Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Lessons from presents

Isaac just started primary school last year. So this past Christmas 2014 was the first Christmas that took place when he had some idea of what money means. We asked him to save his balance pocket money every day last year, so he did have some money in his piggy bank. One day, in mid-December last year, we went to a neighbourhood mall for dinner. And there, he saw a Frozen themed water bottle bag - which he knew Shawna would like, and toy guns, which he knew Asher would simply love. And he quickly whispered to hubbs and I that he would like to use his savings to buy presents for his brother and his sister. He went home that night and excitedly counted his money. Then the very next morning, he asked hubbs to bring him to the same place and he bought his presents, with his very own money.

Hubbs and I were very pleased that he suggested buying gifts for his brother and sister, using his own money, no less. It takes something, to be able to give out of one's own pocket. And I must say he did choose appropriate gifts for his siblings. Appropriate, as in, these would certainly be things the twins would like. Hubbs and I, as a rule, don't buy guns and swords for the kids. It's a different thing if they make it from cardboard etc, but we prefer not to buy arms as toys. However, this time round, hubbs was so pleased with Isaac's spirit of giving, that he allowed him to make that purchase. 
Isaac and his first Christmas gifts for Asher & Shawna.
On the other hand, I had other warring thoughts in my head. Firstly, I didn't want Isaac to waste his money on cheap plastic toys. Those would surely not last a week! But then again, it is a very cheap toy which is within his budget, so he would be spending within his means - which is important. This last point won out. Besides, it's another teaching/learning point for the kids when the toy gun breaks or spoils...

Turns out I was right. The rifle spoilt after 2 days - it couldn't be cocked and fired any more. Isaac was bewildered, and asked me how come the toy would spoil so quickly. I quickly jumped on the chance to educate him about Price & Quality.  How these two factors are very closely co-related, though you can find some rare gems where price is low, but quality is high.

Subsequently, the boys were playing with the rifle, and the tip of the rifle scratched Asher and he had a slight abrasion. Isaac promptly declared the rifle unsafe, and threw it down the rubbish chute. Now, barely more than a month after Christmas, the guns and bullets have all disappeared. The pistol is still somewhere (dunno where), but the bullets have all vanished. I asked Isaac what he thought about it. Whether it was a good way to spend his money. He frowned, shook his head, and agreed with me that it was a waste of money to buy that for Asher - as the inferior quality resulted in it being unsafe, and it didn't even last a week. Okay, good, lesson learnt. I hope.
Isaac's present for his classmate Jovann, bought with his own savings.
What about Shawna's water bottle bag? It was a perfect gift, I thought. Mainly because I was on the lookout for these water bottle bags anyway, and wanted to get one for each kid. The kids have been going through water bottles throughout the year as though it was a free commodity. They either misplaced them, or broke them through careless and/or rough handling. It was very frustrating, and a huge waste of money. So frustrating that there is another blog post coming up on this, I assure you. In any case, I thought these water bottle bags could be the answer - we will just use a regular pet plastic bottle for the kids, and replace them regularly since they are cheap easy to come by. So I was glad Isaac chose to buy that for his sister.

After he gave her the present - which she appropriately squealed with delight over - he was often on the look out for it. He would often ask her why she was not using the Frozen water bottle bag he got her. And when she brought it out and was using it, he would be hawk eyed and often kept holding on to it, or kept making sure that she didn't leave it behind. We were extremely pleased to see that he was finally learning to treasure his belongings - even though, yes, technically it belonged to Shawna. One time, when she didn't use it again, he asked her in exasperation "Do you like the Frozen water bottle bag that kor kor gave you, or not?! How come you don't use it?!" Thankfully, Shawna sensed his displeasure and quickly assured him with calm soothing words that she DID like it, and thanked him again for buying it for her. 

So I looked at Isaac and said "How does it feel when Shawna doesn't use your present, or she doesn't take care of it? How do you feel?" He looked at me with woeful eyes and said "I feel sad." "Yes... Now you know how we feel when you guys don't take care of the things Mummy and Papa buy for you huh?" A look of realisation washes over as he widens his eyes and stared at me... 

On hindsight, given the lessons he learnt from the whole episode of buying of the presents... I think it is money well spent! 
Plastic container perfect for allowance allocation!
I read this post more than a year ago, and I found the idea of using a 7 day pillbox to allocate pocket money and store weekly savings really useful. It wasn't easy to find a pillbox of that size though. In December, I made a trip to Daiso and managed to find this container above. I thought it was perfect for the purpose that I intended it for. Hubbs and I often forget to hive Isaac his pocket money you see. So this way, we only need to remember to fill it up every Sunday, and it would then be Isaac's responsibility to make sure he takes his pocket money for the day to school every day.

I asked him what he would like to name the balance five compartments and we brainstormed about it together. Donations can be donations to church, or to any worthy cause he wants to donate to. He agreed to Savings and Mummy & Papa. I actually suggested "Filial Piety"- he can choose if he wants to give the money to his grandparents or to his parents, I felt that this was to teach him since young that he should set aside money to care for his parents. I hope we won't need it, but I think it is a good value to teach. He didn't want me to write Filial Piety, and suggested I wrote "Mummy & Papa". He rejected my suggestion of a "Spending" box, in favour of having two compartments with the word "Gift". I didn't ask, but I suspect it could be a box each for the twins. 

I took the above picture on Friday. I must say I am quite pleased that the Mummy & Papa compartment is so full! *happy*as*a*lark*

However, my happiness was a bit short lived, when I told Isaac that his classmate Jovann was going to celebrate his birthday on Monday. "Do you want to draw him a card?" I suggested. "No, I want to buy him a present!" It was quite obvious where that money would be coming from - the Mummy & Papa compartment. But then, I was also pleased that he would be willing to buy a present for his friend out of his own pocket. "Is he a good friend?" I asked. "Yes, I like him!" he replied. 

I decided to bring him to Daiso to buy his gift. I figured there was enough variety there for him to buy something for his friend. He smiled all the on our way to the store. "I'm so happy, Mummy! I'm going to buy a present for my friend!" Such good cheer! It was contagious. It makes me happy that he is a generous boy. Of course, I would have to teach him to be discerning when giving. But I'd save that lesson for another day. For now, I'm just very happy that he is not a selfish boy.

For more excellent tips on money management for primary school going kids, read this post at Life Is In the Small Things, and  A Juggling Mom.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Asher & Shawna are Five!

In a blink of an eye, the twins turned 5 years old this year! Well okay, not literally a blink, but it really doesn't seem too long ago when I posted the birth story of the twins

Just as I am writing this post, I am feeling a bit guilty about the fact that I blogged less about the twins, than I did about Isaac when he was younger. For after all, I did start this blog for the purposes of chronicling the childhood of the kids. And for the record, it is not the case that I blogged less about the twins because I love them less, or any silly reason like that. 

The first year after the twins' birth was physically tough. We were stretched to the max, caring for the two infants, plus toddler Isaac to boot. And just when the twins were about to hit one year old, I started My First Games. I figured if I didn't at least try, I would never know how it pans out. So while I had a full time job, a sideline online business, and three young children to love and care for, I simply couldn't and didn't blog as much as before the twins came along. Now that the kids are older, they value our company with them even more, and that leaves us less personal time now than when they were infants. 

But it's all worth it. THEY are worth it. Hubbs and I love the kids to bits, and my only regret is that I didn't take more photos and videos and blog more about their exploits before I forgot the details of the anecdotes. Thus, I hope to blog more this year. They may not be in strict chronological order, but 20 years down the road, I really don't think it matters whether it is or not.
Shawna & Asher the Tan Family Twins, and best buddies for life!
I love that picture above! It truly epitomises their relationship - they're best buddies! All through their lives, they had each other to play with, to fight with, and to depend upon. Yes, they do fight, as all siblings inevitably do, but they love each other fiercely and would not hesitate to defend and protect each other if they sense that their twin is in danger of being bullied or hurt. 

As with most twins, they are almost complete opposites. Shawna is feisty, whereas Asher is more serene. Shawna's more physically coordinated, whereas Asher's coordination has lots of room for improvement. Asher is accommodating whereas Shawna is very particular. Asher is tall and skinny (like Matthew!) whereas Shawna is shorter and more fleshy (like me!). I could go on and on. Friends who have spent some time with us before, inevitably tend to comment "They are quite different, yah?" Yes, indeed :)
The Asher & Shawna's birthday celebrations in school at age 2 and 3.

With dragon phoenix twins, what birthday cakes do we order since boy themed and girl themed cakes often look worlds apart? The first year... I ordered what I liked: Spiderman! Well it was more of a party for us for surviving the first year with the twins, than it was for them, wasn't it?! :p

The second year, I ordered a 1kg Toy Story cake. I figured Toy Story was quite unisex, right? The third year, I decided, that since the price of two half kg cakes was about the same as the price for a one kg cake - I chose to let the twins each choose a cake of their own. Asher chose an Angry Birds chocolate sponge cake with green trimming - green was his favourite colour then. And Shawna chose an Angry Birds vanilla sponge cake with yellow trimming - her favourite colour then. 

On their fourth birthday, we were very kindly sponsored a magic show, so we threw them a party. For that celebration, I ordered a lovely rich dark chocolate fudge cake from Cake Crafters and inserted our own action figures as cake toppers. Asher loves chocolate and chocolate cake, you see. It was so decadent, but supremely, satisfyingly delicious! :p For Shawna, I ordered an Elmo jelly cake from Food Mapping. That worked out remarkably well, as none of us had to suffer from an overdose of cake. 

But this year, I decided that the kids would get to decorate their own cake. We've been doing this for a few years now, for my birthday as well as hubbs' - we'd have the kids decorate a cake for us. We didn't mind how beautifully artistic the cake looked. I simply assumed before, that the kids would prefer some cartoon character cake for their own birthday cakes. Now, I know better. They love love love decorating their own cake. So that's what they got to do on the eve of their birthday, decorate the cake which we'd bring the next day to their school for their actual day celebration! They were very pleased with their masterpiece. Much cheaper than the average cartoon cake too!
Shawna & Asher with their masterpiece: their own birthday cake!
Thinking back, the money and effort we spent for the twins' 4th birthday celebration party was really quite worth it. I say this, because, the twins remember it very well! At least Shawna does. She kept on talking about it the entire year! Every now and then, she would mention something about the party, and how she wants the same magician, and the same chocolate cake and Elmo jelly cake for her 5th birthday celebration, at the same venue, even! She would mentally list the friends and family she wanted to invite to her party. I had to tell her that there likely wouldn't be any party, and that disappointed her quite a bit. However, we did tell her and Asher, that they'd have a birthday treat. And that was, we'd go to Legoland! They've been wanting to go for ages, so it was a good distraction and she didn't make too much of a fuss over not having a party.

We were busy for most of December and so we could only make it to Legoland on 31st December 2014. We actually paid full price for the tickets as I had forgotten to bring some promo chits that I had prepared for the trip. But in consolation, Legoland was having a promotion where if you paid full price for tickets, you would get another ticket per ticket for free entrance to the park in January this year. So we're going to go Legoland again this weekend! Technically, it's half priced then. Hah!
Asher & Shawna's birthday treat - Legoland!
The kids had a grand time. They absolutely loved Legoland and the rides. So did hubbs and I. We got to sit more rides this time round as the kids were older. The first time we came to Legoland was a few years back when Asher and Shawna were still quite young, and not tall enough for most rides. They are taller than 100cm now, so they got to sit most rides this time. Legoland on the 31st of December, despite being a public holiday eve, was not crowded at all. This meant that we didn't have to queue for almost all the rides, and could go multiple times for each ride. And it was cloudy all day, but did not rain - which meant, it wasn't hot at all! We were blessed with the perfect weather that day!  

Throughout the day I kept asking the twins "Are you having fun?" and saying "Isn't this much better than having a party? A party would only last a few hours long, but here we are for an entire day!"  They absolutely agreed with me, and I was glad. For this is likely to be the way going forward, we'd rather bring them on a treat excursion, than to throw a party. It's much less tiring - though in a different way! :)
Kung fu fighting! Not!
The actual day of their birthday fell on a weekday. Hubbs had a meeting and couldn't step away early to go to the kids' school for the school celebration. So I picked Isaac directly from school, and we went to the twins school for the celebration. After which, we went to pick hubbs from school, and went for dinner at the kids' favourite xiaolongbao restaurant. 

Here are the kids, clowning around while waiting for their Daddy to be ready to go. The boys love to play fake fighting. Show off their kung fu moves. And the kids were in sufficiently high spirits that they willingly posed for pictures for me.

I really need to take more pictures! :)

Happy birthday my dear Shawna and Asher! May the good Lord bless you in every way possible, for eternity! Now, that should cover everything, yah? :)
Isaac, Asher & Shawna :) siblings love!

Monday, 15 September 2014

Camping @ Pasir Ris on Petite Travellers

Did I mention that I am a contributing author on Petite Travellers - a blog by bloggers who are families like us going on trips with our young ones? I recently blogged about a staycation with a difference... Yes, we went camping in Singapore! Pasir Ris Park to be exact. Look at our nice little kampung (Malay for "village") below? That's less than half the village - hop on to Petite Travellers to see more pictures! In this post, I have selected 5 pictures which I feel is too beautiful to be hidden in a collage! :)
Camping in Singapore at Pasir Ris Park.
Look at the picturesque scene above. It's really in Singapore! We had beautiful blue skies, a big bright sun, and cool sea breeze grace our camping trip this time round. Even when it rained on our first camping trip last year, it was alright because we had fun waiting in our tents for the rain to stop. The kids got to play with sand for hours on end, and were content to bathe and have dinner when they were told to do so. Bliss...
Escape into the shade during midday.
We escaped into the huge shady area nearby during the midday heat wave. Soccer... Frisbee... or just plain catching had everyone breaking into a sweat, catching their breath, and bending over with laughter... Sandwiches and snacks made a welcomed tea break.
Flying a kite right outside our tent!
 I love this picture of Shawna flying the kite while Isaac peeps out from the tent to look at the kite. Asher and Isaac are inside the tent playing with the action figures that Asher had brought along. Isaac brought his chess set and his Harry Potter book, Asher brought his action figures and Shawna brought a small container of loom bands that her cousins gave her. 
Beautiful sunrise
This is another lovely sunrise picture that I caught on my camera. Pasir Ris Park has lots of visitors who visit the park for their daily exercise. I managed to capture two of them here in this picture.

And here below, is what I call a bungalow tent! So pretty, ain't it? Almost immediately after my full camping post went up on Petite Travellers went live, a reader commented to ask where they could buy such a tent.  Apparently, my friend bought this Wenzel Klondike tent on Amazon.com for less than $200 USD, excluding any shipping fees to Singapore. So affordable! The hubbs pointed out though, that a friend of his bought a tent online and one of it's poles broke after a few camping trip, and it was quite tough to get the seller to replace the poles etc since the seller was overseas. But I guess that's quite the norm for buying online, how the warranties sometimes do not extend to Singapore. Have to read the small print and take a leap of faith, I guess.

If you have enjoyed this post, do hop on to Petite Travellers to view the full post on Camping @ Pasir Ris Park, by yours truly! :)
Bungalow tent by the sea.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Monster Hunting at MonsterHuntInk

Remember the superbly EnchantInk time Isaac had at a creative writing course in March this year? The Monsters Under the Bed were kind enough to invite Isaac to join in the mayhem of monster hunting in MonsterHuntInk in June. Held at The Arts House, the location was central for all parents, and the venue felt very lush amidst the classical architecture of the building. Apparently, most of Monsters Under the Bed workshops and events are all held here. The last time we attended EnchantInk, it was held at the Singapore Discovery Centre and was a one-off use of that venue because The Arts House wasn't available at that time in March. Ooooh... The Arts House was definitely a nicer venue to have for the three half days we were to be there.
Monster hunting @ MonsterHuntInk with the Monsters Under the Bed!
MonsterHuntInk was exactly what it sounded like: Monster Hunting! The kids were supposed to go monster hunting. But they weren't given a monster to go hunting for... no no... The kids were supposed to create their own monster, and hunter, and chronicle the entire quest of hunting down the monster. 

But in this day and age where Disney Princesses prevail, evil villains as handsome and charming as Prince Hans and monsters ala Monster's Inc look so cute and cuddly - would the kids know what a real monster was? No fear! The Monsters Under the Bed gave them all a quick crash course steeped in mythology to get to know the traditional monsters of the literary world, like Medusa, minotaur, ogre, Yeti, gargoyle... even cyclops. No, not the X-Men Cyclops, the original one-eyed giant monster cyclops that wasn't as cool and suave as Mr Scott Summers is. I bet most of the kids didn't even know that Cyclops the X-Men was named after this cyclops the monster, and not the other way round. 

The kids not only got to know the names of these traditional monsters and see how they supposedly looked like, they were also told about their legendary powers, weaknesses, and their dwelling place, their habitat.
A Monster lecture geek boys and girls would love to attend. Monster Lecture pix courtesy of Monsters Under the Bed
After that brief sojourn into monster territory, the kids were given a Monster Builder to start work on creating their own monster/s. Fashioned like a worksheet, the Monster Builder prompted the kids to give their monster a name, describe or draw its appearance, set out the monster's behavioural patterns, list its special powers and weaknesses... Basically guiding the kids to flesh out their monster. How cool is that?! Very cool, and fun indeed, judging by how all the kids were working enthusiastically on building their monster. The next day, my friend, who sent her 8 year old daughter there to MonsterHuntInk, even asked if she could have a blank Monster Builder because her 6 year old son at home saw what his sister was doing and was keen to build his own monster too! Gosh, even I thought it was fun and was itching to start creating a monster as well!
Flesh out your own monster with the Monster Builder!
After creating their monster, the Monster Hunters needed to plan their journey over the raging seas and rough terrain to get to their Monster's dwelling place. They needed to have a plan for capturing their monster and correspondingly needed to make sure they were well armed to do so. They may even have a secret weapon. For all this, they had The Hunters' Guidebook, a document much like the Monster Builder, that prompted our brave monster hunters with well thought questions to prepare themselves for their noble quest of ridding this world of monsters and making the world a safe place once more. 

See how seriously our Monster Hunters take this monster hunting business? Frankly, I have never seen such a large bunch of boisterous children being so engrossed in writing before. The kids are split up into groups of about 8 to 10 kids, with a trainer and an assistant trainer per group. Using my incredible mummy eye power - it seems to me that the groups are roughly divided up according to age. Which makes sense since the workshop was for a wide age group of 7 to 12. I can imagine it works well in the sense that the younger kids would likely write simpler stories, whereas the older ones should be able to write more complicated stories. The trainers are on hand to give guidance and guide the monster hunters along.
Monster Hunters hard at work, receiving guidance from Master Monster Hunters.
Using the notes that they themselves wrote in their Monster Builder and The Hunters' Guidebook, the kids wrote out the story of their journey and quest to hunt down the monster they created. For most of them, they were themselves were the hunters in their story.

On the final day, the kids were supposed to draw a picture of their monster and to colour it. They had lots of fun doing it and were all very proud of their creations, happily boasting about the special destructive powers their monsters had. And if you think only boys were into building monsters, you're sorely mistaken. Just look at the girls and their monsters. In fact, it seems that the girls are more meticulous in creating and drawing their monsters. But, I guess, that's just the way girls are, meticulous, I mean :p

The portrait of the monster was meant to be on the front page of the story booklet each participant was supposed to have, with their own story written in it. So at the end of the 3 half days writing course, you have a booklet of your own story written in it. Nice! Except that for most of the kids I saw, the story which they had written was way too long for them to copy all into the booklet again before the end of MonsterHuntInk. It hardly mattered since the kids still had their story that they wrote on A4 paper. They could always copy it over when they are at home, I suppose.
Monsters, monsters!Hunt them down!!! pix courtesy of Monsters Under the Bed
There was a small ceremony of sorts where some of the kids got to read out their story using a microphone, for everyone to hear. After which everyone said their goodbyes, and that was the end of another successful MonsterHuntInk.

All in, I felt that it was a good use of theme to allow the kids' imagination and creativity the freedom to stretch and run wild, while guiding them to use descriptive words and action sequences to flesh out not only their monsters, but their journey and quest to slay or tame the monster. 

Below is 7 year old Isaac's story entitled Monster Fight. It won't win the next Pulitzer Prize or anything like that. And there is definitely room for improvement. But it's certainly quite a feat for a Primary One student to write something like that. I don't think I could have written this when I was in Primary One, that's for sure.
Monster Fight |  Page One  |  Isaac Tan
Monster Fight |  Page Two  |  Isaac Tan

Monster Fight |  Page Three  |  Isaac Tan
Monster Fight |  Illustration  |  Isaac Tan
I love the illustration above. That's supposed to be Isaac and hubbs fighting the monster with a huge sword and their two shields. Oh and their two helmets on their heads. I think the best part of this is that Isaac wrote a story without finding it a chore. And not only was it not a chore, he thoroughly enjoyed it. That's one of the ways to get him interested in writing eh. Now if only I could get him to write non-fiction - then he can start blogging on this blog too...
Isaac signing his name on a MonsterHuntINK poster

And guess what?! My wish came true! The next Monsters Under the Bed course coming up during this coming September holidays is InvestigateINK - an expository writing (creative non-fiction) workshop for students combining role playing with social interaction, analytical thinking, and writing skills. Trainers will simulate “crime scenes” in different rooms, replete with physical clues and “witness” actors. Participants will act as journalists in competing newspapers (player groups), who attempt to identify the culprit and motive. At the end of the workshop, the newspaper groups will be scored on the accuracy of their investigation, their conduct, and how well written their story is. At the end of the workshop, all participants will get a collage in the form of a newspaper, which contain their stories.

How exciting is that?! Sounds like an episode of CSI come to life! Seriously, it's a perfect opportunity to introduce Isaac to reporting style of writing. It's also reminiscent of the story books that he reads of young kids being investigators like Enid Blyton's Five Find Outer series, Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown.

If your child is between 6 to 12 years old and is interested in InvestigateINK, you still have two days to sign up! Registration closes this Friday 5th September 2014. Shoot any questions to you may have to info@mutb.com.sg  Hope to seeya there! We're certainly looking forward to it!

InvestigateINK by Monsters Under the Bed

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Mama's Bazaar & Singapore Mumpreneur

I know, I know! Cobwebs are growing in my blog! I have a good friend who is a loyal reader of my blog and she deliberately dropped me a note to inform me that she spotted cobwebs on my blog! Horrors! I've kept this blog chugging along for more than 7 years now (confetti!!!) so, no worries, I'm not about to let it die anytime soon.
So what have I been busy with? Well, you know I have three kids... and a big baby! No, I'm not pregnant (I'm just FAT. sigh). It's my business My First Games, I'm talking about. All you entrepreneurs out there would know, that having your own business is like having another baby. It won't thrive unless you tend to it.
As people never fail to remind me, for business owners, being busy is good, coz it means there's business, right? Yep! Suddenly a whole flurry of orders came in and I was busy filling them. I've also had to do restocks, ordering games from overseas, and having to deal with shipping them over to Singapore. We're also working on a whole new e-commerce based website to take over the current one - lots of sweat over this one.
And on top of it all, I've nominated myself for the Singapore Mumpreneur Award! Oh the shame of self-nomination, I thought! "Self-praise is the world's most international disgrace" my sister and I used to say to each other when we were kids. What can I say, self-nomination got me a discount for my booth at the Mama's Bazaar 2014, so there! But apparently, every nominee IS self-nominated because they ask for so much information that it's impossible for anyone but the business owner herself to nominate herself. So there's me, listed as a nominee here in this link, under My First Games, of course. Oddly enough, some people I talk to actually think Tan Family Chronicles is my "business"... er, I wish?
I can't recall if voting is required. I'd let you guys know if it is, and you be nice and vote for me, okay? Oh and whether I win or not, come look for us on the weekend of 20th & 21st September 2014 - we'd be at the Mama's Bazaar which will be held at HarbourFront Centre Shopping Mall Atrium this year. There'd be a 1,000 CitiBlocs there for your kids to try out, and tonnes of other activities for the kids, and shopping for the parents.

Mama's Bazaar & Singapore Mumpreneur of the Year Award
Remember to key the dates into your calendar while I dust off the cobwebs off my blog!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

"My Writing Process" Blog Tour - Pamela Tan

Deborah G of Owl's Well Blog & Lil E! :)

A buddy whom I got to know through blogging, Deborah G of Owl's Well, invited me to go on this blog tour after her. It's called the "My Writing Process" Blog Tour. It's been around for months, and I can't seem to track where and whom it originated from, but I think it originated overseas, and not in Singapore. In any case, it's always fun to take part in a blog tour/chain, and this one is fairly easy to take part in... though Debs might then ask why I took so long to post this! :p Better late than never, I'd say! :p

Debs has a quirky sense of humour, and enjoys blogging and video-logging her family exploits. We also bond over our love for strategy board games! So do hop over to Owl's Well Blog to have a look around.

So what is this "My Writing Process" Blog Tour? Writers on this Blog Tour answer four questions about themselves, their writing process and their motivations and their current work. So on with the tour, and this is the Pamela Tan of TanFamilyChronicles.com leg of it !

Qn 1: What am I working on? 

I am working on many things.

There are of blog posts for this blog Tan Family Chronicle. I have many on my to-do list for articles on how we parent our children, as well as on the various activities we do with them, both outdoor and indoor.  Everyday, I think of more to write, but I haven't had time to do them all! Slowly chipping away at it though. It's gratifying when friends or readers drop me a note to thank me for writing the articles, saying it helped them with their children. That encourages me to keep writing.

I am also working on a post on my recent trip to Langkawi with my family for Petite Travellers (PT) a travel blog that I am collaborating with some other mummy blogger friends. We're very excited that PT has been selected as a Finalist for Best New Blog in the Singapore Blog Awards 2014, so vote for us!

Another major part of my writing takes the form of articles that I am writing about playing board games with young children, as well as reviews of board games which my children and I enjoy. The articles are likely to go on the blog or e-magazine on board games for my business My First Games, where I have an online store selling interesting board games for children and families.  I am a strong advocate of parents playing board games with their children from a young age, as I feel it encourages communication, enhances the parent-child bond, and incidentally educational as well. Board games are also excellent for engaging the kids and keeping them away from electronic devices - now, all I have to do is to convince the parents to spend time playing with their kids! Thus, my writing also addresses this.

Pamela and her kidzes, Isaac, Asher & Shawna
Qn 2: How does my work differ from others in its genre?
I guess I can be considered as a sort of expert on board games since I am passionate about them and I have a lot of experience playing board games with children. Most board game enthusiasts are male, so being a female and a mother, my work would offer a different perspective.

Qn 3: Why do I write what I do?
I started blogging when my eldest child was born, nearly 7 years ago. I wanted to chronicle what we did with him, and my thoughts and feelings during these years when he is young. I was afraid that I would not remember the intense love that I feel for him when I am struggling with him in his throes of teenage angst in his puberty years. The blog is there to remind us all, that no matter what storms the raging hormones bring us, we love each other very much, and we should work together to weather through those tough times. In the heat of the moment, we often forget this, and thus, I hope the blog and my photo albums would serve as a timely reminder that we are after all, family.

What started out as my personal passion for board games, has branched out into the realisation that board games are an excellent too for family bonding and learning. In my writing about board games, I hope to share and spread my love for board games, to show parents that it is indeed possible for parents and children alike to have real fun and learn and the same time. That it is possible to have children that are not glued to the tv nor the ipad all day long. That it is possible to hear children say "The iPad is getting boring Mum, can we play a board game instead?". It's like a revolution, a movement, I know that I make a real difference in people's lives, when they tell me how their kids enjoy playing board games or building with CitiBlocs rather than watch tv or play with the iPad.

 Qn 4: How does my writing process work?
Unfortunately, I have a pretty haphazard way of writing. The drafts are all in my head! I tend to have a tendency to think on the road, sometimes literally - while driving! I have tried writing drafts before, only to realise that I tend to change them all when I sit down to continue a half-written piece.  I have progressed to writing lists of subjects which I intend to blog or write about. These tend to be lists in notebook apps on my phone since things just pop into my head and my phone is always with me.

Gary Guwe (pronounced as Gwee) of Speak! Ventures
That concludes the writing process tour with me! Next on the tour is Mr Gary Guwe! (right) Gary is an award-winning speaker and public speaking training expert. 

He is the co-founder of Speak! Ventures Pte Ltd which focuses on helping executives, small business business owners deliver lasers-sharp presentations and achieve greater results.

Gary and his team at Speak! Ventures also run programmes catered for children, and have been regularly featured in the local media, such as the Straits Times, 938Live, Today, The New Paper and Singapore's Child.

Gary's blog, entitled The Shy Speakers' Guide to Success to Speaking on Stage, has tonnes of articles, videos, and tips to help you on your way to better public speaking. So hop along to his blog with a cuppa hot coffee.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Make-Your-Own Stationery Caddy Today!

Make Your Own Recycled Stationery Caddy Today! Mine is a Garfield one! What's yours going to be?
I love making things out of nothing at all. Recycled stuff. Useful or fun stuff made from supposed garbage. One thing I have been wanting to make is this recycled bottle stationery caddy for the tonnes of pens, markers, pencils and other stationery that we have. 

You know how there are so many pictures on pinterest of those toilet roll stationery caddy stuck to each other and cardboard with white glue? That's never gonna hold, I thought! So I kept trying to think of how I can make a stationery caddy that is more hardy than a paper roll one. And one day, I got it! I'd use plastic bottles and a cable tie! We know how extremely hardy cable ties can be ;)

  • PLASTIC BOTTLES - I used three empty shampoo bottles. I liked the size of it, plus it had an interesting shape. But actually, any three plastic bottles should work fine. If they are odd shaped or circular - 3 is a good number. But if they are squarish (when you look from above), then perhaps 4 would be better. Disposable water bottles work fine too.
  • PENKNIFE / SCISSORS - for cutting the bottles. I love working with penknifes so I used that. But a large pair of sharp scissors should be able to cut through the bottles as well.
  • CABLE-TIE - this is necessary to make the bottles join well. Glue wouldn't be as hardy, I feel.
  • Materials for Decorating the Bottles - some people like paint, but I don't like the idea of paint peeling off, or dusting off in time. Hence, my choice of decoration tends to be pasting paper. For the Stationery Caddy pictured here, I cut the Garfield comics off The Sunday Times' comics page and glued them on. Only the ones on Sunday are printed in colour!

DIY and Make Your Own Recycled Stationery Caddy Today!
  1. CUT THE BOTTLES - measure the height you want (roughly three quarters the height of a marker/pen, mark the required height on the bottle with a pencil, then use a penknife to cut the bottle. 
  2. CUT TINY HOLES IN BOTTLES - these are the holes required for stringing the three bottles together using the cable tie. So you only need 2 tiny holes each on each bottle. Position the bottles the way you want them to be, then choose the side that will be connected to the other two bottles, to cut two tiny holes in. The first pic in the second row of the collage above shows an aerial view of the bottles. Can you see the cable tie linking the three bottles?
  3. STRING CABLE TIE THROUGH THE BOTTLES - this should take like a minute! If you cut your holes big enough...
  4. DECORATE YOUR RECYCLED STATIONERY CADDY!!! This is the fun part! I chose an extremely easy way of decorating by simply pasting a cartoon strip on each bottle. You can easily cut pictures from magazines to paste. Or use stickers. Or paint them, if you prefer.
And there you have it! A personalised stationery caddy made from recycled materials. This would be a green idea for a Teacher's Day Gift too.

Check out our other Make-Your-Own series Today!
Make Your Own Lightsaber Today!
Make Your Own Binoculars Today!
Make Your Own Sword Today!
Make Your Own Camera Today!
Make Your Own Car Today!

Monday, 30 June 2014

Yay! School starts again!

Why Yay! ? Yay for me because I have loads of work to do! Both for my business My First Games, as well as backlog of blog posts for this blog... and a new travel blog that some blogger mums and I have come up with. Check out Petite Travellers! and LIKE us on Facebook too! Oh and, please LIKE Tan Family Chronicles on Facebook if you haven't already done so! :p

The month of June has been very eventful for me. It was one thing after another. Classes, camps, upsetting news, low times, fun times, playdates, sleepovers... I hardly got any rest. Hence the silence on the blog. The main difference between this June and past Junes, is the school holidays. Previously, all three kids were in childcare, you see. Childcare means that there are only public holiday breaks, but no school holidays. As in, during the normal school holidays like the one week in March and September, and the longer hols in June and December, the kids still go to childcare. Well, yes, if you wish, you don't have to send them in everyday. However, since you pay for the entire month, you might as well use the services, right? Besides, previously, I had to go to work. Hence, they have always had to "go to school". This year is the first time Isaac is experiencing the boons of a school holiday.
The Learning VIsion theme for this June holidays was World Cup! So fun! Made it easier for me to drop the twins in school for at least half the day!
And what a holiday it has been for us. I was much busier than usual since Isaac is with all the time now. The first week, I ferried him to his Chinese holiday camp and creative writing camp. The second and fourth week we had outings, playdates and sleepovers. Third week, we were in Langkawi. The twins were supposed to be in childcare the whole time, but we felt bad that they had no hols while Isaac did, so there were days which they didn't have to go, and even more days where I insisted they had to go to school, but that I would pick them up early and bring them somewhere in the late afternoon. This way, I could squeeze in the urgent things that needed to be done in the morning, and the kids get to go to school and nap, before I pick them up and whisk them away for a fun evening. 

It helped that the school had a fun holiday theme - World Cup! The kids learned about what the World Cup was. About soccer - playing the soccer game, the names of the different positions a soccer player plays, his attire, what the colours on the soccer jerseys mean etc. Pretty comprehensive, I'd say! Even I paused to read the info on the boards. I learned something new too - soccer boots were also called soccer cleats! When we went to the sports shop during the weekend, the twins would ask me to show them soccer cleats so they can touch the underside of the boots and see how different it is from normal shoes. Isaac enjoyed picking them from school just so he could read the info on the World Cup and play the foosball game they had in the childcare.
Asher & Shawna during Chinese class, role-play!
I guess it was not so surprising that on the first day of school, the twins were reluctant to go to school at all. They have had so much fun during the holidays and it was quite a serious bout of post-holiday blues that took hold. It took quite a long pep talk in the morning from me to Shawna, before she agreed to get dressed and to go to school. I tempted her with that fact that ALL her friends should be in school (some went on overseas hols in June too) and also that they would be going to Letterland again! Letterland is the system of choice that the twins school chooses to use to teach the kids their alphabet, how to read and pronounce and spell. It is an imaginary world that letters are personified into characters and have adventures too. The kids love it, especially Shawna. She would complain to me if they didn't visit Letterland.

I have another surprise for her and Asher tonight. I have a tonne of photos of her and Asher in school, to show her! The childcare, Learning Vision, started using this cool system thingy called LittleLives since the beginning of this year. I have been so busy this year that I haven't logged in at all, and only did so for the first time yesterday. And boy oh boy do I regret not logging in earlier! The private online platform, only for parents, is like a mini Facebook for the kids. It's a one way thing though, the teachers would upload the pictures, and observations of the kids online, which we can access daily and view on a Timeline, very much like our Facebook wall. 
Shawna's check in/out pix from January & February 2014
We get to see the Check IN/Check OUT photos that the kids take everyday, as a very fun way of taking attendance. It's basically an iPad placed at the entrance, and the kids would take a selfie of themselves when we come, and when we leave. The time stamp settles the date and time. This is certainly more fun than the sign in and sign out sheets of paper we used to have to write in. I understand they need to hand in attendance logs to the Ministry of Social and Family Matters. 

I love the Check In/Out pictures and couldn't resist writing this post just to feature the pix! We have been having fun taking the pictures too, making funny faces and trying to make some optical illusions. My only complain is that there isn't an in-built function for me to download all the pictures at one shot. I actually had to download one by one. Tedious! Complain!!! But then it's partly my own fault for not logging in to this LittleLives earlier this year. So I had a whole 6 months worth of pictures to download and save. So if you're a Learning Vision parent, go dig up that email with the password and log in right away! Search "LittleLives" no spacing, in your email inbox to look for the email.
Asher's check in/out pix from January & February 2014
The above is just a selection of the pix. On average we have two pix per child since they have one check in, and one check out pic per day. But I realised that if we check in/out more than one time, all the pix gets registered in your account. Cool!!! 

But now... I have another complaint!!! The file size for the pictures are really quite small. I guess they would have to be or they would take up a lot of server space... but it also means that the pictures may not be very clear when printed on paper... SIGH! I think I shall go feedback, I want higher resolution pix!!! :p I love the pix, I am a hoarder of pix! Feedback, feedback, I shall feedback! ("Feedback" is the politically correct term for "complain"! )
Tan Family Optical Illusions! :p
Interestingly, I just got a mailer which says that Learning Vision is having an Open Day this coming Saturday 5th July 2014, from 10am to 2pm, at all their centres... There would be storytelling and games in the theme of Eric Carle's Brown Bear Brown Bear, What Do You See? theme. I asked our principal and it's true! Hmmm... maybe I can bring the twins down while Isaac is at his Monsters Under the Bed writing class! And... we can take more selfies!!! hehehe...

Monday, 26 May 2014

Boring, Still Must Write!

If you guys have been faithfully reading my blog, you would know that Isaac, my 6 going on 7 year old, can write pretty well - for his age, at least. You would have seen his writing here, here and here. So, yes, he can write pretty competently. Thus, it has been very frustrating for me, when I noticed that his recent writing for his school journal assignments have been very badly written. I have had quite a few quarrels with Isaac lately because of this. Generally we start quarreling when I want him to rewrite or amend or expand, and he is unwilling to do so. What frustrates me, is NOT that he does not churn out grade A work, but that he is obviously not trying. No effort. 

We just recently argued about this, and at the height of our exchange, Isaac burst out:"I'm sick of journal writing! It's soooo B !!!" And, B stands for Boring. It's one of the words I ban the kids from saying in our household, so to avoid saying the forbidden word, Isaac says its initial. I instinctively wanted to scold him "Boring, still must write!!!" when he made that outburst. But I didn't, for he was right. It was boring, not the writing, but the topics he was told to write about. They went something like this, week after week:
- What I did during Chinese New Year.
- My Favourite Food
- My Favourite Sport
- My Favourite Sandwich
- My Favourite Hobby
- What I did during the Easter weekend
- What I did on Labour Day
- What I did on Vesak Day 

For basically what Isaac would do, is that he'd simply reply the question point blank, or list down what he did that day and he says he is done. We have had to give him hints and teach him on how to expand and write more about the subject topic in order to prompt him on. So far, we have let him slide so long as he does a passable job, but I wish he did try harder. For himself. For we would ask him "Are you proud that you wrote this? Are you happy to announce to the world that this is written by you?" He would look away and not meet our eyes, in shame. Then he would grudgingly say "Alright! Alright! I'd do it again!"
However, I do agree with him that the topics are quite B and very uninspiring indeed. BUT it's homework, you have to get homework done!? And if you get very unimaginative test or exam setters during actual examinable assignments - you still have to write!!! But I knew that right now, Isaac, a Primary 1 student for less than 6 months, would find it difficult to understand that. It is also fortunate that the journal assignments are not graded, nor does the teacher correct the grammar or spelling mistakes - it was obviously an exercise to encourage the children to write. That's not happening though. On the contrary....
Isaac generally enjoys writing... but I guess it is difficult when topics are uninspiring!

On a more constructive note, I decided to brainstorm and think of ways which I can suggest to Isaac, to help him write better, for his journal entries for his school journal, despite the B topics. Oh, why do I ban the word "boring"? Coz I always tell the kids "Don't let me hear you say something is boring. Don't ever say that. Since you know it is boring, then you should find something or some way to make it more interesting! Don't just complain and whine that it is boring! That does nothing to help the boring situation at all. Instead, think of something you can do to make things more fun and interesting. Say "why don't we do this ____ instead? That would make it more interesting!" And be open to suggestions!!!No saying "Boring!"" Okay, so maybe the kids abide by my rules not to say the B word just so they don't have to hear that entire monologue, but I say it anyway! Hah!

So what did I come up with? Not many ideas, I'm afraid. Think the B topics are weighing dead on me too...

Idea #1: Pick one funny or happy moment during that day that you were told to write about and expand on that.
Idea #2: Think of a funny story that is related to the subject topic and say that. (Though there is a danger of going off topic with this method"
Idea #3: Illustrate his journal entries with some drawings

Of the three ideas I gave him, he frowned at me for the first two and said of the third, wide-eyed "Can draw ah? Later teacher scold."  To which I hesitated for a split second before saying:"I think it should be fine to draw in your journal, but you STILL MUST WRITE." He rolled his eyes and sighed. 

So you can imagine my relief when I got an email from Monsters Under the Bed inviting me and my readers to a free writing clinic entitled How Your Child Can Be a Better Writer! Wow, what great timing! I'm going for this talk for sure!

Monsters Under the Bed are the good people behind the very fun writing camp - EnchantInk - Isaac went to in March. The writing clinic is meant for their existing students' parents, as well as their upcoming June camp MonsterHuntInk parents, as well as... Tan Family Chronicle readers! All you have to do is to register for the talk at this link.  And it's not just a writing clinic for the parents, you can bring your children along too if you want the trainers do an assessment for the kids. While you are listening to the talk, your children will be in the next room with the trainers who will assess your child, to explore their writing weaknesses and let them know what they can do to improve, as well as recommend books for them to read. Read more about this event at the registration link too.

How Your Child Can Be a Better Writer - writing clinic by Monsters Under the Bed
Date: June 1 2014 (Sunday)
Time: 1- 2pm 
Venue: National Design Centre (111 Middle Road) 
What to bring: Children's written work ( Can be either from school or home ) 

Places are limited, so be sure to sign up asap! I have already reverted with my RSVP and we'd be there for this talk this Sunday. I hope the talk is as interesting as their EnchantInk camp was, and I hope that the MonsterHuntInk camp Isaac is attending in the first week of June will be as fun as it sounds too! We understand that there are still a handful of places left for this camp for 7 - 12 year olds - sign up and we can see you at the camp too! Hunting Monsters sound like such fun! Wish we had such camps too when we were young!
Check out Monster Under the Bed's creative writing camp MonsterHuntInk
at http://www.mutb.com.sg/workshops/monster-huntink-2/

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

The Twins Favourite Ee-Ee

A few mornings ago, in the car, while I was driving the twins to school... We weren't even talking, just listening to the music playing... when suddenly Asher said:

Asher:"Mummy, do you know which is my favourite Ee-Ee?"
Mummy Me:"Which one?"
Asher:"It's OUR Ee-EE! The REAL Ee-EE! Not the other Ee-Ees!"
Shawna:"Yes, yes, that is our favourite Ee-Ee.  "
Asher:"The Ee-Ee who is the mummy of Natalie and the other cheh chehs."
Shawna:"Yes, correct. The mummy of Rebecca, Isabelle and Natalie. Those cheh chehs. That Ee-Ee."
Asher:"That's right. That one. Our favourite Ee-Ee."
Me:"Really? How come? WHY is she your favourite Ee-Ee?"
Asher:"Because she loves us."
Shawna:"And we love her."

Me:"So WHY do you love her?" 
Shawna:"Because she is our favourite Ee-Ee lah! "
Asher:"Er... because she has swimming pool"
Me:"Huh... you love her because she has a swimming pool at her house? What if she has no swimming pools? Then you won't love her?"
Shawna:"She doesn't have just one, Mummy! She has THREE swimming pools! The small one, the big one and the deep swimming pool where Isaac kor kor has his swimming lesson."
Asher:"Yes, so we love her three times. Because she has three swimming pools."
Me:"What?! You love her three times coz she has three swimming pools!?"
Asher:"Yes! So if she has one thousand swimming pools, we will love her one thousand times! hahaha..."
Shawna:"And if she has infinity swimming pools, we will love her infinity times!!! hahahaha"
Me:"But what if she has NO swimming pools at all?"
Shawna:"But she HAS, Mummy!!!"
Me:"I know!!! But what if she doesn't. I mean, do you only love Ee-Ee because she has a swimming pool?!"
Asher:"Of course not, Mummy."
Me:"So if she doesn't have any swimming pool, would she still be your favourite Ee-Ee?"
Asher & Shawna:" YES!!!"

What a relief! Good to know that my kids are not so shallow! :p

For those of you who are wondering what an "Ee-Ee" is, it's actually my sister they are talking about. "Ee-Ee" is what you call your mother's sister, in Teochew - our Chinese dialect. If it's your father's sister, she is called "Gou-Gou". So my kids have one Ee-Ee and one Gou-Gou, as hubbs and I have one sister each (and that's it - coz someone said to Stop at Two).

The kids have been calling their aunts Ee-Ee and Gou-Gou since they were born, so much so, that they don't know that the two ladies are actually their Aunties. If they see my female cousins, they are told to call them Ee-Ee as well - this is the reason why Asher is trying to say that there is only one REAL Ee-Ee for him - my sister. And if they see hubbs' female cousins, they are also told to call them Gou-Gou as well. As far as my kids are concerned, I am sure they also feel that they only have one real Gou-Gou :)

So the irony is... Do you know who is the kids' "Auntie"? The helper. She is known as "Auntie" and also, all the lady strangers that they see outside: the neighbours, in the lift, the park, and every other lady they meet who is not their relative. And same too for the males. The male strangers they meet are all Uncles, including the Bus Driver Uncle, the food stall Uncle and the Uncle who is their classmate's father. And I bet you 10 bucks the twins don't know that their Tio Tios - who are the respective husbands of their favourite Ee-Ee and favourite  Gou-Gou - are actually their Uncles. 

It certainly took a while, but the kids now know that their Popo and Nai Nai are their Grandmothers, and Gong Gong and Ye Ye are their Grandfathers.Perhaps the kids know, that if you are told to call someone some weird name which doesn't sound like English - that person must be a relative.

I wonder if this only happens in Singapore :p

There are NO Aunties and Uncles here, I tell you! None!!! :p
Picture by Orange Studios

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Day 11: Prayers for Those Who Need a Little More Courage in Life

Our guest poster today is Ms Agnes Lim. She's my secondary school schoolmate, and thus an old friend of mine. I have invited her to share her story with us, as I feel that she is a very inspiring individual. She was dealt a tough hand of fate, but she risen from it and with an amazing store of optimism, continued living life to the max. The picture below are recent pictures - pictures taken in the past one or two years. Definitely, way AFTER the fateful accident.

Let's hear it from... Agnes! 
Looking cool while keeping a look out for the Loch Ness Monster!

Day 11: Prayers for Those Who Need a Little More Courage in Life

Life on its own, is never a smooth sailing journey, and some, may have theirs filled with adversity. However, the choices we make in our life, very often determines how we can emerge from adversity to go on and lead the life that we really want. 

11 years ago, at a tender age of 23, I was involved in a near-death road traffic accident. As a pillion rider, I was the unfortunate victim that suffered serious injury from the impact of the accident. The force of the vehicles' collision had flung me metres away from the motorcycle that I was on, landing on the road with an excruciating pain that shot right up from the leg to the heart, cruelly severing my left leg on the spot. To cut the long story short, by the time I reach the A&E department, my leg was beyond salvation with nerves all fully damaged. With a few fractured ribs bone, a fractured femur and a severed left leg, I was grateful that I survived the accident and have a chance to live again. 
I still recall the moment when my orthopaedic surgeon JK, told me that we have no other options but to amputate my leg. However, a prosthetic leg will be fitted, and normal activities can resume. Not fully understanding what it meant, I asked if it means I can still run again, thinking that I will come out from the surgery, a “bionic woman”. His confident response, was “Yes” without a doubt. With that, I was wheeled into the operating theatre to perform the surgery that was going to fix me up.

Cycling on a two-wheeler at Marina Bay!
Of course, when I woke up from the surgery, no “leg” was fitted. Where my leg should have been, it is now just an empty space. The sense of loss hit me profoundly. 19 days in the hospital, from initial care in the high dependency ward till recovery in the normal ward, and subsequently the discharge, I have to prep myself every waking moment with the new fact that I had lost one leg. For the rest of my life, I have to embrace myself for a life reliant on a prosthetic leg or a wheelchair/crutches in order to be independent and move again.

From a “young and mighty” youth who had newly found her economic power as she transit from a financially dependent student, to an independent career woman, suddenly, daily activities like going to the supermarket becomes a troublesome chore as I depended on my family, the caregivers, to bring me out on my wheelchair. Not only did I lose my leg, I lost my independence and freedom. Coping with the frustrating changes during the entire recovery process, I told myself, that I can’t continue living in this manner. I had only 2 choices; (1) To give up and continue to wallow in self-pity, misery and lament “Why Me?”, or (2) Choose to be courageous and make the best out of life. I decided that it is time to live. 
JK’s words on being able to run again had stuck with me. I can’t see how I am able to do that, especially when I had not even been fitted with my prostheses yet, but I trusted him and choose to believe that life will go back to norm.
Riding the ATV on her own at Gold Coast
Coping with a physical challenge, I have to learn how to walk with my prosthesis. Simple things that have been taken for granted, such as walking up and down the stairs and slops, different terrain such as level ground and uneven grounds like the grass field, are all no easy feat at all. Even simple steps that I was making with the prosthetic leg, I recall chanting “big step, small step, big step, small step” in order to pace myself normally while learning how to walk. 

The physical recovery, wounds and physical injuries, as well as learning how to walk all over again, was challenging, but can be managed. The real challenge comes from the emotional upheaval, commonly associated with peculiar stares from the strangers, focusing on my leg. Firstly the stare comes from trying to guess if the prostheses was real. Secondly, they tried to determine where the prostheses ends after confirming that it was a prostheses. Thirdly, they check out the person wearing the prostheses, usually with disbelief that that it belong to a young person. By the time they gazed towards my face, they will usually be met by my eyes equally staring at them with curiosity before they awkwardly turned away. 
Diving (!?!?) off Gold Coast. You go, girl!!!
It was not easy to accept the fact that I was no longer “normal” in the eyes of the “norm” when all this while I have been putting in my best effort just to look normal and be normal. And on bad days, I decided to let it affect me so much that I stop wearing berms. Regardless of where I go, I will always be covered from top to toe. But overtime, I realized that this wasn’t me at all. Especially in hot humid Singapore, long pants at all times of the day? It was simply ridiculous, and I decided to get out of the rut and focus on living.

The physical challenge had allowed me to experience a different life that I would have otherwise taken for granted. I have had my fair share of running and jumping around with both legs before the accident. And now I have the chance to live life with some challenges, and experience what other able-bodied person may not have understood. It allowed me to understand what living with courage really means.

It saddens me whenever I speak to amputees like myself who told me that I will never be able to walk on the beach again as the sand may spoil the prostheses, nor swim in the sea as it is just too dangerous with the buoyancy of the prostheses. I have got professionals telling me that my pursuit of normalcy is not important nor realistic. I have got all sorts of people in life telling me that giving up is an easier route. However, it is all in the mind, and all you need is that little courage to live, and to pursue things that matter to you.
Family support rocks!!! "My Supporting Crew" says Agnes!
11 years on, I still cannot run (though I now know that it would be possible as long as I am fitted with the right prosthesis). But recounting back, I have been able to do so much more than I could have ever imagined. Over the years, I have learnt how to cycle again, I have trekked up the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, concurring the almost 45degree slope, trekked up partially to Mount Kinabalu, with the support and help of family and friends.  I have snorkeled in Phuket, did an introductory dive in the Great Barrier Reef, and recently survived a Shark Cage Dive in the South Africa. Thanks to the many great people around who had been urging me on, I have found the courage to live life the way it should be.

Despite so many years on, there are still fears within me that I am trying to conquer. Society without fail, always tends to pick out things that are sub-normal. Gawking at anomaly, is certainly one of them. While it is human nature to stare, most have failed to be sensitive to the feelings of their living subject. It does not feel good at the receiving end of the stare. Sometimes, it would really be nice to be stared at, if the stare is being accompanied by a smile and/or a nod. No words needed, all it takes is a smile to cheer one on. In the past, I seek to find answers to the question “why me?”. In the present, I have stopped searching, and I ask instead “why not me?” 

Today, I pray for all who are inconvenienced in life, be it physically, emotionally, or mentally, to always stay strong. The tunnel in front may be long and dark, but be brave and keep the faith going as there will always be light at the end of every tunnel.  
Agnes (and her beautiful leg) with Prosthetist Mark Woolsey of Dorset Orthopaedic
Thank you, Agnes for guest posting on Tan Family Chronicles! 

Now, I know you guys would be curious about how Agnes' prostheses look like. Hence I have obtained her permission to share with you the above photos of one of her prostheses. This is a beautiful one which she actually flew to the UK to have it done. It truly is a work of art, don't you think? Kudos to her Prosthetist Mr Mark Woolsey and his team at Dorset Orthopaedic!

Previously an executive with MOM, Agnes has been a financial services manager in the financial advisory industry for the past 7 years. She had just joined her current company Professional Investment Advisory Services, embarking into financial literacy, helping people to understand and manage their finances.


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