Visiting Grandma Donna – From our US Trip 2015

A beautiful afternoon with Grandma Donna
A beautiful afternoon with Grandma Donna
Such beautiful blue hues - the sky and the river. Canada on the other side.
Such beautiful blue hues – the sky and the river. Canada on the other side.
This is the bridge that leads to Canada.
This is the bridge that leads to Canada.

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Always glad to visit Grandma Donna. Anna was happy!
Always glad to visit Grandma Donna. Anna was happy!

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Playing peek-a-boo with Daddy
Playing peek-a-boo with Daddy

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A Visit to Detroit Historical Museum (from our US Trip Summer 2015)

As we are enjoying our vacation here in the US with family, I haven’t been taking many photos. Not on my camera at least. But today I brought it out for our visit to the Detroit Historical Museum, which is one of my favourite places to go to in Detroit (there are still many places I haven’t been to!)

Here are some snapshots from the afternoon there.

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I don’t know what’s with Anna’s grumpy face.

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DSC07865This boy can really smile if he wants to. Such a sweet smile!

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Daddy is teaching Anna that Trammell is number 1!
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He was proud to drive his mom.
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Zoom out and you can see that another little kid was trying to climb up while her brother watches over her.
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Daddy and Caleb having a lunch date back in time.
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Tips for travelling with an 18-month-old – I need them!

A few days ago as I was packing for this trip to the US, I was already planning this blog post. I was confidently thinking of a post titled “Tips for Travelling with an 18-month-old”. I thought then that I had what we needed to occupy Anna on the long flight even though there was always uncertainty with regards to how she would behave on the plane. And after all, we have travelled a few times with the boys when they were that age.

Post-flight, the conclusion is I couldn’t write that post because apparently, my tips didn’t work for my trip and my 18-month-old!

I had bought her a new colouring book with colour pencils and a new sticker book to occupy her on the plane. I also made sure to have lots of her favourite snacks and enough formula for as many bottles as she wanted. But they didn’t keep her occupied for very long. She’s a very active baby and full of zeal for life. She didn’t want to stay in one place for long of course. And she wasn’t interested in watching TV, which was a lifesaver for us when we were travelling with Evan when he was younger.

She did sleep for about half the total flight time though, but kept waking up every now and then to scream. Probably because she wasn’t in a comfortable position or realised that she was in an unfamiliar place. She also screamed quite a bit when she was tired and needed to sleep. I feel bad for the other passengers.

I was looking at the flight info and watching the hours tick by, ever so thankful to see the hours go down from 11 to 10, 8, 5, 3 and finally to 1! I was glad to wake her up then and enjoy the last hour of the flight with a happy, post-nap baby.

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That's us setting off from Changi Airport at 6am
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Anna trapped between Daddy's legs. She needed to get down and was happy pulling the magazines off the seat pocket.
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In transit at Narita Airport. I guess she was happy to be able to run around. πŸ™‚

I remember it was always hard travelling with toddlers. but it’s probably the hardest this time. Or maybe it’s always easier to look back at a trip and remember it fondly after some time has passed. The kids all have different temperaments too and some are more content than others to sit and do something.

It’s definitely worth it to take the long flight in order to see family and spend time with them and the kids are so happy to be at Grandpa and Grandma’s.

We still have the flight home and I hope it goes better now that she has had ‘experience’ travelling transcontinental. If anyone has any tips that may work, please share!

God can speak through a 6-year-old

It’s been a long day, an emotional day. Been following the news about the Sabah earthquake. My heart goes out to all those involved and their families. My own friend has flown there this morning to help with the rescue efforts and of course, our prayers are with her and the rest who are there.

But to end the day on a very encouraging note, here’s an account of how God used a 6-year-old to bless me and a friend. In a timely manner.

The 6-year-old is of course my son, Evan.

We are working on the book of Ruth for his bible reading. Tonight we read about Ruth meeting Boaz while gleaning grain in his fields. When asked what he learnt from this story, he said, “We can meet people where we are.” It sounds simple and straightforward enough.Β  I encouraged him to elaborate on it and explained to him that when we are faithful in doing the right thing (like Ruth), God can cause us to meet the right people He wants us to meet.

So not long after that, a friend was sharing some frustrations and uncertainties with me. Along the way, I told her I wanted to share the lesson Evan and I learnt tonight from the book of Ruth.

With regards to choosing the hard way, we can see that when Ruth did that, she found herself in the will of God. Ruth could have chosen to remarry in her hometown and have someone take care of her. But she chose to go with Naomi. Which meant she had to literally find food for their survival. It was not easy. Little did Ruth know that in choosing to follow Naomi and her God (“your God shall be my God), she ended being redeemed by Boaz. And on top of that, to be the great-grandmother of King David! Yea, THAT King David!

So my encouragement to my friend was to not be afraid to choose the hard way, because if that is the way God wants her to go, she will be in God’s will.

She replied in utter shock that she couldn’t believe what I just shared with her. That of all stories, it has to be the story of Ruth and Naomi. It was a big deal to her because that was the story that God spoke to her about right at the beginning when she embarked on this journey that she’s on.

So at a juncture when discouragement set in and she wondered if she’d made the right decision, God used the bible reading lesson of a 6-year-old boy to remind and assure her that He’s in control. Isn’t that amazing?

Maybe somebody else needed to hear this reminder too. When you choose to follow God, you will find yourself in God’s will. It may be hard sometimes. And sometimes we fall or stumble into His will, barely with any strength left. But in our weakness, His strength is made perfect. His grace is sufficient and He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all we can think or ask for. That’s how good God is.

Oh and did I mention that we weren’t even supposed to be reading this part of the story? We did because we’re one day behind. Just too much orchestrating. Only God can do that.

About school, tuition, teachers and such… #1

Starting a series on my thoughts on education, especially the education here in Singapore on which there has been much talk here and elsewhere. There are good and bad comments and views, but mostly the general feel is that studying here is too stressful.

Here’s my first thought/question to tackle:

When students don’t know how to do their work, is it the parents or teacher’s responsibility to teach them? 

This came out from my frustration in getting multiple text messages from Caleb’s math teacher about him not completing his homework or corrections. Initially I appreciate her letting me know when he didn’t complete his homework. Later on it seemed he got better at remembering to do his homework but he had many corrections to do and he hasn’t been doing them. Of course, one reason he didn’t do them on his own is because he didn’t know how to do the sums. That’s why he got them wrong in the first place.

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I’m happy to help him and it’s easy for me to teach him because I’m a trained math teacher myself, but it also made me wonder what happens to students whose parents may not be educated or who may not know how to teach them.

I asked him before if his teacher goes through the sums with them in class and he says only selected ones. So there may some sums he still didn’t know how to do.

Which makes me wonder, when students don’t know their work, shouldn’t it be the teacher’s responsibility to teach them?

There was once he was learning a new concept of 3 digits multiplication and he got a whole page of his workbook wrong.  I was of course concerned about that seeing that he usually gets most of his sums wrong. I wondered if the teacher was as concerned… It was a good reflection for myself as a teacher to think about what I do when my students don’t understand a concept. The scary thought is that I may not even know when they don’t understand. How do we know? When they fail a test? That incident gave me a new motto in my teaching – to leave no man behind. It made me more conscious about checking if my students understand, and to give extra help to those who don’t.  I’m sure there are some who may fall through the cracks though.

So I understand that the teacher may not have given much thought or attention to Caleb getting a whole page of sums wrong. But then it doesn’t solve the issue of him not knowing the concept.

In Singapore, the tuition culture is HUGE! I mean crazy over the top ginormous ridiculously HUGE. People get in the waiting list to get a spot for their children in the top tuition centres.  I myself gave private tuition when I took No Pay Leave for 18 months (so I’m a beneficiary of the tuition system too!). But we don’t believe in sending our kids for tuition. Especially not since we’re both educated people who can coach them ourselves.

But should it really fall on our shoulders to coach them in their schoolwork? I never had any tuition growing up and still did pretty well in school. Without coaching from my parents. I do believe it’s possible. And shouldn’t we have faith in our education system and in our teachers? That it’s enough for our kids to go to school and learn what they need to do well?

(This topic on tuition is too huge so I shall leave it for another post on this series on education.)

Coming back to the topic at hand, whose responsibility is it to make sure the children learn and understand their schoolwork? Parents or teachers? Or tuition teachers??

I threw the question back to my son’s Math teacher (from whom all this started anyway) and asked her what he should do if he needed help doing his corrections and if he can consult her. I’m glad she came back with the answer that he can look for her before school. (The last time I asked her about keeping him back after school, she said she’s busy with meetings. So I guess that left me to have to teach him.) I still went through all his work with him anyway.  πŸ™‚

From my own work experience, I’ve never ever asked a parent to teach their child before! That just sounds ludicrous. I’m the teacher. It’s my responsibility to teach. Maybe also because I teach secondary school students, I expect them to be responsible for their own work and learning so I don’t ask the parents to make sure they do their work. I just keep them back after school to do their work. And the strange thing is some of them actually are glad to do that! It’s because they get my help in doing their work. I realise sometimes students don’t do homework because they don’t know how. So how? Somebody has to teach them, right?

Let me know your thoughts on this. Especially welcome thoughts from fellow parents who’ve faced this dilemma, fellow teachers and whoever else may be interested or have a view about this. (You can leave a comment here or on my fb post where I share this.)

Meanwhile stay tuned for the next part of the series about school, tuition, teachers and such… (and let me know if there’s any related topic you’ll want me to write about or you want to contribute. πŸ™‚  )

Anna’s Surgery and After

A post I wrote to recount our experience at Anna’s cleft palate repair surgery and the recovery period after. I wrote it for our cleft support group’s blog. I haven’t been writing here because I’d been busy working on that blog. http://www.ourcleftangels.wordpress.com. Hoping to reach out to and help other parents who have cleft babies.

We thought it may be helpful to share the process and experience of my baby, Anna’s surgery for other parents whose babies are going for surgeries. So here goes a day by day summary.

Background:
Anna was born in Dec 2013 with a cleft palate. She went for her palate repair surgery on 14 Oct 2014 at 10 months old. Her surgery was done in KKH by Dr Vincent Yeow. She also had grommets (ear tubes) put in at the same time. She stayed in hospital for one night before the surgery and one night after (most babies stay for two nights after the surgery on average).

Day before Surgery:
We checked in at KKH around 2pm the day before the surgery. We had to go to Admissions on the ground floor and they checked us in and brought us to the ward. We were in a B2 Class ward.

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Teaching a kindergartener to write b and d, p and q

I went for a course this week (although it’s the school break) and I must say the most useful thing I learnt was at the end of the course when I happened to talk to a father who was there.

I was asking him tips on teaching a kindergartner how to differentiate and write b and d, and p and q, as Evan was still getting them mixed up. This tip he shared with me has been so helpful! Evan learnt to spell and write bad dad (I just happened to randomly pick these words!) and pig pen this week. And I’m a happy mom.

This is how you do it.

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From his viewpoint, his left hand helps him see b and his right hand shows how to write d. To help him remember, we write from left to right and b comes before d.

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This is for p and q!

When he’s writing now, I see him doing this without my prompting to help him remember how to write. I think we’ve made a little progress.

Now to help him sound out words and work on his spelling. The fact that English words aren’t always spelt the way they sound doesn’t help… keeping my fingers crossed.

I hope this is a helpful tip to parents who are also struggling with their kids on writing those same letters!