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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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.

 

Lessons from Tap the Frog

I have a confession to make, I am a real Tap the frog fan. I never started off that way cos it was Wun how first got into it and got Q hooked on it. Evan, who is far from playing with the iPad, is also an avid spectator. Because Q kept getting me to play along with him, I also got into it.

The gameplay is simple enough, you  and your frog are faced with a series of simple time sensitive tasks: it could be as simple as getting your frog to jump five times up and down to something more complex like getting your frog to slide down a snow hill. Some tasks are beyond Q at this point; there are math based questions that he can’t answer knowingly. Though, its hilarious that he has the highscore on one such task purely by accident and clicking randomly. Or maybe I have a math genus… nah…

So, generally speaking, the game is simple enough for my 2.5yo to play; even if he doesn’t always gets maximum points. In fact, he almost never and has to play many many rounds to accumulate the in game coins. You get a coin for each star you earn and over the many times you play, the coins add up.

Q discovered the other day that there was an in game store where you can change the color of your frog, give it clothes and a background. And each add on costs frog bucks (the coins you accumulate) they take out of your bank. And while you have the cheater bug option of buying more frog bucks, we think its an utter waste of money, so we make Q earn his frog bucks the old fashion way. Mind you, since we each have the game on our iPad, we each keep our own frog bank.

Over the course of two weeks (seeing as he only gets to play tap the frog for about 5-10 minutes in the evening) our littler fella has earned enough points to dress his frog. Unsurprisingly, he kinda went a little crazy at the store and bought many things for his now police siren toting, cowboy hat wearing, farm living purple frog.

He discovered soon enough that he ran out of money and lamented when I told him he had to earn more frog bucks to redesign his frog and in his 2.5yo wisdom, he lamented: Earning frog money is so hard! It takes so long!

Such is life my son, such is life.

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!

Review: Wiggles in concert

Q has been a huge Wiggles fan since he was able to watch TV. Yeah, we allowed him a small about of TV time a day when he was about 8 months old mainly cos we were helper-less, he never napped and mummy needed sometime to at least catch a shower that was more than two minutes long.

As he got older, Wiggles became a mainstay at our household; we became friends with Jeff, Anthony, Murray, Greg and Sam. I quite liked the Wiggles, they sang fun kids songs, were probably the most wholesome children’s gig on TV, spoke good English (if a little Aussie) and Q seemed to take best to them over all other stuff we showed him. When we started traveling, the Wiggles helped us through long plan rides, nights in the hotel when I was rushing work and as he got older, it enabled us to take him to work meetings overseas.

We were in Brisbane last year for a short work/holiday and we took Q to Wiggles World and I ended up having to take the Big Red Car ride five times. In fact, when we got to Wiggles World Q, then just past one year old, started dancing to the music.

So, you can imagine our excitement when we heard the Wiggles were coming to town in a sort of farewell tour- Jeff, Greg and Murray were retiring year end. In fact, it was my sister’s boyfriend that heard of it first (don’t ask me how) and it became a half extended family affair seeing as my Sister also wanted in to go. I think she was probably more excited than Q who probably thought we were going to watch Wiggles on a big TV.

He kinda got that he was going to watch Wiggles live about five minutes before the show began and it was such utter joy watching him get so excited he could hardly contain himself. For over an hour, he fell into the Wiggles world he had so long watched on video; singing align to old favorites and doing the actions. There was one particular funny part when they sang a song he was unfamiliar with and he turned to us exclaiming: “Oh! What song is that?! I don’t know it!” All while not missing a dancing bobbing beat.

The Wiggles put up a great show: high energy, great camaraderie, pockets of comedy for the parents and I think the entire audience enjoyed themselves. Yes, parents included.

We’d miss the Wiggles as we know it but we are glad we got to watch them live. 🙂

The Growing Tree Gives Back: Card Campaign

Those who know me know what a big crafter I am. Strictly speaking, while I do scrapbooking, I don’t scrap as much as I craft. I make things: cupboards, books, pots, diaper and towel cakes…etc.   thanks to my meeting some truly amazing craft-loving charity-minded people; the chance to be part of a myriad of craft based charity work came about, I jumped at the chance to get wholly involved.

Our first project was in partnership with the Make a Card Campaign for the Needy. Most recently, their Valentine’s Day cards were donated to several charities who in turn, sold them to raise funds.

There was a recent call for a new card drive for “Thank You” cards; most of which are for charities as they gear up for International Volunteer’s Day (3rd quarter) and some to be curated and packaged for sale at various fund raising events.

I knew that many of my friends feel that they don’t have a clue how to begin, so I decided to take the guess work out of card making for them and created card kits (of varying difficulties). These are complete kits to make/assemble 10 cards- all they would need is craft glue. The designs are also simple enough for toddlers to get involved to. And my team  of colleagues gamely chipped in to make the said packs with me!

I roped in my mummy’s group who all enthusiastically joined in. Some had never crafted in their lives, some brought their little ones over and in the midst of playtime and catch-up chats, we crafted. So many that I now am able to route some to other causes.

At last tally, we will make close to 450 cards amongst the group of us, far more than expected and I now have enough to route to other charities that have use for them.

How great! 🙂