Sunday, 21 January 2018

Competitive Parenting

The article 'Don't Fall into the Trap of Competitive Parenting' published in Todayonline reminds me not to be a kiasu parent. I do not think I have intentionally been one, but the environment is such that there is competition everywhere.

J joins an Aesthetics group in school as his CCA. To participate in the SYF, the students have to undergo an audition and they need to get at least 30 out of 40 marks. The instructor was nice and gave extra practice sessions to those at lower grades. The audition has not taken place, but I feel sorry for those who are excluded. I guess this is reality, and the best are always chosen. However, such a thing never happened to me in the past - I was in the choir in JC and all of us took part in the SYF. I would have been sad to be excluded after being part of the group and rehearsing with it.

In Singapore, the International Baccalaureate (IB) education is offered to the very clever, the very rich or the very talented.

Also, it is astonishing how people associate children's every behaviour with parenting. At a talk for parents at J's school, the speaker mentioned that many students in the school are very confident and vocal and she congratulated the parents for teaching them well.

When I shared with a loved one the achievements of my friend's children, her response was "Of course they will do well. The mother '这么会培养'。What she meant was that the mother was willing to spend thousands of dollars each month on the kids' enrichment classes. I remarked that my children are well 培养 (nurtured) by me without much expenditure, but her statement deflated me somehow. Nevertheless, I still send my children for enrichment classes only out of necessity or if they have shown in interest in an area where I have no means of teaching them. J must be one of the rare children in his school without tuition in any subject.

I thank God for showing me what life should be about and it is certainly not about living for the self. I feel it is not even about holistic development as MOE has endeavoured to provide. Rather, it is about discovering one's gifts and using them to bless those around us. We should also do our tasks heartily, as unto the Lord and not unto men, while being guided and guarded by godly values.

Sharing knowledge with others
Happy Sunday. :)

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Life's Purpose

Recently, I have been reminded through various platforms to reconsider what the purpose of life is. Even at an academic talk I attended, the speaker asked the audience why we thought humans were born.

I had previously given this issue serious thought in this post and at that time, I thought life was about letting our light shine before men, so that they may see our good works and glorifying our Father in heaven. During our mission trip in December, I saw many children and adults just whiling their time away. We were told that many men in the village had turned to drugs as they probably did not have other pastimes. I felt sad thinking that they might never have considered how they could make their lives count.

As I think about life's purpose afresh, I still feel that good works and contributing to the world are important, but besides that, loving God should be our first priority. I feel it is only through loving God that our desire to do good can be sustained. So, this year, besides encouraging J to help out younger students with their homework, I wish to have more family devotions. J had requested to discuss "Sticky Situations" and we used a "May the Force be with you" devotional during dinner a number of times, but we have been rather distracted in our efforts so far. May the Lord grant us the discipline to go on.

I am thankful that J knows the power of prayer and that Little An is conscious of Jesus. Before Little An's first Chinese enrichment class this year, she was apprehensive and kept telling us that she was tired. As she was brought into class, she looked like she could cry. J suddenly told me in comforting tones that Little An would be alright as he had just prayed for her. I was very encouraged! And true enough, when we returned to pick An up, we saw her happily participating in the activities and the teacher said she was responsive. Praise God!

As for Little An, she drew Jesus in a family picture. On another occasion, after she told me that she loved me and I responded, she said "I love you" again. When I asked her why she said it twice, she said she was talking to Jesus. This may seem odd to non-Christians but I was glad she knew she could commune with Him at all times.

May I myself be more prayerful and conscious of His presence. And may we all love God and our neighbours.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your might and love your neighbours as yourself.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Reflecting on 2017

The year is coming to a close. The greatest change for me this year was that I embarked on a journey to attain a PhD. The road is not easy and I met with some challenges along the way. While practitioners I worked with had positive experiences with my methods, academics felt that I lacked theoretical backing and now I need to read more extensively. Through it all, I know the Lord is with me and there are many mini testimonies of how I have been blessed. I pray that my research will be useful and not just be a theoretical paper.

The children have also experienced God. J prayed during his tests and exams in semester 2 and was blessed with good results. He even got 100 marks for maths in the SA2. His overall marks was pulled down by Chinese and that alerted me that PSLE was as unforgiving. I pray that J will learn to persevere in his learning of Chinese and may his efforts be blessed. Aside, I thank God that he passed his Grade 4 violin exam and had the opportunity to take part in the Mathlympics. He was also glad to serve God on our mission trip and to give mathematics tuition to students who needed help. I pray that he will excel in every way, especially in the character domain. May his strengths be enhanced and his flaws be eradicated.

Little An has been learning ballet for two years and violin for a year. She loves dancing and singing and the home often feels cheerful with her songs. I pray that she will continue to be joyful and may she also be outward-looking and bless others whom she interacts with.


L is often busy. I pray that the Lord will grant him strength and use him mightily in his daily interaction with people. Next year, he will be heavily involved in missions. May the Lord use him as a mouthpiece and grant him wisdom and sensitivity as he reaches out.

May we all look up and out next year and fulfil His purpose for us. May you who are reading this be blessed too. :)

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Christmas isn't Christmas without.......

This month, there have been many events hailing Christmas. We enjoyed ourselves watching Oscar's Grouchmas and the Search for the Christmas Star at Universal Studios. The messages at the shows were honourable - that Christmas is about giving and being together. Santa appears at malls and there is snowfall at many places in sunny Singapore.

Search for the Christmas Star
It is easy to be distracted from why Christmas is celebrated. Today, we were invited to watch Snowglobed at Cornerstone Community Church. The musical was about Tricia, a highly successful woman who was brought back to her First Love when she discovered she had Stage Two cancer. She shared that it was improbable that cancer and peace went together, but she experienced that. At the start of the show, she quipped that Christmas isn't Christmas without tinsels. She was made to realize that Christmas isn't Christmas without Christ.

So although Oscar's Grouchmas was entertaining and Oscar the Grouch handed out many useful gifts from his collection of trash, I am reminded that the greatest gift was handed to us on Christmas Day.

We are the reason that He gave His life
We are the reason that He suffered and died
To a world that was lost, He gave all He could give
To show us the reason to live

Merry Christmas! :)

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Made perfect in weakness

2 Corinthians 12:9(NIV)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

We went on a mission trip as a family again. I was quite an avid mission tripper in my youth, and it was exciting then to bring God's Word to those who lived in conditions poorer than ours. Bathing in rivers and sleeping on cold hard grounds did not use to faze me.

This time, I felt different as I anticipated the trip. I dreaded the lack of privacy - there were to be thirty-one people, mostly teenagers, sleeping in one church hall smaller than my HDB flat. We would sleep in sleeping bags on the ground and from experience, the weather was unbearably cold at night. There was no heating system and we had to bathe ourselves in uncomfortably cold water which ran from the river.

I was ashamed of my poor attitude and for being pampered. Everyone else in the family seemed enthusiastic about the trip. I prayed about my ill-preparedness and requested that God use our family and change my heart.

God is good! Firstly, it was not cold at night when we were there! Some people even slept in shorts and Little An kicked her sleeping bag away as she felt hot. On one of the evenings, someone boiled water for Little An to bathe with. We managed to sing carols at more houses this year as Little An is older and can sleep later. J was given the opportunity to play his violin during the night outreach programmes and during carolling. We got to teach English at the schools and J said that was the most meaningful activity for him. I played the piano when needed and Little An had a minor role in the drama. I also thank God for the presence of the family of Lyndon's cousin. They have three children so at least I was not the only one with kids.

Helping with cement works

Carolling at night

I heard a podcast earlier today and was reminded to use what He has given us to bless others. And indeed, His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Fun Outing at City Square Mall

We celebrated the third birthday of a friend's daughter last weekend and since City Square had a myriad of activities that would make any child happy, it was chosen as the venue for the celebration.

All the children enjoyed themselves indeed. Little An managed to experience all the carnival games and her favourite was the inflatable slide, where she probably went up and down more than ten times. She was all smiles at the obstacle course too.


I thought the tunnel at the mall's entrance was pretty and enjoyed the light show here.


The boys enjoyed the transformers stage show and were looking forward to taking a photo with them.


I think Little An's favourite activity was Snowy Playtime. She was thrilled to have foam all over her arms and feet although I was quite appalled!

Here is more information on the activities offered by City Square Mall:

1.​ ​Transformers​ ​on​ ​Stage

Join the Transformers in their bid to save humanity in the first ever Transformers ‘LIVE’ on stage in Singapore! Featuring fan-favourites Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, and introducing delightful new characters, this will be a show just under 20-minutes you would not want to miss!

Date: 2 - 17 December 2017, daily except Monday
Time: Tuesday - Friday: 2pm & 7pm
Saturday and Sunday: 1pm, 4pm, and 7pm
Venue:​ ​Level 1 Stage

2.​ ​Meet​ ​the​ ​Autobots​ ​and​ ​Mask​ ​Making​ ​Workshop

Experience the ultimate Transformers Meet and Greet at City Square Mall this December!

Spend a minimum of $50 to redeem a Meet The Autobots pass 1 hour prior to each show,
and get up close and personal with your favourite Transformers action heroes after every
stage show in their first public outing. Limited to 50 passes per show.

Transform into your favourite Cybertronian heroes by decorating your own Transformers mask! Don’t miss out on a photo opportunity in Optimus Prime and Bumblebee children’s costumes with a Transformers photo station framing the shot!

Date: 2 - 17 December 2017, daily except Monday
Time:​ ​ ​After every Transformers on Stage show
Venue: ​Level 1 Stage (Meet The Autobots) & Basement 2, beside the travellator (Mask
Making Workshop)

3.​ ​Transformers​ ​Photo​ ​Station

City Square Mall brings reel to reality with life-sized Transformers statues brought in from overseas for visitors to snap memorable photos with and join their Facebook photo contest to win attractive shopping vouchers! Be immersed in a unique galaxy-like Christmas experience like no other for the entire family, as the set comes to life with smoke and laser.

Date: 17 November - 31 December 2017
Venue:​ ​Level 1 City Green Park

4.​ ​Cyber​ ​Galaxy

Gather your friends and family and come down to City Green Park for an exhilarating Christmas carnival! With carnival classics like bumper cars, inflatable slides, and obstacle courses to choose from, it will be tons of fun for all! Redeem a Cyber Galaxy activity pass at the Level 2 Customer Service Counter with a minimum spend of $40 at the mall to enjoy all
the fun and games.

Date: 17 November - 31 December 2017
Time: 1pm - 10pm
Venue:​ ​Level 1 City Green Park

5.​ ​Stellar​ ​Light​ ​Show

City Square Mall transports you into a starry universe this festive season, a very first in
Singapore. Explore a tunnel of stars and gather under the action-packed visual display of
lights and music with your loved ones and witness the stunning 10-minute light show of your
dreams!

Date: 17 November - 31 December 2017
Time: Every 30 minutes, 7pm - 10pm
Venue:​ ​Level 1 City Green Park

6.​ ​Snowy​ ​Playtime

Feel the magic of Christmas when you head down to City Square Mall to have a blast in falling snow with the kiddos. Be transported into a new universe both familiar and new, as you take in the sights and sounds of the season.

Date: 17 November - 31 December 2017
Time: 8.10pm
Venue:​ ​Level 1 City Green Park

7.​ ​Christmas​ ​Carolling​ ​by​ ​Emmanuel​ ​Choir
Christmas simply is not Christmas without carols! Join the Emmanuel Choir as they share season’s greetings with the gift of music. Fala-lalala-lala-lala!

Date: 16 & 17 December 2017
Time: 8pm - 8.45pm
Venue:​ Level 1 Stage

Enjoy if you do go and special thanks to Rifqi from SPRG for giving us carnival passes and train ticket (although we have not used our tickets). :)

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

What to do in Nagoya

I went to Nagoya for a conference recently and lugged the kids, my mum and my aunt along. While I only had two full days to enjoy what the Japanese city had to offer, my family visited several places of interest, led by capable J. This blog records the places we / they visited.

1) Legoland Japan

Legoland Japan only opened this year. The last time we went to Legoland Malaysia was three years ago (though we did visit the water park this year), and when I showed the website to the kids, they were both excited. Legoland was to be our first destination in Nagoya.

It did not disappoint us. We were enthralled by Mini Land, which had miniature structures of various landmarks in Japan. My favourite was Mount Fuji and it was here where J learnt about Oasis 21. Since Christmas was approaching, there was also a Christmas tree made of Lego.

Mini Oasis 21
The theme park was crowded the day we went, and we later learnt that it was a public holiday. Some rides were closed in the morning so queues for the ones which were opened were long. We managed to go on about six rides in all. Everyone enjoyed the Submarine, where we went underwater and saw sea creatures like sharks and clownfish up close.


The temperature was around 13 degrees when we were there, but that did not hinder us from going on rides that could get us wet. It was a good thing we went on such rides as we really enjoyed Splash Battle on Pirate Shores. On this ride, we could shoot at 'pirates' on other boats and when we saw the pirates on our next boat all clad in raincoats, we were not deterred and bravely fought. :)


The other two wet rides we took were Coast Guard HQ and S.Q.U.I.D. surfers. These rides are also in Legoland Malaysia, but J created an adventure for himself by reversing his boat and going against traffic! It was not intentional and we had to hit his boat gently on purpose to right him. Thank God that he made it back to shore safely.


We did not manage to go on the Factory Tour, but we saw how it was like from outside. It seemed interesting. If we ever return to Legoland Japan, we would certainly go on the tour.


There were also plenty of photo spots and indoor areas for building Lego structures. We were there for seven hours in all and there were many rides we missed due to lack of time. A heartwarming event occurred when J surprised his little sister with a personalised Lego brick. He himself acquired one on his last visit to Legoland and he would like A to have one too. He took pains to keep her away while he bought the keychain and went to the Brick Factory to have her name engraved. How sweet. :)

Transport
We took the subway from Nagoya station on the Aonami line to Kinjofuto station, then followed the signs to Legoland.

2) Makers Pier

On our way to and fro Legoland, we walked past Makers Pier. There were rows of eateries, shops, game arcades and so on. We did not have time to explore, but we did enter a shop which sold exquisite umbrellas and in another, there were children making miniature food figurines. It seemed like an interesting place to visit.


3) Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium

My family went to places 3 to 5 without me, so I have to rely on J's account and their photos to give a short description.

At the aquarium, my family watched a dolphin show. They also admired the graceful dolphins swimming in their enclosures. The kids brought their notebooks along and drew pictures of the sea creatures they saw. These included belugas and sting rays.


I saw on the aquarium's website that there was a killer whale show, but J who acted as tour guide did not know, so he missed it! What a waste!

4) Nagoya City Science Museum

The Science Museum was in the Fushimi area where our hotel was, so the family took a short stroll there. My mother's verdict was that this museum was interesting and better than the Science Centre in Singapore. The kids enjoyed themselves too and spent about three hours interacting with the exhibits. J said his favourite was the deep freezing lab where they experienced sub-zero temperatures for twenty minutes. They were given the appropriate attire before entering the lab. There was also a dinosaur exhibition when they were there.



5) Higashiyama Zoo

I would not have thought of going to a zoo in Nagoya, but my planned itinerary (taking the Meguru bus to Nagoya Castle and Toyota Museum) was rejected in my absence. Instead, my mother suggested going to the zoo, so J checked it out and led them there. They enjoyed it! The kids excitedly told me they saw reindeer and a big bad wolf when I met them that evening. :)


6) Oasis 21

As mentioned earlier, J found out about Oasis 21 at the Legoland Miniland. He brought the family here on his own accord and when I called them after the conference, he chirped, "Mama, you won't believe where we are now! We are at Oasis 21 and you won't believe how beautiful it is!" I rushed down to Sakae to meet them and saw that Oasis 21 indeed had a unique structure. From the roof garden, we could see the TV tower and a ferris wheel. I enjoyed strolling at the roof garden as the water feature calmed me.


7) Nabana no Sato

I really wanted to see the winter illuminations at Nabana, but by this time, my family was exhausted and did not want to go. I went by myself and arrived at Nabana at about 5 p.m. on a weekday.

It was very beautiful! The red autumn leaves glowed against the evening sky, creating a surreal atmosphere.


The chapel shone like a beacon of light in the darkness as familiar Christmas carols were played, filling me with peace.


As I walked on, I came across a unique observation deck. I was curious and paid 500¥ to go onboard. At its highest point, it started revolving and we had a good view of the surroundings. I would not say it was breathtaking, but it was a nice experience.


Then came the most amazing tunnel I had ever seen. It was alight with a million plus LED lights, beckoning pedestrians to journey in it.


I totally enjoyed the light and sound show. Apparently, the theme of the show changes every year, but I could not find what this year's theme was. I just knew that a cute bear was featured and the backdrop was magnificent.


I was surprised to see another tunnel which had cherry blossoms as its theme. It was a very pretty sight. I lingered in it and took many selfies as I wanted to remember its beauty.


I thought I had seen all there was to see, till I came to the part of the garden that bore the sign "镜池", meaning mirror pool and I was simply fascinated by the hues and their reflections.


I wish my family could be there with me, but as they were not, I caught the 6.45p.m. bus back. I could have spent a lot more time there though. If I were to go again, I would try to arrive at around 4p.m. so I can also enjoy the park while there is natural light.

Transport
I went to Nabana on a bus from Meitetsu Bus Centre. The journey took about 35 min and it was convenient.

8) Others

There were other attractions like the Nagoya Castle, the Toyota Commemorative Museum and the Maglev Museum. There were also tours to Takayama and Shirakawago and I would have gone on such a tour if we had more time.

Accommodation

We stayed at Richmond Hotel Nayabashi while in Nagoya. The rooms were small, but it was value for money. We paid around 11500¥ (about SGD142 with our exchange rate) per room per night and this rate included breakfast for 2. I really enjoyed the cheese omelette and the bacon! The hotel also provided a handy phone which acted as our GPS, so we did not need to get a data plan. That was really useful.

Food

All the fish dishes were very fresh. I enjoyed the unagi and sashimi. At one restaurant, the karaage and chicken wings were mouth-watering and we could not stop talking about the kimchi soup we had. Its taste was perfect! The desserts were worth every calorie they piled on us.

Some photos were taken by a friend

We did not have much time to shop, but we went delirious with the myriad snacks at Chubu Airport. Here are some of our purchases:


Lastly, thank God for a safe and enjoyable trip and for enabling J to guide everyone around.