Thursday, April 30, 2009 ;
10:15 AM
18 Apr
Sat

My dad's birthday and my parents' wedding anniversary.

So Dh did the kind thing and brought the 2 boys with him to meet a friend of his who also deals in violins. They took the subway and bus.

I took a cab with my parents (my dad can't walk much and it's their day right?) to the pifa market opposite the Beijing Zoo. This place is a whole sale market, and they do carry some good quality clothes from known labels, but at low prices.

However, my parents were not used to this kind of market. My dad felt faint and breathless after a while, because it was very crowded inside, with throngs and throngs of people, plus there was no ventilation, and there were few seats. Finally, my dad got a seat, and so I walked around with my mom.

My mom managed to buy some stuff.

Then we took a cab to this mall called XiHuan GuangChang. It's owned and operated by CapitaLand, so the Singaporean friends we were meeting up for lunch with suggested we go there.

Dh and the boys were running late, so my parents and I browsed the area first. It's so funny. The moment my dad stepped in, he said "Oh, this is so much better."

He's not even Singaporean. But somehow we are all used to bigger more open spaces with good air ventilation, good spacing of shops and stores, neat displays of wares...

And then they spotted familiar stuff... Haha. My dad saw Breadtalk, Toastbox... They started browsing themselves, so I went to check out this Levis sale in the atrium. I found a pair of jeans I liked and there was a huge discount on it. I tried it out and it fit, so I bought it!! My first purchase here, and I was feeling very happy, haha.

These are some adverts along the mall ceilings that are not usually seen in Spore though.

We finally met with Dh's ex-colleagues from the Ministry of Education back in Spore and settled at Kang Shifu Beef Noodle restaurant. The noodles are so yummy!

Later on Dh and the boys arrived. We did a lot of catching up indeed. Although I didn't really know SM and C well before this, yet, it was so easy to strike up a conversation and keep going because there is just so much in common, what we are going through now, and we also discovered we knew a lot of mutual friends. Well, that is not new, Singapore is so small...

SM is here to study at the Teacher's College. He is doing his masters. C is here on spouse leave. They've been exploring Beijing on bicycle, so romantic. C rides pillion, and since they have bought a GPS, C places the GPS in the hood of SM's sweater, and they ride their bike all over Beijing that way. Wow!

SM and C insisted on giving us that treat...

My parents kindly brought the tired kids back to Ascott first so Dh can further catch up with SM and C. We proceeded to ToastBox for some familiar coffee, and for me, the milk tea! SM bought kaya toast... Ahhh, what a fragrant smell, I had almost forgotten that smell.

Back at Ascott, everyone had a rest, then we set off for dinner. My dad had the honour of choosing the restaurant for his special dinner. His foot was really acting up, so he decided to eat within the hotel. There were so many restaurants so we were spoilt for choice. This Chinese restaurant looked inviting and the staff were very enthusiastically welcoming us in, so my dad decided on that.

This is the Ascott garden, where the kids played for a while before dinner.

Oh yes, I forgot to take a pic, but my neighbour, H, baked a lovely chiffon cake for my parents when they arrived. What a nice present for them too.

Back to this restaurant, the way to order is really unique. They wanted us to each order a main course. Then all other side dishes will be free.

Ok, the main courses though, are the likes of shark's fin, Buddha Jump over the Wall, Bird's Nest, ginseng... The average price for one main course is 350rmb (S$70). Hmmm, ok... we were already seated, so we ordered. We had 4 adults.

(Oh by the way, when ds1 heard there was shark's fin, he at once told us not to order shark's fin cos shark is his favourite animal and shark's fin harvesting waste sharks!!! It was quite funny to hear him say that. I am very sure he learnt this from school. I had not covered this topic with them before.)

They gave us a lot of side dishes indeed, and appetizers, cold dishes... But a lot of them were really special or native, and we could only try some and could not appreciate a lot of them. It was a good experience though, learning the names and taste of everything.

Here's a view of some of the dishes.

And the complimentary fruit platter...

This was one of the special dishes where they cooked an egg using heated stones. There was a lot of commentary from my parents. They were teaching my kids what the lady was doing, until I told them everything was being recorded, hee.

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After dinner, which cost a hefty S$400, we staggered to keep ourselves upright. It was fulfilling and we needed some exercise, so we decided to tour the 3rd floor, which had all the facilities. The kids went wild at the playroom.

I took a short clip for those who might be interested in staying here. My sis, for example, says she wants to try Ascott now, when she comes for a short hol. It'll be great fun for my niece, and convenient for toddlers who need a lot of special food preparation, since the kitchen is so well-equipped.

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My dad loved the reading room cos it was well-stocked with newspapers like The Straits Times, the International Herald Tribune etc. They had magazines too.

Dh rushed to check the gym out. He even pulled me in to try a new machine. It was good for the waist and abdomen. Ok, I got the hint!!

The pool was inviting too, so we thought we'd check it out on another day.

Back at the apartment, I called in a masseur for my dad cos his feet were hurting really bad. He was afraid his gout would return too. So SM and C gave us this contact. They usually do massages for SIA girls as well as stewardesses from other airlines.

What happens is, these girls fly in and check into the designated hotels, then they'd go eat and shop. After they slump onto their beds back in the room, they'll call these ladies to come and massage them. Wow, how nice.

Anyway, this very friendly and chatty lady came over at 12midnight (because the cab she took lost the way). She did the massage till 1am. I stayed up to accompany my dad and chat with the lady. Plus it was my dad's birthday present so I need to pay for it. (My mom didn't want a massage).

She has 2 sons like me. She got fined for the 2nd one. And both her sons are the same age as mine! She even showed me their pics in her cell phone.

She is from Sichuan. And no she was not affected by the earthquake (she volunteered the info herself, so it must be that everyone asked her this Q). Her hubby, in laws and kids are back in Sichuan and she didn't say, but I guess they depended on her income.

She says she sees her kids only once a year, Chinese New Year. I felt so much for her then, because I know I'll miss my kids to death if I had to away for a whole year. But she is so cheerful and happy, and she doesn't say she misses them. She doesn't dwell on it at all.

She did a good job. My dad said he felt much better, and I gave her a tip and she left. I still don't know how much she can make, because she charges only 50rmb per hour (S$10), yet she has to travel here by cab (at least 20rmb fare), and give a percentage to her agent (the person I called when I wanted a massage).

When I went to bed, I kept thinking we all need to count our blessings. I am always humbled by these people who work very very hard, yet never complain, are always smiling and happy to get whatever they can get. If, for less effort, we get so much more, it is very easy to be pampered and become complacent and lazy... A good reminder for me, I need to set a good example for my kids as well.


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
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;
7:14 AM
17 Apr

We asked for permission to take ds1 out of school earlier, at the same time as ds2. Then we had a quick lunch and set off for Beijing.

At the Tianjin train station, I waited for my parents who were in another cab. While waiting, my kids said the noise was deafening, so I took a short clip to share with you, the typical traffic scene here.

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It was my parents' first time on the high speed train. They were surprised when it pulled into the Beijing South station so soon after they just got settled into their seats from Tianjin. It was a short and sweet journey.

It was the cab ride to Ascott Beijing that was unpleasant. We took separate cabs but both my parents and us had the address.

However, Beijing cabbies are mostly impatient and rude. Out of 10 we encountered over the 5 days there, 9 were bad tempered, foul-mouthed and impatient.

They'd shout loudly that they wouldn't take us because the places we wanted to go to were too near (even though I'd tip them). Or they'd scold my kids for uttering some sounds or moving their legs a bit more. (They're ultra sensitive about the white piece of cloth they drape over their car seats)

Or they'd claim that they don't know where the place is, and keep using vulgar language while driving.

Cab drivers in Shanghai and Tianjin are far more friendly, especially the ones in Tianjin.

Anyway so even though we were in separate cabs, both cab drivers rudely snapped that they didn't know what Ascott is (in Chinese, mind you) and both said this should be a very unpopular sleazy place such that they didn't know where it was. I mean, that was totally uncalled for. If you don't know where it is, did you need to insult the place we were going to stay? (anyway fyi, it is a 5 star super nice serviced apartment/ condotel, in a super convenient location)

So we had the Chinese address all printed out, and showed them. They still hissed and complained they had no idea where that it. They said Jianguo Road is so long, what 108B, they don't know.

I asked for a street directory, I said I can find it and point it out to the driver. He said he has no directory. I said ok, maybe you can drive along Jianguo Road, I can recognise the building, I'll point it out when we get there.

"NO!" he shouted.

Sigh, sensing we are getting nowhere, I said, ok, so how do you propose we get there? He said I have to call the hotel and get them to tell him where it is. He told me to call 114. It's apparently some kind of info service. Ok finally got through to the hotel. They spoke to him on my phone.

Finally he got us there.

Then we found out from my parents, who were already at the lobby, that their driver did not know where it is too.

Fyi, it is right in the Central Business District, where the Trade Center is.

Our stand is: it's ok if you don't know where it is, you don't need to be so rude...

Fortunately, the ambience of the lobby at Ascott and the friendly staff there at once soothed our ruffled nerves. The staff can speak so many languages, we were impressed. They spoke English to us, Chinese amongst themselves, and then when the lady picked up a call, she spoke in Japanese to the caller.

In the 2 bedroom apartment, we found a lot of friendly touches that made us feel at home, as well as a few special things that were very interesting.

This weighing scale found in the gigantic bathroom of the master bedroom is transparent, and you can see exactly how it works (turning of gears to make the needle move when we are weighing ourselves), so the kids were entertained by it for a while.

My mom loves the kitchen and so do I. The pots, pans, oven are all better than my own in Tianjin! The fridge is huge and we are able to store all our snacks and big bottles of drinks, milk and fruits in it. Cutlery, ladles, bowls, plates, everything is there.

I didn't know there was a great washing machine cum dryer there. I brought too many clothes for the 5 day stay then, could've packed less! They even had laundry powder for our use, all complimentary.

The living room, where there is a huge LCD TV. There is another in the master bedroom too. The kids immediately begun playing their card games on the dining table! My dad looks like he is stopping them. haha.

We then walked out for dinner. My dad's foot still hurts, so he couldn't walk too far, and they decided to dine at a nearby place. We surged on to find this "Shin Kong Place" that was recommended in the Beijinger that Kim lent to me.

Finally we found it, and realised it is Taiwanese owned. (We saw the flag of Singapore flown at Ascott, together with the China flag, and later realised that Ascott was founded in Singapore but has residences and properties all over the world now. We didn't know that earlier.)

Shin Kong Place is a high-end mall. There were many boutiques, but we were hungry and didn't stop to browse. We went straight to the top floor where there were restaurants like Crystal Jade, Ding ding xiang, Din Tai Fung and another Taiwanese Western restaurant. Din Tai Fung is also Taiwanese-owned, and so is Ding Ding Xiang (hotpot).

We chose Ding Ding Xiang because it is new to us, and the queue wasn't as terrifying as Din Tai Fung's!

It turned out to be a lovely meal. We had individual hotpot (i think that is a great idea, mroe hygienic) and we could order any other side dishes to cook in our own hotpot. Dh got ginseng chicken soup stock, I got bak kut teh soup stock. Everything was delicious. The kids ate rice, with soup and the stuff we cooked in the hot pot.

Oh yes, did I mention that the restaurant is beautifully decorated and the service is impeccable?? We were very impressed with their initiative and friendliness. It is so different from most other restaurants here.

At the end of the meal, both boys had complimentary peanut snow ice. It was yummy, I know cos I collected tax from them (now every time I ask them to share their goodies with me, I call it tax, haha, and they are the most willing people that I know who like taxes).

Trips out of Tianjin are always a food-grocery-snack-buying spree. There are so many things we like that are not found in Tianjin or are more expensive. So we hit the BHG supermarket at the basement of Shin Kong Place. They had those child-friendly carts so the kids had a great time helping me with the stuff I wanted to buy.


We had so much stuff to carry that we took a bus back to Ascott, instead of walking. We had to pay for our "extra" kid, even though kids are supposed to ride free. We had 2 adults, but for them, the policy is 1 free kid only. So since we had one extra, we were penalised.

Sheryl, you cannot holiday here, you'd be penalised 4 times over! :-) (Yes, my good friend gave birth to her triplets already, and with her 2 older daughters, she now has 5 kids. And her triplets had such good birth weights. The oldest was 2.6kg at birth, even larger than my singleton ds1 at birth.)

Back at Ascott, the kids had a good shower and enjoyed themselves so much on the bed, talking, laughing and sharing stories. Ahhh, this is life...



rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
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Wednesday, April 29, 2009 ;
2:10 PM
17 Apr
Fri

School assembly

What perfect timing! I was informed that ds2 would be receiving his award cert this particular Friday, and my parents happened to be here. So I brought them along to tour the school as well as show some support to ds2.

I saw ds1 first, when I arrived. His good friend, G is whispering something to him. He is having a huge wide smile plastered across his small face cos he spied his beloved mom. Awwww, I wonder how many years this will last?

My kids saying their best friend is me, and constantly telling me I am the best mom in the world blah blah blah... And ds2 is at the stage when he will say he wants to marry me and his brother when he grows up. haha.

He was very crestfallen when ds1 told him he can't marry him because both of them are boys. I can't be bothered to explain. There is just so much to explain. Let him want to marry me until he is old enough to have other distractions then!



As I've mentioned before in earlier posts, a class will be in charge of each assembly and this week the Grade 2s are performing. There were many items being put up including skits, songs, dances, recitals on the piano... But I've only chosen a few to upload here. There were a few who played the piano really well too.

This group of 4 Korean girls sang and danced. Not very clear in the video, but Dh was able to tell it was a Korean song the moment he saw the girls' dancing. haha.

video

This clip shows ds2 receiving his award and cert! Dh and I often joked about what cert ds2 will receive. We know ds1 is very vocal and likes to showcase his talents a lot so his teachers will have no problem finding out his strengths and awarding him certs. And they did, very early on in the year, 2 of them in fact.

We were wondering and wondering what ds2 will get. Dh says maybe for having "nice eyes". *roll eyes*

Well, in the end, he got one for "always bringing interesting resources from home to support classroom investigations"! haha... that sounds like it is more of his parents' efforts.. but to give him credit, there were things he mentioned out of his own initiative that

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This last video is of the Grade 2s singing a song about dumplings disappearing. Quite entertaining. The girl kneeling in front, roughly in the center, in a pink dress is also Singaporean. (xizzy, if you are reading this, she is your RGS junior's youngest sis)

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ds2's on-and-off best friend, Is, got his award that day as well!

Cannot resist taking a pic of the beautiful flowers in the Nursery's playground.

I brought my parents to take a look in both ds' classrooms as well. Both their teachers were very friendly and totally welcomed my parents into the classrooms.

My parents were just in time to catch ds1 playing with and teasing a girl in his class. It looked like he was bullying her, so my mom wanted to stop him, but he said the girl laughed, which means she liked it!!! I hope he knows how to read expressions and signals correctly. We don't know cos we didn't see her face, but hopefully he is right!

My parents leaving the school compound. I went ahead first to ask the guard to help call a cab as the place is very ulu (farflung/ in the boondocks). It was windy and the wind was blowing a whole lot of dust and dirt up and around my parents. Really not good for health, this environment.



rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
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;
12:13 PM
15 Apr
Wed

Evening time, my parents arrived in Tianjin!
We quickly had dinner because Dh had to go for Bible study at another member's house. My dad was very tired so they didn't go and rested at home.

It's so nice to have a full table of people having dinner together, especially if they're your loved ones.

They were in time to try several new dishes ayi taught me. One of them is this brinjal/ eggplant stir-fried in miso. That explains the brown paste-like gravy.


And ds1 happened to bring home a "sculpture" as he called it.

As our house is getting more and more cluttered, I tend to take pics of the kids' works and then ask if I can throw the works away. So I did the same for this one. Didn't expect ds1 to have so much feeling for this particular piece, as he begged me not to throw it away. Ok, so we will keep it for a while then.


This is the other new thing ayi introduced to me. When I first saw it (she bought it for me), I thought it was plastic or a piece of cloth. But it is edible! And nutritious! It is dried beancurd flattened and rolled into sheets.

Ayi said this is a Dongbei favourite. Or rather, people there like to cook this very often. So we wash it and then place it in boiling water for a minute or so for it to soften, and also to further clean it.

Then we apply a layer of minced pork that has already been marinated to suit your tastebuds (I used garlic, onions, carrot, some green pepper, soy sauce, corn starch, sesame oil) as if you are making sushi and applying the rice.

Make the meat layer very smooth and flat then start rolling the beancurd sheet up, just like a sushi roll. Place it in steamer.


Steam until it is cooked. Again, ayi doesn't rely on timing. She just checked the thing in about 20min and pronounced it done. Then she sliced the roll. It's done~!

She had another beancurd sheet, so she showed me another way of cooking it. This is a stir-fry dish, no steaming involved. Cut the beancurd into strips. Fry with garlic an green pepper. That's it! I like this one better actually. Easier and very tasty, and eats like noodles.

My parents brought us a lot of goodies. Most of them are for the kids, but we benefit as well. I love having visitors from home. Remember, my home is always open for you to stay when you want to tour this area, but you need to jot down a long list of things to bring over for me too! :-)

I have a couple more lined up already. My in laws are next, then my sis' family. I will have a constant supply of 7D dried mangoes, Milo, 3-in-1 instant coffee sachets, Prima Taste packs etc etc. Yay!


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
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;
11:19 AM
14 Apr
Progress of Spring

More flowers in bloom... blossoms are fuller and larger. More pics in and around the estate.

Neighbour's purple inflorescences.

Pink blossoms - I have asked everyone around here. No one knows what flowers they are. I've been checking on the internet too... Are there just so many different types of cherries such that these are all cherry blossoms?

I've only been able to eliminate. They are not plum, not apple.. Saw a bee in the midst of pollinating a blossom...


One of the days when ds2 just got off the bus. He was almost asleep...

Some reds and whites across the water feature.

On another day when ds2 was running along with me to meet with ds1 halfway (he walks home from the school bus stop now, but I try to meet him halfway just to make sure he crosses the road safely, and also cos my mom keeps nagging me that I should beware of kidnappers on the loose).

ds2 staring at yellow flowers in the originally bare bushes.

Surveying more flowers. Because of our daily walks at around the same time (due to kids' dismissal time), we always bump into the same few people along the way. The cleaning ladies, the security guards on duty at those few junctions at that time, the hairdressers in the salon, the bank staff in the bank, the police officer in the bank, and even the cabbies at the roadside.

Because they also work shifts around the same time, we always meet the same few. And we always say hi, without fail, and try to smile. Some of them are friendly, so we've gotten past the hellos and will exchange some niceties now. Mostly, about the weather, and they always ask whether I've eaten, even if it is a weird timing, like 4pm.

Since I've run out of different things, I've become like them! I also always ask the guard, "Have you eaten?". On the 2nd day that he told me he hasn't, at 12.30pm, I cannot stand it any longer and went ahead to ask, "So how long are you on duty here?"

He said, "6am to 1pm". I said, "here?" (when what I almost wanted to say was, "huh? you mean standing here at this road junction for so long, just directing traffic?").
He said, "yes, here".

Ok, so I've resolved to ask him different things each day. Hopefully his duty will be less routine and mundane.

So far, I've asked if he was local (no), where he's from (Henan), and we've talked about this dog a neighbour has that is very beautiful. haha. And he's asked about the boys and talked with them several times.

Within the estate there are very friendly and nice people. Neighbours like H, N are so lovely too. I guess I love Tianjin because of the people.


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
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Tuesday, April 28, 2009 ;
10:35 AM
12 Apr
Sun

Easter Party

Our neighbour, N, threw an Easter party in the afternoon. We trooped over after lunch.

That's her and us.

One of her guests that we didn't know beforehand, but are now acquainted. He has a son and this adorable baby daughter. Couldn't resist taking a pic of her.

N loves throwing parties. She is a veteran and professional already. Everytime, I see a different mix of people, and always a different theme or set of activities.

I was introduced to another 3 new families. One of them is at the same school too, but the other 2 are not. It was good making new friends.

Dh likes this clip cos he says Jade calls ds2 so sweetly. Also shows you the bunnies the kids were playing with. N bought them from a local market. Each kid could bring one home.

My boys really loved the bunnies but I reminded them that it is a heavy responsibility. The bunnies will grow to be very big, and they need a lot of care. I gently told them they were not ready for that responsibility yet.

ds2 accepted it. ds1 started to promise all kinds of things, that he would definitely care for the rabbit on his own etc, but I told him we agreed to start with a pet fish when he turns 7. If the fish didn't die on him in a short time, then we can proceed to bigger animals when he is 8 and so on.

(Not that I think the fish are lesser pets. It's just that I won't feel so bad if a little fish died, than if we had a puppy and it died, you know what I mean?)

So the bunnies were all swiftly claimed by other kids, and we brought none home.

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The little trampoline was a winner. It was used for jumping wildly on, then later on for lying/ sleeping/ putting presents/ sitting... haha.

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This is when the kids are all feasting together. The age range is big too. Youngest was a baby. Oldest kid was at least 15? And oldest adult really old..

The kids on their Easter egg hunt. Amongst the kids who are mobile (i.e. excl the baby), ds2 is the youngest. Hence, he again lost out and couldn't find many goodies. He didn't cry though.

He was very upset only during the organised games when I felt he was running around aimlessly and could be a hazard, so I asked him not to play and stand beside me at the side. That's when he cried, haha. So I let him play, of course, but he was really just playing his own game in the midst of the larger group.

Kids this age are funny. They feel they belong, and feel more grown up when they are with a big group of older kids. Despite not really playing with them, they still want to be included and be physically together.



Sof's dad leading kids in playing Marco Polo. Do you notice ds2 being in the game but then not knowing who's the catcher and then running and playing his own thing, in his own world??

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After Marco Polo, the kids played 老鹰抓小鸡 (eagle catching little chicks). The 2 oldest boys (French) were the Eagle and Mother Hen. The rest were the chicks. Then they rotated.

I also got to be the Eagle for a few rounds, haha.

After that, they played 1-2-3 Freeze: the one who reaches the Person calling out "1-2-3" wins. Not too fun, this one, especially since the person calling out is a kid and kept trying to punish all the rest by sending them back to the starting line. It didn't progress at all. haha.

So the last game was just free-for-all "Dump ice cubes into others' clothes".

Now, this game suited me very well. And the thing is, I wasn't the one who came up with it. The host did. Pity it is for the kids. And pity the rest of the adults are not my close friends. If they are, I'd have no qualms getting my hands on loads of ice and throwing them into the backs of all my friends, haha.

The kids had fun...

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rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
____________________________________________________________


Monday, April 27, 2009 ;
7:59 AM
11 Apr
Sat

Cathay Future Park and playground

Sent ds1 for marimba first. Saw the egg sculptures done on the stage, representing a whole city of skyscrapers. Exhibited in conjunction with Easter.

During his class, Dh, me and ds2 spent our time at Mighty Deli. It's terrible, we seem to be eating a lot of cakes or bread at Mighty Deli each Sat now. The breads are really good (no wonder the Germans and French make their way here specially to buy bread) but it's going to really make me pile on the pounds, all carboh!!

ds2 took his nap. He's very good at sleeping anywhere, and in any kind of position.

Then we went to pick ds1 up and proceeded to Cathay Future's Park. This time, I found out that since we are members, we need not pay admission! I paid for 2 tickets the previous time, for nothing. I am too obedient a rule-follower.

Some shots of the various play areas in the park. A maze here.

Standard playground set. Both ds spend about 10-15 min on average at each area.

Spider web. Small and dirty, but they still spent quite a lot of time climbing here.

The web above is suspended between 2 legs of this giant red spider.

Then another larger spider web in another section of the park. But it was not well-maintained. The metal wires in the center of the rope were all exposed, the rope being too frayed. And some metal joints looked like they were going to drop off. I don't like the thick metal bars around the web too.

I think if you have a huge web, then there should not be metal bars. At least if a kid falls, they fall right onto the sand below, with many ropes breaking their fall. But with the metal bars, I worry my kids will bang their heads hard on the bars when they fall.

So after ds1 climbed to the top once and back down, I told them to move on.

That's the structure in full view.

I felt this section was more fun, more challenging and the planks can be used in various ways. For eg, for ds2, whose legs were too short to hop from plank to plank, he just sat on one and used it as a swing. He enjoyed himself as much as his brother, who was swinging like a monkey up and down the tiered planks.


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When it was time, we wiped off their copious perspiration and went for their art class.


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
____________________________________________________________


;
7:17 AM
10 Apr
Fri

The Kindy class organised this event in conjunction with the current theme of modes of transport.

All the kids could bring whatever they want to school, as long as they had wheels. So they could bring bicycles, tricycles, roller blades or even remote-controlled cars. Just as long as they can have fun with their friends.

Parents are invited along for a morning tea.

ds1 brought his bike of course. He loves his bike. The school kindly arranged for the parents (like me) who don't have own transport to send the bike in with the school bus. The bus driver will place the bikes in the luggage compartment at the bottom of the coach.

ds1 brought his helmet and guards and gloves to school himself. See, he put them on by himself and got the helmet the wrong way. But I didn't point it out lah. Sometimes, needn't point out all his mistakes... :-)

Here he is with his good friend, JH. JH is his best Korean friend. JH brought roller blades. He looks so cool.

After riding a few rounds, ds1 himself stopped for a water break. Good to see him so independent in school, when at home, I have to chase him around the whole day, asking him to drink water (cos Tianjin's weather is very very dry, once they don't drink enough, they start to have cracked lips, nose bleeds, sore throat).


The school has these wagons. The kids who don't know how to cycle or prefer to play in the courts than cycle can use these. They are so much fun!

But ds1 liked to ride too much, so he didn't ride on the wagons at all.

There were double-tandem trikes too.

Soon after, the kids tried to cram as many of them into the wagon as possible. It was entertaining for me as well. They were shrieking away, haha.

Another friend brought the wiggle scooter (also known as "plasma car racer", "twist and swing car"). I first tried it in Singapore in 2006 and then saw it again in the Discovery Museum in Utah in 2007.

Even after a numerous encounters, I still marvel at the ingenuity of the person who came up with it. A mechanical wonder. It can go forward, reverse, turn etc just by twisting the steering wheel. You do not need leg power at all. Just keep the feet on the feet pads on the wiggle scooter and twist and turn with your hands.

Sof's mom was so keen on this that she borrowed it from YK and rode on it around the track herself! A woman of 30+ racing around with the kids. All the moms laughed at her. But she didn't care, she had loads of fun.

3 musketeers? This reminds me of Slumdog Millionaire. I watched it on DVD here in Tianjin. It's very unforgettable, and of course made me cry.


The kids who were playing on the courts.

video


Clip of ds1 riding around the track.


video

The teachers had 2 bikes themselves, with seats behind, so they also got the kids who wanted rides to queue up and get a turn.

This is the queue for the ride with the teachers. They get to go on the teachers' bikes for one whole round on the track. ds1 also didn't do this cos he was still racing around on his bike! He rides too fast, rather dangerous, so fortunately he has safety gear on, otherwise I might not be able to relax and enjoy the morning tea.

The last half hour was dedicated to S's dad, a German guy who volunteered his time to come show the kids how to change a car tyre (or tire, if you're American).

One of the kids had asked this Q during the inquiry cycle phase of the UOI, so now they are getting their answers!

S's dad is a very funny guy, so the kids laughed a lot and were very engaged in the demonstration. He not only showed them how to change a tire, he taught them the terms of the jack, the wheel etc in German as well.

And he also made them calculate how many nuts and screws each wheel has and therefore how many the whole car needs (on the wheels only).

The kids are raising their hands eagerly to answer the different Qs he posed them. ds1 as usual, put his hand up for every single Q. He is so enthusiastic!

After that, since it was 12pm already, I decided to join ds2 in his class then follow the school bus back home (i.e. catch a free ride, haha).

Their last period on Fri is Library, so I went there in time to catch him being so very exuberant in the library. His best friend (on-and-off) in class, Is, is shown in the foreground.

One of the best things I like about them being in this school is that the school is all the way till Grade 12. I like it that the moment they start school, they feel like they are part of a huge family, with many older "brothers and sisters".

ds2 is on the half day program and so does not meet as many older kids, and he doesn't have CCA yet. But ds1 has so many friends from the upper grades, and he has learnt so much from them.

They also get to enjoy facilities that were built for kids of all ages in mind. So they learn to navigate in a bigger setting.

For eg, the library. If we were back home in Singapore, I'd probably put them in a PAP kindy or some kindy where there'd at most be 4 levels, from age 3 to 6 (nursery, pre-K, K1, K2). The library would be entirely for these ages. I don't suppose they'd have a teacher-librarian, nor would they have to have library cards and check books out themselves. I wouldn't know, maybe the expensive ones like Pat's Schoolhouse and Eton Preschool have, but not those I would've sent my kids to, anyway.

And the playground, or the cafeteria, or the entire school building. The kids have to learn how to get around. From his classroom to the toilet, how to go and come back. From the Chinese class or PE lesson in the gym, how to get back to his classroom or how to go to the cafeteria from there, if it is lunchtime?

Having different types of equipment in the playground. A huge spider web for older kids. ds1 told me he climbed right to the top where the big boys are. He felt so happy. If he were in a normal kindy, they'd have the appropriate playgym set for the kids aged 3-6. ds1 will not feel that proud of himself, I guess. So it's good for challenging himself constantly, and good for his self-esteem?

Of course, there are disadvantages to everything. That could be another post on its own. Both ds have learnt so many words and songs that must've only been from the mouths of older kids. Both of them fight and get beaten up a lot more than if they'd been in a little kindy.

Both of them, but especially ds1, have been bullied and made fun of by older or bigger kids.
Like ds1 told me, while climbing up a metal structure in the playground during lunch, he fell from the 3rd level, and knocked his elbow really hard on the metal piece below, nearer the ground. He said all the older boys laughed at him. It was really painful, but ds1 has learnt to laugh together with the rest.

A few months ago, he'd have been very very mad that others laughed at him and he'd have cried.
His friend, R, took him to the school nurse. That's how I learnt of the incident, cos the nurse left a note in his school comm book about an ice pack to his elbow, but that it wasnt serious because he could still move the elbow joint.

Back to the events on that day.
On the ride back, my usually clingy ds2 didn't sit with me but asked to sit with Xiaomei (literally translated as "little beautiful")!!! He ditched his mom for a pretty girl, so soon??!?

And the worst thing was, his best friend, Is, asked to sit with him but he refused and sat with Mei instead. That fellow. Back home, I told him to be nice to Is also, and please sit with him in future.

A boy needs his buddies too, right?


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
____________________________________________________________


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