Monday, March 26, 2007

Food, glorious food!

I enjoy eating! And I enjoy eating GOOD food. I will not hesitate to go out of my way to get the food that satisfies me. I will drive miles just to try the food recommended by fellow "makankakis" , especially if it comes highly rated! I will queue up and wait for the food that I want. Why do you think my favourite blog pages are usually food blogs or food related websites?

During my younger days, I would wait for more than an hour for the famous Odeon Beef Noodles (now called Hwa Hing Beef Noodles). Sadly, they do not make them like they used to now. During my courtship days, my hubby and I would drive all over just for that one dish. We had our own little makan safaris during weekends. When we were living in New York City, we would rent a car every weekend, and brave the traffic jams just to satisfy our cravings for good Singaporean food. And for those food that we could not find there, I would try to cook it myself. I even risked a smelly flat to make my own sambal blachan in our apartment - much to the disgust of everyone in the block (they could smell my blachan for miles!!)

Though I am not fat, I do not believe in wasting calories. If it does not taste good, I would rather throw it away then torture myself eating it. As a result, you could say I am fussy with my food. Fortunately I have been blessed with a mother-in-law who is a very good cook! (my friends call her "Iron Chef".) Our dinners most evenings are usually 10 course dinners (or close to it). It is such a blessing to see such delicious food on the table every day, knowing that I will enjoy almost everything on it.
When I was young, I used to be a fussy eater - hated vegetables, refused to try new food, only wanted the same old comfort food. (No wonder my kids are like that). I am not sure when it all changed. Now some of those foods which I hated when young, rank among my favourites - eg bittergourd, liver (esp goose liver), vegetables(!!). So I guess there is hope for my kids.

Being exposed to good food from young (those lucky kids!), they are real picky eaters. My 2 year-old told grandma one day, that the macaroni soup she cooked that day was yucky! Guess what, mother-in-law admitted that she was distracted that day and had left the macaroni in the pot a tad too long. Hence it was over-cooked and not al dente!! As a result, I sometimes have problems when we are invited to friends homes for dinner. The food is sometimes not the tastiest or to my kids liking. So as a result now, when we are invited out, I usually feed them 1st, so I do not have to worry about it !
My kids may be the only kids in school that do not buy from the school canteen. They would rather Mum pack their lunch boxes, coz I usually ensure that they do not have the same thing twice in a week, and it is usually something they enjoy. It could be sausages, donuts, cup cakes, wafers, cookies, bak kwa, long stemmed strawberries, blueberries, mandarin oranges, etc. And there is usualy variety in the snack box too, usually 2 different items. As a result, their packed snacks are usually the envy of their classmates. I have had my daughter (when she was younger) coming home asking for two or more servings of school snack. I know she is quite a small eater, so I was surprised. When queried, she said that her friends wanted a share of it too!! Everyday!! I had to put a stop to it. Cant be feeding other peoples kids everyday, or the whole class may be asking for it before I know it.

Our family has been very lucky. We are able to enjoy all the good food that we want, when we want. We have eaten at some of the best restaurants in Singapore and around the world. And, We thank God for that blessing!

Spending Time with the Kids

Our days are filled with numerous activities, but how much time do we actually spend with our kids doing things that they really enjoy? Not much.

Our typical week is filled with loads of school related activities, enrichment classes and chess. Though my kids love to play chess, sometimes it becomes a chore. But since we are "committed" to seeing them excel at the game, we push and shove, that I feel that we sometimes take the fun out of it for them. We put pressure on them to excel during tournaments, prep them, give them pep talks in between games, bribe them with rewards if they do well, etc. And, on top of all that - they have home work on it from their personal trainer!!

I feel that spending time with the kids becomes quality time only if they truly enjoy it. Like when we brought them to the beach last week. We did not have much time, but we decided to go anyway. Just half an hour there. They stood by the sea shore, waiting for the waves to wash up, wetting their feet, picking sea shells. Getting their butts wet, when they stooped down to pick up a stone at the moment the wave washed in. They had a good time.
Having a bubble bath together, blowing bubbles in the garden, just playing under the shower ( i know, lots of water is wasted!), baking cookies (which all my 3 children really enjoy), or just running around in the garden. These are the simple things that children enjoy. And these are the things that they will remember for a long time to come.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Parent Volunteers at school

The trend nowadays is for parents to volunteer at the school which they would like their children to study in. The popular brand name schools have parents queueing up at their doorsteps, as early as 2 to 3 years before their kids are due to register for primary school, and the slots fill up really fast. Some schools have even gone to the extent of specifying the minimum number of hours the parents have to volunteer (and this is usually over and above that specified by the Ministry of Education) before they would be accepted as a parent volunteer. Due to the sheer numbers, schools can afford to be choosy, selecting those parents with certain expertise to help them.

I know of a doctor who attends to the sick shildren at the sick bay of his son's school once a week. Another parent who is an IT expert, helped configure all the IT requirements of his son's school, in exchange for a place there. Another performed for a school's fund raising concert to get his daughter into the school of his choice. Some schools save on their admin cost by using parent volunteers to help man the school office. Other parents help out as traffic wardens, or school librarians. As a result, schools are able to have substantial monetary savings.

But is this volunteer scheme open to abuse? Definitely! By choosing who they want to do the volunteer work, schools are able to give preferential treatment to those whom they want to accept. Should it not be strictly on a first-come-first-serve basis?

I managed to get my children into their schools the difficult way. For my eldest, we had to ballot. We were lucky! She managed to get into the school of our choice during the ballot. But it was terribly stressful,a s we had no fall back plan. She balloted under Phase 2C, which meant that if she did not get a place at this school of our choice, we would have to put her in whichever school had a vacancy, or worse, to wait for the ministry to post her to a school!! Fortunately, God was watching over her. As it was an all girls school, we had to find another school when it was time to register my son. We decided on a school in which we had an affiliation to. We managed to get him the place without balloting. For our third child, who is not due to start Grade 1 until 2011, we will not have that problem. She can go to her sister's current school (which is c0-ed) or to the all-girls school which we first had her sister enrolled!

Monday, March 19, 2007

New Car, they can deliver fast!

Hubby decided that we had to change my car. My old one was fast approaching 5 years old. One Sunday morning, after dropping N off at Mandarin class, we went to test drive. We went to the Volvo showroom. Test drove the S60. I was quite happy with it. Test drove the Honda Odyssey too, but was not too comfortable with it. The pick-up was just too slow for me, and me, with the heavy foot, was just not happy. Also, I was not quite ready to be confirmed a definite "mama" with a MPV, tho the extra space would have been helpful. Went back to the Saab showroom, and was told that there was a new 95 model. Test drove it and found it really agile, and sure was better driving than my current 95. Smooth, and powerful. Could not decide between the Volvo and the Saab. Price-wise, the Saab was marginally more expensive. The Volvo salesperson, eager to close the sale, promised us delivery before CNY (which was a mere week away), and to put in the park assist for free. Spoke to the salesperson at Saab, but he said to deliver before Chinese New Year was tough, and he could not lower the price even though we were repeat customers!! Then we told him about Volvo's offer. He hee'd and haw'd. I wanted the Volvo. Hubby was undecided, indifferent actually. Hubby called his friend who is a car salesman with Nissan for his opinion. He said that Saab was the better car. Waited for the Saab salesman to match Volvo's offer. Guess what! He decided to give us an over-trade on our old car, and deliver it before CNY. Hubby signed the deal. What a surprise. Our new car arrived on the Thursday before CNY, a mere 4 days after placing the order. It simply goes to show - if they want the sale badly enough, they will bend backwards to do anything for the customer. So, we had a new car for CNY!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Life is tough for the kids!

It is week 10 of the school term already!! Yippee! A whole term has gone by. What have the kids learnt? That school is all work and no fun! Sad isn't it. There typical school week is : school , lunch, followed by cca (if any), and homework. Then it is off to enrichment, and other classes. For my kids it is Mandarin, Music, Swimming, chess, science. By then its dinner time. After dinner it's laze around time - watching some tv, and they are off to bed. Weekends are spent at chess school (some 3 to 4 hours on a sat), Cathecism, church, and finishing whatever homework that has not been done. However this equilibrium is thrown off when there are tests, exams, quizzes, after-school activities, tournaments, special projects. For my kids it is especially tough as they are competitive chess players. There are so many tournaments that they "have" to play in. (They are part of the National Junior Squad, and there are a number of tournaments which they have to play in to be able to continue in the squad). In addition, they are also required to represent the school in certain tournaments! All this is in addition to their normal work load. This eats into their time, and as a result they have no time to actually do nothing. I am one who strongly believes in children having time to do nothing, day dream and reflect. This allows them to put their creative ideas to work. I feel so sorry for them. They do not get to experience real childhood - playing around, catching fishes from drains, or even indulging in their favourite activities whatever that may be.

Even though they have a week of holidays next week, it is already almost full! On tueday, my daughter has to go to school for a mandarin cultural camp. On wednesday and thursday, both my kids are playing in a chess tournament, representing their school. On friday, my daughter has her school mate coming over to work on a project. (And she has a few other projects due after the one week vacation). And another chess tournament over the weekend. And by then, the school term starts again. We will not have time to go to the zoo, or the beach or for a swim or bake some cookies together, or even family bonding time. What school vacation is this? With such a short break, all school activities should come to a HALT! Then the kids will have a chance to recover, before starting a new term. The same scenario will replay itself over the June holidays, even if it is over 4 weeks. 2 weeks will be taken up by the Asean Age group chess tournament, there will be a 2 week mandarin immersion in china (if we decide to send our children), and the so called 4 week vacation will be gone!! And all this is not counting the preparation training they would need for the tournament. Poor kids.....tough life....or is it "no life"..... The ministry really needs to re-look at our education system or our kids will suffer from a burn-out!

Monday, March 5, 2007

My little girl turns 11!!

My oldest daughter, S turned 11 over the lunar new year holidays. I just can't believe it! How time flies. I remember how precious she was when she was first born. So tiny and helpless. She was extra special, as we tried for a child for a long time, and after a miscarriage, we were blessed with her. Now, 11, confident, and mature. She did not want a party. Just a small gathering of close friends for tea. I was really surprised when she wanted to invite her best friend, JW, from Grade 1. Since she changed schools, she had not been in touch with JW for more than a year, and she remembered her when she was going to have this little 'celebration'. I was happy that she did, and even happier that JW could make it. Good Friendship withstands the test of time and distance! She had an enjoyable day with her few close friends, chatting and playing some board and card games. Our little princess has grown up!