Friday, October 21, 2016

Preparing for Primary One - inculcating values

In two weeks’ time, we will be going for EV’s Primary One orientation. We’ll be buying uniforms, books, school bag, so on and so on, to prepare for her entry into Primary One (oh my!) in 2017. 
Yup, this mummy is feeling the jitters, as I’ve shared here. More so than EV, I think.
To be honest, we’ve kind of started to prepare her last year. Well, maybe some of you may think that we were being too ‘kiasu’ to have started to prepare her so early, that we are being ‘tiger parents’ in pushing EV too early. However, do hear us out.
We want EV to be prepared. Not overly prepared, but just enough so that she doesn’t get a shock to her system when she has to make the transition from a carefree preschool life to a ‘pressure cooker’ Primary school life. From three hours or so of learning and playing, to almost six hours of academic life. From a classroom setting where kids sit at round tables, to a typical classroom setting with the whiteboard in front and the teacher talking most of the time. She’ll have more tests and the academic demands will be so much higher. It’s a drastic culture change and we don’t want it to be a shock to her.
Hence, we are getting her prepared on two fronts: values and academic knowledge.

I would lie if I said as parents, we are not concerned about Primary One. We are. We would ask ourselves, how can we prepare her for this milestone? How can we prepare her mentally and psychologically for it, and yet at the same time equip her with the skills to help her handle the changes more confidently, so that her self-esteem is not affected? 
In our opinion, the key is starting early, and inculcating in her values that can improve her preparedness, for Primary One and for the rest of her life. The key is to nurture values like responsibility, discipline, focus and determination in her, values that can last her a lifetime. 

Responsibility, Discipline, Focus and Determination
EV has to know that learning is her responsibility, a lifelong responsibility; teachers and parents can only guide. 
She must have the discipline to ensure that her responsibility is fulfilled and the work done, and know that work comes before play. Even if she would rather play, she must have the discipline to realise that she has to finish her work, and not just play away. 
She must be focused so that she is not distracted and will pay attention to finish her work in due time, and then play or do other hobbies. 
Equally important is her understanding that she must always try and always try her best. Nothing should deter her because as parents, we believe in her.
Even more important is her understanding that it is ok to fall, it is ok to be wrong, it is ok to fail. She must never give up. The important thing is she picks herself up, gets over it, analyses what went wrong and how she can do it right, learns from it, and then tries to do it better.

What do we do to try to instill these values?
At this stage in her preschool life, since the beginning of this year, she’s getting homework already. At first, we guide her as parents. We remind her to do them, and also sit next to her to guide her. Slowly, we let go, and empower her to do her homework on her own, telling her to come to us if she needs help. Sometimes she throws tantrums as she prefers to play, so we let her play a little more, but tell her that she must finish her work before she engages in even more play. We also explain to her her responsibility. Of course, it’s something that takes time to inculcate, especially at her age. However, I’m glad that she’s displaying more awareness that she needs to finish her homework. Increasingly, she insists on getting it done first, and that I think is a great start. Because that also shows that she is getting the discipline and focus. 
Sometimes, when faced with some seemingly difficult question, or a new piece of music, or a new kind of food, EV throws a tantrum and refuses to proceed. We always insist that she tries. We advise her not to make a judgement of her own ability, or how something is, even before she tries. 
Eventually, after much cajoling, she does try, and then she realises that the task was not that difficult after all, or the food was actually quite yummy. She gives this big smile, with a spark of happiness in her eyes, and realises that what she thought was difficult at first was actually, in her own words ‘easy peasy’. That’s when we reinforce to her the need to always try.
Even when she meets with a problem, we will always ask her to try and figure out a solution for herself. If she doesn’t do it right, she has to continue figuring out. We will step in only when we see that she really cannot figure it out, but we only give her tips rather than give her the answer. 
Hopefully, the value of learning from trying and making mistakes can be inculcated in her. After all, she has to learn that a problem is not a problem when there’s a solution to it.

That’s not all...
Of course, it’s not just these values we focus on. Everyday, we try to nurture her and AA into good, caring, confident individuals with their own opinions. Everyday presents many learning opportunities for them: the way they communicate with their friends, the way they need to know the importance of thinking through before impulsively saying something or behaving in a certain way, the way they present themselves in terms of manners and behaviours; the list is endless. We definitely recognise that building EV’s character, and AA’s character, is immensely important. They need to have soft skills to help them tackle the increasingly challenging society, because unlike in the past, academic excellence is no longer the only way to be successful. 
And we hope that our way of parenting, will help adequately prepare EV, and eventually AA, for her primary school journey, and beyond.

What else are we doing to prepare EV for her primary school journey? 
Stay tuned...
Preparing for Primary One


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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Review: Bosch Readyy’y 2-in-1 handstick vacuum cleaner

Disclaimer: We were provided with a unit of Bosch Readyy’y 2-in-1 handstick vacuum cleaner for review purposes. No monetary compensation was received. All images and opinions are our own.

It’s always good to read details carefully; this is something I’ve learnt during our search for a handy handheld vacuum cleaner.

The day I received a press release from Bosch, I thought I had found the answer. I saw the words ‘Readyy’y 2in1 cordless HANDstick vacuum cleaner’ and I was sold. I quickly requested for a review set, thinking ‘Brilliant! Now we can clean the car!’

But lo and behold! When I saw the courier man with the ‘cordless handstick vacuum cleaner’, I got a shock. Why is it so big? It was as tall as the kids!

It was only then I realised my mistake. Maybe motherhood made more more careless, or jump to assumptions easily. But, this was a mistake I didn’t regret.

Here’s why. I was searching for a small hold-in-the-hand vacuum cleaner for cleaning the car. But thanks to the little mistake I made, I got myself a vacuum cleaner for both the car and the home.

Oh where oh where is the handheld cleaner?
You see, the Bosch Readyy’y comes with both a handstick vacuum cleaner for floors and other large areas and a detachable battery powered handheld cleaner for smaller areas like the car. It is easy to remove the handheld cleaner, and I like the fact that this compact cleaner fits seamlessly with the tall handstick cleaner.  In fact, it was so seamless, I almost couldn’t tell the difference between the handstick and the handheld.

Yey! No more wires!
Another feature I like about this 2-in-1 device is its ability to operate without wires. The provided wire is there only to charge the replaceable battery in the smaller handheld cleaner. Once fully charged, it can operate both the handheld and bigger handstick cleaner. It sure beats having wires trailing you wherever I go.

Bosch cleaner 6 2

Bye bye backaches
Thanks to the standing Bosch vacuum cleaner,  I don’t have to constantly bend over to pull and neaten the trailing wires, or reach down to operate a very low cleaner (which my current cleaner is), I have fewer backaches due to vacuum cleaner usage. I can tirelessly do my housework without bending up and down, or even cursing under my breath (so the kids don’t hear), when wires get stuck between chair legs. Keeping the cleaner is also rather convenient, as the entire cleaner can be dismantled into three pieces and kept easily into a cupboard. Phew! I thought I had to find a place to keep the tall cleaner.

Bosch cleaner 4 2

Dust away
Because I’m just walking around the house with the Bosch vacuum cleaner, house cleaning is rather effortless now, relaxing even. The cleaner’s nozzle swivels, so it’s easy to reach tight corners. The cleaner also has a pretty good air flow, so it sucks up dust rather fast. However, I cannot comment much about the accumulation of dust on the vacuum filter, as we loaned the product for only two weeks. However, we hear that the filter is made of washable high tech foam that is designed to last for the vacuum cleaner’s entire life span.

Bosch cleaner 5 2

So yeah, I think I had a pretty good time cleaning with the Bosch vacuum cleaner. That’s right. House cleaning has become less taxing on the body.

Bosch table


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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Letter to EV: Preparing Mummy for Primary School

Dear darling,

You’ve reached a significant milestone. Over the past few years in your kindergarten, you have blossomed so much, into a cheerful, bubbly little girl who is so endearing to everyone. And now, this month, mummy will be registering you into a primary school.

We’ve been trying to prepare you in little ways for your primary school journey; we know it will be very different and it’s a totally new experience that you will need to adapt to. In fact, you already had a gut feeling that something was different this year, the way your kindergarten teachers were giving you more regular homework, the way mummy and daddy were trying to get you to finish your homework as soon as you returned from school. I know you are unsure and confused and I see the uncertainty in your eyes. You also can’t help feeling excited for the new experience, because many of your friends will probably be going to the same school.

In fact, my dear, this experience is as new for me as it is for you. 

I still remember a tiny little you, holding you for the first time; you fit nicely into my arms. Now you’re so much bigger, it’s harder to carry you on my lap. I love your first smile, I love the way you danced in front of the mirror, I love the way you bravely went on to the school bus on the first day of pre-nursery when school ended, without mummy or daddy (though we were hiding behind the bushes).

Darling, the past years are precious. Time has flown by too fast; you have grown up too fast. 

As I await for the time to register you into primary school, I’m having mixed feelings. I’m happy to see you grow up, to see you move into the next milestone of your life. Yet, I wish time would stop. I wish you can always fit in my arms so I can hold you tight always and hug you. 

At the same time, I’m apprehensive, and scared. I’ve heard all these horror stories about primary school, the level of stress, the number of graded assignments and assessments, and so on and so forth. I want to prepare you for it, but yet I don’t want to over prepare you. I want you to have the spirit of learning, yet I’m worried that we will be overwhelmed by all the assessments and projects that will have to be done. I’m not sure how I can help you to adapt to a totally brand new environment, with longer hours and more academic demands.

Yet, I just know you have the strength in you to adapt to whatever you may face next year. I believe you can do it.

And you know what? Mummy will be on this journey with you. It’s an unknown path before us, but I’m sure, absolutely confident, that if we walk together and support each other, we can face this challenge together. 

You have me darling, and you always in my heart.



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Friday, June 24, 2016

Review: 3 'MAX' reasons to like the Asus ZenFone MAX

I shared my first impressions of the Asus Zenfone MAX here. Like I said then, the phone looks like it’s got heaps of potential, and indeed it has.

Mammoth capability
Imagine, not having to bring an extra power bank to charge your phone once it runs out of juice in the middle of the day. After all, this is a common scenario, especially when we are such heavy users of mobiles these days.

That would be super convenient! Imagine again the lesser weight you have to carry! Ok, it may not be much compared to the kids’ bottles and jackets and wet tissues and so on, but every little bit counts, me thinks. 

And the Asus Zenfone MAX has got this built-in power bank with a 5000mAh power capacity. What this gigantic number means is that the MAX has enough energy to fully charge itself as well as other devices. It’s a fully operating power bank by itself, so no need to bring another extra.

So it’s got great battery power as a power bank. How is its power as a phone? Quite good, as we’ve discovered. We left the MAX on standby mode for just about two weeks, and when we woke it up again, the battery was still three quarters full. So the MAX has lived up to its claim of having up to 38 days of standby time. The 5000mAh lithium polymer battery is also responsible for giving over a day of talk time and web surfing. That means that if you’re an average user, then you’ll only need to charge the phone every two to three days or so, and your phone will seldom run out of juice. Especially useful when the kids keep you so engaged that you forget to charge the phone. Yup, it's happened to me before.

Asus 3

The battery however, is not removable. One can find it just under the removable back panel, where the dual-SIM and microSD card slots are located. Internal storage stands at 16GB, though this can be increased up to 64GB with a microSD card.

Internally, the ZenFone MAX runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor with 2GB of RAM. This combination works decently day to day. However, graphic intensive applications like Angry Birds 2 might cause the phone to warm up a little after some play, resulting in some lag. Just turn off the apps and let the phone cool, and that should do the trick. The only problem with this is if the lag happens while the kids are playing with it (which is generally quite rare in my case, because I limit their screen time); it will be tough to get them to put down the phone without a fight (that's why I limit screen time in the first place).

Amazing camera
Previously, when we reviewed the Zenfone Selfie, its camera impressed us. The same goes for the Zenfone MAX. 

It has a 13 megapixel rear camera with 0.03 second laser auto-focus and a f/2.0 aperture. Its laser beam focuses extremely fast for quite detailed images, especially in settings where the light is more balanced. Now this is quite useful to capture focused pictures of energetic kids. Though there is some noise in images taken in low light, the images are rather satisfactory. There are heaps of shooting modes like manual, low light, HDR, slow motion, time lapse, panorama, and so on to make mobile photography really fun and creative. Hahaha.. I think it will be hilarious to see EV and AA in slow motion or time lapse.

Asus 1

The front camera also features a f/2.0 aperture but stands at 5 megapixel instead. There’s also the additional beautification shooting mode, that first appeared in the Zenfone Selfie. This mode allows you to instantly beautify oneself before taking a selfie, or if you are still not satisfied, then further post editing can be done after the photo is taken. This has been a hit with EV, who always asks for selfie and requests that I add colour (read: lipstick).

The 5.5-inch Zenfone MAX is protected by the Corning Gorilla Glass 4, so it is extremely scratch resistant and durable. This is quite standard these days, so it is good to know that Asus didn’t stinge on this despite the MAX’s affordable price. In fact, according to Asus, the Gorilla Glass is 2.5x stronger and 85% less likely to break in daily use. In other words, it is rather kid proof.

The phone’s screen itself is a 1280x720 HD display that has a 178-degree viewing angle, with a density of 267 pixels per inch that makes images appear clear and detailed.

EXquisite lightweight design
The Zenfone MAX only weighs 202g. That really light, considering that it’s got a monster battery in such a small, slim space that measures just 156mm by 77.5mm and between 5.2 and 10.55mm thick.

Overall, the Zenfone MAX’s design is similar to its other Asus siblings, with the metallic frame and control buttons. Up close, that’s where the differences reside. The power button and volume rocker is on the right side of the phone.

Asus 4

Turn the phone around and the back panel is where the design gets exquisite. We like the embossed leather feel of the phone in Osmium Black. It gives good tactile touch, and makes the whole phone much easier to hold on to. We really do like how it feels and adds to the elegant look already achieved by the screen and the surrounding metal edge.

Asus 2

The Asus Zenfone MAX, available at a price of $249, is a good all rounder. It looks good and performs satisfactorily well, and the key feature that may sway any buyer would be its massive battery. It means you don’t have to go searching for a charger mid-day, plus it comes at an economical price that won’t hurt the pocket.

Disclaimer: We were provided with a unit of Asus Zenfone MAX for review purposes. No monetary compensation was received. All images and opinions are our own.


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