Sunday, June 29, 2008

My New Working Arrangement

Starting from next month, that is July 2008, I will be embarking on a new working arrangement - telecommuting. Under this scheme, I will be clocking two days in the office, while working from home for the remaining three days of the week.

Why the Decision

My colleagues asked me what prompted me to make this decision. For my boys and also ... for myself. Since the beginning of the year, I have been trying to manage my work and family life with P in Primary One this year. Everyday was a frenetic rush - from office at 6 pm to fetch my younger boy from childcare and then off to P's Primary School via public transport to pick him up at 6.30 pm. Next on the to-do-list were the cooking chores to feed the family once back home. At times when urgent work needed to be done on the same day, you will see my two boys at my office table, pitching themselves to a race to fritter away time, while I was focusing hard on my work. But that was not before, I spent almost an hour to fetch them from the schools and buy dinner for them. 

6-months is a long time and I have learnt how to be more productive both at work and at home. At work, I am a very focused person and could work without lunch - my bums would be stubbornly on the chair until a submission is completed. At home, I prepare dinner the night before so that for the next evening, dinner would be ready at the snap of my fingers - heating up, is all that is required. 

But P is not exactly very productive at the student care. At such a young and tender age, he needs guidance to have the system and structure in place in him. Moving on to myself, I may appear to be unfazed and managing both work and family gracefully like a swan, but I am also frantically kicking my legs beneath the surface to keep myself afloat. The daily rush is exerting a toll on me. 

With this new working arrangement, I am getting my hubby to fetch the younger one from the childcare which will lessen one aspect of my daily to-do tasklist. With the office at home, it is easier for me to put in longer hours if need be, after my boys are at sleep. I must confess that rushing off on time is a very pressurising experience. I will prefer to take a slightly more leisure pace to complete my task and knock off later.

Yes, I am looking forward to this next work chapter!

In a sense the first 6-months of the year is a good training ground. Never have I been busier in my life and interestingly, to wrest some semblance of control, I started soul-searching on what I really want in life. There were little pockets of time which I literally took to stop and take stock of my life to this point. I even took leave to attend talks and workshops. I traced back the patterns of my life and pondered on life's external verities. I learnt to be true to myself to myself and prepare for the next phase of my human odyssey. 

After these soul-searching, I have found that I have a passion to write and to speak well. Both will be utilised fully in my current work portfolio. I just could not bear to give up working - save for a one year break, I have been working all my life after graduating from varsity. Work is like a creche - providing me with structure, stimulation and sustenance. But at the same time, I love my family and myself too.

Yes, I am looking forward to this new working arrangement as besides being doing what I love, it will also put my life on a more balanced keel.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Essay Writing

Yesterday, P came back from his creative writing and comprehension class with two essays. I must say that I was and still am impressed. He wrote two pieces of good work on the same set of pictorials to guide him. 

The first thing, I did was to give him a pat on his back. 

"P, this are two magnificent pieces of work!" I commented. "Tell me, how do you do that?"

"Mum, are you jealous?" He regaled and obviously pleased with the compliment. Then he explained that the teacher gave them a sample of how they should write. Next, she asked them to think of ideas. For those who had ideas, they could write them down. As for those without, they could take a look at the sample and think of how to write.

Simple method but effective. I spotted some grammatical errors and asked him to correct them. Guess what, P told me he would like to write another essay. Why? It was fun. He stayed up last night until 10.30 pm to complete his another piece of work. The latest piece was just as brilliant as the first! I have sought his permission to post his piece of work on my blog and here it is:

" It was a very hot and very boring Sunday afternoon. R was bored. He thought to himself "What shall I do?"

R decided to play with fire. He put a lot of newspapers on the table. Then he struck a matchstick. The newspapers caught fire.

Suddenly, the fire became bigger and bigger. R was frightened. He could not put out the fire. He dashed to look for his sister, A.

She quickly got a pail of water. She dashed to the fire and put it out. A scolded R. R promised not to play with fire again."

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Reflections on the Last Day of June School Holidays

Today is the last day of the June school holidays. It's time to do a stock-take of what we have done during this period. 

I started by asking P last night about how he was feeling. As expected, he replied "No good." My response? "Why no good? You can start saving up again. With 20 cents a day, by the end of the week, you can remit 1 sticker with $1." That's the way, we are trying to inculcate the importance of saving in P. But in this little episode, I am trying to teach him to look at things from another perspective - look at the perks of amassing pocket money instead of the homework associated with school life. 

What Have We Accomplished this June Holidays

No, I did not send my child to tons of enrichment classes, except for Chinese which he needed as this was not my forte. But once a week, it was not exactly those intensive holiday programme. I did however, go through with him on what he was weak in and set goals as to how many marks he should be aiming for in the next class assessment. Likewise, with R, I have also sat down with the youngest man in my family to have goals - to complete his phonics program by end of the year. To do so, I have gotten them to pen down their goals and put it up in the kitchen wall.

So much for the work stuff. As the saying goes too much work and no play make Jack a dull boy. There was also fun stuff like bringing them to cinema. They particularly enjoyed the Kungfu Panda movie, which they literally laughed from the beginning of the show till the end. P was the most lucky fella in our family - he went with his friends in student care, to catch the latest Indiana Jones movie. In addition, he was the first and at the moment, the only one in our family to have gone up Singapore Flyer.

Self-Designated Family Day Last Friday

To mark the end of the holiday, my hubby and I designated last Friday as the Lims' Family Day. And so, we both took leave and pre-celebrated R's birthday in his childcare.

Birthday Celebration in the Morning

The day started early at 8 am. My hubby went to do some last-minute grocery shopping for disposable plates and forks for the birthday celebration, while I went to collect the birthday cake.

When we were at the childcare centre, the kids were all very excited by the Pikachu cake. There was quite a buzz at the centre. With all the "wows" and "cools", R was shyly albeit happily basking in the attention showered onto him that he had quickly forgotten the earlier tantrum that he threw when he insisted to have another cake design. Phew! After the birthday song, R and P were gleefully distributing the little birthday goodies we have prepared for the children.

Parents' Only Afternoon Time

After the birthday celebration, the boys were sent to their Grand Aunt's place where they indulged in the matriarch's love. At the same time, their parents could have some together time at the golf course. The three-hours at the green did wonders and help us regain some sanity in our own lives. This was something really important as we could get carried away with taking care of the kids and forget about ourselves. Just like our boys, we were also individuals with our own unique interests and needs. Thereafter, it was time to chauffeur R to get his last two cavity-infiltrated molar teeth fixed. 

Family Time in the Night

When the night has come and the sun has set, it was "Night Safari" time! It was great to be on leave and we managed to reach the zoo well before 7 pm. There, we had our dinner on a very relaxing and leisure pace with time even for the boys to have fun with coloring and just explore the surroundings.

At 7 pm sharp, we were amongst the first customers of Night Safari. We quickly went up tram and before long, we were training our eyes hard to spot the night creatures on the prowl. To have a closer look at these fabulous animals, we also set afoot very stealthily on the some of trails in Night Safari.

At the end of our tour, the two boys went up to the gongs and played some non-recognizable sounds complete with their spluttering of laughters. We knew they really enjoyed themselves and that was what matter to us most.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Constant Dilemma of a Working Mother

This little article was written in Jan this year, when I was reminiscing my one-year break in the States with my family while surfing the net to download some storybooks for my boys.

Thanks to my hubby, I was given the opportunity to put my career on hold for a year, packed up and "uprooted" our whole family to the States, while he pursued his postgraduate study. It was not an easy decision as I enjoyed my job. But one thing that came out loud and clear was that "so what if you excel in your career if your kids turn out to be only mediocre?" As a woman, we will love to have the best of both worlds. But faced it, at that point in time which was two years back, our boys needed both of us. And once I made up my mind, there was no turning back.

As it turned out, the one-year experience was also a turning point in my life. It was the most wonderful experience I have ever had. Somehow being away from family and friends, and to be the main caregiver to my two boys, made me so much stronger. The adjustment was not a bed of roses, but I learnt new liberalising beliefs about myself, that I can DO IT if I believe I can. And I have and will continue to MAKE A DIFFERENCE to my boys' GROWING YEARS.

Oh yes, P has completed his phonics program by now and R is almost at the one-quarter mark. And yes, I will be setting an English Exam paper for P after putting up this post.

Enjoy :)
I must say it takes perseverance - GREAT perseverance, to keep up with reading storybooks to our kids. After all, there seems so little time and so much stuff to do, especially so when one is working.

Having enjoyed a good one year with my boys, I will love to re-live that experience. But time and tide wait for no, erh, woman :P When I look at P, he is toddler no more of a handsome young boy (hey, remember beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder?)

Yesterday, he told me he wanted to complete his phonics program - the one which I had started him two years back when I was an abroad stay-at-home mum. Yes, that was a good two years ago and we were two episodes short to the completion of the 80-episode series.

"Okie, I will try." I replied with measured caution. I reasoned that I should not dampen his spirits though realistically, there was no way I could spend that amount of time to guide and encourage him like two years back. I must also add that with that short time I could spare, my temper was also short.

It is not that I am complaining. After all, there is so much that I could do with that extra income. Adding up the weekends, holidays and vacation leave, I must admit that it's a pretty decent deal. Though of course, at times, we still need to bring back stuff to work on during those supposedly non-working hours. But hey, it also gives us that sense of self-esteem when a job is done well. Not forgetting to add that it also gives us a legitimate reason to be away from the kids, not to feel guilty and have some “ME” time.

Having said that, I do miss my kids. Women, we are such strange but extraordinary creatures. Anyhow, I decided that I should sacrifice some of my beauty sleep to do a small little bit of what I usually did when I held the position of Chief Executive Child Minder. So, I downloaded some new storybooks which P and R used to cherish so preciously. I also could not resist that temptation to just jot down some of my thoughts that were fleeting by.

I bet tomorrow evening, when they see these storybooks at home, they would not be able to contain their excitement and their speech will be punctuated with words and phrases like "Wow!", "Where is Tommy doing this time around", "I love this", "Can you read this to me again".

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Creative strategies to boost your child’s confidence

I am always amazed by how innovative a child is. Just the other day, I was teaching Ryan the phonetic sound of "n", when he said it sounded like "ng, ng" - well that's the sound he made when he wanted to move his bowel. Children are unbonded by the many life experiences unlike adults who are embattled by countless adversities. Many a times, to protect ourselves, we build high fortess, for example not setting expectations.
So I am not the guru in having creative strategies - which are the forte of young children. But they do need our love, which will boost their confidence.
Here you are some commonsensical strategies to build your child's confidence:
1. Like all human beings, kids thrive on love and they cannot read your mind. So say "I love you" to your child at least once a day.
2. Spend quality time with your child. Get involved in your child's life. Just being there, shows your child that you care.
3. Success breeds success. Be generous with your praises. Remember the age-old adage "failure is the mother of success". Your child will encounter difficulties, it's part of life. Our duty is to help them to pick themselves up and emerge stronger with each adversity. Praise them for making an effort and encourage them to move on.
4. Make them feel important. An idea that works really well with younger children is to create some type of family project where each child has a specific task. The project could be a family drawing, sculpture, newspaper or even a special family website! The choice depends on the interests of your family. Another possibility is to assign them a task such as making their bed or dusting the furniture.
5. Modify Singapore's Ministry of Education tagline "Thinking School, Thinking Nation" into "Thinking Child, Tomorrow's Leader". One of the best way is to read to your child and encourage them to think and ask question as well as to give comments on the story.
6. Lead by example. Exhibit confidence yourself. They can read adults like a book. Children learn by example and they are sensitive to the emotions of others.
7. Listen to your child. Your child has a lot to talk about, and when you take the time to listen, your child will learn that his/her opinions matter. Be as approachable as possible. Avoid saying things such as "Not now, Honey, Mommy's busy." If you really cannot listen to your child at that particular time, say something like, "Now is not a good time for talking. Let's make a special time to talk." Then make the time.
8. Keep your promises. Avoid making promises you cannot keep. Children may feel as though they are at fault when an adult doesn't keep a promise to them.
9. Don't compare siblings to each other. Remember that each child is an individual with his/her own personal needs.

Remember, children are constantly learning and are very impressionable. They look to you for guidance. Encourage them, love them, talk to them, listen to them, and most of all, believe in their abilities. You are the key to building their confidence. Following some of these steps may help you. These guidelines may also give you some inspiration to find other ways to boost yourt child's self-esteem.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Of Oral, Comprehension and Writing

These few days, I am trying to source for information to improve P's prowess in comprehension, oral and writing. When I was young, English was a "soft" subject which was rather difficult to grasp. My English teacher would teach us the basic - rules of grammar, synonyms, vocab etc. As I progressed into doing writing and comprehension, it was more of a self-exploratory work. The teacher would tell us to write a composition with the title and left us alone. Likewise with comprehension.

Argh, I know not if such methods are still prevalent in the current era. But one thing is for sure, it does not work for me! Surely, there have to be a better method. Right now, I am researching on more interesting ways to teach P. This is what I have done thus far.

Improving Oral

For oral, I am teaching him to add in feelings and intonation in reading. One thing I discovered in him is that he lacks confidence in reading more diff=
icult words. So the next course of action is really to boost his confidence - starting with easily passage and slowly progressing into more advanced ones.

Challenge in Comprehension or What

Next in line is comprehension, right now, I have assigned two to three comprehension passages for him to practise when he is in student care. When I found out was that his vocabulary bank is too shallow at the moment. That helps as now I know that the problem does not lie in understanding the passage but in the words. Hence, the course of action taken is very different. What I am doing now is to pick up the words that he does not know and explain to him.

Next Challenge - Writing

As it is school holiday, we are able to have more time to spare with the kid=
s to do more fun activities. One of which is library visiting. Writing is closely linked to reading. And I am glad to see the two boys so engrossed in listening to me reading books aloud to them at our Sunday's library sessions. 

The above is just the tip of the iceberg, I am still in the hunt for creative ways to teach the boys. Also in my next course of action is to get them to set goals and targets, to give them the direction of where they should be heading.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Power of the Dream

It was pure coincidence that I came across "The Power of the Dream" by Celine Dione. I think the lyrics are really very meaningful. When we were young, we all have dreams. But after many trials and tribulations, somehow I seems to have stopped dreaming. Through the history of mankind, it is dream that drives us to attain for greater heights.

I will really hate to diminish the flame of fire in my boys' heart. Instead, I wish to help it burn brighter and encourage them to reach out for their dreams. Recently, I have also watched the last lecture by Randy Pausch. It is really inspiring to learn how he lives his life to the fullest.

For my boys who are too young to understand, I can help by being a good role model and also to support their dreams - no matter how absurd it may sound today.

Monday, June 2, 2008

What should I do this school holiday?

Yes, school is out. But strangely, I am lost as to where should our family go this holiday. The wanderlust in me seems to have wandered away.

Most Recent Overseas Holiday in Oct 2007

The last time that our family travelled together was last Oct to Hong Kong. More so for the boys where we went to Ocean Park and Disneyland. But it was not really a "whoah" kind of experience as we have visited Disneyland in Orlando. The one in Hong Kong was small in comparison. Nonetheless, kids being kids always love imagination and theme parks are their best friends, no matter how many times they have been there.

Yes, no shopping for us. Through the years as Singapore becomes more cosmopolitan, we have also lost our zest for a good buy. Look at it this way, it is only a good buy if you need it. Often, we shop for the sake of shopping and end up with tons of things that we just stack them in our storeroom. That's really a bad idea. I guess another perk of no shopping is to be able to travel light with the boys around minus the hassle of running after the disinterested boys who are out to find their own adventure.

What Should Be a Holiday?

To me, there is a new meaning to travel - to take a breather and prepare for the next semester. In the very distant past, it meant having a time-out for myself. But now, going on a holiday is actually not a break to me, as I will need to take care of the boys. It's not fun to be a stranger in a strange place when they throw their tandrums! In addition, I will really need this extra time to plan for more fun learning activities to help my boys buck up in a more relaxed timing.

Hence, I have decided that for this June holiday, we shall stay and explore the uniquely Singapore. And yes, it also means helping Perry to pull up his socks so that he will be better prepared to meet the new challenges of the new semester. For Ryan, I will want to focus on his phonics where his progress has been less than desirable.