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Last year: 1st week January 2018

Caleb   : Laoshi speaks to us in English.

Me       : Huh? Your Chinese teacher speaks to you in English during Chinese class?

Caleb   : Only when she scolds us. When she teaches us, she speaks in Chinese.

The next day….

Me       : Did your Laoshi speak English or Chinese today?

Caleb   : English and Chinese.

Me       : So, she scolded you all and also taught you all.

Caleb   : Yah.

 

This year: mid-January 2019

Me       : Has anyone in your class been scolded since school started?

Caleb   : Of course not.

Me       : Wow, really? You mean the whole class of boys has been behaving?

Caleb   : Of course. School only just started…But I think we will get scolding soon.

Me       : Oh…How do you know?

Caleb   : I can just feel it.

 

IOK #photo

 

February 2019

Me       : Did anyone get scolding in class today?

Caleb   : Of course not. It’s only Tuesday.

Me       : Er…so why don’t you get scolding on Tuesday?

Caleb   : Duh…We are good on Mondays & Tuesdays. We only get scolding on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays.

Me       : Oh, how come?

Caleb   : Because it’s just the start of the week!

Me       : Oh…is it because you all had Saturday & Sunday to relax? So you all behave better on Monday & Tuesday?

Caleb : Maybe.

Me       : And by Wednesday, you all cannot take it anymore and have to be naughty.

Caleb  : Yah.

 

Recent:

Me         : Is there any boy in your class who has never been scolded?

Caleb     : Matthew.

Me         : Really? Not even once?

Caleb     : Not even once. He was given an award at the end of P1.

Me         : Wow!

Caleb     : He’s very smart. Listens to the teacher. Good at his work. And good at laser tag. And he’s fun outside class.

Me         : Er…Is there anything he isn’t good at?

Caleb thinks for a while.

Caleb     : He’s not as good at football as me.

Me         : Anything else?

Caleb     : No.

Me         : Well, at least he isn’t good at one thing.

Caleb     : Yah.

Me         : I have one more question about Matthew. Are you sure he is a real person and not an imaginary one?

Caleb     : MUM!!!

 

Last year saw a huge change in routine when Caleb, at 7 years old, started Primary 1.

For me, it was the “waking up for school before the sun even rose” and “navigating school traffic” parts that took lots of getting used to. Our lazy mornings of me reading to Caleb over long breakfasts before cruising to Kindy at 11.30am were over.

For Caleb, it went from 3-hour kindergarten days, where he was constantly applauded for speaking up, to a 6-hour school regime where he was constantly told to keep quiet.

I deliberately started a Friday afternoon play-date routine for him in the first few months of Primary 1. After all that sitting still in school for 6 hours daily, I felt he needed an outlet to get rid of that repressed energy from the school week. Weekends have also been all play and family time so he can go back to school refreshed and happy.

8th family photo (edited)

For me, his biggest milestones in the past year are these:

1. Navigating Big School – He got through his first year of big school and his schoolwork pretty much on his own. He settled in well with classmates, made loads of friends and learnt to give and take during group work. And he stayed a happy, funny, well-adjusted kid.

2. Football Fever – Over the past year, Caleb turned into a huge soccer kid. He played and watched football games with Ben and that became their father-son thing. Yes, he even woke up at ungodly hours to watch the World Cup matches with Ben.

Watching a football match with Daddy & dropped off for a football game during the school holidays.

 

3. Reading Rampage – Caleb went from not being able to read independently at 6 years old to taking off on a reading rampage once he hit 7 years old. I have enjoyed watching him gobble down books as fast as he runs and slide-tackles on the football pitch. He tells me the funny parts of books that he reads and we laugh over book characters. This has been a totally mummy-son thing and the Kindle has been our magic portal to another world.

calebbunny

With Mummy and the cast of my Bunny Finds the Right Stuff theatre show

 

There have been many other little milestones over the past year. He drank Milo for the first time. Dropped his first tooth. The list goes on.

And lots of laugh-out loud moments when he relates stories from school or relates school to headaches.

“Mummy, can you read to me?” Caleb asked when Ben was driving us.

“I can’t read in the car. It gives me a headache,” I said.

“What’s a headache?” he asked.

“It’s like a head pain…you don’t feel well,” I explained.

“Is it a headache when you have English Spelling test and Ting Xie (Chinese Spelling test) on the same day, and you write English for Ting Xie and Chinese for your English Spelling test?

“It is…but not for you,” I said. “It’s a headache for your English and Chinese teachers!”

What can I say? He scores high on wit and humour. 🙂

Related posts:

Caleb is 7 and I am the right mummy for him!

Caleb’s Book Plate #1: Scouring the world for deliciously good books

I’ve not been able to keep up with Caleb’s rate of reading – 1 junior chapter book during class reading time, 1 junior chapter book during dinner time and 3-4 picture books or 2 early readers while sitting on the royal bowl.

For my book-share purposes, I’ll just post a snapshot of books he consumes and focus on our favourite reads.

ella&owen covers

What’s on the Plate?

The Ella and Owen junior chapter book series ranks up there as one of Caleb’s and my favorite junior chapter book series. I recently stumbled on this gem series on the shelf of Clementi library.

Ella and Owen are a pair of dragon siblings who squabble over everything. Owen is bookish and cautious whilst Ella is raring for the next adventure. Together, they run from one misadventure to another. They flee from dragon-hating knights to pet-hunting for dumb trolls. They fight with evil pumpkins and upset grumpy goblins.

When I found out how much Caleb thoroughly enjoyed this series, I re-borrowed the books so I could have a read. I devoured the entire series. I can see why my 7-going-on-8 year-old relished them and I share the same palate.

What’s Delicious?

  • Ella and Owen’s sibling squabbles are laugh-out-loud funny and the kid dragons’ misadventures are hilarious. They run into all kinds of trouble from book to book. As they try to solve each problem, they end up creating new ones, which leads into the next book.
  • The stories are action-packed, with wonderfully fun illustrations.
  • The plot is easy to follow and extremely well-written. It totally hooked us from start to finish.
ella&owen inside page 1

Ella and Owen Book 3 – Knights & Dragons

ella&owen inside page 2

Ella and Owen Book 4 – The Evil Pumpkin Pie Fight

Toppings: 

Junior chapter book, est 2,500-3,000 words over 9 chapters,  illustrations on every page

Author duo Jaden Kent are Emmy Award winning writers for children’s TV shows whilst Illustrator Iryna Bodnaruk is a Ukrainian, living in Cyprus.

Publisher – Little Bee Books

 

 

 

Just before school started, we got hold of a box of Geronimo Stilton books from Caleb’s cousin. I thought that would last Caleb a month. But he consumed two books a day during reading time in class.

geronimo

So, I reserved 16 library books in total under Caleb’s and my account. Then I found out that I could borrow twice the number of books at the public library for this January!

At Clementi Library, we found that the librarian’s counter had vanished. I asked a passing librarian where we could collect our book reservations. She directed us out of the library to a wall of lockers.

library locker 2

It was a newly installed automated books reservation system. You scan your library card, pay the reservation fee and the screen shows which locker is holding your book. The locker then pops open with your reserved book! It is so secret-agent! As we reserved 16 books, we had locker doors popping open in different spots, revealing one book at a time. Caleb was thrilled and took over the screen to pop the lockers open.

National Library has a brilliant initiative of rewarding kids with book bug cards for borrowing books. The idea appears to be inspired by Pokémon cards.  Caleb was doubly thrilled to queue up at the book bug machine to redeem his book bug cards for the first time.

We left with a loot of 32 books and 13 Book Bug cards. And thanks to our wonderful public libraries, I get to average down the cost and rate of my book-buying at the bookstores and on my Kindle.

 

 

 

 

When Caleb was 5 years old, he frequently lamented that he could not read. When I assured him that he would do so one day, he did not look convinced.

A preschool expert had once told me that she believed the best way to get kids to read is to read to them. I subscribe to this because I’m old-school.

So, when Caleb started Kindergarten year 2 in 2017, I read to him daily over breakfast. Because he is such a reluctant eater, I started bringing my Kindle along every time we had meals outside.

The first junior chapter book series I read to Caleb was the Magic Treehouse Series. I stumbled upon a few copies at the Central Library. Book #1 is titled Dinosaurs Before Dark and Book #5 is titled The Night of the Ninjas. He likes dinosaurs and ninjas. He was hooked.

When we tagged along for Ben’s work trip to St Gallen, Switzerland in March 2017, Caleb wanted to bring along a notebook. The Magic Treehouse’s main character Jack brought a notebook on all his adventures to different countries. Likewise, Caleb wanted to note down important facts about the things and places that we would see.

(*Unfortunately, we left the notebook at the Metropolitan Museum, New York, when we went to New York for part 2 of Ben’s same work trip. Hopefully some other kid picked it up and continued the entries :)).

I must have read through about 20 books in the Magic Treehouse series and then several other books after.

Then, magic happened.

One day, he got tired of waiting for me to read in between mouthfuls of food and took over my Kindle.

Just before Caleb turned 7 years old, he started to read on his own. And he has ploughed through books at such a fast pace that I have been having trouble keeping up.

I hope to share his reading diet over the months ahead, and in the process, get recommendations for other book series which he can latch onto. I’m currently into junior chapter books too, so this reading journey is twice the fun!

Magictreehouse series.jpg

Why I like the Magic Treehouse series:

* The author has a formulaic repetition in the beginning of how Jack and Annie travel to new places in the Magic Treehouse and how the magic activates. Caleb and I would repeat it together and it always creates a sense of anticipation to the story.

* Jack is the studious careful one whilst his younger sister Annie is the bold adventurous one. And the siblings complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Both characters always take away important reflections at the end of their adventure  (without the story being didactic).

* Each adventure takes them to different countries in different eras and readers are introduced to interesting facts and histories of those countries and cultures through story. Through this fantastic series, Caleb learnt about ninjas in Japan, met a young Leonardo da Vinci before he became famous and experienced ancient Rome and the volcano in Pompeii.

The Magic Treehouse is a great first series to start with. And it’s no wonder that it is the bestselling chapter book series of all time, 25 years and counting!

2018 was a challenging year for my family. In March this year, my breast surgeon gave me the all-clear as I crossed two years from when I first found a pebble in my left breast. Our happiness was short-lived. One month later, in April, a close family member was diagnosed with critical illness. I’ll leave the details out as this is another person’s diagnosis.

But I would say that we walked through “the valley of the shadow of death” for months. Amidst the darkness, I lost focus and could not hear God.

Then, I had a freak accident.

I accidentally stabbed myself in the left ear forcibly with a sharp object that left my left eardrum tattered and torn. I’m not entirely clear how it happened except that the accidental stabbing traumatized me severely. I hardly cried through my cancer surgery and treatment. But I bawled my eyes out over the thought of going deaf in my left ear.

When I saw the ENT doctor, he showed me the ghastly damage on a TV screen and told me it was 50% damaged. Given the severity of damage, he thought I might require surgery. But he was a believer in natural healing. So he gave me antibiotics to prevent infection and asked me to see him in two weeks’ time.

At my 2nd review, my ENT doctor saw that my body had shown initial signs of repair. He decided that we would wait it out for another 4 weeks to see if I needed surgery. He said he was hopeful that my body would heal itself.

For weeks, I listened to a wind-like sound blowing through the big hole in my left ear. It was like being stuck on an airplane for 6 weeks.

When I saw the doctor again, we were amazed. My left ear drum was scarred and scabbed. But I was fully healed!

KeepCalm(Quotesgram.com)

Quotesgram.com

As I stand at the cusp of a year that is passing, I look back and thank God for many things. In particular, I’m thankful for these:

  • On Christmas Eve, after 9 months of treatment, we received the scan results that death had lost its sting and my family member had received the gift of life. It’s a miracle!
  • We experienced God’s love through prayers and support of friends and an outstanding doctor who journeyed with us through the valley of despair.
  • Friends who reached out when our family was at our lowest point and pointed us to the Healing Room at Cairnhill Methodist Church. That first visit there marked the turnaround of healing and recovery in the most amazing way. It gave our family hope and sustained us through the year.
  • Last week, I saw my ENT doctor one more time as my left ear felt slightly blocked. We looked at the TV screen hooked to his ENT camera and I saw the most incredible sight. My left ear drum was a completely clear membrane, without any sign of scarring. The scab had fallen off and was blocking my ear canal, which my doctor vacuumed out. I have a brand new ear drum!

In this Christmas season and final days of the old year, I remember the “old” and look to the “new” and am thankful for how God sustained us through the year and has made all things new.

 

“If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new has come.”

– 2 Corinthians 5:17

 “And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

–Revelations 21:5

2018 has been a year of very little writing for me. But as I pause for my yearly look-back, I’m thankful for many moments along the way that have encouraged me and lightened my heart through a difficult year on the family front.

1. Find Your Story Workshop (Jan-Feb)

I led my first memoir writing workshop over 6 Saturdays in January and February for National Library Board. It was oversubscribed and an intensive period of working with mostly first-time writers through their writing and my editing 17 essays. It was a hugely personal experience for me as participants and I shared some of our deepest stories with each other through the 6 sessions.

NLB MemoirWorkshop

Final Find Your Story workshop session

 

2. Finding My Stories (March/April)

I found myself sharing my personal testimonies with Salt & Light and Asian Beacon publications. This year wasn’t a season to write but a season to reflect and share on my episodes with voice disorder, cancer and my writing journey.

 

3.  Bunny Finds the Right Stuff on stage again (May)

Esplanade re-staged my Bunny Finds the Right Stuff theatre show as part of its 10th anniversary show offerings. The script was re-tweaked and even funnier than the first show-run two years back. It brought a bounce and a spring to my steps.

BunnyShow2018 with Arlene

With Caleb, dear friend Arlene and family & the Bunny cast

4. Our Daily Bread 100 Prayers for Mums (June)

I was one of 7 writers for Our Daily Bread’s 100 Prayers book for Mother’s Day. It was my first time writing for Our Daily Bread. On top of writing 11 prayers, I also wrote an essay on my parenting journey through cancer.

 

 

6. Judging the top Singapore’s children’s literature prize (June-July)

I was invited to judge the $10,000 Hedwig Anuar children’s book award for top Singapore children’s books for the Book Council’s 50th year together with fellow author David Seow and editor Sarah Odedina. I was most curious to hear Sarah Odedina’s views on our local books, given she has been editor to superstar authors JK Rowling and Neil Gaiman. I was pleased to find that we were unanimous on our choice on the top 2 books and came to a quick consensus on the remaining 3 books for the shortlist.

Having ploughed through 65 books which the Book Council sent us, I was very heartened by how far our local children’s books have come. I was but a handful of local children’s books authors when the Book Council ran the First Time Writers Initiative 10+ years back. This year, we could take pride in our quality shortlist comprising 1 board book, 1 picture book, 1 junior chapter book, 1 novel and 1 middle grade/young adult book.

 

 

Left: Hedwig Anuar Book Award 2018 Shorlist, Right: With fellow judges David Seow and Sarah Odedina

 

7. Tibby in Tamil Translation (September)

It’s always a thrill to have my books in another language and thrice the delight to see my 3-book Tibby picture book series in Tamil translation.

TibbyTamil

7. Little Otter, Litter Trouble (October)

Following the positive response from schools to Why did the Pangolin Cross the Road?, I wrote book 2 in the local wildlife series for Wildlife Reserves Singapore. Little Otter, Litter Trouble was out in October and distributed to all preschools across Singapore in November.

Otter team

With Assistant Director of Education Florence Chang & Illustrator PK Cheng

8. Kueh Tutus & Just Teddy’s dance story (November)

I had the pleasure of seeing a dance interpretation of my book Just Teddy at the Singapore Writers Festival this year. It brought a different perspective to a story that is very personal to me.

KuehTuTus1

With dance collective Kueh Tutus who performed an interactive children’s dance act

9. Littworld 2018 (end Oct-early November)

I spent a large part of the past one year organizing stuff on the organizing team for Littworld 2018, the only global Christian publishing training conference of its kind. The run-up to the conference was a lot of work. But I was refreshed at the conference after a two-year hiatus from writing picture books (and almost giving up on it entirely). I found fresh manna and vision for a new writing season ahead.

LW13-Host Comm

With the local organizing team for Littworld 2018

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

 

Related Posts:

Write Reflections – Closing the chapter on my 10th writing year

2016: Fairytale launches, Off-the-chest blogs & other Write moments