Month: September 2013

I Don’t Know What He Sees in Me

This morning around 5.30 AM, like every morning for the past two weeks, Isa got up from his floor bed. He made some sounds, letting us parents know that he was awake. 

He was looking for me, as usual.

He climbed onto our bed, climbed onto my body, put his head on my chest, and his little hands hugged my body. Then he fell asleep, his body on top of mine.

At times like that, I often wonder – what does this little human see in me that he needs me so much?

I am just a person, just like him. Trying to find my way, and have done a lot of things wrong – to him. I just happened to be his mother.

And he keeps forgiving, and coming back to me as if nothing happens. 

I know in Islam, mothers have an elevated status, that even if my son gets married, he still needs to obey me and put me as a priority. It is of an authentic narration from the Prophet that for my son(s), Paradise lies at one’s mother’s feet. Does it get me a sense of superiority? No. Not at all. Who cares if someone’s chances to go to Heaven is at my ‘feet’, when I myself am still struggling to arrive to its Gate safely?

Whenever he hugs me, looking for shelter at my chest as he always do – I am humbled.

Indeed, you can only guess what parenthood can do to you. 

 

 

 

Of Toys and Playing

A friend of mine commented on a photo of Isa I uploaded to Facebook, with the background of his basket of toys, saying that what a load of toys Isa has.

Image

Isa  examining the wheel of his walker.

Well, I have to say, Isa has collected a full basket or more of toys – and I always proudly make it clear to anyone who gives remark on the amount of Isa’s toys that more than half of them are not bought by us.

When Isa was around 4 months old, my boss offered me his daughters’ old toys. He thought that before his wife donated it somewhere else, he’d offer it to me first. I gladly accepted it – we knew that some playing equipment are necessary for Isa, but we are not to keen on purchasing a lot of them.

So the next day he brought two big bags of toys and books – all of those his daughters have outgrown. We were delighted. Well, since he is a senior manager, you don’t wonder why all the toys are Fischer-Price or Lamaze, and all of them are in a very good condition.

He, thankfully, spared us from having to shop for toys for nearly a year.

Many of our friends and families are generous too when it comes to gifting Isa with toys – which helps our budget greatly.

We did add a few items here and there, simple and less expensive ones when we feel necessary. When I noticed that Isa is in a phase where he reacts more to sounds and musics, we added some sound-producing toys, mostly the cheap ones. We have come to believe that a good toy is one that can be used creatively, and not just some press-one-button-and-we-are-done kind of products (which normally cost a bomb and have externality i.e. batteries!)

My best friend gave Isa a toy boat which comes with a few pieces of Mega Blocks for his birthday. Isa seemed to be able to grasp the skill of putting two blocks together and deconstructing them after a while, we went to get him a 74-piece big building block set (of unknown, cheaper brand). I am happy to observe that he has progressed to be more interested to actually build blocks rather than deconstructing it recently!

However, I have to agree, based on my still brief experience of mothering a child, with what Montessori has to say about toys. Children are really more interested with real-life, fully functioning daily items and not some mock-ups we got them i.e. toys.

At any time, a basket full of my cosmetics drawer items will get more of his attention than his shape-sorter.When I was in the kitchen for example, enticing him with his toys would definitely be in vain. He’d prefer some new containers he found in the kitchen, or analysing my spice racks, or digging through my pantry or (of course) looking for some novel treasures in my fridge.

They want reality – because they are learning life, and what to do with it. How to adapt with it, and what they have learnt by observing us, they would want to imitate it.

Nevertheless, as I am reading Montessori (for the time being, mostly self-directed) I know that some basic toys (or items) could be helpful. Many of them are wooden, and from my research and browsing through some toy shops, I’ve come to known of Melissa & Doug brand.

While their products are expensive (gulp!), I wanted to believe that they are a good investment (since we are planning to expand our family) should we choose the right ones. With this justification, I bought him Melissa & Doug Bead Maze, on 20% discount at Early Learning Centre outlet at Suria KLCC yesterday….fully-approved by the ever frugal husband.

There are a few things I am planning to do with regards to toys and Isa’s activities:

1. Sort them out (again), keep them organised, and rotate periodically. I will try to choose a few items of Isa’s interests and of those we can actually get him to do some activities with , perhaps for a week or two, while keeping away the rest. I have noticed that Isa lacks focus (he’d hold one ball only to release it when his eyes catch another item). This well help keeping his play area neat, which will make it easier for him to focus – though we are talking about a toddler with 30-second attention span.

2. Spend a screen-free time (aren’t smart phones addictive!) for playing with Isa intentionally. I am guilty, I know, when it comes to this but we are learning. Isa is learning from my behaviour and at the phase where he replicates and imitates everything that we do. As my husband puts it, it gives him a slight pressure playing with Isa, bearing in mind that he is there watching us, and learning from our moves, both positive AND negative.

3. Pick one book for a week and read to Isa nightly before sleeping. We received about two dozens good children books from my boss. Previously I put them together with the toys in the basket until I noticed that they gone out of radar – Isa barely picked them up. I put all the books in the study room (still awaiting a proper shelf), and will pick one a week as said. I started doing it two nights ago, and last night, after we changed Isa into his pajama, he picked the book from our bedside table and asked to be read to. Is not that wonderful?

Since it was a ABC picture book rather than a story book, I made up stories based on the pictures shown (There is an APPLE, it’s red, on a bench. Suddenly a BUTTERFLY flies and sits on it, trying to eat it while a CAR came by…). Suffice to say that Isa loves it. I think it also works as a comforting ritual, as he falls asleep easier after the session.

I’d share for my record how Isa’s play area looks like now and after my reorganisation.

Isa playing mechanic, working on his push walker. Never thought it could be played this way!

Isa playing mechanic, working on his push walker. Never thought it could be played this way!

Till then, keep playing!

Stop Shopping, Start Saving (More)

ImageI have mentioned long before here, that I was on abaya-shopping hiatus until June 2013. Well, I have to say I did make it. Unfortunately, from June 2013 up to now, I have five new abayas in my closet. Five. Luckily, after that five I have no desire for a new abaya now – but dear God, help me – I am still craving for some new hijabs! 

Yesterday I received my yearly bonus letter. As shameful as it is, I have to admit that I was really looking forward to this one. The reason is that we (my husband and I) have a huge financial target to meet by mid next year.

Though every one knows that since the commodity price was low last year we should expect less of a bonus this year – it is still quite disappointing to see the figures. Can’t say that I am not. While before I thought that receiving this bonus will significantly help us to achieve that target, now it hits me real hard that hey, something really needs to be done! 

For me this target is not just a target – it affects my life significantly as I have somehow charted and planned my life around this. Not that I am rigid that way, but I really, really desire this I know I must work hard at making sure it happens.

And that includes doing what is called ‘properly saving and frugally spending’.

While we are both saving 20% of our household monthly income, I need to make sure that fund is not tapped at any point (God’s willing)  in the next 9 months – which some times happened in the past because of our ad hoc travelling (mostly suggested by me), huge spending on household items and Isa’s clothes (also suggested by me, mostly for my own convenience, but Isa is growing up it’s no excuse). 

Well, I guess now that I can picture my future disappointment of not achieving that goal, I have drawn a basic action plan (I’m pretty sure my husband doesn’t need this, he’s allergic to the word ‘buying’ itself:

1. No new abaya. No new hijab;

2. Prepare home-cooked meals as frequent as I can – that entails perhaps waking up much earlier to prepare them;

3. On Food: Waste not, want not. Start with inventorying my pantry to make sure that we don’t have expired items unconsumed, or buying too much;

4. Start to religiously record my spending – well, I have not passed this basic step mind you;

5. Stop buying expensive gifts – not that I do very frequently but I am generous that way some times;

6. No more expensive skincare and cosmetics for the time being. Stick with what I have now, pretty sure they will last until June next year 😛 

I think that’s it for now. 

Phew!! My husband must be so proud to see me all geared up like this. Hahaha.

Breakfast with the CEO

Last two weeks I received an exclusive invitation to have breakfast with the CEO of the company I am working for along with other 6-7 employees. As my company is huge with more than 100,000 employees in 20+ countries around the world, I could not help but feeling honoured to be selected (though the basis of selection was, well, unknown).

The session was scheduled to be in the morning, and to attend it would require me to tweak the logistics a bit – and my husband was alright with that.

So I RSVP.

Only to cancel it just the day before the session.

You see, I told my husband, I’d like to attend so that I can directly ask the CEO on a few matters, work flexibility issue is one of them. I’d like to know his take on this, since the company does not seem to move towards offering more flexibility in terms of working time and location which I perceive is very much needed by many mothers working in the company.

And of course, for some, the opportunity is something they could be proud of – I’ve seen some of my friends posting their photos with the VP this and that of their companies on Facebook (though I really could not fathom why).

But I let go of the opportunity, simply because:

1. I resent the idea of having to leave Isa earlier to have a breakfast with some man who is not even aware of my existence before. To attend this session, I was supposed to leave at 6.45 AM latest (because it starts at 7.30 AM!). That’s like 1 hour earlier than usual;

2. My husband said he could drive Isa to the creche, so that means he didn’t have a pressing need to be in his office much earlier – which entailed the fact that we can actually travel together to work today instead of commuting separately. And I will never be able to resist spending more time with him (despite in massive traffic) unless I really have to;

3. I just hate protocols – and believe me there will be though it says that the session is going to be informal. We live in a country we some people will demand a correction for any title missed out on a damn memo (and Malaysian’s CEO has a lot of titles in front of their names).

I didn’t even care to reschedule though the organiser allows me to – I don’t think a good meal at an award-winning restaurant will ever beat the pleasure of seeing my son smiles in the morning. Full stop.

Stepping Out of the Rush

I totally agree with this now!

I totally agree with this now!

Image from :http://makingtheworldcuter.com/2012/07/happy-kids/

I knew at the back of my mind there is always something wrong, something so incorrect about ways I deal and interact with my son sometimes. It was not until I read this article, specifically this paragraph that that ‘something’ can finally be verbalised:

Don’t jump in too quickly. “Resist the temptation to always take over and do it yourself to save time and frustration,” says Goldstein. Too much intervention can be just as detrimental as leaving your child to her own devices; it undermines her confidence and makes her reticent to strike out on her own in other scenarios. Parents often jump in when they’re crunched for time. If you know your child is going to insist on wriggling into her own pants before you go out for the day, build in some extra time to let her give it a try. However, if your child is truly heading for a meltdown, step in and offer instructive help. If she can’t get her foot to the end of her pant leg, say “Sitting down may help,” and guide her to a chair.

http://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/discipline/improper-behavior/toddlers-declaration-of-independence/?page=3

Trust me when I say, as moms, 24 hours given each day is never enough. The to-do list of a homemaker is never-ending. It is one after another. Every Saturday morning I wake up with a list of things to do: laundry, then sweeping the floor, then prepare breakfast, feed Isa, clean the table and kitchen…you know the drill.

And often, with a curious little kid like Isa around me who’d like to join me in every single thing I do, things progress slower.

When the perfectionist side of me emerged, and the urge to cross the items on my to-do list become uncontrollable, I had to just, as described in that article, jump in. I know it is so ‘wrong’ – I am selfish in that way I feel.

Instead of letting Isa learning to feed himself, I feed him because it is much quicker, with less messy outcomes.

Instead of allowing Isa to enjoy his bubble time in the bath tub on weekends, I let him take shower instead to save time.

Instead of giving him the opportunity to walk by himself, letting him wander freely before getting to the car, I’d choose carrying him to make sure we get to the car quickly.

I am always rushing. And not only that it is not healthy for me, it is never the right thing for Isa too.

It does not help either that most of the advice that I receive from seasoned mothers include stuff like: ‘Why don’t you just put him on a bouncer and let him watch the TV while you do the house chores?’, ‘If I were you I would not let him hold his own glass to drink – save me time from cleaning and having to change his wet shirt later’. While I am pretty comfortable with the way I parent, at moments it still bothers me.

Maybe I should join the ‘slow parenting’ movement.

****

I have to say I was enlightened when I came to read the book ‘You are Your Child First Teacher‘. While I am still far away from finishing it, reading Chapter 2 of the book gives me a new light to everything.

I know it does sound bad when I said it like this to my husband: I don’t know if I can stand staying at home full time with my children. I doubt even with being with them 24/7 I could be a better parent – I doubt that all the time spent together would be  quality time. 

As much as I love to be their first teacher, or even homeschool them, all the chores need to be done still. On many days that I took a break to be with Isa alone at home I was always occupied – there are laundry to settle, cleaning to do, meals to prepare..and with all those  I did wonder if staying at home will ever allow me to read more books to Isa, to play intentionally with him, or do other ‘enriching and educational’ activities.

And it was not until I read this I began to see things differently.

‘A second factor in the difficulty of being home with young children is our focus on the child instead of on “the work” of homemaking, which has largely disappeared through prepackaged foods and all our labour-saving devices. Modern life simply doesn’t support what young children need, which is to see us doing work that involves movement. What they actually see us doing isn’t satisfying to them. As a result, they seem to demand more attention, when in fact they are asking to observe us doing “real work” that involves movement and transformation of materials – something they can both share in and imitates in their play.

‘She (Jean Liedloff) says in her article,”Being played with, talked to, or admired all day deprives the babe of this in-arms spectator phase that would feel right to him. Unable to say what he needs, he will act out his discontentment. This is the attention-getting behaviour parents interpret as needing more attention when in reality, the child just wants parent to take charge of adult life, because the child needs to see a life in order to imitate it!’

*****

You could say that these are nothing but a speculation. They are nothing but theories on how the little minds work. But this explanation and justification satisfy me in many levels.

First, the guilt – the ‘something is wrong’ feeling that I had is validated.  I began to realise that I was subscribing to the idea of dichotomous responsibility of a homemaker cum mother – to keep the house clean and do other house chores  AND to educate the children, while in actuality,doing house works could be a learning opportunity too for the children, perhaps the most important lesson of all.

Second, it blots out the need for me to rush through things in the effort to make more time for ‘enrichment and educational’ activities with my son. It just make it unnecessary anymore when peeling onions, sorting out the laundry, folding the clothes, or sweeping the floor is far more enriching for my little man.

Ah, am I not thankful for the book?

A Walk Down the Memory Lane

“It was only high school after all, definitely one of the most bizarre periods in a person’s life. How anyone can come through that time well adjusted on any level is an absolute miracle.”
― E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly

My husband’s ex-housemate was getting married. We were invited to his wedding, at his hometown on the south of the country about 4 hours away, and we gladly accepted the invitation. Since the wedding was on a Sunday of a long weekend (we celebrated Malaysia Day on Monday, hence public holiday), I suggested that we spend a night at Malacca, which is practically halfway of the journey to Batu Pahat, where the hometown of his friend is.

Malacca is an amazing place to visit, being one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are plenty of attractions that will suit Isa in Malacca, but equally important is the chance for my husband to visit his Alma mater – his former secondary school.

My husband cited, as many would testify of the same thing about their high school years, that this is the place where he found himself, where his identity was built, where he learnt about life. That is a highly significant in anyone’s life, and the chance for me to step onto this place gives me a strange feeling. The feeling of looking at years when we were separate and unknown to each other, and none of us would have thought that some day our paths may cross – that’s the best I could describe that weird feeling.

His school was a private school, which during his time was open for selected students on scholarships. We often joke that he grew up in a very secular (by this, we actually mean very westernized atmosphere) surrounding, something he should be very ashamed of – as compared to my more religious Government-funded school.

Nevertheless, as he puts it – being rebellious in a ‘secular’ school means he chose to head to other direction by having the inclination towards religion. This place was a part of him, that made him who he is now, that made him into a person I fall in love with.

10 years ago he might have never thought that someday he’d bring his own son to this place, but here he is. Here they are – both of them – father and son.

My C25K Week 1 Summary

Day 1 Week 1 (9 Sept 2013)

Went running for the first time. On a treadmill, also the first time. Thought that I could use my downloaded apps – but apparently it was deleted by – guess who – my son Isa. Accidentally of course. So I tried running-brisk walking intervals at my own pace. I think mostly I am underestimating myself. My heart rate did not escalate much (mind you I have a pretty low heart rate) – so next time I’m going to try running and walking at higher speed.

I ran 22:46 minutes, 2.01 km – no inclination.

Day 2 Week 1 (11 Sept 2013)

I feel girly already. Thank you.

Another day. Used the re-downloaded apps, managed to run 30 minutes (as suggested by c25k) and for a longer distance of nearly 2.5km. Briskwalking speed at 5.5-6 km/h, running at 7km/h with zero inclination. My 10-year-old Nike shoes were torn, asked husband to buy me a new, cheaper pair from Bata shop at his workplace, but he said he didn’t have the time.

Went back home to a new girlish pinkish pair – he made an additional trip to the shoe shop before going home, I’m so touched!

By the way, I already feel the change – I am no more having sore back – you know, all the aching that previously won’t go away even with some good, one-hour professional massage. But my legs need a bit more time to acclimate to this change, but they are doing well. Husband is not complaining either for having to rub them nightly.

Day 3 Week 1 (13 Sept 2013)

The gym was practically empty when I came so I had no urge to rush. For the past two sessions I wanted to secure the treadmill in the Ladies Section of the Gym (I’d like to run with hijab off) – changed to my gym attire and started running.

Completed 30 minutes, distance 2.55km.with 1.5% inclination. Briskwalking speed 5km/h, jogging speed 7-8km/h. I think 8km/h worked well for me on this first week – given that I only have to run for 1 minute straight.

Feel really good – though I confess I am pretty breathless at the end of that 30 minutes.

One nice poster in my office gym.

One nice poster in my office gym,