Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I want to be a...

One of the favourite questions adults like to ask kids is "What do you want to be when you grow up?" More often than not, the question is asked for fun and out of curiosity, more than an actual probe.

But I think the impression kids get from being asked that question a lot is that they ought to know from a very young age what they want to be. The answers are usually quite predictable - doctor, teacher, scientist, musician, teacher, etc - essentially based on what the kids enjoy and think the occupation will allow them to do. Lesley-Anne has been vacillating between a vet and a dancer for the longest time. Andre is more fickle, with aspirations that have included a truck driver, a fire fighter, a badminton player, a chef and the latest one - a computer games developer (I approve of the last one, especially since he has promised me free games!)

What I tell them is that it's nice to have an idea of what they like to do, but not to let it limit their ambitions. You see, kids are exposed to just a tiny circle of occupations compared to what's out there, not to mention jobs that haven't even been created yet. Asking them to have defined a "dream career" at this stage is like asking someone what his favourite colour is when he only knows red, blue and yellow.

If you ask me, I would say it's not important at all for kids to know what they want to be when they grow up. It's more important to expose them to as many experiences as possible, so that they may form their own preferences and opinions about what they enjoy doing. Armed with knowledge and information, they will be able to make wiser choices about their careers. There's plenty of time for that.

Incidentally, don't you think it's interesting that kids always choose an occupation where their passion lies, whereas adults often don't? Somewhere along the line, passion takes a back seat to other considerations like money and status, so much so that it sometimes becomes totally disregarded. I'm not suggesting you can throw pragmatics out the window, that would be unrealistic. But since we're discussing practicality, I'm sure many of you would agree that you won't be very happy or motivated in a job that you have absolutely no interest in, no matter how much it pays you.

Following this argument, I feel that too many parents hijack their children’s dreams for "pragmatic" reasons. I have a friend who became a doctor because her parents were doctors and practically forced her into medical school, even though she desperately wanted to be a lawyer. Being the only child, she dutifully followed her parents' wishes and became a doctor, but I feel so sorry for her that she has been denied the chance to forge her own path.

To me, as long as the chosen profession is legal, ethical and realistic, we parents should respect it. When I say realistic, I mean choosing it for the right reasons. (At one point, Andre wanted to be a police officer because he thought it might be cool to carry a gun. No, no, no.) As much as we may be disappointed with our children's choices, we need to recognise that they are their own individuals, not projections of us. That's not to say we can't guide them in their choices, but it's not fair to ask them to live our dreams at the expense of their own.

So my advice to my kids? You can be anything you want, as long as you work at it. And you don't even have to know what it is yet.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Best online bookstore -

Lilian recommended the online bookstore Book Depository on her blog and I decided to check it out. I was so impressed with it that I thought it was worth a post here.

It's a UK-based site and it's biggest draw is free delivery to anywhere in the world (well, except to Russia apparently, to Lilian's chagrin!) That's right, you heard me. Free delivery. I couldn't quite believe it at first, considering the high cost of overseas postage for something as heavy as books. What's the catch?

Nothing, it seems. The book prices are not marked up to cover postage costs and there's no minimum purchase required. In fact, I found to my surprise that the Beast Quest books that Andre is so fond of are even cheaper from the website than buying from Borders with a discount coupon!

The range is pretty terrific too, from my short time surfing the site. Lesley-Anne found several titles that she had been scouring the library for, which couldn't be found at Borders.

I decided to give it try and ordered two books on 17 September. Payment was simple via Paypal, which is hassle-free and safe. You can also pay by credit card. Both books arrived on 24 September (just a week!) in immaculate condition, individually wrapped in bubble pack envelopes.

I'm completely sold! Best online booksite I've come across. Beats Amazon by a mile especially with regards to the shipping. Thanks a million for the rec, Lilian. Looks like we'll be shopping there for a bit!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Say cheese!

Every now and then, we get into one of those moods where we're sick of eating. It sounds like such a snobby, nouveau riche comment but you know what I mean, right? You're tired of the same old limited repertoire of recipes and you've tried every single stall at your nearby coffee shop many times over. "What shall we do for dinner?" is met by groans from the children.

This was the scenario last Saturday and I had a sudden brainwave. Due to our recent obsession with the Facebook game, Mouse Hunt, our family had a resurgent interest in all things cheesy. Andre even asked me what SuperBrie - an imaginary premium cheese on the game - tasted like.

So I suggested doing a cheese platter for dinner - three types of cheeses with bread rolls and a simple salad. Such enthusiasm from the kids! Suddenly, dinner was interesting again.

Usually, we buy cheese from NTUC as it's really kindest on the pocket. Cheese is so expensive in Singapore, unless you want boring old cheddar. But if you want more variety and better quality, some of the larger Cold Storage stores have cheese counters are pretty well stocked.

We're not cheese aficionados so we stuck to what we knew. I bought a block each of camembert, boursin and blue cheese. Here's a picture of the packaging for those who might be interested in how they're sold. Generally, these boxed cheeses are cheaper than their cling-wrapped counterparts which are sold by weight.

We love, love, love boursin (garlic and herb flavour). It's a soft and creamy French cheese that's slightly crumbly - heavenly on bread or crackers. Camembert, another French cheese, is spongier in texture (you can slice it) but it's also very creamy and has a slightly bitter taste. It's very similar to Brie.

The blue cheese, we bought solely for Lesley-Anne. It has a very pungent and sharp taste, no one else in the family can stomach it! I have no idea how Lesley-Anne came to acquire a taste for blue cheese, it's like getting accustomed to durians, I guess. When people talk about smelly cheese, blue cheese is probably as smelly as it gets. Think stinky feet.

Here's what they look like unboxed. The yellow one at the far end is boursin, the blue cheese is the veined one on the right and the camembert is in front with a white rind.

I'm no cheese expert but if you want my layman recommendation, here it is: if you're a cheese newbie and curious about it, I suggest sticking to the milder types first. Cheddar is the mildest cheese around and always the easiest to try. I'm not referring to the common sliced cheddar by Kraft or Chesdale though, try the blocks and cut them into cubes. Very yummy as appetisers or as a snack.

Gouda (or edam) is pretty good, one step up from cheddar. Usually, we keep a block of young gouda at home and grate a mountain of it on the kids' spaghetti. Much tastier and cheaper than parmesan, in my opinion. Again, you can also eat it as it is, as a snack. Incidentally, you'll often find a label on a block of cheese stating that the cheese is "aged" or "young", eg "aged cheddar" or "young gouda". Very simply, the more aged the cheese, the sharper the taste.

From gouda, you can try camembert (or brie). I recommend putting off blue cheese for a bit unless you're feeling really adventurous! These are the types I know, if you make a trip down to the higher end supermarkets, you'll see hundreds of varieties. Try them and tell me which are your favourites!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Girl talk, boy talk

If you have kids of different genders, you might have noticed that girls and boys communicate very differently. My communication patterns with Lesley-Anne and Andre have confirmed as such.

Girls are generally more intuitive communicators, they listen not just with their ears but also take in things like body language, tone, etc. But sometimes, it gets to the point where I can't just make any flippant remark to Lesley-Anne without thinking because it may get misconstrued. It seems like anything can be perceived as an accusation. Hai! For instance, our conversation might go something like this:

Me: "Have you done your homework?"
What she hears: "I hope you've done your homework."
What she says: "Not yet."

Me: "Remember to practise the sums your teacher gave you."
What she hears: "You don't practise enough."
What she says (indignantly): "I do!"

Me: "I'm not saying you don't! I'm just reminding you."
What she hears: "You always need reminding."
What she says (agitatedly): "I was going to do them later!"

Me (exasperated): "Ok fine!"
What she hears: "You're too sensitive."
What she says (muttering under her breath): "Always criticising me."

Boys are much more straightforward, they take everything at face value. The problem is getting them to hear anything in the first place. For example, this is a conversation I might have with Andre:

Me: "Have you done your homework?"
What he hears: "Have you ggggnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn."
What he says: "Mmm."

Me (louder): "Andre, have you done your homework?"
What he hears: White noise.
What he says: Nothing.

Me (pitch rapidly rising): "Andre, if you don't do your homework, you can't play Mouse Hunt!"
What he hears: "Blah blah blah blah blah blah play Mouse Hunt!"
What he says (suddenly perky): "What? Can I play Mouse Hunt?"

Me (in Wicked Witch screech): "GO DO YOUR HOMEWORK NOW!"
What he hears (finally): "GO DO YOUR HOMEWORK NOW!"
What he says (grumblng): "Ok, ok, don't have to shout at me lor."

So in short, one hears too much, one doesn't hear enough. I'm not sure which is preferable!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Over the weekend, my kids and I have been watching clips of 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?' on Youtube. If you don't know what that is, you're really missing out! 'Whose Line' is, in my opinion, one of the best variety shows ever produced on tv.

It started out in the UK and went on to become a big hit in the US. On the US version hosted by Drew Carey, there are three regulars - Wayne, Colin and Ryan - with a recurring guest star. What's so clever about the show is that it is one big improvisation act. The stars play a series of games thrown at them without preparing any scripts. I'm always so amazed by their ability to think on their feet. The results are always side-splittingly funny - Lesley-Anne and Andre were laughing so hard they were crying.

I have so many favourite moments but thought I'd share just a few of them here.

This game is called Sound Effects - Drew picks two ladies from the audience to provide the sound effects for Ryan and Colin (he always picks the shy, mousy ones so the comic effect is amplified!) Here, Ryan and Colin are a couple at an amusement park, Colin is the pregnant wife.

This game is called Stand, Sit and Bend. Three people play this and one always has to be standing, one has to be sitting and one has to be bending.

One of the really mind-blowing parts of the show is the ability of the stars to make up songs on the spot in any style. Wayne is a master at this. This game is called Greatest Hits. Colin is my favourite - he just cracks me up!

This one is Questions Only, where the stars have to speak only in questions. Brilliant!

This last one I'm including because it's Andre's absolute favourite. He can't stop watching it and it triggers the same delicious giggles everytime. It's also called Sound Effects but this one, Ryan provides the sound effects for Colin.

Channel 5 is currently showing reruns of 'Whose Line' at 1.30am every weekday. It's a sad reflection of the low intellectual tastes of Singaporeans that such shows have to be relegated to the zombie hour. Thank God for Youtube! The show can be quite risque at times so I would be selective over which clips to let your kids watch. But if you want a good laugh, nothing beats this show.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pictures of friendship

Two recent incidents reminded me how fortunate I was to be surrounded by warm, generous people.

The first was a trip to Hard Rock Cafe to meet Lilian and her friend. There were three of us adults and seven kids, from ages 7 to 13. What a whale of a time we had! The food was fabulous and the kids got along famously, releasing balloons and mixing up weird concoctions using condiments. Lesley-Anne was the only girl but she seemed to take it in her stride.

Anyway, I've said it before but I'm truly grateful to have found a friend in Lilian - we can be silly yet muse over serious issues, and even tell each other off sometimes, knowing that our friendship is secure enough not to be threatened by differences in opinion. Not that I should take it for granted but it's nice to be around friends whom you can be yourself.

After lunch, Lilian and I took our kids for a stroll at Ion and this was a great shot taken by Lilian.

Do-re-mi-fah, all in a row. I love this picture - you can obviously tell they're enjoying each other's company.

The second incident was sometime last week when I received a surprise package in the mail. I opened it and found four bookmarks, lovingly hand-made for each member of my family. You can tell who they're for by the initials. On top of each bookmark is a jigsaw piece, also hand-made. They fit together and spell out Blessed Family.

There was a note with the gift - it came from one of my regular blog readers. I'd previously sent her a dvd that she'd ordered so she knew my address.

To know that someone whom I've never met would show me such kindness was just heart-warming. It's almost enough to stop a cynic in her tracks. She didn't want me to let on who she was and I'm respecting her wishes, but I wanted to share this wonderful gesture of friendship on my blog and tell her how much I appreciate the thought. Maybe she'll decide to reveal herself.

At the risk of sounding like a sentimental fool, if friendship was wealth, then I'm as rich as Bill Gates.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Surviving the countdown to PSLE Part 2

So with all the extensive preparation the kids are already receiving for PSLE, what more can parents do? I thought I'd share what I've been doing for Lesley-Anne's PSLE preparation:

Nothing. Zip.

Sorry for the anti-climax. Let me explain: since she was already getting so much work from school, I haven't assigned her any additional work from Term 3 onwards. After her prelims ended on 28 August, I told her to drop everything and play for the next two weeks, till the end of the one-week holidays. But as it turned out, the school still scheduled supplementary lessons on three days of the holidays and dished out more homework @*%&$@&*!! So anyway, apart from that, Lesley-Anne spent the bulk of last week playing computer games, reading her favourite books and watching tv. Am I the best mum ever or what!

I can imagine what some parents are thinking: "Of course lah! She got DSA already, can relax what!" I admit getting DSA does take away some of the pressure but here's the thing: I'm not one of those cool as a cucumber mums (like some who have commented that they're taking it easy for PSLE - kudos to you, you're part of a small minority and I'm glad this blog attracts so many of these mums!)

But for me, I still get kancheong, I still want Lesley-Anne to do well for PSLE and she feels the same. Of course I can't speak for all kids who have gotten DSA but I suspect many of them share this feeling. You may think these kids will now bochap and stop bothering about PSLE but going by Lesley-Anne's classmates, this is not so. It's a matter of personal pride. Not to the extent of being ugly competitive, but just to do well. Nobody wants to be the one who got into a good school DESPITE a poor t-score.

For example, Lesley-Anne sat for the final Social Studies exam in end August. Passing the paper is one of the pre-requisites of keeping the GEP status but the grade is of no consequence. Before the exam, she was poring over the her Social Studies notes and files. Concerned that she was working too hard, I told her, "aiyah, Social Studies pass can already, right! No need to study so hard." Her reply was "Yah but want to do well, otherwise your results so koyak and your friends all do well, so embarrassing!"

Peer pressure. Amazing what it can do.

Anyway, getting to the point, what I'm trying to say is that my asking Lesley-Anne to take a two-week break from studying is not a yaya papaya attempt to act cool because her t-score doesn't matter anymore. (Yes, I'm aware there are many such annoying parents out there. My eyes are rolling as I speak.) Believe it or not, it's actually my strategy for her to do well.

I've used the analogy of the marathon and the sprint before. Right now, the kids can see the finish line. But it's still somewhere in the distance. If they have been accelerating since the start of Term 3 (or some even more kiasu ones, the start of this year) without halting, there's a chance they're going to peter out just before the PSLE, which is the worst possible time. Common sense tells me it's difficult to maintain such a feverish study pace for four months straight. Already towards the prelims in end August, I could see that Lesley-Anne was appearing mentally saturated and exhausted.

It's just not sustainable. There's such a thing as over-preparation. In fact, Lesley-Anne said that her science teacher was musing over some of the class's test papers, "Why is it that the more you do, the more mistakes you make?" To me, it's a simple case of burnout.

Rest and play are not time wasted nor opportunity lost. They are legitimate parts of optimal performance strategy. Just ask any sportsperson. I think Lilian had the right idea - she took Brian for a short vacation during the holidays. Hopefully, the time-out will let the batteries recharge before the final surge, peaking at just the right moment. I think four weeks is enough time to regain momentum.

If you have a p6 kid, I realise that this advice might come too late! Not to worry, just make sure your kid has enough scheduled rests and breaks during these four weeks, sports is great too for letting out steam. Of course you'll need to adjust according to your child's temperament.

So that's my layman opinion on how best to gear your kid up for the PSLE. I'm no child psychologist so if you follow my advice and your child doesn't do well, don't blame me! But I believe it's a kinder, more humane approach and I'm sure your child will be grateful for it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Surviving the countdown to PSLE Part 1

School reopens today and this is it - the final stretch before the PSLE. Discounting the listening comprehension exams this Friday, it's just under 4 weeks to the first paper and exactly 5 weeks till it's all over.

One whole year's work has come down to this and having gone through the experience with Lesley-Anne, it's enough to put me off national exams forever (I'm so dreading Andre's turn!)

I understand that PSLE is important but sometimes, I feel that the entire community of schools, teachers, parents and kids has just gotten carried away by the wave of mutually reinforcing kiasu-ism. At Lesley-Anne's school, it has been intensive revision everyday from Term 3. In class, the kids do exam papers from other schools. Remedial sessions have been added. If that's not enough, Lesley-Anne has been coming home with as many as 4 PSLE papers (one for each subject) a day as homework. The next day, she would hand them all up in exchange for another set. From what I know, some parents are adding to the workload by setting additional work and piling on extra tuition classes.

It's not just the parents and the teachers - many of the kids are pushing themselves at this breakneck pace. Lesley-Anne has been ultra conscientious this year. She worked out her own revision timetable and after finishing her daily mountain of homework, she would take out her files and do some additional studying. I know many parents would be envious to hear this and I am heartened that she is self-motivated. But I do worry that it's all a little too much, too intense.

When she came home from her PSLE Chinese oral exam, she was in tears because she didn't understand the words in the picture and so couldn't really talk about it much. I told her it was ok, it happens and she needn't be so upset since she already had DSA in the bag. But I understood why she felt let down. When you invest so much effort into something and are unable to perform at your best, it's terribly disappointing.

And that's where I worry that so many of these kids, who have poured their blood, sweat and tears into the PSLE, are not prepared or mature enough to manage the emotional backlash that might result from this process.

Most of the time, effort + ability = results. Based on the laws of probability, if you are reasonably bright and have been hardworking, there is an excellent chance that you will do well. But nothing in life is ever 100% certain. As we all know, so many other factors can affect an exam score - carelessness, nervousness, lapse in concentration, misreading a question, etc. This is especially so if the kids are fighting for the last few precious marks, eg from high 80s to 90s. One slip can easily cost you that A*.

The problem is that many of these kids have come to define their entire academic abilities based on that eventual t-score. I can understand how a 12-year-old might think that way but it irks me that so many parents fall into that trap as well, reinforcing the child's doubt in his own self-worth. "How come you didn't get A* for maths? It must mean you're not as good in maths as I thought." No, it could also mean that the child somehow didn't manage to transfer his ability onto that particular exam paper. Not the same thing at all.

Well, there's not much we can do about the pressure from schools and the system but it does help to remain level-headed and provide a supportive environment at the homefront. So how do we keep our kids and ourselves sane and grounded during these next few weeks? I have a suggestion but it's too long to include in this post, so you'll have to wait till Wednesday - Part 2 coming up!

Friday, September 11, 2009

The sharpest tool in the shed is... Uncle Peter!

Andre's piano teacher, Uncle Peter, is really particular about having sharp pencils. I guess you can't blame him - when you see the shapeless, audacious blobs that Andre lackadaisically draws on his manuscript book, it's hard to decipher whether the note is on the line or in the space. Usually, it's somewhere in between, not quite acceptable when you're dealing with something as precise as musical notation.

At first, Uncle Peter asked me to make sure Andre had a sharpened pencil ready. Sounds easy enough but I swear, the pencils unsharpened themselves. By the time Uncle Peter's weekly visit came around again, the only available pencil would be the blunt one... that is, if he could find one at all. And of course the sharpener would be missing or faulty.

So Uncle Peter tried another tack - he asked me to get Andre a mechanical pencil. Which I did. Except, somehow the mechanical pencil always disappeared into a Bermuda Stationery Triangle, never to be seen again. I'm not kidding you, I must have bought him three mechanical pencils on three separate occasions - I even made him pay for one himself as a punishment for losing the other two.

Uncle Peter is a super nice guy. He never once told me off, even though he must have privately questioned my ability to provide for my children. I mean, he's only asking for a pencil, for crying out loud.

Finally, after many months of this rigmarole, he came bearing a gift for Andre:

Resourceful fellow, Uncle Peter! Not just a sharpener, a GIANT sharpener with moving parts. Andre loved it - he was clamouring to sharpen pencils all day. Dig that brisk arm action!

Why didn't I think of this before?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The finer points of blogging about kids

It's not lost on me that my recent posts have largely been about my kids' accomplishments of some sort or other. I thought I should clarify the fact: it's not that this blog is veering towards a trophy room for my kids or that I'm trying to paint a picture of perfection.

As my kids grow older, they become increasingly self-conscious. Even as they discover more about themselves everyday, they are gradually sieving out and accepting or rejecting others' perceptions of them as a reflection of their true self. It's part and parcel of growing up.

Both my kids read my blog, so often what I write on my blog about them influences this self-perception. This has been true for Lesley-Anne from the beginning but now, Andre too is becoming more self-aware (even though he's still largely more interested in the photos!) As a result, I've had to exercise much more self-censorship and restraint in writing.

My kids are not perfect - far from it. They still get into scrapes, they still fall short sometimes. But not every incident can be posted publicly. Not because I'm ai bin (I think I've been pretty open in sharing in the past) but because they can be sensitive points for my kids. As long as I feel that the airing of any incident can create an inkling of self-doubt in them, I have the responsibility not to blog about it. For instance, Andre had some issues in school earlier this term but I made a judgement call that it would not be productive to him to write about them. I'm glad I didn't - he has since surprised me with a 180 degree transformation.

Not every "negative" incident needs to be axed though. Sometimes, certain events enable us laugh at ourselves or help us and others learn from them, in which case I will continue to share. Conversely, I try to blog about the achievements of my kids not just so I'll have a record of them but because it positively reinforces their self-esteem when they read about themselves. It's an ongoing balancing act.

So this is my attempt at explaining the direction I've been taking and to reassure my readers out there who may be thinking that I'm leading a charmed life: no, I don't have super kids! They're regular kids with regular problems. And I don't always have the answers. But take it from someone who has lost her temper one too many times and often despaired far too soon, I've found that patience and empathy, peppered with lots of prayer, can work wonders.

You know, nobody has perfect kids but I find that when I make an effort to consciously record my kids' achievements, I usually find more than I expect. In the same way that counting your blessings helps you appreciate them more, recognising my kids' strengths makes me grateful for who they are. You might like to try it sometime.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Lesley-Anne's DSA portfolio

One of the items Lesley-Anne had to prepare for her DSA interview was the portfolio. According to her teachers, the portfolio should lay out the child's relevant achievements, as well as reflect his or her academic journey in GEP thus far. We were not shown any samples, I think the teachers rightly wanted to avoid any copying which might result in every child's portfolio looking identical.

Left to our own devices, I suggested to Lesley-Anne that she do a summary of each major project that she had done in GEP, covering all subjects. The teachers did caution against bringing entire physical mockups or detailed writeups as the interviewers would hardly have time to plow through them.

I know for a fact that many of these kids receive extensive help from their parents in putting their portfolios together (In fact, I wouldn't put it past some parents to take on the entire project themselves.) To be fair, I think the schools expect at least some parental involvement. So naturally I offered Lesley-Anne my help, thinking I'd assist in getting some design templates to dress up the summaries of her projects.

To my utter astonishment, Lesley-Anne was quite adamant in tackling the project herself. She wrote up the summaries and reflections for each project, went onto and independently navigated her own way round the site to create designs for her work. This was the cover:

Here are some of the inside pages. This one is of an English project done on the book 'The Secret Garden' by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

This is another book project, on '101 Dalmatians' by Dodie Smith.

And this is of a maths game that she created in p4.

After all the designed pages, she filed her school results, certificates and teachers' feedback forms.

At first, I was slightly peeved that she rejected my help. Everything I offered to do, she would protest, "I want it to be my own work!" Finally, she consented to let me cut the photos for her. And some minor editing of the writeups. Yay! I have a role!

But I think I finally understood her thoughts when I read what she wrote as a cover page for the portfolio:

Magnum Opus

This portfolio is a snapshot of what I have learnt and experienced over the past two and a half years in GEP, as well as my achievements outside school. During this journey of my life, I have not only grown academically but also in character and I have come to know myself better.

My creativity is what I value most in myself. I have really enjoyed creating my portfolio - it is an achievement I am proud of. To me, it is my magnum opus.

To those unaware, "magnum opus" means "great work", borrowed from EB White's 'Charlotte's Web'. Lesley-Anne wanted to take ownership of this project because to her, this is her journey, her achievements and she wanted to showcase something that she could call her own.

As it turned out, for both interviews that Lesley-Anne attended, no one even bothered to glance at the portfolio! But Kenneth and I both think this project revealed her great sense of responsibility which is more valuable than all her academic achievements. For that, it didn't matter whether any interviewer saw it - it IS her magnum opus.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Hey there, wise guy!

At my kids' school, some new student awards were given out just before Teachers' Day. They've never had these awards before, I'm guessing the school is trying to motivate and recognise some of the kids in areas other than academic or CCA. Five awards were given out in each class - Most Responsible, Most Humble, Wisest, Most Inquiring and Most Sincere.

Well, Lesley-Anne and Andre came home very excited as each of them had clinched an award. I was quite pleased of course, it would have been less than ideal if only one of them was a recipient (then I'd have to spend time trying to soothe one ego even as I congratulated the other).

At this point, I want you to guess which award each got because to be perfectly honest, I almost fell off my chair when I heard.

Lesley-Anne received the Most Inquiring award. Huh? Really ah? The girl whom all the teachers say should speak up more? I think any of the other four awards would have been less surprising to me.

As for Andre, he got the Wisest award!! Ok, I don't want to make light of his achievement so I'll just assume that he must have demonstrated this quality in school somehow and I'm glad he's being recognised for it. Perhaps in time, I'll get to see more of it at home.

Talk about children surprising you. That's not all. Yesterday, Andre came home with this:

A Wise one AND an Enthusiastic Learner? What a bonus! Looks like Andre is settling in nicely with his new form teacher, to whom I'm very grateful for being so encouraging and nurturing to him.

I never thought I'd see the day when Andre would become a model student. What can I say? It was well worth the wait.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Let's go on a Mouse Hunt!

Since last week, the kids and I have been chasing down mice. No, our home is not pest-infested - I'm referring to the virtual kind on a Facebook Game called Mouse Hunt.

I blame it on Lilian's son Brian. He was the one who introduced us to the game and at first, it didn't seem like the kind of game I would like. I mean, there's no actual action happening - all you do is press a button every 15 minutes and see if the computer-generated programme deigns that you should catch a mouse.

The mice can be quite cute, like this basic White mouse:

Or fearless like the Pirate mouse:

135 breeds in all. And then there are the traps. You buy a base and weapon using pieces of gold that you earn, taking into account statistics such as bait, power, luck and attraction rate. There are ranks to reach, maps to collect, potions to craft, lands to explore - all with the single objective of catching mice.

The game is very, very clever. It was designed to appeal to the human psyche of curiosity, planning and most of all, desire to beat the odds and try your luck. It even hooks you up into hunting groups with your Facebook friends who also play the game. No wonder it has become one of the most popular games on Facebook.

Needless to say, I quickly became obsessed with catching mice. I cursed the Hunter's Horn when my cheese turned stale. I celebrated when I caught my first Ninja mouse. The game even threatened to come between my friendship with Lilian when my repeated sounding of the horn turned up empty for Lilian. "Stop sounding that horn!" she screeched over virtual space, sending me scarpering to the Meadow.

After watching me play, Lesley-Anne and Andre were dying to play too, so I set up Facebook accounts for them - not real social accounts since they're still below age but just for them to play the game.

Which brings me to my new Top 10 list. Here are the Top 10 signs that you're a Mouse Hunt addict:

1) You bore all your friends on Facebook with status updates on the new type of mouse you've caught.

2) Your kids come home from school and the first thing they say is not "hi Mum" but "did I catch any mice??"

3) You download 2 whole new web browsers just so you and your kids can each have their own Mouse Hunt platform. And not forgetting that Mouse Hunt search engine which gives you 3 free pieces of Super Brie cheese a day.

4) Your homepage on your web browser is Facebook, with your password already keyed in so your kids can press the Hunter's Horn for you while you're out.

5) Your son yells "You got 2 Greys and 1 Granite!" and you know he's talking about mice.

6) You work in 15-minute blocks, around the sounding of the Hunter's Horn.

7) You go out for a family Japanese buffet lunch and you *ahemlilian* sms your fellow mouse hunting friend *coughme* to ask how many mice you caught while you're away.

8) You veto a holiday to a destination without Internet access.

9) You study the detailed Guide to Mouse Hunt more intently than your kids' exam schedule.

10) Your casual friend on Facebook becomes your idol when you realise that she has attained the Legendary rank on Mouse Hunt. And your kids want to be adopted by her.

So in the next few days, if I say I'm busy, you'll know the truth - most likely, I'm catching me some rodents.
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