Tuesday, 31 December 2013

So Long, Farewell, 2013!

31st December has always been a special day for my family. That's because it is my Dad's birthday. Yes! My father's birthday is actually on the last day of the year! He turns 64 on 31st December 2013, and we have much to be thankful for. He is healthy and well, and has been traveling for leisure (with my mum!) a lot in recent years, much to his and my mum's delight. He's a great grandfather to the kids, though my sister and I wonder how come the kids barely get a fraction of the scoldings from him that the two of us used to get... :p 

Now, for my sister, 31st December is a doubly special date. That's because, it is not only the date of her father's birthday, it is also the date of her father-in-law's birthday! Yes, how coincidental is that?! It's just the sort of thing you imagine a 17 year old telling a girl he's trying to ask to 'go stead' : "See, our fathers' birthday is on the same date! It's a sign from God! We're destined to be together! You must go stead with me!" hur hur hur... just kidding. I dunno whether my brother-in-law actually said that to my sister... maybe he did? :p
Blessed Grandpas celebrating their birthdays with their grandkids and family around them! :)
This year, my sister's parents-in-law invited my parents and us, to their home for a gathering together with their extended family. Yes, this is quite usual, and it often happens vice versa as well. Partly due to the fact that both the patriarchs' birthdays fall on the same day, and also because both our families enjoy having big extended family gatherings. So we actually know my brother-in-law's cousins, aunts and uncles, and they know us as well.

You know, as mentioned in this post quite a few months back, my sister and I love The Sound of Music. And it's always been a kind of dream or fantasy of ours, to make our kids sing and act out one or more of the songs in the musical, particularly So Long, Farewell! The twins have so far been a tad young, but this year, given the double celebration party, my sister thought of asking the kids to perform this song during the gathering. We managed to convince the kids to do it (they say they shy!?!?) and we even managed to squeeze in rehearsals in our busy busy December amidst the Kohs' traveling, and me fulfilling orders coming in for My First Games

Before we bring you Behind the Scenes, here is the live recording of the performance that took place before an audience of approximately 30 people :)

Thanks to the internet, we easily found the lyrics to the song, and there were even YouTube videos of the actual clip from the movie which we watched with the kids. The singing of the song was not a problem at all, even for the 3 year plus twins Asher & Shawna. But we had to improvise the positioning and dance steps as we were short of one child, and we had to plan for a highly probable contingency - that the twins would refuse to perform. As you can see from the video above, it was wise that we had planned for that. Asher came through beautifully on the actual day, even though he was the one who was acting up and refusing to perform during rehearsals prior to the actual day. Shawna, unfortunately, had a shorter than usual nap that day and hence she was throwing a silent tantrum on stage, resolutely refusing to perform. Rebecca, Isabelle, Natalie and Isaac all performed very well indeed . Here's a video of the kids in a rehearsal the day before the actual day - Shawna's fine in this one! :)

Very proud of the kids we are! So long, farewell, 2013! :)

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas help from my elves

Before I became a Mumpreneur and started My First Games, December used to be a month of frantic blogging for me, as I keep trying to "finish blogging" whatever I wanted to, before the year was over, and so that I can print my blog at Blog2Print. But here at The Tan Family Chronicles, it is quite tough to "finish blogging" - it's never ending! There's always something to chronicle! :p

This year especially, has been a good Christmas season for My First Games, that we must truly give thanks for. But that also meant that I was sooo busy with fulfilling the orders that I didn't have time to do my own shopping! Thus, this past week, I've been trying to squeeze in shopping of my own, as well as the last minute gift wrapping.

Isaac and Shawna saw me wrapping gifts, and of course, wanted to help. They have been quite good at helping me hold down the wrappers while I paste the sticky tape, or vice versa. They even found paper and wrapped a gift on their own (teamwork!) - the small blue one right at the bottom of the picture below. After awhile though, I thought it was easier if I wrapped the gifts on my own while they helped me with the labeling. 
Shawna elf helping with the gift labeling :)
Isaac helped me with writing names and Christmas greetings on a bunch of seven presents last week. Didn't manage to take pictures but he did admirably well, with the exception of some black solid squares which apparently, happened, because he made some mistake and tried to colour out cancel his mistake. There was one particular present which was quite large, so I said to him "Since you have more space to write on, you can say more things, you know?" So he wrote:"Merry Christmas. You should be going crazy right now because we are" I read that and asked "Huh? You are what?" "Mummy, they should be going crazy because we are going crazy lah!" "But WHY are you going crazy?" said puzzled Mummy me. He gave me this incredulous look and said "Because it's CHRISTMAS soon!!!" Ah.... silly me, of course! :)

4 year old gift labeling!
Shawna helped me with labeling too. She couldn't spell like Isaac could, so I had to tell her letters one by one, and she wrote them as I spelt out the names to her, or she copied them from the rough paper I wrote the words on. I love the collage of photos above of her writing with such concentration. I must say she did remarkably well, and she didn't even poke any holes in the wrapper at all. 

 These three gifts were for my three nieces, and because they were board games for them to play together, I deliberately wanted all three names on the gifts so that it was clear that it was meant for sharing. 

Shawna labelled the orange gift first. She wrote, REBECCA. Next, as she wasn't too good at estimating space usage, she wrote ISABELL before getting distressed at running out of space for the last letter E - which I got her to write over the edge, at the side of the gift wrapper. Next she wrote a tiny N, and I asked "How come your N is so small, when your R and I are so big?" "So that I have more space, Mummy!" Ahhh... nice to know she has been listening. It was a mirror image N though, so she tried again, but it turned out the same way. I told her to just continue anyway, so she left it as it is. She realised she didn't have space for all three of their names and so Asher's name went on the left - in mirror image, backwards, no less - yes, I was busy wrapping a gift and didn't notice this until after the fact! Her W came out as M too. I hope all this mirror-imaging isn't a sign that she is dyslexic!

The red present was labelled pretty well. Shawna was apparently so afraid of running out of space again that she started writing the names in small print. I looked over and saw that, so I wrote told her to write Merry Christmas too, since there was space. My little helpful elf was very obliging (good mood, that day) and she did as I instructed, though her W came out as an M again. Next, she wrote NATALIE on the green gift perfectly, then promptly got distracted, proclaimed that her hand was tired, and went missing in action.

So yesterday, Isaac the kor kor, came to the rescue and completed the labeling for me. He missed out the middle E in Isabelle, but managed a save by inserting a tiny 'e' between the 'b' and the 'l'. Suddenly, I realised that Shawna had written everything in upper case, while Isaac wrote in a mix of upper and lower case. I guess Shawna hasn't learnt the lower case yet.

Notice how Isaac drew a heart shape instead of the 'o' in 'love'? :) His idea, not mine!
And only while I was taking the pictures of the gifts, did I realise that Isaac forgot to write Asher's name on the blue gift! So I went to Asher, and asked him to write his own name in. "Mum, I don't want to write 'Asher', I want to write Ash - coz it's so cool!" So he tried to write Ash but ran out of space and didn't know how to write on the sticky tape... Isaac to the rescue, again! "Let me help you, Asher! But you must write Asher, if not, Isabelle will wonder who Ash is." And so he proceeded to write Ashe- and was stopped midway the 'e' because Asher went "Noooooooo!!!! I want ASH, not Asher!!!"

All in a days' work of the Tan Family Christmas elves! Merry Christmas to one and all of you lovely readers of the Tan Family Chronicles! May you and your loved ones be blessed with peace, love, happiness, success, and good health forever and ever, amen!!! :)

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Isaac on radio! We won No Rhyme or Reason!!!

Remember the post we put up just two days ago, on Isaac's rhyme for Gold 90.5 FM's No Phyme or Reason? Guess what?! I managed to call in yesterday morning, Isaac was on air, and he won us 4 tickets to Resorts World Sentosa's Sea Aquarium!!! Woooohooo!!! So that was the executive summary... this is what happened...

So it was Friday the 13th of December 2013, and I was just leaving the house with the twins, to send them to the childcare centre when Isaac piped up "Mummy, can I follow you to send Asher and Shawna to school? I want to listen to No Rhyme or Reason! I want to win today!!!" That got me laughing "Sure, come along! We can TRY...."

We were barely driving for less than 15 minutes when the deejays Vernetta and The Flying Ducthman announced that they were going to start No Rhyme or Reason. I quickly called for Isaac to pay attention, as he was busy eating his breakfast. The given lines were announced "Fee Fi Fo Fum, I saw..." and you were supposed to complete the rhyme. Normally, the deejays would put on a song and answer the calls, but yesterday, they decided to go to the phone lines immediately to after announcing the given lines!

Isaac, upon hearing the given lines, immediately started coming up with a rhyme.
"Are you ready, Isaac? Can you remember your rhyme?"
"Yes, yes, Mummy."
"Okay, I'm calling now, you have to say your rhyme yourself ah..."

I frantically called the station on the phone and put it on speaker. Thankfully, we were stationary at a traffic light! We weren't the first caller! But the first caller bombed out with a poor line. So we had another chance! I quickly called again - the number is in my Favourites list. And we weren't the second, nor the third caller - but both these callers had chickened out and hung up without even speaking to the deejays. And then - we got in! We were on air! I quickly turned down the radio volume and put the phone in front of Isaac

Mummy Me:"Okay, go Isaac!"
DJ Vernetta Lopez:"Helloo Gold 90FM! Fee fi fo fum, I saw..."
Isaac:"Fee fi fo fum, I saw a girl having fun in the sun!"
DJs Vernetta, The FD, and Brian Richmond all laughed and agreed to let Isaac win! 
Vernetta:"How old are you Isaac?"
The deejays laughed again and one of them said "So you'd be listening to Gold 90FM for the next 50 years?"
Isaac:"Yes" (after I prompted him, haha, think he was a bit stunned.)

Then the FD got my details and said someone would contact me about the prize. By now, I had turned into one of the small roads just after the traffic light and we were safely stopped by the road.

I was ecstatic! I know I know, it's super cheap thrill, but hey! How many people can say they've been on radio and won a good prize, eh? :p Well, technically it wasn't me, it was Isaac! I was very proud of him coz he made up the rhyme on his own, and presented it himself too! Excellent! Also, it was on such notice, he literally thought it up on the spot!

Actually, I remembered his rhyme as "Fee fi fo fum, I saw a girl run and have fun in the sun!" from when he was rehearsing the line to himself before we got through the phone lines. But Isaac claims that when he was on air, he didn't say the "run" part. That's why he didn't write it down for me either (in the picture above). After he wrote it, he wrote his name. And he said "Hey, Mummy look, "Fee fi fo fum, I saw a girl having fun in the sun!" by Isaac Tan - the Tan rhymes with fun and sun!" Hahaha... yes indeed!

It was a great start to Friday the 13th for us :) Thanks Gold90FM! :)

Thursday, 12 December 2013

No Rhyme Or Reason

Remember the list of games we would play in the car? Well, I need to update that post coz we recently have a hot favourite game with the kids - The Rhyming Game! Isaac has always been quite good with words, and he has somehow gotten into the rhyming as he finds it funny (haha).  So it's a simple game, the kids just come up with lines that rhyme. Even Asher can do it, he says:" Hey Mummy, this is my rhyme - Sting ray, See Ray! Rhyme?!" :)

It also happens that there is a current game on the radio station Gold 90.5 FM in the morning before 10am, and we heard it yesterday. It goes like this: The radio deejays Vernetta Lopez and The Flying Dutchman would give two lines, and you are supposed to call in to complete the rhyme. If the judge, Uncle Brian Richmond liked the rhyme, you would win whatever prize they had up for grabs that day.

The two lines they gave yesterday were:
"My ang pow is red, my cheong sam is blue..." and this is how Isaac completed the rhyme

My ang pow is red, my cheong sam is blue
Christmas is coming in a week or two
So first poo then coo then moo 
Then go to the loo with you!

I tried calling into the radio station but I couldn't get through. Isaac was a little disappointed, so I told him I'd blog it and let the Vernetta cheh cheh and Uncle Flying Dutchman know about this :) Grandpa Brian would surely love this rhyme! :p I certainly do! It rhymes, and had no reason!

Isaac contribution to Gold 90.5 FM No Rhyme Or Reason's rhyme of the day
Isaac used to come up with just a 2 liner rhyme, but after I challenged him to make up longer rhymes, he started doing so. In addition to the above, Isaac thought up the one below. I liked it and had him write it down because... it was a rhyme that had one of his best friends mentioned in it. I think he misses his friends! Isaac has been home this week as we thought to give him a break from "school" before he starts primary one next year, and so we had already withdrawn him from childcare since he has already "graduated" from K2 (we had the graduation concert last Sunday!). Frankly speaking, I miss Isaac's friends too! Thus, I am thinking of organising some playdates for Isaac and some of his best friends in the next few weeks! Hopefully we can all stay in touch and they will become lifelong friends :)
Isaac Tan's rhyme about Isaac Tay, one of his best friends!
It's quite amusing how easily Isaac's taken to rhyming. Perhaps he'd be a poet or a song writer one day! :) Perhaps...

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

A sanitised discussion about the Little India riots with the kids

So, we Singapore, are a shocked nation over the recent Little India riots... I had to buy the newspapers this morning to read about it. Yes, we don't buy newspapers everyday as we usually have no time to read. But today we bought because we wanted to read more about the Little India riots... 

As I was reading the news papers and talking to hubbs about the riots, the kids caught snippets of what we were talking about and started asking questions...
Isaac reading about the Little India riots after we had the discussion about it
Mummy me:"Ah yoh..."
Shawna:"Why you say "ah yoh", Mummy?"
Mummy:"Er... See, this man, he wasn't careful when... crossing the road, so the bus, er, bang into him, and he died."
Asher:"Where? Which man? Can I see? Can you turn the newspaper around, please Mummy, I want to see his picture... Oh, so poor thing."
Mummy:"Yes, so poor thing. That's why, when you cross the road, you must always be careful okay? If not, can die one. Must be careful okay?"
Asher:"Yes, Mummy."
Shawna pointed to the pictures of the overturned police cars and said: "Mummy, see, these drivers were not careful when driving, they never pay attention, so they got accident, see."
Mummy: " Oh! These are not the usual cars that we see in the morning when we go to school who were not careful while driving and got into an accident. These are police cars. See those people there, they pushed the cars over and set it on fire."
Asher:"Why they do that, Mummy?"
Shawna:"Why they burn the police car?"
Mummy:"I think it's because they were drunk."
Asher:"What is drunk?"
Mummy:"Drunk is when you drink too much alcohol, then you cannot think properly, then they start learning bad things from each other, and they do silly things like that."
Mummy:"That's why you should never drink too much alcohol, okay? It's not good for you, not good for your body. And that's also why Mummy always say don't learn bad things from people, right? Only learn the good things."
Shawna:"Okay, Mummy."
Asher:"No alcohol."
Mummy:"Did you hear all that, Isaac?" 
Isaac:"Yes, I heard you, Mummy."
Mummy:"Yes, so, just like smoking is not good for you, drinking too much alcohol is not good for you too. Understand? So don't smoke, and don't drink alcohol, and don't learn bad things. Be kind. Understand?"
Asher & Shawna:"Yes, understand, Mummy."
Isaac:"Yes yes..."

I looked up and saw hubbs grinning at me :)

Monday, 2 December 2013

How I became a full time Mumpreneur

I have been wanting to write about this, but haven't actually gotten down to it. I've hinted or explicitly mentioned my business My First Games before in some blog posts, but I have yet to actually write a post about it as well... Frankly, part of the reason why I haven't been blogging about this, is because I felt a little weird "tooting my own horn" - which is why you don't see me writing about the multitude of boardgames we play at home as well...

However, my friends and relatives have assured me that they don't think it's weird, that I'm silly to think this way, and even sillier for not taking advantage of this platform to talk about one of the things that I am passionate about - board games and my business. Thus, starting today, I will start to talk about my experiences as a mumpreneur (a mummy and an entrepreneur!), and about board games! :)

I originally thought of starting My First Games when Isaac was about 2 years old, way back in mid 2009. We had been playing board games with him since he was 17 months old, and everyone was very amazed with how a child not yet 2 years old, could play board games. Isaac could understand instructions, execute the instructions, take turns and concentrate on playing the games... something which people associate with older children and not a child less than 2 years old. Bright as he is, I don't think he's a genius, I know that he can do it because of conditioning, I have been conditioning him to playing board games by introducing it to him regularly from when he was 17 months old.

Our first feature! My First Games and the kidzes in the Sunday Times :)
Everyone started saying that I should import these board games to sell since they could not be found in Singapore. Board games which could teach young children to listen to and carry out instructions, to lengthen the children's concentration span, to teach them turn taking, graciousness and honesty through game play... very educational indeed! Kiasu parents in Singapore were sure to snap them up, said everyone!

So just as I figured "If I don't give it a try, I'd never know..." I got some stock in in mid 2009... then guess what? We found out we were pregnant with the twins! The pregnancy was really tiring and I slept most of the first trimester away. Second trimester with the twins felt like third trimester of Isaac's pregnancy... I was just as huge too, but it was only second trimester! I had not much choice but to delay the start of My First Games. When Asher and Shawna were born, it wasn't easy on any of us either. Having one baby was exhausting enough, imagine double mouths to breast feed, double the diapers to change, and double the times to bathe the babies! 

Simply Her sent a make-up artist and a hairdresser to spruce me up, provided the pretty dress and had their photographer take that lovely shot of me! Hubbs didn't even realise it was me when I showed it to him!
Hence it was only in late 2010, when the twins were almost a year old, that I decided to just put together a  website and start selling the games. All through this time, I still had a full time day job. Thus, with three kids in the house, I was extremely occupied even after working hours. So I had to wake up at 3am every night, to put together the website. 

Through the next two years plus, I continued to have a full time day job, while doing this on the side. I made sure that I did whatever my full time job required and was very conscious of getting my priorities right. They were: family, full time job, my board game business - in that order. Thus, as you can probably guess, I didn't have very much time for the business. If there were sales, there were sales, but if there weren't any sales, I could hardly complain since I wasn't doing much at all. I started to think if I should quit my full time job in order to put in more time and effort in My First Games

The Business Times article was my favourite! The reporter wrote what I said, almost verbatim!
I felt that there was a lot of potential in this business but I would need to invest time and energy into it. Isaac, my eldest child, was also going to attend primary school in 2014, which wasn't all that far away. It would be good if I had a job which would give me flexibility in working hours, and more time with my children. Thus, as far back as 2012, I started wondering if I should quit my full time job and go full time on this board game business of mine. What was holding me back was the comfort zone which I was in after working for more than a decade in the corporate world, and the fact that I would most certainly have to take a substantial pay cut. Inevitably, there was also the fear of failure. What if I couldn't make it work? What if I don't earn money? What if I earn just a pittance? I figured that I was relatively young enough such that I could return to the corporate world if I really couldn't earn much from this... Still I hesitated...

One day, out of frustration, I said this during my prayers: "God, I don't know what I should do. You tell me. You give me a sign. Tell me if I should do My First Games full time, or not. I trust in you, Lord!" Less than two weeks after I said this prayer, the holding company of the company that was funding the company I was working in, filed for bankruptcy protection in USA and in the company's country where the headquarters of the company was. I was stunned. That was as clear a sign as can be.

So I made up my mind. I would do My First Games full time. God has spoken and He will bless me on my way. The path that I should take is clear. I worked till the company I was with had to close down the Singapore office which I was a part of. Hence, since April 2013, I have been a full time Work At Home Mumpreneur (WAHMumpreneur). Since then, I have been blessed by being featured in a number of print publications, as pictured above...

 So, with God's grace, that's how I became a full time Mumpreneur :)

Friday, 15 November 2013

Kisses are the best medicine ever!

Shawna & Asher @ 23 months old, way back in January 2012
I've so much stuff to blog about that my backlog of posts that's been festering in my mind, is truly staggering. One of them is this picture above that I took of the twins way back in January 2012, when the Asher & Shawna were about 23 months old. 

We were downstairs our block, in our estate, and I wanted to take pictures of the kids, especially since the twins were decked out in matching outfits. So I had my camera out and ready. Then, from the corner of my eye, I saw Shawna, trip and fall. She was on the grass, and she wasn't running, so it wasn't a bad fall, and she didn't cry at all. Before I could say or do anything, I observed that Asher had also seen her fall, and started walking towards his twin sister.

Shawna stood up on her own, and looked at her hand, examining the damage caused by the fall. Without a word, she held up her palm to Asher, and he bent his head to give her palm a kiss, to comfort her over her fall. Unfortunately, I caught them in the above picture just slightly before he planted the kiss. But oh... tears welled up in my eyes. Not a word had passed between them in all that had happened.

I quickly recovered and said:"Hey Asher, that was very nice and caring of you to comfort Shawna with a kiss to her hand. Shawna? Are you okay?" They both just turned to me, nodded, and went on walking about the grass patch having fun, as before.

As I reflected on it, I realised that they learned this from me. Yes, I'm the sort of mom who would kiss and their hurts away, and hug them to show them that everything is still okay. And young as they were, even before they turned 2 years old, Asher instinctively went to kiss his twin sister's hurt away. Shawna's a tough one, and it really probably didn't hurt very much, but she allowed her twin brother to comfort her anyway. And I loved that.

The Tan Family Kidzes circa January 2012
Asher has always been one to show lots of empathy. There was a time I strained my lower back while conducting a roadshow for my business My First Games (games are heavy!!!), Asher heard me complaining about the aches to hubbs and he asked me "Mummy, where is your pain? Show me where?" I pointed him to my lower back, and he proceeded to rain my lower back with many kisses, kissing my hurt away. He is so sweet!

When I accidentally bump my knee against the kiddy table, I'd go "Ouch!" and Asher and Shawna would immediately ask. "Why you say Ouch!, Mummy?" And I'd reply "Oh, I bumped my knee against the table, and it hurts." Asher will quickly bend and kiss my knee. The same thing happened when I stubbed my toe and he wanted to kiss my toes! I quickly stopped him though "Asher, Mummy's feet's dirty! Don't kiss!" He looked up at me and said "But it hurts, right?" I said "Yes, it does, but it's okay, you can make it better by giving me a big hug and a kiss on my cheek, okay?" And so he did.

One time, my cousin who has migrated to Australia, came back for a visit and we were having a family gathering. He read a story to one of my other cousin's daughter, and when the story ended, he asked for a hug as a thank you. Being unfamiliar with him, my niece refused to hug him. My cousin feigned obvious disappointment and shortly after, walked out of the room to get a drink. Asher saw all of this happen and he followed my cousin out of the room. He walked to my cousin, tapped him on his hand, and said "I will give you a hug."

It's interesting, that even though I consistently encourage all three of my children to "Be kind" to one another and to love and care for each other, it is usually only Asher who chooses to express his care and concern in this particular way. Just yesterday, Asher declared to me "Mummy, I will kiss you infinity times!!!" That got me laughing! "Wow, that's a lot of times! Do you know how many that is?" And he said ""I don't know! But Isaac kor kor says it is many many times!"And how right he is! =) I love kisses from my kids, and I'm so blessed that they would often rain me in kisses! =)

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Make-Your-Own-Binoculars Today!

We made our own binoculars out of recycled materials way back in April this year. Take a look at our DIY binoculars made from toilet rolls and covered with magazine paper :) Not too shabby, eh? :p
Another very easy craft to make, you basically take two toilet rolls, some magazine paper or wrapping paper, and stick it around the two toilet rolls. I favour using double sided tape, but you can use glue as well. You can also pull the paper straight across the middle (above, left picture), or you can tape it to the contour of the roll (above, bottom right picture), up to you.

Oh and you know all those conferences, or talks you attend that give you all those lanyards? Don't throw them away! Here's a perfect way to use them, just attach them to the binoculars and the kids can hang them from their neck :) They love to do that!
I love crafting, but I don't like the mess of sticky gooey paint here, there and everywhere.I much prefer cutting and pasting of paper - yes I don't mind picking up bits of paper :p So here, I have the kids cutting and pasting paper. If the kids have tons of stickers, or you have a stash of washi tape - now's a good time to break them out! :) Of course, if you really want to, you can paint it!!!

It was so easy to make that we made one for the twins' friend, Aluna, whom we were going to meet for a playdate the following day :) That's why we have 4 binoculars above!

Check our our other easy to make craft posts and make your own toys today! :)
Make Your Own Lightsaber Today!
Make Your Own Sword Today!
Make Your Own Camera Today!
Make Your Own Car Today!

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Monday, 28 October 2013

The Lesson of the Sword! aka Make Your Own Sword Today!

We have a house rule: we never buy swords nor guns for the kids as toys. This is because we felt that we don't need to encourage violence. So when Isaac was just a baby and hubbs and I heard of this house rule my cousin had for his kids - we thought it made a lot of sense, and so we adopted it too.  

It was fine for Isaac - he wasn't really into swords nor guns, and on the rare occasion where he expressed any interest in having a sword or a gun for a toy - he was easily dissuaded or distracted by some other stuff. Asher was a different story. Since he was very young, he would love, absolutely lurve, playing soldiers, using other toys as his make believe gun or rifle or sword. Always. It was really very odd, as we hardly exposed him to such things since Isaac wasn't really crazy about such things, and Asher started showing these preferences before he went to childcare. 

It is just like him liking the colour green - we didn't expose the colour to him at all, and yet he likes it. All this has caused me to think that perhaps colour preferences, and even him liking to play with swords and guns - are really quite innate preferences.
The kids love the good swords I made them! They're really hardy!
Top left hand picture by Orange Studios
Isaac has fun playing with swords and guns too, but not with the amount of passion Asher has for it. Correspondingly, since Asher was quite young, like age 2 or so, he started to use items and pretend they were his sword/gun/rifle - let's just call it his 'weapon'. When he learnt to play with link cubes or Lego, he would use them to make his weapon. When he realises that Mummy dearest is handy at making stuff, he started to ask me to make a weapon for him. And because of our house rule... I resisted for the longest time. Using all manner of delay tactics, and excuses, I have up my sleeves, I kept saying no, or later... But he is very persistent.

Another reason why I procrastinated is because I was trying to think of a way to make A Good Sword.  I didn't want to make a two dimensional one like the one below - it was too flimsy and would go to pieces in no time at all. I wanted to make one which was very solid, that you could really have a mock duel with. One which would really hurt, if it hit you. So ironic, isn't it. Here is my inner child, wanting to have a real sword duel, fighting against the grown up mummy, who is supposed to dissuade violence and prevent the children from hurting one another.

Then one day, a friend mentioned to me that she had read an article that kids playing with weapons don't necessarily mean they become more violent, something like that. And suddenly, with that mind barrier removed, I had a fantastic idea for making A Good Sword!

So, how do you make A Good Sword?
If you look at the tip of the sword Isaac is holding (in the picture on the left of the collage above), you can see a tiny triangle. This is because the sword is simply a strip of corrugated cardboard about three inches by fifteen inches long, folded along the lines of the cardboard to form a triangular cross section. Use duct tape in the colour of your (child's) choice, and tape it all up. Make two short one and a half inches of the same cardboard triangular cross section for each side of the 'blade' for the hilt. Use duct tape again to join and secure the small pieces to make the hilt. Voila! Good swords above. Really hard too. It really hurts if you get hit by them, so do tell the kids (and adults) to be careful with where they swing them.

The kids loved the good swords. They were very solid and are still in use. My fear that the kids will become very violent and start hurting each other with the good swords didn't materialise either. Shawna even tried to stand on the hilt of her good sword as she was trying to pretend that it was a pogo stick?! 
Shawna & Asher with their classic 2 dimensional sword, designed by Isaac kor kor! :)
Then one day, a few months after we made the good swords, Isaac came to me to say that he wanted to make a new sword for himself. Apparently he wanted to make a good 'ol two-dimensioned sword like the ones in the picture above. I was a little disgruntled.

Me:"Why do you need to make another sword? You still have the one Mummy made for you, isn't it?"
Isaac:"I know, but I want to make another one."
Me:"Okay okay, you go and draw it yourself, I will help you cut it out with the penknife, but you draw it."
Isaac:"Okay Mummy." and he happily started drawing on the cardboard I provided.
Me, muttering under my breath as I watched him:"The one I made for you is a very good sword you know."
Isaac glanced at me, came over to hug me, looked me in the eye and said:"Yes, Mummy, I still like the sword you made for me very much. It's just that I want to try."

I was startled as I realised how silly I was behaving, and how Isaac had picked up on my unhappiness, thinking that he didn't like nor appreciated the sword I made for him. And I realised I was doing something contrary to what I usually try to do - I was preventing him from learning from his own mistakes. With his assurance that he would still like my sword, my negative feelings about his latest craft venture dissipated and we happily got on to making a good old fashion two dimensional cardboard sword. 

The twins saw his new sword and immediately wanted one for themselves too. Thus I replicated the design that Isaac drew out, and cut out two for Asher and Shawna. Isaac and the twins got to experience for themselves how flimsy this sword was after awhile. And now, months on, these two dimensional swords have been thrown away, and they still have their Good Swords to play with.

And Isaac says:"You were right, Mummy! Your sword is better! :)"

All is well in Tan Camelot ;)

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

How to get your bookworms kids to stop reading after lights off?

Now, remember my earlier post on Start Reading Young aka The How To Get Kids To Love Reading Since Young post? Well, if you succeeded in making your kids love reading and love books, you may have a happy problem on your hands! How to get kids to stop reading when it is time to sleep?! One of my close friends just asked this question in a group chat that was filled with mummies of young children, yours truly included. My friend's child is very young, just about 22 months old. I have tried the following ways with my three children, and my eldest is currently 6 years old.
Set a Limit - know your child's habits!
As mentioned in the Start Reading Young post, we often have to go through a "bargaining process" with the kids. Do this at the beginning, before you start reading to the kids. Look at the time, gauge how many books you can read, and propose a number. This number depends on how much time you have, and on the character of your child/children... 

For example, when Isaac was young and we still read books to him, he would be fine if we said 3 books. A short bargaining session later, we may end up agreeing to 4 books. We read the 4 books, say lights off, and he is okay, because he understands that we had an agreement, and he abides by it. Same for Shawna.

But Asher is another kind. He would smile and beguile you with his mesmerising eyes to get you to read one more book, and one more book, and one last book - and all this is after you already read to him the agreed 4 books! So, now we know how to deal with him... Say we have time for 5 books:

Me:"Okay, let's read 3 books tonight! Then we switch off the lights, and sleep!"
Asher:"No! Read 5 books!!!"
Me:"It's late! 3 is enough!"
Asher:"No! 5 is more enough!!!"
Me:"Okay, let's compromise at 4 books!"
Asher:"What is compromise?"
Me:"Er, that means we both give in, and agree to a middle number. 4 is enough."
Asher:"Hmmm okay 4 is enough."

After reading the 4 books, Asher puppy-eyes us and begs for one more book...
Me:"One LAST book ah... then we sleep!"
Asher:"Yes, 5 is enough!"
Me:"So one last book, correct?"
Me:"Are you absolutely sure?!"
Asher:"Yes, Mummy! Just read!!!"

And so you know, yes, I sometimes start bargaining at 1 book - when we only have time for 3... Or at zero books, when we only have time for 1 or 2....

Pre-empt! Pre-empt! Pre-empt!
Remember how, as a child, you're reading some exciting novel, and mum comes in, says "Bed time!" and just switches off the light? That is just plain annoying. And similarly, the kids don't like to suddenly stop whatever it is they are doing either - be it reading, or doing a craft work or playing a game. So what we found very useful to us, is to pre-empt the child/children. We tell them things like:

"We're leaving soon!"
"When you're done playing this round, we have to stop!"
"I'm going to bathe now, when I come out of the bedroom, we have to go!" 

We start to tell them such things as early as half an hour before we need to really go. And we say it repeatedly. It's naggy, yes. But this gets them mentally prepared to go. And it's easier to get them out of the house / or stop their activity, when it is time to do so.

In particular with books and reading, we say this:
"Okay, end of book one. Two more books to go!"
"Now, we're going to start reading the LAST book! After this book, lights off, sleep!!!"
And during the reading of the last book "After this book, sleep ah?" for like at least 5 times!!!

Maintain Your Stand!
If you have a real stubborn bookworm on your hands, he or she may start throwing a tantrum and demand for more books when you stop reading. A particularly tenacious one I heard of even got down from the bed, took books and started flipping the pages - in the dark! Some go on milk strikes - refusing to drink if you didn't continue reading. Sorry guys, I'm afraid you'd just have to maintain your stand, and stop reading after the promised number of books. The kids are merely trying to test your limits and push their boundaries. Tell them firmly:"Mummy is very happy that you love to read books, but if you don't sleep, your eyes and brain cannot rest, and then you won't be able to read any more books! Let's read more tomorrow!"

Tell a story - in the dark!!
Fortunately (must look on the bright side, you know), I have kids who really love reading. So one trick I get them to settle down and not throw a tantrum during lights off time - is to promise to tell them a story after lights off - provided they lie down and close their eyes. Just use any fairy tale you're familiar with, and tell an elongated version of it. Usually, the kids are really tired and after listening with their eyes closed - they drop off pretty quickly. Sometimes, when I am tired, I will sing to them in the dark instead - it's easier to autopilot sing a song than to tell a story, I've found! 

Leave it to them
I have found that you especially need to maintain your stand, when the kids are very young. Nowadays, the kids are bigger, and so I tend to reason with them more. And I give them the choice of reading on their own if they want to. I will switch on a small light (ours is a desk lamp seated on the floor in a corner), and say "You can continue reading, if you want to. But don't read for too long, or you will be very tired tomorrow morning. It is your choice. Switch off the light when you're done." Usually, they will read for awhile, switch off the light, and come to bed.

Of course, inevitably, Isaac once read too late into the night and pay for it the next day. He would be tired and lethargic from lack of sleep. I will take this opportunity to remind him the entire day that he feels this way because he slept late the night before. This happened once or twice, and it seldom ever happens now. 

If the kids have a big day coming up the next day, be sure you remind them about it. "It's your choice. If you want to stay up late reading, you may wake up late tomorrow and miss going for the party... or worse, go there, and be soooo crankly and shout at all your friends, because you're tired. Oh no." *shake*head" "But of course, it's your choice. You decide."

http://www.thegroovygiraffe.com/?tracking=532ac259dcde2So these are my tricks to get them to sleep. What about you? Share your tricks! :)

This post can hardly be sponsored by The Groovy Giraffe - probably the cheapest online bookstore you can find in Singapore - since they presumably wouldn't want kids to stop reading?! But since we have a coupon code to share anyway, we'd just plonk the badge here, for easy reference, you fellow parents of bookworms! :)

Friday, 18 October 2013

The Story of the Stationery Bento (revised!)

@@ My original post was apparently a little confusing when people thought I was talking about whether kids brought stationery to school, and about their interest in mathematics. Thus, I have woken up at 6am on a Sunday morning to revise and add on a bit more on the crux of this blog post... and will move the last bit on adhoc volunteering to another post which I will write this week.

Earlier this year, when we were at our nearby heartland mall, browsing in the book & stationery store, I saw my husband holding many rulers in his hand. Like 20 rulers or something. 

Me:"Why are you buying so many rulers?"
Hubbs:"Oh, for my class to use."
Me:"Oh. Got project ah?"
Hubbs:"Oh, no. For daily use..." and he picked up some pencils and was looking at the price tags...
Me:"Huh, pencils too?"
Hubbs:"Yeah. Some of the kids come to class without anything, so when we ask them to do work, they say they have no pen, no pencil. And will start borrowing from their friends, which irritates them and disturbs them."
Me:" They're soooo poor that they can't afford stationery?"
Hubbs:"Hmmm... not exactly... more like they can't be more bothered... actually, some of them can do the questions... if they try, I know they can do it."

And if you're wondering... these are 15 year old students in a mainstream school we're talking about. 

Thus, I helped  my husband put together a Stationery Bento Set for him to bring to school. 30 plus pencils, 20 rulers, 10 plus erasers and 3 sharpeners. The last two items can be shared, so I didn't provide as many. I questioned if so many rulers were necessary, but hubbs is a maths teacher, and says he wants the kids to each have a ruler so they can learn to measure stuff themselves. Going by the number of rulers he was providing, it seemed like more than half the class needed this stuff.

I wondered aloud how come secondary school students weren't using pens, and used pencils instead. Hubbs sheepishly replied that pencils were cheaper than pens to replace. And he was going to loan the kids the stationery each lesson, and collect it back. Not only because of the cost, but because if he gave the stationery to the kids, they would not bring it back the next lesson to use them. So that did not suit his purpose, he wanted it to be that they could at least do work while they are in class, at school. What happened outside school, was, unfortunately, out of his control.

So apparently, some of these kids are so indifferent and uninterested in school that they simply do not bother to come for class prepared. Not just the math class. Every class.

This really blew my mind. I never expected something like that to be happening in Singapore.

Me:" Huh, serious? Wah nowadays kids so jialat ah? In all the years of my education, I have never encountered any student who would not even go to school without a pencil case."
Hubbs gave a scoff and said:"That's because you went to good schools."
Me:"Where got? My secondary school and junior college can hardly be called one of the best schools in Singapore."
Hubbs:"Your secondary school is definitely above average, and the fact that you can make it to junior college puts you at the top 30% of your cohort..."

Oh yeah, I had often heard that only top 20% of a cohort gets through to junior college in Singapore. I'd always thought that statistic must be wrong as at least 80% of everyone I know went to a junior college in their studying years...

Hubbs:"And it's not "nowadays kids like that" my time also have. My school."
Me:"What?! Your school was like that?! But your school was a very good school!"
Hubbs:" My school didn't have a lot of kids like that, but there were. And even back then, the neighbourhood schools were just as bad as the ones now in this regard."

Still a little aghast at this info I now had, and a bit incredulous to boot, I tried to "verify" this information by "checking with" my other teacher friends and relatives (I have tonnes of friends and relatives who are or were teachers!) I specifically made sure I asked the ones who are teaching or have taught in secondary schools in the local school system. Many of them shake their heads in dismay and told me "Yes, it's like that. In some of the neighbourhood schools, it's like that. Very sad." So, apparently, it is not unique to the school my husband is teaching in. 

It finally started to sink in that what hubbs said is true. Not that I thought he was lying... Perhaps I was hoping against hope that this cannot be... For amidst the conversations that I had with all the teachers, a picture started to emerge... It appears that there is a segment of our population, the bottomest bunch if you will... where kids have parents who are working jobs which take many many hours or have one or more parents who are in Drug Rehab Centres, in and out of prison and/or on probation... or are otherwise occupied such that they are unable to give their children any guidance... and/or a positive role model. And because of that, it's the children who suffer and get sucked into this vicious cycle, as they often end up being disinterested in school, hence, not very educated, get low paying jobs, be disgruntled and unsatisfied with life and gravitate towards undesirable behaviour which may land them in jail, drug rehab, or pregnant before they turn 18...

To make matters worse, I hear true stories of how the Ministry of Education in Singapore grades / ranks / remunerate their teachers and principals, such that it is sometimes actually in the school's interest to expel the student to get the student off their records so that the student's performance or non-performance (as the case may be) would not drag down nor hinder the school's performance. To be fair, I understand that some schools may be so far off the ranks anyway, that they don't really care about the exam results these "problem kids" have, but they too have given up on these kids and figured that with their resources already so stretched, that they should "save the ones that want to be saved" - to use their precious time, effort and resources in helping those who are at least interested enough to turn up in school.

I am speechless. In the past decade, my husband and his colleagues have had to make tonnes of house visits to the home of kids who do not turn up in school, to persuade, convince, and cajole them to go to school. And there are schools trying their best to kick the students out of the school to get them off their responsibility?!

This greatly distresses me. It is clear to me, that it is in the interest of the child and of the society in general, that the child be kept in the school system as long as is possible. This is so that, even if the kids have no positive parental influence, that by at least coming to school, there are teachers around to try, try, TRY their best, to bring the child back to the straight and narrow by giving them at least a minimum education. With a minimum education of at least an 'N' Level cert or an 'O' Level cert, they would be at least able to attend ITE or even a polytechnic. This could, would, should, presumably pave their way to a regular paying legal job and give them a semblance of a normal life.

And as long as the child is physically in school, he/she is not out there stealing, vandalising, taking drugs, and not committing any other undesirable behaviour teens can indulge in when they're out of control. At least when they spend most of their waking hours in school, the school teachers and administrators can at least make sure that none of these is happening - at least during school hours. The aim should be to keep them physically in school as long as you can! Not to kick them out!!!

This is sad. So, so sad.

This really affected me and I kept thinking about it. I keep trying to think of how, of what we can do in order to help this situation.

Firstly, I want to say this to the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Social and Family Development of Singapore:
For the sake of our country, please work together to study this problem and find solutions for students coming from severely disadvantaged backgrounds. Please make allowance for such schools to keep these students in the system and not penalise the school for it. The objective of schools with such students should not be simply to provide them an education in language, maths and science, but also to educate them and guide them in ways which their parents have failed them. If the existing mainstream schools are unable to do this, perhaps we should establish institutions which can perform this role. This is easier said than done, and yes, it will definitely require more resources. But this is important and immediate and urgent attention should be lavished on this.

This is what I call "early intervention". If nothing is being done to help these teens out of their dismal backgrounds and unfortunate way of life, a good portion of them are well on their way to becoming the drug addicts and petty criminals of the future - because those are the role models they see in their lives. To them, it's the norm. The norm!? I have heard of an extreme case where a grandmother had three different grandchildren in her care staying at her flat, because the respective three sets of parents of the three children were all either in jail or drug rehablitation centre. I am not exaggerating. This is true.

Which brings me to my second suggestion. I wonder if it would help that the children had positive role models? You know how we hear of stories and see movies where kids did good for themselves because of an inspirational teachers, or an adult who kind of guided them? What if we have a kind of mentoring system available? Such that families that are whole and stable can offer to mentor students. Not so much like adopting nor fostering (though I think it is very admirable!!!) a child as these come with heavier responsibilities, but mentoring - maybe meet the child once a week at least? For a meal, or just to spend time together etc. Be a positive role model to guide the child, root and cheer the child on, be there for the child. Somehow, I feel that this would be very beneficial to the child. Especially children in their teens, where they are already in the throes of puberty, the time in their lives when they need the most reassurance while they build up their self-esteem and sense of self-worth. 

Now, let me get this straight. No amount of mentoring can solve the many problems the worst of these families have. Mentoring can't get the dad out of jail, or the mum off drugs, or stop the father gambling, or bring the mother back from the dead... what it can possibly do, is to provide kids and teenagers with some moral support and positive role model - to show the kids that life need not be as bleak as they have known all their lives, that it is possible to pull themselves out of the depressing downward spiral, to give them just that bit of impetus to bother to attend school, to at least study enough to make sure they get their 'O' Levels. To inspire and show them that it is possible to live simple. Work honestly. And resist walking in the same exact footsteps of their parents. ...
After writing the above, I found out that there is such a scheme called Enable A Family Volunteer - but I think this is for children in cases of child abuse, neglect and family violence. I think there should be a similar mentoring system for all "latchkey children"! Because sometimes, it isn't only the children in these extreme cases that need attention...

System or not, we should help if we can. If you know of anyone in such severely disadvantaged backgrounds, take the time to talk to the kids. Don't need to get too preachy, just talk, be a friend. Provide some moral support. Be a positive role model. And pray, pray that we have made a difference in their lives, pray that they will see the light and help themselves out.

NOTE: This is not a sponsored post. All thought and opinion belongs to me, Pamela Tan, the Chief Chronicler of Tan Family Chronicles, the family blog.

There will be a separate post on adhoc volunteer organisations like A Packet of Rice , Chope Food for the Needy "Suspended Food Revolution" Pay It Forward, and Project Act of Kindness (PARK). Please email me at emailpamela(a)yahoo.com or fb message me if you know of any other adhoc volunteer movements. Thanks! =)


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