Monday, 8 December 2014

Look Mummy, look!!! I'm cycling!

It's the first week of Advent and I thought I'd take a moment to reflect on the year before it ends. One of the coolest things to happen this year is that my boy learned how to ride a bike! :D

We didn't buy a bike earlier since we were soooo busy that he missed out on learning how to cycle. The few times we traveled home, he would ride on his bike with its trainer wheels but a few weeks in a year do not a cyclist make, right?

This year, I was determined to help him learn how to cycle and so, we started with the bike he got when he was 5 years old. First, I removed one of the trainer wheels and he got *really* comfortable with that but I could see that he was going nowhere LOL

I decided to remove the second training wheel and help him get his balance on two wheels. I was huffing and puffing as I ran along with him. Plus, it was back-breaking work for me since I had to hold on to the seat! 

After a few tries, I just yelled (encouragingly!), "Just keep cycling! Don't stop!!!" Of course, the poor kid fell down a few times with a fair share of bumps, bruises and scrapes. He wanted to give up a couple of times but there's just something about being in the outdoors that makes you want to try and try, I think, coz he picked himself up and tried and tried.

Finally, I decided to stop being a Helicopter Mom and went to another corner to do my own stretches and exercise and of course, to leave him alone.

A while later, he cycled past me, yelling, "Look, Mummy, look!!! I'm cycling!" and nearly crashed into a bush! And there's no stopping him from that moment on because he'd ask to ride his bike again and again and again every chance he got. Since his long legs were getting in the way of his 5 year old bike, guess who's got a shiny, new bike? :)

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Investing in mutual funds

Mutual funds are "A mutual fund is an investment vehicle that is made up of a pool of funds collected from many investors for the purpose of investing in securities such as stocks, bonds, money market instruments and similar assets.

Mutual funds are operated by money managers, who invest the fund's capital and attempt to produce capital gains and income for the fund's investors. A mutual fund's portfolio is structured and maintained to match the investment objectives stated in its prospectus." (Source: Investopedia)

In 2006, I started to to look through our finances and found that my husband and I had been wasting money on a few unnecessary expenses:

1. Cable TV that we didn't really have time for
2. Subscriptions for magazines that are now piled up to more than 2 feet high.

Besides that, I also found that we'd been working and working but we had not been INVESTING our savings, which were stagnant in the banks where our monthly salaries were deposited.

That's when I started reading up about investment portfolios, short-medium-long term investments, diversifying our investments and etc.

As both of us had little to no experience in investments, we discussed it with the old folks who recommended:

1. Buying a house (real estate)
2. Mutual funds
3. Blue chip shares

Unfortunately, I found that we were about 10 years too late because the mutual funds that had high returns on investment now had low prices. Thus, our relatively high purchase price meant that our returns would just be slightly higher than that of a savings account.

Besides that, the quarterly or annual statements they sent made me nervous especially when I noticed a "-ve" in front of the "+/-" column. I also found out that the agents and the banks who sold me such funds earned a commission and a sales charge for helping me with each transaction e.g. buying the fund, switching funds.

First lesson in buying these funds is: you'll need to keep the funds until you reach the break even point i.e. recovered the costs of the agent's commission and the bank's sales charge.

During the period of 2008-2010, I earned a tidy sum from buying mutual funds that invested in the booming Asian markets e.g. China and Indonesia.

I think I held on to these mutual funds for a period of 3 years and since I don't really fancy tracking the unit prices of each mutual fund, I have stopped investing in them.

Update: Read this article on Prof. Teresa Ghilarducci on "How to Retire with Enough Money". She brings up a lot of related problems but the two take-away messages I got were:

1) Stay in your house until you've paid up the mortgage.

2) Stay beneath your means.

What next?

Saturday, 15 November 2014

"Frozen" Birthday Party

If you know me, you'll know that I hate the TV, especially Disney.

Thus, I can't recall how or why I bought the "Frozen" DVD for the kids because now, my daughter is hooked on it!

Yup... i) she sings "Let It Go" again and again and again and again and again
ii) she drapes a blanket or a pink towel around her shoulders and uses a clothes peg to secure it - she even insists on wearing it outdoors but I firmly said NO.
iii)she loves it when I call her "Queen Elsa" LOL
iv) she wants anything and everything related to Frozen.

We were invited to a Frozen birthday party a while back and her brother remarked, "I think she will be VERY EXCITED!"

Here's what the little girl's mother had at that birthday:

1. A Frozen birthday cake - Interestingly, the cake toppers are ALWAYS out of stock! That made me quite anxious as my little girl's birthday is just a couple of months away. Then again, do I want to pay US$25++ for them???

2. Queen Elsa's dressOf course, every little girl around the world who has watched "Frozen" wants to be Queen Elsa. Now, I have learned that Queen Elsa's costume must have white gloves and the oh-so-important cape!

I managed to buy a similar dress online ("Frozen" Queen Elsa's Deluxe Girl's Costume (4-6X)). Phew!

She LOVES it and has been wearing it already and guess what? She still adds a trailing cape although the dress already HAS a cape. Duh. I've yet to find a tiara though.

3. Birthday presentsAt the birthday party we attended, almost everyone bought the little girl a Barbie doll or a Queen Elsa doll, which I thought was so boring and predictable??!!

Since I didn't know the girl well, I let my son choose the birthday present and he bought her a book :) The little girl was quite pleased because it was different. Plus, it turns out that she also likes to read. I think my boy chose a ice/snow-themed book that came with a glittery cover coz the other girls ooh-ed and aah-ed when she unwrapped it LOL

For my daughter, A Tale of Two Sisters (Frozen) (Step into Reading) would be nice since she's learning to read now. She received one of these lovely sticker books for her birthday:
I only buy my children presents during their birthdays and Christmas and even then, the presents tend to be books or something practical. For a change, I may get her this Disney "Frozen" Complete Story Playset because she's always having imaginary conversations with her cars, soft toys and other objects.

She's been coming home bursting with excitement over her friends' birthday goodie bags and insisting that we make her goodie bags just as fun too.

I am glad that she's thinking as much about her classmates as she is of herself on her birthday.

Her current schoolbag is quite ratty (thanks to all her "artwork"! I don't understand how she's such a messy girl - her brother is seriously neater than her) but I'm wondering if I can stand ANOTHER year of Queen Elsa and Princess Anna???


I've got to order some fried vermicelli, make a fruit salad and include a cold dessert!!! Not to forget some Ribena or some other kid-friendly drink...stress, stress.

IN THE END, I was soooooo busy at work that the goodie bag ended up with:
- stationery sets (a mix of Ben 10, Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh)
- raisins (NOT! The kids ate up the stash we had at home)
- chocolate - check - need to order organic lollipops from iHerb (NOT! Mummy was too busy to order from iHerb)
- a handful of balloons - a HUGE hit with the kids who took them out and immediately started to blow them up or ask 'Uncle' to help.

The little one showed off to her friends that HER father can only help her to blow up HER balloon :) - miniature LEGO sets - I scored on this last one because we were literally 45 minutes to PARTY TIME. Hubby was hyperventilating but I rejoiced coz I got a good deal from a wholesaler.

Grabbing the big bag of toys, I set to work stuffing 25 goodie bags (randomly having a mix of boy and girl figures) while Hubby drove to pick up the cold dessert, fried noodles and then quickly took them down to the classrooms before the kindy teachers gave me the evil eye.

We saw a few other moms and dads and their party team hastily carrying in their own food and loot too LOL See how scared we are of the kindy teachers??? I didn't even have time to charge my camera battery - luckily, there were a few bars left for me to capture the important moments of my 5 year old daughter's class party. :)

While the class teacher tackled the kids, the food and the goodie bags, my sweetie pie came to me and said:
"I love you, Mummy...this is the best day ever. I am so happy!!!"
Then she reached up to give me a hug and a kiss. None for the poor father who did all the grunt word, though LOL Chatting with my colleagues about our kids, I realized how much my little girl has grown over the past year.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Optimus Prime - Age of Extinction

Now that the finals are over, our son asked to watch Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen starring Shia Labeouf and Megan Fox again today. I was surprised that he's interested in Transformers again because he had been into Lego, b-Daman and the Rainbow Loom this year...
Anyway, he took out his Optimus Prime figurine (a gift he received when he was 5, which was in storage due to its fragility) and started browsing YouTube videos to figure out how to transform it into a truck. He watched two videos but then he fiddled with the mechanisms and finally figure it out himself :)

I'm always amazed at how good he is with mechanical stuff especially at how PATIENT he is. He doesn't give up easily and he will try and try and try until he can get it right. Very unlike me or his little sister who would probably chuck poor Optimus Prime into the corner in a huff LOL

A few days ago, he asked me if he may use his pocket money to buy himself the Transformers "Age of Extinction" Generations Leader Class Optimus Prime Figure: He told me that he'd seen it in a YouTube video and wanted to have it very much because it was a fun figure to transform and etc.

Although it's something I would get for Christmas or his birthday, which is next year, I am thinking of getting it earlier because: i) he surprised us (and himself) with excellent scores in his exams and ii) he has been working hard at school these past few years, it'd be nice for him to enjoy playing with Optimus Prime during the school holidays.

For the past few days, he and his little sister had been having a lo of fun together with the current Optimus Prime. Although he initially objected to her tucking the mighty Optimus into a PINK bed, reading bedtime stories to and getting a lot of TLC, he has graciously agreed to keeping him as a figure for her although he likes the truck mode too.

Both the kids have been quite good with their toys, especially Optimus Prime, with his many, many, many interlocking parts, this Mummy is quite happy to buy them another Transformer :)

Monday, 15 September 2014

A Very Special Critter by Gina and Mercer Mayer

One morning, Little Critter's teacher announced that a new critter named Alex will join their class. Alex uses a wheelchair and all the children are not sure how to react. However, Litter Critter's teacher and father explain that Alex is no different from the rest of them.

A delightful book to help children understand children with physical disabilities - one important point is that they can do just about as much as a regular kid can!

If you'd like to introduce a wheelbound child to a new group of children, A Very Special Critter is a good book to read to them first :)

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Preparing for Chinese New Year (or Spring Festival)

9 more days to Chinese New Year!!! If you're new to Chinese culture, here's a list of preparations for Chinese New Year (or Spring Festival), which falls on January 31, 2014 this year:

1. Spring clean!

Throw away all old and unwanted items. Clean and sweep away all the dust and cobwebs. Hubby and I spent a week doing this i.e. he cleaned the fans, washed the bathroom and toilet, washed and dried the laundry, sorted and stowed away the clothes the children outgrew. Me? I went through our boxes and boxes of BOOKS, paper and toys with the kids and got them to decide which toy they were no longer playing with. Our 4 year old had a tough time parting with old toys though as she kept going, "Aww...I still like playing with it, Mummy..." Sigh, maybe next year? Our 7 year old was more pragmatic: "This toy is for BABIES! Are you a baby???" Hahaha. Tough love. Phew, you should have seen the bags and bags of clothes and and boxes of books and toys we had to give away. I work with a church who works with families of migrant workers and we have been giving them almost all our baby's bottles, baby food, baby clothes, baby toys and other baby and kids stuff...

2. Decorate the home for Chinese New Year

Since we never celebrate Chinese New Year at our own home, neither Hubby nor I have ever bothered with this. One of the reasons the kids are excited about celebrating Chinese New Year at my in-laws' place is because my mother-in-law, like my late grandmother, is very festive when it comes to home decor. When we drive towards the house from the airport, we can see HUGE red lanterns and a RED banner at the entrance. Entering the house, you'll be greeted with RED sofa covers, a RED carpert, RED paper cut-outs and pots of RED, ORANGE and PINK flowers everywhere. I have to admit that I was very overwhelmed the first year I celebrated Chinese New Year at their home :D Hubby and I would have interesting discussions about how RED everything is hahaha. chinese-red-throw-pillow-cover Now? Hubby is mortified that both his WIFE and MOTHER love decorating the home for Chinese New Year hahaha! Oh yes, I have been buying my mother-in-law RED throw pillow covers like these 17" Square Chinese Silk Throw Pillow Covers, Chinese calendars with RED and GOLD Chinese characters. I've actually been looking out for a RED table cloth but could not find any :-( This year, I have been putting touches of RED and GOLD at our own place simply because our kids can't join in the festive preparations at my mother-in-law's place. When our kids helped me hang some wall decorations and change the throw pillows, they asked, "Can we buy the BIG lanterns too? Please, please, please!!!" Our Chinese neighbour already does a fine job decorating her entrance, I think we'll maintain our simple entrance hahaha. I can hear Hubby's sigh of relief ;-)

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Moving Comfort Sports Bra

If you read my previous post, you'll know that I mean to do some running this year. Got my gym bag all ready with my running shoes and gear but I still need a sports bra.

It's a compression-type sports bra, which meant that your boobs are flattened to reduce movement. The Nike sports bra felt very comfortable although I found the band a bit loose. I may return to try on the L size.

Reading up on a few running sites, I discover that I should look out for brands like Moving Comfort, (Maia) and Enell

Other brands like Wacoal and La Isla also got positive reviews on Amazon:

The only sports bra I've tried is the Nike Women's Dri-Fit High Shape Sports Bra (L) in XL.

Here are the running/fitness and shopping sites I checked out for tips on sports bras: - Runners' World- DailyHiit- Ruun- Women's Health

If you've ever used any of these sports bra, will appreciate your feedback on them as they are *expensive* and the only way I can get them is to shop online. In the end, the only sports bra available in Malaysia was Moving Comfort, which I bought online.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Exams are kǎo shì (考试)

In the next few weeks, our son will be taking his mid-term examinations, which will include Composition, Reading Comprehension, Science, Math and Moral Studies in Chinese. He enjoys Science and Math but struggles with Chinese composition.

As we do not have a private Chinese tutor, you can imagine how stressful it is for us to review his lessons especially as I am a full-time working mom AND we have a chatty preschooler who demands my attention with,
"Look, Mummy!!! I am drawing you and a house." "Look, Mummy, this is a ball machine! These are all the balls zug-zug-zug going round and round and round. Now, they are marbles!!!"
This weekend, in between:
  • washing, hanging, folding and putting away the laundry,
  • cooking a simple dinner,
  • juggling the 2 extra-curricular activities,
  • going to the wet market for school snacks,
  • shopping for new school uniforms (he has outgrown his "sparkling white" shirts),
  • finishing his Chinese homework and
  • cutting them fruits for a balanced diet - yup, they've been a bit low on fruits this week!
he managed to complete 2 sets of Chinese composition worksheets, which involve filling in the blanks, matching exercises, lots and lots of rearranging words to form complete sentences and basic composition (picture-based). He balked at basic composition and some of the more challenging fill-in-the-blanks, whining that he could NOT do them. First, he was distracted by The Christmas Toy Factory (Geronimo Stilton, No. 27) and Thea Stilton and the Secret of the Old Castle: A Geronimo Stilton Adventure.

Second, his happy-go-lucky preschool sister was chatting and singing as she happily coloured and sketched out some fun stuff.

Of course, Tiger Mom would stand no such nonsense since his composition skills in English are perfectly fine. Armed with a Chinese dictionary and of course, a plastic clothes hanger (rapped on the dining chair) to ensure no wriggling, we managed to work out some new Chinese words and phrases. 

With a bit of encouragement and some weary "Good!" and "Go on...", he figured out some sentences and he could even complete a short passage with the required phrases.

Now, the rascal is enjoying some cartoons with his little sister while I have to fix dinner and get ready for school and work tomorrow! A few whisker-licking-good weeks ahead ;-)

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Pomegranates are shíliú?

Like all conscientious Moms around the world, I try to introduce a variety of healthy and nutritious foods to my kids. One of these are pomegranates, which were found plentiful one summer in China. Seeing how Jamie Oliver cut the fruit into half and whacked the pulpy seeds out with a wooden spoon, I put on a similar show for the kids :) They were most fascinated! Then, I put the pomegranate in one bowl, invited them to nibble off the pulpy flesh and then place the seeds in another bowl: pomegranates-and-seeds See the 3 seeds in the blue bowl? That's the beginning and the end of the story of the pomegranate. -_-

Monday, 13 January 2014

REVIEW: Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews

Happy New Year 2014! I know I'm a bit late but now's the only time I had to blog again.

Wow, I can't believe that it's been more than a year since I last blogged...

Anyway, I have been quite busy with various projects that involve reading, writing and of course, teaching. I hope that you were busy too reading and doing interesting things :)

To get off on the right start, I want to share with you about this special book I read to my toddler a few years back. 

Why is this book special?

"Ten Black Dots" by Donald Crews must have turned on a switch in my 3 year old toddler's mind or something because she picked up a pencil and drew the scene of the balloons flying away in the breeze!

I wish I'd kept that first picture she drew because it's so cute! She drew it from memory but her picture looks exactly like the page off "Ten Black Dots".

She didn't say anything to me about it - my son discovered the drawing and showed it to me. I was speechless and of course, thrilled to bits to see the cute little dots she drew along with the attached balloon strings :)

Since that day, she's been drawing and drawing and creating and creating...I'm saving almost every bit of her creations and still searching for that first drawing.

By the way, "Ten Black Dots" by Donald Crews, introduces the numbers 1-10 to preschoolers in a very creative manner.

Here's the blurb:
"What can you do with ten black dots? Just about anything! In this exciting, unique counting book, one dot can make a sun, two dots can make the eyes of a fox, and three dots can make a snowman's face. And that's just the beginning!"

If you're shopping for a toddler or a preschooler, you must add "Ten Black Dots" by Donald Crews to your book list. 

But this book from Amazon. Who knows what kind of magic can happen at your home or in your classroom?

Happy reading!