Sunday, 16 August 2020

Summer Holidays 2020

Salam my lovelies,

We are so fortunate and blessed to have been on two local holidays this summer.

We narrowly escaped the Sivagangga Cluster in the north of peninsula too. Penang was a lovely host and it felt like a slice of heaven in our brave new world.

MySejahtera app check-in, cashless parking app, Setel cashless petrol purchase, TouchNGo eWallet and online bookings were our usual mode of payment.

We booked ahead at places we intended to dine at or visit to manage expectations during this period of physical distancing. Cheong Fatt Tze and David Brown’s were both most delightful lunch venues! 

Face masks are compulsory everywhere still, except in spacious personal space or private beach and properties where we stayed at.
Sunset in Penang.
Our treehouse at Tiarasa Escapes Janda Baik. The afternoon picnic by the stream, movie under the stars and kampung walk are all highly recommended. 

We will continue to research other green zones and monitor data from Ministry of Health Malaysia to safely guess out next adventures this summer, preferably short day trips.

Hope you are having a great and safe summer break too!
Sunday, 21 June 2020

Recovery Movement Control Order ("RMCO")

Salam my lovelies,

RMCO kicked in on 10 June 2020 and we have been much happier since.

YAMAHA has resumed music classes at its schools . Girl donned her child-sized surgical mask to class yesterday, and washed her hands immediately after class. Due to registration requirements, she now carries her first smartphone to login MYSejahtera, SELangkah and QR Code Scanner. The same routine of face masks and check-in apps will be required of her when she goes to artistic gymnastics training tomorrow. My prayer and wish is that she stays as safe as possible as I can no longer just keep her at home with screen time or the bicycle routine. We have all read many books and played endless rounds of board games, trust me. It is time for return to society in a brave new world.

Bean will resume music classes tomorrow, and I sure hope he can follow all the steps. I have in mind to brief him in 3 simple steps using simple visual cues on the whiteboard before he leaves home. He turned 7 a few days ago and we hosted a simple dinner at home to celebrate with The Grandparents. It was a joyous occasion to be gathered every once in a while. I pray extra hard for his safety as he returns to the brave new world. He wished for swimming pools to be opened and his wish will come true on 25 June 2020! Alhamdulillah! We will be cautious and maybe fill up our large inflatable pool on our roof terrace instead of using the common pool, we shall see.

EAP Malaysia hosted Family Day 2020 Lockdown edition on YouTube Live on 20 June 2020 and that was fun too. Bean was given a few speaking lines and he did really well. The edited videos turned out better than when we saw them being recorded during early days of MCO. He was given free rein without any of my intervention so we could all see for ourselves pure Bean in his element. His friends were all equally impressive. Bravo, kiddos!

Both children have completed their Virtual Sports Day and GL Assessments. Next up will be Parents Evening (Report Card Day) and Year End Concert and Speech Day. School has been wonderful in many ways and I cannot applaud them enough for always innovating for semblance of life for everyone. Bravo!

Onwards and better, inshaAllah.

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Term 3 AY2019/20@Home

Salam my lovelies,

Eid Mubarak and Maaf Zahir Batin. The one single day we were allowed to have The Grandparents over for lunch and tea was magical! Absence had made hearts fonder. Video calls cannot replace physical presence.

Since the onset of Movement Control Order on 18 March 2020, Girl and Bean have been schooling remotely/online from home starting at 8:00 a.m. with adequate offline time to complete worksheets/activities/video recording/rest time and an hour lunch break at noon. They sometimes finish lessons by 3:30 p.m. and seamlessly move on to Netflix or games on the iPad which got me worried because too much screen time is simply not healthy. We ordered a pair of blue light protective glasses for each kid and they have diligently put them on. Improvement to their sleep cycle and quality improved were immediately noted, and we now recommend these protective glasses to all our friends.

We do not fuss if they do not submit all worksheets, videos, projects or assignments on the dot of 4 p.m. daily simply because if we were to run this marathon of remote learning from home, we first need a happy and harmonious home. Mental wellbeing is far more important than timely submitted school work at this point in time (78 days since 18 March 2020, that is). Star of the Week, Star of the Day, DojoPoints and end of year examinations and awards are not high on our priority list right now. Girl fares excellently and that is fine. Bean prefers not to participate in every single Zoom class and that is fine too. He catches up in so many other ways.

Both Girl and Bean had earlier spent their Term 2 break at home with us 24/7. There were no complaints about not going anywhere for vacation. Staycation maximum indeed. We read, played board games, played imagination/role playing games, baked new cakes (Basque Burnt Cheesecake being a huge hit), painted, crafted, played music, sang, danced, soaked in the tub, practiced indoor exercises and watched many movies. Like the rest of the world, presumably.

Luckily, Conditional Movement Control Order was enforced from 4 May 2020 onwards. They have since  mastered cycling without trainer wheels within a day without any saddle pushing or holding  (yay!). We have been heading out once daily for 20 minutes at our courtyard corridor and park for some sunshine and fresh air. This is a pleasant daily routine we all look forward to.

The Other Half has improved in efficacy of his weekly grocery trips. He bought me a zucchini instead of cucumber once and I will live to retell this funny incident, preferably not in his presence. There was one trip I made to the local mall for some clothes, office supplies, kitchen tools and it felt like a huge treat. I would highly recommend a weekly dose to maintain sanity and "me-time". How I miss my carefree window shopping and walking at the is something I will never experience again. We now use MYSejahtera, SELangkah and QR Code Scanner and have our body temperature taken before entering any shops. 

Other than cooking and baking, I picked up another necessary skill - hair styling. A set of professional grooming scissors, clips, comb and bib is now one of my best lockdown online shopping/investment items. Both kids allowed me to cut their hair. I also tidied up The Other Half's hair cut which he first attempted using an electric hair trimmer. The ultimate trust test was when I asked Girl to cut my low down ponytail. The short bob she left me with is tres chic and I love it! The lock of hair may be donated to Lock of Hope, we shall see.

My circadian rhythm has been out of whack since Ramadhan but I hope to reset it soon for everyone's sakes. It is not healthy to be nocturnal and miss out the morning or feel like a zombie before a nap.

I hope you are having a safe and healthy lockdown wherever you may be. 

Till we meet again, inshaAllah.
Monday, 30 March 2020

School@Home COVID-19

Salam my lovelies,

Today is Day 13 of the Movement Control Order in Malaysia. 

The air is clean, the skies are blue. Alhamdulillah for those beauties.

1. School
We have been learning from home using Zoom, ClassDojo and several other online resources.

We receive daily learning objectives and tasks from class and specialist subject teachers, usually by 8 a.m. then carry them out as best we can, granted that The Other Half and I are not professional teachers.

Girl is using the main dining hall which doubles up as our home office for now.  Bean uses his therapy room as classroom so they each have demarcated work space and privacy.

Girl misses all her performing arts activities and swimming. We do not know if Alice@Wonderland will still happen this June. Swimming Gala does look like it will be postponed to Term 3 while International Day has been cancelled.

Bean misses his school field the most. He misses running fast, the poor boy.

They are both great troopers and have not stepped outside except to our rooftop deck for the occasional outdoor/PE time/chalk mural art.

2. Therapy
There will be no therapy from 18 March to 14 April 2020. We paid full fees excluding transport charges. We understand that there are overheads. At this point, Bean is fine. There will be replacement classes via Zoom next time to make up for lost time. Syukur alhamdulillah.

3. Family Life
The Other Half and I have been working from home for a few years now but we do have to adjust to having the children around us 24/7. Thank goodness they have been great troopers. I cannot praise them enough for being co-operative and compliant.

We also have found ourselves in new teaching profession as School has been closed since MCO came into effect. I personally believe that I need to develop more patience and compassion when it comes to teaching. I forget sometimes that children get frustrated not being around their peers physically.

We subscribed to Netflix for the children to catch up with movies since we have stopped going to cinemas since Lunar New Year. We have staved off Netflix subscription as long as possible and reached our threshold on MCO Day 9.

I do the weekly grocery by myself, and don the face mask and disposable gloves. Social distancing, temperature check and controlled number of shoppers have turned grocery shopping into a perceived safer shopping experience but I still take all precautions including sanitising hands before opening my car and driving home, washing all clothes and shopping bags as soon as I am home and not touching anything or anyone until I have had a full shower and scrub. I am still trying to find a simpler way of disinfecting all our groceries.

It feels weird that I have been preparing every single breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner and supper without losing my cool (yet). Thank goodness for His Provisions and Blessings. I pray that we can all carry on without losing our minds or tempers.

Stay at home and stay safe. 
Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Term 2 of Academic Year 2019/20

Salam my lovelies,

Almost an entire academic term has gone by and I have some brief updates to share.

Firstly, we have commenced fading off shadow support for Bean. It is a milestone for us both as a family and School! His therapist now stands outside his classroom briefly before moving to outside his CCA room then transition home for an hour of debrief and ABA therapy. His official ABA time ends with reward of (usually) 30 minutes of screen time on iPad (with a bonus of 60 minutes TV time while parents cook/shower/get the household ready for bed time). The TV bonus time is not something we are proud of at the moment so we have been nudging Bean to return to board games and outdoor play, weather permitting. He has been a hero throughout. Bless.

Along the lines of neuro-diversity, the School is receiving more students requiring learning support and our aim is to shift the conversation/narrative amongst parents to that of being a community that supports neuro-diversity instead of negative focus on unexpected behaviours (when exhibited). A talk by Director of EAP Malaysia is in the pipeline after COVID-19 social distancing.  I am truly grateful for the opportunity to arrange for this shift of community narrative to one that is focussed on knowledge, science, proactive support and unconditional love. We must leave unproductive coffee talk and negative banter behind. Wish me luck, my lovelies!

Secondly, Girl is excited to have auditioned and succeeded in getting a speaking/singing/dancing role in the inaugural school musical production. This is significant to her because when we left her previous school, we were not entirely sure of the standards of performing arts at this new school. We were not sure if is was going to be "professional" or "Malaysian Book of Records"-worthy. We persevered and so did the Principal together with Head of Performing Arts. Now, Girl is happily rehearsing, raising funds and anticipating a new stage arriving in time for their first annual musical production. One of the best memories we are creating is ... daughter of my former schoolmate is the lead character in this musical! Being able to witness our children rehearse together and inshaAllah perform together this June is surreal. Hopefully by then, social distancing due to COVID-19 is behind us.

The calendared Swimming Gala has been postponed. Games meet in Singapore has been cancelled too.

We have one mural art pending, and this lull has given us longer time to rethink the scope, location and method.

International Week celebrations have been scaled down to minimal participation from parents. We will be sending in washed handmade flags and materials but no food this year. Bean's class will be hosting France and Girl's class will be hosting Republic of Ireland. We have a good amount of cheese from both countries as we had purchased them in early March. Luckily for us we love cheese and often serve cheese platter at supper! Perhaps all that freed-up time will avail me to spring-cleaning, baking, gradening and catching up on reading.

Students will continue to learn. Home-schooling  and distance learning modules are being tested out as we brace ourselves for the worst of this unforeseen pandemic.

COVID-19 has definitely slowed down or postponed some events at School, including those planned by the PTA. We have been creative in our newsletter content the past few weeks. Video compilation of past events, interviews and documents were shared instead of event photos now that there is no event...

We are proud to say that the School has been diligent with temperature checks at drop-off and pick-up, and insisting on us all washing our hands as frequently as possible. Where necessary, travel and contact history were recorded with consent for community safeguarding. Hand sanitisers are everywhere at school. A clear SOP and policy on this subject has been published. We constantly get reassuring updates from the Principal too. So far, alhamdulillah, no cases at our community. We pray for His continued protection and blessings. Aamiin. 

Have a lovely few months ahead and stay safe, my lovelies!

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Can 2019 last forever, Mama?

Salam my lovelies,

Girl and Bean both love 2019 so much they have asked me to make it last forever. Alhamdulillah for the ups (and downs that delivered many life lessons) of 2019.

My silence here is largely due to the fact that I have been devoting more time to their school lives by volunteering as a PTA Secretary. There is a fair amount of compliance work to be done as well as weekly (Friday Coffee Mornings) activities. It certainly feels very much like a full-time job. Since it is a registered association, standard of good governance applies. I cannot resist the due diligence work either, teehee!

Monthly meetings were pre-scheduled since Term 3 of last academic year so it helps to be regulated. Fortnightly working meetings are for work-in-progress matters to get things done on time correctly the first time. Then there are protem committee meetings for the big tasks such as constitution reforms and governance matters. Sometimes, I can understand why my children's previous school REFUSED to form a PTA. No doubt a long list of benefits but to expect such high level of compliance from has to be very lucky to have reliable volunteers who are also customers aka paying parents. I am sure things are different in a government school.

After some initial hiccups (long story!), Alhamdulillah things are in motion now. Parents from China, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Australia and Malaysia working with British Patron and Teacher in a Committee brings a whole new lease of life to the PTA.

PTA work produces both short and long tem results so if your school has one, please maximise its benefits for your children.

It has been hectic with weekly workshops that range from Pink October Breast Cancer Awareness talk by a guest speaker/general surgeon from Ramsey Ara Damansara Hospital , Eating Disorder Support Talk by the School Counsellor, Odd Socks Day and anti-bullying workshop by Datin Azrene Ahmad and Ms. Angeline Yee, Junior Entrepreneurship Program during School Open Day, up-cycling and zero-waste crafting every Friday leading up to Christmas, and to an upcoming Christmas Fair/Lunch/Assembly. We were chuffed to bits that a volunteer from GreenPeace was able to volunteer in out zero-waste workshop.

Girl set up a pom-pom accessories shop for both Junior Entrepreneurs' Bazaar during Open Day last 16 November 2019 and Christmas Fair last 19 December 2019. She crafted some of the cutest and fluffiest pom-poms for handbags, hair slides, hair ties and stress balls. All proceeds were donated to 2 shelter homes nominated by The Big School. A total of 14 families took part in November, and another 5 enlisted themselves after some persuasion in December. I pray Allah swt accepts their kind deeds and charity. Aamiin.

There was also a Christmas community choir by parents and staff in which I sang in. We sang non-worship songs, please do not worry. "Holly Jolly" by Michael Buble and "Do You Hear What I Hear?" So glad to find I am still in alto vocal range after all these years. I have relearnt my low vowels, breathing, posture, enunciation, time stamp and harmony. The last time I had sung in a choir was 1993 so please pardon my excitement.

Before taking up this PTA post, one of the class mums had asked me to be a class rep for Girl's class. I said I would have only agreed if she took up the position as my co-class rep. Luckily she agreed because we have a good population of South Koreans in Girl's class and at generally at school requiring her great assistance! Thank goodness this age group of 9-10 year old mean the children are independent which translates to less work for us. The meetings are monthly and not as intensive as PTA meetings. In fair exchange, she is serving as a Committee Member in the PTA, as a parent ambassador. Invaluable!

Exams and academic-wise, my children have had their Parent Teacher Evening reports returned with marked improvements, Alhamdulillah. They both performed at 2 consecutive Peri Soiree. Girl sang Starlight (Vocal) and Bean sang Perfect by Ed Sheeran (he played the ukelele too!). Such evenings were lovely as the School served all those who attended chocolate chip cookies with milk as apres-performances snacks. Hot coffee and tea were available to exhausted grandparents and parents too. Consistently wonderful Sodexo hospitality! The Principal personally attended to give his support (he himself is an accomplished singer, guitarist, drama, author and leader extraordinaire - may he "teach" by inspiring all his students using his skills and talents).

SENCO-wise, we have had fortnightly observations and monthly meetings with Supervisor from EAP Malaysia and SENCO from School. I cannot stress enough how important these meetings are in setting new targets to achieve and reviewing the social skills Bean have learnt. It all translates to a safe and happy kid who then learns to be successful in School and life (not just academically).

Externally, Bean's Yamaha 1:1 piano lessons are on track too and we are happy to see him enjoy making music. In fact, his performance at the concert and choir was no easy feat but he nailed it. Alhamdulillah, a good fit.

Girl has also caught up with all of her Yamaha lessons and embarked on artistic gymnastics at Sri KL with Total Gymnastics. She enjoys all her CCA options at School 4 days a week and is kept engaged at School with ample rest time at home. Alhamdulillah, another good fit. 

We feel immensely grateful when we look back and realise how far both Girl and Bean have come in 2019.

To answer the question my children asked me: "I wish I can. May Allah swt  bring us even better lives ahead in 2020 and beyond. Aamiin."

To all my readers (mostly school-hunting parents), have a great Christmas and Happy New Year 2020!

Friday, 6 September 2019

Welcome Academic Year 2019/20

Salam my lovelies,

Girl and Bean both returned to school on 3 September 2019. Girl is now in Year 5 and Bean goes to Year 2. They look so grown up in their back-to-school photo.

Girl is excited to see her classmates and welcome a new class teacher from UK. She shares a table with 3 other South Korean girls and they are getting to know one another better.

Bean is thrilled to have no shadow aide for this first week. Other than a misplaced water bottle on the first day, he has been coping independently and excellently, alhamdulillah. We have initiated fading off of his shadow aide support and, inshaAllah, he is on track so far. We hope to discuss his Individual Education Plan and SEN-pathway end of this month. We are excited to welcome new teachers who are able to apply SEN and ABA on campus.

Both have their books, supplies and uniforms sorted over the summer holidays when we paid their school fees. As they have selected their CCA before school re-opened, they just dived right in to all the fun activities from day 1. Absolutely no time to waste when it comes to fun! Alhamdulillah.

Our interim class support group for parents is up and running and we look forward to another productive term at school. It is wonderful to have a co-administrator to support us all for Hangul language in our class support group too.

All guidebooks and calendar of events were also published before the end of last academic year so we are all set, inshaAllah. Nominations of PTA serving members for current academic year is underway and the school is abuzz with preparations of hunting for suitable parents who are able to give time, skills, experience and heart. 

May this year be filled with social, emotional and academic growth for Girl and Bean. Aamiin.

p/s: Haze, go away!!