Wednesday, 16 August 2017

My help comes from the Lord

"I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth." Psalm 121: 1, 2

I was quite troubled today and had to hold back tears at a meeting as I was supposed to make the closing remarks! When I got home, I reached for my piano and sang 我要向高山举目 (I will lift my eyes unto the hill) and 大爱拯救了我 (Love rescued me) and the peace that surpasses all understanding washed over me. Praise God for His peace!

Because I have been so blessed, I will type out the words that have soothed my heart: 

我要向高山举目
我要向高山举目
我的帮助从何来
我的帮助从造天地的耶和华而来

大爱拯救了我 by Karen Lim
你永远永远不停地爱我
我微弱时, 你扶持我
你的爱何等伟大奇妙
你永不离开我, 始终不离弃我
你说我是你心爱的人
我的一举一动,你都关怀
你爱我直到天涯海角
言语不能述说你的大恩

Thank God also for a friend who prayed along and encouraged me and for Little An who has been lavish with her declaration of love for her mummy. I also thank God for J who is at a prayer meeting now. He has asked to go on a mission trip this year. May God use Him mightily. 

我要向高山举目。

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Forbidden City: Portraits of an Empress

On our rare date (possibly our first this year apart from attending a friend's wedding), Lyndon and I watched Forbidden City at the Esplanade Theatre.


The plot was well-thought. The Empress Cixi tells her story, which could possibly dispel the well-known notion that she was a dragon lady and the rumour that she had killed her son. However, a too-pragmatic journalist twisted her tale and further fuelled the negative impression that people had of her.

I was enthralled from beginning to end. I empathised with Cixi's loneliness when the Emperor sought a new concubine after she became pregnant. I experienced her agony when her newborn was forcibly taken away from her by the courts and she was helpless. I teared with joy as she reunited with her young son and as she brought him to the Emperor to be ordained king. It was painful to see her son turn rebellious and being led by his cousin to visit brothels. I could not imagine how the Empress Dowager felt as she wiped her son's brows with a handkerchief, while his life slipped away with syphillis. I was incensed when George the journalist published the story of her life in an irresponsible way, writing what he felt people wanted to hear, rather than the truth. I was even more indignant that George had used Kate to reveal the Empress' story and betrayed her trust in him.

Besides the story, I was impressed with the tuneful songs and apt instrumentation. All the actors sang soulfully and angelically and I wished I could sing like them. Not being able to sing well is one of my greatest banes and I always admire people who have been bestowed that talent.

Lyndon and I went back to tell J about the history of China during the period when Empress Cixi had control as well as the plot of the story. It was an afternoon well-spent indeed.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Let me share this whole new world with you

I was quite an avid reader in primary school although my selection of books was limited to a few authors. Somehow in teenage, I was too busy mugging and coping with CCA (or ECA as it was then known) and church - and I cannot remember life apart from these activities, so reading took a backseat. In my early adulthood, mysteries and Christian fiction intrigued me but I would not call myself a bookworm.

Reading "Caught Up in a Story" by Sarah Clarkson helped to re-ignite a passion for reading in me. Having studied children's literature in Oxford and having experienced how a life can be formed by stories, Sarah writes, "A mind outfitted with the many possible worlds presented in great stories is a mind that can invent, compose, or create a new song, a new painting, a new book; discover a new land; or form a new version of oneself." I have discovered her words to be so true and have been acquiring books for myself as well as for the children. Our bookshelves are overflowing! 

8

As a result, Little An and I have journeyed to the Buckingham Palace with Paddington (and Peppa Pig) and Dolphin Island with Sam, Sebbie, Dididi and Xandy. We have found ourselves interrupting Sleeping Beauty's sleep in Fairy Tales for Mr Barker and sliding down the rabbit hole with Alice. We have also learnt kindness from Rosie and the deplorable effects of war in Boxes for Katje

J goes to different places, sometimes by himself and sometimes with me. He has been slaying dragons with Cressida Cowell and travelling with Violet, Klaus and Sunny through their unfortunate events. He learnt empathy while reading about the plight of Auggie in Wonder and from listening to the different perspectives of the story's characters. We also explored the Secret Garden with Mary Lennox, Colin and Dickon. I was amazed by J's imagination when he played the role of a pirate and assigned his sister to be the guardian of cannons. 

While I show my children the world through books, I thought I would share my reading experiences with others too. I set up an instagram account featuring book reviews of books we have personally read. This is the first time I am sharing the instagram account (bookscurator). You are most welcome to drop by and do share your book finds with me too. :) 

Monday, 31 July 2017

Confidence

"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God." Psalm 20:7

In my previous post, I mentioned that I was rejected for a post I had applied for. Although the reason was cited - that my studies might affect my work and vice versa, my confidence fell by a few notches. I had thought my resume was rather impressive, with God blessing the work of my hands at many stages of my life.

I realised that I was putting my trust in my results and accomplishment and my confidence at work was based on these things. I thought of David and how he had approached Goliath in the name of the Lord while Goliath was adorned in sword and spear. David was unassuming in his own ability but he was certain of the power and might of His Big God. In Man's eyes, it was impossible to defeat the giant, but David did, with God's help. I rejoice that David's God is mine too.


And thus, I will trust in the Lord and lean not on my own understanding. In all my ways, I will acknowledge Him, knowing that He will direct my path. Thank You, Lord.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

God directs our steps

A man’s heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.
Proverbs 16: 9

My contract with my current workplace is coming to an end and it is time to consider my next step. Initially, I had wanted to take leave to complete my studies and to spend more time with the children, but when I saw some attractive job postings, I applied for two while praying that God would show me His will. 

Indeed, one of the two doors was closed after ten minutes of meeting with the interviewers. They felt that it was not possible to thrive in both studies and work. Moreover, I revealed that I was intending to take half a year's leave after working for one year to complete my thesis. Of course, rejection is never pleasant, but I had peace to know that God was guiding me. Thank God also that my close friend sent me the verse Proverbs 16 : 9 on the day of the interview. The verse resonated with me as I drove home after the interview. 

I still do not know what I will be doing after my contract ends, as study leave is also subject to approval. However, I am certain that He knows my future and will be with me every step of the way. Because of that, I have sound sleep every night, knowing that my every need will be met. 

Whatever circumstance you may be in, may the Lord direct your steps too. 



Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Gifts

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

Romans 12: 6 - 8

J has been teaching Little An how to play the piano and it is heartwarming to see how God has blessed him with the gift of teaching. He is patient and encouraging and every time he praises her playing attempts with an inflected "Good", my heart swells. He has even come up with a reward system for her and that has made her sit obediently next to him while he tells her what to play.

Recently, J thought of an ingenious way to help his sister remember the notes on the piano. 


Little An could actually play chords after J placed coloured tags on the piano! 

J has also recently came up with the idea of a Kindness Jar. In the end, we created a Kindness Notebook instead and every day, we will note down kind acts done by each child. I am so thankful for this idea of his because it helps me focus on the good deeds they do rather than on the naughty ones. 

I pray that as J's gifts from God begin to manifest, may they be honed for His glory. May we provide the environment for the gifts to be used. May their gifts be used to bless others. May we be wise in developing the strengths of the children and in encouraging them to persevere in areas where they are not naturally good at. 

And to all others who are reading this post, may you find many opportunities to use your gifts as well. God bless. :)

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Langkawi's Delicious Food

As promised, here are my top four selections of food in Langkawi, and most of them are highly rated by TripAdvisor users as well.



Breizh Up is a small French joint which serves delectable galettes (pictured above). The La Malaysienne one was innovative and mouth-watering, with ingredients such as sambal belachan and anchovies. If not for my expanding waist line, I would have gladly ordered a second helping. The children enjoyed the pasta (they had only one pasta option) and the croissants (only available during breakfast, I think) were soft and buttery too.  

2) Haroo


Haroo was rated first on TripAdvisor when we were there and Lyndon declared that it truly deserved its ranking. It serves Korean food. My spicy noodles was very satisfying and the kimchi tasted very fresh. Lyndon said the Bibimbab was good too. Our friends had the grilled chicken, which looked pretty tantalising. The restaurant also served free ice cream at the end of our meal, which we thought was a very thoughtful gesture. 



We went to Unkaizan for our final meal in Langkawi and it was a lovely conclusion to our trip. I loved my salmon nabe and our shared grilled chicken dish. Little An usually does not like meat that is too tough, but she asked for more of the grilled chicken after finishing the portion that was dished out to her. The restaurant itself is elegant and the waitresses were polite and attentive. Colouring sheets were provided to occupy the children while the food was being prepared. We had a lovely experience there although the food was not cheap. 



Orkid Ria is not as high up on the TripAdvisor chart as Haroo and Breizh Up, but we went there on a taxi driver's recommendation. The prawns and fish were selected and slaughtered on the spot, so they tasted very fresh indeed. We thought the prawns might have been softer if they were prepared in other ways - we ordered grilled, but other than that, we slurped up our meal and the children finished what we gave them too. 

Oishi! 

Monday, 26 June 2017

15 Things to do in Langkawi with Kids

We were in beautiful Langkawi for 6 days and 6 nights. Some friends were shocked when I told them the duration of our trip as they had the impression that there was nothing much to do on the island. However, we had no lack of activities during the six days and at the end of the trip, J even said, "See you again, Langkawi, maybe next year."


Here are the activities we enjoyed:

1) Mangrove Tour

When I was searching the internet for activities to do in Langkawi, the mangrove tour was usually featured with nondescript photographs of boats on greenish waters and I almost gave this a miss. Thanks to some friends who visited Langkawi the week before us, we learnt that the tour was a must-do and so we did. The tour was educational and we learnt how mangroves were important in the ecological system.


The tour also included eagle watching and we witnessed tens of Brahminy Kites and Sea eagles swooping down to feast on the chicken meal provided by our boat guide.

Photo by Lyn
During the tour, I entered a bat cave for the very first time and it was thrilling to see hundreds of bats suspended from the cave's ceilings. Outside the cave, we encountered monkeys which were probably used to humans feeding them. One of them audaciously tugged at my bag and jumped on our friend's backpack! Hope people will heed the call not to feed animals in the wild. God will provide food for them!


We also went to a fish farm and saw how the fish and one stingray was fed, but the highlight of the tour had to be when the children were allowed to drive the boat! It was priceless to see the children's faces light up as they were given control of the steering wheel.

2) Sunset Cruise

The sunset cruise was memorable. We went with Crystal Yacht although I think there are other companies which offer such cruises. Our yacht was quite full and there was not much comfortable seating provided. However, our family enjoyed the natural jacuzzi in the form of a net hung from the back of a boat. We clung onto the net and enjoyed the feel of seawater splashing against our bodies. There was free flow of drinks and we paid for the dinner option, which included satay and BBQ chicken. The cruise was costly though. Our family paid RM700 in all.


3) Skycab

The skycab is another must-do. It brings passengers to a height of over 700 m and is reportedly the steepest cable car in the world at 42 degrees. The views from the skycab are beautiful and the Teluga Tujur waterfalls can be seen enroute.


4) Skybridge

We missed going on the skybridge after our first skycab ride as it suddenly started pouring. One moment, we had a clear view of skybridge and the next moment, all we could see were clouds. The rain seemed relentless so we abandoned our plans to go on the bridge and took the skycab down instead.

The clouds moved rapidly and it started to pour.

We made another visit to the skybridge on our last day in Langkawi and had to pay for the skycab tickets again as we could not possibly hike up hundreds of metres to the skybridge. We called the skybridge operator before leaving our resort and was told that it was foggy on the bridge at that time. We prayed that the weather would be fine when we arrived and it was indeed! Praise God.


I was pretty nervous on the bridge as I was holding Little An's hand and had the great responsibility of preventing her from falling. She and J seemed nonchalant though and stood coolly on a glass panel to pose for photos.

Check out the glass panel on the ground!
To get onto the skybridge, there were two options: to walk down a trail or to take a glider down. We paid to take the glider down as I had read that the walking trail had steep steps and was not suitable for younger children. However, there was a long queue of people waiting to get on the glider on our way up. The glider could only take up to 14 people each time and we estimated a wait of at least half an hour before we could board it.

The glider

We decided to take the walking trail when a staff member told us we only needed to climb 130 steps. I was so proud of the children who enthusiastically counted the number of steps as we ascended the hill. Little An lost count after 50 plus and started from 1 again. The second time she counted, she got stuck at 29 and went 29, 29, 29, 29, .........., 100. We arrived at the skycab station in about fifteen minutes. I was glad for the exercise and thanked God for His protection. We found out there were more than 130 steps though.

5) Oriental Village

The skycab station is located within the Oriental Village, which had several attractions. In fact, the most basic skycab package included visits to the 3D art museum, the sky dome and the skyrex. We wanted to buy skycab tickets alone on our second visit there, but were told that we had to purchase the package.


I truly enjoyed the 3D art museum. Having been to other such museums, I thought the art work at this one was superior to the others. It was also the largest 3D museum in Malaysia and the second largest in the world. There was a light and sound show that was quite impressive and Lyndon and J watched the show twice.


We had high expectations of the sky dome as we had thought it was a planetarium. I was rather disappointed to find out that it was just a roller coaster simulator which made me feel dizzy. Skyrex, a 3D simulator, was better and we had a 'tour' in a dinosaur park. There were other attractions which we missed but I think the basic package and the skybridge could fill an entire day already.

6) Wildlife Park

Another place we enjoyed was the Wildlife Park. We were given packets of food to feed animals with. I was amazed that we were allowed to feed almost all the animals, including raccoons and flamingoes.


There were signs showing us what kinds of food each kind of animal ate. There were also signs describing the animals and these had big prints and easily digestible information.


It was nice when the adorable rabbits crowded around us as though we were heroes. :) I was only concerned about whether the animals would overeat if all visitors fed them.


7) ATV (All Terrain Vehicle)

The ATV was an interesting experience, but I felt it was a little too long for my liking. We went for the hour-long package as it included a visit to a waterfall. The first part of the drive was exhilarating, but I started to feel uncomfortable towards the end due to an awkward sitting position and the loud noises from the engine.


J rode with the guide and had the chance to control the vehicle by himself. Lyndon drove Little An and me and declared that the vehicle was difficult to manoevre. In fact, we crashed into a bush and the guide had to help push our vehicle back onto the road. It was amazing that Little An managed to doze off during the drive and was oblivious of the crash.


What I appreciated was that during the drive, we stopped by a rice plantation and also saw how rubber was tapped, besides going to the waterfall. God was amazing again. It started raining only as our trip ended and we were protected from getting drenched.


8) Enjoying the sunset by the beach

The sunsets were beautiful and we managed to take beautiful photographs on several evenings. It helped that our resort was right next to a beach.


9) Taking a nature walk

Our resort also organised nature walks twice a week and we managed to go on one. The guide introduced us to several plants and Lyndon managed to take a nice picture of a lapwing.

Even as we went on our activities, we spotted Mr Dusky Leaf Monkey and Mr Pacific Swallow in the wild, just to name a few animals we saw. So keep your eyes open and you will be amazed at God's creations.



10) Eagle Square

We made a short photo stop at Eagle Square. After all, what is a visit to Langkawi without taking a picture with the bird it was named after? Thank God for the glorious blue skies that day. :)


We also dropped by the nearby Jetty Point to buy duty-free chocolates, but I realised some chocolates cost less at Langkawi Parade and Cenang Mall. I should have bought chocolates at those malls!

11) Relaxing at the resort


During our vacation, we stayed at the Meritus Pelangi Resort. We loved its pools, beach and convenient location. The staff members were polite and helpful. The only qualm was that the rooms were rather dark.

12) Padi Museum

The Padi Museum was just across the road from our resort, so we did a short tour of it one morning, despite having read reviews that it did not offer much. Lyndon did manage to give the children a good lesson about the tools used in the process of making rice and older machinery were displayed, making the lesson a historical one as well.


13) Enjoying great food from all over the world


We enjoyed lots of good food too. I had checked out Tripadvisor for places to eat and found to my happiness that several in the top ten were located near Meritus Pelangi. I will write about them in a subsequent post. Stay tuned for the food was really excellent!

14) Underwater World

We gave this a miss since we have a wonderful oceanarium in Singapore, but if you have time, it may be worth a visit.

15) Island hopping and snorkelling + sea sports

Island hopping was highly recommended by the resort's concierge but we thought Little An may be left out since she was too young to snorkel. I have read very good reviews of this so we may try this next time when she is older. I was also very tempted to go parasailing, but no one in the group seemed willing to go with me, so this shall wait till another opportune time.

Thank God for a great refreshing vacation. I must say the people in Langkawi seemed pretty helpful and honest and that helped to make our stay a pleasant one too. Thank God also for our wonderful companions during the trip. :)

Friday, 23 June 2017

Cello Lessons Update

Since this post, J and An have attended another two cello lessons at Juzmusic Academy. Teacher Ren continues to guide them patiently and J has asked if he could attend cello lessons during the next holiday, after he realised that it was difficult to fit cello into his regular schedule. As for me, I think I have fallen in love with the deep mellow sound produced by the cello and may pick up the instrument after retirement. :)

Image source
During their third lesson, the children continued to learn the variations of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. J grasped the fingering quite quickly, but still had to be corrected several times for his posture and bow hold. By this stage, Little An had difficulty stretching her fingers. Teacher Ren tried to engage her in plucking the open strings and I was impressed that she was persistent in involving the little one.

By the fourth lesson, I had ascertained that the cello was too big for Little An to manage, so I requested that Teacher Ren teach J while Little An observed. J practised the Twinkle variations and was taught a new piece. Teacher Ren played the notes while J mimicked the playing. It was great that by four lessons, J could play two pieces.


Towards the end of the lesson, Teacher Ren took out two dice. One contained letters and the other contained note values. Little An was roped in to throw the dice and she happily obliged. J would play the note shown and hold it for the right number of counts. The role was later reversed. The children threw the dice and Teacher Ren played the notes.


During one of the lessons, I noticed that Suzuki concepts were displayed on a notice board. I have always known that the Suzuki method stresses on early learning and parental involvement. From the posters, I was reminded that encouragement was necessary. I am rather impatient with the children during practice as music comes naturally to me so I need to be really conscious in issuing more compliments.


J has enjoyed all four cello classes and An enjoyed the activities that Teacher Ren has ingenuously incorporated into the lessons. I am grateful to have been offered these four trial lessons as my children had good experience with a new instrument. If you are looking for a cello teacher, do check out Juzmusic Academy. The schools are located at Parkway Centre, Tanglin Mall and One KM.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Playeum: Making It Home

This was our third visit to Playeum and each visit had left me impressed with the creativity of the set designers. The children were suitably engaged and J was reluctant to leave when it was time to.


As its name suggests, the whole play area is designed to be a home with different rooms. J's favourite area was the kitchen, where he spent much time fiddling with the pipes, funnels and sand. This aptly represented the kitchen's washing area.


A table top lined with sand probably represented the dining table. It invited us to add our artistic creations to what others had contributed before and Little An was too glad to participate.


J also enjoyed the central space, which was laden with pipes and connectors and beckoned children to construct whatever they liked.


Little An liked the living room. There were coffee tables with magnetic surfaces and she enjoyed creating pictures with the magnetic buttons and strips provided.


There was also a magnetic board representing the TV. During our visit, we did not see many children at this board, but I thought the 'TV' was an ingenuous idea that was actually conceived by children.


Also in the living room was a memory game, creatively designed using floor drain covers. Little An found thrill in opening all the covers and she actually completed the whole memory game with me. Yay.


While we were at the Playeum, there were people comfortably lounging in the bedroom, which was filled with fabrics. The fabrics encouraged visitors to enact their dreams. Little An promptly went for the blue cloth and draped it over her shoulders to play act her favourite princess.


Besides what I have described, we hung our own 'laundry' at the laundry yard......


and attempted to construct a playground at the Playmaking Space


An hour and a half flew by quickly and I only hurried the children out when the staff began to pack up. 

I would like to thank Playeum for the interesting visit. The Playeum is located at Gillman Barracks and is opened from Tuesdays to Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The entrance fee for each child (1 to 12 years) is $22 and is free for the first accompanying adult. For more information, please visit their website