Friday, September 28, 2018

Sports do not build character; they reveal it ~ John Wooden

About 3 years ago just around this time, Dumpling started her little journey playing Netball. She returned home from school one day to tell me that she played Netball during a PAL lesson and promptly asked us to enrol her for training outside. As she was only in Primary 1 then, I recall that I was amused by her sharing and even asked if she was sure or was it that they played Captain’s Ball. To this day I still recall the indignant look on her face when she shared that it was indeed netball. Those lessons, started her love for that ball game and the fire has not been extinguished.

So, for the next 2+ years, she has been learning from and playing for 2 clubs outside. From simple ball drills to body conditioning work, she’s been at it almost every Saturday morning and would ask me for my thoughts and comments on her effort and games.

I personally know of many parents who delayed their girls’ CCA for as long as they could so that their daughters could attend other academic classes instead. I’ve also had mums who asked me why we stuck to it even as the school work gets more and more demanding each year.

So, why did I agree to let her do it then and why do I still support her after so long?

In case you were to misunderstand, let me add that my daughter is not in any school team nor are we remotely praying over / working towards using Netball as a DSA. I agreed to it initially because of 1 thing: collaboration.

As Dumpling is an “only”, I was worried that she would not know how to “work” with others, learn to share and even handle conflicts. Hence that was what got me nodding. Along the way, this pursuit of a sport, taught her many great things: grit, commitment (she sets alarm clock for her training), discipline and teamwork. She’s played through sickness (high fever which we later found out where we pulled her out to rest up), injuries (skinned knees, sore ribs) and also in the rain.

There’s been moments where she was at a plateau and she did not seem to improve or “get it” with her ball drills / game strategies and it would leave her (and frankly me) frustrated. But what I came to love about her is that she always bounces back. My favourite moments “sharing” this sport with her (I used to play this game too) is of us attending the annual Mission Cup games (or for this year, the Asian Games) together where we’d shout ourselves hoarse during the games supporting our team and then discuss the brilliant moves across the court.

Dumpling started walking at 10+ months old where she’d skipped the crawling stage entirely. It was almost like she was too impatient to wait and she went right on to the walking stage. I am not sure if it is because of that but she can be the most uncoordinated person at times. With this game, she had to learn how to work around things she is not naturally strong in and she’s had to endure the muscle fatigue and aches, sprained fingers, skinned knees, bruises and at one game at AIS, a really sore nose.

Photo with her fav players over a span of 3 years

Her school has recently started a series of really long training on every Saturday morning (between 4 – 5 hours and us having to reach school at the ungodly hour of 710am!) as they are now in the midst of selecting the school team for the next year. So, I have been getting tired over the long hours of training and the mad rush of sending her for her violin and catechism classes thereafter. I was sharing with a fellow mum that at times I am not sure why I am still sending Dumpling in for such long training especially when I know we have tons of homework to clear the following day.  

But I have an answer now. 

Recently Dumpling had a friendly match playing against one of the clubs that she was training with previously. She met an ex-teammate where coincidentally, they were direct opponents. After the game, Dumpling shared with me excitedly that her ex-teammate commented, somewhat in surprise, that Dumpling has improved a lot in speed, etc. Needless to say, Dumpling was really happy and encouraged. 

So, that's why we are still supporting her after so long: it is simply to honor her love for this sport. This strange, unwavering love of more than 3 years. Importantly, it is also to recognise that grit and commitment, and celebrate progress. 

Giving a Hi-5 to one of our national players who stands at a whopping 196cm!!!

Of course Dumpling still has many areas to work on but I am very sure that I've yet to meet many 9+YOs who's this committed to something. It is that love for the game that drives her "never-say-die" attitude, even when she faces opponents that are bigger and taller, and at times faster than her. And I, I am proud to be a mom of such a tenacious and determined child. 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Review: Cat in the Hat by SRT (戴高帽子的猫)

Dumpling has always looked forward to watching Chinese theatrical productions and was especially thrilled when we made plans to catch Cat in the Hat 戴高帽子的猫 by Singapore Repertory Theatre (especially right around our CA period! :p). 

Perhaps one of the world's most famous children’s authors, Dr. Seuss was certainly a well-liked character in our household when Dumpling was younger. His whimsical rhythmic stories provided us with such precious moments during our homeschooling years.

:: The story

“The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house all that cold, cold, wet day.”

The play was true to the story where the opening scene depicts the first page of the story with the 2 main characters staring out of their window on that cold, cold wet day. The props were also done up in the trademark Dr. Seuss's blue with the actors’ costumes riding on the "watercolour and ink illustration" style which is synonymous with the author.

When I first brought Dumpling and my niece to watch this play, I was worried that the play would be too simple for her since she is in Primary 4 after all. However, while the play is simple (where there’s far lesser lines than SRT’s other Chinese productions), it was, by no means, less enjoyable. What it “lacks” in dialogues, it makes up in physical comedy. 

The production was also able to draw on the children’s imagination with the simple stage sets, fuelled by the outrageous antics of the Cat in the Hat. Of course, no Cat in the Hat story will be complete without Thing 1 and Thing 2 ->; 小家伙

For parents who are looking for a gentle way to ease your children into Chinese exposure, this play is perfect for you. I heard young children laughing at the naughty antics Thing 1 and 2 did. 

Good phrases and vocabulary such as  急吼着,目瞪口呆,仔细看,垂头丧气 were used in the play too and of course, I did not waste the tiger mom learning moment to empahsize on those words to the kiddo. :p 

It was my niece’s (Primary 3) first foray into watching a Mandarin production and she really liked it. I heard her laughing out loud and saw her leaning forward, looking really engaged. At one point she also wondered out loud how Cat in the Hat could balance the gazillion things which he stacked.

With the September holidays just around the corner, this will be a great time to bring your children to sample this entertaining production! 

Here's more details:

Event Date
Thu, 9 Aug - Sat, 8 Sep 2018
Weekdays: 10am
Weekend & Public Holidays
Sat, 4 Aug and 11 Aug: 11am & 2pm


To book for your tickets, please click here.

Disclaimer: We were invited by Singapore Repertory Theatre to watch the play so that we can give our opinions about it. We are not compensated for the post. All opinions expressed are entirely ours. Images are courtesy of Singapore Repertory Theatre. 

If you have enjoyed this post, please follow me on my Facebook Page where I share my parenting thoughts (both on the kiddo and my furkid), food photos (be prepared for tons of them!), outdoor fun, useful reviews, early shout outs for giveaways and interact with you, my readers! You can also follow me on Pinterest and Instagram 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Choosing a Chinese Enrichment Centre

Dumpling used to head off to my parents' place after school on some days but that changed with her staying back in the school for an average of 3 times a week because of extra classes and CCA. Hence the exposure to Chinese language has been greatly cut down since that's my parents' mode of communication with her. 

And like many other parents, I find Chinese a harder subject to crack and to support in, which explains why I did Chinese immersion for her from 18 months to her Kindergarten years and where we did a lot of  Chinese homelearning too. However, as she progresses on in school, and with me having started a new job earlier this year, I find the lack of time and the lack of teaching materials a challenge in effectively supporting her in this area. More than that, there are also quite a few elements to exams: Learning Comprehension, Composition, Oral, Paper 2 (which includes *gasp* comprehension and 便条).

We tried a Chinese tutor for a good couple of months but unfortunately, because of health issues, she could not teach Dumpling any more. That started a mad rush for me where I had to look for alternatives i.e. enrichment centre. 

With school (and semester 2) restarting in a week's time, how do you then choose a centre for your child and what are the things to look out for? Here, I share some tips and my thought processes. 

1. Distance 
In all honesty, this ranks at the top of my list because choosing a centre usually is decision that will "last" over a few years. 

The closer the centre is to your home or to your child's school, the less tiring it is for all of you. And you will realise the importance as your child goes into Upper Primary because time is really a constraint with them staying back in school for so many days. You will also need to factor in the travelling time too. 

2. Teachers / Environment  
Chinese is already a hard language to master so to me, having encouraging teachers is very important. Dumpling was previously with another enrichment centre and while the workload was really heavy, the teachers she had there were really nice and always had words of encouragement. 

There were days where Dumpling could not finish the compositions in time and the teachers did not mind and allowed Dumpling to continue on, even after the lesson has ended. I feel that this contributed to Dumping's "openness towards this language" because her experiences with these teachers have always been good. 

3. Curriculum / Gaps you wish to tackle
While the syllabus is set by MOE, different centres have their own curriculum where they plan for their lessons and design their worksheets differently. Even elements in their worksheets differ in focus an in intensity. Additionally, the length of the sessions and what are being covered in the lessons differ too. 

To elaborate, some centres run 2-hour programmes as well as a 3-hour programme. The 2 hour programmes usually come in these sort of combinations:

- Paper 2 components (Vocab + words from textbooks as well as comprehension)
- Composition + Oral format 
- Composition + Oral + Comprehension 

Now, you may ask how it is that some centres are able to cover composition + oral + comprehension while another is not able to. This is where you will need to call and do a bit of "homework". 

Honestly, it is hard for these centres to cover all these components in a 2-hour class so some centres may cover comprehension but they are the MCQ versions and then they pair it with composition; they will then do an Open-Ended Comprehension with Oral the following week. Other centres may do a full paper 2 and pair it with Oral before alternating with Composition the following week. So you will need to think and decide if for e.g. you prefer weekly compositions or you are for e.g. fine with 3 per term. 

You will also need to understand your child's schedule - is he / she able to complete the homework given by these centres:

  • do they have time to learn extra Ting Xie and Mo Xie words
  • do corrections
  • even work on the compositions from home 

I have some friends who prefer to let the enrichment centres support in just composition and oral while they work to support the child on the paper 2 components at home, on their own. Then, there are also centres that run a 3-hour programme where it is "all-in-one" ~ paper 2 components, composition and oral. 

More importantly, based on your child's recent SA1 papers, you will need to identify what the areas of improvement are. If your child seems to be weaker in composition, then you may not quite need to do the paper 2 components but focus your time and resources in choosing a centre that offers just composition support. 

4. Home and centre partnership 
It takes a village to raise a child and having a good partnership with your child's teacher is really important. In some trials / holiday workshops with some of the centres, I often ask for feedback and this allows me to gauge 2 things:

- How quick the centres reply with feedback 
- How insightful their observations are 

More importantly, when the teachers share areas which Dumpling needs improvement on, I'd often turn it around and ask them back ~ " How are you able to support her in that area then? What are your strategies and what will be your recommendations?" 

5. Slots availability and fees 
These 2 factors are pretty self explanatory ~ with Dumpling staying back in school so often, it is a challenge to be able to look for a class that suits her timetable so that took a bit of calling and checking too. Additionally, there's the question of fees of course. 

So far, based on my calls, most of these centres charge around $20+ per hour for group sessions (if you were to break the fees down by per term and then by per hour) but of course, there are some who charge a more premium fee. So it will be good for you to call and ask to see the materials and understand the justification in these places charging for a premium. 

I hope the sharing is useful and here's wishing you good luck in your search and in the upcoming Semester 2!

I have previously written a post on nurturing a love for the Chinese language before and you can read more about it here:

Part 1: Read Read Read (books of a different kind)

Part 2: Speak it, Use it!
Part 3: Watch it!

Part 4: Play It! 

Looking for more sharing on the Chinese syllabus, I recently interviewed a friend who is an MOE Primary School Chinese teacher on Chinese Composition which you can read about here too. 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Parenting with Love: Educating for the Future World

I never thought that I'd say this but comparatively to many to other mums, it's evident that I will never qualify to be a "tiger mum". To be one, you must have an iron will as well as the tenacity to weather all storms (including rebellions and meltdowns), not to mention pretty deep pockets. :p  I bumped into a mum a few weekends who stopped me in mid tracks to ask about a Netball organisation that Dumpling was with for the last 2 - 3 terms. From that discussion it evolved to many other side topics but all driving towards how I am steering / preparing my child for an elite Secondary school.

It was clear that this mum was at the top of her game and mind you, I must say that I am very impressed as her child is a good couple of years younger than Dumpling, having only started in Primary 1. Honestly, I could not keep up.

I have recently moved on from the Early Childhood industry (after having spent the past 6 years in this industry) where I am now taking back on a team leader position, overseeing a department. (Please stay with me, this is leading to something.) As the role was left vacant for a while, there are "headcounts" to fill. So, over the past few weeks, I have been actively interviewing candidates for 2 positions as well as understanding the dynamics of my new team, and learning more about my various stakeholders and colleagues.

After viewing what feels like a gazillion CVs, it suddenly hit me that my managers and I were hardly looking into the academic achievements of the candidates. Rather, the candidates that caught my eye were those who cited leadership experiences, commitment (e.g. no job hopping), problem solving skills, etc. During the interviews, traits such as a willingness to collaborate, high EQ (I sometimes ask fairly far out questions to see what response I'd elicit), creativity are things that I look out for.

Dumpling is turning 10 this year and it made me rethink ~ is the future world or are future jobs just about grades? Will interviewers be looking into her PSLE and O level scores comes 10 - 12 years time? Or are there other skills which are more important? What are the jobs which are yet to be created, for the future world?

As parents in this meritocratic society, I believe that many of us were brought up with a view on the utter importance of grades. But what is an irony to me is while as a society, many areas such as technology, medical research, etc. have progressed but our education system seems to be stuck in some sort of a time capsule. The relentless chase for grades is still ongoing, evident in the thriving billion dollar tuition industry here in Singapore.

And I must say that some parents start their kids "early" on these. Dumpling had an interesting encounter with a classmate last year where they had to construct a boat individually but work as a group to present and share their thoughts, findings and rationale for the choice of materials for their boat. Dumpling was in charge of collating the slides and was repeatedly "chasing" for the slides from a classmate. After 2 - 3 weeks (nearing the deadline), the girl shared that her parent does not allow for her to email or share her slides with anyone prior the presentation. Frankly, I was mind-blown. 😐

Collaboration, problem solving skills, conflict management and the ability to lead, to me, are skills which I'd like for Dumpling to hone as they are key to her working well with her colleagues and team mates, no matter where she goes. After all, no one has all the knowledge in the world. And if anything, always choose to be kind. The world is not just about grades, and certainly not just about possessing this tunnel vision of being so "me-centric" and causing much inconvenience where, in this instance, the form teacher had to insert the students' (lone -ranger) slides into the group deck so no one else could see them prior.

I still recall my brother purchasing his first computer (286!!!) from years ago and that the shop assistants were playing computer games when we got there. I recall that "gaming" was being frowned on then, by the older folks as it was not really "a job". Just take a look at our children now. Many parents are signing them for robotics and coding classes, and even MOE has released a statement to share that all primary schools are to set up an applied learning programme by 2023. So who's to say what future jobs will be created in 10 - 15 years down the road?

So are grades, then, truly enough? Or are we, as parents of this next generation, missing out something that's beyond the academics.

Friday, February 2, 2018


“Mama, you will be fine right? All you have to do is to take medication which the doctor prescribed and you will be fine right?” Dumpling asked with tears streaming down her face. My heart shattered as I held on to that very fine thread of sanity for strength.

Please allow me to “rewind” back to the start of the year for January was a really challenging month for me.

My helper had to leave very urgently on compassionate leave and because everything happened so fast, I had no turnaround time to look and arrange for a part time cleaner. As I had very few days of leave left transitioning into a new job, I had to juggle work + scheduling for the pick-up of Dumpling + working out her food schedule as she was staying back in school from Wed – Friday weekly. Add laundry, medicating the dog, cooking / washing of dishes + mopping, supporting the kiddo with her homework; you can tell how packed each day was over the course of those weeks. 

Along the way, I went for what I thought was a “regular” Pap Smear test. “Regular” because the last round was almost 5 years go. Yup yup, before you diss me, this was what happened. My gynae appointments are usually made way in advance (like months ahead) because his schedule is really packed. What happened was I totally forgotten about it and I got busy with the everyday "busy-ness" and mum duties and then it dragged on and on until very strangely, I had this sudden and persistent “urge” to head for the test. So I booked myself one and a week after doing the test, the nurse called me up and said “Alicia, your test came back with inflammation with Parakeratiotic cells seen. Doctor Ong would like to see you tomorrow.”

I was totally taken aback “Para what?” I asked. “What does this mean?” And of course, she couldn’t answer further and the next day, I met up with the doctor to explain to me that basically because there’s inflammation in the cervix, the cells sort of build up as they layered and layered over, almost like a self defense mechanism to deal with the inflammation. BUT here’s the thing, HPV also causes inflammation and for some kinds, they are so called the high-risk (types 16 & 18) lead to the majority of cancer and get this, cervical cancer is most commonly linked to HPV.   

So I went for a further test / scope and the waiting game started. It was a week of yoyo moods for me. I hadn’t intended to tell Dumpling anything but she knew that I went for my regular check up as I had picked her up from school that late afternoon and so, she was really intuitive as to why I needed to go back for the second time. Sigh… Hence the water works started.

I’ve always been iffy about the mortality discussion. When suddenly thrusted into this situation where I may be at high risk for cervical cancer, my first thoughts were “Oh dear. What’s gonna happen to the kiddo? How am I gonna break the news to my parents, who will be utterly devastated?” I started tearing in the car, texted some close friends & colleagues and called my bro who unfortunately was away on business travel.

Over the course of the week (where my helper was still away), I tried very hard not to think about it but honestly, that’s akin to ignoring a time bomb ticking away in your head. I posted up a status on FB asking for prayers and many replied back / PM / What’s App me.

And for that, I am utterly thankful ~ mummy friends helped me to pick Dumpling up from school, close friends prayed for me daily and continued to encourage me and some met me for lunch to cheer me up. I was reminded to be still, and to trust in God. Dumpling and I prayed together and amazingly, she kept assuring me that I will be alright. As for me, I basically passed the driver's seat to God. I told Him that my life was never mine in the first place so I am good if He wishes to take me with him. But if possible, I'd like to be able to parent and witness the kiddo grow up and to spend more time with my parents and loved ones. 

I am glad to share that I am tested negative for HPV (Thank you Lord!) and I am on a course of medication for bacteria where I have to repeat my tests again in 3 months time so it will be another waiting game. :( 

Having gone through this crazy scare, I was encouraged by my gynae to go for a HPV vaccine which I will be doing so. A girl friend incidentally texted me last evening to check on me (thanks June!) and I will share with you all the same thing that I shared with her then. 

I am also not a big fan of any vaccines but this episode has made me really glad that I’d still have that option to choose. If you were to be tested negative for it and the vaccine can provide some degree of coverage for HPV, then why not? 

To quote a read on a website:

"Cervical cancer: Virtually all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV, and just two HPV types, 16 and 18, are responsible for about 70% of all cases (7, 8). Anal cancer: About 95% of anal cancers are caused by HPV." 

So, have a think about it, my mummy readers and friends. Let's take some time for self care so that we can continue for a longer period and go a farther distance. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Parenting with Love: Developing Good Habits

My post is a tad late I know, as most of my friends posted their “Goodbye 2017” post end of last year. While I slowed down towards the end of the year (especially with a small accident) and reflected internally, I did not really have the time nor was I in the right frame of mind to sit and type it all down.

On the parenting front, one of the hardest challenges I faced last year was parenting a “tween”. I did not experience any terrible 2s with Dumpling so I was totally unprepared for the struggles we had last year. Then I went on to google and realize that 9 is the start of TWEENAGE. Yup, welcome to this urban term where it is defined as girl aged about 9-14...too old for toys, but too young for boys (thank God!)

One of the key areas which I would like for her to work on is to develop good habits for this year. As a FTWM, time is something which I lack and with her in Primary 4 this year, I’d like for her to take on more ownership of her work and responsibilities. Add to the fact that I am a Type A, I need things to be planned out properly and way in advance because of the big E word – Efficiency. With a helper to the equation, I realise that Dumpling hasn’t quite been given the chances to plan and manage deadlines on her own. This has resulted in many nagging sessions from me which sometimes lead to intense frustration on my end.

For this year, her schedule seems to be getting crazier primarily because of supplementary classes - the kiddo will be staying on in school for E2K twice a week (will blog about this once she starts and when we have a better understanding of the programme). Added to the fact that she has to also stay on for CCA, I am really worried about her ability to finish her school homework on time and have a little down time to herself.

So with the imminent tight schedule, I took the opportunity to talk to her about setting goals and creating an agreement. I hope that I do not have to nag too much.

So yes, for 2018, my focus is to for her to develop good habits because I believe with good habits,  everything else will follow. And these are what we agreed to:

1. Be responsible for her homework. Namely:
  • No devices from 330 to 5pm until school homework is cleared (on days where she does not have to stay back in school)
  • Complete school homework on supplementary days after taking an hour break upon reaching home

2. Keeping to the scheduled time slots to complete the individual items then personal time

3. Practising violin daily (even if it is just 20-30 mins)

4. Understand deadlines – e.g. be in room by a certain time

5. Praying before bed

As for me, here’s my focus for the year

1. To set aside me-time: my weekly Yoga and to continue with my self-care skin care regime (Mary Kay!)

2. To guide the kiddo in planning her schedule though it is much quicker for me to do it!

3. To be more prayerful and continue to have positive thoughts  

EDIT: Here's a simple goal setting file which I created for Dumpling so that she can list out her top 3 goals where we can pin it up and we can both view daily. It also includes a simple sheet where you can track your progress some weeks (determined by you and your child) down the road. I hope that it is useful for you guys!

Goal setting printable for children

Do you do goal setting with your child? How do you do it? Has it proven to be successful? I intend to review this a month down the road so wish me luck all! 
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