Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Father and Son Date: Octonauts Live!

Holiday season is almost upon us here. I actually should be busy frantically running around trying to get a million things done before then. But I’ve just recently been down with a very sniffly cold… as well as the procrastination bug.

So I’m borrowing some big happenings from my hubby as a space filler in the meantime…

Presenting, The Big Father & Son Date: Octonauts Live!

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Depending on what stage of life you are currently at or what part of the world you currently live in, the word ‘Octonauts’ could either generate a “Oooooooooooh!!!” or a “Huh?!?! Octo-what???”. But over here in Australia, the Octonauts are huge. Especially with the two to five year old crowd. Particularly boys. Including ours.

Credits for this whole Octonauts date idea goes one hundred percent to my hubs. He was the one who found out about the event, decided on making it a date, bought the tickets and everything. Well, my job was to pack the snack box for the boys.

On the big day, Nathan was just quivering with excitement. Shoes on, standing by the door all ready to go and calling out to his daddy “Let’s go! Let’s go!”.

Hubs splurged out all the way on their date. Tickets. Merchandise ($20 for a photo with the Octonauts and another $20 for some LED light toy thingy). And a private lunch date with just the two of them afterwards. Going by Nathan’s non-stop chatter after they arrived home (tired but happy), I can confidently deduce that the date was a big hit.

Here are some of the photos they took during their date if you’d like to see. My only complaint is that they missed out on a father and son selfie together.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Three sensory play ideas and some fun links

We’ve been keeping ourselves pretty busy so far this past summer both indoors and out. With the weather slowly taking a cooler turn, I expect to soon start bracing ourselves for more indoor time. There’s always a risk of getting cabin fever being stuck indoors together all day. But by keeping those little hands and minds occupied, the days can fly by just as quickly as in summer. Here are three sensory play ideas you can try out at home to keep you and the little ones busy…

 

Make your own play dough and out together a big ice cream feast
(I like this play dough recipe from oneperfectdayblog.net)

 

Sensory tray with an assortment of materials to explore different textures
(I also like to include some tongs and utensils for practicing motor skills)

 

Shaving foam or soap and water messy play
(I throw in some toy dishes and sponges to extend the play into a washing up exercise)

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Some tips on how to deal with the mess that comes with messy play

Sensory play: How necessary is it really?

Ten things children really want parents to do with them

If tech companies made Easter candy

Amazing original concept art of classic Disney movies

Historically accurate Disney princess makeovers

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

So beautiful

Something pretty dramatic and sad happened over the weekend.

My baby girl had a little accident. She was running and tripped over her own feet and fell down flat on her face.

The next moment was a big mess of blood and tears.

She and I headed straight to the emergency room right after that.

The good news is that there were no head injuries or lacerations or stitches needed.

The bad news is that she broke her front tooth.

It was a pretty major chip so they could not save the tooth. So they removed it. They tried to cheer us up saying that it’s just her milk tooth. A new one will be along in a few ‘short’ years.

I think I’m the one who is most devastated over the whole thing.

The scenes from my first baby’s major scar kept replaying in my mind over and over. And layered over that were more replays of my own accident (item #3 in this post) involving the loss my front tooth.

A hundred whys flashed across my mind.

A thousand ‘should haves’ repeated in my head

And a searing angry pain just kept gripping my heart.

In between there are moments when it all seems okay. After all, in the bigger scheme of things, this is just so small and inconsequential. “It’s just one little tooth” I tell myself, “It’ll grow back in no time”.

But then I catch sight of images like this and this and this, and I get that familiar lump in my throat and the tears start welling up again.

She of course, doesn’t mind one single bit.

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After my baby got home from the hospital and had a rapturous greeting with her big brother who had just arrived home from school, Nathan said to me…

“Mummy, Grace is so beautiful.”

And I cried. Because it was so, so true.

Sigh.

I guess we’ll just be singing this song for a few extra Christmases for Grace.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Spiderman and Princess Elsa

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Real life conversations with the two small humans in our household…
(Nathan - four years old; Grace - 20 months old)

Grace: Oh! What noise?
Mummy: I think that’s a bird.
Grace: Bird! Bird!
Nathan: That’s not a bird. That’s a pterodactyl.
Mummy: I don’t think that’s a pterodactyl. They lived in the time of the dinosaurs. So they are all extinct now.
Nathan: What’s a ‘stink’?
Mummy: Extinct means that they have all died out. So there are no more pterodactyls any more.
Nathan: What about the dinosaurs?
Mummy: Yeah, dinosaurs are extinct too.
Nathan: Like the dragons?
Grace: Gagen!
Mummy: Dragons are pretend creatures. They live in our imagination.
Nathan: I wish I had a ‘magition’.
Mummy: You do have an imagination. It’s whatever you think about in your mind. Like all your favourite stories you like to think about and tell me.
Nathan: And like the stories in our books?
Grace: Book!
Mummy: Yes, that’s right.
Nathan: I wish I could live in a book.
Mummy: Yes you can. You can just think about it in your imagination. When you go to sleep tonight, just think about one of your favourite books and go inside the story. Like ‘Traction Man’…
Nathan: (eyes gleaming) Traction Man! Yeah!
Mummy: Or Batman…
Nathan: Yeah!
Mummy: Or Spiderman…
Grace: ‘pider!
Nathan: Yeah! Spiderman! But, what if the Green Goblin tries to catch me?
Mummy: Well you are Spiderman, so you can use your webshooters to shoot him and tie him up!
Nathan: Haha! Yes I can!
Mummy: That’s right.
Nathan: I like my ‘magition’.
(…Thoughtful Pause…)
Grace: Look, mummy! Fozen!

 

[Spiderman costume and Princess Elsa t-shirt given by their loving grandparents in Sabah]

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Being mortal and Choosing to die

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Death.

A topic that has been on my mind quite a bit lately.

And it’s strange how when your mind is thinking about that one thing, the rest of the world seems to be thinking about it too. Or seems to be.

I stumbled across these two amazing mini-documentaries about death and mortality.

It seems to be such morbid thing to dwell on. But I found it quite refreshing to watch. They were really thought-provoking and and opened up new perspectives to the issues surrounding our inevitable fate.

Being Mortal, by surgeon Dr. Atul Gawande, examines the how physicians struggle to talk to patients about death and dying. The film explores difficult questions such as: How can we know if it’s time for the story to end? And how would you want to die?

Choosing To Die, by author Sir Terry Pratchett, looks at the controversies surrounding ‘assisted dying’, which is still largely illegal in most countries. This film was especially challenging to watch as it actually takes us through a journey to witness a terminal ill man actually take his own life by drinking a glass of poison.

After watching each of those films. I thought a lot about doctors, terminal illness and death.

Doctors, especially the ones dealing with terminal illness such as oncologists, really can have it pretty tough. Doctors are trained and wired to be fighters. Battling and pushing back the enemy: Death. We all know death eventually comes to us all. But it’s a battle against time. Then again, how can we really know when it’s really time?

The battle against death is no easy feat. It costs money. It is painful. Like in the case of cancer, going through chemotherapy is pretty nasty business. It can often leave the patient feeling even sicker. And after going through the whole ordeal, what if it was all just a waste of time and money? It might have been better to just let things run their course and let the patient slowly come to terms with their death and end their story peacefully.

I suppose for an older person who has lived out a full and satisfying life. That decision might be somewhat easier to make. But what if the patient was a young person--say a young mother to two small children? That decision would be harder to make. The natural instinct would be to be to fight. To fight for the life ahead of her. To fight for the sake of her children, her husband, her family. It would be almost unthinkable to just sit down and admit defeat with those bright little eyes looking up trustingly into hers.

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My own hubby lost his mother to cancer when he was twelve. It was a long, hard battle. Hubs rarely talks about that time in his life. It could not have been an easy thing to go through as a young person.

He still remembers seeing her bent over with pain, holding on to the bannister of the stairs in their house for support, as she forced herself to stand up before her Buddhist altar. Praying and begging to her gods for mercy. She would sit down to rest for while, then force herself to stand up again and continue praying for hours.

He remembers how weak and sick she looked with her hair cropped short due to the chemotherapy. I cried as I pictured the scene in my own mind. I knew that if I were in her place, with four young children waiting for me to get better, I would not stop fighting either.

She lost the battle in the end.

We may buy time. We eventually we will all lose the battle. All we can do is to exit our scene as gracefully and graciously as possible.

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But let’s say the person has accepted our inevitable fate. And is willing to accept defeat. However the problem is that the enemy will not let them exit the scene gracefully and graciously. What if the exit will inevitably be filled with much indignity and pain?

Sir Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with a rare form of Alzheimers. As an author, I can guess that it’s one of the worst possible nightmares he can have. In his words, he says…

“When I am no longer able to write my books, I am not sure that I will want to go on living.
I want to enjoy life for as long as I can squeeze the juice out of it — and then, I’d like to die.
But I don’t quite know how, and I’m not quite sure when.”

My father too once told me that one of his greatest fears was to contract Alzheimer’s disease. It must be terrible and helpless feeling to have to live through having all your memories slowly sift away. I think the worst feeling is thinking about what your loved ones have to go through and supposedly being a ‘burden’ to them.

If it was within our power, I think it is natural to want an ideal death scene. Just like in the movies. Surrounded by loved ones. In full awareness of what’s happening to be able to savour every last minute of it, and be able to part with a few memorable final words. But in real life and illness, this sort of thing is impossible to plan.

But what if you could plan your death. When it will happen. How it will happen. Would you do it? Could you do it?

At the start of Terry Pratchett’s film Choosing To Die, the concept of ‘assisted dying’ sounded like such a powerful thing being able to have this option to eliminate the suffering from illness and death. But as I watched the scene of a man wilfully drinking a glass of poison sitting next to his wife as she clutched his hand watching. There seemed to be something fundamentally wrong with the whole idea.

Perhaps it has something to do with our natural instinct to fight and our strife towards life.

Perhaps it has something to do with the seemingly cowardly act of trying to run away from pain.

Perhaps it has something to do with trying to take life and death out of our creator’s hands.

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The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord.
(Job 1:21)

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Here are the trailers to the two documentaries I talked about. The full-length versions are about 50 minutes long, so they are definitely not one of those short funny clips you click on in your Facebook feed. So you will have to find a slightly longer block of time to watch them. But I think they are worth watching.


You can watch the full documentary on PBS.


You can watch the full documentary on brainpickings.org

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(Photo above taken at Tanjung Aru Beach in Sabah in December 2013)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

War and Slavery

While watching the 87th Academy Awards a couple of weeks back, there were several references to the big winner of last year’s Academy Awards, ‘12 Years a Slave’. Up until now, I hadn’t seen the movie before. So after hearing all the glowing references in this year’s Oscars. The film delved into the many disturbing practices and issues on slavery in the 1800s.

Despite the discomfiting feeling the movie left behind, the story continued to stay with me. So I tracked down the original book the movie was based on. I was amazed to find that all the disturbing scenes in the movie stayed largely true to form as the original book. It’s definitely worth reading.

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I recently re-watched one of my favourite old classic films: ‘Gone With The Wind’. I thought it interesting how differently the world of slavery is portrayed in this film. Such a contrast of ugliness and beauty of human nature.

So read the book. And watch the films. And come to talk to me about them sometime.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Picnic Dinner

I often like to serve the children’s meals outside. The food seems to taste yummier when eaten outdoors, it saves on clean up time, and it’s simply just good fun.

So on Saturday evening, after a long lazy day indoors, I put together a simple meal of sandwiches and some fruit, popped everything into a basket and handed it to the kids along with a picnic mat and told them that was their dinner. They whooped excitedly and ran out to the yard and set everything down excitedly. Then I left them to it.

I kept an eye on them through the window. I half expected them to fool around or get up to silly tricks like hiding the food. But surprisingly, they managed themselves pretty well being left on their own. They chilled out together, munched on their sandwiches and fruit and enjoyed the evening summer breeze.

After they polished off the plate, I surprised them with two cookies apiece. Ah, this is the life!

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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Happy Chap Goh Mei 2015

So tomorrow marks the 15th day of the Chinese New Year celebration. So before the celebrations officially come to an end, let me squeeze in a quick ‘Happy Chinese New Year’ greeting to you all.

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Our Chinese New Year was relatively quiet this year. We had a simple home cooked reunion dinner on the eve. We had plans to head up to the city to watch the lion dances in Chinatown, but our family were all struck down with a horrible case of gastro. So we all spent the weekend running back and forth between our beds and the toilets. We did have a couple of lovely catch up sessions with various friends afterwards to make up for it.

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The kids were very happy with their ang pow loot. Though to Nathan, he decided the ang pows with coins were the most valuable ones, the one with chocolate gold coins being the most valuable of all. Grace was just more interested in the red packets themselves rather than its contents.

So Happy New Year. Again. Sending all the best Chinese New Year wishes and blessings your way.

2015 Chinese New Year English Greetings Red Background Illustration

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P.S. My favourite Chinese New Year blessing and a quick reference ang pow rate card.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Remembering jia-gong, my maternal grandfather

I’ve been going through a rather pensive mode these past few days. My maternal grandfather (my mother’s father) recently passed away a couple of days ago after suffering a stroke. He was in the hospital for several days slipping in and out of consciousness as various family members came to sit beside him before finally closing his eyes for the last time on Saturday evening.

I wrestled with a strange undercurrent of emotions throughout this time. You see the truth is, I wouldn’t consider myself as being close to any of my grandparents. Whether it was due to the geographical distance or the language barrier, it was simply a privilege I never had a chance to experience.

I never felt any sadness or jealousy over this fact. I read stories about children with favourite grandmas and grandpas, and I could see the affectionate way my cousins who were close to my grandparents related to them. But it never bothered me. I suppose one can’t really feel sad over something one never had. It was just the way it was.

It was only years later when I observed the deep adoration and affection between my own little boy and his grandparents, that I felt a small twinge of envy for that special bond I never had. But it will now be a privilege I can never experience and never will in this lifetime.

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Nathan meeting his great grandfather in June 2012

But even though the threads of affection and devotion that tie my grandfather and I do not run as thickly and deeply compared to some of my other cousins who lived closer to them. Nevertheless my grandfather has definitely left his own unique imprint on my life.

When I think of my jia-gong, I remember the funny way he liked to squat on the floor and even on the stool at the dining table as he ate. My mother told me that it was a habit he picked up during his days working coolie jobs, like lifting heavy sacks of rice, pulling rickshaws and carting around loads of fruits to sell.

I remember waking up to yummy breakfasts of roti pratha which grandfather had headed out early in the morning to his favourite stall to buy especially for his grandkids.

I remember how he used to perch outside in the far corner of the veranda in front of the house, puffing away on his cigarette. Probably to keep the smoke as far away from us kids as possible.

I remember all the stories my mum told me about him. His dedication to the community as a the local council leader. His hardworking and tenacious character in his early years. And his heroic attempts at insurgence against the Japanese during the Second World War in Malaya.

I choose to remember because he forms part of my heritage. My roots. He is part of the bigger picture of our family history that led to my being here on this earth.

Roots and wings

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