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When Caleb was two years old, he assembled the toy boxes in his room as his makeshift drum set. Over the years, he continued to bang on any box that emitted a sound.

It was no surprise that Caleb, now seven, picked drums when he recently started music lessons for the first time. Caleb is a fast learner and has great sense of rhythm. But he discovered that a good ear for music did not translate into him being a natural drummer.

His drums classes have led to important lessons beyond music alone. It’s taken him several weeks to get the hang of hitting the drums the right way. He’s been learning that it is fundamental to get the basics right, such as:
• he should use his wrists more, rather than swinging his entire arms up and down
• he needs to relax and not freeze his body or lock his arms
• he needs to listen to the song and follow the beat, not rush through it

Caleb also learnt that enthusiasm alone wasn’t enough for good drumming. A month into his lessons, we found a second-hand drum set on Carousel. He was thrilled and practised enthusiastically every day.

When he went for his drums class a week later, he discovered that he had been practising incorrectly. He spent the entire lesson un-learning the wrong habits he had reinforced through self-practice. That day, we learnt that practice and practising the correct technique are equally instrumental.

We are coming to three months of drums lessons. Caleb’s picked up drumming to several songs, and valuable character-building lessons along the way. For this reason, I would certainly like my boy to keep drumming…to the beat of greater patience and perseverance.

TeacherJane

With Teacher Jane after drums class at Aureus Forum

This week, I asked Aureus Academy a few questions about their school:

Mummum: How did you decide on the name Aureus?

Aureus: We chose the name Aureus as it means the “Gold standard of hearing”.

Mummum: In 1 sentence, sum up Aureus’s music/teaching philosophy.

Aureus: Aureus provides quality music education that is tailored to engage each student in a way that suits their learning style.

Mummum: Share 1-2 interesting facts about Aureus Academy.

Aureus: 1. We are a Singapore-based company founded by concert artists.
2. Unlike other music schools in Singapore, all our teachers are full timers and possess at least a Bachelor Degree in Music.

Cool. I did not know that. 🙂

Mummum: How many students do you have as you cross your 5th birthday?

Aureus: As Singapore’s leading music school, Aureus now has over 4,000 students enrolled between its 9 centres.

Mummum: Any birthday promotions?

Aureus: We will be hosting another exciting piano fair at the Forum Atrium. Come see why over 60% of our latest piano collection has already sold out. This will be the last chance to enjoy Aureus’ 5th birthday sale, on top of exciting giveaways!

Promotion 1: ENJOY an additional $500 off towards already reduced pricing for all acoustic piano purchases
Promotion 2: ENJOY 50% off on return delivery for all rental pianos

Date: 4th October 2018 – 8th October 2018
Time: 10AM – 8PM (Weekdays) / 9AM – 7PM (Weekends)
Address: Forum the Shopping Mall, 583 Orchard Road #B1-Atrium

For enquiries about the Forum Roadshow, click the link here.

 

Also, here’s an exclusive promotion on my blog:

Aureus is offering 2 free lessons upon enrolment if you mention that you read about the offer here at “Mum Mum’s the Word”!

On this note, I like to end with my thanks to Aureus Academy for offering Caleb complimentary music classes. It’s been a valuable learning journey for him!

My entire Tibby picture book series has now been translated into the Tamil language for the Singapore market by Crimson Earth! I had the pleasure of collecting my author copies at AFCC 2018 and, as always, it was a thrill to see my books in another language.

I hope my Tibby books will continue to hop to new places and more bookshelves.

TibbyTamil

 

I’ve attended every Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) since it started, including its predecessor ACWIC (ie the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference).  Except for AFCC 2017, which I was not involved in for health reasons.

I enjoyed returning back into the book scene last week with my participation in AFCC. It was a lovely place to talk shop about books and catch up with industry friends.

But my journey with AFCC 2018 actually started several months earlier when I was invited to the judging panel for the Hedwig Anuar Children’s Book Award 2018. It was a privilege to judge this prestigious and rich prize recognizing the best Singapore children’s book published in the last 3 years ($10,000 to the winning author/illustrator). More on that in a later blogpost.

As always, my memories of AFCC go beyond words:

1. With fellow panelists after our session How I started: A Writer’s Journey

My Writer Journey

With Rilla Melati, David Seow and our moderator Sarah Mounsey

 

2. Caught up with author friends who were there for their author-teacher speed-dating session.

HweePauline

With Hwee Goh & Pauline Loh, ex-journalists and now prolific authors

 

3. With educator friends after we attended the panel session Giving a Voice: Inclusivity in Singapore’s KidLit

Dawn

With Donna and Dawn

 

4. Getting autographs from author & illustrator Satoshi Kitamura after his presentation.

Satoshi Kitamura

5. After the session Making a Mark: Iconic Children’s Characters in Singlit, which I moderated

Iconic panel

With panelists Lesley-Anne, Ruth Wan-Lau and Adeline Foo

 

6. At the AFCC closing dinner at Fullerton Hotel Clifford Pier with fellow judges

HABA judges

With author David Seow and Pushkin Books Editor Sarah Odedina after the awards announcement

7. A surprise encounter with dear old pal Desmond Kon, now a multi-award winning poet and amazingly prolific author

with Dez

8.  With AFCC Chairperson Claire Chiang and other industry friends

with Claire

Book Council Chairperson Claire Chiang turned up for the Council’s 50th anniversary despite her recent accident. She commanded the floor with her poise as always.

 

I enjoyed the conversations, moderation and judging-reading a huge box of entries.

And now, after a long break from new writing, I look forward to renewing my relationship with my first love – children’s picture books. After all, my first encounter with the published word came with my debut book Prince Bear & Pauper Bear, and with it, a picture of God’s love.

I’m kicking off an ad-hoc blog series spotlighting local children’s literature. And I’m starting with Hwee Goh’s first early chapter book. The Plano Adventures series is an early chapter book series that combines adventure, action and twin characters in a story that incorporates scientific research on short-sightedness and device dependency. (Hwee has a pair of twins so you can see how writing is very sub-conscious).

 

 

The baddie Lord Myopic is all set to cover Murktown in fog and take control of the residents. Only Professor Plano can stop him with his Clear Vision potion. He runs into a pair of twins along the way and the kids become instrumental to saving the day.

What better way to combine the twin mission of combating myopia in young children and empowering young readers than through an engaging early chapter book series with large fonts and fully-coloured illustrations?

Inside page 1

inside pg 2.jpg

The Plano Adventures series is co-written by scientist Dr Mo Dirani, an advocate for managing smart device use and myopia in young children and ex-political journalist-turned-children’s book author Hwee Goh. David Liew’s illustrations, with its fun comic-bent, matches perfectly with the story in this fully illustrated book.

I asked Hwee 2 questions about her book.

Me: Sum up your book in one sentence.

Hwee: Trouble in Murktown is a fun fantasy tale with a serious message – it empowers the reader to take charge of his own eye habits when reading a book or using a device.

Me: Tell me 1 thing about your writing process or 1 thing you enjoyed about writing this book.

Hwee: Dr Mo Dirani marked the key messages based on science, David Liew doodled on his iPad, then I set to work on the storyline. I love that our characters came to life and we and our beta readers want to see them continue on in this series.

Speaking of beta readers, my 7-year old pilot-read the book. When he finished, I asked him if he enjoyed it. He said “Yes. When is the 2nd book coming out?”

Yah, Hwee, when is the 2nd book coming out? 🙂

Trouble in Murktown hits the Singapore bookstores this week.

Related post:

High Chair Conversations: Journalist Hwee Goh travelled with LKY

This June marked two years from my diagnosis of breast cancer. I believe I am already healed. So the full body PET-CT scan a few days back confirmed just that.

It was timely for me that Our Daily Bread Ministries’ Hear Me, O God! – 100 Prayers for Mothers to Pray was recently launched. On top of writing prayers for the book, I had also written an essay on my parenting journey through breast cancer, which I am reproducing here:

100 Prayers cover (edited)

Facing Breast Cancer with a Child’s Heart

When I was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer on 1 June 2016, I was very concerned about how my five-year-old son Caleb would cope with the days ahead. I had to undergo a mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery within a week of diagnosis and would need several weeks to recuperate. That meant I would not be able to hug or carry him for some time. Following surgery, I would have to undergo five months of chemotherapy and cut back on my duties as his primary caregiver.

One key decision that my husband, Ben, and I made from the outset was to tell our five-year old the truth about my diagnosis. As Proverbs 22:6 says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it.” We wanted our relationship with our child to be built on truth so that he would always be truthful with us. We felt that Caleb should not be shielded simply because he was a young child. It was important for him to understand that life has its struggles and pain. We also felt that we needed to grow in faith as a family and trust God to see us through this episode. We shared with Caleb how the doctor had found bad cells in my body called cancer and needed to cut them out. We explained what the surgery involved and what to expect in the months ahead.

Through this decision, God used my child to strengthen me and show me that “… from the lips of children and infants, you, Lord, have called forth your praise” (Matthew 21:16).

We had an impromptu prayer party the night before my surgery, where over 20 people—family, friends and a few church elders—came to pray for me. My 15-year-old niece Annabel was the first to pray. “I don’t know what to say,” she blurted out as she grappled with finding the right words to say. Caleb immediately went to his older cousin and exclaimed, “Just say ‘God loves you!’”

Over my nine-day hospital stay, my parents brought Caleb to visit me daily. Ben bought him a 3,000-piece Lego Star Wars set which he worked on every day in my hospital room. One afternoon, midway through building his spaceship, Caleb took six rectangular Lego pieces and made three crosses. That image of Caleb presenting me those crosses is etched in my memory.

After I was discharged from hospital, I continued to ask the Lord to heal me. When Caleb saw me praying, he said, “I want to pray for you.” His gesture touched me, and I cried.

On my first night home from hospital, Caleb came to my bedside and sang me a worship song—the only time he did so during my recuperation period: “When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with you above the storm. Father, you are King over the flood. I will be still and know you are God.”

The next morning, a lady who had been praying for me messaged me. She said that she had just sung a worship song in church and the song was also meant for me. I clicked on the link she sent and was surprised to hear the same song that Caleb had sung to me the night before. I knew then, very clearly, that my child is sensitive to the Holy Spirit. The coincidence, or more appropriately, God-incidence, comforted me as I was waiting for the doctor’s lab report to confirm if I needed chemotherapy, which I dreaded.

Caleb’s many little actions throughout my breast cancer episode reminded me, time and again, not to underestimate how God can use our little ones to point to Him in amazing ways. Matthew 18:10 says: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in Heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”

One of my most difficult episodes during this time was when my doctor confirmed that I had to undergo chemotherapy. Following my doctor’s advice, I went for a crew cut to lessen the sting of seeing all my hair fall out in clumps. Ben and Caleb accompanied me to the wig salon for my shave and wig-fitting, which cheered me up. When we reached home, Caleb said, “Mummy, you don’t need to wear your pretend hair at home.” His simple affirmation gave me the courage to leave my head uncovered at home. That the most comforting statement I needed to hear came from a child made an indelible mark on me.

In keeping with our decision to be truthful about my diagnosis, I notified Caleb’s kindergarten and requested the teachers’ help to watch him for any signs of emotional stress during this period. His teachers got his class to pray for me, which I appreciated.
Months later, I drove Caleb to kindergarten for the first time after my surgery. As Caleb got out of the car, he told the kindergarten staff, “My mummy is a botak head; she has no hair. But you cannot see because she covered it up.”

When I picked him up after kindergarten, I asked, “Caleb, how many people have you told that Mummy is a botak head?”

Without missing a beat, he quipped, “The auntie at the drop-off point … my teachers … oh, and my class.”

“That’s all?” I asked, amused.

“Yah, that’s all,” he said.

I was heartened that Caleb didn’t feel compelled to hide the truth about my situation. God is truth, so I want to root my child in the truth, and that starts with having a parent-child relationship that is built on truth.

 

Hear Me, O God! -100 Prayers for Mothers to Pray is published by Daily Bread Ministries. The book is not sold but given out, and you can contribute a love gift of any amount to Daily Bread Ministries. Email Joel at joel.li@odb.org .

 

I’m thrilled to be part of a team of 7 writers who collectively wrote 100 Prayers for Mothers to Pray – a prayer book published by Our Daily Bread Ministries to coincide with Mother’s Day tomorrow. I was also asked to write an essay sharing my parenting journey while coping with breast cancer.

I’ve written children’s books and personal essays but this is the first time that I am writing prayers. It was doubly meaningful because the editor matched the prayer writing to the age group of our children and hence, allocated us writers topics close to our hearts.

 

Prayer-Thankfulness

1 of 11 prayers that I wrote 

 

This is also my first time writing for Daily Bread Ministries and I am privileged to be in the company of writers who are all mothers serving in different mums’ and children’s ministries.

Thank you to super-editor Ruth Wan-Lau for inviting me on board this meaningful and heartfelt project.

Daily Bread Ministries (DBM) is not funded or endowed by any group or denomination. They do not put a price on their books as it is a ministry. But you can bless DBM Ministries with a love gift when you requests copies of books and other devotional resources from them. Check out www.ourdailybread.org/singapore for more information.

 

I was delighted to attend the opening weekend of my Bunny Finds The Right Stuff show, to find out that the shows have sold out!

I was doubly happy to have watched the theatre show with one of my favourite people Arlene, and her family. Arlene was my biggest cheerleader when I went through chemotherapy in 2016, sending all sorts of creative videos and messages to cheer me up. She’s also been an amazing supporter of my books and writing and a super-dear friend.

Bunny found the right stuff in knowing that he was deeply loved by his Maker and his floppiness wasn’t from lack, but from love and countless hugs. He also realized that the right stuff was the stuff of friendship.

Likewise, I rest in the knowledge that I am loved by my Maker and built up by the stuff of precious friendships.

BunnyShow2018 with Arlene

With the fabulous cast of Bunny Finds the Right Stuff theatre show