Saturday, December 03, 2016

away from home

This is the first time Shee Yun and Chen Rui are away from us for so long - four weeks. It feels like a preview of what life will be like when we send them for studies away from home. Much less laundry to do; no busying about being chauffeurs; and the house suddenly feels more quiet. Both of us are busy this period, especially Michelle. Also she has a business trip coming up. That's why we had arranged for the children to return to KK earlier. Logistics and practicality. And they get to spend more time with their grandparents too. Before they left, we kept reminding them to do this and that, but I think they forget most of it. Just before they left I started a Fiasco game with them. This is a role playing game (RPG), and it involves constructing a story together. I decided to teach them the game partly because I wanted to get them to learn touch typing. I have wanted to get them to master touch typing for more than a year. They do practise, but only on and off. By getting them to write a story together with me, I can get them to put their touch typing into practical use. I hope real use will help them improve. At school they don't need to type. They write. Unfortunately they don't seem to be very interested. The story barely progressed after they returned to KK. I had taught them to use Skype, Google Drive, Google Docs and iBook, tools that will allow us to play Fiasco despite being far away from one another. Now they are not responsive on Skype. Whatsapp either.

Michelle has asked them to teach Yung Ken maths, and to help with housework around the house. I also reminded them to visit Ba and Ma, and to practise piano. I guess it's normal that children want to play during school holidays. Perhaps I should think of it this way. It is my role to tell them to do all these things which I think they should do, but it is not realistic to expect they will do all of them to the extent I want.

30 Oct 2016. Playing Maori.

We just bought Shee Yun's school books for next year, and her school uniforms. They are expensive. There are so many books! What we bought weren't all. There are a few more books we need to buy later when there is stock available. Sometimes we think about what if Chen Rui doesn't pass the entrance exam when she takes it next year. If that happens, she will continue one more year to complete Primary 6 before going to secondary school. She will end up two years behind Shee Yun. Shee Yun passing the entrance exam means she is skipping one year. We should not automatically assume Chen Rui will also skip one year this way. Chen Rui herself seems to be unconfident. I think she has the capability and she tends to underestimate herself. She does this because she thinks Shee Yun is much stronger than her. I think it is OK even if she doesn't pass the entrance exam next year. Afterall not many students manage to skip Primary 6 to enter Wesley directly from Primary 5.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Penang trip

Last weekend we were in Penang. We took one day leave on Friday, and the children had to request for special leave too, because we had to leave on Friday in the morning. Bee Duk's wedding dinner was Friday night. Michelle drove all the way up. Initially we were planning to take turns. On the way back we did take turns driving. I drove slightly more than halfway, and asked her to take over when I felt sleepy and tired. As is the norm for us now, we booked accommodation using Airbnb. However this time the place we found was not so good. It was certainly cheap, but the place was not as clean as we would like. There was a mosque nearby and during prayer time the prayers were loud and clear. Thankfully all the facilities worked, although we had to call the host a few times to get the correct WiFi password, and also to find out how to get the aircon to work. The location was convenient. It was near both Bee Duk's accommodation and the restaurant of the wedding reception. There was a live performance at the dinner and they were not bad. 3 singers, and 2 of them player instruments too, guitar and keyboard. The restaurant food was good. I ate a lot of chicken.

We didn't have specific sightseeing plans. We had one full day on Saturday, and we only decided then where to go. We were planning to leave for KL Sunday morning. Ba and Ma were arriving in KL Sunday morning, from Melbourne. Also we wanted to drive down well before any traffic jam started. We only went to one place - Kek Lok Si (极乐寺). We have been there before. We took our time and just relaxed.

This was what Chen Rui did on the way to Penang. She wanted to use the iPad, but it was too bright and she couldn't see the screen clearly. So she needed to create shade.

Old shop front at Kek Lok Si. We went in the morning and some shops were not open yet.

Old style sign board of one of the shops. We bought traditional ointment and tit bits.

The children fed tortoises. Tourists can buy bread or vegetables to be fed to the tortoises.

Michelle bought this and wrote my name. It was for good luck and peace for the family.

We all looked for our own Chinese Zodiac signs.

A "tree" for making and hanging wishes.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Drawing cards

Chen Rui really likes drawing. She draws as a hobby. I think this became a regular hobby after Pokemon GO was released. Before that, I don't remember her drawing this much and this regularly. She now enjoys looking up pictures of Pokemons on the internet and then drawing them. I think sometimes she enjoys drawing more than playing with the iPad. She uses the iPad to search the internet for Pokemon pictures. She also watches the Pokemon cartoon series on the iPad. On Youtube, I think. Sometimes when we are outside, she asks to borrow my phone so that she can play Pokemon GO. The phone I handed down to the children is too old to support this game. Also the game can't be played on iPads.

I still maintain making birthday cards for friends. I usually start working on them in October, so that I have enough time to decide what to draw, do research, then go through the various stages of drawing, and eventually making photocopies by mid December, which is when I need to prepare to send cards to the January birthday boys and girls. The 2017 cards are drawn now. I just need to do the photocopying.

The upcoming school holidays will be the first time the children spend so much time away from us. They will be back in KK throughout the holidays, for five weeks. Michelle and I are only going back later. Playing the role-playing game Fiasco will be a holiday assignment I give them. We will play via email and we'll use Google Doc to collaboratively write a story. I had planned to start playing with them earlier, but they were not very keen, so I decided to postpone. Actually Chen Rui was somewhat interested. It was Shee Yun who wasn't keen. She wanted to play with the iPad. Sometimes I wonder whether my policy on iPad usage is optimal, or whether it is appropriately implemented. On weekdays I let them play with the iPads for 20 minutes only if they manage to complete their homework at school. The idea is to train them to work efficiently, while at the same time not allowing them to spend too much time on the iPads. Sometimes if they manage to finish their homework early enough at home, e.g. by late afternoon, I may allow them to use the iPads for 5 to 10 minutes. They are quite obedient and they don't complain. They follow the rules. However it seems I am just making them feel deprived. On the weekends they want to play with the iPads so much that they lose interest in other things. Usually they don't have much interest to play boardgames with me. Sometimes Chen Rui is interested, but usually not Shee Yun. Some games that Chen Rui wants to play are better with more players. Less fun with just two of us. So we end up not playing. One thing I still do on weekends is mandatory breaks. Sometimes I tell the children they need to take a 15 minute break from their iPads. They can do anything they want, but they need to stay away from the iPads. Once I saw them play the card game Spot It, which pleased me.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

sofa bed

Lately Chen Rui has been sleeping on the sofa bed in the children's room. Usually the sofa bed is in the sofa form. We transform it into a bed only when we have guests. I don't know what gave her the idea of using it as her bed now. Also now Shee Yun is sleeping in Chen Rui's bed - the lower bunk. Sometimes they do things I can't explain.

3 Oct 2016. At Din Tai Fung when Michelle's parents and her brother's family were in KL.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Daydreaming (piano piece)

Daydreaming is the piano piece Chen Rui is now playing. It is a beautiful song. It is a little unusual because it starts in D Minor and in 6/8 time, then switches to D major in 4/4 time. It is expressive and rich. When Chen Rui just started playing it, she said she needed help and asked me to show her how to play. When I started playing, I realised how soothing and heart-melting it was. Now Chen Rui knows the song better, as in she knows the orders of notes to play, but she plays it very mechanically and with no emotion. There are some sections she just speeds through like she is rushing to finish up homework. It's frustrating to me that she is spoiling the song. So today I tried to guide her on how to play by playing my guitar together with her. Then I switched around and asked her to play the violin while I played the piano. Maybe I was just trying to find an excuse to play the song myself. We also tried having her play the melody on the violin while I played the guitar as accompaniment. I don't know the song well so me playing the piano doesn't quite work out. I play too slow and make too many mistakes. Maybe it's too much to expect of her, when I expect her to play this song with rich emotions. She is still a child and she is still very innocent and simple-minded. She doesn't feel and cannot appreciate the more complex emotions yet. I explained to her that this was a beautiful song, like a swan, so she shouldn't play it like it was a hog. I was saying it half-jokingly, and she found it very amusing. She kept saying she wanted to play it like a pig.

Her fingering is still poor. The teacher has commented that she is not looking ahead enough. She uses unsuitable fingering which creates problems when the next notes come up. She needs to look ahead so that she can make the right fingering choices. This is related to sight-reading. When I watch her play, I also see that some bad choices in fingering cause her to play less smoothly. Not legato enough. She has room for improvement.

Shee Yun plays piano more expressively. One bad habit they both still have is sometimes they hunch when playing. I think bad postures diminish piano-playing. You become less in control of your body and thus the piano and the tune. Sometimes I see Shee Yun playing with one thigh crossed over the other, which to me is so salah. When playing piano you should be firm and stable. Sitting in a flimsy position with one thigh crossed over the other is no way to be in good control.

18 Sep 2016. Playing Aquaretto, a game about marine parks.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Ranma (乱马)

The children have more free time lately. The school exams are over. They have less homework. Thursday was Children's Day celebration at school, and Deepavali holidays started on Friday. This is the first time there's such a long holiday for Deepavali. Actually even starting from the week before exams the children have been freer than usual. The teachers gave less homework because exams were coming, but the children didn't spend much time revising for exams anyway. There wasn't much point in studying for language subjects at the last minute. So the children only did revision for science and history. Now I'm asking them to read at least the first book of the Ranma comics (乱马), which is in simplified Chinese. This is another one of my efforts to persuade the children to read more Chinese. The Ranma series I have is a condensed version, with the whole series compacted into 6 books. So one book probably contains the content of 5 or 6 normal books. Just a short while after Chen Rui started reading, both she and Shee Yun became a little alarmed and came to tell me that they just saw perverted content (their words - 变态). I was initially a little worried and wondered whether I had forgotten that Ranma had adult-only content. When they showed me, I found that it was a scene where two characters (one male one female) ran into each other at the bathroom when both were naked. The naked bodies were not drawn in detail so there was nothing explicit. I had not considered that Japanese culture is after all a little different from Chinese and western culture, so this is not something the children can be shocked by. I just brushed it off saying it was nothing.

The other thing I am asking them to do is to resume their touch typing practice. Previously when they started, their efforts gradually tapered off without them having achieved the targets I had set for them. Maybe for the year end school holidays I should revive this, and perhaps I should adjust the targets to be slightly higher. One other thing I have been thinking of is to get them to practise touch typing by writing stories. If there is another goal which is more interesting to them, while touch typing is but a tool to help them complete that goal, they may be able to improve their touch typing more quickly. I remember I learned my touch typing in the first year of university. At the time I did need to type regularly, so I had plenty of opportunities to practise and learn touch typing. One possibility is playing the Fiasco RPG game. It is normally played by having people sit around a table to tell a story together, but it may be possible to convert this to a written format. It may be suitable when the children are back in KK for the school holidays while I am still in KL.

Shee Yun had yet another school trip, last Sunday, this time to Melaka. She gets many such opportunities because she is a school prefect. Her teacher, or probably teachers, feels it's a pity that she will be leaving Naam Kheung at the end of this year, skipping Primary 6 to go straight to Form 1. During the Melaka trip the teacher asked her in an exaggerated joking-tragic manner why she decided to leave. I guess the teacher likes her. One of the teachers (not sure whether the same one) had said to Shee Yun that if she were not leaving, she might be a head pupil candidate for next year. She was not selected to be the Primary 5 head pupil this year, and it seems the girl who was selected did not do a very good job. She seemed to be not very capable or responsible, just bossy. If I remember correctly, Shee Yun was not selected because she got emotional easily. I think that is a valid reason. She is not good at handling difficult situations yet, and cries easily.

18 Sep 2016. I think it was Michelle's mother who started teaching Shee Yun to fry eggs.

Michelle giving instructions. Looks like she's saying "you need to ka-TOK!" (chop).

The one on the right is for Chen Rui. Chen Rui still doesn't eat many things. Sometimes when there is no dish she will eat, we need to cook an omelette for her like this to go with her rice.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

buying things

2 Oct 2016. Chen Rui at Petaling Street, using her hand-operated fan bought earlier that day at Tian Hou Temple. Shee Yun has one, bought previously on one of our holiday trips.

Chen Rui saw this Totoro version at Petaling Street.

3 Oct 2016. Chen Rui saw this toy at Daiso, Mid Valley. Daiso is a Japanese 100-yen shop franchise. Here in KL their items are mostly priced at RM5.30 (RM5 + GST). This particular toy is two bubbles connected by a narrow tube. It has orange and blue beads, and the objective is to separate them into the two bubbles. Chen Rui played with it for a very long time, while Michelle, her parents and her brother's family shopped. She asked us to buy it for her, but we said no. One reason was we doubted she would be playing with it for long, so it would soon become an additional bit of clutter in the house. The other reason was we didn't want to say yes to everything the children asked for. I also said to her we should not spend money willy-nilly. Michelle's brother wanted to buy it for her, when he saw her playing with it so keenly. However I asked him not to. As parents, once we state a ruling, we should stick to it. Else we will lose credibility and authority. So eventually Chen Rui didn't get the toy. She didn't manage to complete the challenge either, despite spending much time on it. It was not easy to do.

Today Chen Rui asked me to play Spot It with her. At the time Teck Kang was here so I said no because I was catching up with him. Later, after I had sent Teck Kang back to the hotel, I played with her. It was quite exciting. I can play games which are more strategic with Shee Yun, but Chen Rui still plays simpler games with at most light strategy. Later in the day we also played Patchwork on the iPad. We may play more games tomorrow, since it will be just me and her at home. Shee Yun has a school trip, and Michelle needs to work.

I plan to do some drawing too though - the birthday cards for next year.