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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Our year in review: 2012


January passed in a blur of work and baby prep, though Quentin and I found time to take part in our first joint fashion campaign. In February, we welcomed little Evan into our family, February 21st, to be exact. In March, we celebrated our firstborn’s second birthday and wondered where the two years went. In April, we did our company’s yearly photoshoot and I am reminded of the amazing team I work with that puts up with my mummy-ness.

In May, we took Q to watch the Wiggles on their final concert tour and realized that kids at a Wiggles concert are more “heong” than adult fans at a lady Gaga concert. In June, we travelled for the first time as a family of four to Myanmar (yes, we go there alot) and my kids got to meet up with the kids at Grace Home Orphanage, a place that is very dear to my heart. Seeing kids I’ve known for over 16 years (now grown up, some with kids of their own) play with my kids brings a smile to my heart.

In July, we finally finished our ABC program. It took us 26 weeks and we left them on display far longer than we should have. Heh. In August, my sister got married to the amazing man that I now call my brother-in-law. Q got to be ring bearer, though in actual fact, he had to be carried down by my youngest sister.

In September, we took the boys to Taiwan on a part work part holiday trip to a safari resort. The biggest highlight of that trip- not to take anything away from lovely Taiwan, was Q dropping his pacifier into the animal cages below our room and became pacifier-free. In October, Evan learnt to crawl and Q jumped on the Oppa Gangnam style wagon.

In November, Evan scored his first car- an orange BMW GTS. Q was quick to share it. In December, we put together our yearly Christmas pack and the kids got to actively participate, even if it meant Evan trying to bite into the snack packs. Bub #2 celebrated his first Christmas with a slew of parties and far too many gifts. Ditto for Q who loved ripping into the gifts.

So, that’s our year in review and when we look back, we are thankful for so many wonderful things and blessings. Thanks for sharing 2012 with us, we look forward to more memories, experiences and milestones in 2013.

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*

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.

the man without a hand

We were at the grocery store the other day and met a man with no arms. He was wearing long sleeves shirt and one arm was distinctively emptier than the other. When Q walked past him, he waved and said hi and my 2.5yo could only muster a whisper of a “Hello Uncle” in return. He continued staring at the armless man for a while more and said nothing for a while.

Several minutes later, he came up to me and said: “That uncle had one arm only, Mummy. Oh no!” And since he had clearly been thinking about it a lot, we spent some time talking about what it means to have only one arm, what it means to have a handicap. We talked about people in wheelchairs and people who couldn’t walk or talk. It seemed a little much to be having this conversation with a 2.5yo but, ah well, i figured, why not.

Now, Q has a swim noodle with a connector making it into a hoop and today he took it apart, I think to play horsey with the noodle with the connector as a sword. Anyway, he stuck the connector onto his arm and tired- valiantly, to hold stuff. When he got quite quiet and I asked him what he was thinking and he said wearing the swim connector kinda made him “armless”, like the uncle he saw the other day. And after a pause, he said: “Its very hard to hold things with only one arm you know.”

So, after talking about it some, I asked him then what now? And he said that maybe “we could help the uncles with only one arm cos its hard that they cannot hold things.”

As parents, sometimes life finds us opportunities to teach our kids life lessons. And sometimes, God uses these little ones to remind us of our humanity and the task we have as parents to nurture a generation better than our own.

 

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