Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ms Zelda the Zebra had a rough day today.

Medina has been practising for few weeks for her year end school concert in October. Her group is doing 2 performances. A song and a play. For the play, she plays the lead role Zelda the zebra. So nowadays her name is Medina Zaharah Zelda Rapunzel Relly. Don't ask me where Relly comes from.
For somebody who spent her whole 1st year in the kindergarten in mute mode, that is quite a surprise to us. And the fact that little missy is such a chatterbox at home really perplexed me. Anyway, she has decided to start talking this year. Only God knows why. But really soft spoken demure "perempuan melayu terakhir" kind of talking. And when she reach home, she will conveniently switch to the "not so demure" mode. PPG mode.

Back to the play. I am not sure why the teacher chose her for the lead role. Maybe she's talented. OR maybe because she's quite and well behaved in class, it's a less riskier and more reliable choice. Knowing how erratic the kids can be on concert day, it will be helpful to have a reliable lead actor. Since I am her mother, and I love her to bitsss...I would love to believe it's the former than the latter....hahahaha.

Anyway she has been diligently practising. In fact, a bit too diligent. Apparently Zelda is a zebra who lost her stripes. So some nights when she's really hyped up and extra motivated, ummi and abah has to stay up and wait until Zelda finish practising the whole play....zzzZZZZZzzzz. If she's not satisfied with any part, she will go back right to the start. Talk about being perfectionist. Definitely not my gene.

Anyway, I have noticed that ever since she become Zelda, she's quite emotional. And she's more expressive. Which is good really...but the emotional outburst is becoming more frequent too. It's like suddenly her emotional floodgate has opened. Or should I say, burst BIG time?? So they say it's terrible twos...troublesome what is four?? emotional four???  Maybe the play is making my drama queen a tad too expressive?? Whatever it is, I do hope this is transitional.

Today she had a tough time from me. She overdosed herself with Tangled, PPG and a few TV shows in the morning. Too much screen time. Very bad for kids. Yes I know ;(

Then she asked me for the ipad, and I asked her to do her Quran reading first. That is when all hell break loose and Ms Zelda the Diva decides to annoy her mommy and shows her mommy who's the boss. Well....too bad my dear...because your mommy is equally stubborn. So I totally ignored her. Which pissed her off big time. I need to pick up Luq & Hajar from the Quran class, and she was crying and sobbing and crying and sobbing all the way. Which break the brother and sister's heart. But I sternly told them to stay out of the way. So she cried, and cried, and said sorry and fell asleep.
So angelic looking right?? ahakssss....I think she learned her lesson. She better do. Ummi is the boss okayyyy. And u don't throw tantrum to get things your way. It just doesn't work that way in this house.

We are entering the last 10 days of Ramadhan. It has been quite tiring for me. And I guess the kids too. But I am pretty happy with the efforts made by everybody. Hopefully we will continue with the change. Change for the better. May all of us be given the strength to excel in the last 10 days and find Lailatul Qadr. InsyaAllah. Everybody has been good helping me out with the chores too.Which is really a blessing to me.
My dearest Hajar helping me with the roti jala yesterday. Actually not bad at all for a first timer. Mr O even teased her...hmmm...can get married already lah....much to her disgust...hahahaha.

Have a good weekend :)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The ipad learning apps we love.

I have to admit I was very reluctant in the beginning to fall prey to Apple's marketing ploy. Having done marketing before, I am just weary of the hype surrounding all the i's...iphone, ipod, ipad, i-whateverrr....

But then I started reading more and more on how schools are using the apps to help students. And I managed to convince Mr O that it might be a good tool to help kinesthetic learner like Emily. So few months after having the ipad around, I am pretty happy that it is functioning much2 more than a game console.

So here are some of the learning apps that Emily used a lot. It makes learning much more fun for her.

1. Rocket Maths
Emily has certain degree of dyscalculia. She is still struggling with the 4 basic operations. She will remember today and forget tomorrow. The app helps her practise the same thing again and again, in a more exciting way.

2. Story Builder
This app is designed for autistic kids. Emily struggles with comprehension and composition. The app helps her articulate her thoughts. Hopefully, eventually it will improve her writing and comprehension skill.

3. Brain Pop
This is great for general knowledge. But I have to admit the biggest fan for this app is Medina. So if she starts talking to u why scientifically teenagers have mood swing, u know where she gets all those info from.

4. Solar Walk
A very interactive app to learn about the solar system.
 5. myQuran
This app is great for her recitation. Though we need to push her to do it more. But even for others, the app has quite nice translation and great information for us to understand the context of each surah.
 6. Telling time
Another app to help her with maths.

Then there are apps that Medina enjoys a lot. If u r looking for apps for preschoolers, check these apps out. I personally think kids nowadays are so lucky to have all this technology that make learning so fun.

7.  Abata Hijaiyah
Great app to teach kids the hijaiyah basics before they recite Quran. The apps teach them how to read and write. Pretty cool. Saves me the trouble of doing the flash card ;)
Medina doing her iqra' with the app. I have to admit it is very convenient because she can self learn. But it also makes the session more fun.

8. Cake Maestro.
The 3D app allow your budding junior master chef create their own cake.
 9. Cupcake maker
Ahaksss....another cooking app. Yeahhh.....the result of hanging around with your mom in the kitchen too much ;) Just bear with her when she start talking to you about bicarbonate soda and vanilla essence...hahahaha.
 10. My Drawing Book
Great drawing app. Saves you the trouble of buying the drawing paper and cleaning up the mess that comes with drawing. I am not saying this replace the actual drawing, but it's pretty nice to occupy them on the go.
 11. iWrite
Writing and spelling for beginners.
 12. Hello Colour Pencil
Another drawing app she's crazy about.

 13. Talking Ben
I found this app quite annoying. But she loves it. If I ask her to read her Quran, she will start asking Ben whether she should do it or not. Luckily, most of the time the stupid Ben says YES ;) If Ben says NO, repeat the question again until he says YES....hahahaha

 14. Talking Tom
Another annoying talking app ;)
So there you go. Of course there are more cool apps like Garage Band, National Geographic, ebooks etc etc etc. And many2 more games too. You just have to balance the game apps and the learning apps to prevent the gadget ending up being another game console. What's your favorite apps? Would really love to know especially those apps for bigger kiddos...elementary, middle and high school :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

The young Avicenna turn 14.

My dearest Luqman turned 14 on Tuesday. I first came across the name Avicenna in an old MCKK annual magazine many2 years back while killing my boredom flipping through my brother's old school magazines. Yes, budak koleq memang ada banyak fancy2 name ;) 

And for some reason the name stucked in my mind. And when I was pregnant with my first child, that was the first name that come to my mind. Mr O thought the name is too fancy, and we need to "malaynize" the name a bit......hence the addition of Luqman coz that was my favourite surah when I was pregnant. Then my dad insisted his first grandson carry the name of the great Rasulullah. So that is how the young man end up with quite a long name, Muhammad Luqman Avicenna.

Until today, people still ask him, and me... who is Avicenna. And some pronounced it Avi-"cina". And the fact that he look a bit Chinese makes it more comical. Avicenna is the Latin name of Ibn Sina.
George Sarton called Ibn Sina “the most famous scientist of Islam" and one of the most famous of all races, places, and times.”  He is considered by many to be “the father of modern medicine.”  
His students called him "leader among the wise men". Due to his immense contribution in geology, he is also considered to be the father of geology. He is regarded as the most famous and influential polymath of Islamic Golden Age. A nice recollection of his early life and how he became a polymath can be read from here
Other famous polymath include Phytagoras, Archimedes, Al-Khawarizmi, Al-Ghazali, Newton, Galileo, Leonardo da Vinci etc etc etc.The similarities between these great minds is their hard work, passion and self motivation to learn new things. When advised by his friends to slow down and take life moderately, Avicenna refused, stating that: "I prefer a short life with width to a narrow one with length".  
So anyone can be a polymath if you have the will. And history has shown again and again, greatness is at peak when these people were at their young age. By the age of 10, Avicenna knew by heart the whole Qur'an and other available Persian and Arabic literature. By the time he was 16, he had mastered all the sciences of his day and was well-known as a practicing physician. There are other great young people. Salahuddin Al Ayubi, the young men in suratulKahfi, the great Sultan Mahmud al-Fateh, the young people of Egypt who brought down the reign of Hosni Mubarak etc etc etc.

I am writing this at the time when the world is nervously watching London destroyed by the senseless rage of their youth. Watch this and this and you will understand what I mean. Their perspectives are so twisted. They think to get their points across they have to resort to violence. I am still perplexed by what's happening in London. And deeply troubled too. How do they grow up becoming a hooligan?? a monster??

Yesterday, I got summoned by MPSJ for illegal parking. Yeahhh...parking in Monash can be crappy. But I am not whining. I find it easier to park illegally. Serves me right. But what annoys me is the love note that accompanied the summon. In my caffeine deprived state and sheer exhaustion, it took me a while to comprehend the stooopid note. It says;  "HAHA...SUCKS TO BE YOU!!!"
I am assuming it's written by one of the uni students. The "youth". Leader of the next generation. 

What kind of person rejoice in other's mishap? How can u have such a sick sense of humor????? WT&!@#$%??? Go clorox your mindset plssss.....pfffttt!!!      
Youth can be destructive or constructive. Oprah thinks you’re never too young to change the world. The kids of her Angel Network are proving that's true. And while writing this post, I am listening to Imam Suhaib Webb and some others discussing on how youth can make a difference in this world by focusing on being good. Being good and making the world good in general and not be obsessed with labeling yourself with religion. e.g there are many Muslim hip hop artists. But they don't really have to tell the whole world  they are Muslim. That is secondary. What is more important is the message they are getting across. Same goes with sport. Hakeem Olajuwon, Mesut Ozil and many2 more. Focus on being the best in whatever field that you choose to pursue.  

Parenting kids, especially teenagers and youth is hard. Especially now.At the age where everything is fast and just "a google click away". It produces a generation with very low patience threshold and think everything has a short cut. The cut & paste, reblog& retweet, tumblr generation. Everything need to be fast. And parents get sucked in into hyper-consumerist mentality and provide the kids more than what kids use to have 10,20 years ago. Much2 more. So the kids never knows how it's like to have less, to appreciate litle2 things in life. And access to media is sooo easy peasy and kids are bombarded with information from everywhere. It can be really confusing to sieve through all the informations and decide right, wrong and normal.

So suddenly, the parent's statement "When I was your age, I....." becomes so irrelevant (and annoying). Things are not the same. I am still learning. I pray I will be guided. And my kids will be guided.

So dude, my dearest Avicenna....happy birthday to u!!!!! 
Just remember with great name, comes great responsibility....ahakssss.....pressureeee....kidding lotss...hahaha....we love you. BTW, I love this poem a lot. U probably do not have much patience to read the whole darn thing, but for goodness sake please read it at least once okayyyyy. READ. Kinda sums up what I want to say to u ;) 

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)  

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master,
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Bliss, bless, blasé....

It's the 6th day of Ramadhan. So far so good. Lots of improvements to make, but lots of improvement made too. It has always perplexed me how it's sooo much easier to kick my butt to do some stuffs in Ramadhan...stuffs that I have been postponing to do, or the stuffs that sit on my resolution list and remain a thing to do for years, or stuffs that I can never get myself consistently do and make it a habit.

I guess that's the blessing of Ramadhan. Everybody has their own demon to fight. Which is why we should never judge anybody. Sometimes, by doing certain stuffs, we tend to feel holier, holier than people who don't. Ramadhan is about us getting to know ourselves, and getting connected to the creator. And in the process, becomes a better person and achieve taqwa. It is a personal journey for everybody. With all due respects, keep your personal comments and judgments to yourself.

I love the Ramadhan lifestyle. Sleep early, rise early. Get home early, have dinner with family, eat sparingly, and sparing some time feeding the soul suddenly becomes a bigger priority amidst the hecticness of our life. But why only in Ramadhan? Why we don't go to the mosque, do as much sunat prayers as we can, read more Quran, try to be good, be more productive etc etc etc in other months? Doesn't it look a bit hypocrite?? People says it took 21 days to make or break a habit. Then why is it so difficult to continue the Ramadhan lifestyle for the rest of the year? I honestly don't know. I am guilty too.

I found that the concept of Ramadhan is not an easy thing to teach the kids. To differentiate the culture and the religious practise. To get them to understand the core of the practise. To spiritually find their way to get closer to God. And eventually for them to be blessed and feel blissful. The best way for them to learn is to experience it. Which makes it more important for me and Mr O to walk the talk.

We are lucky to live in a condo with a surau in our compound. So terawih becomes easier and less of a hassle especially to the kids. They can have longer break after iftar, and walk to the surau in less than 5 minutes. And they have the options to do 8 rakaat, or continue with 20. I don't have to worry about travelling, parking, getting ready, getting everybody home at the same time and bringing Medina along. Luqman has been doing 20 rakaat for few days. Hajar had her first 20 last night and was so ecstatic and proud of herself.  She has been quite diligent with her Quran too. Reciting Quran in the car, on the way back from school etc etc. The fact that stuffs like this make her ecstatic is a bliss to me.

I get blasé about food in Ramadhan. There's nothing wrong with having good food. Especially after fasting the whole day. But for food to be the focus of Ramadhan just doesn't sound right. I have been using my monthly meal planner for a few years already. Not quite sure why I only use it during Ramadhan. But it does make my life easier. Coz I am not someone who is a die hard cook. Especially when I have very little energy left. And more so when I should not be spending so much time in the kitchen. Having a planner spare me from cracking my brain everyday thinking of what to cook. And help me with my groceries shopping too. Over the years I have tweaked it here and there. I don't follow it strictly but it's a great guide.
This year, I have cut down to 1 main meal and 1 dessert. Coz none of us is a big eater. Am trying my best not to waste.

The girls are excited to start the raya cookies project. It's not so much of saving money. It's more of me creating memories for them. And probably boosting my ego along the way.....hahahahaa. But seriously, it does make me feel super awesome when the kids think ummi's cookies are the best in the world...ahaksss. Last year we did quite a bit. Some of the keepers that I will bake again this year ;)
Choc chip cookies. Nothing extraordinary and fancy. But kids cannot have enough of them. That makes me happy ;)
Pineapple jam for the tart. Because I am kiasu...ahakssss...and as I aged, I get very particular of the hygiene factor, what goes inside the food, bla bla bla....I try to do stuffs myself. So I make my own pineapple jam.
 The pineapple tart. MUST do ;)
The raya cookies project is manageable. Coz I have a lot of helpers. Reluctant and willing helpers ;) I will do a few more this year. Some tried and tested recipes. Some new recipes. We'll see.

It has been a busy month too. For the family. But that's good. Productivity in Ramadhan has always been an issue to me. Partly bcoz of the caffeine deprivation. Partly psychologically I am just plain lazy. This year, hopefully, will be better. So far, so good.

Hajar is 40 days away from her big exam, UPSR. She is anxious. I am suprisingly nonchalant. She is worried about people's expectations. The teachers, the grandparents, people in general. I will let her learn to deal with the expectations herself. I personally think she has put in the necessary efforts. That's all that matters to me. Of course she can do much much better. We will work on that together. But the outcome really doesn't matter to me. I don't need her to get 5As to boost my parental ego. And since boarding school is not an option for private school students, I have one less worry ;)

Emily is practising for her performance. Apparently not hard enough. So I need to step up (back in tiger mommy mode) and make sure she practise harder...the group is participating in the 5th Malaysian Youth Music Festival. It is a collaboration with Kota Kinabalu Music Society. Usually it is done annually in KK. Not sure why this year it's in Subang. But that means woooohhhooooooooo to me ;)
I am probably the only one in the house who is excited about this....hahahaha. Mr O is irked that it is on the 27th August. Which means, it's sooooo close to Hari Raya. Which means we can only travel to Kota Bharu either Sunday or Monday. One day before Raya. So u can visualize Mr O rolling his eyes and smirking at me...hahahaha...

Hajar is green with envy. Coz the sister is performing and getting all the attention. Luqman is of course indifferent. Ummi Ms Emily is still way behind...and have lots of practise to do....but at the same time really2 excited and happy for my girl. Pray for us that she will ace it okayyy :)

So that will keep us busy for the month. Enjoy your weekend ;)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Reminiscing Ramadhan

4 years ago, right after the subuh azan, at about 6.16am of 1st Ramadhan 1428H, I gave birth to a precious bundle of joy named Medina Zaharah. For that, 1st Ramadhan has always been extra special to me..extra sentimental, extra emo...sniff sniff...where are all those tissues?? hahaha.

Medina is extra special to me because she is my hijrah point. Hijrah means migration. And it's ironic we named her Medina, which historically also signify the great migration of Rasulullah. And it's more ironic that my original inspiration of her name has nothing to do with the holy city of Medina. In fact, it's far from holy ;P
We always thought that 3 kids is more than enough. Then I succumbed to the pressure for another boy. Coz Mr O and Luqman thought the house will be merrier with another boy. And the balance will be restored. And the ying and yang of the family will be perfect. Little that we know, Allah has a better plan for us.

When I was pregnant with her, I was at the tipping point. I was so sick of my job, and getting tired of justifying to myself why I should work. I love the money, but I hate my job. I like the medical, clinical, marketing part of the job. But not the "entertaining the clients" part. It has always bothers me that eventually it's not the science that decides which patients get which treatment. Though it can happens. Kudos to those doctors who can stay neutral, but I can tell u they are the rare species. Most of the times, the decision is driven by who gives me the most sponsorships, and treats me better, and fulfills my needs the most. It's just how the industry is.

And Emily was going from bad to worse. I know that I need to spend more time at home. There are lots of red flags. Hints from God things are not okay at home. But the thought of living on one income was so daunting and intimidating. And the fact that every time the thought of quitting cropped up, I will either get a big fat increment or a promotion didn't help either. So u pushed the worries under the carpet. And pretend it's not there. And I continue dragging my self to work. On the pretext it is necessary. To earn a living for my family.

Until I was pregnant with Medina. Things started to change. Without me realizing it. I had some complications during my 1st trimester. Which prompted me to change to a new job which was less stressful. And eventually quit the job completely. I still had no idea where did the courage comes from. 2 weeks after I became an official SAHM, the petrol price hiked, can't remember how much but it was pretty mad and awful. And I was numb trying to figure out stuffs, thinking would we survive? Did I make the right decision?? And it was also the time when we send our maid back to Indonesia. So I am officially the desperate housewife who needs to find her sanity back and thinks too much time with the kiddos can drive me nuts. But I keep telling myself to have faith. Something positive will come my way. God willing.

I have learned planning is good. But too much planning is a sign of arrogance. Coz do not forget God is the greatest planner. So as much as u plan, put your faith in God to determine the rest. My life has changed so much for the past few years. In a way that I have never imagined possible. Considering the fact that the only plan I have after I quit my job is to take care of my kids, what I have now is more than I could ever ask for. Am I plain lucky? I don't think so. I think it's God's plan. And how He makes the universe interact with your mind and make it happen. Call it karma or whatever, but positive thoughts and faith did make a whole lot of difference.Sometime, all u need to do is make that first step out of your comfort zone. And the rest will follow.

And I have learned so much from the kids. Especially during these last few years. And especially from the littlest one. As I was struggling with Emily, Medina taught me when learning is fun, everybody can be a genius. I have not taught her much. But she tagged along when I was teaching Emily. Because she was never under pressure, she is progressing much faster than her siblings.

She taught me that if u treat kids like adult, they can meet your expectation. Sometimes, surprising you by exceeding them. She makes her own decision. On certain matters.
She loves her long hair. But there will be times when she decided that it's getting too messy and uncomfortable. Despite Mr O's attempts trying to talk her out of it, she decided she need her hair cut. And it was pretty impressive how still she was throughout the whole process. Sometimes, her wisdom scares me. She can sounds so yodaaaaaa :P

And she taught me nobody is too little to help out. So do not hesitate to delegate mommies.
An example of times when she volunteer herself to be the little mommy. There are times when my blood pressure went upstairs eg; when Emily keep losing her focus and not doing her revision properly. And she told me "It's OK ummi, I will handle this". And this was how she get Emily to focus. And to be honest, it does work better than me screaming my heart out. Kids need some sense of humor.

And she taught me u can learn a lot by drawing. She loves drawing.
But I have always seen drawing as a hobby. Not a way to learn. But she taught me otherwise. Nowadays, I tricked Emily into drawing stuffs that I need reinforcement. She forgets easily. And she is a kinesthetic learner. Somebody who learn best by doing. So after revising the fact, some activities like drawing and crafting or experimenting or model building can help reinforce the facts to her. And make her remember better. Just bear with the mess and the yelling to get her to clear the mess ;P
And I love her flow of thought. As far as I can remember, at this age, my other kids only scribbled. But she drew with great precision and details. Independently. Note how detail she drew the bee, the butterfly and the caterpillar? ;)

The privilege of being born on 1st Ramadhan is it's easy to remember. So u get to celebrate your birthday twice. The Islamic calendar and the Gregorian calendar. Especially if u r the youngest, your older siblings are ever ready to spoil u, your wish is their command. So yesterday, after lunch in Marche, Hajar bought her some presents from Daiso. The stuff that she has been telling all of us she NEEDS it. Endlessly.

A raincoat. I need the raincoat because I love the rain. And I love playing in the rain and jumping on the puddle of water. So I need a raincoat. (And of course Hajar got distracted with the pipe cleaners. And the girls have been twiddling with the stuffs the whole day.)

Since she is quite independent now, and has been praying with us regularly, so I thought maybe this year I get to pray terawih in the surau. Not alone in my room anymore ;) Yeeehaaaaa.....I was so excited last night, until she throw fits just when I was about to leave for the surau. Because kakak Hajar accidentally dismantled the pipe cleaner bracelet that she made for ummi to make ummi happy. OMG....she was wailing and crying and sobbing....and thank god finally she found her sanity.

So the deal is she will pray Isya' with us, then I will leave her alone. And she has to be quite while me and the sisters and the rest of the jemaah pray.
The reluctant sisters. One is "tired". The other one is "zonked out". It's OK girls, u will get use to this. It will get better ;)
And she keeps her promise. Watching "mute" Gnome & Juliet quietly at the back. So I guess, we will continue the routine tonight, insyaAllah. Ramadhan Mubarak people ;)