Monday, March 30, 2009 ;
4:04 PM
28 Mar

Time for art class. ds1's class. He really enjoys the lessons huh? Always so attentive.

This time, I encouraged Dh to be with ds2. ds2 didn't want initially, but I felt it would do him good to have more bonding time with daddy. I took the pic from outside the viewing panel, and the sun was shining in from the opposite window, so the pic turned out very dark, but ds2 and Dh are in the back row, right beside the window (i.e. way across the room from my viewing point).

This is ds1's art piece for this week: another Japanese cartoon character?

ds2's work:

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

3:26 PM
28 Mar

2pm was ds1's marimba lesson. ds2 fell asleep for his afternoon nap in the cab so Dh carried him directly to Mighty Deli for a coffee while I brought ds1 for his class.

Surprisingly, ds1 was very enthusiastic and eager to start his class.

Who should I meet but H and D (Indian neighbour at Crystal City whose kids are at IST too), at Cathay Future's reception! Both were there to enquire about different classes.

I brought ds1 up to his class then came down to join them. D is very adventurous. She is thinking of letting her kids join the classes too when they don't know the language well. But she doesn't mind letting them learn the language better. She was interested in the guitar lessons.

H was interested in the adult classes. I wasn't aware of them but they actually offered ballroom dancing, folk dancing, taichi, painting etc classes for adults on weekday mornings also! The charges were very reasonable, only 150yuan for 6 mths, weekly 1.5hr classes!

D's family left to go to the Cathay Future Park, just behind the building. She said a lot of her Indian expat friends bring their kids to the park too.

I asked H if she wanted to join me and Dh, and she did for a while.

We later also found out that Mighty Deli has wireless internet access, so in future we can bring our laptops to surf too, while waiting for ds1. Better than waiting inside the classroom.

When it was time, I went to get ds1 and we all headed for the park too!

We had to pay 5yuan per adult, kids under 1.2m go in free. I felt it was not cheap, because the park was not well-maintained, despite being very big and diverse in offerings. But it was an ideal way to spend the time between 3.30pm and 5pm before the kids went for their art class. We preferred being in the outdoors when they have a break.

That's the wooden play area.
Then we met H and her sons. She had gone to pick them up from their English enrichment lessons and since she knew we were going to be here, she brought them here too, so they can all play together.

At another play area with many nets, ds1 and LL (H's younger son).

Swinging rope section (Tarzan-whee!):

Stepping stones? A bit too wide for ds2 huh?

A netted contraption that will turn. ds1, HH and LL all in pic.

Punching bags... All 4 boys here.

ds2 climbing.

ds2 is too small and short for one part of the playground. This netted bridge for example. He had to go under everyone's legs. H told me cannot let the older generation see (old grannies).

ds2: Ahhh! "I'm too short to get up, I need to be saved from this net trap!"

Poor ds2, too small for everything. See the pic below? The 3 older ones all together in a row, way in front, in a netted tunnel that goes all the way up. Where is ds2?

So far behind! "Wait for me!!" he shouted. And he kept calling for HH. Maybe because HH will look out for him and help him. Not his own brother, haha. Not this time at least...

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

1:19 PM
27 Mar

ds1 was home from school and both of them were playing rough and super active stuff like climbing up and down the bunk bed, jumping down from the upper bunk and kicking huge balls across the living room. (footnote: ds2 actually fell from the upper bunk and cut his lips yet again. Even his frenulum was torn, with a laceration. Sigh)

I had run out of novel things to distract them. So I offered them a chance to dismantle the HD DVD player we got in US which was shipped over in the boxes. It was rarely used now that we only watch HD DVDs on Sat. Also, the fuse had been blown by yours truly, because I plugged it into the China electrical socket without realising this device cannot take the difference in voltage.

Since Dh still had no spare time to change the fuse, I thought might as well help him by opening the thing. Thus I handed 2 screw drivers to the boys and asked them to open the thing.

Then I went to prepare dinner.

It was good. Occupied them quietly for a long time, while I came out once in a while to peek.
Mainly it was ds1 doing the unscrewing (they were supposed to take turns but ds2 was happy to let his brother do everything while he observed.

After the lid was off, the kids begged to examine the components and since it was plugged in, I thought why not? ds1 wanted to further dismantle the DVD holder section and anywhere there were screws. I gave the go ahead, after reminding him that he needed to be able to put the things back where they were supposed to go. He agreed.

But I took a picture of the thing first, just in case they can't put it together again.

Then they had fun pressing all the different buttons inside the player. ds2 was interested in this. He loves buttons.

Oops, I stayed in the kitchen for too long a spell and when I came out, the DVD player was almost wrecked. It certainly looked like it couldn't be put together again.

After that I didn't dare leave them, so I sat at the side to film them.

He began explaining what he was doing. The way he did it seemed like it was targetted at his brother, cos the language was simple. But then his brother didn't seem like he was listening so he directed it at me.

I wasn't paying that much attention to what he was saying, but I did notice all the screws he placed nicely on the chair. I thought that was rather neat, at least they weren't strewn all over on the floor. This looks like something he is better at than his dad, haha.

After he was done, I asked him to try and put everything back. To give him credit, he did stick most of the stuff back in the same place, only thing they weren't connected. Some of the "ribbons" (I don't know what they are called but they look like gift wrap ribbons to me) were flapping about with one end loose. I know they were all connected at the beginning. Oops... better wait and see if Dh can salvage it. But I knew he wouldn't be too pleased.

When DH returned from work, he exclaimed indeed, and chided me for letting them run amok with the player without supervision. I admitted that I should've been with them all the way.. But I still thought it could be put together. Dh didn't look so confident because the damage he saw, he understood. For me, I don't know these things, so I just think of the best scenario, but was secretly worried that if it were really not fixable, I'd be a dead duck.

Dh gave them a earful too, especially ds1.

Dh took over, and even though by that time dinner was ready, none of them wanted to eat yet.

So I announced that I would start first, and I ate my dinner by myself while watching them from the dining table. As the minutes passed, I wondered if it would ever be done, and if the guys would ever have dinner... so I prayed that the player would work fine soon too!

Finally it did! Phew... The fuse still needs to be replaced for the DVDs to be played but at least, everything was back in place, and the lights were on and blinking again, hooray! The boys were overjoyed!

Footnote: Dh went out the next morning (Sat morn) to buy the fuse and a soldering thingy. He came home, soldered something together (apparently something was broken). He said he couldn't find 110V fuse, so he just put a piece of metal in place of the fuse and sealed it there.

He at once tried the player out by playing our HD DVD Living Earth, and with that excuse of "testing the player", sat there and watched DVD for more than 1 hour.

I think it is risky not to have a fuse, cos I might absent-mindedly plug it in again, instead of using the transformer, which is so bulky and heavy. Anyone knows where to get the fuse here?

(Otherwise I would incur the wrath of Dh too many times! He already told the boys to wait for him to be home before asking to watch HD DVD, don't ask mummy to play for them!)

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

12:15 PM
Fun with boxes again:

We have gotten rid of half of the empty boxes, thanks to the garang guni man (aka 收废品先生here), but I had cleared some more boxes. After giving some to H, I still had 2 more that are pretty dilapidated in condition.

Then we found the box that held all the paints and art supplies from US, so I let ds2 do painting in the day. Because he is still kept at home with me. Now it has become more like, the reason for not going to school is "There aren't many more days left to Spring break, so might as well not go".

The good thing is, the height is perfect for him, and every time he finishes one side, we just flip the box over to the next side and he can continue.

He paints anything he fancies, which turns out very messy. Ugh.

Then on another day, after the paint has dried on all surfaces, we decided to make box animals. I asked the kids what would they like to make and they each picked a favourite. ds1 chose Orca (killer whale) and ds2 chose the grizzly bear. YEs, they had to pick fierce-looking animals.

What fun would a docile animal be, to them? They just love the jagged sharp teeth. Dh helped with the penknife. They cut the ears and fins themselves. The rest of the cutting cannot be done by scissors, so only adults should handle the pen knife.

They kept fighting with each other after that, even though I told them in real life, these 2 animals won't ever meet. They said their play is fictional. Ok, fine, so I asked them why can't they play around friendly themes, like the animals having a tea party?

Needless to say, all my suggestions fell on deaf ears...

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

12:02 PM
New dish ayi demonstrated this past week:

Fish cake slices stir-fried with peppers and carrot. The fish cake is sliced into triangular shapes, interesting.

Ayi says she is reaching the end of her repertoire of Korean-inspired cuisine. If I like, we could move on to 东北 cuisine. If not, she can just recap our favourite dishes one by one each subsequent week.

I was open to learning more dishes. But at night when I told Dh about it, he said, no, he doesn't like 北方菜。He's the picky one now.

We'll see if there are anymore new dishes in future!

And my neighbour, H, made us some 卤鸡卤蛋. Yum yum!

Taxi wedding procession
Then we had the privilege to observe a wedding, which had booked many taxicabs, and decorated them. They drove in a row, making a spectacular sight. How many, perhaps 12 at least? Lost count.

ds2 has his multiple lip abrasions/ lacerations sustained from many falls, at different times. I had to get him to drink extra water because his lips would dry out and the skin would crack and peel (due to the wounds inside the mouth, circulation to the outer lip is poor).

He would conveniently forget all my reminders, so I remembered our funky straws and took them out again. Indeed, something novel once in a while always gets his attention.

He first asked for milk, then juice and then water. 3 cups of fluids in a row. That's a bit extreme too. So he visited the toilet more often, and I also made him pee before his afternoon nap, but guess wat? He still wet the bed and his pants in his sleep that afternoon, because apparently he topped up his cup many more times with water before that.

He loves watching the fluid move up the loops.

Then as if washing all the bedlinen and extra clothes is not enough work, ds1 came home with his boots full of sand. Far more than what his shoes normally contained.

I showed him the mountain of sand under the bush nearest our door, which is where I pour the sand from both boys' shoes away each day.

He shrieked with laughter.

I also pointed out that particular bush to them.

Since Aug last year, they had brought heaps of sand home each day, even in pants pockets and in their hair. I always dump the sand in the same place.

Now that bush is different from all the other bushes (of the same height and species). Since the plants are all in a row, it is obvious that it was the sand affecting the bush.

The leaves are not as green, and it looks more dehydrated.

Maybe I should get a dedicated huge plastic tray, and dump the sand in there always, then I'll get a free sand pit at the end of the year. Fun!

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

10:05 AM
25 Mar

ds1 came home from school saying that he wanted to do a project at home. He showed me the instruction sheet, with a diagram he drew.

It was simple enough, using trapped air in a balloon to shoot it along a string.

He did it by himself, said he knows exactly what to do cos the teachers demonstrated it in school already and they told every kid to try it at home.

A video clip of the balloon darting past me so quickly that I couldn't catch the motion properly on camera. I laughed.

And then I burst out laughing so hard that I hard to stop this clip below at once also.

Why? Ds1 decided to try 2 balloons, to see if it would go even faster.
I said, good, it was a good extension. Let's find out. He blew up the balloon and pegged it together with the 1st balloon but then forgot to tape the 2 balloons together. So guess what happened? It was hilarious, especially when he was so excited about the outcome at the start, asking me "ready? 2 balloons!!!!"...

Sorry, I can't always be encouraging all of the time. Sometimes a mom is allowed to just laugh and laugh like a hyena, doesn't matter.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Thursday, March 26, 2009 ;
8:57 AM
When should we send our kids to school?

In the middle ages, kids were given an apple or a coin and told to choose. Only after they are mature enough for the delayed gratification and abstract reasoning involved in choosing money over fruit would they start school.

In 15th and 16th century Germany, kids were sent to school only after they were acting "rational".

In USA now, kids are sent to school based on cut-off dates for their age, which many think are too arbitrary. (For kindy, the child must be 5 by July 1 in Indiana, to Jan 1 in Connecticut.)

In Singapore, parents are sending 18mth old kids to school, and I am not talking an hour a day playgroup, but whole day school cum child care, yes, even if they are SAHMs.

I just read that schools such as Little Neuro Tree (in Singapore) starts the brain training and language classes for babies starting from 3 mth old. They use something like the Shichida method combined with Glen Doman method of flashing cards and other activities to teach kids English, Chinese and Japanese. Growing Up Gifted, Shichida schools etc in Singapore have thriving business and long waiting lists.

These kids are performing very well, far above their peers and way beyond the average developmental milestones for their age. Testimonials from the schools, and parental proof from forums like Spore's Motherhood and KiasuParent websites also shows that kids before the age of 16mth old are reading. Some parents even wrote to Forum page in Straits Times before, saying their 5 year olds can write high school level essays and read unabridged books like Charlotte's Web. ("What?!?!" I think.)

In case you think I frequent these sites, no, I am not a member of these forums, but I do read the Straits Times and in google some keywords, I chanced upon the forums by chance. What I read scared me so much I stopped going back. Why? If that is the trend, it means my kids are at least 3 years behind their peers in school.

Ok, let's put these aside and focus on kindergarten age.

Recently in school, there is a discussion among the moms of letting their kids repeat a year. In ds2's class, a number are considering letting their kids repeat Nursery or Pre-K just so they are more confident in school and are able to absorb and learn everything better. Some do that based on teacher's recommendations, some do that based on their own observations.

In both sons classes, there are already a few kids who are doing that. ds1 has 2 classmates I know of who are 1 year older than him and the rest (judging by the Sep 1st date). Their moms had held back their kids deliberately.

This was relatively new to me since my kids just started school, and since it is not a common phenomenon in Singapore. I think, is it because Singapore schools are very strict on the age and dates for entry or what? Not sure.

In ds2's class, there are also kids in both Nursery and Pre-K level who have repeated a year or entered the level a year older.

Recently, several moms whose kids did not perform exceptionally well in kindy were discussing if they should let them repeat the year instead of moving onto Grade 1 this Aug. It was an engaging discussion and I was made to reflect and think a lot about their points too.

For me, I feel there is no need to do so for my kids, mainly because they weren't born near the cut off dates, so I feel they are performing (both socially and academically) well within their age group.

For these moms, their kids have birthdays ranging from April to Sep, so they wonder if their kids will fare better being older than the cohort rather than being the youngest. Some of them cannot keep up with the academics and oral presentations/ projects. Some of them are not ready, for example, one mom said her son still keeps wetting his pants in school, a sign of anxiety? She'd rather he have another relaxing year in kindy than move up to a more demanding Grade 1.

I did some reading up after the discussion with them and found a lot of interesting reads. Apparently it has been done in the US since eons ago, and they are still debating it.

Because the term redshirting is used for delaying or suspending college sportsmen a year so that they can spread their playing season over 5 years rather than 4 in the US, redshirting is also used when kindergarteners delay entering by a year.

See the boy with the redshirt?

The moms pointed to those in the best-performing groups in school. For reading and math, the kids are grouped according to their abilities so they can do different activities for these periods. ds1 and a couple of others are found in the highest-achieving groups, and the moms pointed out that the same few are in the best groups consistently, and they said the similarity was that they were older. Quite true, none of the kids had a birthday after Feb.

I needed more facts and data, so I surfed a bit, and came up with these sites.

Against Redshirting:
She lists reasons parents redshirt their kids for, and none are for academic reasons! Most are social, like being able to drive and date earlier in future in high school, and being able to play sports well and get scholarships in college because they are bigger and stronger (result of being odler).

For redshirting:

Quote: "One can easily see how the skill-begets-skill, motivation-begets-motivation dynamic plays out in a kindergarten setting: a child who comes in with a good vocabulary listens to a story, learns more words, feels great about himself and has an even better vocabulary at the end of the day. Another child arrives with a poor vocabulary, listens to the story, has a hard time following, picks up fewer words, retreats into insecurity and leaves the classroom even further behind."

(see comments from teachers at the end of post)
(My sons are in trouble, they are short!!)

Neutral studies:
(initial advantage, later on effect fades. however, it was interesting to read a lot of teacher comments, they all seem to be for redshirting.,9171,959029,00.html
(Interesting, not just the article itself, but comments from parents, kids who had been redshirted themselves, spouses of redshirted people, teachers and the whole range.)

Some kids who are all grown up now say they thank their parents for giving them the edge, they have high SAT scores, and did very well in sports. Some wished their parents hadn't redshirted them because they did very well and yet their classmates all teased them and said they did well only because they are older.

In one study published in the June 2005 Journal of Sport Sciences, researchers from Leuven, Belgium, and Liverpool, England, found that a disproportionate number of World Cup soccer players are born in January, February and March, meaning they were old relative to peers on youth soccer teams.

A teacher used to encourage parents to send their children to kindergarten as soon as they were eligible, but she is now a strong proponent of older kindergartners, after teaching one child with a birthday just a few days before the cutoff. “She was always a step behind. It wasn’t effort and it wasn’t ability. She worked hard, her mom worked with her and she still was behind.” Andersen followed the girl’s progress through second grade (after that, she moved to a different school) and noticed that she didn’t catch up. Other teachers at that school and elsewhere have noticed a similar phenomenon: not always, but too often, the little ones stay behind. (from the NY Times website)

What about other countries' models?
Finnish children start school later, at age 7, and even then the first few years are largely devoted to social development and play. Denmark, too, produces little difference between relatively older and younger kids; the Danish education system prohibits differentiating by ability until students are 16. Those two exceptions notwithstanding, Bedard notes that she found age effects everywhere, from “the Japanese system of automatic promotion, to the accomplishment-oriented French system, to the supposedly more flexible skill-based program models used in Canada and the United States.”

Perhaps why parents are redshirting is partly because kindergarten is no longer as before. Way in the past, kindergartens were just where kids learn to play with each other and develop some sense of organisation and social skills.

Boston transcendentalists like Elizabeth Peabody cautioned that a “genuine” kindergarten is “a company of children under 7 years old, who do not learn to read, write and cipher” and a “false” kindergarten is one that accommodates parents who want their children studying academics instead of just playing.

Now it is no longer the case. It has become so competitive that parents are worried for their kids' self esteem.

However, articles do add that redshirting will work only if the family background is not under the poverty line, because disadvantaged children will fare worse if they are held back from school yet another year.

What do you think?
Any personal stories to share?

For me, I think the state can give a guideline, but let parents choose. Parents know their kids best and they can decide when to start the child in kindy, for the best interests of their children.

Other sites with some debate on this matter:

Is your kid ready for kindy?

My conclusion: When I have another baby, I hope his/ her birthday will be in a month when I don't have to consider and think of all these issues, saves me a lot of trouble! :-)

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Monday, March 23, 2009 ;
12:38 AM
I had baked some cookies for N before and she loved them so much, she asked me to show her ayi how to make it, so she can have a constant supply.

She said she told the French mom about it and she wanted to learn too. I didn't know she also invited Z and then all the kids could have a play date too.

We were also invited over for lunch.

She told me only on Friday night, and we had already told the church friends about the cake cutting after worship on Sun. So after cutting cake, we went over to N's hse for lunch. Her ayi cooked for all of us.

Then we began the baking "class". They teased me by calling me chef and boss... She didn't have a couple of ingredients and a weighing scale and egg beater, so I went home to get mine. Then I met H who was on the way to my place to pass me some banana cake she made! It was yummy by the way.

It being a different oven, I wouldn't know the exact temp and hence duration to bake. So we tried a small amount first. N said she liked it soft and chewy, not so crispy, so we kept tweaking the temp and duration until the last batch, when she finally said, that's the one!

So I had her ayi copy everything down in Chinese. Z and the French mom wrote their recipe in Chinese too and they were rolling the little balls in the end, they learn very quickly. Basically, they have all the apparatus at home, so they can go home and replicate it. Only the Cream of Tartar, they might have some difficulty getting hold of. But I have more than enough to last me a year so no problem, can spare them some.

I bought mine in USA for making playdough for the kids initially. Then later I bought another one to ship over in the boxes, just in case they don't have it here in China, and fortunately I did, cos we haven't found any here. N bought hers in USA too.

Then it was just R&R after that. N fed us with so many goodies. She bought Goldfish snacks from USA for the kids, and ring lollies, and ice cream...

Z didn't want her daughter to eat so much candy and took over half of the lolly. I find her so cute and funny eating the lolly from her finger too, so I snapped a pic. She posed extra well for the pic.

The host serving the very good ice cream to everyone.

We moms asked for it too, how can our kids enjoy it only? I also had a big cup, yummy.

The 2 girls. Just so happened they wore clothes of the same colour scheme! So nice to hear the girl on the left speak her fluent French to her mom, Chinese and English to her friends. And Sof on the right, she speaks Swedish to her dad, Chinese to her mom and English to her friends.

And mind you, all their 3 languages are really fluent and good. The Chinese is the Beijing accent, English (can't place it, probably American) superb and the mother tongue definitely good, although I cannot understand, I can tell.

My sons have a lot to learn indeed.... Their Chinese is not even there yet... Dh and my 3rd lang learnt in Sec school have not been put to much use. We should've spoken to the kids in our respective 3rd lang and let the kids learn English and Chinese in school huh? :-) Then they'd end up with 4 spoken languages. (Afterthought: may be all broken though...)

The boys.. great friends again... ds2 had no ice cream cos he has a cough.

Ok, now about the saga.
N went to USA for a business trip for 2 weeks. Her mil came over from Taiwan to care for M while she was in USA.

Her mil came on Tues, she left on Wed. So from Wed, she went to school to pick M up every day. She loves her grandson a lot, of course, and dotes on him.

Her grandson misses her, and laps up the attention. On Wed, he told his grandma ds1 hit him in school. On Thurs, when she picked him up, he again told her ds1 hit him. On Friday, once grandma saw him in school, she asked "Did T hit you today?"

He said "Yes, little bit. Very gently. So I'm very happy."

Grandma flared (I don't know why) but she asked where T was, marched up his school bus where he and other kids were still waiting for the bus to start, and confronted him.

She asked him (in Taiwanese Chinese) why he hit M, why he hit him for 3 days in a row, and in what way did M offend him, why did he have to hit him.

Now, ds1 is not that great in Chinese in the 1st place. Furthermore, here is a stranger who suddenly confronted him. He stared at her blankly, perhaps in shock. (How I know? The bus ayi and driver told me).

She was very angry, she asked him again, this time holding his cheek with her fingers. I thought it was a pinch, but ds1 told me it was not painful, so ok, I let that pass.

Other witnesses were on the bus, students of higher grade, all of whom know ds1 well. Ds1 often talks to them, including one student councillor who is in Grade 4 and whose mom sits on the school board. Why I mention this is because the school knows her well and ask her to verify the incident.

Finally, ds1 said he did hit M and she told him never to do it again, and got off the bus.

When the bus reached our estate's stop, I wondered why he looked so glum and why the bus ayi pulled me aside. After all the kids alighted, she whispered to me what happened, and to comfort ds1 at home because both she and the bus driver felt that ds1 couldn't have been that bad to warrant such a confrontation/ scolding. They told me he was very good on the bus.

So I talked to ds1. Guess what, he was totally ok on the bus and quiet on the way home. The moment we reached home and I closed the door, he started. Bawling, crying, weeping.... It had been some time since he cried like that.

He didn't dwell on the matter though. All he said was, "now I have no friends in school", "I don't want to go to school anymore"...

My guess is that he was embarrassed and humiliated, and felt that he couldn't face it in school again. He was too young to express that, perhaps.

Anyway, he calmed down pretty soon after I consoled him, and he played with his brother happily. I then asked him some Qs on what happened and he was able to calmly answer me. He said he didn't hit M on Wed, Thur or Fri, but he did on Mon when they had music class. M was playing with him and covered his eyes. He didn't like it and hit M.

So I told him he cannot hit others even if he was irritated and discussed with him what he should do in future. He insisted he did not hit M after that. He also said he admitted to hitting M to his grandma only because she kept asking him and she wouldn't stop so he just said what she wanted to hear! That silly boy!

So I had to check it out with the teachers since M said one thing and ds1 another.

I emailed both kindy teachers, stated the facts I know only, and asked if they saw him and M playing in school and did they fight.

Both replied at once, saying they did not see ds1 near M those 3 days and most certainly did not see ds1 hit M.

After the email, I got a call! Grandma called me! She was still very upset. She went on and on about why should my son hit M and I calmly said my son did not hit M. She was angrier. She said that implied M was a liar and she knows M very well, that he would never lie.

I didn't have to chance to explain that I didn't think M was a liar, just that sometimes kids say things that happened on Mon, but they said it was today. That is common.... All kids do that.

She was almost hysterical and saying you know how gentle M is, how can M ever hit anyone. If M did not hit ds1, how can ds1 hit him....

So in the end, I had to say, yes, I will talk to my son about not hitting M.

Only after that she put down the phone.

I was frankly very irritated. But I reminded myself that had N been in Tianjin, this would not happen, and this was coming from a grandma who saw her grandson only a few times a year, and that was her eldest son's only son... Zhang zi di sun... Her eldest grandson. And Taiwanese older women are always the matriachs, isn't it? At least when I watch Taiwanese serials, it always shows a very powerful mom in law.

Then the teachers said they would like to talk to me further about this and they wanted to investigate the whole matter.

I didn't know they went straight to the head of school. But they did. They said it concerned safety of all the kids on buses and no adult had the right to confront another child in that manner. And if they touched another child in that manner, it could be construed as assault too.

Ok... I didn't want the matter to be too serious either... So I said, please investigate first. So they did, and then the head asked to speak to me the next week and said ds1 didn't do anything wrong, and she will talk to grandma.

She did, and grandma felt bad about it, and didn't go to pick M up at school the last 2 days after the head talked to her. The head also told all the bus drivers and ayis that strangers are NOT allowed up the buses. The bus ayi told me that. Said they all got the notice.

Wow, the head of school does things pretty quickly.

So the matter is blown over. I didn't want to blog about it earlier, nor tell anyone except Dh who was out of town at the time when the thing happened, and H. Cos I might be wrong and I might become very emotional.

Fortunately everything is settled now.

Dh came home from the trip and asked if grandma called to apologise. I said no. He said, "How can?". I said, "Forget it lah. She already feels bad (according to M's ayi)."

Dh seems to be even more protective of his sons than me sometimes. He was not happy about it at all.

I remind ds1 all the time now, to play very gently with M. Be very careful not to touch him in a rough manner, which he might mistake as being a "hit".

The teachers also told me kids play rough all the time, especially boys. And I mean, my kids come home to tell me others hit them too, daily, in fact. Normally parents don't care if there is no injury. But grandparents are in a league of their own.

I know my mom and mil react in a super sensitive way too, if their grandkids are bullied. But I think they're not so daring as to go up the bus to confront another kid... I think... haha.

Dh says we better not tell ds1's grandmas (his mom and my mom), in case they fly over to Tianjin to have it out with M's grandma! That is so funny to imagine.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

12:06 AM
22 Mar

Before worship services, I set up his cake and muffins and plates.

And the unleavened bread and fruit of the vine. The muffins are banana ones, cos I had 5 overripe bananas on Sat night. hee.

The boy was a little aloof and cold towards his candles today. Was he not feeling well, or just tired? We had made the cake on Thursday already but it was covered with fondant and then wrapped in clear wrapped then placed in the fridge, so the inside stayed moist.

Cake cutting with daddy dearest.

Gifts galore from the church friends.

We recycled the banner! Fortunately the boys have their bdays a month apart. If it were too far apart, we cannot possibly use the same excuse to leave the banner on the wall forever. Now I am thinking if it is too much to recycle it for mine, in June, haha.

Tucking into the cake. Everyone wanted to learn how to make it. And they all asked to see the fondant.

The sole survivor. It was too lonely, so I ate it up. Excuses.

Everyone was so happy and excited for him, except himself! really wonder why?

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Sunday, March 22, 2009 ;
11:59 PM
21 Mar

Dh is getting really busy again. What with so many business trips out of town, day trips to Beijing and then another looooong one to USA in June, I am resigned to holding the fort alone at home.

Dh is a very good help at home, so it's tough going it alone, but I have to do it.

So for a few Sat already, Dh has to go to work. And this one again, so I had to bring the kids to class again. I was a little irked this particular Sat because it was ds1's first marimba class, and the teacher had been liasing with Dh all along. So i don't know all the details, where the class is, what time, what duration, where to pay fees or register...

And it was ds2's nap time from 2pm to 3.30pm, furthermore Dh is the know-all in music and it was already agreed that he would be the parent to sit in with ds1.

Anyway, Dh called me at 1pm to say he can't make it, please go with the kids alone.
Argh! We were leaving at 1.30pm.

So we set off. To make matters worse, ds2 coughed very badly the moment we set off outside into the dusty air (which had a PSI worse than when Spore has the haze). As we walked along to the taxi stand outside the estate, he coughed so badly he had to bend over the grass patch to vomit. No food came out though, just lots of saliva.

But it delayed us considerably.

So I rushed all the way to Cathay Future, fumbled along to ds1's classroom, and his teacher was sitting there waiting already.

ds1 started with this teacher, a young guy, probably only about 24-26 yrs old?
After 1 min, ds1 said he didn't want to learn anymore. Why? The teacher was teaching him to sing the solfege from a music score. The score had so many demi-semi-quavers that even I would be dizzy trying to play it on the piano.
(fyi the song is "Recuerdos De La Alhambra" by Francisco Tarrega originally for guitar)

ds1 has no formal musical background. I had never taught him solfege. He doesn't even know how to read the 5 ledger line notes. So he was trying hard to sing from memory, ie teacher sings one bar, he mimicks.

I don't blame him, but I was busy making ds2 comfortable on the sofa inside the practice room, because he was very sleepy. I was glad for ds2 keeping me occupied later, because it allowed ds1 to be tested to his limits.

The teacher then talked to him. Chinese are very good at pep talks you know, I have noticed that.
(H showed me how most sales offices here start each morning with mass exercise. The whole staff will gather together and do the moves together, and they get a pep talk to motivate them and propel them to do their best in the day before they start work. I witnessed it!)

So ds1 continued. And 5 min later, he put the marimba sticks back into the holes, like he decided for good now, and told the teacher in perfect Chinese (Beijing accent), "我不要学了。我不喜欢马林巴。" (I don't want to learn anymore, I don't like the marimba.)

The teacher went over to him again, this time almost hugging him, and talked to him once more. Asking him why he doesn't like the instrument, etc etc, and then telling him learning marimba will make him very happy etc etc.

I was thinking already that this would be his last lesson, it's ok, no need to force the kid, he can choose whatever he wants to learn... So poor thing, so boring, I was thinking...
But I was still massaging ds2's face. I realised massaging his eyes make his eyelids very droopy and heavy and he can be forced to sleep quickly in that manner, so I often do that when I need to sleep in a hurry.

To my surprise, the teacher handed ds1 the mallet again, and he picked it up, and now he followed the notes on the score and hit the notes with the teacher's instruction.

After every correct bar, the teacher will say some motivating thing. After 6 bars, he clapped loudly and said some Chinese phrase that sounded to me like those Man Jiang Hong-like songs. You know, like so passionate and motivating? It was funny, but ds1 could actually keep going with this kind of new approach to praise and compliments.

After 12 bars (that was 1 hour gone already, and ds2 was fast asleep), the teacher applauded again and told him, other student learn 6 bars per lesson, you learnt 12! Man! Are you something? I was sniggering. He must tell every student that! But ds1, like all kids, believed him wholeheartedly and was very proud of himself, so he willingly learnt the 13th bar.

I was trying very hard to read my Glamour magazine (Katie Holmes on the cover), which N brought back from USA for me to read. But I could not concentrate very much because the teacher's teaching method was just so new and amusing to me. It would be tough for me to learn that art.

I wondered if China did so well for the Olympics because they kept pushing their athletes like that. I mean, probably much harder but was it similar in approach?

The lesson lasted 1.5hrs. To tell you the truth, I couldn't have lasted that long when I was 6. No way. It was so dry and boring to me. Seriously. Just reading notes and hitting the right wooden plank?? By that time Dh had arrived.

The teacher asked me to photocopy the score after that, and while waiting to copy it, he told me what to do with ds1 at home, and what he should practise...

The admin asked Dh to pay for 10 lessons at one go. Dh asked to pay for less because we wouldn't know if ds1 wanted to continue. They finally agreed on 5 lessons.

We asked ds1 if he would give himself 5 lessons first and then decide if he wanted to continue and he surprisingly said, nope, he will definitely go for at least 7 lessons. Why 7? Such an odd number. No reply. He just said he was hungry, so we went for cake at Mighty Deli.

Met ds2's German Nursery teacher there. See? Without fail, we always meet someone from school at a good bakery or restaurant in town. Cos Mighty Deli is the only place that bakes bread that Europeans would eat. Y herself told me that other bread, including the Paris Baguette, is too sweet and German bread is not. ds2's teacher looked like she had a month's supply of bread with her and she walked out. Before she left, she came to fuss over ds2 and said how much she missed him. (He had been absent for 1 week already.) She also wished him happy birthday. So sweet.

After cake, I asked ds1 if he was tired. He said no! He was ready for art class and wanted to go at once. It was not time yet. Cos art class starts at 5pm. Both of them were very enthusiastic.

After art class, ds1 did say that art class was more exciting than marimba class. I told him I thought that's cos he had other friends in art class and he agreed. The girl who is so sweet to him sits beside him every week now, and her grandma who brings her to class came up to talk to me that day! Said her granddaughter told her about ds1. Then she proceeded to ask me where we are from, how old are my sons, and how old I was!

People here always like to ask me how old I am! She also asked me where I lived. etc etc. So we had a good chat but it was more like she asked and I answered.

This is what ds1 drew. Not done with the colouring yet. Now they seem to be doing more pencilling, so the teacher will ask them to finish colouring at home. I told ds1 I felt his background looked much better now.

This is ds2's 2nd class and this is what he drew. I felt it was an improvement over the 1st class, even though it looked really messy still. He got quite a lot of praise from the teacher this lesson, so he was mighty pleased. The teacher said she liked his sun rays a lot, very beautiful and original.

Aiyoh! You should've seen his face. He didn't even understand the praise but he smiled and blushed like anything! After she turned to the next kid, he turned to me and asked "what did teacher say?"

Today I managed to catch a pic of the art center from the outside. Cos we were at Mighty Deli across the street.

And the kids' lunch. Udon with the leftover seaweed, minced pork, potato soup. They wouldn't eat the seaweed but they like the pork, potato and soup. And the Udon most of all.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

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