Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone!

We've had a very enjoyable with friends and family. In fact, we had such a good time that I completely forgot to take photos. Facebook is currently full of beautiful family photos and I do wish that we took one too. Never mind, we have the next 12 days in scenic New Zealand to capture more than a few good family photos. Thats the hope but I just checked the weather forecast and it looks like it may be a little wet for the rest of the week. Fingers crossed that it'll clear up by the weekend.

So, I'm off to make sure that we have packed for every possible situation. I did toy with the idea of pretending I was some travel blogger but it was a fleeting thought so I'll only be back blogging after we come home and I've had that mini-holiday after a holiday.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Quiet Christmas Eve

Its been a very ordinary Christmas Eve. I went to return some library books in the morning and then did some last minute grocery shopping. The time at home was filled with easy cooking and cleaning as we'll be having some people over for lunch tomorrow. Aaron and Adrian had a relatively calm and restful time at home and even the presence of presents under the Christmas tree didn't seem to get them excited.

In the evening, we went for an early Christmas mass that was packed with a million children. This is one of the only times in the year that I dress them in shirts instead of t-shirts and look how grumpy Aaron is about it.  We'll have to work on this in 2013.

For the first time, we had some children sitting behind us that were even more restless than Adrian. I didn't gloat but I did feel a teeny bit happy when I heard the mother use Aaron and Adrian as the examples of 'good' children. It was a mass for families with children so the homily was very short. And yet, I seem to have forgotten most of it already - oops!

The one message that I have retained is that God will not be found in calm or peacefulness but instead, God will be present in noise, stress and disorderliness. Those weren't the precise words that the priest used but that was the general message and he was definitely speaking to his audience.  The immediate thought I had was "YES! Good one to use on my parents". We all live in the same house but while I have accepted that my daily life is going to filled with often annoying levels of noise, I can see that it sometimes drives my parents into hiding. They are understanding about it and, I'm sure they'll be good sports too when I tease them with this.

Aaron and Adrian are in bed and I'm about to put out Santa's gifts for them - identical notebooks with pens. I've stuck with the semi boring presents from Santa from the start and saved all the cool presents for Richard and I to give them.

Friday, December 21, 2012

To Hug, or Not To Hug.

The Christmas season is a very confusing time for me because there are always many get togethers to attend and, inevitably, a lot of wishing of 'Merry Christmas'. I like hugs as much as the next person but I can never tell when I'm supposed to give a hug, or just stick my hand out, or when its meant to be a no contact 'Merry Christmas'. For people that I don't know very well, I usually move to shake hands and let them decide if they want to convert it to a hug or not. For the people I do know, and who I know are huggers, I usually give them a hug straight away. Sometimes, there are kisses thrown in to confuse me even further! Am I supposed to give them a kiss too? Is it meant to be an air kiss or a real peck on the cheek? And lets not forget the confusion of one, two or more kisses.

Obviously, I've consulted the internet on what should be done. It hasn't been extremely helpful but I came across a few interesting articles.

Pocket Cultures has a short article entitled Kiss, Hug or Shake Hands? It summarizes the types of greetings that are commonplace in Argentina, Brazil, Great Britain, Romania, Singapore and India. Its not just about the hugs and kisses, there is also a guide on what the usual response should be to the simple question of 'How are you?'

This article from the BBC is lengthy but offers a quick guide on the number of kisses:

Four: Paris
Three: Brittany, Netherlands, Belgium (if other person 10 years older), Egypt, Russia, Switzerland
Two: Spain, Austria, Hungary, Greece, some parts of France
One: Belgium
Close friends and family only: Germany, Italy, Middle East (except between male friends)
Don't try it: Japan (bow)

And finally, there was this funny article from The Australian. Its written from a man's perspective on the confusing air kiss. This isn't the only article that mentions it, but it looks like social kissing in Australia is a fairly recent, 'fashionable', behavior.

Anyway, there are three days left to Christmas so I'll be putting my hugs into practice. I don't think I'm advancing to the social kissing level yet but who knows, maybe next year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cheeky Monkey!

Look at this face. Isn't he cute? 

I thought that this was going to be my 'easy' son. He was cheaper (public hospitals and all immunizations were free). He slept really well, up until he was 3 months. He was always happy. Rarely gets angry. No tantrums. Responded in a sweet voice even when I was mad at him. 


Lately, he has increased the cheekiness level by 200%. He gets into everything. One evening, I found a big hole in the middle of the backyard, a deep one! And just now, he unraveled the entire spool of thread that was on my sewing machine. He still uses that sweet voice when he tells me that he can't do whatever it is that I'm asking him to. This little guy needs a lot more training than Aaron did. He's finally good at tidying up but thats only after I manage to presss the 'ON' button  on him to get things going. 

He's in bed now and looking as sweet as ever. In the evenings, I always think that I've been too hard on him but in the morning and should try to enjoy all this cuteness more. But in the mornings, usually around breakfast time, I'm bound to be less sweet than he is. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - One Of A Kind Christmas Cards

Aaron has been hard at work making these cards for some of the friends he has made in my clogging classes.

For many more Wordless Wednesdays, please visit My Little Drummer Boys.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Remembering Conversations

I have thousands of photos to remember how cute my children are and what they got up to. However, they also say thousands of funny and sweet things. They are chatterboxes that speak non-stop from the moment they wake up every morning. How do I keep a record of those moments?

This is what I heard at bedtime tonight. Aaron was in his room and I was in mine with Adrian.

Aaron : Good night, Mama
Me : Good night, Aaron
Adrian : Koko (thats what Adrian calls Aaron), Good night.
Aaron : Good night, Adrian
Adrian : See you tomorrow

There was silence for a long time and I thought Aaron was asleep until...

Aaron : Love you a lot, Mama
Me : I love you too Aaron
There was a bit of a pause here. 
Adrian : I love you, Koko
Aaron : I love you too, Adrian

Now isn't that sweet? It was such a simple conversation but was so endearing to listen to. I wish I could have recordings of these little exchanges to go along with the thousands of photos.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

I Want Shy Children

We've just come back from another clogging Christmas party. Once again, I took Aaron and Adrian along. They were relatively well behaved - didn't get up to any mischief, no tantrums and no disgusting behavior  However, they have become very familiar with many of my clogging friends and have no qualms about going up to any of them. Aaron spent a lot of time talking to one particular lady. When I asked him to give her a break, he'd find somebody else and go sit on their lap. And, Adrian would run up to random people, pull a funny face, and run away. They were lapping up the attention!

I don't think they're particularly annoying yet but another Christmas party or two and they would have definitely reached that level. Many of the other cloggers are grandmothers and lovely with the two of them but I'm sure you can imagine how these kids will eventually abuse that situation. Thats why I'm thinking that shy children would be really handy in situations like this. Not 'sticky' children (the type that won't leave your side), just the type that only reluctantly interact with other adults.

Obviously, I'd prefer to keep clogging a place I go to for some time away from being a mother but these days, with Richard away, I have no choice but to bring them along. Thankfully, its only the Christmas parties that I've had to take them a long to but when my parents are back in Malaysia next year, I'll need to take Adrian to a morning class with me.

How do you get these kids to stop bugging people? They're hardwired to bug. Aaron is easy, all I'd need to do is hand him some fresh reading material and he'll sit motionless. Its Adrian thats the distraction because he doesn't read yet. I do have the perfect solution but I've been strong and haven't used it yet - a screen. Last Wednesday, I bought a new $99 tablet for situations like this. All I'd need to do would be to put Angry Birds or maybe The Lorax in front of them and they'd be oblivious to everything else. I've been complimented in the past for NOT doing this but it would make life so much easier. Maybe it could be something that came out only at clogging Christmas parties?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Successful Day

After being around for the past week, Richard left to go back to the middle of nowhere this morning. We're good at these transitions and fell back into our routine immediately. In fact, the day he leaves is usually my best day because I'm refreshed after a week of having some extra help around the house.

Today was especially 'good'. Just take a look at what these two got up to after dinner. They were there for close to 30 mins and afterwards, we played Snakes and Ladders before having another 30 minutes of quiet reading before bed. Well, Aaron and I were quietly reading a book each while Adrian noisily talked himself through five or six before going off to shoot down the ornaments on the Christmas tree.

I'm not counting on tomorrow to be the same. In fact, by the time Richard comes back again, I'll probably be sitting in front of the TV with them after dinner. I'm just enjoying today for what it was - a success for me.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Ups and Downs of Mothering

Before I start writing about what I've been thinking about today, here is a photo from a very enjoyable time that we all had at the beach yesterday.

It was an extremely windy day but the two boys were more than content to dig holes in the sand, run for some water, fill it up only to see it disappear and then start all over again. I took the time to read a book while Richard did a bit of playing and then took the long walk to go get some lunch for us.

So that was an no fuss, happy and relaxed Sunday. The rest of my week is usually enjoyable too and Aaron and Adrian provide numerous reasons for me to laugh. BUT. They also push me to my limit, drive me insane with their numerous whiny requests and generally give me that tense jaw look a zillion times a day. By about 7pm, I am ready for some time without them. I can't wait for them to go to bed so that I can have some peace.

Surely I can't be the only mother that feels this way. (Or maybe I am. Oops!) Today, I was talking to someone about going to the gym and that person asked why I needed to go. I should have just said that I needed to do stay healthy or something like that but in the spur of the moment, honesty was blurted out and I said "Because I need to get away from Aaron and Adrian." Doesn't that sound terrible?

The truth is that when I'm attending a class at the gym, be it Zumba or Body Combat, I don't have any other thoughts in my head except co-ordinating my arms and legs and keeping up with the instructor. Its the same when I go clogging, I don't think of anything else. Even if one of them was sick (minor illness of course) at home, I don't worry about them and just enjoy being free of people needing me.

My honest response about going to the gym has been swirling around my mind. That person must think that I'm a horrible mother! And I feel horrible too for wanting to get away from them but its a necessity. I'm a much better mother after I've had that time to forget about them and just sweat away the day's frustrations. It just irked me a little that somebody might have this horrible, negative impression of me when I'm just trying to be a more pleasant mother.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

We Love Libraries

Aaron is definitely a book worm. The first thing he does every morning is read and he'll read all day if he could. I want this for Adrian too but I admit that I have read to him far less than I read to Aaron at this age. The good thing is that sometimes, Aaron helps me to read to Adrian. 

One of our favourite places to go is the library. They both get so excited about it and really enjoy the time there. I think we have a limit of about 20 books that we can borrow on each of our cards so the boys can pick as many as they like. I usually need to find a shopping cart just to transport the books from the library to the car. Adrian sometimes has problems returning the books but once he's in the library, he gets right into picking out new ones. 

Aaron could spend hours in a library. Now I just need to get Adrian to that stage so that I too can spend hours in a library again. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Funny Faces

Aaron and Adrian having a strong influence on one of my friends.

For more Wordless Wednesdays, please visit My Little Drummer Boys.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The 20 Year Reunion

I had a good time. It was the strangest feeling at the beginning but after awhile, things settled down. As I mentioned in the previous post, a friend picked me up so that we wouldn't need to go there alone. Thank goodness for that last minute security-blanket type of arrangement! While walking into the school grounds, we saw little clusters of people who waved at us, and we waved back while saying we had no idea who we were. Out of approximately 200 girls from our year, 70 attended yesterday's reunion. Only very few from my 'inner circle' of friends attended but there were many others that I was friends with that were there. So here's the nutshell...

The Expected...
- We started the reunion with a mass. I remember the last thing we did at school 20 years ago was to attend mass. Afterall, the school is called 'All Hallows' School'.

- There are no more nuns living in the convent and only one nun on the school staff. I was a little sad to find out that my old piano teacher only passed away earlier this year. I should have made the time to visit her.

- Everyone was in the same boat in terms of not being able to remember other people's names. Sometimes there were awkward moments when I found myself having a brief staring competition with somebody else while we tried to figure out names or even if we knew the other person.

- There was gossip, just like there was 20 years ago. In fact, there was even continuation of 20 year old gossip....I'd better not mention it here.

The Unexpected...

The chapel was smaller but prettier than I remembered it. Actually, the whole school was prettier! I'm sure it looked the same 20 years ago but I couldn't appreciate it then.

- We can all still sing in Latin! BUT, we still don't sing the hymns during mass and we even had a few wrong responses (hey...they're new) - the priest jokingly told us off and then proceeded to give us a pop quiz on the church.

- The remaining nun saw me and yelled out my full name. Then she gave me a BIG HUG! We weren't exactly buddies back in the day. I had a nice long chat with her and she gave me many ideas about how to make piano lessons interesting for Aaron. Funny how she knew of all these techniques but never used them. In the end, I took her number and I am going to visit her with Christmas presents one of these days.

- Two girls passed away the year after we left school - one from anorexia and another commited suicide. One other girl was murdered on a holiday to South America. Sad, sad news to hear.

- The gregarious girls had all become quieter and the quiet girls had all become much more confident. I'm putting this under 'unexpected' because it wasn't how I remembered them.

- I enjoyed the whole reunion more than I thought I would. In fact, I didn't plan to go out for drinks with them afterwards but I did and I almost didn't want to go home because they were such good company.

I wonder if there will be a 30 year reunion, and I wonder if I'll go. I'll probably chicken by then again and need my friend to come pick me up....better go let her know now.

Friday, November 23, 2012

20 Year Reunion Jitters

I've known for most of this year that my 20 year High School Reunion would be in November. And, for most of the year, I had it in my mind that I would not go. I liked the idea of going and thought it might be nice to meet up with some old friends but I still felt that I was not prepared to go. With my significantly compromised social skills, its hard enough work to mingle with people that I see regularly so the prospect of meeting up with a big group of strangers (which is basically what a group of people you haven't seen in 20 years is) was too daunting and I wasn't going to attempt it. And of course, there would be that inevitable question "What have you been up to?". Exactly. What have I been up to?

Twice during the year, I met up with the one of the two high school friends that I have kept in contact with. This girl has been excited about the reunion from the first mention of it. That made me feel all the more insecure because I was being such a wuss about the whole thing. Two days before the registration closing date, this same friend sends me an email, asking if I had my ticket. She still sounded very excited about it all.

I wasn't going to be that pathetic person and immediately signed up and got myself a ticket. I also sent her an email saying I had my ticket but I was feeling very apprehensive about it all. Guess what?! She wrote back saying that she was too. She was excited initially but now she almost didn't want to go but felt that she had to because its been 20 years. Phew! This is from the most accomplished person I know so maybe I'm not so pathetic after all. As a reminder of our past, she rang up this evening with a question that I haven't heard since high school "What are you wearing?"

A group of mothers I was talking to today also made me feel a little more normal. They too use their kids as an excuse to get out of awkward mingling situations. They also wonder if they talk too much, or too little. Going anywhere solo is a big deal when you spend all day, every day, communicating with little ones who may or may not fully communicate yet. 

So tomorrow is the day. I can't back out now so I'll just have to make sure that I enjoy myself and hopefully find some new 'old' friends. Any tips?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Storms and Broken Hearts

This past weekend saw a lot of destruction across Brisbane as five supercell storms raged through Southeast Queensland. I think this was one of the images of Brisbane during the day time while one of the storms struck. I've copied this photo from one of the newspapers.

Even with the threat of storms, my weekend started in an awesome way with the Tap Dogs concert. I took Aaron and Adrian and they sat still, and mesmerized, for 90 minutes. It was a fantastic!

The weekend sort of went flat after that because of the threat of storms. We just stayed home. I have surge protectors for the computers but the storms were so fierce that I didn't want to risk being online during the storms. I've had two previous modems/routers fried by storms before.

We were at home for four of the storms but I didn't notice the fifth one coming and we were out on the roads when day turned to night in five minutes and it started hailing on us. Thankfully, we managed to squeeze in with a bunch of other cars under an overpass. We were on the roads because I was on my way clogging but obviously, I didn't make it there and went sulking home.

It was at home that the big drop of the weekend came. When I finally got on the computer again, I thought I'd go do a backup of my photos. This is something I do regularly because my most precious possessions are these photos of my children. Guess what? I made the horrible discovery that all, ALL, the photos from 2011 were missing. I tried to contain my panic as I looked through the 4 external hard drives that I own. I initially thought that all photos prior to 2012 were gone. I managed to find some photos from 2010 but the last few months of 2010 were missing. So in total, I'm missing 16 months of photos. Don't ask me how this happened - I have no idea. I can't say it wasn't me but I can't be sure about that either.

You can't (or maybe you can) imagine the heartbreak this caused. Visualise a heart with cracks all through it because I was trying to contain the panic and then when I double and triple confirmed that the photos were nowhere to be found, just imagine that heart crumbling to bits. I couldn't get to sleep that night.

Eventually, I found some consolation in my phone. The same phone that I berated Richard for giving me for my birthday. The same phone that I said I would never need. Well, one day, several months ago, I accidentally did some sync with all my Google accounts and it has all the photos that I've ever posted Picasa web albums, including those missing ones. I always thought those photos were somehow from my PC and it wasn't until this disaster that I worked out they were from Picasa. I also remember wanting to delete it from the web albums because I'm running out of space but I hadn't gotten around to it yet. So, I have some photos - not a lot, but enough for me to remember what Adrian looked like during these adorable toddler months.

I've been spending my time, saving these photos back onto my unreliable PC hard disk and will then be carefully copying them onto one or more of my external hard disks and eventually, I will be making a photo book out of them so that I have a hard copy. All the copying and pasting has been a healing process and I am no longer depressed and grumpy now.

So the moral of the story is not just to backup but to check your backups.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Bigfoot

We're still on the footwear theme this week. Aaron could hardly lift his feet to walk in Richard's steel capped work boots.

Please visit My Little Drummer Boys for more Wordless Wednesdays.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Faith and Trust in Teachers

Last week, Aaron's class had a breakfast where parents were invited into the classroom to work with the children and then have a bit to eat before the normal school day started. Here are a couple of photos:

Playing around with molecules:

Clay tablet writing as part of their study of Mesopotamia:

Initially, I was very excited to see that he's exposed to such a variety of work in his classroom but I ended up in a bit of a panic before the end of the breakfast. Yes, ungrateful me. And, shameful me. I looked in his 'completed work' folder and I saw mainly short stories and drawings and only a little bit of work on numeracy skills. The traditional school system mindset in me just leaped out and started questioning Aaron about what work he did with numbers. This has been a fear I've had for nearly a term because Aaron is all about reading and writing at the moment.

I spoke to the teachers about this last term but they assured me that we needed to follow his lead and allow him this burst of writing. They also gave me the impression that they would make sure he got around to other areas of the classroom. Admittedly, working with the molecules or the clay tablets wouldn't end up in his folder but I think I know my son well enough to see from his 'completed folder' that he spends almost no time on numbers, or other types of work.

One of the challenges when sending your child to a Montessori school is the letting go of the expectation that a child is going to be working on all aspects of early childhood education at the same time. I think it involves a huge level of faith and trust in the teachers - more than in a traditional school because its easier for the parent in that traditional environment to get a snapshot of how a child is performing in class. In Aaron's class there isn't a traditional syllabus (or homework or any form of assessment) and therefore, it is impossible to know what a child is learning in the classroom because they all learn at their own pace. They also don't all study the same things. The 'completed folder' is only taken home at the end of a term and for a control freak like me, it means that I had no influence over what just happened in the term.

Since the breakfast, I've met with Aaron's teachers and I feel much better. They do agree that it is time to introduce more activities in numeracy and they will also try to introduce writing book reports to broaden his writing skills. I have faith and trust in them but doubt frequently creeps in. It wasn't my plan to be one of those parents that constantly bugged teachers, and I haven't so far, however, I think I'm going to try to check in with them a little more frequently (monthly?). They need their space but I need my peace of mind!

P.S. No, I haven't forgotten that Aaron is six and a half. I also haven't forgotten that the Montessori principle of following the child doesn't only apply to allowing a child to follow their interests but also means that the work they are introduced to is not restricted by their age. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

What Table Manners?

The subject of 'table manners' is interesting because behavior that is considered rude in one culture may actually be the polite thing to do in another. Burping is the perfect example and one that comes to mind because I had a conversation about it today. In most Western cultures, this is rude and definitely regarded as disgusting. I'm usually OK with it but I did find it a little gross when we were surrounded by it during meals out in Indonesia. Although, after awhile, I hardly noticed it. A quick check through Google seems to show that some Eskimo tribes and South Sea Island tribes burp as a sign of politeness at the end of a meal.

I also came across this fun site for kids. Its in the form of a quiz about the table manners from different countries. Give it a go here.

And if you want to do even more reading on this, here are a few from Gimundo.com

Dinner guests are treated like royalty: they’re seated farthest from the door, they’re offered food first and expected to eat the most, and they’re always given the prime portion from each dish.
If you drop bread on the floor while dining at a table, pick it up, kiss it, and touch it to your forehead before putting it somewhere other than the floor.
Never wave chopsticks at another person, bang them like drumsticks, use them to move plates or bowls, or stab them vertically into a bowl of rice. This last gesture indicates that the food is meant for the dead.
To serve a guest, use the blunt ends of your own chopsticks to transfer food from a communal dish to the guest’s plate.
When chopsticks are not in use, place them neatly on the table, side by side, with the ends even.
When picking food out of a communal dish, select only food that is on the top of the pile and the closest distance to your plate. Do not rummage through the serving dish to select specific food items for yourself.
Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after eating.
In general, eat with your right hand and use your left hand to pass communal dishes.
You must finish everything on your plate.
Do not leave the table until all guests have finished eating or your host asks for your help.
Before you commence a meal, wait for your host to tell you three times to begin eating.
The youngest person at the table should pour alcohol for the other diners, beginning with the most senior person. A senior should then pour the server’s beverage.
Never transfer food from one pair of chopsticks to another. When women transfer food with chopsticks from a serving dish to their mouth, they should cup their hand beneath the food; men should not.
Rubbing chopsticks together to remove splinters is a sign of disrespect to the restaurant or host.
When eating hot noodles, you are encouraged to make a slurping noise; the Japanese believe that this inhalation of air enhances the noodles’ flavor.
Pieces of sushi should be eaten in a single bite whenever possible; if you must eat a piece in more than one bite, never place it back down on your plate between bites.
Before each meal, Muslim Pakistanis always recite this phrase: “Bismillah Ar-Rahman al-Rahim.” (“In the name of Allah, who is most beneficial and merciful.”) Afterward, they say, “Al-Hamdu-lillah.” (“Thanks be to God.”)
Do not begin eating until the eldest member of the family is seated at the table.
Always chew quietly enough that no one else can hear you.
Always tear bread into pieces before eating it, and use only your right hand.
Before you enter a dining room, select a seat at a table, or serve yourself food, always wait for an invitation from the host.
Never refuse a sample of food from the host; always clean your plate.
When you have finished eating, place your fork and spoon side by side on your plate, facing up.
Always help your host clear the table.
Never stare at another person’s plate or saucer.
It is polite to leave a little bit of food on your plate at the end of a meal, as a tribute to the host’s abundant hospitality.
Always cultivate a vivacious, relaxed dining atmosphere.
Upon leaving the table, always compliment the person who cooked your food.
There you have it. Make sure you remember correctly which country you should OR shouldn't finish all the food on your plate. And practice burping in case you need to have dinner in a community where it is necessary. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Shoe Phone!

Adrian has no idea who Maxwell Smart is but they seem to have the same idea about shoes!

For more Wordless Wednesdays, please visit My Little Drummer Boys.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


I'm a late adopter in almost everything so it comes as no surprise that it has taken me until now to try out a Zumba class. My sister-in-law first told me about it several years ago but I never made it to any of the classes - until Monday. Richard has been back for his rostered week off and since last Wednesday, I have been trying to get to the gym as often as possible. Every time he comes back, we cram so many things into the one week that I never have time to blog.

So yesterday, I went for my first Zumba class. And, I was disappointed. The instructor did not have a motivating way about her. Firstly, she looked like she has had a few too many McDonalds dinners and secondly, she didn't use a microphone. Maybe thats how Zumba classes are, I don't know. She just wasn't good at communicated what she wanted us to do. Trying to yell over the music or use weird hand signs just didn't work. I didn't even break a sweat in that class and left wondering how the Zumba craze even got started.

It was disappointing but I thought I should give it another go because these classes are so dependent on a good instructor. Off I went again today and it was much better. The choreography was different and I did finish the class feeling like I've had a workout. It wasn't as much of a cardio workout as I had imagined it would be (clogging seems to work me harder) but its a fun class to go to that you don't need to feel any pain in. If I needed extra laughs, all I needed to do was look at myself in the mirror.

Will I go for more Zumba classes? Yes, but I won't go out of my way to make it there. I think I like it for the music and also for the training in hand and feet co-ordination. Oh, and of course, hip wiggling - I can't do that either.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Halloween

I'm not sure when Australians started celebrating Halloween but its definitely been gaining momentum over the past five years. On a whim, we decided to join a group of children from the school who were having a Halloween picnic followed by some trick or treating around the suburb near the school. 

It was the first time I've ever had anything to do with Halloween. Aaron and Adrian enjoyed dressing up and walking the streets with all the other little kids. They were excited about going up to the houses but didn't seem to care for all the candy. They had such a good time that by the time we got home, they had become super tired and super negative children that just cried and whined until their heads hit their pillows. 

For more Wordless Wednesdays, please visit My Little Drummer Boys.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

How was your weekend?

The inevitable question that everybody asks and gets asked on a Monday is "How was your weekend?" And, the automatic response that most people have is "Good". I know I do that and my "Good" can mean anything from 'fantastic' to 'nothing special'.

This was one of those weekends that I didn't do anything special. In fact, apart from taking Aaron to gymnastics and going to church on Sunday morning, we didn't even leave the house. So, it was a normal weekend - and it was good.

I got around to mending a lot of clothes that Aaron and I had piled up. None of the clothes needed major repair work but little tears here and there, or a loose button still takes up a bit of time to get done. While I was getting some sewing done, I also made Adrian a new pair of shorts.

The hardest job we had on the weekend was sorting the legos. Aaron and I like to have the various sizes sorted out so that its easy to find parts when we're building things.  So, I got that done while Aaron kept Adrian occupied.

Adrian definitely knows what to do with lego bricks but he is always dismembering the lego people. 

I managed to put most of them back together but there are still a few body parts missing. And I think a few people missing too.

So that was my weekend, it was fairly productive and mostly restful. What did you do?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Its Music Time

TGIF! is no longer something I yell out on Friday mornings. My weekend mornings are exactly the same as my weekday mornings. On Saturdays Aaron has to be at gymnastics by 9am and on Sundays we go to mass at 8.30am. There are no slack mornings for me. No roaming around in my PJs and taking my time to get breakfast ready. No lounging around doing nothing. No letting the children get away with not eating breakfast. I've got to do something about this next term.

There is no point in whinging so my remedy for the energy sapping effects of my daily grind is this album by Caro Emerald that I've only recently discovered - Deleted Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor was released in 2010. She's a dutch jazz singer that has been popular in Holland since 2010. I like all the songs on the album but I think my favorite is That Man. I don't particularly like this video but I'm definitely hooked on the song.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Mini Gardener

I'm going to take this opportunity to brag while I can. Adrian prefers gardening to TV. Even if he's already watching something, if offered the opportunity to go out into the garden, he ditches the idiot box. I know the inevitable cross over to the dark side will happen sooner or later but I must be doing something right at the moment.

For more Wordless Wednesdays, please visit My Little Drummer Boys. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Hot Day Out

Today was a scorching day! I was reluctant to venture out in the heat but we had made arrangements with some other people to check out the first Malaysian Festival in Brisbane. So, we covered ourselves in sunscreen, got out our hats and made our way there.

When I had initially heard of this festival, I envisioned it to be filled with stalls selling Char Koay Teow, Roti Canai, Laksa and many more of the delicious foods that Malaysia definitely has to offer. After all, eating, is every Malaysian's favourite past time. And for the cultural aspect of the festival, I thought they would showcase the traditional dances from Malays, Chinese and Indians as well as some of those from the native tribes.

I was sorely disappointed. I felt that it was a bit of a sham of a festival. Yes, harsh words but its how I feel.

It was held right in the middle of the city at King George Square. A very prominent position so they would have had a lot of traffic. I think I felt a little embarrassed on behalf of the organizers.

During the drought, King George Square was converted from a pleasant place with grass and a small fountain into a vast expanse of concrete in front of the city hall. You can imagine how much hotter all that concrete made the day. There was hardly any shade so it was incredibly silly of the organizers to expect anybody to sit on the chairs they had put out in front of the stage. They were lucky that there were people risking skin cancer to line up at the handful of food stalls they had there. After the long wait in the sun, the food was not up to standard. There are many good Malaysian restaurants in Brisbane - Why didn't they invite them to come help out?

Here's the one and only photo I took. We managed to squeeze onto one of the few shaded benches and Aaron is trying to pull of a bit of chewy chicken satay. Thats my mother in her I'm-too-hot-to-eat pose next to him.

I understand that many of the participants in this festival were students but surely they could have been more professional. I saw that the QUT Malaysian Students Association was represented and was quite excited because 20 years ago, that was my brainchild! I'm talking about hand made signs that were poorly laminated, unattractive stalls and even a messy cluster of large garbage bins left in the middle of the main area.

We did persevere in the heat awhile because I hoped that some of the performances they had would be 'educational' for my two son. The worst must have been the 'band' that entertained in between traditional dances with sappy karaoke songs from the 80s. Who wants to listen to Careless Whisper while baking in the hot sun? The dances were nothing to rave about either because they were all half hearted attempts and gave me the impression they thought that their intended audience wouldn't know any better about what they were doing.

I was hot, a little grumpy and definitely disappointed. Instead of showcasing the wonderful food, multiculturalism, and traditions, it reminded me of the many times in my Malaysian life that I have been frustrated by situations or services that were half heartedly thought out.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Must Read Parenting Test

This was too funny not to share. The original was on The Living Gorgeously Blog.

Except for Test 1 and Test 14, I have definitely lived each of these situations at one time or other. Some of them, like the sleepless nights, messy cars and children's TV shows, have come and gone, probably to return when I least expect it. Others, like Test 2 about knowing it all or grocery shopping still crop up every now and then just to remind me they are lurking in the shadows.

There are 14 Tests altogether but take the time to read it and have a chuckle. Obviously, its nothing that any parent doesn't already know but it works great as stress relief after a day of living some of these realities.

Test 1: Preparation
Women: To prepare for pregnancy 
1.Put on a dressing gown and stick a beanbag down the front.
2.Leave it there.
3.After 9 months remove 5% of the beans.

Men: To prepare for children
1.Go to a local chemist, tip the contents of your wallet onto the counter and tell the pharmacist to help himself
2.Go to the supermarket. Arrange to have your salary paid directly to their head office.
3.Go home. Pick up the newspaper and read it for the last time.

Test 2: Knowledge
Find a couple who are already parents and berate them about their methods of discipline, lack of patience, appallingly low tolerance levels and how they have allowed their children to run wild. Suggest ways in which they might improve their child's sleeping habits, toilet training, table manners and overall behaviour.

Enjoy it. It will be the last time in your life that you will have all the answers.

Test 3: Nights
To discover how the nights will feel:
1. Walk around the living room from 5pm to 10pm carrying a wet bag weighing approximately 4 - 6kg, with a radio turned to static (or some other obnoxious sound) playing loudly.
2. At 10pm, put the bag down, set the alarm for midnight and go to sleep.
3. Get up at 11pm and walk the bag around the living room until 1am.
4. Set the alarm for 3am.
5. As you can't get back to sleep, get up at 2am and make a cup of tea.
6. Go to bed at 2.45am.
7. Get up again at 3am when the alarm goes off.
8. Sing songs in the dark until 4am.
9. Put the alarm on for 5am. Get up when it goes off.
10.Make breakfast.
Keep this up for 5 years. LOOK CHEERFUL.

Test 4: Dressing Small Children
1.Buy a live octopus and a string bag.
2.Attempt to put the octopus into the string bag so that no arms hangout.
Time Allowed: 5 minutes.

Test 5:Cars
1.Forget the BMW. Buy a practical 5-door wagon.
2.Buy a chocolate ice cream cone and put it in the glove compartment. Leave it there.
3.Get a coin. Insert it into the CD player.
4.Take a box of chocolate biscuits; mash them into the back seat.
5.Run a garden rake along both sides of the car.

Test 6: Going For a Walk
a. Wait.
b. Go out the front door.
c. Come back in again.
d. Go out.
e. Come back in again.
f. Go out again.
g. Walk down the front path.
h. Walk back up it.
i. Walk down it again.
j. Walk very slowly down the road for five minutes.
k. Stop, inspect minutely and ask at least 6 questions about every piece of used chewing gum, dirty tissue and dead insect along the way.
l. Retrace your steps.
m. Scream that you have had as much as you can stand until the neighbours come out and stare at you.
n. Give up and go back into the house.
You are now just about ready to try taking a small child for a walk.

Test 7: Conversations with children
Repeat everything you say at least 5 times.

Test 8: Grocery Shopping
1. Go to the local supermarket. Take with you the nearest thing you can find to a pre-school child - a fully grown goat is excellent. If you intend to have more than one child, take more than one goat.
2. Buy your weekly groceries without letting the goat(s) out of your sight.
3. Pay for everything the goat eats or destroys.
Until you can easily accomplish this, do not even contemplate having children.

Test 9: Feeding a 1 year-old
1. Hollow out a melon
2. Make a small hole in the side
3. Suspend the melon from the ceiling and swing it side to side
4. Now get a bowl of soggy cornflakes and attempt to spoon them into the swaying melon while pretending to be an aeroplane.
5. Continue until half the cornflakes are gone.
6. Tip the rest into your lap, making sure that a lot of it falls on the floor.

Test 10: TV
1. Learn the names of every character from the Wiggles, Barney, Teletubbies and Disney.
2. Watch nothing else on television for at least 5 years.

Test 11:  Mess
Can you stand the mess children make? To find out:
1. Smear peanut butter onto the sofa and jam onto the curtains
2. Hide a fish behind the stereo and leave it there all summer.
3. Stick your fingers in the flowerbeds and then rub them on clean walls. Cover the stains with crayon. How does that look?
4. Empty every drawer/cupboard/storage box in your house onto the floor and proceed with step 5.
5. Drag randomly items from one room to another room & leave them there.

Test 12: Long Trips with Toddlers
1. Make a recording of someone shouting 'Mummy' repeatedly. Important Notes: No more than a 4 second delay between each Mummy. Include occasional crescendo to the level of a supersonic jet.
2. Play this tape in your car, everywhere you go for the next 4 years.
You are now ready to take a long trip with a toddler.

Test 13: Conversations
1.Start talking to an adult of your choice.
2.Have someone else continually tug on your shirt hem or shirt sleeve while playing the Mummy tape listed above.
You are now ready to have a conversation with an adult while there is a child in the room.

Test 14: Getting ready for work
1. Pick a day on which you have an important meeting.
2. Put on your finest work attire.
3. Take a cup of cream and put 1 cup of lemon juice in it
4. Stir
5. Dump half of it on your nice silk shirt
6. Saturate a towel with the other half of the mixture
7. Attempt to clean your shirt with the same saturated towel
8. Do not change (you have no time).
9. Go directly to work

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Chopsticks

He's getting the hang of it...

For more Wordless Wednesdays, visit My Little Drummer Boys.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Toy Cleanup Training

Aaron is fantastic at cleaning up his toys. He mastered this 'skill' very early on and has accepted it as part of his day. In fact, he used to operate on the rule that he could have no more than three toys out at any one time.

Unfortunately, I have failed with Adrian. Its not that I didn't try but I think I didn't spend as much time following through with what needs to be done. And also, Aaron has always helped to clean up the mess that Adrian made. The result now is that Adrian plays with everything in the toy cupboard at the same. And when the time comes to clean up, he does nothing. 

Obviously, I needed to do something about this and over the past couple of weeks, I have started and adhered to a strict toy cleanup routine at the end of each day. When its time, I let them know, then I turn the timer on for 15 minutes. Once the timer rings, I walk around with the laundry basket and pick up any toys that are still out and keep them. Most of the time I forget to return the toys and only return them when the store room is full. Adrian did look like he got the idea and I was initially encouraged with his behavior. Then, the smarty pants worked out that he could sit back and do the bare minimum because Aaron would always pick up the slack. Aargh!! I definitely felt sorry for Aaron. 

So a few days ago, I started waiting for an opportunity to step up the repercussions. Finally, I saw Adrian carelessly discard a toy that he likes in the middle of the kitchen. Aha! In I swooped, picked it up, made a big show of it and then threw it in the rubbish bin. He was horrified and understandably upset. The good and bad to this little incident was that Aaron ended up feeling sorry for Adrian and helped him get the toy out of the bin and even washed it for him. 

The drastic move of throwing his toys in the bin actually backfired on me. The next time I kept his toys away in the store room, he came to clarify that I wasn't putting them in the bin and then was completely fine with them being taken away. 

Frustrating right? Why was it so hard to get him to pack up the toys. He has a perfectly good example in Aaron to follow. 

I had to step it up once more. Yesterday, I not only picked up the few toys that he didn't get around to. I also, took out all three drawers full of toys because he left the cupboard doors open. He wasn't paying attention when I did my rounds so he had no idea.

The look on his face was priceless when he opened up the cupboards this morning and saw them completely empty. These are toys that he mostly plays with so he definitely felt the pain. And for now, he's showing some sign that he is getting the idea of picking up his share of the toys. 

How long will it last?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Excuses, excuses, excuses

Why haven't I been blogging? One friend tried to be funny and said that I was so busy clogging that I forgot about blogging. Thats not the case, I think about it every day. Some days I get a good blog topic idea but by the time 9pm comes, I'm too drained to do anything about it. Other days are so packed that coherent thoughts do not get a chance to enter my head and at 9pm, I keep it that way by watching TV. I always feel a little guilty because this is the only place that I get to write in full sentences.

Unfortunately, Richard has started a working roster that has him away from home for three weeks at a time before getting a week off. I wouldn't say that life is 'harder' now but it is definitely more hectic. It isn't harder because I think I was already doing all the hard bits in dealing with the children all day. The extra work I do now is more to do with the chores that need to get done in the house. Thankfully, my parents are here at the moment but my days definitely start earlier and end later now.

Also, I'm constantly feeling like I'm playing catch up to how quickly Aaron and Adrian are developing. They are so receptive to anything that I want to teach them but I am not getting around to it. I have grand plans but in the end, poor Aaron has to work on things by himself and Adrian is often left to get himself into trouble.

Finally, just as this blog is supposedly where I remind myself to write in complete sentences, stock trading is where I remind myself that I have a use other than parenting. Even making a couple of hundred dollars each week provides me with a huge sense of accomplishment. So every day, when I finally get to sit down at around 9pm, I go to my stocks first before blogging. All I really want to do at that time of the day is watch TV but its too easy to fall into that trap. Surprisingly, it is my mother, the same woman who at one time limited me to an hour of TV during school weeks, who is tempting me each night.

And there you have it - all of my excuses for not blogging since we got back from Adelaide. I think the only way to get back into the blogging routine is to do it daily. This is something I haven't done for several years but I will be attempting to do that, even if its just a few complete sentences.

Friday, September 28, 2012

I Think I've Recovered

We have been back from the clogging convention a full five days now and I think I've recovered. Actually, 'recovered' is not the right word, its more like 'normalized'.

We started the trip at 4.30am on Thursday and arrived in Adelaide at around 9am. I couldn't believe how fresh and energized I felt. All my plane trips for the past six years has been with one or two children in tow and I was so used to arriving at my destination, completely drained before even starting my holiday that I had incorrectly started to think that it was the norm.  We checked into a crappy motel and then we were off to the beautiful Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills for some lunch and shopping. O.M.G. Food never tasted so good nor retail therapy felt as satisfying. Don't get me wrong, the food and wine was definitely first class and the shops in this picturesque little village were full of beautiful things but it was the fact that I could take it all in, in peace, that really made the difference.

Here's a photo from Hahdorf - Australia's oldest German settlement. German Lutheran immigrated here in 1838 when they were persecuted by the King of Prussia.

The convention officially started on Friday night and we were clogging for the rest of the weekend. I think it was the combination of the boosted levels of endorphins and the sudden freedom from parental responsibility that had me on a high all weekend. I hardly ate or slept and yet I had all the energy in the world! All the workshops, from basics to advanced, were fun. I love it when I have to stress my brain and body in an advanced class only to find that its too wired up after that and gets confused in a basic class afterwards. Keeps things interesting!

Needless to say, the clogging convention was fantastic fun and I am already looking forward to the one in Canberra next year. I'm still not good enough to be putting videos up but here's a photo of my parents and I.

So what happened when we arrived back in Brisbane? We got home after midnight and I was up again at 6am because Richard had to leave for work. 6am was no earlier than I was waking up over the weekend but all of a sudden, there was no clogging to look forward to and only two kids that needed breakfast to be made. It was hard to go from the extreme high of the weekend back to the day to day life of a stay at home mom. I thought of the kids over the weekend but I didn't miss them at all - they were in good hands and I knew that Richard was giving them a fun weekend. The day to day things made time fly but it is only now that I feel 'normal' again in my routine. No more super highs and that sudden feeling of a crash landing. I'm back in the rhythm of the stay-at-home mom life but I am more motivated than ever to become a better and faster clogger.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Little Rooms With Views

There was a funny article in the news yesterday about the toilets on the 18th floor of a hotel. The cubicles had a full pane of glass that looked out and supposedly, the people using the toilets thought that the glass was reflective on the other side. Unfortunately, this wasn't the case and some people found onlookers waving at them while they were in there. Here's the accompanying photo. I can't quite figure out why there are two people in that cubicle, second from the left.

Toilets hotel Standard

I love toilet stories and while it wasn't amusing at the times I needed to use certain toilets, they are funny memories to have. Here is my list of most 'interesting' toilets.

The most difficult decision I've had to make about toilet cubicles was in Lijiang, China. It was a choice between the cubicle with no door, or the cubicle that had a big window one side, looking out onto a car park. I chose the window because there was nobody outside at that moment and I thought I could be quick enough. Plus, when I was seated, only my upper body was visible.

The cleanest outdoor toilet was one on the border of Cambodia and Vietnam. There were only four low walls and no roof so the sun dried up the inside of the cubicles and vaporised all smells. The only problem was that the walls were only as tall as a person so it was possible the peep over.

The most confronting toilet I've visited was another one somewhere en-route from Dali to Lijiang in China. This was an outdoor, public restroom that was very 'basic'. I walked in and there were two ladies, squatting side by side having a chat. I couldn't even make myself try to go so I just left and prayed there would be another toilet stop soon. There was another similar one in Chengdu except it was in a government building and fully tiled - I went there because there was nobody else around.

The scariest toilet was the one on my father's farm. I was seven or eight years old when he had his farm so my memory might have exaggerated things. It was a big hole dug in the ground, with two planks thrown over for a person to squat over. There were walls, a roof and a door but those planks were wobbly and it was a long fall down to you-know-what.

I think its time I did more travelling to get some new stories. I'll be going to Adelaide at the end of this week but I doubt there are any interesting loos there.