Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Reflections on 2014

It's two days to the new year. We're at the end of 2014 - that time of the year again - bus stop time, when I stop to look back and then look ahead.

It's always good to look back...to reflect on all that has happened and given thanks, then look ahead with anticipation and great expectations of what God is going to do. 

Kid by kid...

The year 2014 - Isaac has grown a LOT! I'm always amazed at how a child grows in the first year of life. In just one year, they grow from a tiny little newborn that's seemingly incapable of anything else besides pooping, suckling and crying (and driving me absolutely mad!) to a boisterous toddler who's still capable of driving me mad but in different ways. Isaac walked at 12.5 months. He loves to kai kai and protests when he's left behind. He also loves playing with his older siblings who adore him. No longer stuck to me like a koala, he will push me away to walk out the door by himself when he sees everyone putting on shoes. I'm beginning to feel redundant. Though he's getting rather heavy to lug around, I do miss having him in my sling.

my boys - Isaac is all bigger while Joseph is leaner and taller.
Joseph has made leaps and bounds in mastering the chinese language this year. Exam-wise, he's not amongst the top students but that's irrelevant to me. He can now read and write simple essays and tutor Joy. Most importantly, he's happy to be in a chinese school and no longer calls himself an English boy. Joe loves his sports. He enjoys his badminton training in school and futsal with the Dreamlions on Sundays. Since his swimming coach left for further studies, Joe has stopped swimming lessons but still practices under daaling's watchful eye. He's also made some inroads in piano playing. We're very inconsistent with teaching him and getting him to practice but he can still play some simple songs now. Next year, he hopes to pick up drums.

Joy-Anne completed kindergarten this year with flying colours and is all ready for her next stage of life - primary school. She's grown much taller such that her school uniform was quite a mini skirt by the end of the school year. Joy is a wonderful 大姐. She takes very good care of Isabel and Isaac when I need to cook and clean. She can also help me with the laundry - folding, separating and putting away. Her drawings look like mine when I was her age. This year, she's also graduated to the bigger 16" wheel bicycle and is learning to swim. She can hold her breath underwater to play paper-scissor-stone underwater with Joe. She loves singing (especially right in Joseph's ear which greatly annoys him) and got to do a solo part in the children's church Christmas musical. Her tooth 21 finally erupted (61 was prematurely extracted due to non-vitality) but both central incisors are rotated exactly like mine pre-orthodontic treatment, much to my dismay. She'll definitely need braces.

Isabel's most significant growth this year is in her speech development. At the beginning of this year, she was still in baby language and often incomprehensible. She called the playground chicham. Now, she speaks clearly in complete sentences. I'm most amused when she sings the songs she learns from children's church, complete with actions. She's also matured into a loving and protective older sister to Isaac instead of the jealous sibling who smacked and pinched him. Physically she's also grown much taller and put on at least 3kg this year.

My greatest sense of satisfaction comes from seeing my family well-fed, healthy and happy. I'm used to my dual roll as almost-full-time-homemaker and part-time-dentist now. Daaling is also great at handling 4 kids by now. I no longer worry if the kids are ok when I have to leave them to go to work. I used to worry. Now I tell myself to just go and let it go. They're smiling and clothed when I get back and that's all that matters. 

We give thanks for a healthy year. There were no health issues and we visited the doctor maybe just twice for Isaac and once for Isabel. It was nothing major.   

Daaling and I did a fair amount of counselling this year. Pre-marital, divorce, break-up..... there's joys and heartaches. It has strengthened our own marriage in the process. But my heart aches for a friend who is going through a painful divorce. It really sucks. 

I know the year 2014 has been a painful one for many people - heartaches and tragic losses. This country I call home often seems to be getting from bad to worse in many aspects. But we're still here to stay. We believe God has placed us here and we will stay to hopefully make a difference. 

We look forward to 2015 with much anticipation. I believe God is gonna do greater things in our lives. As the children grow, the challenge is to teach them God's word and ways and to live it out. Daaling and I also strive to exercise regularly and eat healthily. Salads are our daily staples. As we get older and move into our late-30s, I realize how much more important it is to exercise and eat clean. I still indulge my sweet tooth and satisfy my chocolate cravings (no, I'm not pregnant and never again will be) but I balance it with the mountains of vegetables and exercise. Exercise is a necessity.

I'm thankful for love and life. All good things come from our Heavenly Father and we must never take anything for granted. I am loved. You are loved!

Blessed New Year 2015!

Monday, December 22, 2014

December travels

It's 3 days to Christmas and I've yet to put up my tree.
This Christmas, I've decided to leave my tree into be box and make do with a nativity scene on the piano (way out of Isaac's reach) instead. Last christmas, Isaac was 2 months old. He couldn't yet roll over and obediently stayed wherever I left him. This Christmas, Isaac is a walking, climbing, extremely adventurous toddler who loves to open (and empty!) cupboards and drawers. He also has an affinity for the toilet, dustbin and anything shiny. I just know that a Christmas tree in my living room will not stay intact for long. And when it comes tumbling down, I'm not sure if I will first save the kid or the tree. So in the box it will stay. 

Earlier this month, the Children's Church had an Out-of-the-Box Christmas party on 6 December 2014. A cast of almost 70 kids performed this musical that told the Christmas story with a fresh twist. 
 Wisemen dressed as cowboys, shepherds dressed as pirates and cheerleaders for angels!
 Joy got to do a solo part - her 10 seconds of fame!

Because of the many many practices (and rehersals that ended past 11pm!!) we didn't travel anywhere for the school holidays. That and Joy had her primary 1 orentation for 3 weeks. 

So after all that ended, we made a trip to Yong Peng for a Tan family get-together and to fetch Joseph back. He had been there since before school closed for the holidays.
The kids had a gala time with a pool in the garden!

While they splashed, the men started the BBQ fire.

We had a very very good dinner with quality meats including wagyu beef, scallops and bacon!

Most importantly it was a wonderful family time. (And I had plenty of babysitters to chase Isaac up and down the staircase!)

A few days after coming back from Yong Peng, we went to Ipoh (last weekend) for another round of the Out-of-the-Box musical, this time at Dreamcenter Ipoh.

During the drive there, our windscreen suffered a hit by a small stone resulting in a small crack.

Even with a smaller stage with different entrances and exits, and a smaller cast, the children adapted quickly and very well.

After the afternoon performance, we followed some friends to town for dinner at Tuck Kee.
two of us walloped the BIG plate of crunchy tauge. RM5.00 only. Great for bowel movement the next day!

their signature grilled octopus dish. 
We were fortunate to have arrived early because those arriving later than us had to wait over an hour for their food. While the food was good, the long wait and atmosphere makes this a non-kid-friendly place. The tables and chairs are placed ON-THE-ROAD itself. It's not even roadside. Cars drive past right next to the tables and chairs. I have this paranoia of some reckless driver crashing into people dining on the road. Thank God we got a table in the shop itself. 

We stayed at the YMCA itself (where Dreamcenter Ipoh is). I forgot to take pictures of the very basic but clean quad room that only cost us RM90 on a weekend night. They provide towels and soap and a thermos which you can use to get hot water from the dispenser downstairs. No fridge, no kettle. Bring your own coffee/tea. 

I was glad we stayed there because it was really convenient and there's ample parking. The next morning, we left YMCA at about 9am in search for dim sum breakfast. 

Anticipating a weekend crowd at the more famous places in town, we made our way to Ipoh Garden South instead. It was a choice between Tai Woo or Chooi Yue which are right opposite each other. I was told Chooi Yue is the better choice. But it's tables spill on to the road and even then you have to wait for tables. Tai Woo on the other hand is a more atas place with air-conditioning! So for the sake of the kids' comfort and my sanity, we went to Tai Woo.

We ordered their signature steamed custard buns and thousand layer steamed custard cake (which the girls loved!)
 The siew mai was also good as was the egg-wrapped glutinous rice and carrot cake. Joe at a lot!

chinese tea in atas-looking cup
That sums up our travelling for this year. It's more than enough for me at this point in time when keeping Isaac in his car seat is such a battle. On more than one occasion, he has cried till he vomitted and I had to wash the entire car seat! 

There will be more travels next year.... Cameron Highlands, Kota Kinabalu, Melbourne are on cards!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Done with kindy, starting a new journey.

Joy graduated from kindergarten as Student of the Year in her class. I was very surprised because she also got the award last year for Age 5 (in a different class, with a different teacher) so I really wasn't expecting her to get it again. 

This girl amazes me. She's very different from her kor kor. While Joseph can be friends with a classmate and still not know his surname at the end of the year, Joy knows everything about everybody in great detail. She knows which kid belongs to which vehicle, has how many siblings, which kid is whose cousin and goes home with whom and even knows what goes on in the next class. Even when a kid fractured his leg just before the concert (and had to hobble on stage with crutches), she could tell me his name, his class and how and when he fell.  

She told me she can listen to her teacher with one ear while the other ear listens to the teacher in the next class!

I think apart from Student of the Year, teacher should have awarded her with a Miss Reporter or Busybody award.

After 2 wonderful years my girl leaves TJC with warm memories she will cherish and I hope friendships to last a lifetime. I'm in the midst of compiling a photobook for her, like I did for Joseph.

After school closed, Joy got to see her classmates one more time when they presented a song item at their teacher's wedding on 30 November 2014. 

Three days after she walked out of TJC for the last time, Joy walked into her new primary school in her new school uniform looking very grown up. She's just completed her 13 days of orientation and I know she will be absolutely fine in this school. Just like in kindy, she tells me lots of things in detail. She knows the names (and surnames too!) of her classmates seated left, right, front and back of her. There are also 4 other children from children's church who are in her class and a few others from her kindy who are also in the same school so that's plenty of friends to start with. 

On her last day of orientation, she said that her teacher called out 11 good students to be rewarded for good behaviour. Needless to say she was one of the 9 girls and 2 boys who were rewarded. While she's still very much a banana, I'm pretty sure she will be fine once she gets used to the new environment.  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Feeding my Babies

I've often been asked what grub I feed my children. It's kinda well-known that my babies don't eat rice. Instead, they are on a staple of oats until 6 years of age. 

This is their usual breakfast... plain oats with one scoop of herbalife F1.

Lunch and dinner are savoury oats. This is one example: I boil some ikan bilis and then strain the soup. Thereafter I add in potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic and chicken breast to boil. When it is quite cooked, I add in the spinach and turn off the flame so that the green does not overcook.
 I do this early in the morning before the kids wake up. While it is boiling, I do other stuff like get Joy ready for school (tying her hair takes time!!!)
quick-cooking oats in a pot
After the babies finish their breakfast, I have some time before Isaac needs to nap. This is when I cook their lunch. I use the soup to cook the oats on small fire.

 While that is boiling, I put the vegetables and chicken in my blender...

 ...and blend it!

This is added to the oats in the pot...

Give it a quick stir and I have enough to feed 3 kids for 3 meals. It takes me about 15 minutes to do this.
There's no oil, no salt, no sugar, no msg. It's nutritious and balanced. Joy is still eating this at almost 7 years of age. It's not that I force her to eat this but this is her preferred food. Which makes my life easier so I've no complains. 

Some days I just put the veges in a steamer. Or salmon in the oven. They eat a variety of vegetables....pumpkin, sweet potatoes, french bean etc.

I think this is far easier than using a slow-cooker which I find cumbersome because it is so fragile and heavy, takes a long time and leaves a crust of wasted food at the bottom (which is a pain to clean!)

On a staple of oats, they have never had any constipation problems. Isaac is probably almost 12kg while Isabel (although tiny when younger) is almost 15kg at 3 years old. Joy and Joe are just impossible to carry anymore. They are all of good height and fairly healthy.   

Thursday, November 06, 2014

November celebrations

November started with celebrating Daaling's birthday on 1st November.

We had a very simple dinner at Bofe in SS2. 

I secretly made a Ribena marble cheesecake and sent it to the restaurant a day before so Daaling was pleasantly surprised when the cake was brought out after we ordered our food.

Food was good and prices decent. Location is very convenient and parking is so easy. We parked right outside the cafe.
soft shell crab with salted egg yolk sauce pasta
(this is not on the menu and you have to ask for it)

something aglio olio
 Joseph totally loved this Chicken Katsu dish and said it tastes better than KFC!
Chicken Katsu
The next day being our 12th Wedding Anniversary, Daaling and I went for a one-night staycation at Shangri-La Putrajaya. We took Isaac along since he's still breastfeeding and I need him more than he needs me. We left the older 3 with a church friend.

This was our second visit to Shangri-La Putrajaya this year alone. I must say we really like the place. It's very VERY quiet and there's an expanse of greenery. We arrived at about 12.30pm and were promptly checked-in. Our room was ready and they had already set-up a cot for Isaac plus provided baby toiletries.

We made our way to Palm Hill Cafe first for lunch.
complimentary warm bread rolls with butter
 Daaling had the beef burger...

 ...while I opted for the herb crusted seabass with herb butter.

For dessert we had the warm chocolate cake...

...and tiramisu. This wasn't very good. I've had way better ones.

We had a 50% discount off total bill with Daaling's Maybank Amex card and the bill came to about RM68. Pretty decent considering the ambience. 

Our park-view deluxe room was clean and comfy as expected. Isaac thoroughly enjoyed jumping on the bed.

Our room booking did not come with breakfast. It was a 15% discount off the best available rate with Daaling's credit card. But the very nice guy at check-in noticed that it was Daaling's birthday the day before and very kindly gave us breakfast. How nice!

porridge with a side of smoked salmon and fish fingers

I love figs and rarely see them offered at buffets
 A few days later, we celebrated Isabel's birthday on 5th November. My princess is 3 years old!
 I was there when she woke up in the morning and I started singing "Happy Birthday" to her. She then asked me, "Three candles?"

Yes my dear....you get three candles on your cake.