Monday, December 22, 2014

A trip further down south - JPO and JB

Truth be told, I have never been to JB. I have had one foot in to Johor, as far as Tangkak. But other than that, I know nuts about the state further down south.

So, when it was to happen that Mr Yoong and hubby starting planning a visit to JPO and other parts of Johor, I was thrilled. And why shouldn't I....JPO houses Kipling and I was itching to get a Kipling at a good deal. I am such a bag person.

The planning started before I even had my Singapore family holiday so I was very much outside the initial itinerary emails. And then the Yoongs had their family holidays so JB trip was out of our minds for a while. And then the weekend crept up upon us and soon I realised we were 2 days away from the trip.

So, on the fateful morning of 13 December, we made our way to Puchong, petrol station, a jam, Putrajaya and then we were enroute to Johor.

The trip to was alright. It didn't seem that long. Perhaps because we made one pit stop at Tangkak to get allergy drops for Caylee. So it did seem that we were reaching Ayer Keroh and then a short while later, we had reached our 'destination' Tangkak.

We had a little incident of a dog kidnap in Tangkak. The Samsung phone saved the day.
And then we had lunch in the only other famous beef noodles shop there. The beef noddles were so-so. I say that because I love Vietnamese beef noodles and this one was no way close to that. I know I should take it as it is. And as it is, it was pretty good. But....
The little bakery shops in Tangkak were pretty cool though. From a city-girl-who-loves-her-confectionery's perspective where bakeries are mainly air con places, the smell of an open oven emitting baked bread and cookies was lovely.

After lunch it was all the way to JPO. Mrs Yoong let us out when after a turn or 2, we did not find any parking. And then when the whole group was together, like a dog on leash, I was let go.

My initial opinion of JPO was that although they try to make it look (although in such a smaller scale) like the US outlets, the shopping satisfaction is so different. The thing is in US, store prices equates to just about Malaysia equivalent price, and sometimes even cheaper. So, when you get to the Premium Outlets and everything is 50% off, it becomes too good a deal not to get it. But here, I go to Kipling for example and there are only 2 shelves 50% off with thus limited color and style. And then I start converted it to the US equivalent and trying to remember if I were to purchase it in US, will I be able to get it? And the sad thing is, I would. Perhaps even cheaper if I get it from US. The only thing about buying from US is that I will have to wait for someone to bring it back for me. But in the few months to come I have plenty coming. It was an unfortunate fact for me that I was looking forward so much to buying a Kipling in JPO that I felt so dejected.

At any rate, I continued walking. Bought some dresses and clothes for my daughter from Cotton On. At that price I would not even say it was a good deal. But hubby exclaimed 'Cotton On woh'!

I would say the Sacoor shop perhaps had the best deals. At 75% (was it?) off, hubby bought 2 working shirts. And while we were waiting for the long queue to pay, I did buy a Kipling in the end. Just for the joy of paying for it and holding it in my hands. But I love my Kipling at any rate. Pink and beige and typical Kipling look and feel.

We were dead tired and terribly hungry after JPO. Now for the life of me, I don't know anything about the geography of Johor. So when we ended up in Skudai for dinner, I was like ok. I know Skudai town only as a name of a town in Johor, but given we were just in Kulai, how was it that I never felt I left a town to reenter another?

And that is my greatest impression of Johor. That once you reach the southern part, the smaller towns all merge together. So, I don't really know when I left one small town and when I have reached another. It reminded me of the Federal Highway linking KL to PJ and then to other towns. Very different from Kampar to Tapah to Bidor. You definitely know when you leave Kampar and wait patiently for Bidor to arrive.

We had a down-the-memory-lane drive with Mr Yoong and were then taken to the famous Skudai duck rice. It was good. Better than the PJ old town duck and much cleaner, less crowded. After dinner, it was a pit stop to take petrol, buy drinks and junk and etc. No ice cream lest you have to walk alone to the hotel.

The hotel, Le Grandeur....was the most welcoming sight after such a long day. Now, the thing about reaching a hotel late at night is that all you want to do is check in and wash up. Different from when you reach a hotel in the afternoon, then you are eager to check in and then check out the hotel. And maybe also jump into the pool. So, after checking in and getting our extra bed (which we got free thanks to John and the work he is doing), to soften the blow of unable to go swimming, the kids had tub time. And from the room, the night view of the pool looked too welcoming that we did not leave the hotel without jumping into it.

And that was what we did the next morning. After a crowded, fight for food at the breakfast buffet, the kids and I had a swim. The 2 Mr-s and Mrs Yoong relaxed, took pics. I could not resist a dip in the pool. We checked out at the appointed time to check out and then headed to Danga Bay and JB town. But before that, for all the simple pleasures in life, the Yoongs had to do an imaginary just-arriving 'wah' exclaim, just for the sake of it! Hilarious bunch!

Danga Bay. What can I say about this place.  First, it would have been better if we had seen this at night. In the heat of the afternoon and without the magic of lighting, I reckon none of us were all too keen to take any pics. Also the walkway supposedly next to the sea was ruined because there wasn't anymore sea next to it. I blame it on poor planning. We have so much land, yet we choose to reclaim and reclaim. The same sorry state of Malacca. We left after perhaps 30 minutes or less.

Now, JB is another story. As we were entering JB, there were this whole row of heritage administrative buildings. It reminded me of Penang with the historical buildings and canopy like trees facing the sea front. But as I moved along slowly in the car, the feeling of JB benig similar to Penang faded. In fact there is no town that I can even say JB reminds me of. Although why I tried, I don't even know. It was narrow streets in the circle within. And then when you reach the outer loop, it was like broader roads going somewhere else. It was also unique in that the town center was established around such a hilly area. I don't think any other town, apart from Kuching has that many hilly roads in the town proper.

After a short tour, the traffic jams were horrendous, we left JB to have lunch. Convenient and simple, we had McDs on the way back home. After all that swimming, I was so ready for a grease filled lunch. The journey home was too long. Seremban and Sunday ain't a good match. And the alternate route was equally jammed. So at 7:30, we stopped by Kajang and had dinner before heading home.

Was it a good trip? Definitely, except for the leg home. I got to go to JB and it was nicer visiting a new state with Mr Yoong who has memories of the place. I love looking at the past sometimes, imagining how life used to be. And as always Mr and Mrs are always very accommodating. And their kids are the best examples my kids can have. I think half the fun would be lost without their kids. They help ever so much to keep my little ones entertained. Road trips are always good because they give you a chance to get to know someone better. And with the Yoongs, I get some time to myself too - either to be alone to rest or to engage in proper adult conversation.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Swimming Update

I woke up with a start at 3.05 am this morning asking myself "What the heck have I done?"

"RM560 a month for my 2 kids swimming lessons! I must be out of my mind!"

And then I did a mental summation of how much I need to spend a month on both my kids activities. And you can guess that I never fell back asleep after that.

So, how is it that I came to this point and will I turn back the clock if I could?

It all started with the fact that Swimcube was to close down. With Uncle Ivan whom Christopher loved to learn with and at RM150 a month, I was pretty devastated.

So anyways, I went again on my search for swimming lessons and boiled it down to either Advanced Aquatics in the Bukit Utama club or Swimin12.

I called Advanced Aquatics and at a member rate, we would need to pay about RM 154 a month a kid. I hear weekend classes are pretty full and you have to be a member before you can enter the club on the weekends. But the weekday classes were from 6-7 pm which to me felt a little late.

So, I tried Swimin12 as well. The first time I messaged EJ, he had already added me as a friend in FB, which kind of makes rejection a little bit harder. But I was also impressed with the character and motivation behind Swimin 12. So, I decided to bring the kiddos for a trial class on the fateful day 11th Dec.

When we arrived there, I was bombarded with a parking fee of RM5 since it was drizzling and we parked at the club parking lot. OK....not good. Then when we arrived at PJ Palm Sports, I saw no sign of EJ and had to search for him. When we made contact and he went out to meet the coaches, they were sleeping and resting. OK....hmmm....

Then I was surprised when one by one all the coaches got ready and jumped into the pool. We are talking 1 main coach and 4 sub coaches. All of them stretched up and jumped into the pool. I was cautious if they could manage my 2 kiddos since none of them had as yet made contact with my 2 kids. But I was pleasantly surprised.

So Coach Ram, hubby told me he from Philippines later, called the kids over and had them repeat their names again. And then they were led to wear flippers and sit by the pool.

In that one hour, I loved what I saw.
There were time when my daughter cried when they asked her to do something she was afraid to do. But they  managed to help her conquer her fear and she stopped crying instantly. And I could see her listening to their instructions carefully and following what they told her to do.
I was so glad I could have cried.
For a girl who 6 months ago cried the entire 45 minutes in her first trial lesson.
And then adamantly refused swimming lessons for the next 5 months after that.
But who then after 2 times in the pool - Avani and YWCA - now knows she better learn if she wants to keep up with kor kor.
This same girl doggie paddled 1 m all on her own from the coach to the wall.
My heart was doing cheers for her all the while I was sitting down trying to keep my composure.

As for Christopher, he has already conquered his fear of water but I saw him jump into the deep end of the pool, also following their instructions. They were teaching him to dive in the water on the 1st lesson itself. And I reckon they will be able to help him slow down in his strokes and take the lap more leisurely.

The kids were made to do laps and laps of the pool and I could hear Christopher complaining. But he can't stand in this pool and thus had no choice but to push on. He did it in the end!!! I was so proud of him.

So, all this led up to the fact that 1 hour later, I was signing on the dotted line committing myself to RM560 a month.

It will be worth every ringgit in the end. I am sure of it.
I shall put aside every negative thought or comment.
They will have a happy learning experience.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Gardens by the Bay Singapore and Bugis Street

Day 3 of our trip to Singapore, I chose to visit the Gardens by the Bay. It was between this or the zoo. But given that we already had one day of sun, I preferred this as it was indoors.

Breakfast on Day 3 was in some street my bro in law lead us to. I was paying no attention so I have no idea where it was. Only that it was somewhere near Orchard Road, walking distance from YWCA.

Deciding to go to Gardens by the Bay, we could take our time since it was indoors and we need not really bother about reaching there in the morning to avoid too much afternoon sun. Or if there would be enough time to cover everything. The expected time required, minus lunch will be about 2 hours. We spent about 5 hours there, taking 1 hour for lunch to rest our feet.

Several words come to mind when I think of the Cloud Forest - COLD. High.

Cold.

By the time we entered the Observatory, it was about 11 so it was quite humid outside. As soon as we entered, a wave of COLD air hit us. It didn't help that our first sight was this 30 m (I think) waterfall too. It was quite spectacular. Then it was flowers and plants and a steady walk up to the top - HIGH - of the mountain. And then down again on the other side. Thinking about it now, it was very well planned so much so you walked around without feeling lost or that you were walking in circles. There was never a moment where you were not surprised with the sight before you. There was no lack of beauty at every turn. Even the kids were enthralled by their surroundings. Seriously not bad at all since we are only talking plants and flowers here - and a 4 and 7 year old kid who knows nuts about plants. There was never a time they complained they wanted to go back to the hotel or that they were bored being in that place.

Finishing the first observatory, we broke for lunch only to return to the 2nd observatory after lunch.

Flower Dome was Magical. Calm. Beautiful.

It was snap snap snap as soon as we entered. Almost every flower was perfect without blemish. There were areas which were covered in green, you felt like an elf in a forest. There were benches strategically located everywhere which really all you wanted to do was sit and just be one with nature. I half wanted to keep shushing my 4 and 7 year old who were laughing and singing away. There was an oldies song playing which was very calming and 2 out of tune voices singing Let it Go was really quite a nuisance. My mum kept walking away the minute the kids came towards her. I don't blame her at all. The few moments they ran off to walk with their aunty and uncle and I got to sit alone under a tree, I felt so much calm. I was seriously contented and happy to sit there the whole day.

We reached the hotel around 4 and the kids were screaming for pool time. Darn their energy level! But I obliged although they were willing to get out after 40 min since YWCA does not have a kid's pool. The adult pool shallow end was 1.2m, just above the boy's head, so he still jumped in and was brave enough when he got tired to stand and then kick himself up again. I was impressed with his guts given he did nearly drown in Langkawi just a few months back. He has progressed much since, in at least he is no longer afraid to jump into a deep pool. The girl had guts too attempting to jump but making sure I was standing arms length away from her.

We had dinner in Orchard road - one of the malls, one of the food court. And then did some grocery shopping before calling it a day.

The last day in Singapore was my real shopping day. We went to Bugis Street and I bought a couple of totally girly stuff there - all pinky in that way girly I mean. Bought a Little Twin Star passport holder for only SGD 5.98 which I had no qualms handing over to the immigration officer. He must be expecting it to be my little girl's passport only to discover that it is mine. Also bought a Miss Piggy Disney shirt which was orange in color and cost SGD 10. Oh! I am such a child at heart still. Pink and purple cute stuff still gives me the thrill!

Seriously, have you seen Little Twin Star or Strawberry Shortcakes? They are but the loveliest, cutest print on any merchandise!

Universal Studio Singapore

So, we woke up bright and early on Thursday morning, 27th November 2014.

Today was the highlight of our trip. The thing we have been looking forward to since inception of the idea. I had already pre-booked the USS tickets using the Mastercard USS promotion, thus costing the adults SGD63 per ticket.

We went to Vivo.
Had our breakfast off half-boiled eggs, bread and coffee.
Kids bought orange juice.

Then we made our way to Level 3 of Vivo City to buy the tickets for the monorail.
First stop into Sentosa Island, we alighted and followed the signs to USS.

MY OH MY!!! The rotating globe that greeted us at the turn of the corner was such a welcoming sight. I could feel my excitement heightening. And given Christmas was coming, there were some Christmas deco around as well. What a treat !!!

Then we saw the line...
Not the line for the tickets mind you.
The line....no line(S) to GO IN TO USS.
Good thing we only had to wait a few minutes before the gates to FUN opened up.
Then map in hand, we zoomed towards New York! New York!

Reading several posts before hand, I knew we had to get to the Transformer ride ASAP! So, that was where I and the kids ran to. But not before we got side tracked by the Sesame Street Spaghetti Chaser. My daughter held my hand so tight through out the ride but she was beaming from ear to ear. I was so pleased to see her barely containing her excitement.

After that we made a bee line for Transformer. Oh my my!!! That was the highlight of USS, I tell you. It was soooo fun! Like soooo fun. I was having so much fun I forgot to check on my daughter until after the ride. She looked half thrilled, half shocked. My son who was on my right was within my line of vision and he had a blast of a time. Well, Transformer is really his thing after all.

After Transformer, my sis and bro in law lagged behind. I then remembered my sis has motion sickness so the Transformer ride was not too good for her. We split up after that and they went on their own to do their own rides.

I had also read that for the Lost World rides, you will need to wear a raincoat. I brought mine and also for the kids. But my mum who wanted to go on the ride as well didn't. You will get wet on this ride especially your pants. But it was so much fun. Partly coz it's not in a black space, you can see what you will be going through but that doesn't make the fall any less scary.

There were a few rides we didn't get to go on since by 3+ it was getting cloudy and most of the outdoor rides were closed. So, by 4.30 we decided to make it back to the hotel. Just in case it really rained.

USS does indeed cater to all the needs of a tourist. Even while lining up, there were water coolers and large fans to circulate the air. Queue time was not hard to bear, the most being 40 minutes. They had several food courts serving decent food. Cost for the food was not exorbitant - without conversion. Not like Genting where even McD is more expensive.

We managed to also catch the Waterworld movie which was really quite spectacular. Not a low cost budget, not worth your while scene. But something I can go Wow! to.

USS is actually not very big. We could actually cover the whole USS and would have managed all the rides if not for the cloudy weather. But in a way the clouds made the whole experience easier to bear since there was no hot sun.

There are many merchandise to buy depending on which gift shop you patronize in USS. LIke the one near Madagascar will have Madagascar USS related items. I bought a T for SGD 24 but poor hubby couldn't find any T that was reasonable enough to buy. Kids didn't whine at all for any gift. Caylee had simple fun playing bubbles by Sesame Street.

At the end of USS, all I can say was the boy had cramps, the girl was dead tired she could actually sleep while standing. Boy and I had dinner in the hotel that night due to his leg cramps. Girl and family went to Lau Pat Sat. Strange that I didn't mind at all the fact that I had dinner in the hotel. I cherished the time I could sit with my son alone to talk and eat. And after that we went up to the room and we sat in bed together and watched TV.

My lesson before I went to Singapore to be content in every moment seems not so hard to do at all. And learning to be content in the moment really makes the moment utter bliss. Life gets so much easier when you clear the expectations, dismiss the disappointments and be just OK with where you are and what you are doing now.

I loved USS and the memories I built with my kids there. From holding their hands and running the streets towards Transformer. From jumping high and catching bubbles with Caylee. From sitting down and massaging their feet. Even from the selfies we took of backgrounds that thrill us! Such is what I look for, to create holiday memories that the kids will be able to remember and then smile.

Singapore 2014 - Day 1

This will be a bitter sweet memory for me.

The holiday part being sweet, the loss of the boss of the holiday the bitter.
Maybe the reason why I never researched so much into this trip.
Every time I thought about it, it brought me back to the day.
The evening I sat with my dad and planned the itinerary and the cost.
The last evening I sat with him and chatted and joked.
He passed on the next morning.

So, even while I was holidaying in Singapore, I had daddy at the back of my mind.
How it would have been different if he was there.

Well, if he was there, my bro in law and sister might not have been.
And then I would have been the one to lead the holiday.
As it is, since my bro in law and sister came along, I took a back seat.

Like all holidays, I normally want to make the best of every minute I am there.
So, when it was planned that the first day we were to arrive would be spent catching up with relatives, I was a bit disappointed. I wanted very much to go to Orchard Street and spend my first evening shopping.

But alas, God did make it easier for me to stay put in the hotel.
It rained.

My uncles from Singapore picked the 7 of us up in 2 cars and we made our way to YWCA. We paid about SGD 200+ for a family room consisting of a king bed and a single bed. The room was spacious with wooden flooring, and the bathroom was just alright.

It was close to 4 by the time we checked in. And given we only had a heavy breakfast, we went to the YWCA cafeteria for a meal. Costing an average of SGD12 per plate, the food was good. Reminding me of YMCA Penang, in a sense people actually go there for regular meals. It continued to rain till way pass 6 pm. So, we didn't get to do much on the first evening. At night it was hubby's side of the family to have a reunion. Met up with Uncle Thomas and Aunty Helen for dinner. By this time, you can imagine all expectations of Day 1 I had already pushed aside. So, I was able to enjoy the moments of catching up with family. And given Uncle Thomas and Aunty Helen were so comfortable with my kids, it made the dinner time and after that very relaxing. We had Japanese in Vivo City for dinner and we went around Vivo checking out the ticketing counter for Sentosa and also the breakfast place for tomorrow.

Aunty Helen took us for a drive along Orchard road after dinner and then I was dying to go back to the hotel by 10. I was in desperate need for a warm bath and sleep. It was going to be an exciting day tomorrow.

My kids surprised me by acting very well with all the relatives. And Caylee even thanked Aunty Helen for driving us around without any prompting from me. I was one happy mummy at the end of Day 1. These kids....they do have their moments.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The road trip that never was became....

A long, long time ago, in the heydays of my youth, I heard of this place in a God forsaken area. To get there was an adventure in itself, and then the food was said to be out of this world! Caution was given to those who went before that it is best to arrive before the sun sets or else.....

My life begs for mysteries around the bend of the road.  Literally. I am always curious where a certain road leads to. The revelation at the end can be the greatest surprise or can be the start of a new discovery. So, I was greatly intrigued.

Then life took its toll.

marriage
kids

bring up kids

Fast forward to 1 Nov 2014. What a way to start a new month!

Road trip and foody buddies Simon and WY decided to go to Pulau Ketam. However, due to Christopher's swimming class (which he had already skipped for 2 weeks and I seriously didn't want to pay RM150 just for 1 lesson that month), Pulau Ketam was not to be.

So, Mr and Mrs decided to go to Fish Farm Thai Restaurant. Note that the signboard indicating the turnoff to the restaurant includes Veg(e) in the front. Reason being this place grows and supplies vege as well.

Waze is a marvelous app, I tell you! Not only does it get you to places as vague as KM4 Jalan Ampang, it also gives you shortcuts through back alleys behind the real world! So, our journey to the restaurant was a blur to me as Mr drove through village roads where steel and wooden bungalows are common!

And then lleeaaannnning left and right up the hill, we came to the point of turnoff into a dirt road! Waze goes "in 200 metres, turn left" and we were like "here? here? here?" After all it was bushes, bushes, bushes....ahhh....road, road, turn now! I am exaggerating!

Down the twisty slope, we are welcomed by the sight of rows and rows of vege and tucked at the far end, a fairly large pond surrounded by a single-storey wooden structure. It was a breath of fresh air!
"Don't park near the gas tanks...right at the end next to the Myvi would be good". We have arrived.

I have to say this now. Coming down was a relieve, keeping in mind we went through a maze and the sight that beheld us was calm. After dinner going back up the slope was another story. Keeping in mind we were full and heavier, Mr kept the air con off and even allowed another car to go before us to 'light' the way! Waze went "Turn left" and we were like left where?  It was hilarious but this segment of the journey made the dinner into a road trip. This and Look out Point/Path.

We toured the place before obediently following the waiter to our table. Keeping in mind we are sitting by the pond, I had trouble enough keeping my 2 monkeys from bending over too far into the pond. There were several heart attack moments and I was just dealing with 2 monkeys! There were not many mosquitoes actually which was kinda great. Service was fast. Food was good and given what we had, it was not expensive. It has been a long time since I had oyster with lemon and tabasco.
The restaurant is Thai. So how can you do Thai without desert!

We finished dinner at 7+. On the way down, we stopped by Lookout Point, more like standing beside the road, but the view was great. It has been a long time since I had a view of the city lights. In some remote area someone was releasing fireworks and there is something different about watching it from above. Imagine my view of just one city, what more God's view of the earth and everything in it. As insignificant as anyone below me was, in God's eyes, we are far from insignificant.

The night was young. We decided to stop for ice cream @ Inside Scoop, Damansara Jaya. I got to say the waffles were pretty good. And I love the laid back concept of the shop where the kids got to play on swings and there were bean bags to hang out. I agree that is the way eating ice cream should be - FUN!

Due to my sudden intestinal pain, we had to cut the 'roadtrip' short after 4 and a half hours later.

Pulau Ketam never was, but Hulu Langat turned out to be quite a roadtrip too!

Let go and Let God!

For the pass month or more, my heart has been on a roller coaster ride. Partly due to an uprising of earnestness to study the word of God. It started from a simple email. On hindsight, how great a master planner our Lord is.

One simple email talking about prayer.
One simple Whatsapp message talking about Israel.

Both messages I have received multiple times in different context from the 2 same persons. But on that fateful day, I decided to You Tube search both speakers. If one tornado can cause serious devastation, think of what 2 tornadoes combined can do!

So, thanks to Jim Cymbala and Jay Smith (also Jack Hibbs and Amir Tsarfati (Behold Israel)), I once again feel the relevance of God's word. Oh, how jaded my life has been before!

I see His miracles happening every day, right to this very minute. I know my prayers matters.

Sometimes things in theory needs to be sparked up again to become alive. I want to live a life of living faith.

Let go and Let God!

When that happens, oh what a joyful life we can lead!

Oh Lord, may my life always shine bright for You through my living faith!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Big girl already (2) !

In Nov last year, Caylee did start going diaper-less at night. She succeeded for perhaps a week or two and then there were many accidents. So, to be kind to myself, I put her back on diapers.

She doesn't really like to wear her diaper. She is very particular about her kind of underwear, so you can imagine how uncomfortable a diaper is for her.

At any rate, late last year and early this year, given the move to the new house and a new mattress for her, I didn't want to take any chances that she will stain the new bed. So, She was put back on diaper. I kept telling myself that it is time to train her. But I was too tired and too lazy. Also the kids were to sleep in their own room so I could not be around her to train her in the middle of the night.

Fast forward to Sept 2014. She has been whining so much about her diaper that the daddy made an agreement with her. If for 3 days you don't pee in your diaper, then I will allow you to go to bed diaper-less. Previous nights, she would take it out herself in the middle of the night and we had occasional accidents to deal with.

On the 4th morning, she woke up very early, checked her diaper and came to announce to all of us that it was dry. It was a Saturday morning mind you and we were not too thrilled to be woken up at 7+ am. That night when the daddy started to bring out the diaper, she threw a fit! So, between daddy and daughter, the promise had to be kept.

It was to be that for the next 2 nights, she had to sleep with me since the daddy had a function to attend. And she actually did wake up in the middle of the night and request for me to bring her to the toilet.

To date she is going to toilet on her own and then going back to bed on her own...without the need for a night light even. And to date, about 1 and a half weeks now, she has managed a dry bed.

So, I reckon, we can give away the last 2 pack of diapers!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Different lives in one same day

Dawn had not yet broken through. It was the time when darkness still prevailed. I was driving to work. Traffic was not light. I remember feeling harassed by some drivers urging me to move faster.
Traffic on my left lane was heavy. There were many heavy vehicles.

Then all of a sudden I noticed on my left lane in front of me, between a car and a large lorry was this motorbike. The rider and the pillion were both wearing helmets. The pillion was carrying a large school bag, almost the entire length of his torso. He was clad in dark blue pants. So, I knew he was a primary school student.

The rider looked like a woman, I am presuming to be his mum since the boy clutched her waist with one hand. She quickly gauged the distance my car was and I would see she was trying to overtake the large lorry.

Despite the strong and nearing lights behind me, I slowed down. I gave the rider more than enough space and time to maneuver round the lorry and back into the left lane further in front.

Then I sped by.

In such moments, I wish I could do more for so many people who may be struggling to put their kids through school and earn an honest living.

Here I was in my empty car and there they were. What kind of life did they lead? Although I know the world is full of dimwits finding an easy way out, I believe there are still good people doing their best, leading ordinary honest lives. It is sad though when thoughts seldom result in action. And when good is mocked as naive.

Perhaps all I can do today, in my different life is to thank God and just do, say and be what is right.

Lord, oh Lord! I pray I will never be indifferent!

Monday, September 1, 2014

SG Retreat 2014 - Avani Resort, Sepang

After a 5 year hiatus (due to baby bearing and toddler rearing), we decided to kick start the bie/a-nnual SG Retreat again! There were 6 couples and 13 kids - with only one kiddo about to turn 2, one into her 2nd year of teenager-hood and one 2 full years more to reach teens! So, in actual fact we had 10 mad kids to deal with!

We did intend to convoy to Avani but it being a Saturday, there were some chores and classes for the kids to attend and so we all decided to just meet there. The reception staff were really accommodating considering we didn't bring the check in registration slips. We could even check in for the others who had not yet arrived. We got all the room cards and proceeded to our rooms in a buggy. It was a good thing that the buggy service from the lobby always started empty else checking in would have been a pain! Checking out is a down right pain, I have to say at this point! So, make sure you are UP FOR A WALK if you don't want to wait for an empty buggy.

Anyways, as soon as we were checked in, as usual, the kids were itching to go to the pool. As to not tear the room apart, I decided to bring them. And as time passed, more and more of the families arrived and soon we were taking over the entire kids pool! I pity the people sitting near the pool cause we had perhaps 12 water guns capable of shooting piercing sprays of up to 5 feet!

About 2 hours in the pool, and we had to get out and be ready for dinner. Between 4 cars, we headed to Sg Pelek for dinner. The poor community of Sg Pelek were bombarded with endless chatter and some shouts from our 10 mad kids. And I bet those Sg Pelek kiddos never ever realized they could harass their parents for the phone if they finished their dinner quick enough. Their parent's lives will never be the same again!

Anyways, after dinner, it was beach time. Not a good time for my daughter who absolutely hates going to the beach dressed up! So, hubby and I took her back to the room, which really suited us fine. Christopher after all, had many a capable aunts and uncles to take care of him. I learnt they played lanterns at the beach. They returned at 10:40 pm and I put him straight to bed.

Now, the room. I don't really like it. Reason being the extra bed costs a bomb. Secondly, they suggested the use of the sofa bed as an alternative bed but we didn't come prepared so we had no sheets or blanket to use. In the end we ended up 4 people in a king sized bed. Kicks and bruises and no good night sleep. I tried using the sofa bed the 2nd night and ended up having the sniffles the next day! Avillion PD's water chalets were better in this aspect. I also don't really fancy the bathroom as it was too small. The water from the shower kept escaping and so our floor mat was literally always wet! When the bathroom door was open and the cupboard door was open, it was also a tight squeeze to walk out of the bathroom. And I have this bad habit of needing the clothes in the wardrobe to have some air! Well, anyways.....

Day 2 we were up by 8 and down for breakfast at 8:30 am. The spread was pretty extensive and well stocked. I reckon the F&B staff did a great job!

Beach for 2+ hours. Near the beach there were many interesting things. They had a pool, kiddie air structure for play, mini put, a trampoline and a court space. They also had canoe's for rent and swings made out of netting. It would seem there were sufficient deck chairs, some shade and beach towels. In this aspect Avani was excellent!!!

Pool time next for another 2 hours. By the time we were dressed and ready for lunch, it was almost 2. We went back to Sg Pelek for lunch with another family, Patrick and the girls. My boy was not really into food since his best buddy did not come. Surrounded by 3 girls, he grouching-ly ate something and couldn't wait to get back to the hotel. At least we got to try the famous rojak noodle and the pau kosong. Being out, we were sent on an errand to get some cold drinks for the people at the hotel.

Back from lunch, I was sent to deliver the drinks. Oh what fear for me to get on the bike with my son. It was my first time after my bike accident and these hotel bikes were too high! Thankfully along came Mrs Recipient and she took the drinks AND my son on a ride. So, I could attempt riding my bicycle with only a few adults and kids encouraging me on! I think I gripped the handle so tight (the bike was not aligned well either) that I could feel relieve in my arms when I at last came down. Back from his bicycle ride, the boy was in the room 15 min and then instigated the sister to go back to the pool! Even though they only had 1 hour of swimming/playing/war-ing (thank to Uncle John) time, they made full use of it. Darling little Alycia and Caylee kept me busy throwing them in the water. I had achy arms later lasting me till now, 2 days later!

We went to Lovers Bridge Restaurant Tanjung Sepat for dinner. Darn it...even with a booking it took 1 hour for the food to be served. It was a good thing we went early enough so that the ordering could be made and then the rest of us with the kids could walk out to the bridge. Some minutes later Caylee wanted to go back to the restaurant and I was soooo glad. Holding on to the kids on a cement platform with no barriers is not for the fainthearted. We had 10 mad kids, if you remember!

Bought our share of kuih bahulu and some keropok, we headed back to the hotel. Some crazy parents were still up to beach time. I thank Caylee for my escape. Went back with Isabel to play lanterns in the room. By 10, the peace of 2 adults and 3 kids were disrupted by the beach gang. Felt so sorry for Sin Loong and Mei Yin who had to accommodate 7 sandy children sitting on their bed! But all was good. We chased everyone down and got everyone back to their own rooms.

3rd and final day, breakfast at 8 am....NOT ! I woke up to Whatsapp message sounds and we pushed each other out of the bed. Lack of sleep, I watched as the kids played in the pool. Even out of the pool, I was a target of the water guns! At around 12, we checked out and went to Tg Sepat for lunch and to buy fishballs, pau and coffee.

How was my weekend? Tiring, I would say. Without other families to determine the activities, we would have woken up later and perhaps the kids would have had lessor swim and beach time. After all hubby is not really a beach person. So, even though it was tiring for me, I am glad my kids have this other bunch of adults and 8 other mad kids to play with. It takes the mothering out of this mummy and I was able to have some decent adult conversation with almost every single other mummy in the group. I love the bonds created and I love the bonds my kids create. Having a holiday group is not an easy thing to find or maintain and I hope even to our older days, we (and the kids) would still enjoy each others company enough to be 'overlook-ers' of small misdemeanors and still be charitable.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Changing car ownership

For the pass 6 months, to my knowledge, hubby has been contemplating a car change. It actually started from me, due to my 2 accidents. I felt I wanted a new car - a safer car, a brighter car. Not sure why compact was not in my terms of reference.

Given that a car is a car to me. And it made no real sense for me to change from my Myvi to a Jazz when hubby was already driving a City (we deemed Honda is one of the more safer cars, compact did not cross my mind). Thus, I relented to taking over hubby's City and allow him the new car instead.

We made one troublesome mistake in this process. The new car was registered under hubby's name and not mine. If would not have really mattered since both our insurance now is charged to the same card. Only who pays which portion. And it did not really matter whose name was tied to which NCB. But it never crossed our minds and so we had to go through the painful process of Puspakom and JPJ. If we were to trade in the City to get the new car, we would not have had this hassle. But since now we had to transfer ownership of the City to my name and Myvi to the new buyer's name, we spent close to 4 hours in JPJ.

So, we went to Puspakom 2 times. Once to check that the Myvi engine and tint was in accordance to the limit. And the 2nd time for the City. As a result, we had to re-tint the City.

With the Puspakom reports in hand (they only last a month), next stop was to the insurance. I actually could have done this earlier and saved myself a bit of running around that day. But, oh the trouble of leave and wrong info!

So, I had to cancel my previous insurance and start a new one. My current insurance company was suffering from a system-down that day. Darn it! So, I had to go to the next nearest insurance company to make a new insurance. You don't need your name to be on the registration card of the new car to create a new insurance no matter what your insurance agent tells you! But you need your new car to have an insurance if you want your new road tax!

So, insurance in hand, we went to JPJ. We did the transfer of ownership and the road tax in 10 minutes (although we waited 3 hours and 50 minutes)! The new buyer of the Myvi paid 100 to a runner in JPJ itself to do it through the back door (literally a door at the back) and she left after 1 hour.

So, I am driving the City now. And there is a real difference. I feel bends are easier to manuever, there is more grip. Braking is definitely an immediate effect now. The only thing I need to get used to is the ease of having a compact car not. That tight squeeze just became a little tighter for me!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

6th August 2014

This date marks an anniversary for me now. The anniversary of the passing of my dad.

This is what happened....

I dropped my son as usual at 6:35 am at my parents place. Daddy and mummy moved down to PJ late last year to help me ferry and care for my son who was to start Standard 1 this year. At his grandparents place, my son would have his breakfast prepared by my dad and dress up for school, with grandma's assistance and then grandpa will send him to school. So while my mum was helping him dress up, my dad went up to change and get ready to send my son to school. He went up around 7:10 am. Close to 7:20, with no sign of my dad, my mum went upstairs to check on him. This part of the story I heard from my mum. She went upstairs and saw my dad lying on the floor beside the bed. He was lying on his side, his comb not too far away from his hand. His pants was wet. My mum cried out! Having heard grandma, my son ran upstairs. I am not sure what happened at this juncture but my mum must have told my son that grandpa has fainted.
My son told my mum not to worry and rushed to the bathroom to bring handfuls of water to splash on my dad's face. He shook and shook my dad and told my dad to get up and bring him to school.
"The sun is up, time to get up, kung kung!"
"Cannot sleep already, I will be late for school!"
These were the cries of my innocent 6+ year old boy.
My mum called everyone she knew.

My neighbor was the first to arrive, having been roused by my husband to check what was happening. He told me that he jumped out of bed, washed his face, changed his clothes and rushed next door. He even forgot to brush his teeth. As soon as he arrived, my husband and my daughter arrived as well. Victor went up first soon to be followed by my husband. I learnt a few days later when I saw my son performing the same action on his sister that Victor attempted CPR. Victor later told me that when he arrived, my dad's hands and head were already cold. The only warmth he felt was near my dad's heart. Between my husband and Victor, they tried ways to resuscitate him. They also took turns calling hospital after hospital as well as the police in an attempt to get an ambulance to the house. The kids I heard were very good. Keeping to themselves and not being a bother.

I received the call from mummy at 7:23 am. I dropped everything and rushed home. On my way home, I kept praying that this was just a matter of low blood pressure and he would just need some glucose drip or something. Let everything be okay, I kept repeating it in my head. Driving keeps one from using the phone but when I reached the Sunway toll, there was a bad jam. So, I picked up the phone to call my husband. He picked at the 2nd attempt. I asked him about the kids. And I also asked him what was happening. It was all good until I asked him the last question. "Is daddy breathing very faint?" Silence speaks clearer than any words. My tears fell unchecked. I called my sis.

In my head while I was waiting for her to pick up the call, I heard myself think "Daddy will not be with us in Singapore!" (We were in the midst of planning our first overseas trip. It was supposed to be HK as promised by my dad to my son. But we opted for Singapore Sentosa Island instead. It would have  been out first family trip overseas.)

They were also caught in a jam and my bro inlaw was driving. So my sis could spend some time calming me down. I was never so aware of the need to drive careful than that time. My sis arrived at home first. I learnt from hubby that between the 3 of them men, they heaved my dad into my sister's car and made their way to Damansara Specialist Hospital. I arrived shortly after and parked my car at the house. Jumped into hubby's car and we decided to drop the kids at my daughter's (and my son's ex) kindergarten. The principal was kind enough to take both of them in and take care of them until evening.

Since I was no longer driving, I could make some calls. One to our pastor for prayer. A few messages to church members for prayer. I received a call just as we were parking from my bro inlaw asking me to hurry to the emergency ward. My hands were shaking and my heart was beating so fast. When I arrived, my mum exclaimed "Daddy has died, Ann!" My sis and mum were crying. Strangely I felt calm. To a certain extent I had already cried. I told mummy "It is okay, mummy. He lead a good life and he died a quick death. He did not suffer. It was the way he wanted to go." I noticed that my mum was immediately comforted and she stopped crying. In a way a little positiveness does help in situations of hopelessness. It was my way of coping and I hoped it was a way my mum could cope, at least for that very moment.

How the news spread was beyond me. We made a few calls to my dad's friends. And the news spread from one person to another so much so we had calls from people all over Malaysia.

Being new to the church in PJ and it being troublesome to bring the body back to Ipoh (to the church my dad spent 10 over years of his life), we asked if the pastor who baptized my dad could also bury him. He obliged and agreed that we should bury and not cremate him. Although my dad did mention he would like to be cremated, it was something we never talked seriously about. So, due to circumstances, we decided to buy a twin plot in Semenyih and bury him in the Christian Memorial Park. We came to realize that embalming packages bought in advance cost cheaper. And empty plots for burial are sorely limited and come at a high price. The embalming itself cost us 14K (21K if not bought in advance. But we bought 2, one for my mum so forked out 28K this time round), another 20K for the burial process and about 32K for the plot of land. The manager from Nirvana that saw to us was very kind and that really helps. So, best to do all of these in advance and determine the person you want to deal with and hope when you need to, that person is still working there.

The day of his death, we spent a lot of time at the bank. Everything, even though it had joined names, had to be cancelled. Only those things that had nominee we could afford to leave it for now. And Fixed Deposits have a tendency to be very troublesome - dependent on branch made, account branch and amount. We realized later that Maybank has this surviving clause where if the account is in joint name, the surviving member gets full sum of the account. In other banks, the surviving member gets only half. The other half dependent on the will.

We completed all the banking on Thursday at 11 am. Took a quick bite and made our way to Nirvana Sungai Besi. The embalming takes about 1 day so it was about the right time for us to perform the customary dressing up. Fastening the button of daddy's coat reminded me of the time when daddy put on my veil when I was getting married. The act of preparing the person for their biggest change in life. Although you are sad to see your kid getting married, you still have to let them go. I was saying goodbye to daddy. It would be the last time I get to touch him. There is some parting in performing this act. All necessary actions in the process of saying goodbye.

After which we choose the casket and finalized details of the wake service. It was to start that evening 7th August at 8:30 pm. Having done all that, we rushed to Semenyih to choose the burial plot. They say it is better to go there and decide for yourself rather than use digital images to decide. The look and feel of where you want your daddy to be resting. We chose based on convenience, the plot is near the road. We chose based on the fact that there was a healthy tree growing nearby. We chose based on how well the neighbor kept their plot. We were asked to make a decision at this time too. If we would like to have the casket put in, and then soil, and then cement slabs and then soil again. OR casket, cement slabs, then only soil on top. We decided for the former, thinking dust to dust right. But if I could choose again, I would choose the later as the soil when it knocked the casket did not sound comfortable. And it covered all the flowers we threw in.

I remembered on that day when we buried daddy, the sound of the earth hitting the casket made me think "Daddy, sorry about the noise!" Every hit made me cringe. I am glad the music helped bring me to another place.

The 2 days we had the wake, it was a full day affair. Olivia, my dearest friend who lost her mum told me that seeing daddy as often as I could that 2 days will help in the grieving process. So, whenever I could I would be my daddy talking to him and asking him to help me. I met friends of my dad who I actually cherish in my heart and I was so glad they were there that we could comfort each other. Even some friends who I know hate to travel made it all the way to bid my daddy farewell. I was so touched by their effort. And I hope one day I would be able to return their favor.

On Saturday we buried daddy. I didn't want the casket to be closed. I actually didn't feel ready not to see daddy anymore. But I had to let go. Incidents had happened which made my son very aware of my emotions and I had to teach him to let go. I walked away because I could not handle seeing them close the casket. I waited at the door and leaned on my eldest uncle's shoulders and watched them load the casket in the van. At that moment, I felt glad that I had a close enough relationship with most of my uncles and aunties. The preparation of the van was done in a seamless manner - to putting the picture of my dad at the front of the van to rearranging all the flowers in the van. We were told to walk behind the van for the short distance to the front gate. Mummy, sis and I with my 2 kids walked in front with so many friends and relatives following. We then proceeded to Semenyih.

When the burial process was complete, I really wanted to stay a while longer. Like what we see in the movies right. To sit quietly for a while and say good bye. But we were rushed off for lunch and it would have been for the best since it was close to 1 pm and lengthy goodbyes never did anyone any good. Seeing the whole process through, there was closure. And talking to aunties after that, mending some fences, understanding their grief, it all helped.

I am thankful that I have my son. He was very close to his grandfather and in a way both of us can grief in a way hubby and my daughter do not. I am trying to fill up the gaps my dad left in my son's life and he fills up  mine. So long daddy, see you one day in heaven.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Tribute to daddy (possible part 1)

I need to write this. It's not like I will ever forget but it helps to write about it.

As the days progress (I can't believe it's just day 3 without him), it seems to get easier. But I reckon it's just tiredness and the memorial that makes it seem easier. There are still so many areas we need to find replacements. And with each moment that we need to replace his presence, the loss of my dad washes anew.

This cannot be a sequential log. Some will be short, some will be long.

Daddy loved to learn. Barely a week ago, he was just telling us he bought the new ipad mini.
"But you know Ann, the one with the retina is so much better!"
He never shunned away from learning. He was always learning, always willing to listen to any bit of information we could give him. He never thought himself so great that his kids could not give him more information.

He had the highest integrity. His external person was the same as the person at home in terms of his integrity. He never accepted anything from anyone. He did no favors. If he did anything, it would have been with a clear conscience. He was always constant in his views and always strong in his stand.

He loved road trips. He loved to explore. He was always interested when I wanted to tell him about all the road trips I made. He always listened and he was always interested, always interested.

Daddy always did things well. I remember him saying "If you want to do something, do it well and complete it". I was a lazy girl so this lesson might have been what made me the person I am today.

I remembered when I got into a car accident, daddy told me, if money can help you solve the problem, it's not really a problem. He never help on to money like his life depended on it. He was a generous man but never frivolous. He spend when and where was required. He was never a stingy man. He worked hard to get where he was and I don't remember ever having to ask him for anything.

I remember one time when we were in Kuching. It was a rare occasion cause I only remember this one night when we were gathered in the master bedroom and he told us stories from when he was young. And we laughed and laughed till the elastic of my pants broke. Just when he was narrating a story about a teacher whose pants kept coming down and he had to keep using his forearms to hold his pants up! Daddy was a funny guy.

You would think as a man, he wouldn't be all that bothered with what happened in our girly lives. But daddy went shopping with us. He used to help mummy pick out gowns. He was very particular about the way we dressed. I remember he would even comment that we were pretty, or request us to change our clothes.

...to be continued....

Sunday, August 3, 2014

I am in love.....

I am seeing this man. Everyday I go to work, I always take some time to see him. He knows me not; but that's okay. Each time he opens his mouth, I have to close my eyes so that I can savor his lyrical conversation. I am in awe of him even though he is a few years younger than me.

He can be considered a handsome guy. Although not in the macho kind of way. He has that cute, boyish look which I can't resist. And I love the twinkle in his eye when he tells a joke. Or the frown on his face when he is saying something that is close to his heart.

He has the most untidy mop of curly hair when he forgets to get it trimmed. With longer hair like that, he looks like a little child. You want to reach out and push all the curls away. But once cut, it makes him look so much more mature. I can never call him an immaculate man because his lack of self grooming is always evident. Natural curls and spectacles don't work to his favor.

But his passion for his work and the effort he puts into the things that he loves makes up for his occasional disheveled appearance. It kills to be with a perfectionist. So, I don't envy the lady with him. But to stand on the other side and be a recipient of his perfect work, that feeling is awesome. It's like drugs and alcohol and chocolates all at the same time.

His work demands to be greatly appreciated. And you can do it best when you start to understand the process he takes. You then strain to catch the little differences that distinguish his from another. And so I love him. I love that he has such passion to produce such perfection that is capable of bringing me to such heights of drive, freedom and calm.

I love him, who is Josh Groban.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Things I have this year! (udpated)

I realize I have not been updating my blog on the kitchen tools and gifts I have got this year! Not even sure fi I did that last year. But this year's purchases are worth mentioning!

Bought this gadget at last. I won't even call it a kitchen aid. I bought it more for experimenting and for some ease (now that I have used it), rather than it being a need!


In fact before buying it, I was like a yo-yo - yes, I will buy it, no I wouldn't buy it. Until hubby lost track of my decision making process! I was also looking and comparing other brands like Tefal and Buffalo. But the baking feature and the FB support/pages shifted the pendulum in favor of Philips.

I am at this point still trying to understand the gadget. It's funny because it's the first time I actually have to put in this much effort to understand him. I call him a him because it's really not temperamental at all. And it's black, whatever logic color has to do with gender. I would have preferred the white and blush of purple her, but she gets pigmentation issues as she ages. So.....

The other thing that I got was a present from hubby, presumably to cover all occasions in the year if he doesn't pay for him (you know as in him!) at the end of this month! :)



I wanted wanted wanted a long wallet since my black Prada zipper got spoiled. But never could rationalize the purchase. I have enough purses after all for my usage. But the thing about long wallets is that the money can be seen and segregated so easily. And I can just take the change and put it in without stuffing or folding. Of course, I never can do any shopping (kids!!!!) and given I hadn't even attempted to talk though my rationalization, I never bothered to look.

So, when I opened the box and saw it for the first time, my practical side reared it's smug head and in my mind I went - "the color is light, dirty very fast" and "Ummm....I don't really need it do I?". But having decided what to use when and re-arranging everything, I love it. And my black Prada has been downgraded to fetching-the-kid-carry-everything use. Which is great cause I needed something to put just my phone and my license.

So, rationalization sometimes works best after the fact. Can this be my anniversary lesson this year?

***
Realized there is one more thing we got this year.

315792-canon-pixma-mx522-wireless-office-all-in-one-printer
Reason being - Christopher's last minute request for pictures. And the fact that we don't subscribe to any magazines or newspapers. Also hubby got tired of my last minute rush to get things printed for church! It's lying on the kids study table and being put to good use.

Bukit Melawati and Sekinchan

Conqueror of another day trip destination around Selangor. This time it was to Sekinchan with a pit stop at Bukit Melawati.

We took our time to start our journey, having just recovered from Bookfest lethargy. We may have left around 9+ and arrived Bukit Melawati one hour later, give and take. One look at the long queue and we were debating if we could make the walk up the hill. But given we had a 4 young kids in tow, there was not much that needed to be decided. We waited it out and actually, it was not that long a wait. As in none of the kids had to be pacified that the tractor (they call it a tram, but it was more like a tractor) was coming.

The tractor brings you up the hill where the fort is and the canons and the monkeys. And we disembarked to snap, snap, climb, climb, feed, feed. And then just before the kids started complaining, we boarded the next tractor down. The next stop was an aquarium of sort. I can only say that it is something 'of sort' because we didn't get down, much to my son's loud dismay.

It was close to lunch time and our next destination was supposed to be the highlight of the trip.

Leaving Bukit Melawati, we were half amazed, half worried to see the multitude of tourist buses coming in and heading out in the same direction as ours.

And we were not to be disappointed. The traffic to Sekinchan was ridiculous. Unlike previous road trips where we only had to content with mostly cars and a few buses, Sekinchan was pilled up with buses.

Arriving at Sekinchan, we attempted lunch. The first place we saw from a distant looked kinda of comfortable, in a sense it was not that full. But disappointment followed (again) - the tables were already all booked for the tour buses arriving soon. We had no choice but to settle and wait for a table in the next restaurant. The only good that came out of waiting was hubby bought many many packets of crackers at a cheaper price. The same shop was closing by the time we returned later. 6 dishes, RM120 poorer and 1 and half hours later, we were back to exploring the town.

Our first place was Mango King and the famed paddy fields. I reckon the number of people really killed half the joy of exploring and buying. I would have bought more if maneuvering the crowd and keeping track of my kids weren't such trouble. As it is I only bought 1kg of ciku for RM8.

After that, it was the paddy fields and the rice factory. Before the trip, we read blogs about green as far as the eye could see. Then I came across one blog which told me the seasons for the rice planting. And July was such a bad time to go if you want to see green. In a way, it made us laugh when we did see one patch or two of green and decided to snap just the green section of the field. Hilarious deception!

We paid the RM4 for the ticket and you get to redeem a packet of rice with your ticket. The 'show' was in mandarin and the guide spoke in mandarin which was a BIG HELP NOT. Seriously......are they expecting only chinese tourists here? I was half sighing, half telling myself to at least enjoy the air conditioning!

After that, we made our way to Pantai Redang. I say it again.....I would have enjoyed the expectation of seeing the rustic swing and tree house from TVB series Outbound Love more IF the jam wasn't that bad and the crowd would just thin out, if not vanish out of sight.

I mean, it was meant to be reflective and serene. But no, no, no....we had to share and take turns and squirm and line up and squeeze...and all in the hot blazing sun. Even a spot in the shade was hard to come by. But we saw what we came to see. We conquered the crowd in the best possible way and (can I say this) still had a (relatively) good time. Again the boy was disappointed with the lack of enthusiasm by the others to play in the sea and build sandcastles! Oh Lord, my son's uncanny definition of fun!

Perhaps the rush back to KL made the trip a little un-ended! Normally we round it up with dinner and we would go home cool-er. But this time round, we could not. So, all in all maybe I will go back again but this time to see the fireflies and next time at the right time, if ever there is one for Sekinchan.

Maybe when everyone has watched and forgotten Outbound Love....

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Christopher's Swimming Lessons

After much seeking, found a swimming class for Christopher - Swimcube @ The Strand.

It's indoor. The pool is about 3/4 the length of a shoplot. The remaining 1/4 is where parents wait around.

He has had a scare with pools before. Thus one of the reasons why I chose this class for him. The pool is not that deep and he is tall enough that he can stand in it. So, it takes away half of his fear.

On his first class, he was half excited and half fearful. His sister went with him on his first day since we wanted to know if she was ready for lessons as well. So perhaps his sister's greater fear made him slightly braver. He didn't go down the pool the right way. He wanted to go face first - something, I guess, about meeting your fears head on. But I am glad the 2nd time he went down the pool, he did it the right way.

On his first lesson, hubby and I stayed and watched outside, peeping through the sliding glass. We were chased out because my daughter kept crying for me every time she saw me. Without me there, she actually did very well. As for Christopher, we heard him talking and talking to the instructor. Instead of accepting instructions and doing as he was told, he tried to negotiate with the instructor to do it his way - the lazier way. Even once we heard him 'scold' the instructor as to why he let go of the float when he promised he would not. The instructor calmly told him that he has reached the end of the pool! And all this while my crying baby girl clung to his neck for dear life!

So after lesson 1, Caylee proclaimed with fierce determination NO MORE SWIMMING for her. And Christopher jumped up and down asking us to come back for class tomorrow. He is into his 3rd lesson now. He is excited as he is learning free style now. I am glad he likes his lessons and hope he will learn to swim soon.

As for Caylee, she actually did very well in her one and only lesson. She had the stamina to kick the entire length of the pool where her brother could not - sometimes being able to stand in the pool does not help at all! But she is happy to see her brother go in and she remain firmly high and dry.

I am happy for both of them either way. They aren't too young to be making some choices in life.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Conscious Parenting

Was reading through a Newsletter of my daughter's previous play school today and they had an interesting article on Conscious Parenting.

Listening to the 2 Youtube links provided in the newsletter, some words spoken by Dr. Shefali, clinical psychologist and Dr Becky Bailey, CEO of Conscious Discipline, seemed to leap out at me. One of them being 'excuse'. It was used in the context that we are parents and there is no excuse for us to ever stop being a parent. Being a parent should always be our priority if we choose to have kids. Not that we cannot have time for ourselves. But when we are at home and with our kids, we should be a parent to them when they turn to us, their parents.

I went on to view more of the videos under Conscious Discipline and more and more of the things that Dr Becky mentions are very real to me. Reactive disciplining is very common. I am guilty of yelling at the kids to stop screaming at each other. And I snatch back a toy from my girl and scold her from snatching from her brother. Dr Becky mentions that when things like this happen, take 3 deep breaths.

What happens when we take 3 deep breaths is that sometimes a CD ROM in our head starts to play. We hear phrases like "I need to teach them a lesson." or "I am cooking, where the heck is daddy to handle this?" or "Give me a break, I am so tired already". And we have to stop the CD and instead replace them with thoughts like I am calm, I am able to handle this, I am ok (she used safe, but I prefer OK).

Because if we don't and have reactive disciplining instead, it will end up with us feeling guilty and trying to make up to our kids for it. AND THESE KIDS KNOW IT !

Dr. Becky also mentions frontal lobe development. When we take the deep breaths and use positive words, it takes us from the center of our brain, the reactive place to the front of our brain, the conscious place. And when we reach there, we can then use the frontal lobes to help us make disciplining conscious.

As long as we don't use our frontal lobes, we will be reactive. And for our kids, it takes them 2 decades to have fully developed frontal lobes. And in this 20 years, we as parents must help them be their frontal lobes and help them develop their frontal lobes. It is a tiring job - not only do we have to be in control of our own frontal lobes and use it often but we must also be frontal lobes for our kids and help them develop theirs.

It's an interesting video. Have a listen. Maybe it can help you in some ways too.

Understanding the Frontal Lobe

There's one on temper tantrums too!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Open Day - meeting the teacher

Meeting the teacher and seeing his results and position in class takes a whole new perspective now that he is in Standard 1. Perhaps as the years go by I will get used to this and it will be just another day in school.

It was quite a journey after his exam and seeing his results come out one by one. The most disappointing subject for me was his Math. I expected him to do so much better since we have been giving alot of emphasis on his Math since kindergarten. But I realized that it was not Math that he didn't know but the language that pulled down his grade.

The other up and down ride for me was when the teacher posted he got a 52 in his Science. I know my son and if he tells me he did OK, it definitely doesn't call for a 52. So, for almost 2 weeks before Open Day I was thinking maybe he really misinterpreted a section and did it totally wrong.

Anyways, during Open Day itself I saw his Science paper and it was not a 52. Damn....I felt so 'cheated' that I had to go through all days of wondering. At any rate, I am glad he did well for no other reason than that how he thinks he did is almost how he really did.

He was positioned 19 in class which ain't that bad. With this new assessment, it doesn't matter anyway what your position is and he just needs to be in the better band within the subject assessment. Heard the school may open another class next year for the weaker students which would be a good thing for those who really cannot cope with the current pace of class.

Any reward for him? No. I told him studying hard is his responsibility and not something I will need to reward him with. But truth be told in my own quiet way I will reward him for being patient and willing to study hard. He is quite a good boy in that way.

Church Camp 2014

So I told myself when my son starts being able to go to camp, I will help out. 2014 marks the first year.

Being new to the camp, there were many things to learn. It was a good thing I had great team members.
It seemed there were a lot to ready myself with initially. It was kind of overwhelming at times. But things started to fall into place, and into perspective.

I think what I loved most preparing for the camp was the total reliance on God. It felt good to feel the heart of God and follow His prompting.

As it is I am not an overly excitable person. And most times I feel that events like this require me to be excited and eager and loud - if for no other reason than to make the kids excited and eager and respond. But I realize that there are others who worked alongside me who were not like that. Some were doing work quietly and some motivated personally. Is it a group leader thing that I placed myself in such a role? If I were a helper instead, would I have reacted differently to the situations in the camp? In fact looking back at the videos in the camp, I wonder who that person that looks like me is?

Talking to kids I don't know on the first day was also tough for me. It was exhausting trying to coax them to talk and tell us their darkest deepest secrets. And being the private person that I am, I found it tough to keep the group talking and excited about topics of interest. I rather prefer the quite times with individual kids praying for them and getting them brave enough to pray for me. It's a wonder that as a kid grows, their ability to pray out loud diminishes if not prompted continuously by their parents and teachers. This was a lesson to me to always give my kids the courage to pray out loud in a group.

Son fell sick 2nd day of the camp. Which made me feel sad because there is a different kind of bond that is developed when you 'play' with your son in a church camp. The setting is formal and you see the way he interacts with his peers and group leaders. And you see that social part of him that emerging right before your eyes. It was touching to a mother seeing her son in a different light.

At the end of the camp, I did feel a little sad. Partly because I know the stories of my kids and feel sad that I cannot follow up further. Partly also when you have pushed yourself to the high, coming back down to the middle ground takes another round of effort. After surviving the camp, teaching, being teacher in charge and even organizing Easter and Field Trips ain't that hard. Perhaps because the people I need to be involved with are a great bunch. Working with any other people I don't know still seems a far off ability.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Penang and Ipoh 2014

Why is it that I am feeling this only now?

My recent trip to Penang via Ipoh made me realize a few things:

1) In the local supermarkets in Penang, aunties rule the aisle. And when not serving you, they are busy chatting with each other. These are slightly older than middle aged aunties, making use of their time earning some small income while still meeting their need to talk. Perhaps the ease of travel to work enables them to continue working.

2) In most restaurants, the people who work there are local chinese people. Seldom did  notice an foreigner serving my food or wiping my table. Of course I am  refering to restaurants and not the big scale food courts. So much so, I felt 'safer' allowing my kids to put their elbows on the table (which was dry after being wiped with a wet and then a dry cloth). And the fact that a local served me my rice and dishes somehow made a slight difference.

3) Surprisingly drivers in Penang are very tolerant. They don't squeeze you out of a junction so that they make the turn faster than you. Neither do they honk when the car in front keeps looking at the side instead of looking to the front and driving better.

4) Drivers in Ipoh on the other hand seem to love to honk. They honk when you are trying to reverse out of your parking bay. They honk when they are coming and you seem to want to make that quick turn.

5) I wanted to get some 'leong sum' for the kids. Went into a chinese medicinal shop and asked for it. And the guy could tell me that he does have it, but the quality isn't that great. So, he would rather not sell it to me. Please can you go here and her to buy instead. Initially I was shocked but after a while cynical me emerged and I was like 'Huh....are you really that honest?'

At any rate, this trip to Penang was not the best. The boy was recovering from a sore throat so we had to be very careful with his food and water intake. Had to strike the right balance between allowing them pool fun and not falling ill any further.

It wasn't the best foodie trip in that regard. I made sure the kids had proper dinners and lots of fluids while we were walking around Armenia Street and Chowrasta market. That was the only touristy thing we did. Apart from the crazy Waze supported trip to Sunshine Ayer Item to buy the Old tree white coffee. And then to our uncle Cheah's Nutmeg shop.

2 days of pool fun. It was funny coz there was a Malay boy on the 2nd day of pool fun. And the boy kept coming to me and asking me how to say such and such a word in Malay. Like as if the other boy didn't know English. Or as if suddenly Malay to him is more real a language. Was fine until I had to tell him what was shark in Malay....of course NOW I know it is Ikan Yu. But at that time I was like what-the-heck!

The girl was fun to watch coz she kept looking at her brother jumping into the pool and creating such a joyful splash. So she went up, squatted next to the pool and looked in, again and again contemplating if she could make the jump. She even went down one step and jumped in and decided it was doable at 2 steps, now let me try 3 steps, equivalent to the edge of the pool. In the end, she didn't manage to overcome her fear and waded over to me to ask for help. 5-8 jumps later, holding my hand, she attempted the jump on her own and succeeded. I love her look of utter satisfaction. In fact this time round, the girl learnt to put her head under water like her kor kor and even when she was submerged, she was not afraid. A great improvement for her from not even daring to put her head under water.

In Ipoh, of course I had to have my white coffee fix, tau fu fah fix and kacang putih fix. 3 hours later, we were back on the road to KL. A 1 foot iron rod speared hubby's bumper on the NKVE on the way back. We thank God that it didn't hit the radiator or the windscreen. But it was such a fright.

A good enough break. The kids are asking when is the next pool fun holiday? We are all nursing a flu, cough and the first for the girl - conjunctivitis. But all's well that ends well. And the weekend is approaching.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

From star to supporting role!

This pass few weeks has been literally 'hell' for me at work. For my colleagues in HQ New York, this 'hell' has been lasting months. But until this pass few weeks, I was always able to help them work out the positiveness of the situation.

I cannot believe that just about 1 month ago, I attended the Regional ICT workshop for UNDP in KL. And I felt so inspired, so eager to get it on and work on all the IT initiatives UNDP had in mind. We were being taught about the Cloud and how UNDP was going to go there. We were seeing Microsoft 360 and how we will utilize that to its full potential. We were talking strategic partnership. We saw ourselves up there pushing the organization into achieving greener offices, more efficient work processes, reaching out to far and beyond communities with just very simple hardware. We saw the role of IT and how with minimal cost the power IT can bring to the goals of UNDP. Wow....we were all geared up.

Then slightly more than a month later, we received the worse devastating news that UN as a whole does not understand such power of IT. They unfortunately still see IT as a supporting role to finance and projects and HR. From a pillar that supports the organization, IT has been reduced to a stone that forms an existing pillar.

Such redundancy really breaks my heart.

And what affects me more is that Shirin Hamid, my CTO's post has been demolished. In actual fact now, the IT deputy reports to an Administrative person.

I have great admiration for Shirin Hamid. She not only addresses her by name but remembers any issues or concerns that has been brought up to her attention by us. She takes time to talk to 'lowly' staff like us without making us feel we are lowly. She is small in size yet big in stature. The achievements she has accomplished as a person and thus bringing UNDP IT in the limelight as well is out of this world! I am sad that UNDP does not see that. And that UNDP will have lost a person such as she.

Looking at the new organigram, I shudder at the days to come. I see the positions that have been downgraded. I see the people that will need to move. I see the staff who went to US with a UN working visa and who are now out of job. I see the people who are laid off without any remuneration save for their unexpended leave. I see the number of people holding a certain grade and now they have to fight amongst themselves to retain their position.

My own supervisor, having been in US for close to 20 years with a UN working visa now finds she has to relocate to Malaysia. A Filipino citizen, a single mother with a daughter close to 18. She suddenly finds her life turning upside down.

My colleague with health issues has to find comfort in other doctors in a foreign country. Where in times of an emergency a phone call away to mum and dad will no longer be possible.

And they ask questions like "What am I still doing with UN?" and "For all I contributed to UN, this is how they treat me?" Sad but inevitable. Such is life, full of changes and uncertainties, especially working with the UN.

I think it's sad - from strategic partnership, we are reduced to such fate. Like a star come crashing down. Like brilliance we are slowly losing light.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Caylee learning Math

I have signed Caylee up for Eye Level Math. She started in May. Reason why we are starting so early is mainly because education wise, she has been really neglected. We sent her to kindy onnly this year and found that many have already been in kindy since age 3. Thus Caylee does have alot of catching up to do. The other reason is that we find Christopher's Eye Level Math standard slower than his primary 1. So, when it is not at least at par or better, the kid still struggles in school.

Caylee is overjoyed! She loves going to the same additional classes like her kor kor. And she is elated she has to do homework now. So much so she erases previously done homework and does it again and again. So much so, her Eye Level teacher has decided to give her 2 books of homework now.

The other class day, I sat myself in a corner to read my book while waiting for them to finish. I noticed at the corner of my eye Caylee coming out of the class. She did look around for a while but given that she didn't find me, she proceeded to the toilet on her own. On her way back, she caught a glimpse of me and waved. Then happily skipped back to class.

Simple acts of independence makes this mummy so happy!

The teacher commented she has picked up the routine so quickly. She knows that when she enters the class where to get her books and where to put her homework.

I pray that learning will always be a joy to Caylee and that I will always have the time to make her lessons enjoyable for her. I pray fervently that Caylee will take after my own heart in her love for reading too.

I can't believe she is just 4 years in this world. What other delights can I expect from my little girl!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Standard 1 mid term exam

As I write it as 'mid term', I can't believe that it is indeed almost 6 months since my son started Primary 1. It is exam time now. And oh, what stress!

It's not so much the stress of expecting him to excel. Although I wish for him to do well. But the stress of teaching him, at least, what he is expected to know. I reckon it is the language that is the greatest barrier. When I compare the expectation from his BM teacher to that of his English, I am appalled at the discrepancy in the standard.

Whereas in BM, he has to learn nouns, proper nouns, adjectives and verbs, in English there is little emphasis on such grammar.

Thinking about my current predicament with Christopher, I think the entire education system is a total mess.

First there is this emphasis on Mandarin so we send our kids to good kindergartens that teach them relatively well in Mandarin. Then if we send them to SJK schools, we have to equip them better in their mandarin and continue the process through their primary years to keep up with the language.

If we send them to SK schools, then BM becomes a whole new language to them. We think we can help them since we are BM literate. However, the standard of BM in Primary 1 is rather high. Coupled with the lack of emphasis in kindy years.

We end up in a situation like mine. Keeping up with his mandarin basics outside of school. Struggling with learning BM which has been far neglected earlier. And yet continuing to correct his English so that it is grammatically correct.

I never would have considered AT ALL a kid being sent to tuition in primary years. But even if your kid is in SK schools, it looks like 90% of parents are sending their kids since Std 1 for tuition. As of now, I am still doing it myself with the help of my parents. It will not get impossible for me to teach him, at least. Since I am able to understand the mode of instruction. I will mark the day I send him for school work tuition in his primary years!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

New rice cooker!

I went on a little mad shopping spree over the weekend.

Bought 2 tops, 1 dress and 2 pants setting me back over RM 300. I tell myself I didn't get anything last year, so it's o.k to indulge a little. It is something I have been looking for for a long time anyways. And Hamleys allows hubby and the kids to be preoccupied for a little while while I shop alone.

I also bought a new rice cooker. The Panasonic one that I have been using still works fine actually. Although during the move, I have lost the rubber valve at the top so water inside frequently seeps out. So, I find it so trouble some to wipe and wipe the tiles and the cover and all around everyday. Also the inner pot has some scratches and replacing it would cost another RM 100.

So, I decided to get a stainless steel inner pot rice cooker instead. Buffalo rice cookers are way too expensive. Decided to settle for the Khind Anshin rice cooker which uses the Buffalo inner pot. Bought it from ESH using hubby's Maybank points. It cost me RM 270 since I bought the one which comes with a free streamer.

Unfortunately this rice cooker does not come with many functions. So, I guess I will be boiling porridge the Sasha's way now : http://sashablablabla.blogspot.com/2010/06/lazy-mums-way-to-cook-porridge-using.html

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter weekend activities

This year's Easter marks a slight difference for me.

Made the final settlement regarding the accident.
The condo sale is finally completed and we will be getting the check soon.
So, money out, money in.
In fact since this incident, as of now, I really feel that what is the point of sacrificing myself. What is the point even in stopping hubby from buying what he wants? Just don't over indulge, but spend what is needed to make my life easier (like cleaners, laundry) and make myself and the family happy. If I do that, than maybe losing money to a person who takes advantage of my good nature won't make me feel so used!

My health took a turn for the worse due to the accident. Hormonal wise, the stress has affected me. And I find a lack of appetite these days, maybe a result of 2 weeks of emotional turmoil. If not for gastric, I think I would be fine with a liquid diet.

Since the accident, I feel I want to change my car. However, since a car is only a car to me, I have decided to let hubby change his car instead. And I will take over his City.

This Easter I also helped in the Sunday School Program for the kids 6 and below. In the course of bouncing off ideas and getting people to be involved in different areas, I always wonder if they are surprised with this part of me I seldom display in church. In a way, having to work closer with some, I also learn how each person deals with a situation. And how much some need to be pushed, while others prefer me not to be involved. Alas, the practice of management skills I only know theoretically so far. Being 'in charge' of the event also means you need to be really enthusiastic about the whole thing. And the welcome and initial atmosphere needs to be set by you. It turned out pretty well all in all. For the whole weekend, that 2 hours of the event was the time I felt least sick.

We also found a new place this weekend which you can see online under mightyutan.com.my. It's a place that sells Lego in loose pieces. And so you get to pick and choose parts you want to buy. Mighty handy if there are some pieces that you have lost. I bought some roof tiles and a light brown series of parts there. Also bought hubby a Star Wars gift for rescuing me from further handling of the accident.

Sunday was spent sleeping, most of the morning, that is. Since there was no church, hubby and I took our sleepy meds for our cough. Admittedly weather was great for sleeping! And the kids had a blast sprawling their lego on the living room floor and playing make believe. No noise either from any of us when they interchanged ipad and TV.

It's a good thing it's raining more and more. Hope all this rain will fill up the dam in preparation for future dry months.

Hope all will be well....pray all will be well.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Third Party Bodily Injury Claim

What a tedious lesson this was for me.

I have learnt that when a car hits a pedestrian, and the pedestrian gets hurt, we can make a 3rd party bodily injury claim with our motor insurance company.

What you will need to make the claim would be your own police report, the other party's police report, all medical reports and bills (photocopy is allowed but best to double check with the 3rd party bodily injury claim dept of your insurance company, and NOT the customer service) and a cover letter from the claimee stating they want a direct settlement from your insurance company and that they will not be suing you. You will also need a copy of their IC. I reckon they need both police reports to determine if as a driver you were wrong in the first place. And if you did not break any traffic rules, then the insurance company will pay for the claims.

I know all this because the lady that fell as a result of my car went for all her medical checkups and refused to give me her original receipts unless I make a payment to her beforehand.

In her quest for money from me, she even threw words like 'they will take away your license', 'you must be responsible for everything', 'I know people in Bukit Aman', all the threatening phrases that hit me like ripples of shock. And at last, she also used the sympathy card that she is an old lady and how can we make her go through all the trouble of making a police report when she finds it so hard to move. She was climbing up and down the stairs of her house 3 days after the accident (so her daughter accidentally leaked), so I find this a total load of nonsense. 

She has thus slapped me with a 1,500 bill of which only 800 are receipted. The rest she claims as physiotherapy, in other words she is going to those chinese massage centers to have massages, each session costing 30 and she wants me to pay for 10 sessions! The remaining 400 is for any future medical expenditure she deems fit. 

Every grain of my being wants to fight this and tell her to go make her police report and claim my insurance. However, to put matters behind us as soon as possible, hubby feels just give her the 1500 and begone with it.

So, the next time any 3rd party is involved, report police and request the other party to report to the police and straight away notify the insurance so that all further claims can be dealt by them. Being my first accident of such kind, and being too soft a person in nature, I heaped upon  myself undue stress and prolonged distress to my family.

I have since surrendered this incident into the hands of my Father. May He give me peace against the stress and the feeling I was taken advantage of. Into your hands.....I commit again!