Saturday, September 24, 2016

Ribena cubes

The piano exam results are out. Both the children passed the exam. Chen Rui scored 113 (Pass), and Shee Yun scored 120 (Merit). The passing mark is 100 (out of 150), Pass is 100 - 119, Merit is 120 - 129, Distinction is 130 - 150. The children did not seem to have much reaction to the results. Me either. Had I not taken notes after Michelle told me, I might have forgotten to report the results at this blog. I have a habit of keeping records, so these things get jotted down somewhere.

One weekend when I brought the children to the nearby kopitiam for lunch, Chen Rui couldn't finish her bottle of Ribena and brought it home. She took out the ice cube tray and filled four compartments with Ribena. She wanted to make Ribena ice cubes. She said by making these ice cubes, when she used them to keep her Ribena cold, they would not dilute her drink, because the ice cubes themselves were made of Ribena. I wonder what gave her the idea. I have seen this trick on the internet, but it was applied to coffee.

The children still don't know how to use chopsticks. Whenever we go to the kopitiam, we need to ask for forks and spoons for them. Surprisingly I have a colleague Edmond who is also like that.

Now that we have decided to send the children to an international school for their secondary education, we know our education expenditure will be much higher, and we need to save in other areas. Michelle told Shee Yun that we will not be able to afford overseas holidays as often as before, and when we go for holidays, we will likely have to look at cheaper options. Shee Yun said as long as we can still afford to go back to KK regularly that would be OK. I am happy that she thinks that way. She treasures spending time with her grandparents and her cousins.

28 Aug 2016. Playing Confetti, a review copy I received from Russia some time ago. I am not particularly keen about this game. It was Chen Rui who suggested it. It's a simple, real-time game.

Ingenious has some similarities to Scrabble, but requires no language skills.

31 Aug 2016, Merdeka Day. This is Machi Koro. I have played this with the children many times. They like it very much. This was Michelle's first time playing.

Shee Yun now plays strategically. She won this particular game. It was mainly a contest between Michelle and her this time. I did poorly and was nowhere near them. Chen Rui plays on a whim. She buys what she likes and doesn't really have a plan, or a direction in her mind how to get to a winning position. Sometimes Michelle and I cannot help reminding her to buy this, or not to buy that. We can't help guiding her when we see her make obviously poor moves. I wonder whether that's the right thing to do. Maybe we should just let her enjoy the game the way she likes. She does have fun playing. We don't direct her much. It is only when she makes a very bad move.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

42nd birthday

Ba, Ma and Mei were in town over the weekend of 10-11 Sep 2016, so this year they celebrated my birthday with me.

The challenge in taking photos with young children is getting them to look at the camera. We used a timer, and when the blinking sped up, we asked the children to look at the camera. Unfortunately Qian Qian was looking at the ceiling. I'm not sure why she found the ceiling fan so fascinating.

Look at what Chen Rui was doing.

It was a Saturday, so I wore yellow, in support of BERSIH and fair elections.

Birthday song singing in progress.

Cake cutting. And Qian Qian was looking at the ceiling fan again.

The cake was quite solid.

Michelle bought me this cake from Victoria Station. Very chocolaty, very strong.

Qian Qian had learned to walk and was already very steady.

Xiao Ma Yi was shy about calling me 舅舅.

I took out some components from the dexterity game Coconuts and played with him for a while. He was quite entertained.

Qian Qian was attracted to the piano when Chen Rui was practising.

Qian Qian stood and walked steadily. She rarely crawled. She walked up and down stairs by holding on to the railing.

There were a few times when she walked to me, turned around, and then sat on me like I was her throne. I guess she was comfortable around me.

Chen Rui made this card for me. This is the front, although it doesn't look like it. She writes a lot. I think she enjoys writing, in addition to drawing. We have Morris Allen English to thank for cultivating this quality.

This is the inside.

This is the back, which looks more like the front of a card.

Shee Yun made me this. I think she did it in the morning of the day itself. She is not into drawing, not like Chen Rui. Still, it's the thought that counts.

The inside.

The back.

This was the birthday present I picked myself - 7 Wonders: Duel, a 2-player-only game, which is a spin-off of 7 Wonders. Part of Michelle's present for me is to play this with me.

I am going to hide these two drawings here hoping Chen Rui doesn't see them. She sometimes reads this blog, but I think she doesn't do it often. I saw this drawing last month, I thought it was a birthday card she was drawing for her friend. She had left it at the dining table. I thought it was very well done. Later Michelle found out that this card was actually meant for me. Chen Rui had started drawing it very early, because she was worried she might forget. She almost forgot about Michelle's birthday and only drew Michelle's birthday card at the last minute. Chen Rui knew I had seen it, and had incorrectly assumed it was for her friend. So when she drew another card for her friend, she explicitly explained to me that she had left the other card at school, so she had to draw a new one from scratch. I managed not to reveal that I knew the truth. I eagerly awaited this card. On my birthday I was surprised that she gave me another card, the one shown earlier. I was puzzled and I asked Michelle about it when Chen Rui was not around. Michelle explained that since I had seen this card, Chen Rui decided to draw another one, and keep this one for next year. I found that funny. She sometimes even forgets to take off her glasses when taking a shower. I have serious doubts she will remember to give this card to me at my birthday next year. I guess we shall see, one year from now.

This drawing was together with the one above. I'm not sure whether it's part of the same card, or a separate piece of work.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

fortunate

Our children are more fortunate than many others. We ourselves are more fortunate than many others. There are many things which we can easily take for granted. We may not be wealthy, but we don't often have financial worries. We earn enough to not have to regularly worry about making ends meet. We don't have much health problems. Some of the children's schoolmates are not as fortunate. Shee Yun has one particular friend who comes from a poorer family and sometimes doesn't even have sufficient stationery. She sometimes borrows Shee Yun's eraser. Shee Yun probably thinks of giving her one, but she may not know how to approach it, lest she hurts her friend's feelings. That friend's birthday was earlier this month, and Shee Yun wanted to buy her some stationery. That was thoughtful and kind of Shee Yun. We went to Popular Bookstore and asked Shee Yun to pick stationery for her friend. Afterwards Michelle told me that Shee Yun's friend was quite happy with the birthday gift.

10 Sep 2016.

The school holidays are here. The children have been spending much time on the iPads. Yesterday I asked them whether they had any holiday homework. They said no. So I thought fine, I'd let them play, since normally during the school terms they don't get to play much on weekdays. Then today I found out they do have school homework. There is a difference between school homework (功课) and holiday homework (假期作业). Only what the teacher gives during the year end holidays is called holiday homework. I asked them to resume their touch typing practice. Some time ago I had set targets for them, but they had not reached that typing speed. They had stopped practising for some time, due to their heavy homework and also how busy they were with preparing for the piano exam. I asked them to practise touch typing yesterday morning. After I got home from work, I asked them about it, and found that both had forgotten to do so. I was meeting up with Han and Allen to play games, so I asked the children to practise in the evening. Then this morning I found that they had forgotten yet again. I warned them that if they forgot again, I would disallow them from using their iPads until the end of this coming weekend. That worked. Today after I got home from work, Michelle told me they had both done their touch typing practice. I think they remembered partially because Michelle had reminded them. They had also been doing their school homework today (not holiday homework).

Chen Rui has been watching the Pokemon TV series on the iPad. Now Michelle and I have more or less stopped playing the Pokemon GO game. I find it boring now. However, because of it, I now appreciate Clash Royale (by Supercell) even more. I'm still enjoying it very much. Shee Yun has stopped playing, and I now sometimes play using her account. Now that I have some experience, my performance using her account is much better than how I fared with my own account earlier. I am able to reach a higher trophy count with a lower king level. With my own account I am still an underachiever. Most opponents I meet are of lower king levels, i.e. they already reach the trophy level I am playing at despite less time spent playing and weaker towers. I often feel apologetic when I meet players with lower king levels.

The children are returning to play some older games they used to played but have stopped playing for some time. Shee Yun is now playing Castle Story again. Chen Rui is playing Fashion Story, Bakery Story and Farm Story again. Now both Michelle and Shee Yun are playing Cooking Fever, a game new to them. This is a real-time game. Chen Rui doesn't like this type and prefers the more relaxing ones.

Friday, September 02, 2016

the ghost

Sometimes Shee Yun sings pop songs when doing homework. The children sometimes listen to pop songs using the old iPhone or one of their iPads (running Youtube) when doing homework. I guess this is a sign of entering teenage years. Sometimes the children chat when doing homework. We don't stop them unless they get carried away. It's OK to be doing homework in a relaxed atmosphere, as long as they are being productive.

Chen Rui is afraid of ghosts. If she is doing homework or practising piano downstairs, she doesn't want to be alone and asks for someone to accompany her. Sometimes she claims that she hears things, or sees things. I think it's her imagination. Sometimes Michelle wonders whether she is really hearing or seeing spirits. When taking to Chen Rui, Michelle just brushes these off as her imagination, not wanting to unnecessarily frighten her. Also Michelle tells the children that in the house she is more fierce than spirits so spirits won't dare to bother her.

One evening when the children came to our room, the topic of something spooky came up. The children's bathroom is connected to the computer room through another door. Shee Yun had left that door open, because she wanted the wet bathroom floor to dry more quickly. The children found that the door had closed, and Chen Rui was a little scared whether it was a ghost which had closed the door. That "ghost" was actually me. Earlier on I went to the computer room to get something. When I saw the bathroom door open, I closed it. I prefer to keep it closed to reduce cold air seeping out from the children's bedroom. This should reduce air con usage and save electricity.

8 Aug 2016. Chen Rui built this structure at the piano teacher's home, using Jenga pieces, and asked me to take a photo.

The piano exams have passed, but the children have not brought up the topic of stopping piano lessons. Michelle did not mention it either. The children are now learning some pop songs / modern songs. I think they picked these themselves. Chen Rui is learning to play Thousand Years, the theme song of the Twilight movie series. Shee Yun is playing an instrumental piece from the Harry Potter movie series. The girls seem to be enjoying these. Chen Rui's song is hard to play, but she seems to be persevering well. She can spend a long time at the piano playing badly, but she seems to be patient and keen. Michelle cannot tell what song it is from how Chen Rui plays, but when Shee Yun plays, the tune is instantly recognisable. I think it is because Chen Rui's song is quite hard to play, and also needs to be played at a fast tempo.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

conversations

Chen Rui tells us she has sold 10 Pokemon drawings to her classmates so far. The requests seem to be still coming in. She now has an exercise book (or two) reserved for her Pokemon drawings. Michelle suggested maybe we should let her take drawing lessons. We are going to stop their BM and English tuition soon, so she will have some time freed up.

6 Aug 2016. Before and after I remind them not to hunch. 不要驼背! They usually do their homework at the dining table now. Sometimes they use their desks in their rooms, but most of the time they do it here. Shee Yun's table is sometimes more tidy. Usually there is some empty space so that she will be able to do her homework there if she chooses to (and sometimes she does). Chen Rui's table is usually very full and untidy. I notice this difference because every time after folding clothes I put their folded clothes on their tables.

I find that I'm not good at striking conversations with the children. E.g. when I'm sending them to or from tuition, I can't muster the mood to chat. Maybe it's because lately I have more worries on my mind so I tend to not feel like talking when driving. Or I don't feel like talking to children because the topics would not be adult topics. Compared to colleagues, even very junior ones, I can usually easily strike up a conversation. Michelle is much better at having conversations with the children, asking them how their day was, or other things. Maybe it's a mother vs father thing. Fathers tend to be poorer at small talk, at least with the children. I know I should try harder. Michelle tells me so. I think one reason I find it easier to start conversations with colleagues than with my own children is there are many things I don't know about my colleagues, so it's easy for me to start by asking questions.

Chen Rui sometimes asks to play boardgames on weekends. I always give her the same answer - finish your homework first. I would be happy to play with them. Unfortunately they are still slow in completing their homework, and more often than not (at least recently) they only finish their homework by late Sunday afternoon. By then I no longer feel like playing. Chen Rui is usually slower to complete her homework.

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.