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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

I’m a hoppy camper with a sprightly leap! Esplanade celebrates its 15th anniversary this year and will be re-staging Bunny Finds the Right Stuff, based on an adaption of my book!

Show details are here:

Bunnyshow (edited)

Esplanade15thyear (edited)

 

Box office is now open and you can book your tickets here. So hop over there!

Related:

Bunny Finds the Good Stuff – Opening Show @ Esplanade

 

 

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

 

 

As I sit down to reflect on the year, I’m wondering why I thought I had a barren writing year. Several big things didn’t turn out as I wanted but there have been so many other things to give thanks for:

1. An Audience of One

It’s been largely a year of writing for an audience of one (me writing my spiritual journal for my own consumption). Although I worried excessively mid-year about my lack of output, I realized on hindsight, that I really needed this time of quiet reflection. I had lapsed back into my rocking horse character (in The Tale of Rusty Horse), concerned about crowd opinion and fretting because one person commented my writing is a hobby.

2. Arise and Read!

In April, Caleb performed at the ARISE! children’s praise concert. The concert opened with Caleb & me doing a book reading of Prince Bear & Pauper Bear. I had never envisioned that I would be on stage with my kid for a mother-son reading. It was a proud mum moment for me.

book reading2

 

3. Prince Bear & Pauper Bear re-staged

In April, The Learning Connection restaged Prince Bear & Pauper Bear over a 10-day run, with requests for extra shows. It was special as it marks 10 years since Prince Bear & Pauper Bear was published.

Storybox theatre

 

4. Writing in the Garden 
In April and May, I ran two public workshops for Gardens by the Bay as part of my writing residency. It was an experience, especially running my first outdoor walking workshop with about 20 families.

GBTB photo 2(PuaySee)

Photo credit (Ong Puay See)

 

5. Pauper Bear and Rusty Horse go Slovakian

In May, the Slovakian edition of my books were published and I got them hot off the press when my Slovakian publisher came to speak at AFCC – the Asian Children’s Festival of Children’s Content. It was an added delight to hear my publisher Petra read a page of the book at the conference where she was a speaker.

Petra's daughter

 

6. More Wild Writing

I completed one more picture book for Wildlife Reserves Singapore. This latest book centres on another endangered animal, following on from my first book Why did the Pangolin cross the Road? The bilingual book be out early next year.

 

7. Global Publishing Conference

It’s been a busy few months as I am on the local organizing committee for Littworld 2018, the global Christian publishing conference to be held in Singapore next year. I thank God that we finally secured the conference venue in November and completed the conference publicity brochure.

LittWorld2018_brochure_1-4_COVER

 

8. Up Close and Personal for Christ 

In October, I shared about my faith and writing journey  at Christ Methodist Church’s “Up Close & Personal” talk series. It was a timely sharing as I became a published author in October 10 years ago.

Christ Methodist talk

 

9. Addressing Cancer with the Word

Late this year, I was invited to submit contributions to two Christian anthologies of sorts. I have completed my submission for one and am in the midst of working on the other. Both involve personal reflections of my recent journey facing breast cancer.

 

10. Write Residency

I just completed my year-long writing residency at Gardens by the Bay. It was deferred from last year as I had been undergoing chemotherapy then. Although I had a slow start, I found new momentum to write in the past few months.

 

11. Find Your Voice, Write Your Story

I’m now preparing to facilitate a 5-session workshop series “Find Your Voice, Write Your Story” on memoir writing in January 2018. Seeing the applicants’ profiles and work samples, I envisage a meaningful exchange on our personal experiences through the written word.

 

As I look back at the year that is passing, I’m reminded to look to God for the year ahead. I started 2017 with grand plans and expectations for my writing but they were all derailed and vanished like a mirage. It disappointed and humbled me. Yet, as I look back, I can now see that I have so much to be grateful for.

So, my writing plan for 2018 is summed up in one word – Gratitude. I look forward to seeing where that leads me.

The mind of man plans his way but the Lord determines his steps.

                                                                              – Proverbs 16:9 (NASB)

Related Links:

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

 

On this eve of Christmas eve, I want to slow down from the busyness of the past few months to look back and reflect on God’s goodness in this year that is passing.

I thank God…

  1. That I am well and healed, and for the completion of 1 year of antibodies HER2 treatment.
  2. That I have a new crown – not of diamonds and gems – but of the hair-raising kind. When I lost all my hair last year to chemotherapy (and that included eyelashes and eyebrows), I seriously wondered if I would actually remain bald from all the chemicals pumped into my body in the past year.
  3. For two amazing overseas trips this year, where we had quiet family time in March and spent time with another family in September (very providentially and unplanned). I am thankful for that new and deeper friendship.
  4. For the first 9 months of “forced” break from writing and the next 3 months where I have started finding my writing rhythm slowly and steadily.
  5. For quietness of most of this year to recharge, refresh and renew my perspectives about life, relationships and faith.
  6. For family and friends who have supported and strengthened me in so many ways.
  7. For Christmas. In this time where peace in the world seems so fragile and elusive, I want to remember to look to Christ – our true reason for Christ-mas. (It’s not Claus-mas as Commercialism repackages it to be).

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”           – Isaiah 9:6

IMG_3134 (6)

Today is TGFFF Friday – Thank God for Family, Friends & Favour Friday!
I’ve cut back on blogging and social media considerably as writing and publishing commitments start to pile up again in recent weeks.

But with so many good things happening, I need to pause to thank God:

1. Ben & I just celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary! We picked our wedding date in between both our birthdays so there have been many rounds of celebrations. I thank God for Ben and his support both the eventful and mundane chapters of my life. As the saying goes, it has truly been through thick & thin, sick & sin.

2. Ben, Caleb and I recently went on an amazing vacation – our best vacation with Caleb since he was born (not that we took many vacations with him, to begin with). We spent a few days with another family whom we connected with on a deeper level and another few days on our own. It wasn’t exactly relaxing (How do you relax when you have a 6-year old energizer bunny?!) but it was meaningful for us as a family.

3. Towards the end of chemotherapy last year, my doctor found fluid accumulated around my heart, which may have come about from the drugs. Since then, they have been monitoring me with 6-weekly heart echoes over the last 10 months. Following my latest echo and doctor appointment yesterday, I thank God that my heart is all good and we can discontinue the 6-weekly heart checks. My doctor also stretched my medical appointments even further apart so I see lesser and lesser of him.

4. Over the past few weeks, I have started catching small glimpses of the new season before me – both in my personal life and writing life. I am encouraged and also challenged by some of the new opportunities ahead.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy and with song, I praise Him – Psalms 28:7

 

This has been a nostalgic period where curtains have closed, torches have passed and some of us open new chapters in our lives.

Raffles Hotel, flagship of Raffles Hotels & Resorts, the company where I previous worked for a decade, recently closed for major refurbishment under its new owner.

Over 25 of us, including three of our former company’s past-presidents plus old-timers like myself, gathered for Someone’s birthday dinner-cum-reunion at Raffles Grill to bid our farewell to the grand old dame. It was an evening that harked back to my fine-dining days working in the hotel industry.

 

RafflesHotelReunion

I got the waiter to take a long shot from my end

 

After a decade of working and growing up with the Raffles hotel group, I symbolically (and quite literally) crossed the road (Victoria Street to be exact) to Central Library, my new haunt since I found my voice as an author. 

I went from corporate suit and lobster lunches at Raffles Hotel’s Empire Cafe to sandals and cheeseburger at Hanis Cafe at the Central Library building. And I have been perfectly happy with my change in diet.

In this 10th year as an author, I bid a second farewell, on the Book Council front. Mr Rama, head honcho of our Singapore Book Council for several decades (and Founder of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content) has just retired. 

As a passionate books advocate, Mr Rama has brought the industry forward by leaps and bounds. He has also been significant in kick starting my writing life, from the time I became a winner of the Book Council’s First Time Writers Publishing Initiative 10 years back. 

So, of course, we had to catch up over kopi. Actually, kopi-kosong for him and teh siu tai & mee siam for me.

KopiWithRama.png

I also start a new page this month, after closing the chapter on 1 year’s cycle of antibodies infusion, on top of chemotherapy and breast cancer mastectomy & reconstructive surgery last year.

It’s a new chapter, a clean breast and a stronger stomach (flatter too…thanks to the stomach fat used for breast reconstruction). I am, figuratively speaking, a new creation in Christ! And I look forward to scribing new words with a higher purpose and heart impact.

And another kopi session with Mr Rama 😄.