Saturday, June 24, 2017

the struggle of music lessons

Chen Rui asked to stop both her violin and piano lessons. She challenged why we are forcing her to do something she doesn't like. I view music as part of essential education, but Michelle sees it differently. Lately Chen Rui has been uninterested in the songs she is learning, and she seldom practises. She needs to be reminded again and again. There are some songs from Undertale, the computer game, which she likes, but her teacher says they are too difficult for her. Often she comes back from her music lessons feeling upset. She has not been practising enough, so naturally she plays poorly, and her teachers won't be happy with her performance. It's a vicious cycle, a downward spiral.

I agreed that she could stop her violin, but I didn't want her to stop piano. I am still not too pleased with her violin teacher. He seems to be unfocused when teaching, often wandering around and not sitting tight to concentrate on guiding Chen Rui. Now Chen Rui will only play violin as part of the jamming sessions I do with Mr Lim and Shyan Jiunn. It will mostly be some practising on weekends (when I have more spare time), and then our monthly jamming sessions. But I intend to ask her to practise by herself on weekdays too, now that she no longer has other violin songs to practise. I don't know whether she will take violin lessons again in future. Maybe we need to find a better teacher in future, when she feels like continuing or learning more.

As for piano, Michelle tried to look for songs Chen Rui is interested in. Shee Yun is now very proactive in playing piano because she loves the songs she plays. It all started with the Yiruma song River Flows in You. Now we don't need to remind her to practise. She does it herself because she enjoys it. We think it is also because of the music classes and the performances at school. Shee Yun finds that she has an advantage over others and we think she feels proud of her musical skills. We hope this will happen to Chen Rui too when she goes to Wesley. Michelle found quite many musical scores for songs from Undertale, and also some from Your Name (Japanese animation movie). The Undertale songs were easier to play than expected. There were many versions and some were written in simpler forms. Chen Rui was interested and started playing them. The piano teacher agreed she would teach her to play these songs. After finding Chen Rui these music sheets, Michelle saw Chen Rui take the initiative to practise. So, perhaps it is not that Chen Rui dislikes piano, it is just that she wants to play the songs she likes. She probably doesn't like classical music. She likes pop and game / electronic music. The piano teacher lets her play A Thousand Years (pop song), but I don't think the teacher feels the song is very suitable. Some parts are a bit too hard for her. Chen Rui tried to simplify some parts by herself so that she could play. So if it is something she likes, she will spend the effort to do it.

I guess for now the crisis is averted. We found a middle ground. I don't want Chen Rui to get the impression that she can simply refuse to do anything she doesn't enjoy. In life there are things one should do, even if it is not fun, or it is difficult, or even painful.

Now I am teaching Chen Rui to play 心太软 on her violin. This is the next new song we plan to jam.

Father's Day card made by Shee Yun, which is based on the design for an art homework she did which scored well.

Card made by Chen Rui. I am quite impressed by how expressive her drawings are. These are exactly the moments that she remembers spending with me. (1) She finds it a drag to practise jamming with me, despite my enthusiasm. She'd rather be somewhere else, drawing. (2) We play boardgames. I do store many of my game pieces with plastic ziplock bags. (3) We recently played some Clash Royale 2 vs 2 matches together (on iPads). Or at least that's what I think this is. (4) The birthday cards I drew for 2017 were based on desks, including her desk, which was the messiest among all the desks I drew. That expression I made in the drawing is not what I normally do. It is what she herself often does, to express exasperation / beh-ta-han. I am most impressed with the iPad she drew - such attention to detail.

We have replaced our front gate, changing to a remote controlled gate. It will be more convenient. The old gate had been deteriorating and we had to lift it to lock it properly.

Since Wesley is a Christian school, they have many religious activities. I have been wondering how these influenced Shee Yun, so I asked her whether she was interested to become a Christian. I was a little surprised when she said no. She was not interested, and she found the sermons boring and long-winded. I think she hasn't thought much about religion and the question of life yet. Religious classes are probably just a mix of history and general knowledge to her.

Michelle's exams are finally over. She took two tax exams, and she has been taking classes for the past few months, on Saturdays. She plans to take more classes in the second half of the year. Not for exams, but for the knowledge. When she started attending the classes, she realised that there were many things she hadn't known. It was good exposure and good personal growth.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

wrong name

Michelle sometimes incorrectly calls Chen Rui "Shee Yun". It is because when Michelle needs something done, normally she will ask Shee Yun to do it because she is older (and thus more capable and reliable). Now that Chen Rui is not so little anymore, Michelle will sometimes ask Chen Rui to do things. However she still has the habit of calling Shee Yun's name when something needs done. It happened quite a few times recently, and Chen Rui said she would start keeping count. I wonder whether she now has a logbook for this.

The children know I like chocolate, and when they take chocolate, or chocolate biscuit from the fridge, they often get one for me too. That is sweet.

We asked the children whether they will be able to fly to KK by themselves, just the two of them. I half expected Shee Yun would say no problem, but she said she wasn't ready for it yet. She said she would need to be at least 15 to be able to handle it. I think she can handle it, just that she is afraid of being unaccompanied by adults. I believe she can handle immigration, security checkpoints, finding the gate, boarding and collecting luggage.

I collected Chen Rui's report card. The teacher's main comment was she needs to improve her Chinese by reading more Chinese books. Her English is very good, and her maths and BM are good too. The teacher's other comment was Chen Rui tends to be quiet in class, not asking questions and not volunteering to answer questions. The teacher wants her to participate more. I can imagine Chen Rui being the low profile sort. She can be nutty at home, and she is playful, but when outside, e.g. visiting friends and family, she is timid and quiet.

Shee Yun has her Girls Brigade enrolment ceremony this weekend. Girls Brigade participation is mandatory for Year 7 students. Enrolment means her group (of all Year 7 students) is being officially registered in the worldwide Girls Brigade records. Next year it is no longer mandatory for her to join the Girls Brigade. Shee Yun hasn't decided whether she will continue to participate.

18 Jun 2017.

Saturday, June 10, 2017


Chen Rui asked why I wear yellow every Saturday. She knows it's about Bersih. I said Bersih has a good cause - fair elections, and it's something worth supporting. She said she wanted to follow suit. The first thing Michelle and I asked was whether she has enough yellow clothing. She said she had one. I wonder whether she will actually do it, or she just said it on a whim.

Shee Yun sometimes giggles to herself. Both Michelle and her mum noticed this. Sometimes while eating, she appears to be thinking of something, and then she smiles to herself or giggles silently. I wonder what she's thinking.

14 May 2017. Shee Yun at Farm in the City.

The children watched Summer Wars, a Japanese animation movie I suggested to them. They seemed to enjoy it, because after finishing it they decided to watch Patema Inverted, the other movie I recommended. However they gave up quickly, because for this one the subtitles were in Chinese, not English. They couldn't follow the subtitles quickly enough. Mainly it was Chen Rui interested in anime. Shee Yun just went along. Chen Rui also likes the One Punch Man anime (TV series), and plans to rewatch Season 1.

I think the children use their smartphones more than their iPads now. In the evenings, we have a rule that all devices are to be returned to us. The children always obediently return the iPads, but somehow we have become lax with the phones, and now the phones stay with the children in their room. I don't know for sure whether they still continue to use their phones after bedtime, or whether they set their phone alarms to go off at some unholy hour so that they can wake up to do weird stuff. Sometimes when we keep their phones, the alarms go off at the weirdest hours.

The children needed to change their glasses again. We keep nagging them to take care of their eyes. Chen Rui has a bad habit of using her phone while lying down. Actually, using smart devices too much is bad for eyesight, lying down or otherwise, because the children spend most of their time looking at near objects.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

take me to Singapore

I had a one-day business trip to Singapore, flying off in the morning, a meeting in the afternoon, then traveling by car back to KL in the evening. When Chen Rui learned of my trip, the first thing she asked was whether I could bring her along. I said I was going there to work and couldn't take care of her. She still sometimes says the most unexpected things.

It is school holidays now. We had two local trips a few weeks ago, but no plans for the school holidays. I just keep reminding the children to practise piano, practise touch typing, and practise violin (Chen Rui). They don't have much holiday homework, so they are free most of the time. I also remind Chen Rui to look up some CAT4 tests to prepare for her upcoming entrance exam. She says that she is not confident about it. So I said if she feels that way then all the more she should put in some effort to prepare for it.

Michelle has two tax exams coming up too. She has been taking lessons on Saturdays for the past few months. What is most valuable is actually learning a lot of things from these classes. There are still many aspects of tax which she has not had exposure to before.

Chen Rui seems to be more willing to practise the jamming songs this week. Or maybe she is much less busy during the school holidays so she can more easily accept practising these jamming songs with me. I tell her that on weekdays I am usually too tired to practise with her, so she should practise her normal violin songs (i.e. what her violin teacher teaches). On weekends I have more time so we practise the jamming songs. The song 《青花瓷》 has an instrumental section in the middle, which is normally played by Mr Lim using his erhu. When Chen Rui and I practise, she normally stops playing her violin while I continue to play the guitar accompaniment and I sing Mr Lim's part. Now she sometimes plays the part instead. I didn't ask her to do it. She started doing it out of her own volition. That's a good sign. A small one perhaps. I try to see good in things.

Shee Yun says she is one of the more experienced students in music at school, so her team (or was it her teacher?) asks her to prepare musical scores. I'm not sure what they are playing, or what kind of performance or activity they are preparing for. It is good that she finds that she has some musical skills she can put to use. Maybe she will appreciate music, value it better, and also enjoy it more.

1 May 2017. Labour Day. Playing Love Letter with the children.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Farm in the City

Sunday 14 May 2017 we visited Farm in the City, which is about half an hour's drive away. Shee Yun has been there before on a school trip, but not Chen Rui. It's more like a mini zoo than a farm. There is a section for vegetables and plants, but there seems to be not much to see. Michelle and her mum visited that section when Shee Yun and Chen Rui played catching fish, but I didn't go. The place is fun for children, lots of activities for children. It's a good family outing place.

Chen Rui taking a photo of a meerkat.

Every visitor gets a free handful of bird feed upon entering this bird section. Chen Rui said it was painful. The birds pecked at the bird feed in her hand. 真是身娇肉贵。

Sleeping bird. Fat bird.

Curious bird.

Feeding deers. We bought a family ticket which came with some animal feed. There is plenty of animal feed for sale, and lots of opportunities to feed all sorts of animals. There is a section where you can touch a snake and an lizard.

Not sure whether these are llamas or alpacas. I think alpacas. Llamas should be much bigger.

There is an enclosed area with many hamsters and rabbits. They are not afraid of humans.

Both Chen Rui and I managed to carry a rabbit. I found out that to carry one, you need to approach it from the front. At first I tried carrying one when it faced away from me. The moment I put my hands around its torso, it hopped forward, out of my grasp. When I approached it from the front, even if it hopped, it would only hop into my arms. I taught Chen Rui how to do it.

The fish Shee Yun caught. There is one long drain around the rabbit enclosure with many small fishes. Small scoop nets and buckets are provided for visitors to catch these fishes. It's not easy to catch them. They are quick. After you are done, you return the fishes to the drain.

A small lake with swans and carps.

Tiny roosters.

White peacock.

The marmoset is the second smallest monkey in the world.

Owls. Will Xiao Ma Yi like them?


Feeding raccoons.

There was a cat shop at the exit, and Chen Rui spent 10 minutes playing in the cat play area (RM5 per 10-minute session). There were quite many cats. Only the younger cats were playful. They pounced at the toy which Chen Rui dangled before or above them. The older ones were unresponsive.

Saturday, May 13, 2017


We visited Sekinchan on Wesak Day, a public holiday falling on a Wednesday. Sekinchan is a rice-producing area about one and a half hour's drive from KL. Chen Rui has been there before, on a school trip, but not the rest of us. It was quite an impromptu trip. We only decided on Monday - 说走就走的旅行. No elaborate planning. Michelle did the research, found some tourist attractions, printed some maps, and we used Waze for navigation.

This is a rice field, although it looks like grass.

Now Chen Rui likes to take photos with her phone, and send them to her friends. I think she mainly uses WeChat, as opposed to Whatsapp.

We visited a rice museum, which is actually just a small exhibition area at a rice factory. Not a lot to see, but it's cheap anyway. The ice-cream there was good. Very smooth. The yam ice-cream is the famous one, but I don't like yam ice-cream so I had chocolate ice-cream.

Chen Rui liked this drawing at the rice museum and asked me to take a photo of it.

The factory floor. People were working there. The tour guide told us that one ton of rice can feed a person for 19 years.

Some kind of crane. There were many of these in a particular tree at the beach, near the wishing tree.

This is the wishing tree. People throw strips of red cloth with coins tied to both ends onto the tree. There are writings on the strips.

I was surprised to find that the tree had a hollow centre.

For about one week when Michelle's car was at the workshop, she sent both children to school in the morning. She used my car, while I took the LRT and taxi to work. Then she fetched me from work in the evenings. After the car was repaired, and I resumed sending Chen Rui to work, Chen Rui now wanted to go to school much earlier than before. One day she even knocked the door and woke me. I thought I had forgotten to set my alarm, but I didn't. It was still 5:57am on my phone. The alarm was set for 6am. Chen Rui saw that it was already 6am on the dining room clock. So now I send her to school before having breakfast. I ask her what she does at school, now that she arrives so early. She says sometimes she prepares for dictation tests. She says there are already many classmates at school even that early.