Wednesday, July 19, 2017

10 years down.... Eternity to go..

Recently D and I had celebrated our 10th anniversary. I'm happy to say that this time we didn't have any Cold War or missed the chance to be with each other. (So yes this time, we actually celebrated.)

These three remains, Faith, Hope and Love.
But the greatest of these is Love. 
D and I had a vow renewal ceremony at church and just like 10 years ago, the mass was still the best part of the day. D and I made it as meaningful as we could. We involved our kids in the walk-in, we used the same readings as we did 10 years back, we got the kids involved in the readings and even wrote and renewed our own vows and promises to each other. (D choked on his vows, I think it's because he was touched, he thinks it's because the church was dusty... *tsk*)

Looking back on this 10 years, D and I are eternally grateful and indebted to a few people who have helped us through our roughest times in our marriage. It's not always with love and tenderness that we look at each other. But God has sent enough angels to make sure we survive. Most of the time, interestingly enough, it would be priests (yes those who have never been married) who are wise enough to remind us how to love each other.

1) Loving the other the way he needs to be loved, and not how we want to love.
Even before our marriage, we have had our fair share of disagreement and arguments. Like how after a long day at work, I would look forward to seeing him, yet whenever we met, D would seem tired and grouchy. It didn't help that when he was with his friends, he would be laughing and actually looked like he is enjoying himself. I saw that as an insult and a form of failure on my part. I used to not understand how is it that his friends could bring out so much life in him and when he was with me, he was so tired and dragging it. I mean, I am his wife after all, shouldn't he be happy to see me? 
He had me at "In":P
But because I love him, I realised that's what he needs. Not necessarily time away from me since  it's not because he didn't enjoy my company but he just appreciated the brainless moments of guys talk (yes... we all know they don't actually talk *rolls eyes*) and because of that he actually is happier. 
D on the other hand is not one who is expressive and talks much about his feelings. But he also knows that I am one who enjoys to be reminded how much he loves me. So whenever he can, he drops me messages of how much he still loves me even when he is busy. He is also a very private person, and for him to come up with his own vows and renew it in front of our friends tells me that he was willing to be vulnerable for me. And for that, I know, I am loved.


2) KEEP making excuses for each other when it hurts the most
This isn't isolated to marriage. It can be used for any relationship. D and I do get clumsy with each other's feelings too. And while most times we are okay, but there are days when I cannot comprehend why he couldn't see my point and insist on his way.
I confided in a priest who smiled hearing my side of the story and calmly told me to make excuses for him. That while the fact that I am hurt remains, making more excuses for him might lessen the hurt. And when you are willing to find those excuses, you will never run out of the love for that person. (Of course this shouldn't be the same if there's any form of abuse in the relationship)

3) To those who have caused harm to us and hurt us? Pray not just for us, but for them
Truth be told, every couple has their own cross(es) to bear in their relationship. For D and I, our greatest is the issue of in-laws. D and I have had many arguments as I felt at times he was not always on my side and he couldn't understand why the actions of his parents would be an issue to me. The same priest who told me to make excuses out of love reminded me to pray for those who have hurt us. Ironically, doing that helps us more than them. Psychologically, it's not possible to be angry and upset at a person while wishing him/her to be blessed.
So yes, while I'm still not in the running for the best daughter-in-law award, I think praying for them would be my saving grace.

4) Keep close to God (and couples who believe in marriage)
It's not by our strength but by God's grace we are still together. We have witnessed many of our friends who struggle and give up in their marriage and most times it is not because their marriage is exceptionally hard. Being in love is totally unnatural. It's not natural to not be jealous, to be patient and kind, to be slow to anger and to be forgiving. Because we are "imperfect" our love can never be perfect as well.
Truth be told, "godly" is a term which hardly anyone would use to describe us. (I mean some people are surprised we are catholics too.. that does say much about us right?) But God is kind to us, with whatever pockets of time we make to pray, He listens. And unknowingly, He would give us more than enough to move along. Sometimes He doesn't answer our prayers through gentle whispers and a "moment of enlightenment" but through couples He has blessed with more than enough to love. Seeing them at them makes us want to model them and love each other better. (okay... this isn't about me being competitive) But yes... three I assure you, is never a crowd.


Finally... to those of you who have been praying and blessing us with your friendship, prayers and love... Thank you. If not for you, there won't be us.
Us at our 10 year milestone 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Are You Feeling Lonely, Mummy?

I don't regret having children. I feel immensely blessed that God would trust them with me, and if something were to happen to them, it will probably just kill me.
So yes, without a doubt, I love them. I may not act crazy over them all the time, but they are my everything. Yet, with this amount of love for them, it does not stop me from feeling that being a parent is a lonely, if not the loneliest, job ever. (Don't ask me how can this even be possible when I have four kids

Image taken from figuresandfabulous.com
Many people would warn you about how being parents would change your life, but no one really tells you how lonely you will be as one.

Even if your partner is present, even if you get to sleep till 9a.m. or have a nap in the afternoons, even if you have a whole village to help look after your kids, even if you get time off to meet your friends, even if you can go for a holiday without the kids, you will still be lonely. 

Whenever parents meet, somehow, the topic of the kids will come up. We will relate to each other how we are struggling with our kids, our frustrations we go through each day with the kids or even how we can cope better. And 99.99% we can see us in each other.
When we get so frustrated studying with our kids, the times when we cannot stand our kids because of their attitude, the times when we have power struggles with the in-laws, the times when we are lost and don't know what to do… we had either cried over it or just sleep on it because we are too tired. 
But even when we can relate with each other, come the very next day, nothing has changed.

Most of us will have and can have the same struggles. But just because everyone has it doesn't mean it will bring us any form of comfort..
Often when all is quiet and I feel I'm all alone and thinking about the whole (usually bad)  day can make me cry, I'm reminded of how loneliness is probably God's cry for time with me
And all I just need to say is… nothing. No need to justify, no need to even start saying what or how things go bad. When I don't need to try to be strong and be okay. 

So from a lonely mummy to another…. know this: one of the gifts of parenthood is loneliness, whether you like it or not. But loneliness isn't bad and it does get better, when you allow God in to fill you... at least his love will. :) 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Modeling the Model Diagram

I remember when I was learning to be a teacher, the math professor gave the class of trainee teachers a Primary 4/5 question. She wanted us to solve the question with model drawing. There were about twenty of us, with different backgrounds and age groups. The time given was 15 min. None of us managed to solve it. NONE. Mind you, all of us were university graduates. 

It's been almost 10 years since then and since then, I always believed that it does help kids with their Math. Unfortunately, most people I speak to, don't agree with me. There was a mother whom I met at a school's event recently who actually dissuaded her girl from drawing the model as she thought it was a waste of time. 

Audrey is P3 this year, and it's also this year that her teacher is requiring the class to do their models in the Math sums. I naively thought P3 Math means simple math questions = simple intro to model diagrams = a piece of cake. 
I was wrong. I should have known that the hardest thing to teach are always the basics. Audrey came home with a math worksheet one day, which required her to do her model diagram and solve the questions. It was already painful to see her come up with a diagram because she was quite particular about being neat and later erase all away because she didn't get it. After 30 minutes, she was still at the first (unsolved) question. I tried to do it slow with her, but she was not getting it. After a while, I gave up and basically did her homework with her. (I 'taught' and she wrote) Because we again had an unpleasant learning experience together, I felt lousy and was up the whole night thinking of what I could do to change things. 

We went back to basics  of the model diagram after school one day. So far it has worked for me. And in case you are one of those who were born too early for the model diagram method, see if this works for you. 

1) I did away with the drawing of the diagram
I used strips of construction papers (4 colors would be safe since so far, I haven't used more than 3 colors) of standard varying lengths. I halved a strip for the pink and further halved the lengths for the orange and blue respectively. Whilst the green I divided the paper into threes.
I did this for many reasons. Firstly, it was less time consuming for Audrey to present her model and secondly I'm not sure if it was just her, but she couldn't see at times that certain parts need to be the same (because it represents the same amount) and certain parts need to be longer proportionately to represent a greater amount.

2) She only shows me the diagram
This doesn't mean she doesn't solve the question, but my focus was really the diagram and not her working. The diagram is essentially a working and while she doesn't need to do her working, I still ask her what her steps are.
I got her to do on her white board from school since I really didn't want to keep wasting paper and I thought it was easier to erase any mistakes with the duster than the eraser.

3) Step-by-step intro to model diagram
With all my materials prepared, I had a step-by-step demo. I showed her an example, guided her on the next and let her do the second. She fumbles sometimes, but with practice she does get it.
In short, this is how you show it:
a) Translate line by line of the question to the diagram. (It helps to break down the question. If sometimes the first line does not help much, you can use the second line to help) 
b) Labeling  (It helps to understand the premise of the question)
c) "Layering": When comparing the strips, all similarities must be found in the model (it helps the child to relate to the question)
The above shows an example of how "layering" works. Comparing the first and third strips with the second, the difference is shown by the green and orange strips respectively. However, since the green is longer than the orange strip, it would also mean that the green strip consist of the orange portion inside it. Visually, it helps the child to see which has the most and by how much. 
d) Finally, indicate the question with a question mark (It helps to understand what we are finding out)

Here's an example:
There were 15 more pupils in Class 3A than in Class 3B. 20 pupils from Class 3B moved to Class 3A. How many more pupils were there in Class 3A than Class 3B in the end?
Starting from top left to right.
I always tell Audrey to approach the question line by line since most of the questions are pretty straight-forward. (There are some questions which you do not work on the first line, but because it won't be 'basics' I won't be talking about it here. If you do want to know how to do it, let me know, and I can always share it)

As you can see, she used the green strip to represent 20 pupils from Class 3B in the second picture and immediately did the "layering" step of placing it in the first strip as well. She then "moves" the 20 students to the first strip by adding another green strip to it, while indicating using a dotted line that the students have moved to the first class. (I would tell her to cover the bottom green strip so that she would remember that the 20 students are no more in that class, allowing her to see the 'excess' students  in 3A as compared to 3B)

Obviously, it's not possible to use the strips in a pencil and paper exam mode. Only after she is comfortable moving the colored strips, I would let her attempt drawing it out. 
Yes I know, the question mark for the diagram is missing :P
And I am proud to say, she is slowly becoming a little expert in model drawing. :P

I know it's a little wordy today… Nonetheless, I hope it has helped you to help your child a little. :) Let me know if it did!!!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Eureka Moment of teaching the Concept of "How Many More/Fewer"

And so, today's entry revisits my 'love-hate' relationship with P1 Math.
For the past month, I have been revising Math with Isaac and I found that one of the concepts that he seems to be struggling with is this concept of "How many more/fewer?"

A typical question would look like that:
Taken from one past year paper
Isaac's answer would be 2. In case you are wondering, the correct answer is 3. 
Well, if your child is gifted, your child is gifted. And this is of little or no use to you.
If your child is like mine, then you may want to read on. 

You see, throughout the last month, Isaac has been having problems getting it right. Actually, I looked back when Audrey was in P1 and she too had the same problem. It may well be a usual developmental 'kink' that most kids need to overcome, but that would not bring any form of consolation when the parent teaches this to the kid.

We sat through many other practices and he will not be able to get these type of questions right.
Trust me, I actually been through 3 different methods.
Method 1: Crossing the items from each group and asking to count what was not crossed out. 
Result: He crossed them out (though I think he didn't understand why he needed to) and still didn't help. In fact the next time when he saw a similar question, he didn't cross anything out.

Method 2 (similar to the first): Matching and partnering each object from the two groups to form an unit. 
Result: Same as the above.

Method 3: Just subtract one from the other. (Obviously, I'm getting desperate and wanted him to just get the answer) 
Result: He was not able to carry it out when he saw such a question again.

As an adult, you may not have any problems getting this. But a seven year old may. If most 7 year olds go through this like what Kathy Richardson's "How Children Learn Number Concepts" is saying, that what children is understanding from this type of question is how much is the number that has fewer, rather than how many fewer.

On a side note, I have to say that Isaac has no problem with simple subtraction. So 5-2 is manageable for him.
Now, based on Kathy Richardson, such a question could really be because of language rather than concept. 

So this is what I did. I took 5 sweets in one group and put 3 in the other. 
Step 1: Check whether the child even knows which has more. (Isaac knew… phew)
Step 2: Ask the child how many more sweets must you put in the other group to make both the same. (EUREKA… ok at least for Isaac)

Now of course if the group asks for fewer, then you may have to change the questioning a little. So…
Step 1: Check whether the child knows which has less.
Step 2: Ask the child how many sweets you must remove from the other group to make both the same.

Try it for a few more examples. But try not to give one example which has the same answer as the number of items in the group. 
So for example, Group A has 8 girls. Group B has 4 boys. How many fewer boys are there? The problem with this is you really cannot catch whether they got the concept or they were just giving you the number in the group that has the fewer items.

With that, now I explained that Math had a special language and in order to find those answers, the lingo in Math would be to ask "How many more/fewer?" (Which obviously was BS, but it doesn't matter

And it really doesn't because Isaac now was able to use that knowledge and answer these type of questions correctly. I found some other practice worksheets online and printed out to let him try… and he had NO problem. In fact, he was very confident and he managed to solve all within minutes.  

You can't believe how wide my smile was when I saw his answers. (To be fair, I'm not sure if I was prouder of him or myself :P) But HE was also beaming with pride. 

Regardless, let me know if you have tried this and your child had his Eureka moment too. Or better still, if you have any ways or methods you have tried and it worked, I would be really happy to learn from you! :) Otherwise, onward to P1 Math!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Perfect Parenting isn't being Perfect

Over the weekend, I did a crash course with Audrey on Science to prepare her for her class test for Monday. (If you'd ever sat down and revised with your kid and they survived, give yourself one pat on your back. If you survived, give yourself two!)


Truth be told, these are the moments when I am not particularly proud of myself. Sure, we got the topics covered (well sort of) and we finished our test papers and assessment books, but through it all, there were moments of frustration and impatience on my part. And for these, I felt like a lousy parent. It's a constant struggle, to be kind with the method of teaching and to be pushing the child to reach her full potential.

Maybe she already is at her full potential, and I was just trying to push her to reach "perfection".

I was reminded on Sunday that in our world, perfection was never without being compassionate and merciful. In short, it is never forgiving. And that was me during that weekend.
I tried many ways to stop that. I even tried eating a snack so that my mouth would get too distracted from scolding, but I still caved. Pushing for that perfect score seemed to be more important at times. I get more stressed when I find she actually has not mastered what was taught in school.

I'm as unkind to her as much as the world is towards parents, or in this case, mothers.
Psychology studies, people with no children and your parents even, will simply focus on what they think is lacking on your parenting skills. In fact, it almost seems that anybody but the parent will make a better parent.
Social media doesn't help. If you want to be more unsure of your parenting, check out your own Facebook feed. It's normal for people to post something they are proud of and I'm not saying it's not right. I'm saying those moments that people generally post, don't happen all the time. Sometimes, it's not  even real.

That glimpse of "perfection" I post online of my kids and all is just that 'right' second when it was captured. It doesn't show the struggles to capture it.

Not everything is
picture perfect
For example, I normally post many family wefies. What it shows is that we are all having fun and everyone is cooperative and basically everything is ok. There was one shot I had captured a few minutes before the one we settled for had Julian crying. He was disciplined because he could not get his way earlier and was throwing a tantrum.
Did I post the crying picture? Of course not.

There are times when I shared with my friends that at least once a month, we try to go to the hawker centre to let the children experience some local fare, understand how the same dish could cost different in different places and even get them to order and carry their food to the table. Sounds like a brilliant idea to bringing up less entitled kids? Maybe. Some friends would commend us for letting the kids do that. (Okay… I have to admit… that makes me feel good) But what I never shared with was the initial sulking from the kids, the constant exchange of duties between D and I to feed the kids or to carry Kyra. I'm not sure if we actually had a "family" meal, even though we were all at the table actually… But yes, it's not perfect.

And even when this ex school teacher sits and studies with her kids for their exams, they don't get top grades, or end up in the best class or get bursary or scholarship awards.
Or when I see friends who have no helpers, yet so independently manage their households with so much orderliness and pride while comparing to the everyday struggles I have managing mine with extra help, that sucks.

What about the 1001 studies and comments about how it's terrible to expose the kids to the iPad and TV? Trust me, I'd probably be the first parent to be hung because of that.
My kids have injured themselves under my watch, they have defied me before, they have been terrified when I disciplined them before, they have argued and fought before in front of me, they have had moments when they are scared and I wasn't there, they have even been lost before. Many people would have many reasons to condemn me as a mummy because I basically have failed many times.

D once commented that the hardest thing about being a parent is that you can't be the child. I forget that my kids do not need a prefect mum to achieve their perfect grades, but they do need a supportive mum who is interested in their lives. Everyday I remind myself that the teachers in school are capable of pointing out their mistakes. I am still learning to just sit beside them, egg them on to complete their work and if it's wrong, ask them to check it again and let it go if she thinks if it's right. She will learn the right answer and how to deal with it when she gets her assignment back.

Sunday's gospel from Matthew 5:48 on to "be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" reminded me not to be God, but to be with Him and to let Him be with me.
I'm not perfect and I don't need to be perfect. I just need to try my best.
They will be fine. I will be too.
Image saved from dumpaday.com

Saturday, November 26, 2016

In my time, Mummy

Kids grow up so fast they say. (It doesn't feel that way when they misbehave or they wake you up in the middle of the night.. somehow you wish they grow up faster) But when all is calm and when you start to think back through the years, somehow, they are right. 

Isaac's graduation class photo
Even though Isaac is only six… but within that time, he's gone from crawling to running, babbling to reading and just last week, he's graduated from his kindergarten. (Yay to cheaper school fees but OMG to he's going Primary School???

I remembered just March last year, I actually broke down halfway through dinner with D as I felt Isaac was struggling with his learning. (In case you missed the posting, you can read it again here: http://chellelifestory.blogspot.sg/2015/03/when-tiger-mum-learns-to-just-be-mum.html

I was worried that he will not be able to cope in school, that he might be left behind and that he won't be able to succeed in future. (Though at that time I didn't have a benchmark or an idea as to what success would mean for a kid…) BUT because he could not remember  what was taught 5 seconds ago, or he could not recognize his alphabets then, I freaked out. It didn't help in my paranoia that at that time other kids around his age were doing much better and some friends suggested that he might need medical intervention. 
I remembered feeling helpless and just breaking down in front of D thinking that just because Isaac might not succeed, I had failed. (Mothers can be so hard on themselves)
I mean, besides smiling and charming people around him, he couldn't read and didn't talk much, besides knowing how many robots there are in transformers, he  didn't have any number sense and could not do simple addition. In short, even as a mother, I saw what he couldn't do more than celebrated what he could do. 

And while people with good intentions will tell you that exams are overrated and there's more to life than school exams, no one would be able to feel the anxiety more than the parents. (Because hello, most professionals come from the same few leading schools) At some point, I got frustrated with myself. On one hand, I really wanted them to enjoy their childhood, but on the other hand, I can't help but compare with their peers on where they stand. I found I was struggling because I didn't know what I actually valued in parenting. 

At least in Singapore, the hallmarks of the child's life are punctuated with the different exam points in their school life. The highlight for a 10 year old is the streaming exams, for a 12 year old the PSLE, the 14 year old the selection process of subjects for O levels, the 16 year old the O levels, the 18 year old the A levels etc. And so, for parents somehow, we use this benchmark to decide how we have also fared in parenthood. If the kids achieve good results, it would indirectly translate that we have done well in our parenting styles, at least in the eyes of many others.
But I personally have never been really successful in the education system. I mean, sure I didn't fall through the cracks of the system, but I didn't achieve top scores. Not many people know this but I actually got D7 for my GP in my AO levels. SO yes… I didn't have a full A levels certificate and if you did get it, you are already one up above me.

Image from auto.howstuffworks.com
But only when we take a step back, we also know that exams results don't guarantee health, happiness and love. I remembered a few months ago, Isaac read out a bible passage on the screen and I was pleasantly surprised. Even if the words weren't difficult, I cheered because he could read. There were times when he surprised me too with his logic. Like recently, while D was driving, he asked D if he could drive faster. "How much faster?" D asked. Isaac took a look at the speedometer and said "220km/hr." D laughed and explained that's not possible. "Of course it's possible papa, if not why would they put it there?" Isaac innocently asked. 
Moments when he looked out for his younger siblings or when he so willingly give up his things for them warms my heart more than what he got for his spelling tests.

I asked D what he thought success was and he told me that the moment when he can do something without worrying what other people thought of him would be the time when he is successful. (Wherever does he get his wisdom from???) I agree.
I still find myself struggling and on that account, Isaac has done way better than me. Of course he loves to be praised and complimented, but even if it looks silly, he is far more courageous to try it than me, or my 'smarter' kids.

Such things may not be recognized in a school test, but he will be fine in life. And I should learn to be too. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

All in the Name of Love

What is done in love, is done well. - Vincent Van Gogh

So I was at a wedding recently where a couple chose to write their own vows. The groom, feeling up to it, promised the bride the following:
-To wake up earlier than usual everyday to make breakfast for the bride
-To pack and clean the room everyday
-To do all the night feeds and diaper changing when the baby wakes up in the middle of the night
-To give her absolute freedom
-To give her whatever he earns

After hearing the first promise, I told my friend if D was here, he would have said "siao" (which means crazy in hokkien) and I was right.
When he finished, I turned to my friend and said that if he were my son, I would not be smiling. He laughed and told me I have aged. 

When I was younger, I remembered calling my parents up during school hours just because I am thinking of them and to tell them I love them. I don't know what changed, but I don't seem to (be able) to do it now. (Hmm… actually, I don't remember when I last said I love you to D… )

Even as a mother, I still struggle with expressing my emotions and being affectionate towards my kids, especially when they are growing older now. Even holding hands with my kids is more of a practical basis (like not losing them) rather than a 'motherly' reason of wanting them to be close to you (which is probably the same as not losing them I suppose..)

I'm not proud of the fact that I'm 'cold'. In fact, I do envy my friends who have a close relationship with their kids and parents. But strangely enough, I do get uncomfortable trying otherwise and it makes me somehow 'socially awkward'. After some tries, I end up going back to my usual comfortable 'cold' self. 

Truth be told, I don't have a great …good... much of a relationship with my in laws. I mean they are nice (and I honestly think I am quite nice too), but apparently nice people don't necessarily have great relationships.
Our relationship is more cordial than friendly and given a choice, I don't think I would do anything on my end to actively try to have a relationship with them. (Especially when I'm not an affectionate person.. this becomes much harder) 
Unfortunately, I have learnt that many times this puts D in a very uncomfortable position, especially during the moments when he has stood by me and supported my stand on certain issues. (Let's just say the conversations they have will not be pleasant

I have often wondered how is it ever possible that Love can always be patient, kind, not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs? But the decision to love does help. I may not necessarily love my in laws, but I love D and loving him makes me want to do something for him with his family. 

We didn't enter the marriage blind to what problems our families might bring. Naively, we thought they would go away or get better. The in-laws issue never went away from day one… and truth of the matter is, it might never will. While we do argue about it, we are not going to throw our marriage away for it. 

Frankly, such decisions are never made with such conviction. Somehow, everything seems to be magnified when D's the hardest to love. But fortunately, at those times, praying for grace helps… not immediately, but we get by easier. 

So just like the groom who made those promises on his wedding day and got everyone doubt and laugh at his decision to love, he will only be the fool if he gives up trying.