If I ever make notes on my calendar, September would be a month that is filled with birthdays, including my own!
My niece celebrated her 2nd birthday recently at Mcdonald's. It was the first time I attended a birthday celebration at Mcdonald's.
We did not have a tradition of celebrating birthdays except for our grandparents, and as a kid, I have never attended any of my friends' birthday parties. Somehow though, you could roughly figure out how a birthday celebration at Mcdonald's would be with the balloons, games and gifts for the little ones. However, the choice of the outlet made a difference.
The location was at Rideout in Queensway. It has a good playground, a little park for the older kids to roam about, and without a big crowd, space for the adults to sit back and relax, have a bite and catch up on things.
I do not recall when getting presents for kids had become difficult for me. Although there are a lot more variety of toys and merchandise these days, I find it harder to decide on a good present because you do not want to duplicate what the kids already have. Giving money in red packet becomes an option. Fortunately, my 6 year-old helped me decide what to buy for her little cousin.
"We will get her Duplo! We have lots of that in school and she will love them too!" SW says that because he is a fan of Lego. I am very glad that he knows Duplos are for younger children. I thought that was a good choice since CH still plays with them at 4. And the more pieces you have, the bigger things you could build.
Today is LA's 5th birthday. Sis just told me that when we bumped into her and LA on our way to the library.
"CH, today is LA's birthday! Would you like to get her a present?" I asked CH as we went our separate ways, agreeing to meet for lunch later.
"Oh! Yes, mommy!"
"What would you like to get her?" I asked and continued walking, having the least idea what we could get her.
"Why don't we buy her a surprise?"
I laughed, "Surprise isn't an item you can buy, CH!"
I never thought of gifts and surprises that way. Does this 4 year-old really understand what the word surprise mean? What does a surprise look like? Why not? It is the thought that counts, isn't it? All gifts are surprises, aren't they?
On our way home after lunch, CH did not want to part with LA and refused to go home. "Where are we going, mommy?"
"Home, CH, we are going home now." I had to put my foot down.
"Mommy, can we go to LA's Birthday Party?"
I laughed again. Not because LA isn't having a birthday party, but from the earlier 'buy a surprise', CH makes "LA's Birthday Party" sound like a location rather than an occasion!
You could say children are the greatest artists. For what they lack in strength and dexterity, they make it up in their originality, and that is unbeatable by any adults. So untainted in perception, so clear of beliefs of any sort, so full of possibilities.
CH, September 2010
I like the the flowers that grow from the sky
Recently, I saw in a friend's facebook, some line drawings done by his preschool daughter, of people she knows. Maybe it is because I have been so used to seeing my own children's, or perhaps it is the noses that she has included on the faces, which do not exist in any of my children's. Her simple lines made an impression on me. If only I can have my friend's courtesy to put up some in this blog to share...
Great! Permission granted! Here are some of 3 year-old Faith Chen's works:
Faith has interestingly added something which looks like a '2' in this picture.
Perhaps she's drawn this when she was two? Or perhaps that is just part of her hair?
Makes me wonder if 'Teacher Michelle' wears glasses.
Notice how she fills up the entire page in each drawing.
why do you hang around
these concrete grounds?
Where have I seen you, but
in the greenest fields?
Could it be the puddles from the rain?
Or the smell of grass that remained?
why are you still here
after one whole year?
Are you looking for your home
man has taken over for their own?
Are you looking for your little ones
who vanished while having fun?
CH has been bringing Home-School Projects from school. Since I am used to doing projects with the kids at home, there should not be much of a problem - or so I thought.
The first project we did was not exactly a happy one. Normally, I did not have to be in the picture. That makes things a lot easier as we are spontaneous and less conscious of ourselves. But for the Home-School Projects, parents are required to take pictures of themselves working with the kids, and email the pictures to the teacher.
I got my son SW to help us with the photographing. It was pretty much a disaster. Not only had I to juggle between supervising the photo-shooting and making the Art & Craft with CH, SW was more interested in taking pictures of everything else except us. It was a little project that did not take CH long to do, so everything finished rather quickly - meaning there were not many photographs either, most of which were blurred. I had to take over the camera at the end. Even so, there were no happy faces in the pictures. A failed project to my standard.
Along came the second Home-School Project. This time, SW was not around, so CH and I took turns taking pictures of each other.
At first, CH felt more enthusiastic about taking the pictures, ready to abandon her project and leaving everything to me. I decided that we should only take pictures at different stages of our project, and allowed her to take a few snaps each time. Rather than the results, it is usually the process that is more important when working with kids.
CH's take of me.
Although CH's little hands could hardly reach the snap button on my Fuji Finepix, she did her best in following instructions like not moving her hands when snapping and holding in position so as to maintain the focus.
CH finding a place on the 'wool' for the ribbon we
I thought I had a good deal getting a pack of Sand Art for only two dollars from Daiso. Turned out the two sticker pads were blank - meaning we had to draw and cut everything ourselves - a real DIY!
Original pack comes with coloured sand in little plastic bags
I got the kids to draft out what they wanted on a rough piece of paper before starting on the 2 sticker pads provided. We had to draw something that was not too complicated so it was easier to cut.
CH's draft - the details would have been tough on my hands
SW's draft - a good start
After sketching their pictures, the children could not wait to begin. Unfortunately, they had to wait for me to cut out the parts before they could pour sand in each portion like they do with the ready-cut ones. To save time, I modified some of the details. Especially for CH's, I got her to draw me another butterfly. It was a good thing as my fingers could hardly bend back towards the end...
The sand that came with the pack was not generous enough. Towards the end, we ran out of some colours. I tried to work around it by creating graduation in some portions. Though the results were not entirely to my satisfaction, they pictures were uniquely theirs.
I managed to find some ready-to-play packs with Barney prints at a chain supermarket a couple of days after that. Some departmental stores sell them too at an affordable S$3.90, and comes with a more generous amount of sand.
"It will be a wonderful experience for SW," Sis was highly recommending me to bring the kids to Forest Adventure at Bedok Reservoir. And it proved better than I imagined!
About 3 to 4 metres above the ground, I did not have high hopes that my 6 year-old son, SW, would be willing to give it a go. Joined by his two enthusiastic older cousins, LK and LJ, SW did not have a chance to think twice or back out of it.
Meeting the minimum required height of 1.1m, I could not help noticing how small SW looked up there. Often suppressing excitement and not showing signs of fear, I could hardly tell what he was feeling except that he was very attentive to the young instructors giving instructions.
There were various obstacles to cross. Each posed a different challenge of balance, strength, vigilance, and courage. Although there were instructors at various points, it was such a blessing that SW had his cousins to help him with the safety line which needed some tugging to move on at the beginning and end of each obstacle. He eventually learned to handle it all by himself.
At one point, I feared for SW as it looked as if his height could barely make it. But he managed to find his way to work around it. It was a boost to SW's confidence and his parents were simply beaming with pride.
Below are some of pictures of the various obstacles. The course ended with a Zip Slide which the kids enjoyed - not without getting sand into their pants and shoes.
SW said this was the one he feared most as there was nothing
on either side to hold on to.
There are similar activities for adults too. But for that day, it was for the kids. For more information, visit: www.forestadventure.com.sg
I was with CH at the playground near her school today when an old man who was seemingly taking pictures suddenly fell to the ground about 3 metres behind me. The flop followed by loud groan stopped us short and I turned around to see him lying head back, right between the hard concrete and grass.
He was motionless and when I rushed to his side, his eyes were rolled back with mouth opened. I gasped in horror and shouted for help. "Help! Somebody, please help!"
"Please, don't die," I thought, and called out trying to get the old man's consciousness. CH's school mate's mom asked if we should call an ambulance. I reached for my phone but realized I didn't have it with me. "Please do", I told her.
I continued to shout for help as I had no idea what to do. A slim Indian man in a cap saw us and came running over. He gently held the old man's head up to feel if there was blood. There wasn't. I continued to called out to the old man who looks to be in his 70s, using different languagues - Hokkien, Chinese, English, Teochew..."Are you ok? How are you feeling?" No response.
The Indian man lifted his head up higher with his arm and I put my finger out to feel for the old man's breadth. "He's breathing", I told the Indian man in relief. Just then, the old man started to groan. He seemed to be gaining consciousness but he looked lost. For a moment, I wondered if he could have been drinking. The Indian man put his head back on the ground and said there was a bump on his head. I used CH's bottle holder for him as a pillow so the Indian man could remove his hand.
By then, a few more residents have approached and some recognized him as a fellow Chinese National who lives on the 11th floor and went upstairs to get his family. Initially someone suggested to move him to somewhere cleaner, but no one dared to touch him for fear of head and bone injuries. A lady from a nearby childcare centre came out - possibly the nurse - and we tried to get the old man to lie on his side. I've recently browsed through a first aid book and knew the position, but the old man did not want to turn. After that, we all just waited for the ambulance while the old man, fully conscious, continued to groan in Mandarin and wanted help to get up. Once, I heard him muttering that he was going to die. The neighbours consoled him and told him the ambulance would be there any minute.
CH watched us, not knowing exactly what was happening. She asked why I gave her Hello Kitty bottle holder to the man. She scampered off to the playground and continued playing with her friends and only came back when the ambulance arrived.
The ambulance came with 3 medical assistants. They got a brief description from me what happened and attended to the old man. An Indian lady standing next to the old man said she saw him fall, head back. They asked him where the pain was but did not get any answers from the old man. He just continued to groan when the assistants tried to help him.
Just then, his wife came. When asked, she said her husband does not have any heart diseases or high blood pressure. "He has knee ache. He left the house early today and said he was going to take pictures. Maybe he's tired out." Even the lady medical assistant thought the old man behaviour was rather odd. She got her Chinese colleague to ask the old man's wife if her husband's behaviour was normal. She said she had never behaved like that.
The lady assistant put the old man's camera into his side pocket and they tried to move him up a stretcher. The old man groaned loudly for them to slow down. He seemed to be in great pain.
All of a sudden, the old man wanted to throw up and they got him a plastic bag. As they tried to wheel him to the ambulance, he groaned loudly for them to stop. He said he did not want to go to the hospital. The medical assistants had to stop to convince him to have a thorough check. They could not leave him just like that. "If anything happens to you, we will need to make a police report," said a senior assistant. That seemed to work and the old man was quietly wheeled up the ambulance, accompanied by his wife.
"Don't worry about the medical bills. Your life is more important. Just rest at the hospital for 8 hours and you are free to go home if there is no serious injuries." The senior assistant was saying before the door closed.
I am reminded of how my fourth uncle died after slipping on the bathroom floor. He never ever woke up after that. Once, I hit my forehead really hard on the wall loosing balance whilst trying to help my then 3 year-old son in a public squat toilet - what a place to have an accident - I had a brief moment of blackout and must have lost consciousness for a few seconds, holding on to the walls because it took me a few minutes to remember what had happened and where I was. The pain on my head lasted for days.
Last Thursday night, CH attended her first ballet class - ever!
CH - first from the right
'Ever' because she had waited a year for it. Indeed, it is a quarter of her life. There were classes for 3 year-olds but the lesson time was not right for us. We used to peep outside the classrooms, watching the older girls at their practice. She would smile as she watched, admiration beaming through her eyes.
"Ballet is not just about wearing pink tutus and looking pretty, you know," I used to whisper into her ear as we watched. "Can you see the jie jies (big sisters) are trying very hard to lift up their legs and keeping in balance? You need a lot of strength and practice..." I wonder how much did get in.
Personally, I am a believer of delayed gratification. Watching others at it do wonders in building up life-long interest and helps in identifying real wants. Nevertheless, it is difficult to determine how long to delay and wiser to leave it to chance - I suppose. So, when we finally received the phone call that a class was starting at the time convenient for us, we were delighted! CH kept asking me,"Am I going for ballet lesson?" as if she could not believe it was true!
Perhaps we were already familiar with the place, perhaps it was the same teacher we have been watching - CH did not need any warming up and readily joined in the circle. I stayed and watch until she kept turning around to see me, loosing focus.
I was happy with the teacher. The little moves had stories to them and the girls took to them easily, with giggles and laughter.
Good toes, bad toes, naughty toes, walk on high-heels, mermaid's tail, (thigh-fly)butterfly, reach for the sky (to straighten their backs) were some of the terms the teacher used for some routine moves.
Before she stepped out of the classroom, she gave her teacher another smile, waved goodbye, and bent down to touch the wooden floor. Couldn't believe she's finally in a ballet class for real?
"When can I come back here for ballet, mommy?" CH asked as we left.
Seven years ago, when we bought our CRT TV, the smallest LCD televisions still cost thousands of dollars. 3 years ago, we got asked why we had not 'upgraded' our television when nearly every household had an LCD TV.
"What do people do with their existing TV if they still work?" We had wondered. It was not like we needed two television sets at home.
Recently, our CRT broke down. Just like that, for no apparent reason. It just would not turn on. We needed to pay extras for the service man to check and possibly foot another hundred to change a part. So we waited for a good sale to come along. We waited 3 weeks.
On the second week, we got asked,"And you could survive?" Surprisingly, we did.
On the last weekend before the arrival of our new Philips LED TV, my brother in-law lent us an Avatar DVD. With HM's 24 inch LCD screen plugged into his laptop and sound system connected, we watched Avatar. That was our 3rd weekend without TV, and it felt even more exciting than it would have been if our TV had not broken down. Deprivation has its pros.
"Why do we even bother to buy a new TV?" HM had joked.
We had wanted to go for a LCD since a good 42 inch these days cost slightly more than a thousand dollars. But along came a Philips half-yearly sale for staff. With the help of some good contacts, we managed to get hold of a 40 inch LED that had not already gone out-of-stock. It is a HD 8000 series with ambient light, anti-glare, 100Hz, comes with USB socket, and is internet connectible! HM and I fell in love with the unique round corners of the TV.
Even the box that contained the TV was put to good use! The board is so hard and sturdy it would have been a shame to throw away!
Drawing is such a personal thing, like playing the piano.
Try telling a child "Why don't you do it this way", you get "No, I like it this way!" Or "Why don't you try other colours", you get "No, I like pink and purple!" And the whole picture ends up in a flood of pink and purple.
It is funny how my favourite colour combination used to be pink and purple too. Yeah, you could just go on hours and hours with just pink and purple...
Watching CH drew made my fingers itch, so I picked up the oil pastels while she dipped happily into poster colours.
Finding ideas on what to draw was a challenge, especially when I have not painted in years. I started with CH's face, and it was a disaster. I have never succeeded in portraits. Flipping the paper over, I let my eyes drop from CH's smooth complexion and rosy lips, onto the bright yellow tweety bird on her T-shirt. So there goes the tweety bird, and my first attempt using oil pastels.
What amazed me was the smoothness of the oil pastels - and it wasn't even a branded set. Although it was rather messy and all other colours went onto the yellow, it was truly fun! I worked with my fingers on the blending, and the background colour came as a surprise to me - a bright turquoise, which happens to be one of my favourite colours.
"But mommy, the tweety bird is not sitting on the table!" CH was refering to the one on her T-shirt.
2 weekends ago, we visited the 2010 Navy Open House. It was rainy in the morning, but we decided to go anyway so our kids could see warships and submarines up close - well, not that we have ever either. It was a fairly long ride from Singapore Expo by chartered bus to a highly secured eastern part of the country.
This warship was the first one that greeted us. It was fortunate that I started snapping away because we never did get a chance to back-track - it was a reminder to me that in life, you need to take every opportunity that's right in front of you or they'll just pass you by.
There were events going on and one of the highlights was a show that the Navy put up on terrorist attack. The gunfires were so loud CH had her ears covered and stayed close to me. With the drizzle and long walks, the kids were happiest at the indoor Family Activity areas.
Although we were allowed to go up the warships, the queues were so long at each of them that we only managed to board one of them. And because it was drizzling, the navy were there to help us, making sure we do not slip on the steps. SW was most disappointed for not being able to board a submarine, which was also what I was looking forward to. However, we did manage to get a close look at a small submarine. There were helpful officers around to provide information when you asked, and photo-taking was permitted.
I found this drawing in SW's school work in creative writing. He included details like how we boarded the sloped stairs while it was raining, missiles we saw on the ship, a small submarine by the side, numbers on the ship, railings, and the sun that was hidden by thick clouds. I don't remember there was a jet plane flying around though...
I have never liked oil pastels. But I realized that was because I knew too little of it.
I brought the kids out for a trial art class which teaches art using oil pastels. My kids probably had more exposure to oil pastels in school than I ever did my life. They looked at ease with them.
The top two were taught by the teacher using blending techniques. The bottom two were before.
Left: SW, Right: CH
"It is easier for young children to blend colours using oil pastels than using coloured pencils or poster colours", the teacher told me.
With that, I came home and logged into the internet, keen to find out more about oil pastels. I found 'ehow' and watched the videos. After that, I replaced 'about.com' with 'ehow.com' under my favourite sites on drawing.
CH attended her first art class during this holiday. It is with another centre. The timing was a good twice weekly over the June holidays. I just wanted her to have some fun, and to satisfy my own curiosity of how art lessons are conducted these days (without too much commitment).
Knowing the fact that my 4 year-old draws nothing but girls with long legs, I wasn't surprised when she drew a swan like a flamingo on the first day, and rabbit like a bumble bee on the second.
There wasn't any 'preferred' medium to use, but the teacher suggested poster colours for CH after the first lesson, so I grabbed it from a nearby bookshop for her to use during the next lesson.
"Could she handle it?" I had wondered aloud.
"Yes, Why not?" The teacher had replied.
For the second lesson, we brought the set of poster colours and coloured pencils along, just in case. But CH did not use the poster colours at all.
"I didn't know she had it!" Was the teacher's reply. I couldn't believe my ears. The brand new set of plated poster colours was right in front of our eyes, on the table all the time!
For the third lesson, CH still did not use the only poster colours we brought. Instead, the teacher lent her a box of oil-pastels. I did fume after the third lesson wondering how experienced the teacher is in teaching young children. And I have to admit at this point in time that the reason why I disliked oil pastels is the mess you make with them. But CH had a good time, so we carried on with the course. To me, it is an hour and a half of baby-sitting, at 7 dollars an hour.
2nd day: I mistook her rabbit as bumble bee at first glance.
She practiced using water colour at home on the same picture.
But NOW that I know better what oil pastels could do, drawing with them have become interesting to me. And knowing CH loves to 'feel' her paintings and drawings, getting down right icky and dirty, it might just be a good medium for her to start off with!
SW still loves to play with Legos. He puts together little parts to make up aircrafts, ships, houses, or little robots. Recently, he showed me two of which I found really cute and reached for my camera. After that, he started building even more.
In a way, you can't display Legos the way you do with drawings. Once you display them, they remain on the shelves and you can't play with them until you dismantle the entire structure. So I take pictures. As I discovered, this became a form of recognition to them. They have learnt from my response that they've made something/drawn something that's worth keeping.
For CH, she draws so many everyday using rough papers (and sneaks away some of my good papers too) that I had to dedicate a shelf for her to store her own drawings. These days, she draws girls with super long legs. "These are big girls, not little girls!" She explained.
CH draws our family and her two girl cousins.
Daddy helped sign CH's chinese name.
CH: "The girl (1st from right) is a naughty girl
who crumbled my paper (the black dot)"
I love the girl's hairdos and the expressions on their faces. They all look different. All the good girls wear tiaras (all good girls are princesses?) and the naughty one wears shades with a nasty expression. In the first picture, she draws herself as the only one who is smiling while the rest are talking - and it looks like Mommy's got the biggest mouth of all!
How to beat the heat at home without switching on the air-conditioner? Other than recycling wastes, doing away with plastic bags, finding ways to save water and electricity, this is the next thing that is becoming part of daily life.
The hottest time at my home is during lunch preparation. Only half of my family is into sandwiches and salads, so I can't avoid the stove entirely. With no breeze coming in from any direction and the fire burning before me, I am a torch myself.
Using the Braun quick-boiling kettle to heat up water for cooking saves me time and cuts down the heat emitted from the stove; drawing the blinds to shield the afternoon sun cools the whole apartment down by about 1.5 degrees; mopping the floor cools it down a further 0.5 degrees (although for a short while if the day is really hot).
Above all, I would give the highest credit to doing laundry in the afternoon. Using the Fisher & Paykel top-load that we've invested in 7 years ago, I would select the 'Permanent Press' option. The entire cycle completes in about 20 to 25 minutes with time reduced in spinning. The clothes finish up pretty wet but without dripping. I would hang the clothes indoor, and that lowers the temperature by 1 to 2 degrees. When dry, the clothes fold like they have just been ironed - and yes, I save from ironing too.
With the fan on at top speed, my temper could still go up - that's before someone rings the doorbell (a welcomed guest!) and I gladly give myself the excuse to turn on the air-conditioner!
For some reason, the 'recycling men' have stopped their door-to-door pickups and we have to drop our recycling waste in the central collection container a few blocks away. Yet, separating waste has become a habit for us.
The accumulation of the recycling waste has become quite an eyesore, although it is tucked in a corner of my kitchen.
A recent find at IKEA brought such a neat solution that I decided to post a picture of it here. I use the lowest bin as my laundry basket and the top two as my recycle bins. The optional wheels also make it easier for me to clean the floor.