Friday, 29 July 2016

Going On the Reading Adventures With Mooty

I saw an ex-colleague talking about these books with her friends on Facebook and they mentioned that they had read these books as children. 

I have never read these books myself so my curiosity was piqued. The next thing I knew, I had borrowed all five of them home from the library for Baby to read them.

When Coco was at Baby's age, she had finished reading all the Harry Potter books available in print.  She had gone on to thick and wordy children's literatures such as The Secret Garden and The Outsider and was scavenging the house and rummaging my cupboard for books to read. At P4, she was reading the study guide for Jane Eyre. The only books that threw her off were Hamlet and Volpone that were in Shakespearean language. 

I had tried to get Baby to read wordier children's books in vain. The only book she was willing to read on her own accord was Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes which was recommended by her P1 English teacher to the P4 pupils. I simply told Baby that her English teacher had recommended the book (without the part on P4 pupils) and she read it without a qualm. She even enjoyed it. Unfortunately, her good experience with the book strangely did not manage to whet her appetite for similar books.

I began to accept that Baby is a different child from Coco and that not every child progresses in reading in the same way. 

I decided that the love for reading is more important than the progress in reading age, so I made up my mind to be happy to borrow picture books for her. If these are the books she wants to read, so be it. After all, I enjoy these books myself!

These Mooty books are very simple books meant for young children aged before or up till 6. Simple words and simple structures generally.

Each book consists of two stories eg. Book Five has Mooty Falls In Love and Mooty Has a Son so they make for very quick and simple read. 

Book One actually features the local context ie. Mooty and the Satay-man. It fosters a familiar tie with the local reader. 

The other title is Mooty and Grandma which is the introductory story, and it represents the common fear and detest for a mouse by a grandmother in a candid way.

Book Two is about how Mooty Moves Out to find a place where he belongs, and there is a display of wit and courage in the next story Mooty Saves a Life.

In Book Three, Mooty Goes to School talks about the importance of literacy and mathematical skills in a simple manner ie. Mooty felt inferior that his younger friends could read, write and count but he could not, but his diligence was greatly rewarded when he worked harder than his friends who had a headstart.

After studying comes play. The next story Mooty Plays Hide-and-Seek is an educational story about how lizards' tails would grow back themselves after they drop off.

Book Four incorporates the space elements in which Mooty goes to space ie. Mooty and the Spacemen and Mooty the Space-Mouse.

The easy-to-understand storylines coupled with cute illustrations make for an enjoyable read. In fact, Baby liked the books so much she did not want to return them immediately after finished reading them. I am happy with these books because they open my mind to be more accepting to having Baby read simple books.

It appears these books have a Chinese-translated version as well but I will do well with developing Baby's love for reading for now.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Of Leaves & Flowers

The Garden Festival is around the corner and Baby's school will be showcasing its talents at Garden By The Bay some time this week.

I was in the school helping out with the preparations for the event. The jobscope included doing the ground work for the event by helping to cut flower stems and wrap flowers according to the requirements. It sounded simple enough.
I took Baby to school so that she could sleep in for another hour and after that, I waited till 8am before reporting at the venue as required.

I underestimated the requirement for the preparations. It was rather labour-intensive. The scissors I brought from home broke after cutting a few thick woody stems and one of the parent-volunteers in-charge lent me a cutter meant for cutting flower stems.

About twenty parent-volunteers turned up for the occasion.  From the receiving of flowers in huge boxes, to the unboxing, filling Toyogo boxes with water, cutting of stems, immersing flower stems in water and pulling out flowers to remove excessive leaves, everything was pure human labour. Behind the glamour of the event, there is an incredible amount of manual work to be done, by so many pairs of hands too!

The preparations make us realise that we don't just pay for the flowers and ribbons at the florist, but also the florist's ground work and creativity.

Look at the amount of leaves
and flowers!
When the flowers and leaves arrived at about 8.45am, we set to work cutting the stems and immersing the stems in water. By 10.30am, all were about done and we had to wait for two hours for the flowers to be 'conditioned', meaning the flowers would have, hopefully, absorbed enough water to preserve them till the end of the week. 

We sat around and waited for a while before breaking off for lunch, after which we returned to the room to wrap the flowers. However, there seemed to be too many pairs of hands in the room and I felt rather redundant there. By 1.30pm, I was quite tired and was relieved to leave the school with Baby. 

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Infuriating, Women-Objectifying NUS Sexualised Games

The New Paper ran an article about NUS students running camps with atrociously 'sexualised games' yesterday.

Incidentally, quite recently, Coco shared with me about how the boys in some of her social WhatsApp chat groups post pictures of their private parts on the chat.

I was outraged, naturally, "It's wrong! You should leave the chat group."

Unfortunately, Coco refused. She claimed that anyone who leaves the chat groups would be ostracised and she did not want to be left with no friends or social circles.

She went further than that,"Mum, my friends and I think there's nothing wrong with being prostitutes."

When I put up a feeble defense along the line of "Prostitution is wrong", she dismissed it with "Mum, that's YOUR generation. This is the way MY generation thinks now".

To me, "prostitution is wrong" is something that is as clear as day. I am not someone who is brilliant at laying out line-by-line arguments or even specific, logical arguments. I just know that something is not right without knowing how to defend my position. It's like "It's wrong to lie/gamble/steal/kill." I know they are wrong but I don't think of eloquent ways to word why they are wrong. Wrong means wrong lah! I find it even ridiculous I need to justify why they are wrong. But my inability to justify why prostitution is wrong was a stumbling block at that moment.

For all he's worth, William stepped into the living room to hear our debate on whether prostitution is right. He told Coco a story about how a friend who often flies overseas for work and some female fresh graduates who work for the company would offer to go overseas with him. He always turns them down (whether it's true, I do not know) as his stand is such that "if you can sell your own body, what else can't you sell?" He thinks such girls may even sell company secrets to their rivals.

That did conclude the topic for the night but I doubt the pursed-lips teenager was fully convinced.

William was also agitated when he heard that trying to leave the obnoxious WhatsApp chat groups could lead to Coco being put out of school. He shouted,"Which friend is that? I'll make sure he's expelled from school!" Coco ran back to her room!

Looks like peer pressure to be in social circles is very real among teenagers still. Some things never change, whether it's YOUR generation or MY generation.

Back to the NUS's disgusting camps, what I find even more infuriating is those creeps' idiotic self-righteous 'confessions' on NUS Whispers Facebook page:
The cheek of them to call those who dare to stand up for their beliefs and values 'brats'!

I totally agree with comments that stated those who organised the sexualised camps must be porn addicts who see nothing wrong or perverted with playing these 'games'. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. I am sure such perverted ideas do not bore out of nowhere. I shudder to think what the seniors who planned and organised these demeaning 'games' have been surfing, watching, looking at or doing to even think that these are simply 'games'. Very warped values they have!

I also agree that these confessors need to grow up and get their moral values right. These self-righteous pricks are bullies without a brain. It's scary that for all the knowledge they have in their pea brain, they know nuts about something as basic as invisible peer pressure. Don't they study General Paper these days? 

I am shocked the undergraduates who posted the above are unable to spare a thought for others, especially those who were coerced to join in under duress ("A group of us girls wanted to leave, but the orientation group leader stopped us and told us to finish playing the game."). The fault does not lie with the villain. The victim is to be blamed for not standing up to the villain. I am almost convinced the General Paper is not taught in the way I was. 

And there are those who actually have the cheek to say that such nonsense is a 'tradition' in the campus:

This kind of tradition, you can do without, kids! And self-righteous pricks calling others self-righteous, wow!

I think someone needs to tell this sex-deprived joker that adulthood is not all about sex:

"Such camps are meant for you to grow up". News flash: Your seniors all grew up a lot better than you without such camps, dude! 

The more I read the confessions on NUS Whispers, the more disheartened I am about our undergraduates today. It used to be that undergraduates were the smart learners, eloquent speakers and know their values right too. What has manifested from the camp activities is the lack of moral values in our youths today. They also come across as being crass, vulgar and childish. What I read totally inverted my impression of an NUS undergraduate. A VAST difference from the undergraduates of yesteryear. 

Another shocker is the institute where the 'games' are 'played': NUS (yes, I read the caption under the push-up picture that it's from SIM, but the paper was running a report on NUS no less).

The staff are actually aware of these lewd activities being run in the school compound for the last ten years and nothing has been done about it! Doesn't that mean the university consent to or approve of the activities? Does it mean that NUS share the same backward thinking as the the seniors who came up with the sickening activities that objectify girls? Is Singapore still a third-world nation in terms of its gender treatment or mentality since students at the higher education institution behave like animals? Shocking!

Above all, must social media be activated before something is done? Is there something wrong with our society? Do we do the right thing only when there's a big hoo-haa?

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

The New Scoring System

The new PSLE scoring system is on the tongue of just about every parent whether his or her children are going to be affected by it.

As an individual, I welcome the changes although I do not think the system is perfect:

- I do think that AL 6 is too big a band for marks ranging from 45 to 64.

- I prefer the current system's placement of school choice in which you don't have to worry too much about the order of the schools as long as they are somewhat realistic.

- I think raw scores can be used as an intervention tool where there is a tie. Balloting has too much uncertainties and gives people unnecessary stress no matter how small the percentage of students need to go through balloting. Balloting should end at P1 registration!

I have always felt that the T-score system contributes to the rise of elitism and the creation of elite schools. The more refined a system is, the more it sharpens the elitist elements in the system.

The T-score system tosses out the average children and tells them they don't matter. In fact, a teacher-friend shared that she wanted to emigrate because our education system is extremely unforgiving to the average children, and her own children are "average children in an average neighbourhood school".

My gut feel about the new system is it is more inclusive to a wider circle of children.

I did a quick search on the Internet and it seems to suggest that the T-score system was first introduced in the 1980s, but as far as I remember, the PSLE scores during my era in the late 1980s were never called 'T-scores'. They were formally known as 'aggregate scores' and everybody called them "the PSLE scores", and no one ever said that our scores were benchmarked against the whole cohort's performance. However, with the introduction of T-scores, schools started to educate parents about how it is computated, and how the average marks and standard deviation have a bearing on their children's T-score.

I like to think that during my time, our aggregate scores were the raw scores rather than T-scores.

I don't remember parents being so crazy about getting their children to squeeze into the Big Four: Raffles Institution, Hwa Chong Institute, Raffles Girls' Secondary and Nanyang Girls High. Rather, there was a good spread of top students going to a variety of top schools such as River Valley, Anglican High, Victoria Secondary, Dunman High, Catholic High, St Nicholas Girls', Cedar Girls', Methodist Girls' etc. I don't remember people drawing the line so thinly between the top schools ie. "These few are the Tier 1 schools. Those are the Tier 2, Tier 3 schools. And this one is just a 'good' school." What I remember was people saying "This is a good school. That is also a good school."

I hope by having a good spread of top scorers among the good schools, we will stop mentally rank and group the schools in such an unhealthy manner.

With the refining of T-score system down to the last digit for the sake of ranking the first children to the last 50, 000th, competition started to stiffen, to the point where every single mark matters.

I detest this horribly competitive culture. I heard about all sorts of things the children did to their friends to gain an edge over them. The lies they told, the stories they made up,  the bad luck they wished upon their friends, the 'prophecy' they spoke over their friend's composition marks ... and there are probably others that I don't know.

I feel that our education system has reached a sad state where children become vicious or vindictive at such a young age for the sake of a score.

It is good to be competitive trying to outdo your opponent by sharpening your skills but it's a different story when you stab someone to cripple him so that you could do better.

To me, T-scores serve the pick-out-the-elite system well. You easily identify the top students by their 3-digits on a piece of paper and you send them all to the Big Four to further sieve the diamonds from the shuff. However, the new system allows many top students to be distributed to the different top schools and nobody will be none the wiser who exactly is the real 'top'.

Under the new system, I honestly do not think that there will be that many AL 4-pointers that can't squeeze into the Big Four. In fact, I think the Big Four would have some 5-, 6- and 7-pointers as well. Even under the T-score system, how many 4A* scorers do we have? And A* may not necessarily be 90 marks and above. 

And why should all 4-pointers go to the Big Four? The way I see it, we should have many 4- to 8-pointers and the scores are not too far apart from one another actually, and since not all top scorers could get into these coveted schools, many such scorers would be distributed to the good schools elsewhere. These top scorers would give the good schools in different parts of Singapore a better distribution of talents, like what we used to have, rather than crowding themselves in only certain areas like now.

Being someone who has worked with children from disadvantaged backgrounds, my heart aches for these forsaken and forgotten children. Not only are they let down by their parents, they are also abandoned by our education system which is more interested in finding geniuses or top brains.

My heart often pains for the average students in neighbourhood schools who have not heard of RI and Hwa Chong, whose dream schools are average schools in their poor neighbourhoods. I rarely criticise something as 'unfair' but there are many times in my heart that I believe the T-score system is unfair to the students in neighbourhood schools.

The new scoring system is not fantastic for those bordering on the 'brilliant' category but it should help bridge the gap between the above-average and average students. I believe under the new scoring system, the divide between these two groups of students would not be as glaring as the cold, hard three-digit T-scores.

That said, it will not be a perfect system or even a fairer system. But I hope it is a better system.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Mother Scorned


This is R, William's wife.

I am writing to you because I have heard from William what you said about my daughter, Coco. According to him, you have said that she "looks like someone who will sleep around when she grows up".

I must let you know that I am very upset about what you said bcos you have made very serious allegations about my daughter's integrity and they are an insult to my daughter's modesty.

According to William, you came across my daughter's Facebook and viewed her pics on her Facebook.

Firstly, as you are not related to her in any way, I am concerned and have my reservations on why you would be interested to look at a teenage girl's pictures. I question the intentions behind that scrutinisation.

Secondly, since you do not know her personally, it is inappropriate and juvenile of you to make slandering comments about her. 

Thirdly, on what basis do you deduce that she would grow up to be someone who sleeps around?

As a father, William has failed in his duty to protect his daughter. As a friend to William, it is utterly uncalled for and totally out of place to caution him that his daughter might grow up to be a girl who sleeps around. It only suggests that you think poorly of your friend's parenting. You have not only insulted my daughter's integrity, you have also insulted William and me the mother. What you said speaks volumes of what you think of me and it makes one wonder what William has been telling you about me.

I have endured 16 years of my sisters' criticisms of how strict and lenient I have been with my daughter, but they are my families and they criticise my parenting out of love for my daughter. May I know in what capacity are you criticising my daughter? 

If you have an opinion about my daughter, you are welcome to have one. If you had meant well, you are welcome to share it with William and share how he could teach her better. If you had meant it to be a passing remark and it will not edify William or my daughter, it would have been better if you kept it to yourself. I do not see how telling William that his daughter looks like someone who will grow up to sleep around can be edifying. It is offensive and insulting. You have crossed the line. I am sure you would think your friend is being offensive and has crossed the line if he were to tell you your girlfriend looks like a slut who has slept around behind your back.

I am writing in the capacity of a mother who sees it necessary to protect the integrity of her daughter. William may laugh it off since she is not his biological daughter, or he is just a lousy father and husband who is incapable of protecting his wife and children, but I cannot take it lying down when someone has vindictively attacked my daughter like this. A jealous peer has spread untrue rumours about her and I can understand it when a 15-year-old girl does that. But I cannot understand the purpose it serves when a man nearing 40 speaks words of vindictive nature about a child more than 2 decades his junior.

Finally, I do not appreciate you judging my daughter and do not wish that you discuss my daughter with William ever again. 

Lastly, if you have not read or heard it, I would like to point you to this old adage: "If you have nothing nice to say, you should keep it to yourself."

J's reply:

I'm sorry that I said that and I take it back.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Nostalgic Drinking Style

It surprised my friend when she saw me drinking Milo this way at Ya Kun.

After eating the egg/s, I pour my Milo into the same saucer that contained my egg/s, stir it and drink it.

My father did this for me when I was young for functional reason, to cool the Milo down and I do it for the girls now. Coco has since switched to drinking ice Milo but Baby is still taking hot Milo obediently. 

It's purely a nostalgic gesture to reminisce my childhood habit and one of those things my busy father did for me.

As I was having a quick breakfast at Ya Kun this morning, a realisation dawned on me. Ya Kun is one of those places that has not been dominated by the presence of China nationals yet. It is a typical local family breakfast place, a place where housewives gossip about schools and teachers, and share their expertise on how to prepare their children for the national exams, a place where friends meet up for breakfast. 

Places in Singapore are rapidly occupied with Filipinos, China nationals and other residents with foreign accents and unfamiliar languages. It has become a tall order to find a respite from the foreign infiltration. Even the public swimming pool where Baby goes for her weekly swimming class sees, or rather, hears, many who speak China-accented Mandarin. They seat themselves down beside you and get their family or friends to invade into the space you occupy. When you move to accommodate them, more of them come and join the invasion, forcing you to move further away.

"Singapore is no longer what it used to be," so said a friend who has emigrated to Australia.

Only small pockets of Singapore allow me to escape the reality of rapid changes. Eating at Ya Kun is one of them, even if its employees are China nationals. At least the girl manning the till adopts our lingo when I ask for 'Milo, less sugar'. She would rephrase it,"Milo, siew dai!"

Saturday, 23 July 2016

A Few Good Lights

The kitchen and service balcony lights conked out about a fortnight ago. 

We had been pottering around the kitchen and service balcony in the dark for a while. I actually got used to it except that it would be a challenge to do any cooking.

So William called up an electrician and asked him to come down to fix up lights for these two areas, but I was extremely displeased with the design, or rather, the lack of design, of the lights.

It was a round, mundane-looking ceiling light. 

I told him a grandmother's story,"Once, my friend visited me in the house and she asked,'Eh, why your kitchen light like that one?' I have been waiting for a lifetime to get the lights changed! They are so fugly! I am not going to let you put another ugly light up there!"

He didn't seem to have any choice. 

I Googled for 'nice kitchen lights' and found that Sembawang Lighting House had quite a variety and a few of those lights were what I found interesting. We made a trip down to the small lighting shop the next day.

I adored three lights and could not make up my mind on which two to buy. Incidentally, William wanted a brighter light for the study. An idea struck me,"Coco always complains that her room light is too bright. Why don't you shift her light to the study and we get one more light for her room?"

He agreed after a little consideration. However, he insisted the hanging light I chose was too dim for the girls' room. I argued that they have a study light and the ceiling light hangs directly above Coco's bed so a dim light would do just fine. Furthermore, it would be a 12-watt LED bulb which was quite bright.

After paying for the lights at $75 per unit, my next two days were spent worrying,"Oh dear, did I make the wrong decision? Hanging lights for the kitchen and service balcony? Should I change them for more practical options like the boring ceiling lights? Was I too impulsive? Am I crazy to have pendant lights for kitchen? Even Renotalkers don't have many - actually, only one or two - opting for hanging lights for kitchen or service balcony. Not both. And even then, their hanging lights are much bigger. The ones who fix lights I have chosen put them up at smaller areas like the toilets. Will I regret it? Is it a big mistake to choose these lights?"

I decided to be adventurous for once: At most, let William scold me for my mistake and pay again for boring and practical lights. If I don't try, I'd never know.

The following Monday, the electricians turned up as promised and these were the arrangements:
Geometric light (9 watt) for the kitchen
Triangle light (9 watt) for the service balcony
Square light (12 watt) for the girls' room. Baby made the choice and Coco had no objection.

William's worry that the 12-watt light would be too dim for the girls' room proves to be unfounded. It is just nice, a comfortable reduction from their original 22 megawatt LED ceiling light. It turns out that LED lights are a few times stronger or brighter than their non-LED counterparts with similar wattage eg. a 9-watt LED bulb produces the same brightness as a 60-watt incandescent bulb.

The kitchen and balcony lights are more than sufficient to illuminate the smaller areas. 

I also learnt a new thing: The nearer the lights are to the ceiling, the brighter they are. The theory works well with me as I didn't want the cords to be too long either.

The result: Everybody is pleased with the lights!

I'll worry about the part on cleaning later.

Charges for light installation ($80):
- $35 for fixing the first light and $10 for the two subsequent lights
- $12 for moving and fixing a light from the girls' room to the study
- I topped up $13 for them to patch up three holes that the lights were not able to cover

The Malaysian electricians seemed pleasant and experienced so I got a namecard from the main guy. Will look for them if I need their service again.

All in all, William spent $305 on the lights and installation. Not sure if it was too exorbitant a price he paid but we did not have the luxury of time to get them off Taobao, with the shipping time and all. William would not have trusted anything electrical from Taobao either.