea at the Majestic Hotel in Malacca.

Right after we graduated from university, four of us gal pals made a trip to Pulau Besar in Malacca. In November 2015, 20 years later, we decided to re-live our trip by getting together in Bentong for two nights of food and relaxation. It took some planning between the four of us busy bees to find a suitable date but we made it!

In December 2015, my church held is bi-annual Christmas Cantata. Caitlin and I participated in the one in 2013 but this time, only I took part, singing in the alto section.

Also in December 2015, Caitlin passed her Grade 3 drum exam with distinction, and performed in her music school's annual concert. Since then, she has moved on to Grade 5 and has also taken up the electric guitar.

In late 2015, Eugene and I attended the Alpha Parenting course at my church, culminating with the final session in Teluk Intan in January 2016 as my Pastor had been transfered there in December 2015. It was a good time of getting together with the fellow parents of this course, our children and a few other church members who came along to join us in visiting our pastor and playing tourist in Teluk Intan. This pictures show us at the leaning tower of Teluk Intan.

In February 2016, we celebrated Chinese New Year. Every year, we would have the reunion dinner and also spend the first day of CNY with Eugene's side of the family. On the second day, we went to my parents' home and feasted again.

In March 2016, Caitlin wanted to add on a cymbal to her drum kit, so we encouraged and helped her to raise funds for the purchase by baking and selling chocolate and coffee chip cookies. She did all the baking and I helped with advertising, packaging and delivery. After some sweat and agony of hard work, she made quite a fair bit of money, and with the pocket and angpow money she had saved, she managed to get what she wanted.

In March 2016, we went to Penang to attend Eugene's cousin's wedding. I decided to take the opportunity to meet up with old friends from my university days whom I had not seen for many years. Some of them bought Caitlin's cookies!

In April 2016, Caitlin participated in the 4 X 100m event in her school's Sports Day. Her team emerged with the silver medal.

In May 2016, Caitlin and I went to Malacca for my church Family Camp. We had a good time of learning and fun, which included a walking treasure hunt around the historical area.

During the June 2016 school holidays, Caitlin and I took a trip to Cherating, and left Eugene at home to toil in the office ;-p We made a pit stop in Kuantan for lunch before proceeding to Club Med. Before checking in, we visited the Turtle Sanctuary located beside the resort. we spent four days relaxing and participating in some of the activities. Caitlin joined the Teens' Club and made friends with other teens, participated in outdoor activities like archery and swinging (or rather falling!) on the trapeze. I enjoyed the open space, greenery, beach, a short hike up a hill, the nightly shows, the food and the long drive to and fro. We also went kayaking together.

June 2016 included the Chinese Dumpling Festival. We were invited to the home of a church member to join a few families in some fun, making the rice dumplings from scratch, and learning how to assemble, wrap and tie up the dumplings with leaves and strings. It was hard work trying to get them in the right shape and tying them up correctly.

 My dad celebrated his 77th birthday in August 2016. We didn't have a big party so it was just a small slice of cake and coffee one Sunday afternoon when he and mum visited us in KL.

We also made a trip to Ipoh in August 2016 to join the extended family of Eugene's mum in celebrating his aunt and uncle's 70th birthday. It was a big gathering of the clan and a reunion of sorts, as aunt and uncle came all the way from Seattle to celebrate with family. Other aunts, uncles and cousins also made the effort to come from Seattle, Japan, Penang, and Kuala Lumpur.

In September 2016, we joined my younger brother and his family on an impromptu visit to Legoland. It was our first time there so we had great fun at the theme park, on the rides, looking at all the marvelous Lego-built stuff and going on all the water slides repetitively.

In mid 2016, I began exploring other part-time jobs and found one in teaching a six-year-old how to read during his summer holidays. After seven weeks of reading with him daily on weekdays, he improved his reading skills and made me a thank-you card before he went back to school in September.

In October 2016, Caitlin turned 14. It was another party at home with family and the highlight was the pandan jelly cake from the famous bakery in Klang whose owner was the creator of this cake (that's been duplicated and sold by others over the years).

The picture below shows three good old friends who have known each other since they were eight. There are a few more of us in this 'gang' but they are currently living in other countries. We try to meet up at least once a year to catch up so we managed to do so in October 2016 at a coffee and cake place in The Atria, Damansara, chatting and exchanging notes about parenting our teenage and young-adult children.

Caitlin's school year, her third year (Year 9) at the learning centre, ended in November 2016 with the customary year-end concert to celebrate the students' achievements. Her class presented a song-and-dance performance. This picture is of her with her school mates singing an action song at the finale. This year, she enters Year 10 to start her IGCSE O Level studies until next year.....How quickly they grow up.....

The year-end school holidays in November 2016 began with us hosting two wonderful homeschooled children for a few days while their parents attended a conference away from home. We had lots of fun doing stuff together like baking cookies, making jelly, playing with Rusty, and best of all, forming a mini band to present a song to their mum as a birthday surprise. Children are fun to be with and they learn and adapt so quickly. Within a few practices, they got the song right.

December is always a busy month with church and family activities centred around Christmas. December 2016 was not any different as I conducted carolling practice at church for our carolling visits to members' homes and the Wesley Home for the old folk. The Ongs also continued with the family tradition of attending midnight mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Klang, followed by midnight supper of roast lamb and chicken before opening presents till the wee hours of the morning. The 2016 Christmas family photo theme was 'Christmas in white'; idea credit goes to Eugene.

In early December 2016, ACE made a trip to Penang to 'jalan jalan, cari makan'. It was four days of foodie adventure and we ate to our hearts' content. We also did the necessary street art tour and visited an upside down 'museum', featuring an upside down house where we could pose for silly shots.

Last but not least, I must not leave out my faithful and loyal boy, Rusty, our four-legged furkid who celebrated his 8th birthday on 1st November 2016. As  he gets older, he tends to have some skin problems every now and then so he's been rather clean shaven these days compared to the past. He continues to enjoy being by my side wherever I may be at home. If he is not snoozing, he would be nudging me for pats and food, of course.

And finally, we've come to the end of this post chronicling the highlights of 1.5 years' worth of our lives. It took me the entire morning, right into my lunch time to search for the pictures from my unorganised folders, mobile phone and Facebook to compile them chronologically here. I hope I'm better organised in 2017!!