'Elite' schools vs 'Neighbourhood' schools:
A personal analysis

Friday, 25 July 2014

Disclaimer: If you come by expecting an analysis of the Singapore education system as offered in elite or neighbourhood schools, you have come to the wrong place. This is my view on what is (to me) the most important thing to note in nurturing a child. Would you rather they be 'book-smart', or 'street smart'?

***

Caden is in Nursery 1. When we sourced for a preschool for him, we did not take into account how well-known or popular the school is, nor did we base our selection on the track record of the school. We believe in a well rounded education, and we wanted to expose him to a place where he will be able to mingle and interact with kids from all income groups, regardless of race or family backgrounds.

The husband and I have had the opportunity to experience school years at both elite schools and neighbourhood ones, and we know first hand how different things can be between both communities. In fact, I am almost embarrassed to admit that when I was enrolled into a co-ed school (after almost ten years of being in a single gender one), I had a culture shock. I was thrown into a limbo, and I remember begging my Mum to send me back 'where I belonged'. I had to change schools because we moved from the East to the West in the midst of my Secondary school years - and the transition was not easy.

Looking back, I only started becoming exposed to 'life' and its harsh realities when I made that move. I was like a fish out of water. Not many understood the way I speak, and there were unkind ones who thought that I was a snob for only speaking English when I am a Chinese. Nobody thought to ask if I *could* speak Chinese, they shunned me first, and only slowly warmed up when they saw that I went to Malay 2nd Language classes instead of joining them.

The experience made me smarter. More savvy, somewhat, and helped me break out of my protected bubble. I was introduced to tolerance - to not look at a person differently or judge if they don't understand what was taught during English lessons, or did not speak well. Of course, I'm no saint. Even now I still cringe inwardly when I read a grammatically challenged sentence on social media, or a badly phrased sentence with wrong usage of tenses - but I do not form an opinion of a person just based on that alone!

I began to realise that not every family have the means to go for trips during the holidays, and a faded too-small uniform doesn't mean that a person is unkempt; it could be that it was handed down from an older sibling or a relative. There are people who do not have the luxury of wearing new shoes even though they have outgrown their old pair, and they really don't care who has a brand new pair of (branded) shoes. It awed me that they are accepting of their circumstances, and instead of wallowing in self pity (like some of the girls in my previous school who couldn't get that pink L.A Gear high cuts for some reason or other), they made the best of things and focused on other things instead.

What stood out the most, though, was the realisation that these things do not make them different. They are all individuals, and I like each and every single one of them for who they are, regardless of everything else. If anything, these kids, whom I was fortunate enough to count as my schoolmates for a period of time, are more down to earth. They are real, and have not had the opportunity to even think, for a moment, that the entire world should revolve around them. They come from all walks of life, from all kinds of circumstances, and knowing them has made me aware that these things are immaterial when we are just hanging out, creating mischief, or discussing New Kids on The Block (the boy band, in case you aren't old enough to identify).

They also did not lead sheltered lives. Most, if not all - were far more independent than the girls I was used to back in my previous school, probably because they didn't have much of a choice. They fought their own battles, and life has made it necessary for them to learn how to get by virtually unscathed by working their way around things. They taught me plenty of things, but what I took away at the end of it all, is that I learnt not to be gullible. I learnt to never take things at face value, and to be discerning. Nothing in life is ever given without strings attached, especially if it comes from unfamiliar sources. I learnt to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I was never caught by surprise should they prove to be devils in disguise.

I mingled with everyone. I slowly caught on and identified various swear words in every imaginable Chinese dialect or Malay slang. I didn't find it necessary to use them (not till I started work, anyhow! :D) but at least I would know if anyone directed them at me. I heard them so much so that I became numb to them - I respected the fact that they are derogatory and unpleasant words, but I did not cringe (and do not, still) if I were to hear it in snippets of conversations.



Perhaps I was fortunate enough to have parents who have given me a strong foundation in social values. While I was suddenly exposed to the colourful side of life, I refused to get influenced by those which I deemed wrong. The teenage years can be wrought with challenges, and often, I am reminded (especially as a parent now) - how our teachings and values imparted to the kids are ingrained in them despite their attempts at proving us otherwise.

I was struck by how different socio-communities approach things at the same stages in their lives. I also realised that the 'entitlement mentality' is pronounced in children whose parents give in to their whims and fancies because they can afford to, while at the other end of the spectrum, the child rejoices in the occasional movie treat and does not take it for granted. It made me appreciate my lot in life a whole lot more.

While the quality of education is important and is the most powerful driving criteria when parents help their children to make a school choice, do bear in mind that there are also a lot of contributing factors which make up the big picture. The focus, of late, has been shifted to character building and shaping students who are all rounders, and I do believe that the school environment makes a big difference because it will be the second major influence in a child's life, after the values taught at home.

To me, as parents, we can only steer them in the right direction and help them make informed decisions. The entire thing about how to handle life - should be experienced first hand. Of course, we will always be there should they fall.

At the end of the day, it isn't only about acing the exams and getting the coveted papers at the end of the school years. What we take away from the entire schooling experience, should be the tools required to help us through life.

Drypers Drypantz - Move that booty!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

When Caden was born, my Mum voiced her concerns about the hospital putting him in diapers the moment he was out of the womb. I remember she was shocked, almost flabbergasted, because Caden is her first grandchild and it was the first time that she came up close and personal with newborns for almost 35 years! She was also worried about diaper rash, and skin reaction to the synthetic materials used, apart from the fact that she was upset her grandson is subjected to wearing a 'plastic bag' (her words, not mine!) for the next 2 years or so.

Back in those days, cloth nappies were the norm, and especially in Indonesia, diapers were not difficult to find, but they were much too expensive for the ordinary household to use them on a regular basis. When my brother was born, my earliest memories of childhood were playing in the backyard, amongst rows and rows of freshly laundered muslin cloth flapping in the breeze. They were then folded crisp, smelling of the sun, ready to be used as and when needed.

image source
The main concern about diapers back then was not only the price, but also that they were bulky things made from wood pulp encased in synthetic material (think shower curtain plastic). The first diapers made of superabsorbent polymer (that gel-like substance when you deconstruct a diaper) were introduced in 1982, reducing the thickness by almost 50% and providing a measure of 'comfort' to little bums all over the world.

Disposable diapers have now come a long way. There are so many types widely available in the market now, ranging from tape diapers (easier for changing when they are still happy to lie prone) and diaper pants. They are not only convenient, but promise higher comfort and are kinder to young, sensitive skin. Drypers, for example, have continuously made their products better through extensive research and development, made possible by taking careful note of feedback from consumers. In just a few short years, Drypers have not only made their diapers more effective, but they have also taken into consideration lifestyle habits and synced their products accordingly.

The NEW Drypers Drypantz boasts of 'Comfort Fit™', which comprises of a softer cloth-like material and ensures breathability. This is especially great in areas which are prone to sweat accumulation like the waist band and in between the thighs and groin area. The stretchable garters are surprisingly pliable and doesn't scratch, and this helps avoid unnecessary pressure which can result in itchiness, redness and in extreme prolonged cases, scarring.


Now we all know that when the babies are comfortable, they are less fussy. And if they are happy, we are happier! Honestly, I cannot imagine what it must be like feeling cold and damp intermittently, and it's wonderful how Drypers have actually managed to keep the diapers' surface dry while not compromising on its absorbency.

Caden has used Drypers Drypantz since he was able to flip, and has had no issues with it leaking or any resultant discomfort. Furthermore, Drypers has been kind to his sensitive skin, and thus far has not caused him any skin irritation.

Many parents believe that Diaper pants are only suitable for babies in transition to toddlerhood (cruising or walking), but using diaper pants from as young as 6 months is entirely possible! I have preferred to use Drypantz for Caden since he was able to crawl because it gives him extra mobility and comfort. Furthermore, I do not like the sight of heavy diapers 'hanging' down the moment they are cruising or attempting to walk - which is the result of using tape diapers when they are already able to stand. I am very particular about aesthetics such as these, and 'dangling diapers' are a total no-no for me, especially since hygiene can also be compromised.

From March this year, Drypers Drypantz have not only changed their packaging, but it has also reinforced its aim to provide 'Ultimate Comfort'. With the new Drypers Drypantz range, you can be assured that you are not only purchasing quality, but every detail has been taken into consideration so as to fulfil several comfort criteria which is purely beneficial for babies and toddlers. Its breathable and soft cloth-like cover is kind on tender skin. This ensures maximum comfort for baby, and ensures maximum air circulation. Natural plant extracts such as Olive Oil, Chamomile Vitamin E and Aloe Vera promotes healthy skin.

Extra care has been taken to ensure that the design does not irritate skin in any way, even during active play. It moulds itself to a toddler's body snugly, yet it doesn't hamper movement in any way. Furthermore, the external side seams are secure, but with a few strategic tugs, comes away cleanly for easy removal.



To reinforce how serious Drypers are about ensuring maximum softness and breathability in all its products, they have introduced two mascots, Airy and Softie to drive home the message.


Airy

Airy is a colourful little pinwheel that embodies breathability and better air circulation. Drypers Drypantz’s extra breathable waistband helps reduce pressure formed on the skin at baby’s tummy and waist area, creating a more comfortable fit for baby.

Softie

Softie is a fluffly little cloud that embodies softness and comfort, just like the unique technology which goes into making Drypers Drypantz’s waistband kind on baby’s skin.

Look out for Airy and Softie near the diapers' waistbands!

Now you too, can try out the all new improved Drypers Drypantz. For the entire month of July, each Drypers' Drypantz pack goes for only S$10.95 at all leading hypermarkets and supermarkets. This price is applicable to all sizes under the Drypers Drypantz range. 

To request for free samples, please click here. Try out the new Drypers Drypantz today!



Facebook Contest

From mid July onwards, Drypers will also have a “Breathe Easy Breeze” game.

Control our “Airy” mascot using your mouse to help “Softie” turn plain diapers into Drypers Drypantz diapers! Convert 12 diapers to Drypers Drypantz in the fastest amount of time.

Every week, the top scorers stand a chance to walk away with fantastic prizes!

Prizes include tickets (worth $88 each) to Lunchbox Theatrical Production’s “Bubble Magic” show, happening in early September 2014!

Disclaimer: This is part of a series of sponsored conversations between Drypers and MummyMoo. All opinions stated are my own, although the bum pictured is not mine. The Mookid has been a regular user of Drypers from the time he was able to cruise, and we strongly recommend the product based on its own merits and first hand user experience. Please note that different kids have different reactions to products. Do exercise caution when using new products.

I am "Me". How about you?

Tuesday, 15 July 2014


Going home yesterday evening, exhausted after a day of meetings and discussions, brain numbed from creating ideas, and irritated with the fact that humans have a tendency to be fickle, to not know what they want, and to always be influenced by far too many people - it got me thinking: why is it people often do not trust their own judgement? Is it a lack of confidence, or merely a force of habit? Safety in numbers?

Everyone is different, when we actually sit down to think about it, we visualize different things - have different dreams, and nightmares. These force-filled images have the power to hinder or inspire our choices, and the walk down life's pathway. Then again, our imaginations require energy. The power to choose, to be, to do and to create the traits which determine our personalities.

No man is lesser than another, no man is smarter than another - some are simply born with the natural 'insight' or ability to ease unscathed through life, whereas others have to work harder. We always have that ability to achieve more than we ever thought we were capable of - but at the end of the day, we must always think: "What is it that we truly want? Are we doing something for the sake of something other than what we truly believe is the best option?"

Hearts are not innocent like that of a baby's. Cleanliness does not come automatically or naturally from knowing 'filth'. Look into your senses... the ones that call out to you, the ones that you know make you who you are, and not simply those that you were told that you have.

Listen to your inner voice of Conscience. Everyone will hear different things; things that we choose to hear. Listen, and observe.

It's ironical how we strive to 'simplify' our lives, only to complicate it unwittingly by creating more complex facets and devices by worrying over the most incessant things, and not trusting what we believe in. If we have the power to destroy, we have the power to nourish and nurture. I wish I don't have to worry about what others would think, or how others would prefer to do things... as long as I have faith in whatever it is that I choose to do. I wish people will be sympathetic to others' plights and be emphatic to what they passionately believe. So what if our choice(s) may not be the best way to deal with a situation? Learning from our mistakes is perhaps the surest way that one will never repeat the error of one's ways.

If only people would adhere to their beliefs whilst respecting those of others.
If only people could recognise and not be afraid to wear a badge of their own self worth without having to degrade, demean or debase others as a form of assurance to themselves.
If only people aren't so afraid to take risks without having factors to blame should they fail.

So many ifs.
The more we know, the less we understand.

MummyMOO


A Mother's Heart

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

This could very well be the hardest post I have had to write.

Now that the boy is able to articulate his feelings to words, I have found myself in situations whereby I question if what I have chosen to do is purely for selfish reasons. Have I done enough as a mother thus far, or do I have to change my parenting ways as time goes by?

"Caden, Mummy has to work today, and Daddy needs to go to the office for awhile, but later on, he will pick you up to go out, okay?"

"Okay, Mummy." (crestfallen face)

After a short pause: "Then I go where? Who take care me?"

That sentence very nearly killed me. It made my throat constrict, and I felt my mind searching the right words to soothe his soul. I explained that we will drop him off at his grandparents' house for just a couple of hours, and Daddy will be with him as soon as he can. It's not just what he said. It was the way he said it.

He sounded resigned to the fact, like a little old man who accepts things because there isn't any fight left in him.

He nods his head, looked out of the car window, and muttered, almost to no one in particular.

"It's Saturday, Marmee. I want be with Marmee and Daddy. But I okay"

My heart.

It's on days like these parenting is the hardest for the working Mum. It's on days like these, when we see other parents with their children enjoying the day together - that the yearning is most acute. It's when he looks in my eyes and I see a depth of longing that I ask myself: Am I doing all that I can as a mother, or am I exposing him to life a little too early?

Caden has always been a sensitive soul. From very early on, we realised that he needs constant assurances, needs to be held, and told how much he's loved. He's an affectionate little person who gives hugs freely, kisses me on a whim, and understands more than we usually give him credit for. This is a boy who is also protective of the things he loves, but will not hesitate to share whenever the occasion calls for it. He has passed that stage when he gets upset when some kids don't respond positively to 'playing together' at public playgrounds, taking it as a bonus when there are friendly ones around.

The husband and I are very particular about teaching him to mind his manners, and always greeting elders whenever he sees them. We make sure that he says 'Please', and 'Thank you', whenever is needed, and to never ever take other people's kindness for granted. We explain things to him, preferring to make him understand why we disallow him to do things instead of just simply telling him no. He understands a lot of things now that he's all of three and a half, but there are times that I wonder if we're making him 'grow up' too fast, too soon. Sure he gets upset when his wants are not met, but he doesn't go into screaming fits, or have meltdowns. He cries, but more out of acceptance than to get what he wants.

Are we forgetting that he's a child, with unreasonable demands, and an unbridled temper? Are we not letting him be a child? Are we pushing him to a point that he becomes a little adult, and expecting him to understand life's limitations, even before he finds himself?

I write these sentences with a heavy heart. With every word I type here, my soul resonates with a sadness so indescribable it wreaks the very core of my being. Why does he make it so easy for his parents? Why are we blessed with a little boy who not only tries to understand us, but has also the propensity to forego his emotional needs so that we need not make drastic lifestyle changes to accommodate him? What have we done to deserve him?



He makes me feel small. He makes me feel selfish because I did not have to give up much when he came along. People have told me that there will always be a special bond between mothers and sons, and I totally relate to it, but I did not expect to have given birth to the most loving and kind hearted boy I've ever known. Perhaps I'm biased, but I'm his Mum, and I have a right to be.

I don't know what I've done to deserve him. Of course he has his moments, too. When he annoys me just because I allow him to. When he tries to push his limits and boundaries, and when he does not take no for an answer. He asks me questions which I sometimes have no answer to. He expects me to know where all his toys are. There are days when I am tired, not in a very good mood and I get short with him. I get angry with him and scream my head off.

But he never, ever gets mad with me. He turns his back and pouts when Daddy gives him a talking to, or when Daddy says he's not allowed to do something. But he has never done so with me.

He says "S'ry Marmee" more than I ever apologise to him for losing my temper. He hugs me close even when he's crying hard, more so when he knows I'm upset. What have I done for him, that made me the centre of his universe? Do I deserve such unconditional love?

I don't spend as much time as I want to with him. I expect him to always understand, understand, and understand more. I expect him to not whine, or get angry, or throw tantrums. I forget that he's a child, because he always seems to understand. On hindsight, it just doesn't seem fair that he has to carry the burden which comes with understanding and accepting why certain things in life has to go a certain way. He worries ("Then who take care me?"), but he accepts whatever needs to be done.

I don't know how it will be like a month from now, a year later, or when he's all grown up. But Caden, when you're old enough to read this, please remember that for all the times Mummy has asked you to 'be good', to 'understand' and to be a 'big boy', you have never, ever let me down. And for all the times you cried in my arms because you are disappointed, I'm sorry.

You have a big heart, my dear son, and if I could, I would bear the weight of the world for you. As much as you have given me your love and your heart, you will always have mine.

Unconditionally.


Red Velvet Cupcakes (Vanilla Cream Cheese frosting)

Friday, 13 June 2014

I've always wondered about the hype surrounding Red Velvet bakes. Seriously - aren't they just chocolate cakes with red colouring? Why then, are so many people intrigued by them?

When I first baked a red velvet cupcake, it turned out mediocre, at best, and I trashed the recipe I obtained online because it really wasn't even worth taking up space in my recipe file. My file is probably one of the things I'd grab in the event of a fire or any emergency situation, because it contained the results of hours and hours of sourcing and trying out recipes. The recipes in there are those which I've tried, tweaked and tested, and they yield bakes which will make me a strong contender for baker of the year (or the world's best baking Mum!) award. Not because I bake well - but because they simply work. For everyone, regardless whether you can bake, or the only thing which ever came out of your oven is (burnt) toast.

Then I came across this book.


...and stared at this picture for a long long time.

Image from book: One Bowl Baking by Yvonne Ruperti
Why not? I thought. It's a one bowl bake, and I happened to have some buttermilk which I needed to use before it expires. One bowl. I would be sold just on that promise alone. Cos we all love to bake, right? Cleaning batter off bowls - not so much.

Well then - I've made this 3x (yes, THREE times) since I made the first batch last Friday. I doubled the frosting amount the second time I baked it, because I now know what makes a Red Velvet cake a crowd pleaser. It's all in the frosting - and this vanilla cream cheese one is slightly tart with a hint of sweetness. There is no sugar overload or gritty aftertaste in this frosting... just be careful not to eat it by the spoonful before it goes on top of those cupcakes!

In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugar and salt until well combined.



Whisk in oil, egg, egg yolk, buttermilk and food colouring. Mix well.




Add the flour, baking soda and cocoa to the bowl, and mix gently until combined. Do not overmix the batter. Sift the cocoa in should it be overly lumpy.



Scoop batter into cupcake liners, about 2 tbs each. I used a large size ice cream scoop per cup.



Bake in a preheated oven at 180 deg C till just firm, for about 18 - 20 minutes, depending on your oven.
Cupcakes are done when the top lightly springs back to the touch.



Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

To make the frosting, whisk cream cheese, butter and icing sugar till combined.



Add in vanilla extract and whisk on high speed, till frosting turns light and fluffy, about 30 sec.


Frost generously.


Moist, velvety and light. These babies are so simple to make, but they're guaranteed to take your breath away from the very first bite. You will never buy another red velvet cupcake again, because those store bought ones, will never come close to this.

Printable recipe - click on image, right click to save.


MummyMoo





Transformers: Age of Extinction (giveaway!)

Sunday, 1 June 2014

In case you didn't already know, the boy is crazy over Transformers action figures. Well - make that the boyS, if you include the husband. Secretly, so am I.


I grew up watching the Transformers animated TV series back in the 80s. I didn't care much about the war between the Autobots and Decepticons, because I was more fascinated with the process of transformation (remember the sound effects?) of the robots to vehicles, Dinobots, Insecticons and other objects.  And for those who came from the same era (okay, I'm old, now stop counting back!) can you really forget the catchy show tune? 


It all looks so ancient now. Two-dimensional, non gleaming metal, and almost devoid of expression. It was a significant part of my childhood though. Sunday mornings in front of the TV, watching one cartoon after another, because that was the only time we are able to. No cable tv, no internet, no iPads or tablets. 

Now they are sleek, shiny and transform with an almost dancer's grace. They show emotions, often mirrored through their eyes. Almost three decades later, The giant bots are still fighting one another, and they still have a seriously awesome following. Many of whom now have kids of their own who share their parents' love.

Three years after Transformers: Dark of the Moon, a new range of Autobots are rolled out. Hasbro has kindly extended a media invite of the Transformers: Age of Extinction action figures launch to us, and we were privileged to be the first few to acquaint ourselves with the new robots from the movie.


Held at Toys R' Us @ Forum the Shopping Mall on the 16th of May, the new range of robots were introduced to the public at 10pm sharp. The highly anticipated event drew crowds, and a queue was said to have been formed since early afternoon. When we arrived at the mall at close to ten, the husband remarked that we were indeed fortunate to have media passes since the line stretched all the way down to the basement!


Ahead of the crowds, the boys and I were able to take a look at the newly created bots of the Age of Extinction.

The new range of Transformers Generations figures from Hasbro will still feature the 'one-step changers and flip-to-change action' synonymous with past releases, but they have been categorised to suit different age groups. Designed to suit all ages, the different autobots and dinobots can transform in either 8 steps or 18 steps.

Do be careful when making your purchase, though - the ones marked for 4 years and up are huge (and very much cheaper), but they do not transform. Caden is 3.5 years old, but he would absolutely hate having a Transformer which er... doesn't transform, so I'm not sure which age category he should be in.

The non transforming Transformers, standing 12-inch tall
And then, there were these.




When the velvet rope was lifted amidst much fanfare at 10pm sharp, the excited (adult) crowd swarmed in. They rushed in, and even I was amazed at their fervour. They walked through the aisles, and discussed the figures' specifications with those who were looking at the same item. Strangers became friends, all united in their love for these autobots.



They didn't only browse the aisles. They grabbed their coveted figures off the shelves, and the staff were kept busy replenishing items.


Of course, Caden made his choices very early on, before the crowds were allowed in, so lest he be caught in the mini stampede, I herded him off to another part of the store, where he had a wonderful time playing with Xander, The Blogfather's and Mother of Xander's - son (just in case you didn't know), while their daddies were made to queue to pay for their purchases.

They were very happy to be at the Girls' section, amongst the purples, pinks, and glittery stuff.
Which they did. Gladly, it seems.


The boys also went home with a nice little surprise each, from the very nice ladies at Hasbro. First edition Optimus Prime... which Caden was absolutely thrilled with, but had a slight difficulty holding on to because the box was pretty big and bulky!


Optimus Prime not only transforms and fights the Decepticons, he is actually useful for other things, too.


The husband and I have told Caden repeatedly how fortunate he is to have 'earned' so many action figures (each was a reward for good behaviour for at least a fortnight), and now that he understands the concept of sharing, he wants to share the love with 2 of his Mummy's readers!

Yes, we have not one, but TWO Transformers Bumblebee Action Figures to give away!


These are not sponsored items. Caden has purchased these out of his own pocket money (with Mummy and Daddy chipping in) to give away, as a gesture of appreciation to our readers. For always taking the time to leave a comment either via email or on blog, and for indirectly making this media invite (and other blogging opportunities) possible. We thank you.

The Bumblebee transforms into an orange Camaro in 8 steps, and is much easier for younger kids to handle. The High Octane Bumblebee transforms into a Black Camaro, and is suitable for ages 8+. It transforms in 18 steps, and has small parts.



These Bumblebees are from Caden to his young friends on blog, so kindly participate only if you have a child or a young relative who would be very happy to receive one. This giveaway is open only to readers residing in Singapore, and ends on Monday, 9th June, at midnight.

To take part in this giveaway, please leave a comment in this blog post indicating your name, email, child's age and which Autobot you would prefer to win (Bumblebee | Bumblebee High Octane). Remember to click on the Rafflecopter widget to indicate that you have commented and you can follow the rest of the options to increase your chances of winning.

Autobots, Roll Out!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


 

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