Tuesday, May 26, 2009 ;
10:34 PM
It's been a hectic and fun-filled week!

Last Friday (22 May), the new art teacher came to teach ds1 painting. She was recommended to us by ds1's current CF art teacher. He even suggested that, in order to increase ds1's level, I should have art lessons at home at least 2x a week. Wow... I said he's kind of busy (playing actually) now, maybe when school hols start. We're trying her out 1x a week first.

She's pretty young but very nice and patient. She just graduated not too long ago, and is doing some design work but seemingly quite flexible with timing. Also, she will be going to Beijing to start some new art course at the end of June so she can only teach till then. I wonder what's the relationship between the CF teacher and her, because ever since I started lessons with this lady, the CF art teacher seemed much friendlier and would often take the initiative to chat about art topics with me.

They painted a helicopter together. She bought all the materials for me. I like it this way because 1. I don't know what to buy -what type of paper, what type of paints, what type of brushes... 2. I don't know where to get such materials... 3. I need to spend time and transport money looking all around Tianjin for such things. She even gave ds1 an art book for free, for his reference.

ds1 enjoyed it very much. He was so excited that, initially, when the art teacher, me and H (who happened to be in my house) were chatting before the start of the lesson, he was very restless and kept shouting "When are we going to start the lesson, mom?"

Problem was with ds2. He kept wanting to be part of it too. The table was not big enough for him to paint alongside, and there was just one paint palette. So I had to keep him occupied and distracted while ds1 painted. And after the lesson, ds2 rushed to paint his own "masterpieces".

After the teacher left, they both continued painting many other sheets of "abstract" art too. haha. So now I strung up 2 strings across the living room for them to clip all their works of art.

The teacher charges 80yuan (S$16) for 1.5hrs. She actually said my house is rather far for her, and she has to change bus and travel quite a distance, so she has to charge me more. I think it is very reasonable! N pays 180yuan for Matt's art teacher, also same duration. Perhaps hers is more qualified, but I'm very satisfied with mine.

My kids love art so much at this juncture, so we have no choice but to spend some money to let them indulge in their passion. If they had this same passion with the violin or piano, we would have saved a lot of money, cos we're all ready to teach them ourselves.

Wonder if they'll ever ask us for lessons??

23 May

It was Sports Day in school.

Normally Sports Day in previous years would be held on a weekday, but this year the school had a day off due to the heater being faulty (in winter), and parents wanted a make-up. So they put Sports Day on Sat. All school buses ran as usual, and parents could follow the kids on the bus.

So Dh and I went with the kids. The whole school was split into teams and we had to wear the colour of our team, which was Dolphin (Gold/ Yellow). Hence our whole family was dressed in yellow tees. The school tried to put all siblings in the same team, so both our sons belonged to the Dolphin Group.

Each coloured group was further split into N-2, upper elementary and high school groups because the activities were different.

Some parents actively joined in the games but Dh and I were content to watch and take pics. Cos for some games, adults would have a clear unfair advantage, so I don't think parents should play. For one game where the kids had to throw beanbags to the other side in a fixed time and had to ensure as few beanbags on their side as possible, I saw a mom frantically helping her son's team, and of course that side won, cos an adult can throw 4-5 beanbags at a time and very quickly.

Of course, all the games were non-competitive, just for fun, so it didn't matter too, not a big deal. But cos both my sons were on the same side, and kept losing the beanbag rounds, I just felt it was a little, hmph, unfair. But my sons didn't seem to mind. This was a great improvement from before, when ds1 always wanted to win.

I'll upload the vid on FB so you can see how funny ds2 was, throwing the beanbag and making a pose before going for another one. Clearly that was the reason why his side lost. haha.

There were many stations and all had some teachers who would explain the rules and get the group to play against each other. It was very tiring for me just to walk in the heat and under the scorching sun, but the kids seemed to have unending energy. They ran and jumped and crawled and kicked balls with so much fervour.

The best part was the 2 inflated bouncy dragons though. The kids absolutely went wild. Will post a vid on FB too.

After 10am, Nursery was led back to class and they had their snack and playtime continued in their Nursery playground. The teachers there supervised them very well and ds2 was having such a fun time. I witness him having a sulky moment that almost led to a tantrum, but the wonderfully-trained teacher was observant enough to spot that, and understood him well enough to talk to him and apply strategies to quickly make him feel better and continue playing again.

I always observe the teachers and find that they are really well-trained and understand the kids very well. They have an infinite amount of patience too.

I think why a lot of preschools prefer kids to do more seat-work because they are quieter and more controlled, thus giving less problems. But in this Nursery, when I see them playing most of the time, I always observe many squabbles, fights, crying and naturally, more injuries. But the teachers know this is a vital part of learning and growing up. And they are willing to solve all these on a daily basis. I am thankful for them, for letting ds2 grow and acquire so many social skills, and tools of the mind. (I recently read an article on Vygotsky's theory on brain development and learning and how preschools should conduct their lessons so young kids learn best, and I feel this school has done it.)

Although I haven't seen too many preschools in Singapore, I know there is a big range and there are several good ones like what Vygotsky outlined, and incorporate a lot of learning through active play, but there are still many that involve too much sitting, restriction and completion of worksheets.

The very first, and only preschool ds1 attended in Spore was somewhat like that. It was a good school, the teachers were great, I liked them, but ds1 cried all the time and refused to go to school, so we had to pull him out after a few months. He was 3 then, and we though maybe he was not ready. Because when he was 4 and went to preschool 2x a week in Utah, he loved it. But that preschool was all play too. No sitting down to do any sort of writing.

Thinking back, I recall sitting through at least 2 days worth of lessons at that 1st preschool in Spore. It involved singing, English lessons, then Chinese lessons, Math and Montessori mat time. I realised now that it was too structured for ds1. He was only 3 then. To shift from class to class, with different teachers, and having to do worksheets was probably too overwhelming. Some kids do settle in quickly, but apparently not ds1. The teachers wrote in his home-school comm book that he "had trouble with transitions", i.e. he cried a lot when he had to move from English to Chinese and then Chinese to Montessori. Each time he settled and warmed up to something, it was time for the next lesson.

A bit too rigid for him. And not much playtime, just a short break for snack and play. I don't blame the teachers. I know they say the parents expect them to give worksheets, otherwise they think there is no learning. And then they won't put their kids there, because YY preschool gives so many worksheets each week. The kids there must be learning a lot more!

ds2 in contrast, enjoys every single day of school. He has never cried and has no problem going to school in the morning. So does ds1 now. ds2 has never brought home a single worksheet, and I have NEVER seen him sit down to do any writing in school! But I have seen how much he has grown, and I am convinced that before the age of 6, kids do not need to have that kind of training. True, kids who learn how to write and write more earlier may have a headstart but I believe the gap or difference will taper off later. Both my sons have never undergone any phonics enrichment class, nor "I-can-read" classes nor flashcards (Glen Doman and all), but they both can read very well now. They speak and listen alright, and they will write well in time. Whether they will do well in future school exams or not, I don't know, and I hope I won't be too bothered.

I digress...

So ds2 was upset that his pants were wet. He had already dirtied his original set of clothes, which another teacher had changed for him, into his spare set that's always kept in school. He engaged in water-play and wet this 2nd set. He was not happy and wanted me to change for him when he saw me. I told him there were no more clothes for him to change into, and just bear with it. It wasn't very wet, just some wet patches here and there.

He sulked, and stomped off. The main teacher saw that, and went to ask him what the matter was. He said his pants are wet and he wants to change them.

She said, "Oh, your pants are wet." He nodded. (I recognise this strategy from "How to listen when your kids talk and how to talk so your kids will listen"!)

Teacher: You feel uncomfortable because your pants are wet.
ds2: nods.
Teacher: Where is it most uncomfortable?
ds2: (points to left knee, where there is a large wet patch) (still sulking but not so angry anymore)
Teacher: (feels wet patch) Oh, it feels wet against your skin, doesn't it?
Let me see... (takes time to think) Would it be better if we rolled the pants up so you don't feel the wet patch anymore?
ds2: (already very pleased to have someone fully empathise) ok.
Teacher: (further empowers him by giving him a choice) Would you like both sides rolled up or just one side?
ds2: One side. (very happy now)
Teacher: (starts to roll it up for him)
ds2: (does the rolling up himself, taking over from teacher)
Teacher: (lavishing praise) Wow, look at that, you can roll it up yourself!
ds2: (smug, proud look)
Teacher: Ok, now you can give mommy a big hug and go back to riding your bike!
ds2: (promptly gives me a hug and returns to bike)!!!!!

I take my hat off to the teacher because she has 27-28 kids. All of them have such problems everyday, all the time. She had just settled another crying boy before ds2. She has so much patience.

This scenario is not new to me. Of course, these things replay themselves everyday at home. Sometimes I remember the strategies and if I am in a good mood and patient, I can usually resolve things in an amicable manner too. But it doesn't happen all the time. I typically lose my patience and shout at both of them. And I force them to do whatever I feel is right without listening to what they have to say, or acknowledge their feelings. True, I may be right, but I usually just settle things by the quickest way, that is force them to do it my way quickly, so they may cry or be angry but still have to follow my instruction.

Like in this case, it would be me telling ds2 in a stern voice, "You don't have anymore clothes to change into. Stop sulking, go back and play with your bike and stop whining and wipe that look off your face!!" And he'll definitely continue to sulk. He might follow my instructions, but he'll be unhappy about that. Or he may cry and keep touching that wet patch on his pants.

Anyway, after that, since ds2 was so happy riding his bike with his good friends, Dh and I left the Nursery and joined ds1 and the rest of the school for the rest of the day.

In the afternoon, ds1 still had drum lesson for 1.5hrs. And then all of us set off for art class at CF!

It was a very eventful day indeed!

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Wednesday, May 20, 2009 ;
10:48 PM
Text update:

15 May School assembly:
ds2's class' turn to perform, together with PreK.
They sang the Jack-in-the-Box song, then the rhythm sticks song, and then a finale song and dance with PK.
Photos and videos on Facebook.

(Thanks to those who added me on Facebook recently to get the updates from there.)

16 May, Sat:
Went to play badminton again. This time, Jan, Hel, James, and Dh's coworker came. Dh's co-worker brought his gf as well.
Pictures on FB.

We had lunch at Yonghe DouJiang at The Exchange. It's a Taiwanese joint.

Then went for YK's bday party.

YK invited only boys! So ds1 had fun with all those boy games. Archery, running up and down stairs. They have a 3.5 storey house with huge basement. Imagine, the basement has a table tennis table but still ample space left for a huge couch, and lots of storage cabinets and tons of toys.

After that, I brought ds1 home to meet Dh and ds2 then set off to CF for art class.

Had dinner at home that night as there was a lot of food leftover at home!

17 May Sun:
Our church friends bought a lot of veggies and sauces and stuff and after worship, they wrapped dumplings, cooked some local dishes and we all had a great lunch together. Kind of to celebrate welcoming Jan into our family. And also to celebrate Hel's belated bday.

We also played board games together and watched Finding Nemo. Until ds1's marimba/ drum teacher arrived. It was a super anti-climax. Naturally ds1 didn't want to have class. But we had no choice cos his lesson was supposed to be on Sat, yet he had that bday party.

So he had lesson while the rest continued watching Finding Nemo. I think he did well to continue with his lesson without kicking up a fuss, so we closed our eyes when he didn't concentrate fully. (His teacher said.)

20 May Wed:
H went for a facial at a nearby place and found it good, so she signed up for a massage as well. It was for Wed. She showed me the pamphlet and asked if I wanted to try the facial. For 1.5hrs, it costs 80yuan (S$16). Sounded good.

H's face looked good, and nothing happened to her. However, everyone's skin is different and I am wary about what goes onto my face, so I googled the brand/ spa chain. Turned out it has chains in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, USA, besides China and Taiwan, and it originates from Taiwan.

Having done enough research, I told H I will follow her and she made an appointment for me as well.

So Wed morning, we went.. I was pleasantly surprised. The lady who did the facial for me is 22 years old, young slim and pretty. She was very gentle in manner and speech, never failing to explain each step of the facial to me and telling me all the ingredients of each material she placed on my face. Even for the type of facial massage, and the pressure on my acupoints, she will inform me what they are for too.

And best of all, she did not try to sell me any product, nor did she ask me to sign up for any package. Wonderful. She even told me to relax and try to sleep so as to make the most out of the session. According to her, relaxed muscles and skin meant better absorption of the magical potions she was applying onto my skin.

Besides a couple of different masks, and massage from the head, face, neck, arms and down the back, trimming of the brow, blah blah normal procedures of a facial, she also did some TCM-based pressing and pulling. It was rather painful, some of my acupoints, and she said that was cos I was unhealthy in that area. Yeah, right.

Nice. But I won't be signing up for more, because I can't spare the time. This was a real treat and I am glad I went for it. However, my in laws are coming for 2 weeks and then the kids end their school year. After they start their hols, I will commence my one year homeschooling project with them.

That also signals the end of my freedom to just go off for a facial, a haircut or even a leisurely shopping trip at the wet market. Yup, I'd be dragging them to every wet market session each week. Wish me all the best!

In the afternoon:
ds1 was at his playdate and ds2 and I joined much later. They got so many gifts from the host again. I told N she spoils the market. How come every playdate involved so many gifts and goodies? I seldom offer more than snacks and drinks when kids come to my house. Even I get to go home with 6 Taiwan bakchang (glutinous rice dumplings).

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

7:09 PM
I just found out today that ds1 has been kissing girls in school!

First, he had a playdate today, so he was picked up from school by his friend's driver and I only went to N's house after ds2 woke from his nap. When I arrived, other moms were already chatting over scrumptious tea and snacks.

When I joined them, I found out from Z that a boy in class kissed her Sof. She was livid. Maybe more like exaggerated upset. Maybe she was secretly happy. I don't know, but she had a big reaction.

After the playdate when we reached home, I casually asked ds1 if Sof was really kissed today by so and so. He said yes, but she also kissed him back.

Oh? Ok... Then did anyone else kiss anyone else too?

Ahhh, then came the thunderbolt.

ds1: Yeah. I kissed TK.
Me: WHAT??!?!
ds1: Err, I kissed TK also. XX kissed YY, AA kissed BB and CC kissed DD also.
Me: WHAT??!? When did you kiss TK? Where?
ds1: I kissed her a few times already. Anytime, anywhere. In class and in playground also.
Me: WHAT??!?!

I took a step back, calmed myself down (cos the boys were still casually playing), and reminded myself that I often read that the more we exaggerate the matter, the more they want to do it, or they will clam up and not tell us such incidents in future.

So I asked him in a normal tone after that, the remaining of the 5 Ws.
I asked him WHY did he kiss her, WHO else has he kissed before, WHERE did he kiss her, exactly HOW many times already...

He said he likes her, that's why. Simple as that. He hasn't kissed anyone else before. And he has kissed her a couple of times already. He kissed her on her cheeks, back, arms and hand.

I then asked, ANYONE saw when you kissed her? WHAT was her reaction? DID you kiss her ANYWHERE ELSE besides what you mentioned? AND, WHY do you like her??

Fortunately my son is pretty patient and is used to my firing many Qs at him in a row. He dutifully answered, all the while still playing with his brother.

He said too many people saw. When they were in class, the classmates all saw. When they were in the playground, too many people saw until he couldn't count. He said she was smiling, definitely not upset or angry. He said no, he didn't kiss her on the lips. And he said he liked her cos she is PRETTY and KIND.

I can't believe it. Why has my firstborn son grown up so quickly??

I had 1000 other Qs I wanted to ask, and some of them were repeat Qs, like I still wanted to ask WHERE he kissed her, just to be sure.

But I decided that was enough. Otherwise it would become too much of a big deal. I just asked for a final thing. I asked him to show me how he kissed her. Kiss mommy like how you kiss her, I said.

So he kissed me, on the cheeks, on the back, arms... And they were all gentle, friendly kisses. Ok... I was a little appeased. These kissed probably wouldn't make her cry indeed.

But still, I called up the only Korean mom I knew well, and asked her to help me call TK's mom, let her know I already talked to ds1. Cos TK is Korean and I don't know her mom at all. Jin helped me call and then called me back saying TK's mom already knew and she doesn't mind. She said she found out TK also kisses other boys. Jin also said TK's dad is American, so they're very cool about it.

haha... Good for ds1. He got off lightly. Whereas Z was like about to go and kill the boy who kissed her daughter.

When I told Dh about it after he got home, guess what was his first reaction?

It was not about his son maturing too fast, it was not about his son's misdemeanor... He asked me, "The girl, pretty or not?"


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

8:25 AM
Thanks to so many of you. For leaving tags for me. For suggesting various things.

An ex-student, for suggesting Windows Live Writer. It was a great idea, to use that to blog. Unfortunately, I downloaded it and the first step required me to supply my blog address, and The Writer needed to connect to my blog for me to get started. And that step failed cos my blog address is a blocked one.

Then Sammi helped in experimenting. Indeed, YouTube no access. Youku no problem. Of course, any Chinese site is fine. Only the US ones.

Facebook, still on and off possible. Last night there was a connection problem. Every site was inaccessible. Google Search, Facebook, Gmail.... But this morning, Facebook is still fine.

I know the easiest solution is to change my blog to a site hosted by Chinese hosts. Then I'd definitely not face any problems. Like my neighbour has 2 blogs cos she had experienced Blogger failure before. And she has a Chinese Yahoo blog. That one has no problem now, and works amazingly well.

However, for me, I don't like to start something halfway and shift. I love my current blog address. And I don't like to change because I am forced to.

So for the time being (and I hope it is temporary!), I will just post updates in text, and try to be as creative as possible. Cos I cannot upload pics and videos. Will do so on Facebook in the meantime.

Thanks for hanging in here together with me during this difficult period!

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Monday, May 18, 2009 ;
2:17 PM
Very very sad, frustrated, exasperated...

I have a long bookmark list in Utah. Organised and grouped very neatly.
I have friends using LiveJournal, Wordpress, Multiply for their blogs and I have these blogs all in my bookmark list.

Last year in Aug (2008), I stopped having access to all these dear friends' blogs. Thankfully, I could still use my own blog and access Blogger blogs.

I also have long lists of YouTube videos, all bookmarked. They are grouped according to the kids' faves, my own faves and Dh's faves. And within each group are sub-categories of music, art, nursery rhymes in different lang... etc.

There are some clips both boys will watch EVERY day.

There are orchestras Dh watch all the time. There are songs I often need to listen to and watch to make my day happy.
There are nostalgic clips of home, of my schools in the past, of students, of long-time friends that I watch.
Then there are hilarious ones friends send to me.

Suddenly, about a few months ago, no one could access any YouTube clip. Not Dh, not my kids, not me. We were very sad, but somehow, we still made do with our DVDs, our own cameras, and Facebook.

Now, since last week, I cannot access my blog nor any other blogspot blogs.
Even my Google reader and Google calendar had problems loading quickly.

I have to access them using proxy sites (thanks Kim) but it is so troublesome, and with proxy sites, a lot of unwanted ads pop out all the time.

Now, I have very little motivation to blog because the interface is also different when I use proxy sites. I cannot upload my stuff stably as well. And I cannot view videos on friends' blogs (Danielle's, Sammi's, I tried, but can't play anything. No slideshows either.).

Everyone here is affected. We are praying it is temporary. If not, this reason alone is enough for me to pack up and bring the kids home. really...

Because what next?

No more Facebook, and then no more Google Search?

No more Straits Times online?

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Wednesday, May 13, 2009 ;
11:57 PM
12 May

After dissection, it was close to ds2's dismissal time, so I went to look for him in his class. They were having the last 10min of Chinese lessons.

They were learning a new song in Chinese. The teacher explains the song lyrics to them in English, as well as make them repeat simple phrases.

After that I went on the school bus with ds2. This time he sat with Isai, one of his good friends. And they began playing a game only boys would play, I think.

It's not surprising when girls take a look at what boys do when they play together and they go "Boys are so grossssss! They are disgusting!"

(ds2 said in the clip that he ate the cake, meaning that as Isa spat the cake out, it went into his mouth. Ewwww.)

With the flu virus spreading around, it's not so wise for the kids to play like this anymore, huh.

At least in this clip, they were talking a little. Otherwise all they did was spout saliva.

They went on and on. Isai had been eating a piece of cake before he started the spitting and blowing, so ds2 had mushy cake crumbs all over his face, shoulder, and hair.

I talked to ds2 after we got off and were walking home.

I wonder what they do in class all day. I know they can continue doing this forever, they enjoy it so much.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

10:59 PM
13 May

After ds1 arrived home from school, we set off again, with a sleepy ds2 who had been napping, to Jor's house.

Jor's mom had invited ds2 over for a playdate. But it was more than that because in that compound, there were 20 kids, and many of them from the same school. ds1 himself was looking forward to seeing Ellie and Jade, his friends from after-school activity and kindy class.

For ds2, 2 of his best friends will be there. This pic is taken with Coop, one of them.
Coop was very sweet in lending both ds his Buzz car. And it was very fun for them, because it came complete with the gun. (They love to watch Toy Story.)

They had a nice big compound to ride in. There was a playground and it was huge enough for the kids to play hide and seek and have us moms worry if they are lost.

This car both ds were sitting on belongs to Jor. Both ds played together very nicely yesterday, a rare but very welcome change.

The boys formed a group and built their own clubhouse. It's only for boys, and they caught several geckos from the gardens to play with and probably to scare the girls away. Boys' club, girls stay away.

Jor's little brother, Ry. Very adorable. He let me carry him!

Sheraton Hotel is right there, and when Jade finished her swim lessons at Sheraton, ds1 was happy. They play very well together.

Jor's mom, Kim (Coop's mom) and Ser all prepared yummy snacks and we had tea in Jor's house. It was very fun for me too, to get to know more about the other moms.

When it was time to go (5.30pm came so quickly), ds1 said that's his home (where Coop, Jor and Jade are), cos his teacher said the "World is our home".

ha, ds1 is getting good at lifting quotes and applying them at the wrong time. I informed him that "home is where your family is, and daddy will get home from work, and wonder why the house is empty and start worrying where his wife and kids are", so yes, we still have to rush back to our estate.

ds2 found it difficult to tear himself away from Jor too. Kept telling him "See you tomorrow in school", "I will go to school tomorrow with you", and then he told everyone, including Kim, "I will come back!".

I don't have to ask them if they enjoyed their day that day. For sure, they did.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

9:46 PM
Couple of Misc updates:

Jan made the decision to be immersed on Wed, and we did do it, with all these witnesses, but then, when we reviewed the video clip late that night, we found that it wasn't an entire immersion. We have informed her, she will do it again with us.

Other than that, it was a great session. I ordered pizza to celebrate, and everyone talked about our own experience when we were immersed. The kids' bedtime was no later than 8pm and I did try to lock them up in the darkened bedroom but they knew something exciting was going on outside in the living room and they just couldn't sleep, so we let them witness it, and then join us for photo taking.

Before that, Matt's ayi came over to our house. It was a surprise visit, and we had just returned from a playdate actually. She had 2 wrapped gifts for the boys! She was leaving N to return to her own daughter back in Anhui.

Oh, how can she spend her hard-earned money on a parting gift for the boys??!? It was quite a moving and sad moment as I asked her when she was leaving, and I told her I will miss her, and sincerely so.

She had often looked after the kids for me, and picked ds1 up from the school bus stop when I couldn't leave ds2 alone at home at times. When it was raining, she had gone with the driver to pick Matt and also ds1 together before as well.

And we have shared many conversations before, while waiting for the kids to come back on the bus.

She talked to the boys, saying she was leaving, and that they are very good boys, she will miss them. Asked them to continue to be good boys and listen to their mama (me). I was almost tearing by then. Asked her to take good care of herself.

(Earlier this week, I had walked over to N's hse to give her something for her dd. I hope she didn't feel like she had to give a farewell gift to my kids too! She'd easily have spent double, cos I have 2 kids, and it was money she needed to bring home to her dd and hubby!! Sigh.)

Furthermore, the gifts she gave made the kids so excited. They really enjoyed the blocks and both games are very educational. Stuff I like myself.

The pomegranate trees in our courtyard bloomed! Lovely.

And ds1 brought home his Transport project. It was their previous unit. Quite cute, they had their own passport, boarding passes and they had date stamps and seat numbers on them.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 ;
10:05 PM
9 May

I celebrated Mothers' Day on Sat. :-)
Actually on Fri, haha.

On Fri, H brought me to 2 shops selling very pretty clothes. Normally I don't fancy any clothes I see in the usual shops but this was one that carried mostly labels to be exported. So it was more like the style I am used to.

I bought myself a CK top and an Esprit 3/4 pants. Total cost about S$50. Sweet.

Then Sat morning, we met with 2 church friends to play badminton! It was so fun! I haven't played in eons.... Good that they asked us along!

ds2 took this pic of them. haha.

Oh and I wore my HC tee, cos I figured no one can recognise it here, haha. It is comfy. Paired it with my adidas pants. Later I changed when we went out to eat lunch. That's ds2 "trying" to play doubles with me.

We rented the court for an hour. Cost 25rmb (S$5). Can anyone tell me how much a similar court in Spore costs now? Want to see if that's cheap or expensive?

Even though we took turns to play, the play was intensive enough for my hardly-used muscles to produce too much lactic acid. And I am so unfit, my body was not efficient enough to clear the lactic acid away from the muscle... Sigh... I got aches in so many areas the next day, and it lasted 3 days!

Then while we are playing, he will run and follow the shuttlecock to the other side, and then pretend to play there. I tried to teach him how to play, he just would not follow instructions and would rather fool around the whole time. We let him be.

Some clips of ds1's game. This is at the start of the hour. Dh playing against him and Helen.

This clip is in the later half when he played just with Dh alone. Slightly improved in receiving the balls now. He's got a lot of extra movements though. Flinging and swaying his arms, moving the legs up when serving...

Recording is good, can review and take note of how to improve.

ds2 doesn't know how to play yet, but he wants to be in every game. So he "disturbs" Jan in this clip, playing with her, then later getting the racket cover to try and hit the shuttlecock.

There are table tennis tables and many other sports facilities for rental too. ds1 shown in front of the soccer field.

This is the top govt school in Tianjin. The sports center is really great -huge compared to most other schools.

That's their track, and our friends and the boys having fun with a mock race. Both ds had false starts and refused to stop. Basically, that meant they cheated, had a long headstart and refused to turn back, bent on winning.

Later we all walked to Binjiang Dao together. We decided to book the court next Sat again. It was much-needed exercise for all of us except Helen who regularly plays.

We passed by these lovely flowers. They told us it is called 月季花。Looked a lot like roses.

Dh attempted to be hero and carried both boys on his shoulders. They all giggled too much to be balanced and steady so I ordered them to get off. ds1 couldn't stand ds2's hands around his neck, he felt too tickled to sit properly. It was so funny.

We went to The Exchange to eat. Many options there that we liked. Unfortunately, our local friends did not share the same taste. They said they didn't want to eat there, so we ended up not eating together. We ate at 一茶一坐, kind of like a HK-style cha chan teng.

After that, we could not resist dessert at Cold Stone Creamery. Yum yum, we so miss this from US. Looks like we always get back more than the calories we burn.

Went home after that, made ds2 nap, then ds1's marimba teacher arrived for his lesson. Why at home now?
The school had only one marimba room and that room was now also used for guitar classes. The guitar classes now run from 2pm till 5pm, so the time slot had to be changed to 12.30pm on Sat if we still wanted to learn there.

The kids have art at 5pm. It would be so difficult to have marimba at 12.30pm. It disrupts our weekly lunch plans, and that meant we all have to waste a lot of time in between, while waiting for the art class after marimba.

So we told ds1 we should stop. He just began not too long ago, so it didn't matter, I think. We got our refunds from the school. They are so good at refunds, amazing service.

Then we asked the teacher if he could come to our house instead! He could! And we pay the same rate. Cos if we went to school, the school takes a cut from his pay anyway, so it is a win-win case for both of us. Now we need not travel and ds1 can learn in the comfort of his own home, with the same teacher, and the teacher is happy too.

Best of all, he is a postgrad student, and his schedule is very flexible, so this Sat when ds1 has a bday party Sat afternoon, he could change it to either Fri or Sun, doesn't matter. We also pay per lesson, so if we need to cancel, we can cancel, no penalty.

After class at home, ds2 was awake by then, and we set off for art class. It was a little rainy, so the kids wore their raincoats and off we went.

During art class, which Dh sat in with ds2, I went over to Mighty Deli and shopped to my heart's content, bought all the food stuff and groceries I liked. It's Mothers' Day! I chalked up enough for a VIP card. That'd give me more discounts in future.

That's great cos I would be here in summer everyday for the kids summer courses, so I would be good friends with the staff of Mighty Deli for sure.

(Mighty Deli carries imported groceries, so I got myself a lot of Spore/ Msia and USA food that I miss. To be fair, I got the kids their fave snacks too, a lot of Del Monte canned corn, and the Msian/Sporean type of mango pudding that Dh loves).

After art class, Dh had made a reservation at Din Tai Fung. Lovely.

We had a great meal and who should we meet as we were having our dessert? My neighbour H and her family. They were there celebrating Mom's Day too. And we also met the kids' school principal and her family, presumably there for the same reason. So funny, DTF becomes THE PLACE to celebrate anything, in Tianjin.

Here the kids, Dh and H are all engrossed in something. Make a guess.

It's a Pokemon manual! Argh, why do the kids like these so much? They'll pore over all the statistics of each pocket monster. They know the names, the colours, the powers blah blah blah.

Then I took a moms pic with H. It was so funny. When we saw what they ordered as their food was served, we could only laugh. Their order was identical to ours!!

Msians and Sporeans really have similar taste. haha.

We let the kids play in the playroom before and after the meal. That day's craft was different and specially for mothers' day. The kids can learn how to make carnations, tulips for their moms. Well, I hinted a lot, but ds1 sat glued to the Tom & Jerry showing on TV, while ds2 played with playdoh while watching TV.

Dh and I spent some time alone back at our table, finishing up the dessert... Finally we felt it was time to leave and returned to the playroom. This time, I called ds2 over and said directly (boys cannot take hint, you have to be direct), "Why don't you make a flower for mommy?"

He said ok, and he sat there, but he had to wait his turn, another girl was being instructed then. So the lady staff gave him a ready-made carnation. He presented it to me, so sweet, then he asked for another for himself! I told him not to take another, one is enough. Then he cried!

Aiyoh! The lady handed him one, said it's not a big deal. His tears stopped immediately. How do kids control their tear ducts so well?

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

9:38 PM
The kindy is doing a unit on marine environments now. Their teacher knows I was a Biology teacher, so asked me if I could come in as a parent volunteer/ guest speaker and show the kids some marine organisms coupled with showing them the external and internal anatomy.

It sounded really fun. I get to spend money buying organisms in the market (which is not my money) and get to learn more and share interesting nuggets with others, why not?

So I agreed. H kindly brought me to a big wet market, and I saw so many suitable live and freshly dead sea creatures. After I told the teacher, she suggested having a representative from vertebrates and invertebrates each cos the kids have been talking about the presence of a backbone.

I bought a cuttlefish that day last week to try out first. (I hadn't done dissections since 2006, and we seldom perform them on marine animals. Usually it was organs like the eye, heart, kidney of mammals, and then on whole mammals.)

It was a huge one, but the market had larger ones! That's my rudimentary dissection tool - kitchen knife. Instead of dissecting tray, a bamboo chopping board. hee.

I took out the beak of the cuttlefish, and washed and dried it. Packed into ziploc for the kindy class to compare with the squid's. The 8 arms and 2 tentacles can be seen clearly here too.

Difference between squid and octopus: octopus also has 8 arms but no tentacles. Both squid and cuttlefish have 8 arms and 2 tentacles.

How to tell tentacles apart from arms. Arms are shorter with suckers all along. Tentacles are smooth till the end part where there'll be some suckers.

Suckers in squids may have chitin rings and some other weaponry, whereas suckers in octopuses do not. (That's why sperm whales, the natural predator of giant squids, are often found having ring-like scars all over their skin near the jaws. They are sustained while they attack the giant squids, and the squid wrap the arms and tentacles around the sperm whale's head.)

This is cuttlefish. They have suckers too. More similar to the squid than octopus.

Very unprofessional cutting with the kitchen scissors. But still, with a lot of due respect and dignity for the cuttlefish. We got a huge surprise!

There was a whole fish and whole prawn inside the mantle cavity. Usually cuttlefish attack their prey by shooting out their tentacles then bringintg the prey to its beak. It'd drill holes into those with shells, or tear apart the prey if it doesn't have shells. Then it'd feed on the prey, pushing the smaller parts into the mouth.

Dh and I were hypothesizing, why there would be the fish and prawn in there. What a good deal we got!

Close up of the fish, prawn, the funnel, ink sac, gonads and mantle flaps.

Then I took the beak out from the mouth. Really resembles parrot beak. Its pointy end can really tear the prey up, for sure.

Proceeded to the back. The skin has a lot of chromatophores and other -phores that help the cuttlefish to change its appearance, or for bioluminescence. That's why the cuttlefish, squid and octopus are masters of camouflage. Their mechanism is far more complex than the chameleon's.

Inside, the cuttle or cuttlefish bone can be seen and isolated. It's a good source of calcium so they are often left in bird cages for the birds to peck at. For the cuttlefish, it helps in buoyancy (air pockets), adjusting its depth in water and also some kind of support, I guess.

What the insides look like after extricating the cuttlebone.

After I had identified whatever I wanted to, we disposed of it. Actually we could cook and eat it, but no one was interested. Dh didn't want to eat it, and the kids and I don't appreciate it.

Was a good introduction to the actual thing I had to do the following week.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Friday, May 8, 2009 ;
9:23 AM
5 May
Nursery Picnic

The kids have a chart in school. If I am not wrong, it is a behavioural one. If they get the thing done well, they get stars. It is a class effort and if they get a combined total exceeding the target goal, they get a picnic.

I arrived in school to see ds2 having a great time with his friends! Here are his best friends in Nursery. His teacher took the photo for me.

The spread. Wow, there was too much food, enough for 2 meals! Every mom brought something. I baked snickerdoodle cookies.

The kids having a lovely picnic with their fav stuffed toys too. ds2 brought his bear.

ds2 fooling around with his friends. This friend with him just arrived from Australia in April. But somehow they clicked at once. His mom was there too and I met her for the 1st time. She was eager for me to point ds2 out to her, because her son mentions him at home all the time too. And she's so happy for him to have a close friend so soon after joining Nursery. She's Australian too, but her hubby is Sporean.

She's invited us to her house this week for a playdate. And I get to meet with Kim and her family too because they all live in the same compound behind the Sheraton. ds1 will go as well cos his good friend Jade lives there as well! Too many families from school live there. It's a lovely place and next to the only International clinic in Tianjin, which is really convenient.

Then Isai was giving big hugs to ds2 and they fell down after the hug! Too funny.

Good to see him enjoying himself so much. They chatter a lot, and I can't understand a lot of it! But they go on and on non-stop! I really wonder what they are discussing!

Their classroom just got rearranged and they acquired new furniture. Looks even better than before, and they have one more room for the 28 N kids now - more spacious.

The reading and puzzle corner.

The dance and music area.

After the picnic, they had outdoor play time. ds1 doesn't know that his brother plays all day and doesn't have sit-down work like him, haha.

ds2 also showed me the plant he planted.

And he proudly showed off his class pet.

Then he went off to play with his friends again, largely unaware of my presence thereafter.

A final clip of the kids playing. The boys and girls are together in a group. But notice at this age, they play their own game. And I observed how the girl play is so different from the boy play. .

Girl play has a lot more conversation, yah? They even have a pretend bday party and included a bday song.

Boys just enjoy having some action game together. Even when ds2 was handing some sand over to Jor, they don't talk. His European friend with the tractor or whatever just keeps repeating a "toot-toot" sound. Talking is unnecessary.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

8:54 AM
A lot of insects, flying objects and spiders are emerging, now that it's warmer. That is the only part of Spring I don't like.

This appeared in my pantry and then died by itself (thankfully, maybe of a heart attack from seeing me).

As in, a while earlier it was moving around the pantry floor and I kept an eye on it.
I was contemplating my options and continuing my housework when it stopped moving. When I went to check on it later, it was still in the same position, with the legs in the air. So I took a pic.

So I put some barricades around it to avoid stepping on it throughout the day. When ds were back from school, I showed it to them. Then when Dh was back, I asked him to please dispose of it, thank you very much.

It funny that I don't mind dissecting much larger mammals for Biology labs but I don't like to touch such insects.

Last week (4th-8th May) was very warm, so both ds wore shorts and tees to school and when they return, they want to ride their bikes at once.

Within the gated quadrangle, it is still pretty safe, so I do let them ride outside alone, especially since they ride for a long time and it is usually when I have to prepare dinner.

ds1 is trying to ride his bicycle with the windmill he received at N's party. He loves the way it spins wildly when he rides through the breeze.

On yet another day, H brought me to another wet market, further away from our estate. This one is much bigger and I saw a lot of live animals that I cannot imagine ever eating! But the fact that they sell so many of these must mean that there is demand. I wonder, how do you cook such a big octopus?? There were so many live ones... It's almost like an aquarium here.

On Mon, 4 May, Yur was due to fly home to Japan. I went to see her off and help with the luggage.. This time it will be even longer before we might even see each other again. She'll not be back in summer because summer in Tianjin is too hot for her. Then I'll be back in Singapore in winter.

It's tough to always have to say goodbye, yet we have to say it so many times in this community. That's her and Val leaving in a taxi. She packed 80kg worth of stuff so the entire boot and back seat was filled.

Final installment of the periodic misc updates, a hilarious clip of ds2 speaking in Chinese/ Mandarin. Not meant to ridicule him of course, but rather to chart his progress. And as a record.

I myself remember learning Chinese only in Kindergarten, when I was 5. Before that, I spoke only English at home with my parents, and English to my parents' friends, who are all from church. I learnt a few words to greet my grandparents before that, but not much.

However, after attending a SAP Sec school, my Chinese level improved a lot and I got my A1s in both Chinese and Higher Chinese for O levels. I didn't have any tuition or enrichment lessons of any sort, so I didn't worry about my kids.

Until I read about the standards and systems now in Singapore schools, but that is another story. Anyway, so I felt both my sons already had a headstart over me, having been exposed to a lot more of the language. Yet, a lot of people around me are very worried for my kids' Chinese standard, which of course rubs off on me.

Friends usually just tell me how difficult it is to learn Chinese so I cannot let them wait till Primary school to learn it. I must start them young. It's the relatives that are really bad. They will insinuate, hint, speak sarcastically or even test my kids non-stop on their Chinese proficiency.

If it's not up to their standard, they'll keep asking, "Why, Why, Why?"

Anyway, so from not knowing a single word when he was 2, and then only knowing how to greet his grandparents last year (3yo), till now 4yo, I think he has improved steadily.

We're still putting in effort so hopefully others can understand him soon! Right now, his accent is still really weird... and mostly just funny.

I won't say what story he is reading. If you can even understand any word from what he is reading, let me know! We'll be greatly encouraged.

(This story is one I had read to him umpteen times. He is reading it from the same book, and it has hanyu pinyin, so he doesn't really know how to read Chinese books yet. He does it mainly from memory and from guessing with the hanyu pinyin help.)

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

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