Our firstborn is off to school!

Because we were ill when the new school term started, Q only started school this week. Since we knew he would not have the luxury of parent accompanied orientation days like the rest of his classmates, we did our best to psych him up as far as we could. We talked about how fun school would, be, that there would be playground time, oodles of new friends and, most importantly, it would only last three hours and he would still have time to go do all the fun stuff we used to do, like the zoo.

All things considering, he weathered his first day at school fairly well. He had never been to an accompanied class before after all. There was the usual waterworks but we claim small victories like the fact that he didn’t kick up a fuss on day 2, wearing his uniform happily and trotting off to class albeit in a more somber mood. Teacher reported some intermittent tears but we think he’ll get there at some point. He burst into tears when I came to pick him but calmed down by the time we got home and was quick to tell Evan he had a great time in school even if he cried.

The decision put Q in school was a deeply deliberated one as we considered homeschooling for a long time. After considering our family’s needs and lifestyle, we decided we would send him to school, but to one that was a more relaxed and play-orientated one. And most importantly, a school that understood that loving the kids is always more important to educating them, however crucial that was.

We were originally attending the accompanied cherrytots class at Cherrybrooks- which we loved, but their kindy at 4.5hrs, was longer than we liked. We settled on Gracefields Kindergarten @Gilstead. We really liked the school even if it is not Montessori. (We figured maybe I’d just go get certified. Heh.) The school is a Christian school and runs slightly more like an “old style” kindy with a more relaxed approach to education. The fact at they have three playgrounds and fees that did not cost an arm and a leg didn’t hurt. Also, seeing as our housing plans are still up in the air, their more central location suited us well.

So, In what seems like a twinkling of an eye, we begin this long journey of school. And because we live in a tiger mom rampant age of tuition center placement horror stories, school pressure related child mental meltdowns and suicides, and an incessant barrage of enrichment class ads that tell you that good parenting means packing your child’s day with classes; I do worry for my children but take heart that we are acutely clear that that is not how we want our children to grow up.

A child psychiatrist friend (and soon to be godfather to my kids since he’s marrying Godma) once reminded us that in the face of rat races that can sometimes begin as young as birth, it is our duty as parents to protect our children’s childhood. That they are still meant to climb trees, wade in rivers, catch ants and run through open fields of hope, freedom and unbridled joy.

To our dear son Quentin:

As you embark on your schooling journey, it is our deepest prayer and hope that you will never lose your sense of wonder about the world around you, or your natural curiosity for new things, your tenacity to keep at something till you succeed and the humility to know when to ask for help. And most of all, that you will always rest secure in the knowledge- deeply embedded in the depths of your soul, that you are loved unconditionally and supported unequivocally.

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Difficult kid questions (Part 1): Why do some parents abandon their kids?

We were at a friend’s baby’s baptism (Hello Alison Png!) earlier in the day. Late, no less, cos we were waiting for Evan to wake from his nap; the fella slept on and on, so I ended up with a (truth be told, much needed) one-on-one date with my firstborn. After the party- grateful that we caught the tail end of things, I decided to swing by Animal Resort so this animal loving kid could go feed some animals.

We were just about done there when this lady who voluntarily takes care of several abandoned parrots came by and brought out said parrots for a small meet and greet. Naturally, we had to go see the parrots, one of which was blind, squawking its guts out and almost featherless. Q, of course, had to know why this bird was bald when its friend was in its full plume glory.

Q to the volunteer lady: Why does the parrot have no feathers?
Lady: Cos the parrot is sad.
Q: Why is the parrot sad?
Lady: Cos his mummy and daddy didn’t want him anymore.
Q: That’s terrible. (To the bird) I’m sorry you are sad, parrot. Here, have a carrot.
(We had a pack of carrots cos we were just feeding the not-very-hungry horse)
Lady: He’s blind, so although he can hear you, he can’t see the carrot.
Q: He cannot see? How come?
Lady: Cos he had no shades in his cage and the sunlight made him blind.
Q: He needs sunglasses.

We left shortly after and he was recounting to me in the car all the animals he saw at the farm and spent a long time talking about the parrot with no feathers. Other than telling me that he had to tell Evan and daddy about the parrot- that he saw, fed and pet it; he had more questions for me. I had an inkling as to how this was going to go down….

Q: Why the parrot’s mummy and daddy don’t want the parrot anymore?
Me: I don’t know son. Maybe they felt like they can’t take care of the parrot anymore.
Q: Did they throw him away?
Me: I suppose so.
Q: That’s not nice. (Long pause)
Me: Some mummies and daddies think they can take care of a parrot, or dog, or baby; but then they realize they cannot. So they have to give them away and hopefully someone else will take better care of them.
Q: Like in Myanmar

It took me a while to figure this link out, then it dawned on me he was talking about Grace Home Orphanage cos Aunty Amar (matron of the home) explained to him the last trip that some kids there were there because their mummies and daddies could not take care of them (or want them anymore).

Me: Yes, like in Myanmar. Grace Home. Like Noble (his friend at the home his age)
Q: We (should) buy Noble bubble tea. I am tired, I going to sleep.

Five minutes later, this little boy was fast asleep in his car seat.

These are the moments I really wonder what goes on in that little mind of his; how much he knows, how much he understands. There are moments he seems to get a lot- far more than I ever give him credit for. Then there are moments, like when he was home and talking to/at Evan- about the giant rabbit, the noisy ducks, the hungry fish and the bald parrot; it seems the depth of what he asked me about in the car never happened. Its like his brain hits a “query”, he asks-gets his answers, files them away in this little mind vault, and he’s moved on to the next curiouser thing.

Kids, they keep you on your toes don’t they?

Why bochup is wrong

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Driving home today W and I got into a sort of fight/debate on Consumerism and social classes.

Well, not just about the concept of Consumerism in general (there was a lot of that too) but it all started because I said I don’t get how some tai-tais (@highbrow socialite types) can spend their whole life living in their own little bubble where they only care about the next bag they buy, the next gala they would attend and where next they should holiday.

Now, I’m all for living well if you have the means to, but I find it hard to comprehend when someone lives life utterly oblivious to how the rest of the world is faring. I recall a conversation with a (very) wealthy acquaintance from a developing (Southeast Asian) country a while back on the plight of poverty in her country. And her response: “You mean there’s that kind of poverty here? You must be kidding right? Things can’t be that bad.”

That’s like saying, since I live in a house/HDB in Singapore, there can’t possibly be people who find it hard on a day to day to make ends meet. I mean, really, right? *rolls eyes*

Or another that told me: I wanted to go charity work so I went to help out at an old folks’s home. But it was too smelly, to the point that I threw up. So, I decided giving money was easier. After all, it’s the same.

That’s like saying, I’ll just attend a gala that raises money for (fill in the blank charity) and that’s good enough. Cos, you know, at least at the gala, no one stinks or smells bad. Yeah, the real world works like that.

Or the ladies who quip: I bought this (branded) bag for only two thousand dollars ok. It’s for rough use anyway.

Yes, lady, cos two thousand dollars is chum change to the average joe.

I will be the first to admit that I live well, and yes, I like that I am able to go to any grocery store and buy whatever I feel like buying without really having to worry about the price on an item. It is not a habit to have to go to the cheapest source of, say, salmon. I simply shop where convenient. And while I don’t make dining fancy a habit, I do enjoy a nice meal at the next Michelin starred restaurant to celebrate my wedding anniversary. But I am acutely aware that it is a privilege and luxury, I am grateful to be able to enjoy. I work hard for my money, I live honestly and I remind myself to always be thankful.

As the conversation unfolded, W- who is generally more amiable that I am about these things, reminded me that people were entitled to lead their lives as they so choose. (I reckon maybe my husband thinks i can be quite a kay-poh.) And to expect people to care beyond themselves was taking a *gasp* self righteous stance and that I should live and let live.

That silenced me for a while (it seemed like a long time, but I think maybe it was more like 3 minutes; but to me that’s like a long time) and I said that I really don’t feel that it is wrong to “judge” someone who will not think about the greater world cos “it’s easier/simpler that way.” Far from self-righteous, how can I even BE ok with someone I know behaving that way.

Edmund Burke famously said: All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Silence is so often acquiescence and acceptance. To say, it’s perfectly fine for someone to live SO well and NOT care beyond themselves and their other equally fabulously wealthy and oblivious friends is wrong.

I know of many well heeled families who make it their life’s work to do good. They run foundations, they give scholarships, they personally spend time and effort with those that need. Sure they have their fair share of fancy bags, branded shoes, sports cars, big houses; but they are so very aware that because they have been so blessed, they have to give back.

Just yesterday I sent an old friend from Myanmar (they run the orphanage we visit) to one of their sponsors/friend who lives in a HUGE mansion. It was to confirm scholarships for 350 needy kids. Said wealthy family, also spends specially carved out personal time working on the ground. It is easy to give money, it’s infinitely harder to give of our time and efforts.

I don’t have the formula right (yet), I think. I might never get there and will most likely be a work in progress permanently. There is a lot about life I still have to learn, experience. But I truly and deeply feel that we cannot be content and oblivious just because we are in a good/great place. The world has to matter to us. I’m not saying go support every single cause that comes your way; I’m saying you gotta live life being aware that you are part of a greater humanity, and that humanity is everyone’s fight.

*end rant*

Why world affairs should matter to our kids

My love for politics started back in 1996 when I visited Myanmar and found myself at the cusp of a student riot and political change. To cut the long story short, it made me deeply interested in politics- the art and the science of things, and I ended up double majoring in psychology and political science with special interest in political campaigns, elections and how all of that impacts world politics.

Needless to say, US elections hold particular fascination for me since the impact of the person sitting in the Oval Office holds sway for the world, world politics and world policies. Wun and I took leave in 2008 to watch America elect their first black president (I would have preferred Hillary personally) and when Q was born, our good friend and fellow Politiko Aunty Karyn made Q his very one ABC onesie: A is for Arendt… N is for Nasser…T is for Thatcher… Y is for Yoda.

When our local elections took place (GE2011), we let Q stay up with us to wait for the results, explaining to my not yet 2yo who Lee Hsien Loong was, who the men in blue were and he clapped and cheered along with us at the various speeches and all. Somedays, instead of our usual ABC 123 lessons, we teach him about the great people in the world; a modge-podge of world leaders and other notable characters that have shaped our world.

When Neil Armstrong died, we learnt about the moon, talked about the Mars Explorer, looked at photos, built mock Apollo 11z, re-created walking on the moon (not the moon walk; we walked on sponges) and pretended to be aliens.

Yes, its important our kids learn their ABCs, 123s and all the other classroom stuff… but we also think its darn important they learn about the world.

 

Meet Robug and DoodleBug

Now that I think about it, we must have been quite nuts to decide that we should introduce Q to the world of robots. We don’t mean to show him what robots are (he already knows that), but rather, take him behind the scenes to see how robots are made.

We originally spoke to a robotics specialist friend of ours that runs Ministry of Robotics and he said that his robots can take skilled engineers up to half a day to assemble a simple version. So we canned that plan and went with our next best plan of buying a little robot kit. We found some at Toys R Us and settled on a fly-robot and a doodling robot that draws from the spectacular 4M range of science toys.

As it turns out, the bots were too hard for Q to fix though the fella had a field day playing with the bit parts, handing stuff to us and being able to handle real tools. We let him take the lead with decorating Ro-Bug and in sharing in the soda in the can we were fervently trying to empty. The kits were fairly straight forward though I would most certainly recommend reading ALL the instructions and accounting for ALL the bit parts BEFORE embarking on building either of these robots.

Come check our robots in action in these videos: our robug and doodle bug

stand up for our mothers

A friend of mine was part of a rather meaningful movement this past National Day; the Stand Up for Singapore program to encourage Singaporeans to act graciously towards mothers and the elderly.

It started with a fairly simple notion, that there has been far too many examples of people behaving badly towards the elderly and pregnant moms on public transport and that instead of (publicly) stomping on them, they wanted to focus on the nicer side to Singaporeans: the willingness to BE gracious to these two groups of people through the simple act of giving up your seat to them whilst on buses, trains and other waiting areas. They, after all, need it more than the average abled bodied person.

I cottoned on to this a little late but though it was not something I suffered whilst pregnant with both my boys, I have many friends who do take public transport daily and have feedback that people start to look through them  as if they were invisible while they are riding on the buses and trains. Sometimes, these seat hoggers (like the pigs?) pretend to be asleep so that they don’t have to give up their seats; even if they are seated in the priority seat.

So, to help them raise awareness, especially amongst the mothers, I’ve bought some of their {for mothers) t-shirts to give to my playgroup mummies and other mummy friends. You guys will be getting yours soon!

butterfly blooming

Ok, I have a confession to make: I love butterflies. I love the way they look, I love the way the fly and most off all, I love they way they bloom. I’ve always thought the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly is one of the most amazing things nature can offer.

We are lucky to live down the road from a lime plant growing neighbor who has a knack of finding young caterpillars in her garden, she was quite happy to hand them over to us so that my boys could watch the amazing process as well.

We’ve hatched several butterflies to date and the best part of the whole thing is when we set the butterfly free. So, since it has been a while since our last butterfly blooming project, we went scouting for a caterpillar to rear. She was kind enough to find us three.

Our first caterpillar was a real eater of a caterpillar and he worked his way through the leaves quick enough and got really fat fast. Next thing we knew (also, because we were quite distracted those days), he was in chrysalids mode. And in another blink of an eye, he emerged as a beautiful lime butterfly. Before we set the butterfly free, we took the chance to talk about the beauty of the butterfly, what they ate (nectar), how no two butterflies are the same and do some butterfly related crafts: in today’s case, we did butterfly fingerprinting ala Ed Emberley.

And as the sun was setting, I took my boys and we said farewell to the butterfly and wished him well. Q was very clear in telling the butterfly that if he needed to find food, he could go ask Mr. Bumble Bee cos they ate the same thing, but to be careful cos the bee might sting.