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!


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