Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Universal Studio Singapore

I am not a fan of theme park. Neither is Mr O. But the trip to USS was long overdue. So we relented. For the kids. Finally, last Friday we brought the kids there.
The obligatory pose. The reluctant posers.

I bought the ticket online. Paid and printed before the trip. Bought the normal ticket coz I am a cheap skate mommy. Entry was a breeze. Easy peasy. The tickets can be used for multiple entry. Just in case u need to go in and out. And again we were blessed with good weather. It was a beautiful day. The only time it rained was when we were having lunch.
And the crowd was bearable. Most of the times, there was no long queue. The only long queue for us was The Canopy Flyer Ride. And there was The Lake Spectacular at night every Friday. So kids got to end their day with spectacular fireworks.

So here is the map of the whole place.
The map taken from here.

 So where to go first?? Plan, plan, plan. Think, think, think. Me in my over-analyzing over-thinking mode.

The first stop was The Sci-Fi City. Since there was not many people yet, we went for The Battlestar Galactica Ride. 
At 38yo, me & Mr O finally decided that we cannot stomach this kind of entertainment anymore. So this ride was officially our last roller coaster ride. EVER. Hajar & Luqman had a blast. They rode both the red & blue ride. And begged me for more. Emily didn't like it.
And Medina stayed outside enjoying her popcorn and the view.
The next stop was Ancient Egypt. Luqman & Hajar went for The Mummy Revenge. Another roller coaster. The rest of us opted for the more boring milder for the soul "The Treasure Hunt".
Me; Medina, turn around. I want to take your picture.
She; I cannot ummi. I need to focus. I am driving.
And the thing moves automatically. LOL!! :)

Next was The Lost World. We forgo the Rapid Adventure coz the queue was long and it looks like something from Sunway Lagoon Theme Park ;)
I was hesitant to let Medina ride the Canopy Flyer. But the description said it is suitable for the kids. The staffs measured her height twice to make sure she exceeded the minimum height limit. I "reckoned" it should be mild since kids are allowed. So I accompanied her. Me, who supposed to be the one who protect her and console her when she is scared. She was falling asleep. So I was worried she would scream her heart out. Out of fear. Fear of height. Like ME!!!!! So I hold her hand and told her...it's just like flying Ina...don't worry. She always want to fly. Any flying objects fascinates her.

Then the ride started. And the height just freaked me and made me sick to the stomach. And I squeezed her hand so hard, and closed my eyes. While my 4yo's face started to light up. And her eyes got brighter and bigger as the ride got faster. She was squealing with delight and excitement.
This is how the thingy looks like okay. Obviously I was too freaked to take picture. 
The picture was from here.

The Indonesian lady whom we met on our way out from the ride was in disbelief when she found out Medina rode the thing. Yes madam, I can't believe it either. Talk about kids and their fearlessness. Pfffftttt!!! :P

The Waterworld show. 
Hajar was sulking coz we refused to sit at the wet section. Can't have everything your way okay?? ;)

We enjoyed the show. Despite the real movie being a flop ;) Lots of fire, smoke and splashes of water. Pretty entertaining. 
Welcome to Far, Far Away Land. By the time we reached here, I have learned my lesson. So I brainwashed Medina not to ride the Dragon Ride ;) Supposed to be a very mild roller coaster ride but I ain't risking myself for any topsy-turvy ride anymore.

The Shrek 4-D show was awesome. Don't miss it. We watched Donkey Live too.
Donkey asked for volunteers. First it was a boy. Then they asked a girl. But she refused. Guess who raised her hand and waved frantically to replace the girl?? ;) It's probably the adrenaline rush from all those rides that gave her the sudden surge of confidence. Talking to the donkey was probably her best part of the trip ;)

The rest of the park were Madagascar, Hollywood and New York. More rides and more shows.
Ms Zelda riding the zebra. 

USS at night

Waiting for The Lake Spectacular. Those rare moments where I managed to snap a photo with Mr O. 
I literally have to pull his head to get him into the shot. So romantic. NOT!!!
The Lake Spectacular.

To be honest, I was skeptical at first. Due to the mixed review on internet about USS. But after 1 day inside the park, I have to say it was really awesome for the kids. There was a great balance between stuffs that older kids and younger kids can do at each section. There was ample choices of halal restaurants too. The staffs were very helpful and efficient. And for those who are wondering about the prayer room, there is one right after the entrance. Inside the Guest Service Office. So I guess the trip was great. It was worth every penny. (Right Mr O??? hahahahaha)

So there u go. Been there. Done that. Checked.

School holiday and a short getaway.

I don't know about u, but school holiday has always been very tiring for me. Maybe for a good reason but still...there seems like I have more stuffs to do, more stuffs to think about, more stuffs to worry about than school days. So far, it has been really B-U-S-Y.

The school holiday started with Emily performing in Vibrante's School of Music Gala Concert on 19th Nov.
The ensemble has grown in size. There are few additional young violinists. And 2 young cellist. The cellist is about Medina's age. So naturally, I start having visions of Medina playing the cello. Only to be crushed by Mr O's poker face...hahahaha.

On Monday, the kids went to SORE Nature Camp organized by YAWA in IBD & Kuala Gandah, Pahang. I "think" they had a blast. Coz they can't stop talking about it. They did some work with the bats and elephants. And predictably, somebody didn't bathe for 3 days. Errrkkk???? The excuse was there were so many people. There were almost 100 participants this time. And some students from Indonesia. But there was no pictures. Zilch. None of them bring the camera. Despite the constant reminders from the mother. The only pictures I got was from YAWA FB page.
They came back on Wednesday evening. And we headed to Johor right away. Thank God the traffic was smooth. Took us 3 hours to reach JB.

The first part was the trip to Singapore. I was worried of the rain (due to the monsoon season) and the crowd (due to school holiday). And thankfully the 2 days we were in Singapore, it was a really good day. No rain. Only slight drizzle. And the sun was kind to us. So it was a perfect weather to be out and about. And the crowd was acceptable. Maybe because it was a working day. Bliss ;)
Perfect weather. Subhanallah ;)

The first thing on the agenda was the Singapore Zoo. One of kids' favorite place on earth. Medina has been talking about the zoo for weeks. We love this place. Kids never get bored of it ;) There are just soooo many things u can do. The animals, the shows, the water play, the park, the boat ride, the play ground etc etc etc.
I love the synergy between the animals. It's the closest u can get to seeing them in the wild. Well, at least to me and the kids ;)

The shows were great too. This time around we were more relaxed since we have watched most of the shows before. Nevertheless, work your schedule around the shows. Kids will love it ;)
This time around, we managed to watch The Animal Friends Show. It's great that most of the animals in show are stray animals who were saved by the zoo. They did a great job educating the kids about taking care of animals and pets. Never keep an animal that u r not willing to keep until they die.
The 2 siblings who have been dying to touch a dog. And finally got the chance to do it. Do u notice the bonding between Luqman and the dog?? He was  so proud of it ;)
The park is great. Kids had a blast. Especially the cable ride. And surprisingly, Medina was very bold to do most stunts on her own. She kept telling Mr O who couldn't help to be the protective father..."I can do this on my own abah!!"
If u wish to cool down, bring along the swimming suit. It's actually a nice break after a long day in the zoo.

After almost 6 hours in the zoo. Pooped out ;)

After the zoo, we went to Orchard Road. Thought of shopping. But I was too knackered. So we just had dinner, chilled and soaked up the Xmas atmosphere.
Can't help not to feel jolly. Feels so Xmassy ;)

But I have to say the highlight of the day was finding the mosque right smack in Orchard Road. Took us a bit of asking here and there to find the place. We finally found it right opposite of Paragon. From the outside I was imagining it to be a shabby run down place. I was so wrong!!!
It is a very well maintained contemporary mosque. Complete with a library that is interesting enough to get all my kids hooked there. The range of books are pretty diverse. Not just religious books. And contemporary. It reminds me of the mosque in Aussie.
What a gem. Of all the times I have been there, I never know the place exist. It's truly a case of don't judge the book by it's cover ;)

After dinner, we called it a day. The end of Day 1. So exhausted. But kids were happy. That is what matters most.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The insanity of expectations and validation.

2 years ago, I had my first taste of the insanity of our education system. When Luqman was sitting for his UPSR, it was so stressful for me. Before, during and after. So I learned my lesson. This year, when Hajar sat for her UPSR, I was more sober. And I brainwashed her from the very beginning. On what matters most.

There were so much brouhaha over it that it's so easy to get lost in the madness and forget the whole purpose of education in the first place. It begins right after Year 5 ended. Before they even enter Year 6. Teachers will start talking differently to the kids.

"You can't fool around anymore now'
"Stop fooling around"
"It's UPSR year!!"

Parents will start talking differently too. And grandparents and aunties and uncles too. It's like the only thing that interest the world now is the exam. The UPSR. It's not about you anymore. And it doesn't matter if you are good at something else. It's the number of A's that u get that matter most.

They will start with "How are you?"
Then..."Are you ready for the exam?"
"Sure can get 5As?"
"Do you think you can get 5As??"
"Sure can right???"

So this will go on and on until the result is out in November. Those who get 5A's will be ecstatic. I think to some kids, relief is a more appropriate word. There is so much at stake. The teachers' KPI. The headmaster's KPI. The school's KPI. The parent's reputation. The family's reputation. The minister's KPI. etc etc etc. In the end, it's no longer about the kid.

For those who didn't get 5A's, that will be a different story. During Luqman's time, it was so crazy. Maybe because there were more students in government school. So the drama was more intense. The boys were crying, the girls were sobbing. Like it was doomsday and their whole world just crushed. When I was in school last week to take Hajar's result, it was not so bad. There were still crying and sobbing, but not as bad as what I saw in Luqman's school. Maybe because there were fewer students. Hence less drama.

Then we tried hard to console the vanquished. While our body language says the opposite.

"It's OK. Try harder for your PMR"...(oh puhleezz....another exam???? u kidding??? )
"It's OK. You already tried your best"...(a-ha?? u sure?? after all those brouhahaha??)
"I love u and I am proud of u regardless of your result"...(hmmm....u sure??)

Don't get me wrong. I did some of these crazy things too. When I found out Hajar's result, I started blabbering my pearl of wisdom. It's the mother's knee jerk reaction. I just need to protect my girl. Making sure she's not hurt. Luckily Mr O was there. And every time I opened my mouth, he would nudge me to shut me up. Sometime, silence is better. Just let it be. We should just let the kids digest the whole thing by themselves. And I am just glad Hajar is taking it really well. To everybody's surprise. She even see the comical side of the whole thing.

How Tok Ayah started calling to console her. And then the grandma started calling. And then the uncles started calling too. Coz Tok Ayah made them called. To console her. And promise her they will give her something. Despite the 4A's. And Mr O's outrageous conspiration theory..."Oh u know, maybe they purposely raise the grade for science...to get their message across that Science should be taught in BM? Not English?"

Do you see the insanity of the whole thing?

And sadly the insanity will continue for the rest of their life....first with the exams.....UPSR, PMR, SPM....then it's about the college...what course are they taking?? medicine? law? engineering?? which university are they going? oversea? Ivy league?....then it moves on to where do they work? MNC?? what is their position??.....then it moves on to...."when are u getting married?"..."when r u having kids?"...and it goes on and on...sometimes to something more shallow...like what brand is your car? or your handbag? or where do u go for holiday? etc etc etc.

Today, Mr Paulo Coelho posted his FB status: "What makes people weak? Their need for validation and recognition."

So true.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

She's that girl I wanna be

Hajar turned 12 last Thursday. The birthday girl was sick throughout the weekend before her birthday. So did the birthday girl's mom. So there was definitely no big brouhahaha on the celebration. But we did celebrated. Bits and pieces. Here and there. And I guess my kids are used to it by now. As much as birthday being one of those special days, I strongly believed it shouldn't be overhyped and overrated. Let's keep it small and personal okay :)
Hajar always complain I didn't give her much attention. Didn't praise her when it's due. Didn't notice the good stuffs she has done. Didn't acknowledge the milestones she has achieved. Didn't express my love to her frequent enough. The list goes on. And on.

Well, she's quite right actually. In between me getting too overwhelmed attending the needier ones and juggling my study with housechores, she is always left on her own. There is always more urgent matters for me to attend to. Like the cranky dyslexic sister throwing tantrums...and throwing everything she can find in her room, or the grumpy little "diva" sister hollering to the world she needs somebody to play with her, or the hormone raging "I'm pissed with everybody" sulky teenage brother. Most of the times, Hajar has very little issues. Ironically, being a very good girl also means she will be overlooked most of the time. By me and Mr O. In our mad chaotic household.

I am not good in expressing myself. Probably that statement is too generous. The real truth is I am really crappy at it. Public display of affections make me cringe. And I can be very awkward in a relationship. Ain't good with people either. Sometimes, for an unfathomable reason, whenever it get too close and personal, I conciously distance myself from people. And ironically, Mr O is quite similar to me. Social misfit. Emotional retard. Who fits in with each other perfectly. So expressing feelings to my kids will not be natural. I google the net, scour the magazines and read voraciously to figure out how to express feelings, and make them feel loved. And it ain't easy. Bad habits die hard.

People always think she and Emily are twin. The teachers get confuse all the time. It annoys the hell out of her. They might look similar physically, yet so different personally.
Among my kids, she resembles me the most. She's so much like me. But a MILLION times better.
Like me, she's short (hahaha), talks a lot, hot headed, scatterbrain at times, extremely passionate, emotional, annoyingly idealist, very very loyal and a BIG dreamer. But unlike me, she is a confident young girl who is very comfortable being herself. At 12, all I wanna be is to be like everybody. To blend in and be accepted. I let others define what is best for me. Who I should be.
Hajar is very sure of herself. She has her doubts from time to time. But most of the time, she will listen to her heart and make her decision. Not by following her friends, or the crowd. But by being true to herself. It doesn't bother her that she's using a cheap phone or a cheap shoes. And that makes my heart swell with pride.

When she has to make a choice whether to be a school prefect or a librarian, she chose the latter because she like the job. Despite the former being a more popular choice among her friends. When I cried buckets because of Emily, she sneaked me a letter consoling me and promising me good stuffs to make me feels better. When she need to choose what extracurricular activities she will join, she conciously chose those that will allow her to comply with the religion most. Although she hasn't wear her hijab yet, she conciously make effort to be modest in her dressing. Without me telling. Like if her sleeves are too short, or the top too tight, she will cover herself with a jacket. When I felt so shitty and tired, she washed the dishes and cleaned up the table voluntarily. Many times, she effortlessly step up to be the mother whenever I am not around. (Though sometimes she can be really power crazy and over do it....hahahaha). Her tok ayah speaks very highly about her. How reliable and responsible she is with the siblings whenever I am not around. In a time of need, I know I can always count on her.
It's insanely important for me to raise my daughters to be true to themselves. Coz I know that low self esteem is a beast that will haunt u for life. Especially girls. You can mask yourself with Gucci and Prada and Chanel and the bling-blings, but u will never be good enough, or pretty enough, or acceptable enough. You lie to yourself constantly u r happy with yourself, u r okay, u feel great, but the truth is you never like that person u see in the mirror everyday. And I have been that person. And I thank God everyday that I am not that person anymore.

And I thank God for the opportunities to talk about these stuffs with her. For all the conversations that we had. About friends, best friends, friend she should be....friends she shouldn't be. About the struggle some of her friends go through. And the struggle that she go through. Self esteem. Break up in the family. Rich kids. Spoilt brat. Good girls. Boyfriends. Should she? Shouldn't she? Sexualization of girls. Hijab. Modesty. Being thankful. And grateful. Life purpose. etc.etc.etc.etc. And I pray for many more. Keep talking to me girl.

It's no coincident she was named after one of the greatest lady in history whose story of strong willness was relived every year during the "sa'ie" by every pilgrims during hajj. Every pilgrims perform "sa'ie", running or walking seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwah to re-enact the frantic search for water for her son Ishmael (a.s) by Hajar.

To me, Hajar Nadhirah simply means that girl I wanna be when I was 12. Happy birthday love. We love u LOTTTSS. U know that right??
Keep rocking the world!! ;)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Do we shun sinners?

Many people are outraged by the upcoming Seksualiti Merdeka. The festival to celebrate the human rights of lesbian, gays, bisexual and transgenders, LGBT. The latest news, the police has banned the festival.

Firstly, I do not support homosexuality. Because I am a Muslim. I may not be religious enough but I try my best to continue striving to be one. In my religion, homosexuality is forbidden. PERIOD. No gray area. Hence, I accept it as much as I accept some other stuffs that are beyond my logic. Wholeheartedly.

In the spirit of Haj and Eid-Adha, I'll give u some examples. It's like accepting the story of prophet Ibrahim a.s carried the order to slaughter his son without questioning. How can u justify slaughtering your own son?? Or why Muslim kiss the black stone "Hajar-ul-Aswad" during Haj. What is it with the stone? Or Muslims have to throw 7 pebbles in Mina as part of the Haj ritual.  Why just 7? Not 8 or 9 or 10? It's a case of total submission to God and having faith in Him. He knows best. I guess it's probably similar case in other religions too. Like how the Christian believes in Santa Claus.

There are so much debates to justify LBGT. I am fully aware of some scientific literature debating it could be genetic. My stand is it could be. If u can be born a lefties, or handicapped or mentally ill or autistic etc etc etc, why can't u be born homosexuals? Our genetic composition has millions of variations.  And lots of them remain a mystery to science.Then some would argue, how could it be? Life is so not fair. God is so cruel. But if u believe life in this world is transient, is a transit to somewhere eternal, life is a test, there is here after...then it will make sense. At least it makes sense to me. And that's how I try to explain to my kids. Hopefully it makes sense to them too. If not now, eventually. Everybody has his/her own life story. Your own individual journey. Finally all will lead u to The One and Only, Allah the Almighty.

I am writing this not to state my personal opinion on LBGT. I don't think that matters to u anyway. But I am writing this because I am disturbed with the reactions that I came across regarding the matter. From the straight people. The "holy" ones. A lot of people are very loud with their opinion. What irked me is not many offers solution. In fact, the only statement that I came across which at least offer some solutions was from Dr Asri. Regardless of whether the solutions are good, viable or not. It's still much better than the rest who are just bashing the group. Stating the obvious. Along the way, making them sound holier than the other. And create a huge barrier between them and "the sinners".

I am pretty sure they are talking as an outsider. If it affects them, or people they love, or people close to them, I bet they will have more respect articulating their thoughts. In fact, it's ironic for them to oppose something "unislamic" the "unislamic" way. It annoyed the hell out of me. Most of the remarks are pretty rude and derogatory. If u feel like talking about religion, at least walk the talk and be respectful will you????

All of us are sinners. So should we shun them, the LBGT? Because they are sinners? Rasulullah (pbuh) didn't shun the sinners. And u had no idea who is regarded higher by God in the hereafter. I am pretty sure everybody has heard of the following hadith.
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "A prostitute was forgiven by Allah, because, passing by a panting dog near a well and seeing that the dog was about to die of thirst, she took off her shoe, and tying it with her head-cover she drew out some water for it. So, Allah forgave her because of that."
This whole brouhahaha also remind me of Imam Suhaib Webb. In one of his recent lectures, he mentioned about the importance of not shunning the sinners. And the importance of mosque being the last hope for them. He told us a story about a gay who prayed in his mosque in US. The guy asked him "Can I pray in your mosque?' He said "Of course" Then he replied "But I am gay" And Imam Suhaib replied "That's between u and God. But u can pray in my mosque."

None of us can judge anybody. Part of the reason the group was established is to give them a platform to fight for their rights. To be respected. Whatever they do, it will never be justified to bully, discriminate, insult and disrespect them. Rasulullah (pbuh) reverted so many sinners by walking his talk. He was living his religion. By respecting people and being good. IMHO, banning the festival validates their objectives. The dire need for them to fight for their freedom. And make them popular than they could ever imagined. Ironic right? If we ban them from speaking up openly, can't we provide them another option? Surely somebody can do something. They just want to be heard. Everybody does anyway.

Don't just talk. Or post your comments on FB. Or update your status and share the links. Stop bitching. The world will be a much better place if everybody respect each other. And learn to agree to disagree amicably. Everybody can do something. Even a housewife like me. The least I can do is be respectful while being firm with my belief and not shun them. And teach my kids to do the same. Come on people!! Do good, be good and make the world good.