Saturday, 31 December 2016

Happy New Year 2017

Salam my lovelies,

Happy New Year! May this year be better than ever for you and your loved ones.

I am so glad my 2016 taught me invaluable lessons about people, business, friendship, marriage, parenting and so much more. It was difficult, sure, but Allah swt sent me help and signs in so many ways through so many people I am really thankful for it all although it was tough to express the same at that point of time. Syukur alhamdulillah for 2016.

InshaAllah, 2017 will be our best year yet.

Summer in Sydney: Day Five

Final Day in the city, kids strapped us to Queen Victoria Building and did the long walk along Pitt St. to Darling Harbour. We came home to pack, did as much laundry as possible and got ready to vacate for an early flight home the following day.

My poor health could be felt and I did not push for much. Just the slow and easy pace and ample self-reflection, tried my best to be grateful and quietly learnt ways to be friends with The Other Half again after a very difficult time. I was quiet, contemplating my course of treatment options. I told myself the fever and pain will go away soon. I made a new friend in Pauline Hor and it has been Godsent. Our children go to the same school so she understands my routine and struggles too well.

By the time we boarded the plane to head home, all my unresolved issues with Sydney came to a peaceful closure and acceptance too.

Goodbye, 2016. Thank you for the lessons but please let 2016 remain in 2016. Forever. Amin.

Summer in Sydney : Day Four

Paddington Market Day! 

Kids played at the church playground, The Other Half and I took turns to shop for handicrafts. Once it got boring for us adults we hitched another taxi back to Hyde Park to let the little ones run free. 

Hyde Park Barracks Museum provided the much needed afternoon shield from summer sun. Another long trek to Botanical Gardens. Kids thoroughly enjoyed the red choo-choo ride around the vast garden.

It got too hot, so Bean threw a major tantrum at Sydney Opera House as he wanted to order cold chocolate at one of the lounges that serves only alcohol (big oops and drama there!). We persuaded him to go to ice-cream stall at Circular Quay but have you ever met a toddler with tantrums? Yes, that was us. Spectacular!

I basically carried him all the way back to Circular Quay, he almost got his foot caught at the train gap and then fell asleep in my arms at Queen Victoria Building. Precious, right? The sweaty mop of hair, flushed cheeks and calm snoring that weighed just about 15 kg of dead weight. 

As soon as we got home, everything settled down for a much needed rest for everyone. Girl and The Other Half kept to their habit of buying Shopkins from Woolsworth before 10 pm nightly. Bless.
Friday, 30 December 2016

Summer In Sydney: Day Three

Taronga Zoo Day!

Here is the summary:
The Bare Bears on telly during breakfast - what a good routine of no homework/no shouty parents. Everyone was happy to do their own thing at their own pace.

The only time I said "chop chop time to go" was for the walk to QVB train station.

On with train ride to Circular Quay, disembarked for short walk to Wharf for Taronga Zoo. We got the ferry return tickets that comes with combo of Taronga Zoo family pass AND cable car passes. It saved us quite a hefty sum and precious time.

Girl and Bean had their own programme in mind. They played at every playground, lunched at The View (the view was indeed spectacular!), visited more playground, bumped into Girl's schoolmates and finally boarded the last ferry back to Circular Quay at 5 p.m.

We then bought ferry tickets to Pyrmont Bay, walked towards Darling Quarters for even more playground time. The same schoolmate's mummy had the same unsaid ideas for Darling Quarters so we spent a long evening getting to know one another properly and bonded.

When it was time for dinner, we opted for a nearby Japanese restaurant, while the kids continued to play till dusk at Darling Quarters. Bean refused to leave so he rewarded me with a major meltdown. I was tired and in pain so we hitched a taxi ride back to the flat because I was too tired to walk with a kicking 15 kg Bean in my grip.

By some miracle, we got everyone showered and tucked in by bed time. What a tiring day it really was.

We did not see much at the zoo but we sure did a whole lot of playing and eating of ice-creams there! Wonderful excuse to return next time, inshaAllah.

P/S: Will upload photos when I iCloud my files...hehehe. 

Summer in Sydney: Day Two

The hallmark of Girl's Sydney breakfast ritual is morning cartoons. This trip, she discovered a cartoon about 3 bears - polar bear, brown grizzly bear and panda bear who coexist in a home near a town. Her last trip was all Ben-10! Bean was obsessed with The Bare Bears every morning so I had often brought them their breakfast and allowed them to eat in front of the telly while they were still in their pyjamas!

Since this was going to be a short holiday, we literally had to turn off the telly and pry them out of the serviced apartment by 10 am. We walked to the ANZAC Memorial, had both lunch and tea at Australian Museum and dinner at Sydney Opera House.

They both spent many hours collecting twigs and leaves at ANZAC Memorial and Hyde Park. It was a taste of normal childhood as they played tag (ran and chased one another while laughing crazily and loudly) while The Other Half and I sipped our lattes and watched out for their safety. Inside the memorial, Girl was able to recognise the red poppy garland as a tribute to fallen soldiers who defended Australia during the war.

We went indoors at Australian Museum as soon as the sun got hotter and we left the kids to be fascinated by display about Spiders. They especially loved colouring their own spiders, scanned it at the kiosk and see their own spider animated. There was just so much for them to do we spent many hours and two meals there until closing time. The rooftop cafe offers a lovely view of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Fresh air and sunshine were let in as they left the sliding doors wide open for natural ventilation. Fresh food and drinks were of fairly good quality too, a nice change from just cold sandwiches, pastries and coffee which you often find at museums.

After an overload of Spiders,  we let the kids loose again at Hyde Park and Botanical Gardens until the shower hit us at 5.30 pm as per weather forecast. We had ponchos and umbrellas ready. Dinner was at Sydney Opera House for the Harbour Bridge view. Japanese cuisine was fresh and tasty but we were too stuffed to order any dessert.

At around 7pm, the little ones started showing signs of having had too much fun (read as: tired, tantrums) so we boarded the train from Circular Quay back to Town Hall. A quick walk past Queen Victoria Building, and we were almost at doorstep of our home away from home. Bean threw a mini tantrum because he wanted to hold all 4 Opal cards, and insisted on being carried once he got tired of walking. I was his one and only MamaTaxi, and to be honest I enjoyed kissing his cheeks while he clung on tightly for dear life.

Again, everyone got washed and retired early while adults stayed up to pray, finish the laundry and enjoy a cup of tea - which soon became a good routine considering it was a holiday.
Thursday, 29 December 2016

Summer in Sydney: Day One

Once we breezily cleared our immigration and collected our two luggages, we went out to search for Alex. He is our trusted, reliable and friendly limo driver, whenever we visit Sydney.

Remember how we declined our pre-booked in-flight meals as we were sleeping during meal time? We were so famished and thirsty we requested for a quick breakfast at the arrival hall. Alex Anani introduced us to a kiosk that serves halal pita bread, baked on the spot! Brews fresh ground coffee too. We bought apple juice for the kids but oh, fresh pita bread with latte for breakfast was simply divine! He was so kind he let us eat and drink in his luxury car (we promised not to leave crumbs or spills).

There has been an upgrade to his Mercedes-Benz since we last saw him and kids were thrilled with the sunroof. They kept saying it was just like their grandad's last car and how it works differently from the current Lexus sunroof, I distracted myself by looking out of the car window as we passed Zetland and headed into the city. I felt right at home. Home away from home. Only with cleaner air.

A short 20 minutes later, we arrived at Meriton Pitt St. Check-in time was brief as they had all our details. The bonus was that they had a unit of serviced apartment ready for us right away at noon. Check-in time is stated at 2 pm and we were not charged the extra couple of hours. Sweet!

The reception staff was also culturally-sensitive/aware and asked if I had any objections to the number 4404 fengshui-wise. We did not mind one bit and our only minor comment after being shown the unit was that the master bedroom was a bit of a squash and a squeeze.

The extra two hours allowed me to unpack, got everyone showered and we ventured out to Woolworth for supplies (laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, fruits, tea, cereals and bread). We went out again for a walk as soon as the groceries had been brought home. There was a construction site along Kent St. so luckily we did not select Meriton Kent St.!

We walked towards Pitt St Mall and since there were buskers everywhere, we did not have a chance to go shopping. Bean asked for a photo of Sydney Tower from Pitt St Mall before asking for an early dinner from the Japanese cafe near Meriton Pitt St. He got over-stimulated at an electrical and computer store, and only cooled down once we were outdoors.

After a quick dinner and wash up, we retired early to recharge for the adventures ahead. I did the laundry with eucalyptus laundry gel - and be the first woman in history who regrets not buying a dozen bottles of laundry gel to bring home. 

Oh, Sydney. You have changed so much and yet everything is the way it is. 
Monday, 26 December 2016

Summer in Sydney: Air Asia

I know I have not posted detailed account of our long, wet, summer in Ireland yet, oopsie-a-daisy.

We left for Sydney, Australia as soon as school holidays started. It was our first Air Asia flight as a family so you can imagine my nervousness coupled with streaks of anticipation. We were blessed with an awesome GrabCar driver with Nissan people mover. She provides wifi, water, snacks and and YouTube onboard from home to KLIA2.

As soon as we were dropped off at KLIA2 Departure Hall, we ate our dinner at the first cafe we stumbled upon, Secret Recipe. It was nothing special but kids were thrilled with the cold chocolate treat after dinner. We had to sugar them up to last until check-in and boarding time at 11.30 pm which is way past their bedtime.

As we had lots of time to kill before checking-in (we were first timers at KLIA2 and had no idea how to plan out timing), kids explored the few shops and Malaysian aviation milestone board. I hope they remember something about aviation history in this country, but I doubt it. I bet they only recall the mock palm trees and large screen LCDs.

When our check-in counter finally opened at 8.30 pm, we were nearly the first ones to check-in. We packed really light (thanks to reliable washer and dryer at Meriton Pitt St) and since Bean had just been potty trained, we had even more space in the luggage sans MamyPoko Pull-Up Pants.

Immigration clearance was uneventful, luckily. We then finished up all our water in our bottle just in time for toilet time before boarding. Theboredom stemming from long waiting time nearly killed us so fortunately the shopkeepers were not too fussed about having 2 noisy and active children jump into their rides, touch their early Christmas display and laugh the place down. Cold chocolate drink after dinner, remember?

The boredom of waiting without lounge and creative ways of inventing new games are all eye-opener for us 4. The 2 noisy and crazy travellers were a bit sleepy by 11 pm and started misbehaving from sugar crash. Instead of curling up to sleep, they noisily climbed on every seat at the waiting area. I think I have never glared and hissed that much before my entire life.

By the time we boarded, got our seat belts buckled and settled in, Girl mumbled that she wanted a flatbed (we got hot seats, not knowing earlier that we should have bought flat beds). Point to note if we ever travel with Air Asia again (mentally guesstimating the cost to be equivalent to MAS tickets).

Bean basically suckled to sleep. One other traveller was curious of his age and why he has not been weaned to a bottle of formula yet. Me, being the thick skinned nurse in public mum with lack of sleep just politely replied that I was tired and dozed off.

The sound of creaking trolley woke me up. We refused our pre-booked meals as we were sleeping. Luckily, we have packed travel blankets for the 2 of them but the upright seats with limited recline were not the best beds. Too tired to care, everyone slept and stirred.

In the end, the flight comfort (or rather lack of comfort) had not matter that much because we woke up to glorious Sydney! We were thankful the kids travelled well without incidents. We were just so thankful Bean has been officially potty trained and kept dry without accidents. He wore his Mothercare trainer pants just to be safe throughout the holiday, but his potty training had been relatively easy because he told us when he was ready. I learnt an important lesson from Bean: Often times, it is OK to be led by child.

The Sydney air did us 4 a whole lot of good. It was the change of scenery and circumstances we have been waiting for, for an entire year. Syukur alhamdulillah!

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Your Health Bankrupt Lady

Back in November, I was looking forward to lunch with some of the loveliest school mums. As two of them were celebrating their birthdays, Drama Queen and I had arranged for a cosy lunch at Publika.

All was good that morning and I went to my dental appointment for routine scaling and cleaning after dropping off Bean at The Playschool. My dentist reminded me to go for my follow-up endodontic appointment for X-Ray so that we may proceed to replace my old crown, etc and I was driving from dentist towards Publika when l I felt a sudden sharp pain in my left arm pit.

Oh, no!

I have had numb left arm a few times earlier that month which I thought was just bad sleeping posture. There were also a few days of numbing pain in that site which I thought was just a muscle pull from having to wrestle Bean during one of his tantrums.

Suddenly, the dreaded thought of having to cancel or postpone our upcoming holidays flashed before my mind. I quickly arranged for Bean to be picked up by The Other Half and since I was not sure how long I was going to take at ER, I asked for his help to pick Girl up too.

The lunch group of school mums were quickly informed as I drove to Prince Court Medical Centre. By the time I was shown to Radiology as a walk-in emergency case, the 3 lovely ladies had sent me beautiful photos of what I was missing out on! They sent me healing thoughts, prayers and positive notes so I was emotionally still fine.

Not long after that, it was my turn for an ultrasound. Both breasts looked lumpy and the Radiologist was not surprised with my sag from breastfeeding since 29 March 2010 when Girl was born. She also picked up a lump on my left breast which is a probable cause of my pain. I was immediately given a new date to consult her colleagues in oncology as well as plastic and reconstructive surgery. That was when I started shaking (from anxiety) and stuttering (from fear).

What a whirlwind it has been since.

Blood tests, biopsy, MRI, consultations and and upcoming review with the different surgeons involved. New medical lingo just opened up to me and I have been spending time reading to review pros and cons of each different treatments. Lumpectomy versus nipple sparing double mastectomy. Lifespan of implants versus uptake of fat graft. Chemo or radiation. Eat clean, raw eating, juicing, qigong, yoga, etc. My career comeback options versus my health.

The cherry on the cake came today when I passed out at One Utama after lunch. I felt quesy and hot flash just before. I was not dehydrated, as I just drank a whole glass of dragon fruit juice, warm ginger tea and a sip of coffee with my lunch. I also had breakfast earlier before we left home. The Other Half and my two munchkins were with me at lunch so luckily they looked after me, strangers reached out to help and the security team at One Utama responded in a timely and professional manner. Alhamdulillah for all the help and blessings. This incident has put a new sense of urgency to my health plan at Prince Court so we shall see what happens next.

I am so thankful both Bean and Girl did not panic. I am so glad The Other Half did not lose his cool. I dare not imagine how much worse I could have been. I remind myself not to wish for health come 2017 because I did for my 40th birthday in 2016 and look where I am.

In the end, Allah knows best. May this be the way He purifies and brings me back on His Path. Amin.
Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Report Card Day

Last 25 November 2016 was Report Card Day at The Big School. We dropped Bean off at The Playschool then drove Girl to The Big School for her Autumn/Winter term report.

I waited to see her personal tutor while she walked The Other Half up to the rooftop garden, and around the school compound. By the time they were done, I was still in queue to meet her personal tutor (who took great lengths to discuss progress with other parents ahead of me), so she went to breakfast with The Other Half at the Dining Hall, then read story books at the mini Library (why it is named The Ice-Cream Parlour, I have no idea).

It turned out that Girl's Math teacher had the most to comment on Girl's brains being "switched off", how she had during the period I was trying to resume work and mend my marriage with The Other Half  became distracted and stopped learning. Stopped participating. Stopped living and just existed.

It broke my heart.

When the Math teacher asked if everything was alright at home, I wanted to cry but instead I felt anger and frustration, mostly directed at myself. She held both my hands throughout and kept telling me that I am a good mother, and there is no need to change classes or school because children will meet all sorts of people who say all sorts of things and that children grow resilient from being thrown harsh comments.

In all honesty, I know that Girl dreads her Math teacher's personality. She is in her 70s and ought to retire. She is very old-school and I have raised Girl with positive reinforcement instead of the old-way of "challenge". My "You can do it" versus her "Prove to me you are not stupid". Sigh. 80/100 is NOT stupid although I agree with Math teacher 100/100 is what Girl really is made of. In Girl's class, 80/100 for Math is the lowest score, so it is understandable that this is a cause for concern.

I must suck it all up indeed and continue to be the home tutor, no matter what. I will not push her to score 100/100 although she is the type of student who can when she puts in effort because that had been her score for Math and many other subjects. I just hate to see her not realising her true potential. As her mother, I do not want her self-confidence and self-esteem to be eroded by harsh comparisons and mean words by teachers and other students.

In another incident, Girl refused to revise her Geography lessons and all the revision questions I had prepared for her actually came out in the examinations. I was heart-broken when I saw her careless mistakes because had she revised with me, she would have gotten them all correct. I comfort myself that Girl is 6 and will soon realise her own silliness, so my job is to guide her along. On the other hand, I am really pleased that other schoolmates who revised using the same revision paper fared better! One of them even scored 100/100 and went on to be the top girl in her class!

When I did eventually meet Girl's personal tutor, she hugged me. She knows I am trying my best to manage, cope and survive 2016. There was no review of Girl's performance as overall it still is good, and we parted with only kind words to welcome better and brighter 2017.

When the session concluded, we walked Girl to the car, and wished her all the best for the new term with options for her to choose. The Headmistress presented us with several options and a month to think it over.

Girl can:
i) Stay in current class and switch her Math brains on, despite the teacher's personality;
ii) Change to another class and still face the same Math teacher and the bundle of glory she is;
iii) Change to another class without the Math teacher and assimilate to her new class;
iv) Change campus (Commute time!!); or
v) Change school (Last resort).

It has been a few weeks since the Report Card Day and Girl is still mulling over these options, so we have yet to email her Headmistress.

Moral of my story?

Quality of my marriage co-relates to my child's emotional wellbeing.

I slapped myself to wake me up, yes I did.

Thank you for this timely wake up call. Report Card Day truly reflected my poor performance as a mother and home tutor, so I need to improve myself for the sake of Girl (and the entire family as a whole).

Here's to happier and better Term 2 in January 2017, inshaAllah.