Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A tribute, of a different kind

As the title suggests, this is going to be a tribute of a different kind, not what one would expect, I think. So if your gut feeling tells you you don't want to read this, then please feel free to click to another page.

Right now, I should be mourning the passing of Singapore’s founding father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. I should be joining the rest of the nation in sharing how devastated I am that he’s gone, write a tribute of how great a leader he is, and so on.

I’m not.

Make no mistake. I do think he’s a great leader. In fact, I am thankful to him. Without him and his beliefs in education, I wouldn't have enjoyed an English education. Without him, I wouldn't have a life I’m leading now. Without him, my kids won’t be able to enjoy the greenery around us and be able to play in the playground safely. We wouldn't have water running from our taps; we wouldn't have the many opportunities that we have now.

In fact, my grandmother, though she lived in Hong Kong and may not always agree with the policies he passed, always had the opinion that Mr Lee Kuan Yew is a good man, a great individual with intellect and character, and that there will never be another person like him.

However, I am not mourning him. I’m certainly sad because I know without him, I would not have a home. But I’m not mourning him. This is because I’m grappling with another life event that’s closer to my heart.

I’m mourning the passing of my grandmother, who left us earlier this month.

It’s ironic, really. She has been gone for some time now, but yet, I haven’t said my final goodbyes. In fact, I’ll be saying goodbye to her next week, after the nation says goodbye to our founding father.

Yup, you read right. My grandmother’s funeral is only happening next week, because we had to hunt for a funeral hall and queue for a crematorium.

Which makes me even more grateful towards Mr Lee, for he had the foresight to build HDB flats with void decks and to ensure all other funeral facilities are efficiently managed, so that the people can say their final goodbyes immediately after their loved ones have passed on. So that they can move on with life. 

In some ways, I think this is a reflection of Mr Lee’s resilience. He’s telling us that whenever one meets a low point in life, no matter how difficult, one has to bounce back and find the strength to move on.

Yet, move on is not something that I can do. For the past several weeks, I’ve been in a kind of limbo. While my head knows my grandmother is gone, my heart doesn’t seem to want to accept the reality. The fact that we live in different countries, plus the long wait for the wake and funeral, has made it all seem extremely surreal, like it’s not happening at all. 

But I know it’s real. I know she’s not around any more. But the reality has not yet sunk in deep enough for me to grieve and move on. Since news of Mr Lee’s passing, I’ve been deliberately reading the news with an objective eye, refusing to let my emotions get the better of me. I’ve even avoided reading too many articles about him. I’m afraid that I would instinctively think of my grandmother and my tears would fall, and fall uncontrollably.

Should I mourn for him? I suppose I should. I suppose I should join the rest of my compatriots and mourn, let my tears fall and start my healing process. But then how can I? When the wake and funeral of one who has shaped me as an individual is just one day after that of a person who gave me my home?

I know my seemingly stoic strength isn’t going to last long. With her funeral looming, it’s getting harder and harder to keep a dry eye, though I try, very hard. It’s easier because I’m here and I’m still busy. Once I sit on the plane and fly across borders to bid my goodbye, as the country is wearing black and saying goodbye to a great man, it’s a different story. I know the floodgates would open, and it’ll be hard to close them. But I know I’ll move on, no matter how difficult it will be. 

That would also be what my strong and independent grandmother, a little old lady who lived 27 years alone because she wanted us to lead our own lives, who showed me that family ties is more important than religion, would want.

Love you 嫲嫲. Always and forever.

Grandmother

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

I am a mum, no matter what

I'm a full-time working mother. There! I've said it. I've categorized myself and given myself a label, so others know what I do for a living. But really. Does the generally accepted definition really matter? Does it make a difference whether one is a full time working mother, or stay at home mother or part time working mother or work at home mother or whatever?

We are all mothers. Full time mothers. Mothers who made a choice to have a family. Mothers who decided to put up with a growing belly for 10 months, sometimes more than once, to have adorable irresistible kids. Because make no mistake, all kids are irresistible, especially in their parents' eyes.

So whether we are working or not, stay at home or not, or whatever label that society decides to give us, we are all mothers. Mothers who love their kids and make decisions based solely on what benefits our kids. 

And whatever we decide to do with our lives, our kids remain our top priority. We do not expect any returns, except perhaps for a loving hug from our kids. Except perhaps for that nightly peace when we cuddle our kids to sleep. Except perhaps when we witness with pride how our kids grow and learn everyday. Except perhaps when we've been entertaining hyperactive kids for a whole day or been working endlessly and just want to hide in the toilet for some peace. Or perhaps when the kids are sick and, exhausted from looking after them, all we want is a wink of sleep.

So it really irks me when people try to put a value on being a mum, stay at home or not; when people pass judgement whether a mum works or not. My mum was a housewife (in those days, there was no terms like 'stay-at-home mum), though she worked short stints here and there. She devoted herself to her three kids, and in my eyes, it makes no difference whether she worked or not. It was her devotion to us that mattered. How true were her words, that one will never truly know the demands and struggles of being a mum, until one is a mum. No one has the right to judge a mum.

It irks me even more when some people have the audacity to say that because mums have relief to hire domestic helpers, they should be grateful and hence all go back to the workforce. Seriously, helpers are just that, helpers. They do not, and cannot, replace the role of mothers.

I have a domestic helper, a wonderful lady who has been with us since before EV was born. Sure, her presence, and that of my father-in-law, has enabled me to work, a decision that was made jointly with DaddySay because of our financial situation. She helps look after the kids while I’m at work, cooking lunch and dinner for them.

However, that doesn’t mean that my role as a mum is any less. My first shift of the day may be my work, and my second shift is to look after the kids, but throughout it all, I’m a mum. 

And as a mum, I hold many many roles. I’m a/an:

Life coach, who teaches the kids skills that hopefully will last them a lifetime
Counsellor, who guides the kids to understand their own emotions
Cheerleader, who keeps saying ‘yes dear, you can do it!!!’
Motivator, who tells the kids that they can do it, if they believe in themselves
Dream instiller, who lets the kids know that anything is possible, if only one puts one’s heart to it
Rule enforcer who lets the kids know that rules have to be followed for a reason
Negotiator, who breaks up fights that usually catch one by surprise
Organiser, who packs up when things get messy
Nose wiper, who answers to calls of ‘running nose!!’
Truth detector, who uses x-ray eyes to see through their attempt to pull wool over your eyes
Entertainer, who comes up with cool play ideas, and show them that playing by themselves can be so much fun too
Education minister, who oversees the kids' learning and teaches them knowledge 
Scheduler, who plans what happens each day
Finance minister, handles the kids’ bank accounts, and also the family accounts
Photographer, takes pictures of the kids’ growing years
Doctor, who administers medicines to tackle the cold and feared fever, and keeping vigil overnight. Especially for AA, because of his epileptic condition.
Protector, who protects the kids from harm
Clown, who comes up with tricks to get the kids in giggles
Individual, who cries, laughs and gets angry, to show them I'm also human, that I'm not a super mum who can do anything, and that my heart breaks whenever I see them sick or crying in pain.
Their mum, who loves them terribly

Many roles I may have in motherhood, and I embrace it wholeheartedly. Simply because of these little two loves of my life. No matter what they do, how they behave, what their health condition, I'm their mum, no matter what.

Embracing motherhood

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This post is part of the Embracing Motherhood blog train hosted by Dominique of Dominique's Desk. Do hop on to find out how other mums are embracing motherhood.


Next up on the blog train is Angeline. She blogs at Simply Mommie and has been a stay-home mom for almost 7 years now. She's mom to two lovely children who have given her new insights to life as she now finds herself on a journey of re-discovery of the world through their little eyes.





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Thursday, March 05, 2015

Book Box Thursday: Fun with origami and shine-a-light books

For this month's edition of Book Box Thursday, I'm going to share about three library books that we find to be extremely unique. Their content and design gives them a fun twist that makes it so much easier to engage kids.

Simply Sound: Science Adventures with Jasper the Origami Bat (JP524BRA)
Plants Parts Smarts: Science Adventures with Charlie the Origami Bee (JP571.3BRA)

Simply Sound 1

Like the titles suggest, the first book investigates sound while the second, plants. What I like about these two titles is the way they take advantage of origami living things in the story line. The stories start off similarly, with a kid folding a bat or a bee, which then becomes 'alive' and starts interacting with other animals. 

Simply Sound 3

Jasper the Bat goes around with Leo the dog to find out how sound vibrates and travels, how humans and animals hear, and why some animals have better hearing than others. While Charlie the Origami Bee brings his insect friends on a journey to find out how plants grow from seeds and how photosynthesis works. The science facts seem difficult to comprehend, but, it is written in simple language that makes the facts easy to understand. The illustrations are also animated and active, so even if the kids are not too interested in the words, the colourful pictures can be used to explain the science facts in a more visual way.

Simply Sound 2

Another interesting feature of both stories is the way speech arrows and bubbles are used to indicate which animal or insect is speaking in a narrative. This can be further used to show that dialogue can be presented in many ways, and not just in straight lines, exposing kids to more narrative possibilities. There is also a glossary at the end to explain difficult words, a great help.

Simply Sound 4

The stories can also come alive, literally. At the back of books, there are instructions how to make the origami bat and bee. EV made both, with some guidance, and we retold the stories making use of the origami bat and bee. EV and AA took turns to be the bat or the bee, or the other characters, and the stories were shared over and over again. Sometimes, we deviated from the original storyline, giving both opportunities to stretch their imagination with their own creation. Most importantly, we had fun. 

Simply Sound 5

These two titles are written by the same author Eric Braun. He has also written other stories in the same series: Lookin' for light : science adventures with Manny the origami moth and Let's rock! : science adventures with Rudie the origami dinosaur. We can't wait to read these other titles too.

Secrets of the Apple Tree: A Shine-A-Light Book (JP577BRO)

Secrets 1

A Shine-A-Light book? What's that? That got me curious too, that I simply had to borrow it and share its secrets with the kids. In terms of content, the story is rather straight forward. It tells the tale of an apple tree and the living beings that live around it. Well, specifically, environments such as a leaf pile and a bees' nest. While discovering the secrets behind these hidden habitats, the story investigates how a tree loses its leaves during winter, and what happens when an apple and its seeds fall out on to the ground.

Secrets 2

Secrets 4

So what's the secret? The magic happens when holding the book up to the light. What appears to be just green grass under a tree amazingly reveals a hidden picture of underground roots and worms in the soil that live beneath the tree. Turn the page and above the hidden picture is an explanation of the worms on the previous page. This innovative way of presenting a story and revealing hidden aspects is extremely interactive, and is a very kid-friendly way of introducing the theme of nature and ecosystems. We used this to teach about plants, flowers and seeds, amid squeals of delight when the hidden pictures appeared. There just something about the magic of light that kids love. We will borrow this book anything again to enjoy the magic.

Secrets 3

Hope you will enjoy the books we shared today. Till next time, happy reading!!

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Play Learning Tuesday: Cardboard Farm

It’s been quite a while since we last shared on Play Learning Tuesday. But today, we’re back again, and we hope to share more of our fun play learning activities.

Today, we’re sharing a cardboard project that we did, in line with the farm theme at EV’s pre-school. It was a rather big project, and need the help of AA too, though I don’t think he minded.

Materials needed
Cardboard box
Green and blue paint
Felt in various colours
Ice cream sticks
Cotton wool for the clouds
Blue foam for the pond
Egg cartons
Scissors
Glue

Firstly, I got EV and AA to paint the outside of the box green. For the inside, they painted the top half blue for the sky, and the rest green for the grass.

Cardboard Farm 1

Decorating and adding details inside is really easy. There are no specific details as to what to add. I basically let EV take the lead and decide what she wanted in her farm. She decided she wanted a barn, which AA helped to make as well, using ice cream sticks. 

Cardboard Farm 2

Cardboard Farm 3 

Then she wanted an apple tree, so we made one using green, brown and red felt.

Cardboard Farm 4

Finally, she wanted a pond for the ducks. She even made her own ducks out of white felt, added cotton wool for the clouds, and even gave the pigs their own feeding trough made out of egg cartons.

The kids then made their toy farm animals move house, from the toy box to the newly created cardboard farm. The animals look like they are liking their new home.

Cardboard Farm 5

There are quite a number of learning possibilities besides the creativity, such as:
- Literacy - describe the farm, the farm animals, what they are doing, how they are feeling, focus on words associated with ‘farm'
- Numeracy - count the animals, simple addition and subtraction as the animals move into the barn to rest
- Science - discuss the body parts of the farm animals: webbed feet, hoofs, beaks etc

So there, an easy-to-made cardboard farm. There are a few steps to making it, but the bonding with the kids is just great.

What cardboard creations are you making today? Do share!

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