The Cheerleader Mom


One of my blog followers who is also a friend asked me out of the blue, why I haven’t been blogging for almost 2 months. I looked at her and said, “I have been crazy busy, babe!”

“Oh like you haven’t been!” she teased.

“No, serious, I am standing right smack in the middle of the circle of life…”

“Like Elton John’s song huh?”

“Yes, like I am in a jungle. I have a busy job, a high-schooler, a primary kid and a pre-schooler. Imagine the number of school activities, homework coaching, ferrying to-and-from and parent-teacher interactions that I am trying to juggle now together with Daddy Joe. May be Sir Elton John was dedicating this song to ME.”

“Really? Cheeky Koko is in high school now and Baby B… already in a kindergarten?”

“Yes I know, right? Time flies in supersonic speed! I don’t know what I fed my kids but somehow they have started growing up! Cheeky Koko is now 13, have a wee bit of facial hair and much as I am quite tall, he is growing as tall as me NOW and it’s suddenly about me scolding him looking upward which is just AWKWARD!”

Uh-huh. Sounds like you are not ready to deal with parenting a teenager.”

“Absolutely NOT. He was just a baby yesterday! Oh and few months back when I heard the first crack in his voice out of a sudden, and I mean, like overnight… I thought alien invaded my house!”

As my friend laughed at my dramatic but completely honest sharing, my mind travelled to the tensed moments I felt just over a few months ago when Cheeky Koko was preparing for his UPSR exam, which is the compulsory Standard Six exam all 12 years olds in Malaysian government / public schools must sit for that will determine the kind of high school they get to go to for the following year.medium_2974216341

Despite having told myself countless times that my decision to send him to a Chinese primary school was purely to instil the good old moral and piety-driven family value in him and not at all about the stringent learning process and the pursuit of excellent academic performance that which underlie our education system, I turned into a tensed mom doing just what I didn’t want to do in the few months leading to the exam.

That tension of realising he would not be able to do as well as I thought as I observed that more and more, he was not slogging at his study desk as I have expected him to was met with angry words from me, and his streak of rebellion of turning to tablet games whenever he was stressed with his studies created a red sea that divided my boy and me.

In fact, I lost count on the number of nights on ends when silent frustrations made both of us walked back into our own bedrooms without the usual mommy-son embrace and goodnight exchanges. If I did press for it, I would get a cold goodnight, ma in a Zombie dead tone from my first child who is usually the funny bones in the house.

I don’t think I ever grew up and grow old wanting to be competitive in my spirit. I always feel that every child has his or her own potential and gifting that would one day be a calling for greater things in his chosen path but somehow in those moments I lost sight over how small this exam was as compared to the many tests we will eventually face in life.

It was more like I was frustrated with my own inability to instil in him to be an independent learner. I was frustrated that he wasn’t studying the whole day when he was facing such a major exam. I lost sight over the simplicity of what it means to be a child, that being carefree was his God-given entitlement.

It didn’t take long for his day care teacher, an elderly lady in her 60s, to notice that Cheeky Koko was losing his smile and confidence over his studies and advised me to find a way to walk to him, fast. Finding the right words to mend our relationship was tough when I couldn’t even think straight how I should encourage him when I could not find the peace within myself to be the encouraging mom he needed the most at that time. I sat down that night and wrote him a 5-page letter that reaffirmed my love and confidence over him and explained to him that I wasn’t seeking straight As from him. I was merely trying to find my way back to being the best cheerleader mom who wanted him to believe that he could reach the sky if he gave his best in everything he does in his life.

A month later, my Cheeky Koko sat for his UPSR with a lot of cheers from us, his papa and mama. And the week that he sat for his exam? We ate pizza and cycled together because we knew he has put in his best in that one month. He scored quite a number of As in the end and some Bs. Not that it mattered anyway, because it mattered that much more that he regained his sunshine smile and joy as he now ventures into teenage-hood and settling down in his high school life.

Mothering is tough work. Don’t be surprised that I am soaking up books on parenting a teenager. After all, I am standing right smack in the circle of life where every day does feel like a jungle of crazy joy, except that I now learn to cherish and embrace it that much more.

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Photo Credit:

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22 Dinosaurs Roaming in Kuala Lumpur


Apart from being a wife, a mom, a daughter, a friend, a worker, a sister and a positive thinker, I recently realize that I too, am the official Social Director of our happiest little family. But of course, I suck at it compared to my friend Cheng.

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I got to know Cheng through work few years back. She was born a Malaysian but migrated to New York since she was nine and is now as American as the American Pie. Being a working mom of four married to an ABC, she is the epitome of a modern day mom who has it all – she is the happy breadwinner who excels at work (some years back due to the recession her husband lost his job and they figured since she had a more promising job, and since both also wanted one of them to care for the kids and be there for them through their growing up years that it was a better arrangement that her husband became the stay-home dad instead) and at home life.

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Every weekend her family would be doing something fun together, such as a cook-out with grandparents, canning their own jams, cycling together, visiting a farmer’s market, taking a metro to visit arts museum, picnic at the park, attending outdoor concerts or just taking a stroll to some interesting places which made me wonder why I could not find just as many interesting places around KL that can so much as stimulating my happiest little people to want to know about life and things beyond their boring textbooks.
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Every school holidays, I scour through google to find places of interest locally that can make our interactions and time spent together a fulfilling and memorable journey.

Never quite a Jurassic Park fan myself (uh-uh. Ain’t messing with those ferocious carnivores or prehistoric reptiles who consistently thought humans were food in the movie!), I was initially a little hesitant to step into the Malaysian Jurassic Park (yep, you heard me right and do enter at your own risk because you are dealing with not just one but 22 dinosaurs of all shapes, sizes and appetites too!)

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Unlike the world’s favourite dinosaur Barney, these dinosaurs do not look like they need a hug t all but thankfully they do not bite either! They are life-like, can really roar and even move if you wake them accidentally but they are pretty much tamed and now viewable at the Dinoscovery by Dinosaurs Live! which is Asia Pacific’s first-of-its-kind interactive, edutainment dinosaurs exhibition located at Discoveria, Avenue K.

Now, to visit these dinosaurs, one is expected to dress in style like a Paleontologist (Bermudas, safari hats and matching trail boots are not necessary, of course), which is easy considering that each visitor is first decked in tan-coloured Dinoscovery vest before the trail to track down the dinosaurs begins.
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After a fun and short briefing, visitors are to complete the Dino Quest in search of specific dinosaur specimens amidst the roars of many larger-than-life animatronic dinosaurs in their habitats which make it a rather unique and fun learning experience for children of all ages.

There were more than a dozen family-friendly activities such as Climbing an artificial rock wall to glimpse a Pteranodon’s eggs, Race A Theropod where visitors are given the chance to challenge the swift-footed Gallimimus in a 10-metre interactive race (losers won’t be eaten I guarantee, seeing that Cheeky Koko has had to race it twice to win the race but didn’t get swallowed alive when he lost the race to the Gallimimus at first), the Dinoshooting Range where visitors can partake in a mission to save sleeping Diplodocuses from pesky mozzies with paintball rifles and also watch a 3D Dinosaurs Movie.

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Pumpkin Mei-Mei and Baby B loved the final game the best which was all about excavating for fossils in a sand pit. They also enjoyed learning about the different kind of food dinosaurs ate. It was a good thing that all of the facts about these prehistoric animals were presented in fun, humorous and interactive language and manners that the kids could relate to.
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As for Seven2SevenMom, all that was proof of her worth as the best Social Director to her kids were happy smiles captured in the photo souvenirs she bought which speaks a thousand words – that Dinosaurs hunting could turn out to be the best school holiday fun sometimes, especially the kinds that will make you want to go back for more. J

Dinoscovery by Dinosaurs Live!will run from 21 March 2014 to 28 February 2015. Tickets for children aged 17 years and below are priced at RM35 for Malaysians and RM50 for non-Malaysians while tickets for adults are priced at RM25 for Malaysians and RM40 for non-Malaysians. Senior citizens (aged above 60) and persons with disabilities are given a special concession rate of RM19. Opening hours are 10am to 10pm daily including school and public holidays with last admission at 9pm.

Just as we came to the end of our visit, Cheeky Koko mumbled, “Ahhh… perfect for lunch!” as he stood up on the sand pit. Curious, I asked him what he meant to which my super-cheeky 12 years old pointed with a smile towards the T-Rex ribs he dug out from the fossils sand pit. Truly entertaining!

The Dinoscovery by Dinosaurs Live! Exhibition is exclusively brought by EMS Entertainment and supported by Malaysia’s Ministry of Tourism and Culture, making it the first-of-its-kind edutainment exhibition to be hosted here at Level 4 of Avenue K, Kuala Lumpur.

The Answer To The Questions


You know your children are growing up when they stop asking you where they came from and refuse to tell you where they’re going.

 ~ P. J. O’Rourke

The day finally arrived when I got to meet this long lost girlfriend, Yen, from almost 20 years ago whom I adore greatly. We were really good friends during college years, sharing good camaraderie, life’s joy and sorrow and as we went separate ways to pursue our own dreams, we somehow just lost contact completely. We have tried to find each other over the years as we got married and had kids but it just didn’t happen until we found each other over social media. It was a reunion too long in the making and too short for two kindred spirits trying to connect the dots of the past decades. One thing led to another and soon our happiest little family got invited to her lovely home to meet with hers.

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Unfortunately kids just do NOT come with an operating manual!

As our children went out to play in her lawn fascinated with Yen’s pet ducks under the warm sun, Yen sat next to me in her sofa, looked deep into my eyes and said, “Hey, I don’t know how you do it but you have got soooo much patience for your children!” Surprised, I asked her back, “What do you mean? They are my own!”

“You answered EVERY SINGLE question your kids ask. It’s like one second you were eating, passing the salt and pepper, carrying on conversation with us, laughing, and next when one of them asked, Mama, why does Aunty’s house have ducks for pets? and you went, oh yah, ducks are the next best thing for farm education and cultivation of love for animals, and then you came back into the conversation with me about your job! Amazing, did you know you were doing ALL THAT?”

I chuckled, “well, we are mommies; we can multitask! But don’t you answer your kids’ questions, no matter how amusing they are?”

“Yes and no. Yes when I know the answer and when I have the energy for it, but No when I feel like I have just been run over by a truck after a tough day at work!” Yen said it with the same intelligent sparkle in her eyes for which I have seen so many years ago.
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Just then, Pumpkin Mei-Mei popped her head through the window and asked, “Ma, are these two ducks husband and wife?” “I think they are, I don’t know, you would have to see if they are very loving like husband and wife!” I replied thoughtfully.

“See? See? You did just that! Gosh, you answered EVERY question!” Yen said comically and I couldn’t help but laugh along.

Before I could even say anything, Cheeky Koko ran into Yen’s living hall with Yen’s son Julien and asked, “Ma, do these ducks lay salted eggs or ducklings?” This time, Yen replied on my behalf, “I think they would lay eggs which would then hatch into ducklings but sweetie, salted eggs are different eggs that have been processed.”

I nudged Yen’s arm lightly and said with a smile, “Oh wow, you learned fast! Now you are like me, you have an answer for everything,” and we both chuckled along.

Child developmental experts say that up to 70% of a child’s brain cell connection occurs when they interact with their environment and that children ask questions because they are curious about the world around them. They say that an inquisitive mind is an indication of a child’s positive mental developmental process. (The Timing and Quality of Early Experiences Combine to Shape Brain Architecture, Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University.)

Parenting could be a daunting task and one cannot possibly get every solution from every parenting book that has been published!

That’s just how it looks like when us parents try to outsmart our kids by reading up on every subject under the sky!

I am a firm believer in the whole notion that smart question produces smart answers and no questions produces nothing. Ever since the kids learned how to asked, I have made it a point to literally stop whatever I was doing and give some thoughts to their questions before I give my reply to them. I feel that it is important to feed my child’s curiosity and influence her attitude to learning with what I know rather than letting her find the answers from the wrong source of information.

I may not know every answer to all that they ask, but in those situation when I really do not have an answer, I would admit to them that I do not know but that I would find that out for them and get back to them. I mean, we are raising the street smart Gen Y now or what they call, Generation Why, who define young children with a string of Who, What, How, Why, When and Where to help them learn and explore the world around them through the questions that they ask.

As I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, what was focused on was the IQ (Intelligence Quotient) development of a child and in the 90s, the buzz word was EQ (Emotional Quotient). As a modern mom, there is an additional intelligence factor that is often overlooked or misunderstood called the Multiple Intelligence which is needed as part of the right ingredients to bring up an all-rounded and wholesome kid.

Now I am learning that all three aspects – IQ, EQ and  Multiple Intelligence are equally important in the moulding of a child’s holistic character and outlook for life so that one day he will grow up to become a well-rounded adult.

Fret not if this is completely alien to you.

The Anmum Essential Gen Why Workshop on 31 May (Sat) & 1 June (Sun) held at The Oval, 1 Utama Shopping Centre, from 10am to 10pm will let you hear first-hand from professional child psychologists and nutritionists who will share their knowledge and expert advice in raising up wholesome kids. Just register here!

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It’s really is a duck and egg question… 🙂

Of course, the right nutrition ensures wholesome development of a child. *Anmum Essential™ formulated milk powder for children contains important nutrients such as GA (Gangliosides) and DHA for children’s brain development.

Some parents find their children’s endless questioning annoying. On the other hand, I find that the window of time in which we could positively influence their character-building, minds, spiritual and social development are very small and thus we should never give up in giving our best to them, including our time, our knowledge and most importantly our love.

Yes, we don’t really know if two ducks are husbands or wife but we sure know a thing or two about the origin of salted egg that will never come straight from a duck mama.

 

*GA (Gangliosides) is a type of special complex lipid which plays an important role in brain development and function. GA helps with brain cells connections and play a role in the transmission of signals between brain cells. The more brain cells connect, the faster children learn. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid and a building block of brain cells. DHA helps support the period of rapid brain development especially during the first five years.

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Photo credit:

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Reading:

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Mama duck and ducklings:

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Friso Gold ‘Our Today Moments’


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I love music and I want my kids to be able to feel the joy and creativity that can come from having the ability to play their own music instruments!

DO a deer a female dear, RE a drop of golden sun, MI a name I call myself, FA a long long way to run….

How I love the musical film which starred Julie Andrews as the loving governess to the children of a naval officer widower. The movie my mom introduced to me started me on a life-long path of learning to love music as a way to express myself when words sometimes failed. It taught me the wonderful connection between music and life through its engaging rhythms and melodies.

While I didn’t have the privilege of exploring the arts any further in those early years, somehow the connection with music lives on in my unusual ability to just listen to any songs or melodies just once and I’d be able to play the entire tune automatically over any keyboards without any music notation— a skill that amuses the happiest little people when they were much younger and even spurs on their curiosity for music.
I still remember how Cheeky Koko made up some tunes himself using a chopstick to hit on used empty glasses filled with different amount of water which demonstrated his keen interest in sounds and music before he turned six. Pumpkin Mei-Mei can really croon with her sweet voice whereas Baby B now tries to demonstrate his music appreciation with his super cute dance movements whenever a pop song plays over the radio.

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Who wouldn’t want to have a Beethoven or Mozart child? 🙂

While musical ability is an inborn talent that can be harnessed through structured learning in music classes, I find that most of the music lessons available locally adopt the stiffness of institutional learning which do not encourage the child to explore the depth and beauty of the musical world.

Growing up, I have seen a number of friends went through severe fear and anxiety attack prior to the fiercely competitive and dead-serious yearly piano practical exams, simply because the thought of facing a stern, foreign examiner and performing the chosen repertoire piece perfectly was just unnerving.

When the two oldest kids were still toddling about as little munchkins, I wanted to get them on an early start to discover music and dance movement through a fun way. I’d wow them by playing harmonica to their favourite nursery tunes to show them that the ability to play even a simple instrument could bring on much delight to our lives. They have seen me dance (much to their horror) to pop songs because I just thought it was a good and fitting exercise to lose some pounds while making them laugh.

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I may just have a music genius right in my home!

My only regret as a working mother is that I do not always have the luxury of time and resources on my side to spend quality time with them. Man, I am not sure how others do it but I seem to have a hundred and one things on my to-do list that just makes me tune-out at times, such as this time. If you’d ask me, deep down, I would really love to be able to open up their world to discover music in a fun way, expand their creativity and get them to learn to use music playing skills to alleviate the stresses that they may endure as they grow up. Better yet, if someone can make this happen for real! 🙂

It’s February already – I know that Santa has probably gone for his vacation until the end of the year but up on my wish list of spending more time with my three happiest little people is to have the opportunity to learn some music instruments as a family – perhaps to discover playing the piano through a passionate and fun teacher who can really inspire us on this journey. Or to enroll Baby B for Kindermusic lessons so that he and I could spend that one hour quality time together to discover music and movement in a fun way.
Santa doesn’t have to end his vacation early just because I have a yet to be fulfilled wish list. With Friso Gold “Our Today Moments” Contest, I stand a chance to realise this dream! Basically, from now until 28th February 2014, Friso is playing Santa/the Genie-in-a-bottle to give Malaysian moms a chance to achieve their very own beautiful dream of spending quality time with their children, big or small, TODAY. Simply, we moms just need to list down what we want to do with our little ones TODAY and Friso Gold will then select the winner and achieve that for her through its “Our Today Moments” Contest!

Hurry, there are just 3 easy steps to participate:

1)      Purchase any participating Friso Gold product, i.e. Frisomum Gold, Friso Gold 3 or Friso Gold 4 (any size)

2)      Tell Friso Gold that BIG idea or that one special experience (big or small) that you have always wanted to do together with your child but have not been able to and why.

3)      Complete your personal particulars, attach proof of purchase (original Friso Gold scoop from any participating product) to contest form and then mail to PO Box:

Friso Gold “Our Today Moments” Contest

P.O. Box 3202

47507 Subang Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan

For those winning entries, prizes will be awarded for the following:

  1. Early Bird prize x 100: Entry tickets (2 adults & 2 kids) to Legoland Malaysia worth RM540 each
  2. Grand Prize x 100: A special experience for the parent and child worth up to RM10,000 each.

If getting on the Polar Express Train or flying yourself to some far-far-away deserts to find the Genie-in-a-bottle or Santa in his summer shorts to grant you your dream is just too far-fetched, moms and dads, just join Friso Gold “Our Today Moments” Contest. wpid-medium_4551000445.jpg

I can already see us playing some kind of jazz piano quartet or classic symphonies as a family perhaps after a few music lessons for them and myself if I could win this contest as one of the grand prize winners. (Never too late to dream a little, eh?) May be the kids will one day grow up to be able to sing and play the piano ala the Jonas Brothers!

What do you want to do with your kids TODAY? For more information, get on Friso Gold Malaysia Facebook or log onto Friso Gold Website link to know more about “Our Today Moments” Contest NOW!

To your Friso Gold “Our Today Moments” dream,

Seven2SevenMom

xoxoxo

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Photo Credit for Photopin:

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Love Is In The Flour and Salt


Sometimes I do feel that being a mother is the same like running a Corporation.

You set a target for your family for the year, perhaps a healthier resolution (that’s when you try in vain to shovel a bowl of rainbow-coloured salad topped with some hard boiled eggs and crabsticks made of fish fillet down the throat of your 9–years-old who has just listed allergy-to-greens as her newly discovered disorder), a financial goal (cutting out all the unnecessary splurge because instead of “lusting” for Prada you now buy disposable diapers that are more “lasting”) or better KPI (including ensuring that your 11 years old pre-teen’s conversation is not peppered with an annoying overdose of  “I am like…”).

Except for a few privileged ones, we are all running a very tight ship where the winners are parents who despite the limited resources, managed to bring up God-loving and respectful children who would one day chart their own course in the rough sea of life and champion the talents and inner gifts within them to good use that will help them live an independent, fulfilling and successful life.

 It is sad to note that over here in Asia, the parental pressure on their kids to achieve the BIG success is starting to look like a pressure cooker reaching its superheated  temperature where the family’s first and last dinner conversations always centre around academic achievements. Heck, even the morning embraces before the kids go to school are bantered with the usual line of “Study hard, son!” instead of a genuine, loving greeting to start off the day with a smile. The never-ending comparison between their children’s academic performance among social circles is starting to make all of the constant bickering among the reality TV stars of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills who are antagonistic to each other looks really pale in comparison.

It is not wrong to set boundaries and even a certain expectation for our children. A wise person told me years ago that children raised without discipline is akin to letting cars traversing on a highway next to a steep slope that are without any barriers — dangerous and erratic. Children thrive under the safety wings and protection of their parents. But raising up children focusing only on academic achievement based on societal definition of success will only make children function like the steam in a pressure cooker waiting to escape through the wrong means of outburst.

I am fearful of my own parenting journey because no one ever knows what becomes of our children until they reach there twenty years from here. And if there is anything I pray most often of, is that of making sure that I do not make so much mistake that they will turn out in the opposite direction of where I want them to be. I want them to be really happy, God-fearing, responsible and kind-hearted and that’s all that there is to my parenting goal. I may not be able to give them a privileged childhood but I try my best to give them richness of happy memories that hopefully can last a lifetime. Things like craft sessions, silly experiments, meals cooking, picnic, playing and even baking together are worth every second of our time instead of expensive tuition and enrichment classes.

One of the craft things we have done regularly at home is in making our very own home made salt dough for lots of kneading and imaginative fun.

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You can get tonnes of such modelling dough recipes from the web, but I find the one from rainydaymum the easiest and fool-proof. To make this safe, easy-to-make dough:

1)      Prepare 1 cup general purpose flour + ½ cup salt + ½ cup water.

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2)      Pour salt and flour into a mixing bowl.

3)      Add the water slowly into the mixture and knead until they are soft and pliable. Do add a bit of water if the mixture is too crumbly. If it is too sticky, add more flour instead.

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4)      Have fun kneading the dough into whatever the kids fancy.

5)      My kids like the texture of soft dough and love to pretend that they are pastry chefs baking soft cookies.
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As such we never take it to the next step of baking. If you want, you can also shape or cut into shape with cookie cutters to make ornaments for fridge magnets, jewelry and holiday decorative items. You can then dry it in low heat in an oven for 2 hours or within minutes in a microwave oven. Paint the creation and finish it with a coat of gloss and your little Picasso would have created their very own masterpiece that they can be proud of!

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6)      We also let the older kids freeze the unused dough in a plastic bag and feel the cold, harder and dried texture after a few days. Sometimes we let them add water and other ingredients found from the kitchen and see what will happen after that. A little imagination adds that much more fun and dimension to a simple arts and craft project for the kids.

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Parenting is a humbling journey because believe it or not, much as they come out from the same womb, our kids are not cookie cutters of the same kind. Some can count before they know how to talk, some are Picasso in the making. Some reach out their hands to shake that of their peers on the first day of kindergarten, and some cry through the first year. Some find instant connection with the outdoor sports and won’t hesitate to go on their first flying trapeze; some take one year to learn to ride a bicycle.

Our role as parents is to spark that imagination and the love for learning that will culminate in positive attitudes towards life. When they grow up, they may not remember what they actually learned from the classroom, but surely they will remember what joy they had playing with just flour, salt and water with their mom over those many beautiful rainy days.

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A Three Dimensional Fun


My almost-75 years old papa led my siblings and I to the living room as we continued our grownup’s discussion.

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‘Well, I just want to remind all of you not to think that you owe your children a family vacation every year. Even if it’s just a local trip, it still costs money. It’s a vicious cycle, then you work hard to save for the trip and then because you work so hard, you hardly have time to spend with your kids. What’s wrong with spending quality time that do not cost as much but that which allows you to enrich their souls through affordable channels such as a visit to the local museum that can offer them plenty of fun learning?” He asked us, like a wise owl which has seen it all from above his forest of life.

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With that piece of golden nuggets of wisdom from Papa, my siblings and I scrambled for Google to check on local activities that are both educational and affordable for our own set of children, which led me to uncover the ancient art of trompe-l’oeil a few weeks later at the Trick Art Museum, located at i-City— a tourist attraction that offers family entertainment activities in Shah Alam, Selangor.

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The Wikipedia says that an oft-told ancient Greek story concerning this ancient art is that of a contest between two renowned painters. Zeuxis (born around 464 BC) produced a still-life painting so convincing that birds flew down to peck at the painted grapes. A rival, Parrhasius, asked Zeuxis to judge one of his paintings that was behind a pair of tattered curtains in his study. Parrhasius asked Zeuxis to pull back the curtains, but when Zeuxis tried, he could not, as the curtains were Parrhasius’s painting—making Parrhasius the winner. Wow!

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Here at our local Trick Art Museum, specially drawn paintings play tricks on our mind through two dimensional (2D) paintings that have been skilfully rendered by artists to make them appear as three dimensional (3D). Basically, the optical illusions are created by the clever painting of shadows and action outside the perimeter of the picture frames which the visitors can participate by adding on their own poses as if they are also the subject of the extended painting. Of course, well positioned lighting enhances the overall 3D effect.

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The place is not large but fairly small with only 8,000 sq.ft. of space housed over two floors of a shoplot and has been divided into 5 themes — Masterpieces, Egyptian, Marine Life, Animal Kingdom and Modern Classics.

Because it is not a large place, the entire visit can be concluded within an hour and a half. The museum is open from 11am until midnight and entry cost is RM5 per pax. The three happiest little people obviously enjoyed posing along and we hope that it was a trip that had sparked their life-long creativity and opened up a world of imagination and appreciation for arts for them.
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After that we wanted to visit the Wax Museum which was just a block away… which woman wouldn’t want to rub shoulders with Brad Pitt, right… (OK, Angelina Jolie too, since she is too near him in life and in wax form!) but because adults were charged with an entrance fee of RM80 and children RM40 respectively even with our MyKad, our whole family would have to pay something like RM240 for a few hours visit! Alas, our budgets have some limitations so I told the kids that we just had to work on our patience until the museum offer us folks a discount in the future.

ladder

Yes, it’s all cheap parenting here my papa would agree that a smart parent saves for what matter more in life! Wink* 🙂

A Day Trip To UK


Finally I can say that I have been to the UK and I did it in a day! Uh-huh, oh-yah, doing a crazy little dance of jubilee here.

.. And they meh meh here, and they meh meh there, here meh there meh, everywhere meh meh

.. And they meh meh here, and they meh meh there, here meh there meh, everywhere meh meh

This is when you’d eye ball all the photos on this blog post and further conclude that the seven2sevenmom has gone mad because you have not spotted any English football club players, the Windsor Castle nor the famous London Bridge here.

Make no mistake; I was at UK no doubt, but a different UK that exists in Malaysia. That’s right. I have whisked the kids along to a goat cum agricultural farm called the UK Farm that is located in the southern state of Johor, Malaysia.

The itinerary begins with a visit to the sheep pens

The itinerary begins with a visit to the sheep pens

This is essentially a farm away from the hustle and bustle of the city boasting a sprawling 100 acres of grazing land for 4000 sheep, supported by the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry of Malaysia. Its sheer size of organised modern farming facilities makes it quite well-known as being Malaysia’s largest goat and sheep farm.

We have joined my older brother and his family for a school holiday’s day trip organised by a local school’s PIBG group (parents-teachers group).

One feels that much more enlightened about modern day farm practices after the trip which included a comprehensive tour of the entire resort comprising a goat/sheep farm, ostrich park, agricultural farm, tropical garden and a visit to the Orang Asli (the indigenous people) habitat.

When I saw the size of the breast pump an ewe uses, I was so grateful that the human breast pump is only one fifth of the ewe's version. :)

When I saw the size of the breast pump an ewe uses, I was so grateful that the human breast pump is only one fifth of the ewe’s version. 🙂

Cheeky Koko feeding milk to hungry little lamb

Cheeky Koko is feeding milk to hungry little lamb

UK Farm uses one of the most modern farming techniques based on the ecology principles in its goat and sheep rearing. For example, we learned that some of the leftover produce or crop wastes from their passion fruits farm are recycled into hays and feeds for the sheep and goats.

The story of how this whole goat farm came about was one of an impressive fatherly love.  The owner apparently started thinking of fresh goat milk supply when his children couldn’t take in cow milk or related diary products. From being a consumer, he started thinking of providing the same quality goat milk to the other people through sustainable farming techniques. And so, the rest as they said, is history.

Captivated

Captivated

Our happiest little people who are all city kids were thrilled to participate in all of the activities planned for them, from the visit to the sheep pens, feeding the little lambs to seeing first-hand how goat milk is processed, tasting of fresh goat milk and ice cream and getting up close and personal with Ostrich. I am still not quite seeing my little people having an illustrious career in farming but I am feeling a lot more hopeful after the trip!

The entire self-sustaining farm resort feels airy despite the hot weather because mini buses are provided to transport visitors from one attraction to the other.

There are also much to do and enjoy here for the grownups and kids alike. Of course, if you were not a fan of goats, sheep or any animals for that matter, then the other agricultural attractions including the tropical arcade, the mushroom farm and a mini vegetable farm may just be the thing that will awake a keen sense of farming curiosity in you.

Seven2SevenMon had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb...

Seven2SevenMon had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb…

With over 20 kids in tow, our group ended the day’s visit strolling through its Mini Zoo where a wide variety of small cute animals such as rabbits, peacocks, chickens, hedgehog, ducks, and geese just made all the city kiddos brimming with big smiles.

This definitely goes down our memory lane as one of the best day trips that brings together education and fun activities for a memorable, afforable and family-friendly experience right here in Malaysia.

Hello there!

Hello there!

UK Farm Mascot

UK Farm Mascot

Lovely sight of tendrils hanging at the tropical arcade

Lovely sight of tendrils hanging at the tropical arcade

An Orang Asli's house

An Orang Asli’s house – can you spot Pumpkin Mei-Mei there?

Que Sera, Sera


I always know when my parents want to have a serious talk with me.

It was the eighties when the global financial crisis took place. I was only 9 years old when my mother sat all three of us down and said that we were going through a really difficult time in the family that for a long while we would need to be extremely frugal to tide us over. Turned out that we took more than 10 years to get through that “dark ages of finance” as I called it, but there was also the bright side of things because we got closer as a family. From being constantly fighting with my older brother for the control over the TV channel or quarrelling with my older sister whom I feared because of her two huge, fierce eyes, we became strong, affectionate siblings who shared great camaraderie for life.

When I was 15 years old and on Valentine’s Day I received two stalks of red roses from some boys, my mother gave me a long talk about dating too young.  I was completely flabbergasted. I wasn’t even dating these boys. They were guy friends from a nearby boys school whom I got to know from riding on the same school bus who gave me flowers. I was not even remotely interested in them romantically. To me, they were just friends. Period. In any case, mama said that I was not supposed to hold hands with or kiss a boy at just 15 years old. So I followed her advice and only kissed my boyfriend at 17 years old. But I also married him eight years later.

What happened was last month we had a little tea session again at their living room. Now when you love someone you feel them all the time! I sensed that they wanted to have one of these talks again before I had even parked my car in front of their house. Something serious…. Hmm…  Is it about the way I bring up my kids, or how unwise I plan financially (in fact I have no planning at all!) or something even more serious?!

Tea

So my mama did the whole Chinese tea ritual the moment I stepped into the house. She sat me down then brought out her little Chinese teapot, dropped one Yunnan Pu-erh tea cube into the pot, poured some hot boiling water over them and started brewing the tea while pouring hot water over all the tea cups. When the tea was ready, she poured the tea into five tea cups, called papa to join us and in her utmost subtlety, expressed that she felt sorry that I was “stuck in a rut”. I almost choked on my tea!

I am not successful by any measure but I am so NOT stuck in a rut. I mean, yes I am not a CEO, an engineer, an astronaut or a pharmacist and yes I am not rich either, but I have built  a life I am contented with that are filled with many blessings that make me, well… happy. Yes, contentment. Is that why mama thinks I live a dull life?

“Love, I am just talking about your career. Now you know my old classmate Uncle X? One of his two sons is a Doctor and the other son is an Actuarist. Aunty Y, my ex-colleague? Her eldest son is an engineer, the second daughter is an accountant and the third son is a Pharmacist. Your brother has his own small business and your sister is an accountant, but you…”

I was crushed. There was such long awkward pause there that I had to fill in the blank for her, “I am creative, compassionate, exceedingly happy and funny?” She rolled her eyes and said, “Well, if you are not a professional, at least you must own the feeling of success!”

If you think my mama put me down, you are wrong. She is the epitome of the most faithful mom who thinks you are the best of them all even when you are the sort who walks into a room with a light bulb strapped to your head and nobody even noticed you. She just has an issue with me that I am still working for others, at THIS age. Papa confirmed my suspicion when he said, “You know, my own papa has always told me to start my own business no matter how small because the operative word here is Freedom. And I hold true to that, that no matter how challenging it was back then, I served no other masters but myself. I have freedom!”

I looked at both of them and chuckled, “Oh, that whole being enterprising thing, huh? But I don’t know what I want to sell, papa.” Own a restaurant? Negative. I can’t even fry char kuey teow or make roti canai. Run a beauty centre? I am too scared to squeeze someone else’s zits and especially if he has like a hundreds of them on just his forehead. Consulting business? Obviously I am the one who needs consultation on how to run a business the most.

“So should I just quit my job tomorrow, pa?” I continued, trying not to sound defensive.

The next Entrepreneur of the year ---Seven2SevenMom. Hooray!

The next Entrepreneur of the year —Seven2SevenMom. Hooray!

“I mean, I have no idea what business I should run though.” “No, no, not now, but all we want to say to you is we think you should put that in your 10 years goal or something. I mean, just observe some of the local businesses and see if you might find something you could do successfully. We are Chinese. Trading has to be in our blood.”

I sipped my Pu-erh, not sure if I had the same blood or DNA, for that matter. But I will go think of something that will see me work on my own terms say 5 to 10 years from now, like my papa said. Good, all is well. Finally I have a 10-year goal to boast. Even this year end’s employee appraisal starts to sound exciting already because I don’t have to copy and paste the same standard answer year on year. Why, I can already imagine the newspaper headline that reads The next Entrepreneur of the year — Seven2SevenMom, and the subhead goes, the most unassuming, talented CEO of the Happiness Empire. OK I over-paint my own road to success but you get the point.

Truly not a bad thing to get some nuggets of wisdom from our parents, especially when it gives you a new perspective and comes served with a warm cup of Yunnan Pu-Erh and a beacon of hope. That brought to mind a song my mom used to sing to me:

When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother, what will I be
Will I be pretty, will I be rich
Here’s what she said to me.

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.

________________________________________________________________________________________________

I don’t look at all like the pretty business woman in the photo nor had I make any Chinese tea, so this 2 came from:

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/danielygo/5370833937/”>Daniel Y. Go</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/76029035@N02/6829417439/”>Victor1558</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>

Just A Courtesy Note


winter-76905_640

“I think a gentleman is someone who holds the comfort of other people above their own. The instinct to do that is inside every good man, I believe.” Anna Kendrick

I spent slightly more than three years in the States pursuing a degree. OK, well, let’s admit it; I didn’t just study over there. I also had tonnes of fun making new friends, danced like I had never danced before, exploring the new culture and the best bit was I got to travel around some of the great cities in the US on a shoestring budget — a wee bit of hard earned money from washing dishes at the campus cafeteria, summer work scholarships and while babysitting as well as teaching Chinese lessons to a few American pre-schoolers.

This was the circa of the late 1990s and when one grooves, one sways to the beat of Wannabe (Yo, I tell you what I want, what I really, really want… ) and move to the beat in sync with the entire dance floor on Getting’ Jiggy With It. Ahhh… Those were the days.

I even remember the first time I ever saw a real snowflake on board the Boeing 747. After travelling what seemed like an eternity half way round the globe for more than 20 hours to a place I have only got to know from textbooks as a much celebrated land of freedom, of Hollywood, striking landscape and a rich frontier history, I woke up to the captain’s rather sprightly announcement that the plane would land shortly.

Still steeped in homesickness having to leave my family and boyfriend (aka Daddy Joe) behind to pursue a journey that would span over three years, I was devastated cocooned in the thick layer of blanket on my seat indulging in some self-pitifulness.

This was when I noticed a tiny white speck of dust landing gently on the outer edge of my window. I looked at it closely, and then leapt for joy when I realised that the white dust was not a dust after all! It was a SNOWFLAKE! It was a magical spectacle of the most extraordinary shape as if God and His angels have spent hours carving it into its beautiful hexagonal branches of pure crystal white light. Before long, my window sill was full of snowflakes like hundreds of dancing stars have all descended gently to say hi to me.

It was a big deal for someone living in a tropical country who has ever only seen fake rounded snow made of Styrofoam during Christmas time and who grew up with Coconut and Rambutan trees instead of Oaks and Hickories. I remember gently whispering back hi to them and feeling my distress melt away as I gazed out of the window over the whole new world ahead of me.

Along with snow and Oaks, I continued to be in awe over many new discoveries that came my way, from the gorgeous campus to the meals, the transportation system, to the people and their culture, the freedom of speech, to freely be who you are, and especially the good manners that seem to permeate the little town I lived in.

Courteous and polite expressions, and countless hi, how are you, good to see you, you are most welcome were exchanged everywhere and every time as people queued up, shopped, met each other, even when they crossed each other’s path. For the first time I witnessed men and even women, young and old held out the door if someone else was following closely behind to enter a lecture hall or Walmart. Older gentlemen or college guys rushed ahead to open the door with a polite, “After you” even though I was the most unsophisticated international student from a third world country which to them was vaguely “somewhere near Vietnam” or at best, “Singapore’s neighbour country”. Still, they extended their good manners!

Those were the days when mail catalogues ruled and when I saw how my mail package from phone orders had arrived untouched for hours left at the door of the apartment I was sharing with others, so was our neighbour’s grocery, I was bowled over by this simple, charming act of civilization.

Not that KL is an uncivilized place, but it sure seems that chivalry is a dead business in this age. Not that we don’t say our thank you, excuse me and please. However, when this busy mama is making her stride across a mall, armed with two shopping bags full of milk, eggs, rice, celery, apples and chicken on one hand and a baby bag on the other hand, all while strapping a toddler who is struggling to gain freedom on her back, not holding the door out for a poor woman who was all huffing and puffing such as yours truly is making her dumbfounded as to where have all the gentlemen gone to.

Then there are the urbane working folks who blatantly ignore the No-Smoking signs posted along the walkway to a baby nursery and puff away merrily in groups, subjecting all the babies, kids, parents and other heading to the nursery to passive smoking of all the nicotine and toxic substances through second-hand smoke — these are just really senseless and inconsiderate.

Another pet peeve of mine is in seeing some shoppers in front of me hiding artfully all her extra five items including her packet of D24 Durian under her maximum eight grocery items in the basket at the Express Checkout Counter, which has a signage displayed prominently that only eight items are allowed per customer, and then convincing the cashier to allow her to checkout all her goods during her turn anyway otherwise she would have held up the queue. Truly unbelievable! Makes you wanna scream, “Can you read, ma’am?

Be considerate and courteous to others because it makes the world a better place to live. If it could make the winter chill so much lovelier and adoring to a person who hailed from a hot and sunny place, then surely it can make even Durian, which may be offensive to some, smells like a fragrant essential oil at the checkout counter.

Good manners must start from here at our home and our land and above all, our heart. On that note, thank you for the wonderful lesson in courtesy, America.

Mind Our English


It was Teacher’s Day not too long ago and as with all good traditions that are observed in our family, the two happiest little people handmade some fancy little cards while I helped buy a few small gifts to show appreciation to their teachers for their commitment to quality education and dedication.

This brought back a flood of primary school memories particularly of my own journey in acquiring English as a second language during those formative years. There was always the fear-provoking Mrs. Chong or Mrs. Surinda… well you know, the soon-to-retire English teacher who were themselves trained by British teachers and for whom we all revered during English classes.

Purrr...

Purrr…

Like a hungry mama Cheetah going on a hunt for a tubby calf, she’d spot grammatical, syntax errors and spelling mistakes from miles away, scrutinizing the essay homework you have submitted with her mean, piercing gaze and once she caught you making even small mistakes, in fact any mistakes at all, such as saying things the Manglish (Malaysian English) way, “I got money yesterday so I buy a rubber for her as a birthday gift lah” which means “Yesterday, since I had some money with me, I bought her an eraser as a birthday gift ” (and we add the “lah” word as an affectionate complement to end all of our sentences!), she’d pounce on you and give you a rattling good lecture about her top thirty rules of grammar while devouring your entire being like a piece of luncheon meat!

cheetah

Somehow by some miracle (actually it’s because my own mama made me do a lot of readings of Peter & Jane English books), I have managed to pass all my English papers and today I shamelessly correct some spelling and grammatical errors I spot on office memos and work documents to the annoyance of my staff. I can’t help it! Not being perfect myself does not stop me from manifesting this little obsession at work, while browsing online, and even while reading faulty signage at a foreign airport!

When it comes to my kids, I am fairly relaxed about how they would eventually acquire English as a second language though. Relax in the sense that I do not push or torture the three happiest little people for any academic achievement, or get upset if any of them got a C or even a D for a subject. To me, the scores only measure the level of understanding of a particular subject. It is more important to cultivate joy at the family dining table, far more important that they love God, or that they are willing to play with other less privileged kids, be honest and polite and demonstrate a sense of responsibility by helping out in the household doing age-appropriate chores.

B&B

Educational DVD is playing at our family’s living room! Check it out at http://www.benandbella.asia/start.html

We have also come to realise that our happiest little people seem to learn best when they are having fun. This is where I have a confession to make here. I am one of those working moms who would sometimes pop an educational DVD such as Discover English With Ben & Bella, totally believing that TV is not entirely a bad thing. It is only bad if you lose control over them.

Daddy Joe and I have witnessed that English in particular, is best learned through a multimedia channel. Like a mini wordsmith, Cheeky Koko in particular, has a flair for the language that is beyond his age even though we are a mandarin-speaking family, with his daily speech peppered with vocabulary we are quite certain he has mastered through watching cartoon series. After all, this being the era that belongs to Technology.

So I am absolutely fanatic about good and fun things that teach ABCs or counting like this because somewhere between them being repeatedly exposed to an educational TV content that teaches them new English words through fabulous singing and dancing along with Ben & Bella and seeing that their imagination and creativity get fuelled simultaneously, I am glad that at least they have not tuned into Soap Operas or MTV to learn English, just yet, at least not at this age. Save me some grey hair and stress level there.

We also teach English through a lot of imaginative play. Most days I’d be the Queen in the far far away land sipping coffee while beaming with pride as I watch Pumpkin Mei-Mei go about her “princessy” stuff.
And of course we also have our elaborate bedtime story every night when they learn even more new words, other countries and cultures, folklore and fairy tales (and no, we did not have gumballs raining like the Bedtime Stories movie!) that have seen the mom act like a lunatic woman on a few occasions as well as a gorgeous witch on other occasions just to make the kids go into their dreamland with a smile. witch

Someone should give me an Oscar award or a lifetime achievement award for going this far.

Well, even if they don’t, I am sure the three happiest little people will be able to say, “Thank You, I love you, Mama” in perfect English.

Photo credit for Cheetah: From Photopin

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalart/3332055680/”>digitalART2</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

and

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/tambako/8406155906/”>Tambako the Jaguar</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>