Saturday, August 20, 2016

Wesley

Shee Yun has passed the entrance exam to Wesley School. That means she will be skipping Primary 6 next year and will be going straight to Form 1. She will be studying in an international school. That is something I have not expected. All the while Michelle and I have expected that our children will go to either a private Chinese school, or a good government school. We tilted towards sending them to a good government school. I have always felt that international schools are only for the very wealthy. It was through a chance encounter that Michelle learned that Wesley School despite being an international school is not as expensive as we thought.

Shee Yun is very happy about it. She doesn't have to sit for UPSR. Now we need to start worrying about whether Chen Rui can pass the entrance exam next year, and also skip Primary 6 to join Shee Yun at Wesley. Next year they are going to different schools, so we already need to think about how to manage the logistics of sending them to school and fetching them.

The children's secondary education will be expensive.

We plan to stop both their English tuition and BM tuition. English tuition is expensive, and the place is far. We have discussed stopping it before, but I decided we should continue because I wanted the children to learn under a different, Western style of education. This approach in teaching encourages children to be creative and to explore, as opposed to the Eastern style which is more about discipline and practise practise practise. I wanted the English tuition to teach them attitude and perspective more than content. Now that we are going to send the children to an international school, they will already be learning under this type of system, and English language will also not be a problem. We are stopping BM too because they will no longer need to cope with the high standard set by the government. I think the BM standard is simply set too high for Chinese primary schools. The children should know BM, and Wesley does teach it, but I don't think they need to be very strong in it. We do want them to continue learning Chinese. It is offered as an elective, but only if there are enough students signing up. I don't know yet what we will do if there aren't enough students for the school to start a class. Something for us to think about.

Chen Rui fell sick because of Pokemon GO. Last Sunday I went to the park in the late afternoon to walk and to play Pokemon GO. Chen Rui wanted to go with me. We only made one round around the lake, because she walked more slowly, and often had to stop to catch Pokemons. She fell sick in the evening, and didn't go to school the next day. She had a fever. It was already 6:30pm when we went, so it should not be too hot. Maybe she just lacked exercise, so even playing at the park was a bit too strenuous for her.

Michelle told me Chen Rui is selling her drawings to her schoolmates for RM2 a piece. She enjoys drawing, and her schoolmates like what she draws. I'm not sure what gave her the idea to sell her work. Initially she sold them for 20 sen. When she told Michelle, Michelle said that was too cheap. Not because she wanted Chen Rui to make more money, but because the value of artwork should be more than that. So Chen Rui decided to sell at RM2 instead. These are her drawings of Pokemons. She just imitated, but I think she did it well.

This is Eevee. I am amazed by the eyes.

This is Charizard.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Michelle's birthday

On Sun 7 Aug 2016 Ai Shiang (Chee Ying's mum) and family brought us to dinner at a place famous for beggar chicken. Two of the dishes needed to be ordered beforehand, because they took a long time to prepare and cook. Michelle was quite touched by the gesture. She had almost forgotten her own birthday this year. She only realised it when she happened to check the expiry date on a loaf of bread.

I booked this cake at Moonlight Cakehouse. They have much variety. This is a cheese cake which comes with four different toppings.

8 Aug 2016 was a Monday, so the children were in their school uniform. Michelle cooked pasta for dinner. We didn't go out for dinner because the children had extra piano lessons till quite late, in preparation for the exam on Wednesday.

Chen Rui made this card. She did it very last minute because she too had forgotten Michelle's birthday.

She enjoys making cards and doing artwork.

Sometimes I don't understand her art though.

The piano exams are finally over. It was on Wednesday. It started at 8:30am in the morning, so I sent them. Michelle had to work in PJ that day. I could still reach my office on time after the piano exam and after sending the children to school. We arrived at the exam venue (Renaissance Hotel) very early, because we left early to avoid the jam. Shee Yun was a little nervous before the exam, but not Chen Rui. However during the exam itself Chen Rui got a little nervous and made mistakes. That's what she told us. She enumerated the places she made mistakes, and it sounded like she made mistakes everywhere. The examiner happened to test her B Flat major scales, which was her weakness, and she made mistakes with her fingering. It was a pity. She had practiced it many times, but made mistakes during the exam itself due to being nervous. I went to stand outside the exam room (which was actually not allowed, but I hadn't known then), and I did hear quite a few mistakes. After the exam Chen Rui said to her teacher she was a little worried she might fail. Ms Lee was good humoured and relaxed about it. She said taking the exam was just an experience for them to go through. She didn't seem to think Chen Rui would fail.

Shee Yun sounded confident after she came out from the exam room. Her session was right after Chen Rui's. I didn't listen to her play because the staff member told us we were not allowed to stand outside the exam room. Shee Yun said the examiner was friendly. Although she felt she did well, she admitted she made some mistakes too. There's no point to worry about the results. I don't require them to do score high. In fact I don't think I'd mind that much even if they fail. Going through the experience of practising hard and working towards a goal is more important than the exam results.

This morning I had a Pokemon GO outing with the children. We went to the park nearby, and they collected Pokemons and items. There are 10 Pokestops around the lake, and more between the lake and home. They used my phone and Michelle's. We walked around the lake twice. There are more people on Saturdays, so I asked the children to step off the jogging path when they needed to stop to catch a Pokemon. Shee Yun had a fall and scratched her forearm and her knee. I had to keep reminding the children to watch where they were going, but I think Shee Yun was clumsy. She was walking right on the edge of the jogging path and probably misstepped on the edge and lost her balance.

We spent more than one and a half hour on Pokemon hunting. Normally when I go by myself, walking two rounds around the lake takes me one hour. We were caught in a drizzle on the walk home. Thankfully it was not heavy and we were already near home. The phones did not get wet.

Chen Rui says she has the same fate as Shee Yun. I believe the main reason she thinks that is Shee Yun was hospitalised two years ago (due to a pneumonia), and then last year it was her turn to get hospitalised (due to appendicitis). So she thinks when something happens to Shee Yun, it will happen to her in the following year. When she brought this up today, Michelle and I discussed with her various other examples. Does it mean if Shee Yun passes the Wesley entrance exam then Chen Rui will too next year? Chen Rui thinks so. But then when we spoke of other less favourable examples, Chen Rui conveniently said those were exceptions to the rule. I guess she is just being cheeky taking note of some coincidences. However I do think she feels Shee Yun is a sort of benchmark or limit for her. If Shee Yun cannot achieve something, then Chen Rui thinks she too won't be able to either. Maybe that's normal for a younger sibling.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Pokemon GO

Pokemon GO is the hottest mobile game now, and it has just been released in Malaysia. I have never been a Pokemon fan, but I am curious about the game. There has been much anticipation in the general public. The children know about it too and are keen. I was quite excited when I saw on a Facebook post today that it was finally out in Malaysia. I immediately downloaded it and started playing. The children told me there was a trick to get Pikachu as the starter pokemon, instead of one of the usual three starter pokemons. I was a little doubtful whether this was a hoax, and tried to verify it online. I couldn't find any concrete information that it was a hoax, and decided to try it. At worst it would just waste some time and effort. The three of us went out pokemon-hunting around noon, under the hot sun. Michelle said I was nuts, because later Chen Rui had a nosebleed. She had it yesterday too, and we are guessing she has not been drinking enough water. It has been a long time since she last had a nosebleed. Shee Yun, Chen Rui and I walked about the area around our home, avoiding the default three starter pokemons. After three or four times of ignoring them and then seeing them respawn near the new location we had walked to, we were thrilled to see Pikachu spawn as one of the three options. So we got Pikachu!

6 Aug 2016. My in-game avatar.

Pikachu.

Shee Yun says to me that Pokemon GO is good because it makes people go out and exercise. This game indeed requires people to walk about a lot, visiting specific real-life locations. Michelle and I have been discussing that this can be a nice family activity. We can go to the park nearby to hunt for pokemon, to visit pokestops to collect in-game items, and to walk sufficient distances to hatch eggs. It would be good to have the children exercise a bit.

Our outing to Bukit Ketumbar last weekend took an unexpected turn. When we were halfway up the hill, Michelle felt sick, and we turned back. She felt like vomiting. We suspect it was because she hadn't eaten any breakfast yet, and lacked energy. Still, we managed to get about half an hour of exercise, trekking uphill and downhill.

31 Jul 2016. Bukit Ketumbar.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

piano exams

The children's first piano exams are only about two weeks away. Shee Yun is more or less OK but Chen Rui is problematic. She is not playing her exam songs well. The piano teacher said she doesn't like to play with the book open and prefers to memorise the songs. However some of her fingering is wrong, and that's causing her to make mistakes and to be unable to correct them. So today upon Michelle's urging I sat down with her while she practised. The teacher has said she has problems with her scales too. I found that her biggest weakness is B Flat major. She always gets the fingering wrong. Others are mostly fine. Even E Flat major, with an additional Flat, was not too bad. Arpeggios are not very good because her finger positioning is not very precise, but it is not too horrible. Her B Flat major is horrible. I taught her that she needs to look at the shape of the scale to determine the fingering. The white and black keys of a scale form shapes. In the case of B Flat major the patterns are 2 white keys plus 1 black key, or 3 white keys plus 1 black key. When it is 2W1B, she should use fingers 1-2-3, and when it is 3W1B she should use fingers 1-2-3-4. Sometimes she does it the other way round, which means her fingering becomes disastrously wrong. We practised B Flat major many many times. I asked her to try playing from top to bottom and then back to top again, i.e. the other way round. She found it amusing. It was challenging too, and she was forced to play slowly. She was also forced to consciously think about how she was playing it. I think that helped her remember the correct fingering. When she plays the usual way, bottom-to-top-to-bottom, she plays quickly and in autopilot mode. The problem is her autopilot mode is not reliable and often wrong. I switched back and forth between down-then-up and up-then-down. Sometimes I mixed in a down-then-up-then-down. I praised her when she got it right. I made her play until she got it right. Later when we practised the songs I occasionally asked her to play the B Flat major scales again. Sometimes she played it wrong, and we practised again. I hope I have managed to teach her the technique to practise it and to correct her incorrect fingering.

We played very long, I think at least an hour. We practised all three of the songs too, after we were done with all the scales and arpeggios. The songs were not as bad as I remembered. Just last weekend when I listened to her practise, the songs were poor. She kept making mistakes halfway, and then had to start all over again. The teacher has said that she just tries to memorise the songs, which I think is something like trying to commit it to muscle memory, so when she makes a mistake, she is unable to resume from where she got it wrong. She has to start from the beginning. This disability is also due to the fact that she doesn't want to use the book when she plays. So she can't easily refer to the place she stopped at and continue from there. She does have some fingering problems with the songs. Last weekend when I listened to her practise (I was practically blind and there was nothing much else I could do), I found that she tended to play hurriedly, and the songs lost their souls. They were played with no feelings. So I advised her she should imagine something in her mind when she played the songs. She needed to imagine what feelings the songs had. This time I sat beside her when she practised. She seemed to play less poorly. I hesitate to say "better". I tried to get her to correct some of the mistakes in her songs. For some of them I created lyrics to help her remember the mistakes to avoid, and also to remember the way she should be playing. E.g. the lyrics "Please don't move" - There were a few bars where the fingers of her right hand could stay on the same four keys, but when she played she moved her fingers about unnecessarily, using another finger to play the same note when each finger already had a one-to-one mapping to each note she needed to play. It was inappropriate for her to change fingering. "Don't forget" - There was a part when she did need to change to a different finger to play the same note, because the melody was going up and she needed to prepare her hand positioning to play a higher note. She kept forgetting to do this. This change in fingering was explicitly written in the book. The problem is she doesn't like to look at the book. "Don't eat" - There was one part where she sometimes missed the 4th beat, and straightaway played the next bar, so I told her she shouldn't eat that 4th beat. I inserted phrases like "gentle", "build up", "little angry", "little louder", "romantic" into the melody. She can more or less play all the songs. She has practised them many times afterall. What I tried to do was to get rid of the few nagging mistakes, and to help her play with more feeling. The songs are actually quite nice. Two are fun songs to play. One is a bit sadder, a Russian song. All can be played with emotion. I sang with her when she played, trying to inject more feelings and to get her to feel the emotions in the songs.

I think she was quite absorbed when we practised together. She was tired, because we played long and we didn't have any break. But I think she felt some accomplishment. Tomorrow we are going to do it again.

The violin teacher suggested to Michelle to let Chen Rui take the Grade 3 violin exam next year. He said Chen Rui likes to play violin together with someone else. She plays better when she is jamming with another person, compared to when playing by herself. The teacher wants to bring her to join a group, and taking the exam would be a step towards that. I think it is not necessary. He can just teach her the required skills. I think it is unnecessary to take an exam. If her skills are good enough, she can just join the group. Unless that group is exclusive and requires certification as proof of skill. Also seeing how the children suffer for the upcoming piano exams (and the teacher and us too), I am not keen at all to put Chen Rui through another music exam so soon. Learning music is not about taking exams. Even the piano exams this year was not in our original plan. We agreed to sign up because the teacher felt the children were stuck at a plateau, and an exam could help to spark some excitement, create some focus or push them to work harder.

Sun 10 Jul 2016. We had fish head noodles (鱼头米粉) at SS20. The children played a game which I think they learned at school.

Recently the children have been waking up early on weekends to start doing homework, which pleases me. I've always felt they waste much time on weekends sleeping in till very late, like till about 9am or 9:30am. They are often slow like zombies in the mornings, and by the time they are done with brushing their teeth, changing their clothes and eating their breakfast, even more time has passed. They are also slow when doing their homework. Well, maybe that's primarily a Chen Rui problem. Now Shee Yun is more focused and gets her homework done more quickly. She is also more diligent in completing her piano practise. She is starting to become an efficient person - purposeful and responsible. Chen Rui still displays the child behaviour - more passive, and homework is just a chore she needs to get through. Chen Rui still tends to be unfocused, and she often ends up annoying Shee Yun. Today they bickered because of this, and I scolded them. I asked Shee Yun to go upstairs to do her homework, which she gladly did because she wanted to escape from Chen Rui. Soon after that Chen Rui went upstairs and said she wanted to look for colour pencils. That was when I scolded her. She said she needed the colour pencils for her art homework. However at the time she was still doing her Edubest homework (and I think her progress was very slow). So to me she was just finding an excuse to come upstairs. Maybe she didn't like being alone downstairs. I told her to go back downstairs and focus on completing her Edubest homework. She didn't need her colour pencils yet. I also said she must practise her piano first. Later in the afternoon she still completed her art homework first, and she only practised piano after dinner. She does enjoy doing art.

Today when I sent Chen Rui to her tuition, I also dropped Shee Yun at Chee Ying's home. Yesterday Shee Yun had asked to go there to study together with Chee Ying to prepare for their exams. I said OK. I'm not sure how effective it is or whether they would get distracted, but I didn't question her.

Monday, July 25, 2016

public-speaking competition

The Chinese comics and Chinese children's novels which I borrowed from Teck Seng and made the children read didn't work out. I asked them to read at least half of one of the comic books, and at least one third of one of the novels, and that was more or less how much they managed. I think Shee Yun did manage to read one full comic book. I was hoping the books would be interesting enough to them that they would want to read on after they made my quota. Shee Yun did mention that maybe she would continue reading the novel which she had started. However later on when Michelle spoke to them, they decided to return all the books. I guess Shee Yun just wanted to please me when she said she might read on. She wasn't truly eager to read. There was no point forcing her to read on.

Now my next plan is the Ranma comics (乱马) by 高桥留美子. Still trying to find something that interests the children enough to want to read Chinese books. I'm not giving up yet.

Shee Yun seems to sometimes have problems that she doesn't have people to talk to about. She doesn't talk to us about them. Michelle does try to speak to her, but she is reluctant, and Michelle doesn't force it. Chee Ying is sometimes closer with Chen Rui than with Shee Yun now. She commented that Shee Yun is more mature. Maybe Shee Yun feels Chee Ying wouldn't understand or appreciate the problem she has, so she is reluctant to share the problem with Chee Ying. Chee Ying is more happy-go-lucky playing and joking with Chen Rui. Michelle tries to advise and comfort Shee Yun, even though she doesn't know exactly what the problem is. But I think generic advice on friendship and growing up will help somewhat. A Primary 5 student's problems should not be too far off from what we can imagine. We tell Shee Yun that we are always here for her, and she can always talk to us when she feels she is ready to talk about it.

6 Jul 2016. I played Machi Koro with the children.

Shee Yun didn't win at the state level public-speaking competition. She represented her school. She was hopeful to win something, and her teacher thought she stood a good chance too. Some of the other contestants didn't do well in the impromptu segment, but Shee Yun did quite well. So she was disappointed when she found that she hadn't placed in the top 3. Shee Yun asked her teacher, and the teacher said the judges' comment was that her pronunciation or shape of her mouth was not good. I am not sure of the exact words or the term used, but I'm guessing it's something like 咬字不清. Indeed when I heard her practise, if she spoke too fast, the pronunciation was not clear or precise enough. For public-speaking, clarity is important. She might be more fluent than other competitors, but indeed clarity is an area she can improve on. In fact, fluency might be a disadvantage in her case. When you are fluent in a language, you speak faster and lose clarity, unless you consciously pace yourself.

Last weekend I had originally intended to go trekking by myself at Bukit Ketumbar. It has a hiking trail and is near Yulek Pasar. A colleague told me about it. Sometimes my Sundays are boring, so I wanted to do something different. Michelle and the children normally prefer to sleep in on weekends, so I planned to go by myself. The recommended time is between 6am and 7am, when the morning is still cool. I couldn't go eventually, because of the eye problem. However Michelle and the children all said they would go with me this coming weekend. I am very much looking forward to it. It will be good to be doing something together as a family, as opposed to just nagging the children to finish their homework, or everyone buried in their iPads.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

recurrent cornea erosion

I was struck by this eye problem again this weekend. This was at least the third time, if we are counting the major episodes. It started on Friday 22 Jul 2016 at the company event, at about 6pm. I felt discomfort in my left eye. By the time I was doing the appraisal discussion with Basuki around 7pm, my left my was obviously not comfortable. It had been a tiring day for me. In fact it had been a tiring week. This OOOM event (Out-of-Office Meeting) was something I had planned for for about half a year. We had a full day workshop, and after that it was optional karaoke till 4am. We conducted our event at Neway Karaoke, Puchong. I had originally intended to stay at least till midnight, spending time with the colleagues who stayed to sing. We had half the company staying to sing. However I felt tired, and left at about 9:30pm. I'm thankful I did so. If my eye condition had worsened, I would not have been able to drive.

The next day left my eye was bad. It was red, swollen and teary. Michelle brought me to see an eye specialist. The one I've seen before at Pantai Hospital was not available, but thankfully another one was. He gave me a lubricant which would help the eye recover. A different treatment from the previous doctor. The eye still had to recover by itself, which took time. Saturday was bad. I could not really open even my right eye. I could not stand bright light. I joked that I was like the Gremlins, or a vampire. When I opened my right eye, my pupil would enlarge, and (I think) the left eye pupil enlarged in sync with it, causing pain. My left eye already had a consistent default pain level throughout the day. If I opened my right eye, the pain increased. If I opened my left eye too, it increased further. I was effectively blind for Saturday. I couldn't do much other than sleep and rest.

Today it was better. The pain was less. I could open my right eye for longer periods without feeling too much extra pain. Sometimes I could open my left eye for brief moments without causing too much pain. I still couldn't use the laptop or iPad for too long. To help pass the time I listened to some boardgame podcasts. I normally don't listen to these. Thankfully I found one which was interesting enough.

I guess one good thing about this episode was it forced me to rest. The doctor suggested that I undergo a laser surgery to fix the eye more permanently. The previous doctor had told me of this option too. Now I am seriously considering it. I seem to have an attack about once or twice a year, and it is very annoying. Thankfully my medical card covers such an operation. After this episode is over I will start planning for the operation. I probably won't be working, or will be working from home, tomorrow, depending on my condition.

Addendum: A photo taken on Mon 25 Jul 2016, which was the third day of the problem, not counting Friday, since the irritation only started around 6pm. By the third day my eye was already much better. I could open both my eyes without pain. There was still some irritation felt, but it was much much better than the first two days. I can't imagine how horrible I looked on the first day when I could barely open my right eye (which was fine).

family room

Sometimes our master bedroom becomes our family room. The children likes to come to our room before bedtime. I think that's nice. It's family time. The children are still close to us. Recently we started playing Hay Day again. This time Chen Rui played too. It all started because of me. I was bored and opened it up to see what was new. Indeed there was new content, and I played a little. When Michelle and the children saw me play, they also wanted to play. So we all jumped in again. I have stopped and restarted playing Hay Day a few times. This latest run will not last long. I'm already a bit tired of it and will likely stop soon, despite there being quite a few new elements I have not yet unlocked.

Shee Yun really is much better at Hearthstone than me now. She has beaten me a few more times. She wants to play with me, but I've lost interest. I feel the game is more about building strong decks than about playing well. I feel my deck is already destined to lose to hers because it isn't as strong as hers. No amount of good play can save me. At least that's what I feel. She offered to play against me in the same way as we played Clash Royale - we swapped devices to play, because my troops were stronger than hers, so this balanced out our skill and experience difference. However I really am not interested in Hearthstone so I declined to play. Maybe some other day. She even offered to build my deck for me, but I think that defeats the purpose of the game. Maybe I should just entertain her, and let her experience playing against decks she built for me. Afterall, what should be more important is spending time with her, and not me enjoying the game.

4 Jul 2016. Shee Yun took her entrance exam at Wesley School. That week was Raya holidays for the children, so Michelle brought both of them to Wesley.