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Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Term 2 AY2020/21

Salam my lovelies,

2020 taught me to live one day at a time.

2021 has taught me to live one hour at a time.

School reopened on 6 January 2021 and by 7 January 2021, we had one student who was living with a parent and sibling who tested positive for COVID-19 cause a scare. I had just written to the Principal that morning and he immediately rang me back to reassure me that there was nothing to be worried about, and that the MOE orders were to be followed and that no hybrid lessons were to be offered at that point of time.

By afternoon, he had to issue a notice that School was to be shut on 8 January 2021 for deep cleaning and lessons were moved online. He rang me back to apologise and I "rewarded" him with an update that there have been 3 asymptomatic positive cases at our residences. I am quite sure I rank highly on his list of "high attention parent" who constantly gets under his skin. We are blessed in that we share synergy and mutual respect to keep the conversation going.

My family made the decision to voluntarily self-isolate when 3 asymptomatic cases were recorded at our residences. Although we do not share the common lifts, we decided not to expose Girl and Bean to the neighbourhood children from the towers who use the common lifts. 

Hybrid learning is yet to mature and the children were not offered their full time-table but we were fine with this "short-term arrangement". Class Teachers helped us pack Girl and Bean's books and we had my FIL pick them up to be conveyed home to us. Bean and Girl worked through their worksheets and survived 11 January 2021! When I mentioned "short-term arrangement", I meant one to two days' arrangement. At most 14 days. 

By 6 p.m. on 11 January 2021, the PM of Malaysia announced implementation of MCO in Selangor, where we now live. 

The idiom that necessity is the mother of invention cannot be more accurate.

Hybrid schooling will be at its final day on 12 January 2021 as by 7:45 a.m. on 13 January 2021, Girl and Bean's classes will be fully online. Luckily for us, Phoenix Classroom is a familiar and successful platform for the whole school community. 

In hindsight, it was clever of us at the PTA to plan all community activities to be carried out online.  We have a Facebook Live Cooking show, Facebook Preloved Group, YouTube Channel for resources by parents for parents, email support and Zoom Coffee Mornings. Monthly meetings with the Senior Leadership Team will also be conducted online.

Alas, the UK strain has arrived in Malaysia and we plan on staying at home as much as we can. We will be exercising on our rooftop deck, and not risk going to the park until we know more. We are grateful for every little blessing we still enjoy.

We can flatten the curve and fight COVID-19 together, inshaAllah. Stay safe and take good care.

Thursday, 24 December 2020

End of Term 1 AY2020/21 and Year End Post

Salam my lovelies,

School term break started on 19 December 2020. It was a flurry of PTA monthly meetings, PTA Community Support Forums, Parent Teacher Conference, Bean's monthly IEP- review with class teacher and SENCO, and end of therapy with EAP Malaysia. Syukur alhamdulillah for Zoom and safe conclusion of those many meetings online. 

Syukur alhamdulillah, Bean has "graduated" from formally receiving ABA therapy, the onus is now on us to implement everything we have learnt. Autism at Home provides useful resources, so please be sure to look it up.

As you may already know, CMCO has been extended until 31 December 2020 in Selangor, Malaysia. However, there is no border restrictions like before. This is a huge relief, as I been able to travel the short distance to Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur for some long overdue errands at KLCC and StarHill. I admit I especially miss my old neighbourhood dearly this year.

Remarkably, 2020 will be the first year we will not have any fireworks to usher in the new year at KLCC. We plan to watch reruns of our recorded videos of the fireworks from previous years to cheer the occasion up a little. I am sure the stroke of midnight will still be just as beautiful, inshaAllah.

I am thankful for all the blessings we have received this year despite it being a tough year. I am thankful for all the ease Allah swt had blessed us with in so many ways (be it family, friends, community or service providers). 

January 2020 saw us discussing the "Wuhan" outbreak but still carried on with Lunar New Year gathering and school assembly, not knowing what laid ahead of us. We were cautious at a recce trip to Ipoh thinking we had to research how Girl was going to cope at school camp. The intended camp never did happen as news from WHO developed into daily briefing.

February rolled in with my birthday and a few unexpected unpleasant encounters with a few people but these did not top the MCO announced on 16 March 2020 which was implemented on 18 March 2020. April, March and June were the toughest months as we learnt how to manage work, school, live and be at home 24/7. We learnt to regulate our feelings, and implemented strategies that give each other mental space. 

July and August 2020 saw the end of last academic year with typical long summer break. The number of cases were relatively lower and we left for green zones in Penang and Janda Baik. Those were some of the best days of our 2020. We learnt to cherish our local 5 star resorts much more and look forward to days when we can travel locally again.

September and October 2020 were short-lived on-site schooling days for the children. I worked all the  hours the children were away by catching up on heavier chores (like cleaning the ceiling fans and air-conditioners)  and long overdue paperwork at our home office. The CMCO kicked in and they were back to online schooling at home in October, November and December 2020. This time, I sat with Bean during lessons and took full reign of making sure he did every piece of work, attended every class and paid attention to what was being taught. Syukur alhamdulillah he co-operated and succeeded in many subjects this time. He learnt to ask questions, wait patiently for his turn to answer questions and keep calm. Girl has coped excellently throughout the year and deserves a huge praise too. 

Noticeably, this is also the first year in a long time I reward myself by replacing some worn-out SLGs and a couple of items on my wish-list. I truly deserve some pampering as I have put in a lot of effort in my role as mother, teaching assistant, therapist, volunteer etc. The pandemic has a way of filtering and resetting my priorities too. I truly appreciate this thought process 2020 has taught me. The Other Half jokes that all my unspent coffee and brunch money for 2020 as gone to my purse fund. He is right. It is astounding how much I have "wasted" on coffee and brunch since 2015 (and I repent on some bad investment choices)! 

KonMari effect of my closet can be felt daily now, it is minimal and contains only items that spark joy for me. I have always enjoyed decluttering even before Marie Kondo, so adding the element of joy is definitely a winner. Having a disciplined wish-list is also helpful. I no longer purchase purses not on my wish-list. In fact I inform family members of this list, so that they will not waste their good money on items I do not enjoy having. It may sound harsh but this works well for us.

Furlough-unfurlough. News of vaccine. Let's all remain positive and resilient. Let's enjoy the rest of 2020 as safely as possible. To all families and friends who are leaving the school, we wish you great adventures ahead and happy reunion with your families. To all who are arriving in January 2021, a warm welcome and hopes of new friendships to be forged.

Happy holidays wherever you are. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2021. May the new year bring with it better healthcare, safer world, resilient economic recovery and improved mental wellbeing for us all. Aamiin.

Monday, 19 October 2020

Term 1 Academic Year 2020/21

Salam my lovelies,

Girl and Bean returned to physical school with strict adherence to SOP on 1 September 2020 and I truly enjoyed the few hours they were tucked away safely 600 metres from home. We got their books in middle of August 2020, wrapped and labelled them all by 31 August 2020 ready to be sent in to their classes.

The drop-off and pick-up points have been smooth, with the Head of Primary, Head of Secondary and Principal on duty every morning to greet children and parents. Best service with smiles! Improved traffic flow and risky pathways that used to be congested no longer annoy parents as much as last academic year.

CCA were reintroduced under new SOP which limited students to fewer choices as year groups were kept together. Nonetheless, Girl and Bean both managed to find excitement in the available options. Primary school has yet to commence swimming due to physical distancing but Secondary school was about to start.

Communication remains one of the most important features at School. Bean's IEP meeting had been conducted via Zoom, and I have met both Girl and Bean's teachers face-to-face as part of our "Meet the Teachers" practice to know one another better and set growth goals for Girl and Bean.

The PTA held its 3rd AGM on Zoom with timely notification, attendance recording, voting for new committee members and voting for constitutional reforms. I am serving as its Secretary again this academic year. The annual returns and constitutional amendments were submitted to Registrar of Societies (ROS) by 30 September 2020. The Treasurer and I wanted it done as soon as possible as the number of infection cases seemed to be rising again. We set aside time and managed to get our signatories sorted at the bank by 1 October 2020. Syukur alhamdulillah.

The Chairperson of the PTA and I meet with the Principal of the School every fortnight to discuss issues arising, before our monthly Committee meeting. The first fortnightly meeting felt fresh as the last time we had been in the Principal's office was March 2020 just before MCO to recommend on way forward to curb spread of COVID-19 at School. Notice for the first monthly Committee meeting were finalised and served then BAM!

Ministry of Education issued a press release on 11 October 2020 that schools in red zone in Petaling district were to be closed from 12 to 25 October 2020. Kids' School was included in the list.

The Principal issued a notice immediately to confirm that online learning were to commence at 8:30 a.m. on 12 October 2020 on Phoenix Classrooms. There was strong sense of calm. I briefed Girl and Bean and they understood the rules of engagement, syukur alhamdulillah. The Other Half was in fact happier at the thought of the kids being safer at home. 

Girl even professed her love for me from her overwhelming sense of gratitude of being able to stay safe at home. Bean was just happy to eat home-cooked food and not be subjected to the SOP individually-packed bento box from the meal plan... which means I may revert to bento-making when they commence Term 2. Something for me to seriously consider.

The PTA Committee agreed to postpone its first monthly meeting for this academic year to make way for the senior leadership team of School to focus on its improvement action plan to resolve various issues resulting from online learning.

Before we could even blink, Ministry of Defence announced implementation of CMCO in Selangor from 14 to 27 October 2020. 

So, here we are. 871 cases as of yesterday. We do not foresee returning to school until 2 November 2020 at the earliest as there is a mid-term break from 26 to 30 October 2020. We pray we can all flatten the curve again in this third wave. If it takes up staying home until 31 December 2020, so be it. 

Our first week of online learning was smooth from the second half of the first day onwards. Phoenix and Zoom have been working wonderfully well. We do not miss the previous method of ClassDojo/Zoom/MS Teams and email. Preparedness is what helped School transition seamlessly this time (luckily we at the PTA had requested for whole school Phoenix Classrooms training to be administered and all parents to be trained in preparation of the worst - and the School did train the students soon after that meeting on 8 October 2020!). Parents now seem more experienced and make better TAs, students are more acclimatised too, alhamdulillah.

Additionally, I am more aware of my self-care with proper sleep and light exercise. The stationary bike and rower purchase at last CMCO are huge blessings. I bake much less now compared to the last MCO and CMCO; and destress by way of reading or watching my favourite programmes (I miss Paris so much I finished watching Emily in Paris in one night) instead of binging on my bakes.

As a family:

We are grateful for our full fridge and freezer and reliable fruits supplier. 

We are grateful for electricity and water supply. 

We are grateful for sufficient data and working devices. 

We are grateful for our health and steady income.

Let's all stay safe together, inshaAllah.

Sunday, 16 August 2020

Summer Holidays 2020

Salam my lovelies,

We were 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 hardly ever used cash in Penang, which was a huge relief.

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. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=13mFW-ri8smNpuNYFI1d2ZxabHbDv3psk

Sunset in Penang. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1IkLtUn7XPnAm7WtSBTfVyUUgvXWSznxv

This was our treehouse at Tiarasa Escapes, Janda Baik, Pahang. The sumptuous afternoon picnic by the stream, movie under the stars and kampung walk are all highly recommended as they were most enjoyable although every often you'd find an Instagrammer doing a live feed or 1001 poses for that one perfect post. Girl volunteered to be my photographer the afternoon we arrived but she abandoned the project as soon as she met the pool and spent almost all her remaining time in the pool with Bean. We stopped by Genting Premium Outlet for lunch after checking out from Tiarasa and surprisingly bought nothing there.

We continued to research other green zones and monitored data from Ministry of Health Malaysia for other short day trips and two of the most delightful were Sekinchan and World of Phalaenopsis at Ulu Yam. 

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 Subang Parade branch. 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 park and 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 safety 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 deck 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.

P/S: Girl won Role Model Award, bravo! 




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 and their children.

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), baked Irish Soda Bread when yeast was nowhere to be found, painted, crafted, played music, sang, danced, soaked in the tub, practiced indoor exercises and watched many movies on Netflix. 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 mall...it is something I feel like 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 these 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 as fast as Flash, 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. The Other Half and I have certainly penciled in deck improvement into our next budget so that it can be more fun to spend time there.

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, inshaAllah.

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 2020. We have staved off Netflix subscription as long as possible and finally 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 arrive 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!