Thursday, June 24, 2010

We interrupt this break with... a break

While I was on my blogging break, I took a little real world break with my family at Resorts World. Then armed with loads of photos and bursting with fabulous holiday memories, I thought, "what do I do with all these?" Blog about them, of course, irony of ironies.

So here I am, on my break from blogging, blogging. But since it's on my travel blog and not this one, it doesn't count, right? What an over-thinker's nightmare.

In short, I'll be writing a three-post installment on my brief staycation, the first one is up. And just to clarify, I'm still on my break. Meanwhile, you have something new to read if you're one of my fabulous fans (mwah!!) so everybody wins.

Enjoy the last weekend of the school holidays!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

We'll be right back after this break

Lately, I've been experiencing a slight case of Blogger's Burnout. Coupled with my workload that has been piling up (hey, it pays the bills!), it's been challenging to keep churning out those posts. Especially when I don't get feedback, I've no idea if what I'm writing is even remotely interesting to my readers. I know, commitment to a blog for the long haul is high maintenance - for both sides!

So I'm going to take a short hiatus from blogging for a while, maybe a couple of weeks. To be honest, not having to think about my posts for a bit is somewhat of a relief.

Hopefully with this break, I'll return refreshed and more motivated. Meanwhile, let me leave you with this quip from my laugh-a-minute Andre:

"Tongue depressors are just ice-cream sticks that have been washed."

He probably figures doctors have the best jobs in the world, what with getting to eat ice cream everyday. Don't you just love the fairy land mindset of kids? See you soon.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Learning to give thanks

In Singapore, it's not uncommon to see kids decked out in the latest fashions, carrying the newest tech gadgets, eating in five-star restaurants and going on holidays every year. I say this without any disdain. It's an inevitable outcome of having more financially secure and able parents. I know how irritating it is to be with people who can't spare 50 cents without giving a sanctimonious lecture about how in their time, they had to walk 2km to school and save their bus money for books. It's not the kids' fault that their parents are better off economically and want to shower them with the good life.

Having said that, one of the fall-outs of having a lot is that we tend to take things for granted or worse, think we're entitled to it all. I'm sure we've all heard of kids who say they'll die if they don't get the new computer game or all their friends have a certain toy. The implication is that they "need" the item because it's the norm or it's their right to have it.

Where do we parents draw the line? I think there's a need for balance. Most of the time, such dramatic declarations are gross exaggerations but a friend's daughter once told her mum that she was the only kid in class without a handphone and guess what, it turned out to be true. In such an incident, if I were the parent and feel that a handphone is not a necessity but I didn't want my child to feel like the odd one out, I'd give it to her on her birthday. Or maybe let her earn it, like do extra chores or practise the piano everyday for a month, etc. Nothing very difficult but enough to bring home the message that nice-to-have's should be earned. However, if it's something against my values, I won't compromise. Even if the day comes when every child in Singapore has a PSP or Xbox, my kids are not getting one. (Too bad, Andre!)

Not every nice-to-have has to be earned, though. Sometimes I see something nice and I’ll get it for my kids even though they don’t need it. But when that happens, my kids are surprised and grateful because they know it’s an extra.

Few things irk me more than seeing ungrateful children. I've seen kids toss aside a gift without so much as a second glance, maybe a half-hearted "thanks" if nudged by their parents. I'm not saying they have to be grovelly and over-profusely grateful when they're given anything. I'm talking about the basic understanding and awareness that somebody wanted to make them happy. There should at least be the grace to muster up a little appreciation.

This may seem old-fashioned but Kenneth and I always attribute gifts to others. Eg if a relative passes us a gift for our kids, if they weren't present at the time of the giving, we'll consciously tell them who it's from and they usually follow up with a thank-you call. It appears long-winded but we feel it drives home the message that the gift didn't just drop from the sky into their laps, it came from someone who thought of them specifically. You'll be surprised at how this little gesture works. Even years after, Lesley-Anne can tell me who gave her which toy or t-shirt. It just makes each item more meaningful.

We live in a culture of excess and this creates ingratitude or maybe more accurately, indifference. In a society where extras have become entitlement and moderation considered as deprivation, it's more important than ever to learn how to give thanks in everything.
"How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child!" - William Shakespeare (King Lear)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Get to the pointe!

I grew up reading Ballet Shoes and other dance books by Noel Streatfeild where her ballerina prodigees hanker after pointe shoes, and I always wondered what they were like. I imagine it must be like yearning to wear high heel shoes for the first time - no longer little girl gear but adult ones.

Pointe shoes signify your readiness into serious, "grown up" ballet. These are shoes which allow you to go en pointe (where the ballerina balances on her toes). Only girls after a certain age may wear pointe shoes as going en pointe too early can be disastrous for weak ankles.

Having passed her Grade 5 ballet (with merit!), Lesley-Anne moved on to Grade 6 in April this year, and a few weeks ago, came home with her very first pair of pointe shoes. I always thought there was a "block" inside the toe of the pointe shoe to make it rigid but I was surprised to find that it's not so. The toe portion of the shoe is just made of very stiff and unbendable material that is flattened to form a platform for the dancer to balance on. In fact, you can probably whack somebody senseless with it.

Wouldn't this be uncomfortable, you say? Well, that would be the understatement of the year. It's like wearing an extremely hard pair of new shoes except these won't get significantly softer when worn in. And you're supposed to balance your entire body weight on your little toes in these. The teacher has already warned the girls to expect bleeding toes and cracked feet.

Ouch. Talk about suffering for your art. Too bad they look so beautiful on the outside.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Going radio ga-ga

The other day, I walked into Andre's room to find him listening to the soundtrack of the Beatles' Yellow Submarine on an old stereo. It was almost disconcerting for a split second, to see a Gen Y kid so engrossed in last millennium music. But then, the Beatles are peerless, in my opinion, so if Andre wants to sing along to "All You Need is Love", that's quite alright by me.

My kids' tastes in music are influenced by mine, naturally, since they're exposed to what I play at home. What totally surprised me was when I recently discovered that Lesley-Anne was familiar with an entire repertoire of retro hits, from taking a school bus for six years with an "oldie but goodie" bus driver!

Apparently, he had a fixed playlist covering timeless gems like "Black and White" by Three Dog Night, "Eternal Flame" by the Bangles, Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" and Jennifer Rush's "The Power of Love", which the kids in his bus would listen to every morning on their way to school. I found it hysterical that this gruff bus driver was such a creature of habit that Lesley-Anne would associate a turn on one particular road with a specific verse from "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)" by Edison Lighthouse. Music education on a school bus, who would've guessed?

When I was 18, I scrimped and saved to buy myself a Sony Walkman, so that I could have music to accompany me wherever I went. It was the coolest and most precious contraption I owned. I still have my cassette tape collection that I couldn't bring myself to throw, it's collecting dust at the back on the cupboard somewhere.

Kids nowadays have it much easier. Just download whatever you like onto your phone and voila! Mobile music. Lesley-Anne, being the typical teenager, does anything from homework and reading with earphones perpetually affixed to her ear canals.

Her playlist is a wide-ranging mix of pop, Christian, classical and soundtracks. You have the usual teenage arsenal of Avril Lavigne and Taylor Swift, but also Hillsongs, Les Miserables and Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. Her favourite song for a period of time was "Ordinary Miracle" by Sarah McLachlan, which was used in the movie Charlotte's Web. She loves the sentiment behind the lyrics, about everyday being a miracle.

Music is such an inextricable part of our lives. Certain songs will come to be linked with specific events, so that when we hear a song, it can instantly trigger emotions or flashback to one particular memory.

I'm curious to know what musical memories my kids will have when they grow up, will they be shaped by Lady Gaga and Kelly Clarkson or God forbid, the likes of Justin Bieber? *shudder* Will they treat Keane with the same reverence that this generation reserves for U2? Will bands like Abba and the Bee Gees be relegated to cold storage? All I can say is, thank God for school bus drivers.
"Nothing separates the generations more than music. By the time a child is eight or nine, he has developed a passion for his own music that is even stronger than his passions for procrastination and weird clothes." - Bill Cosby

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Starfighters and calamari commanders

I previously wrote about the Star Wars phase Andre is in. Well, somebody must have been praying very hard because one day, out of the blue, my cousin Benjamin popped by with one heck of a fantabulous present for him:

WOW!!! Colour me impressed and I'm not even a Star Wars fan. Looks like Christmas came early for Andre, his reaction was akin to someone telling him that his school had been transformed into Disneyland.

This set is a reproduction of the Rebel flagship from Return of the Jedi with 6 mini figures. It features loads of intricate details and moving parts, things that you can trust Lego to deliver.

This is the Mon Calamari command centre and briefing room with the Death Star "hologram".

And this is the repair hangar with a Green Squadron A-wing starfighter. The starfighter has a removable engine and launchable missiles.

The levers and gears are movable, even the command chair swivels. Have I already said how cool this set is?? I had to take a video just to show the movable parts.

Ben, if you're reading this, thank you again for the unbelievably generous gift. Andre is a very lucky boy and you're now officially his favourite uncle!
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