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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.

 

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My baby-no-more just turned 7 and is now adjusting to Primary 1. I too am adjusting to his big transition, mainly because primary school starts at 7.30am whereas his kindergarten started at 11.30am 😅!

Caleb’s interests has been very distinct from year to year.
At 3 years old, it revolved around jigsaw puzzles.
At 4 years old, it was around board games.
At 5 years old, it was Lego, swimming (without a swim jacket) and cycling (on 2 wheels).

Caleb’s 6th year has been equally distinctive:

 
1. Pretend Play
From the first day of Kindergarten 2, the entire year has been defined by pretend play, somewhat like Calvin in Calvin & Hobbes.

The only difference is that Calvin’s parents were never part of Calvin’s pretend play world with Hobbes.

I’m in Caleb’s pretend play world and exist alongside his “Hobbes”. I guess being a children’s book author gives me extra liberty to wear kids’ gloves.

calvin_and_hobbes_off_ritalin

 

2. Reading Ready
For the past couple of years, Caleb had been lamenting that he could not read.

I’ve wondered often how exactly a child goes from not knowing how to read to knowing how to read. It’s a wondrous transition.

From Caleb’s first day of kindergarten 2, I resolved to read to Caleb daily during breakfast time. And I did. I read over 20 books of the Magic Treehouse series, the entire Kingdom of Wrenly series, the Dragon Masters series, Kungpow Chicken series and numerous picture books. And I brought my Kindle along when we had meals out so I could read to him during that time as well.

And suddenly, a few months on, he started reading on his own. I knew he was really reading, and not merely recognizing words picked up from repeated exposure to them or from memory, because he was able to read big words that were new to him.

Next to learning to speak and walk, I believe being able to read has to be a child’s biggest leap in development.

 

3. Never-ending Stories
When Caleb turned six, one of his favorite lines was, “Mummy, tell me a story.”

And that would be when I was driving him to and from kindergarten.

“I don’t want the book’s story. Make it up!”

I write books. I do book readings. But I have never been an oral storyteller. Neither have I been particularly adapt at making a story up on the spot. I need days and weeks to mull over story ideas and a few more months to actually write one.

Thankfully, he’s forgotten this line and now I can drive easy again!

(Postscript: I spoke too soon. After several months off the hook and immediately after I wrote this blogpost, Caleb said, “Mum tell me a story.”
“I’m driving,” I replied.
“You’re an author,” Caleb said. “You can make it up easily.”
“Err…I need my mind to concentrate on driving,” I said.
“Drive with your hands and eyes and make up the story with your mind,” my backseat driver told me.

 

4. Scoring at ball games
Somewhere at 6 years old, Caleb’s inherited ball sense (from Ben) went from good to amazingly good.

He was able to dribble the football and volley the badminton shuttlecock back and forth with Ben numerous times.

And then he aced a birdie and a par on the same Par 3 on our 3rd and 4th time on the golf course when we took him for 9-holes.

 

For all the amazing growth and development in his 6th year, one moment stood out the most for me. And it had everything to do with words and nothing to do with developmental milestones.

A few months back, I had just showered Caleb and was toweling him. As he was rolling around in his towel in the bedroom, he suddenly turned to me and said, “You are the right mummy for me.”

“Huh? Why do you say that?” I asked, rather surprised by this out-of-the-blue pronouncement in the middle of a mundane activity.

To that, he replied, “You are everything I need.”

I was dumbstruck by that answer.

When I found my tongue the next day, I said, “You are the right child for me.”

Calebis7

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Four years ago, on Caleb’s first day of kindergarten, we parents were in the pre-nursery classroom as part of orientation.

Caleb’s form teacher was trying to tell a story about a tiger to 15 preschoolers, with another 15 pairs of parents watching. No easy feat.

Midway through the story, the teacher asked, “Can you guess if the tiger is a boy or a girl?”

Some kids answered, “Boy!” and some answered, “Girl!”

My then-three year old piped up loudly in an annoyed voice, “How can it be a boy or girl? It’s a TIGER!”

The parents laughed. I gasped. And the teacher was not entirely amused.

Oh no, I thought myself. Would my strong-willed, strong-voiced kid fit into Kindy?

As I stepped out of class, I bumped into the Kindy Principal. She saw my worried face and asked if I was okay. I expressed my apprehensions gingerly. She soothed my concerns, assuring me that kids like Caleb, who may appear more difficult to manage initially, usually settle in very quickly.

True enough, Caleb settled in within a couple of days. His form teacher, whom I got to know well over the weeks, shared how he ended up taking care of the quiet kids in class. His outspokenness also made him the ringleader in class. And he stayed true to form right through his Kindy years.

For Caleb’s final year Kindy project, his class project was on “Puppets”. As the Principal is a puppets expert, she did a puppetry demonstration for Caleb’s class. At the end of the Principal’s demo session, my 6-year old piped up, “Auntie J, on a scale of 1 to 10, I give you a 10!” I was told that the Principal was most pleased.

Caleb has just started Primary One. The past week has been a huge transition for him. And for me too – this week, I had rush hour school traffic orientation (gasp)! I hope that my kid will thrive through the rigours of primary school. Whilst the discipline of the education system is good, I want my son to enjoy the learning process, beyond timetables and homework, and retain his creativity and voice throughout.

 

K2camp

Volunteering in the final week of Kindy with other mamarazzis  so we could take final photos

 

 

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Caleb and I recently followed Ben on his 16-day work trip to Switzerland and USA.

It was an important family trip for us after 10 months of being in and out of doctors’ clinics and multiple scans following my surgery last June where I had one breast removed and reconstructive surgery following a breast cancer diagnosis. I thank God that I am well and was ready for my big trip.

As Ben’s work locations were in two rather un-touristy towns, I packed several small travel toys and activities for some afternoons where I might just want to veg out in the hotel room when Ben was at work.

I wrote out a travel checklist to remind myself of various things to pack into our luggage.

Caleb, who loves to be involved in everything, saw my list and decided to start his own travel checklist.

He followed me around the house, asking me how to spell words that he added to his list.

When he reached item #24 on his list, he told me, “Remember to bring Joy.”

“Bring what?” I asked as I busied with packing his clothes and toys.

“Being Joy…you know Joy? Joy in your heart,” he said.

I paused from my busy bee state and looked up. “Wow…,” I said. “Okay, we will bring Joy.”

Caleb travel list

“And don’t forget me,” Caleb said as he added his own name to his packing list. “We’ll also bring God and Jesus,” he said, adding two more names to his list.

And so we did.

We had a free and easy, chilled out vacation.

Caleb St Galen

Caleb and I spent a morning playing in a patch of residual snow outside our hotel.

An afternoon in the bookstore when it was too chilly to be outdoors.

Caleb snow.png

And other simple pleasures.

And we were filled with joy in our hearts.

Caleb&Em.png

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When I wrote Prince Bear & Pauper Bear 10 years ago, I borrowed nieces, godchildren and friends’ kids to do book readings with me. I never imagined the day when I would be on stage with my own son doing a book reading together.

That day came yesterday when Caleb and I did a mother-son book reading together at the start of the ARISE! concert yesterday.

It was a special moment for me to see my 6-year-old read Prince Bear & Pauper Bear confidently, and then join the rest of the children’s choir in singing, shouting and praising God with songs and worship.

Book reading1

Photo credit: Ong Puay See

book reading2

Photo credit: Arlene Alegra-Wood

Caleb Elijah Elise.png

Caleb singing “Revelation” together with his cousins and Music Director/Composer Amy Tan

 Related link:

http://singapore.kidsarise.com/

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Caleb’s just turned 6! And he’s grown by leaps and bounds in the past year, from skills to perspectives, resilience to new focus.

6th-birthday

1.      Ditching the Wheels, Making a Splash

Caleb has been cycling on his 4-wheels bicycle since 3/4 years old. Just past his 5th birthday, he decided, rather nonchalantly, that he wanted to ditch the two training wheels and cycle on two wheels. He wobbled on his first attempt along the road outside our home. On his second try, a few minutes later, he steadied up and took off!

Next, he decided to try swimming without his swim-jacket. After a few kicks and splashes with Ben, he started diving into the pool swim-jacketless. That he had crossed these big milestones without cajoling or expectation made them that much sweeter to see.

A few months later, he started to bathe himself on a few occasions and then consistently clean up after himself after his big business.

It’s been a treat to watch him leap from one milestone to another, and wonder what he will do next.

 2.      Wielding lightsabers & Lego Force through the Dark Side

On 1st June last year, midway through 5 years old, Caleb had to grow up rather quickly when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. As his full-time caregiver, I had to learn to let go of him for stretches of time as I went through surgery and chemotherapy. He also had new routines to get used to without me being his constant, like my dad taking over ferrying him to and from kindergarten.

Thanks to the combination of Star Wars and Lego, Caleb’s love of Star Wars turned him into an adapt master-builder which saw us through my wilderness period (aka the Dark Side) when I stayed home through stretches of time.

He built his way through 2000-piece Lego structures, from the Millenium Falcon to Tie Striker to A-Wing Fighter and various other spaceships whose names I cannot remember.

 

Star Wars with Angel.png

With God-sister Angel on their Monday playdates which my dearest friend Gail started during my chemotherapy months

 

 3.      Not my Hongpao!

A couple of days back, a good friend sent me a blog link for a friend’s 7-year old daughter Janelle who has a rare heart condition and is in need of a heart transplant. The cost of the surgery and health complications had led to ballooning expenses and they were trying to raise funds to cover cost.

Ben and I thought it would be a good life lesson to use to teach Caleb about helping others in need.

Yesterday morning, when I was still half-sleep, I heard Ben talking to Caleb, “Would you like to give $100 of your hongpao money to help Janelle? Papa and Mummy will give $500.”

“What? Not my hongpao money!” I heard Caleb protest before I fell back into sleep.

An hour later, over breakfast, Ben said, “Did you hear what he said?”

“Yah,” I muttered. “He doesn’t want to give his hongpao money.”

“No, he did,” Ben said. “He decided that we give $100 and he give his $600 hongpao money.”

My eyes opened wide and my heart swelled in a proud parent moment. He had gone from initially objecting to reflecting upon it and then deciding to give up his hongpao money on his own free will.  

Later, that day, when he was building his Star Wars Lego set, a Christmas present from auntie Jing Siew, I gave him a cuddle and said, “Do you know why I am so proud of you?”

“Don’t know,” he said.

“You did something amazing this morning, remember?”

“Forgot already,” he said, focused on his Lego.

“Remember you gave something up?”

“Oh yah, that,” he said, “a lot of money.”

And that was that. A significant milestone crossed in his nonchalant way.

 

Related Link:

Help Fund Janelle’s VAD and heart transplant

Inside Out Kid #3: Mummy, You can take out your Pretend Hair at Home

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This week marked the end of my last chemo cycle. Because the tumour removed in July was rated triple-positive (estrogen +ve, progesterone +ve and HER2 +ve), my oncologist has proceeded with the next phase of treatment. He’s started me on 3-monthly injections to take me to early menopause and daily Tamoxifen pills for the next 5 years – all to tame my hormone levels (so to speak) and reduce chances of recurrence. I’m also on 3-weekly antibody injections for another 7 months. As these aren’t as potent as chemotherapy, it means I can resume normal routine.

Not that I have been in a hurry.

Over the past 6 months, I’ve switched to a slower mode and will not be rushing to get anything done too quickly.   

So, I’ve kept it simple this December. Taking Caleb on a few outings. A few Christmas/year-end get-togethers. Plenty of quiet time to reflect on the year fast passing and the true meaning of Christmas – the birthday of Jesus the Christ.

On a literal level, I am seeing things anew. Like my eyebrows growing back. Now I can raise new  eyebrows in the new year :).        

 

zoorasic

The Lehs see dinosaurs at the Zoo’s Zoorassic Park

 

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