Sunday, December 23, 2012

My Year of many 1st - 2012

As 2012 draws to a close, I realize that this has been an exciting year for my family in Kampar. For a start, I could think of many 1st that happened over the last 12 months:-

  • 1.     Our first time participating in an international school marketing fair;
  • 2.     My first time singing our school song, which was composed by our 1st English teacher;
  • 3.     My first school camp, in which I was put in charged of games. I have never been a game master before and if you have known me, games would be the last (ok, maybe not last but penultimate) thing I would do;
  • 4.     My first time helping to start a school (more on this later);
  • 5.     My first time shopping for the school library;
  • 6.     My first time praying with key people at the school;
  • 7.     First time showing parents around the school;
  • 8.     First time watching our school concert, which was prepared in less than 2 weeks and most of the kids were from non English speaking families;
  • 9.     First time joining a cell group in Kampar, where some of the members came from our KL cell group!
  • 10. For the first time in my life, I am able to send our children to an international school. If I had been in KL, I would not be able to afford their fees or keep up with the lifestyle expected of them there!  
  • 11. I felt that I am making a difference in children lives here by getting involved in the school.
  • 12. Having been a boarder myself, I am hesitant about offering boarding at the school. However, God has brought a retired children and youth minister to head the boarding facilities. For the first time, I might just change my mind about boarding!
  • 13. First time putting aside my accounting logic and trusting God to do the balance sheet. To date, He has brought more students than I have projected!
  • 14. Seeing teachers coming from different countries and various parts of Malaysia. While talking to them, I realised that God was instrumental in calling them to be here! Otherwise, how would you explain that a New Yorker travelled half round the globe to be setting foot in Kampar?! And another from UK came via a contact during our roadshow. Yet another was called to early retirement so that he could be in Kampar. A key personnel moved here because her husband is an Aston Villa fan and there is a place in Kampar known as Aston Settlement – that was the determinant factor for moving?! Such stories go on.

I am sure that I am not alone in experiencing God’s blessing in my life. In fact, if we spend time reflecting, the list will be endless. Even sheer breath itself is a miracle that is worth rejoicing over. Oh Lord, please help me to be grateful at all times, especially during the times when I can’t experience your hands at work because I know that you will never cease to work for our GOOD.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Boundless Joy

The day that Prissy started her 1st steps, there was such a celebration! I was busy taking out my video camera and digital camera, couldn’t quite decide which one to use first. Evidently, she knew that it was a new milestone for her. Her hands were waving in the air, while she chatted away in her own baby (or toddler’s) language, oblivious to the fact that no one understood her, except that her gestures and babbling conveyed excitement.

My parents were clapping their hands as she took her first walk into their quarters. I wondered if they had cheered for me when I took mine. At that point, I could almost see them reliving their parenthood! Prissy helped me see the side of my parents that had been buried for many years.

Its amazing how the smallest and youngest one in the family could bring forth so many surreal moments. As Prissy stood in front of the TV, a music piece was played. She started swaying her body and fearing that she might fall, Prissy fell on her bump and had a good laugh!

I was ecstatic over the milestone and when I looked around, I discovered that all of us were blown away by her. Dear Lord, is this how it is, that we too could blow you away with our baby steps in faith? If so, I pray that I would always grow in faith so that I could bring boundless joy to you!

Prissy My No 3

If anyone is thinking of having a 3rd baby after a 6 year’s gap, think no further, go for it! With my first two, I was constantly worried about them getting into accidents, making a mess etc. than being joyous! On retrospect, I wished I was less concerned about their well-being and took more time to savor just being with them.

With Prissy, I found contentment and endless joy! Its almost like someone had turned on a switch! Recently, Ray actually commented that I am a different mother compared to previously. “You are much more patient compared to before and I am amazed that you haven’t screamed at Prissy yet!” He observed.

Initially, Clarissa and Joseph were a little cautious as to whether I would dot on the little sister more.  Prior to giving birth, Clare actually had a heart to heart chat with me and asked me why I wanted a no 3. She went as far as saying that babies were troublesome and mummies’ attention would be diverted.

Now that Prissy had turned one, the bonding between her and the elder two is evident. Clare loves to take care of Prissy and carries her like a mother. Once, we even had a competition in which both of us would call Prissy, and see who she would walk to….and she didn’t pick me! As for Joe, he has his own style of playing with his little sister. Most times, Prissy would end up being the monkey, always running after the brother for the toy and as soon as she grabs it from him, he would snatch it away from her again. As a bystander, the apparent bullying frustrates me, but when I observe Prissy, she is obviously having a blast!

I didn’t realize that there were such tenderness in Joe and Clare until now.  Prissy has opened my eyes to help me see virtues in my older children that I didn’t know existed. Thank you Priscilla for the discovery! Thank you God for your gift! 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Plants vs Animals

I enjoy talking to Clarissa as despite being at a tender age of 10, she has her own views on a quite a wide range of topics. Recently, I overheard a case where an acquaintance’s business was badly affected due to a new player in town. Instead of viewing competition in business as being healthy and opportunity to improve, I could tell that she was bitter and to make things worse, her attitude had affected her entire outlook in life.

I was immensely disturbed, as I couldn’t understand why her parents did not spare her some words of wisdom, or for that matter her close friends too. To be immersed in such seemingly hopelessness is pitiful indeed. I saw this as a great topic to talk about with Clarissa and Joseph.

One day, while fetching them back from the tuition centre, I told them this scenario: “Kids, imagine there is a game shop Ace. It is the only computer game shop in the town for the longest time and needless to say, it is the most popular shop for kids. However, after sometime, another game shop Better, started its business and because its game is more appealing, more kids patronize Better. Eventually, Ace’s business suffers and its owner blames Better.”

“Joe, what do you think if you were in Ace’s owner position?” I asked my 7-year old. After some thoughts, he replied: “ He should blame himself rather than Better’s owner, as his game is not as interesting.” Before Joseph could finish, Clare looked eager to answer. “Well, first, Ace’s owner should find out what makes Better better. For example: Better came up with a bestseller game, which involved animals (yup, Clare would fall for animal game anytime) that was more appealing than Ace’s plants. In addition, Ace should find out what kids liked and come out with new games. Or, the two of them could work together!”

I was pleasantly surprised and exceedingly proud of their wise replies. “Good job! I hope you will always remember what you have said today so that in the event of failure, you will always think positively!” I cheered.

Dear Lord, please help my children to be resilient when they encounter failure as its through failure that they could emerge stronger and wiser. May they always grow in Your wisdom and rely on Your strength in every situation. In Jesus name, Amen

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Its My Turn Now

It’s a real joy to see Priscilla growing. She loves to talk and dance to music, very different from her two older siblings. Lately, she learnt to imitate us too.

Every morning, before I leave for work I would wave to her. She must have noticed my black computer on my shoulder: an indication that I am going away for the day.

One evening, I took out my video camera from its little black casing. While trying to video Prissy dancing to music, she decided to crawl towards the small black bag, lift it up and hang it over her tiny shoulder. Her other hand waving to me, as though to say: “Mum, its my turn to say good bye now!”

I was caught off guard. Indeed, I only have limited number of years with Prissy before she leaves us for college, work and eventually her own family. It was a poignant moment that drew out tears from my eyes. I am missing her already!

Thank you God for reminding me that I should treasure my time with my children, as there is only so many of years before they leave me. Help me to be a better parent each day.  

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Take a Peek

Its always good to see how we are like through the eyes of our children. However, I would like to add a good dose of humour and perhaps acceptance to go alongside. For me, its an eye opener and a reminder that all these times, our children have been quietly absorbing and digesting all that were said before them.

Today, I had a bad bout of sinus and felt so exhausted that I couldn’t think clearly to pray (!). “Clare, please could you pray for me? I don’t feel up to it tonight.” I mumbled to her. She commenced by starting with the Lord’s prayer and just when I thought that she would be going through the usual preliminaries, she went: “Dear Father, I pray for my mother who freaks out easily over my health, my studies….generally over everything. I pray that she would learn to calm down more.”

I gulped and in my heart, I told God that really, that was an exaggeration. Afterall, Clare was hospitalized just six months ago and so naturally, I would be concerned with her catching another round of cough from school. Compared to other mothers, I have been told that I am actually quite cool about things. So, dear Lord, may I add that I am only a little freaked out at times, and not all the time as implied by Clare. My thoughts were interrupted again.

“And, please help my dad not to spend so much time on his hobbies. He spent about one-third of his time on cars.” Clare continued. I was glad that she had made the same observation as me that Ray does really indulge in his hobby a tad too much.

“I also want to pray for my ma ma (granny). Help her to stop focusing on the past and look into the future.” She prayed. Now, how did that come about? I wondered. Before I could start justifying myself further, I realised that God is using my girl to speak to me. If a child sees her mother panicking over matters that are under God’s control, how does that impact her faith? This is not only a poor reflection of great God is but also a serious indication that mummy needs to develop more reliance on God.

“Dear Lord, I know that I am not setting a good example to my children. Please forgive me. More importantly, help me to develop such faith in you that they could see, how you make a difference in my life and eventually in theirs. In Jesus’s name, Amen.”

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Turning 40

As yours sincerely is turning 40 this year, I have been reading about what people write at 40.  The common trend is “life begins at 40!”. For ladies, there is the added advantage of “displaying more confidence, the revelation that you don’t have to prove yourself to anyone anymore, that their complexion at this age is the best ever, and at 40, you are comfortable with your looks.

After reflecting on my own 40 milestone, I must admit that I am far from what the norm is. For a start, I still have pimples which some say that it’s a sign of youth. Although I have grown to accept pimples as a part of my life for as far as I could remember, I won’t mind losing them at 40 at all. Aside from the physical tick, I am still constantly kept at my toes. Don’t get me wrong, I have resigned from the fast pace corporate world, but being in the servicing industry, perpetual problems such as customers’ dissatisfaction, threat of competition, losing market share, poor service, shortage of funds etc constantly pull me out of my complacency and keep me humble.  

On a personal note, I know that I am one of the rare fews who had achieved her dream at this age (as most would only enjoy this upon their retirement). I am living in my dream home and environment – constantly serenaded by birds chirping and greeted by an unbeatable view of the lake and hills. Staying with my parents had given me immeasurably joy and stability. At 39, God has blessed me with Priscilla, my no. 3. And of course, my other half, Ray, who has assumed more responsibility as a father since no 3 arrived (probably even without his knowledge) and has always been my greatest supporter in everything thing that I do.

So, at 40, I am grateful for what God has given me for the people that He has brought into my life and for the crisis and challenges at work. Although I may not exudes the same level of self-confidence, my confidence in God has definitely grown.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, 
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalm 23:6)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The 1st Step Has Begun!

One of things that I held close to my heart, is education. From a tender age of 10, I was sent away from home, in the pursuit of a better education in a country down under. My parents had made big sacrifices and took on the huge risks that I would turn out ok in their absence. Looking back, I know that God had a calling for me.

Now, I am a parent with three kids. When I witness what children had to go through in school, it breaks my heart. Their strengths and soft skills were hardly ever acknowledged; instead, they were expected to perform with minimal coaching. The one and only achievement that could demand praises is their performance in exams. I am not belittling the teachers. Far from it, I have great respect for teachers. However, one can’t deny somewhere in our education system, something is not right.

After talking to numerous parents, the conclusion is: send your child to the right tuition teacher is the way forward! What an alarming discovery indeed! “Why do I send my kids to school then?” I asked myself constantly.

The movie “The Blind Side” changed my entire outlook on education. The movie spoke of an unwanted child whose parents were too busy getting in and out of jail than to look after him. He went from school to school, failing in grades but the teachers still “passed” him, so that he could move on. Finally, through a series of events, he was adopted by a couple, who took on a genuine interest in him. In fact, his new mother took time to go through his records and discovered that his strength was “protective instinct”. With that, she encouraged him to play football, leveraging on his strength. Eventually, Michael Oher became a very successful football player and was awarded a scholarship at a university (you could tell that I know next to nothing about football). One simple recognition and Michael Oher’s life is transformed forever.

As a parent, I felt that God is calling me to discover and develop what my kids are best at. Education is the tool. I long to see parents work alongside teachers to help our children in this exciting journey of discovery and learning. Without my knowledge, God is already preparing people for us to start the school. The inaugural school’s open day was finally held. I am just amazed that this dream is coming true! May His name be praised! I look forward to the day in seeing kids' lives being transformed, because there are teachers and parents who believed in them.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Baby Food

These days, parents really go the extra mile in preparing baby food for their toddlers. I mean, just by reading what goes into Prissy’s porridge would make me salivate. Here is the menu:-

“Rice porridge cooked with free range chicken and organic veggie harvested from the day (ie long beans or spinach), double boiled and slow cook for eight hours to a smooth mushy paste, totally delectable for toddlers and babies alike, including some hungry parents! You could be assured of quality & zero seasoning - only natural flavours that arise from the seepage of chicken juice into the porridge and fresh veggie.” 

Except of course, Prissy can't read yet. So, I am like Prissy’s cupbearer everyday, sampling the porridge before feeding her. “If I were a baby, I would gobble up everything and not a mushy grain would be left on my plate.” I told myself. But babies have the fussiest taste incomprehensible. When I offered one spoonful of mouth-watering porridge, all she did was turn her head away! Another attempt was met with a slight pursing of lips – she used her lips to determine if the food was acceptable, worse than any customers you could find in the restaurant: Even fool knows that there is no taste bud on the lips!

So there we have it: grown-ups could put in as much effort as possible in pleasing a baby but such effort could quite often go unappreciated. But the times when Prissy opens her mouth and welcome every spoonful, I am on cloud 9, savouring the “floodgate” that is before me and quite often, forgetting how difficult she had been. Parents are so easily appeased too!

I feel immensely blessed to be in this position, where I am placed to please my 10- month baby. I have no doubt that my Father in Heaven too is looking at me, as His prized possession and treasure, pleasing me with His many wonderful gifts, and Prissy is no doubt one of them.

Our First Meeting

Today, we had our 1st info session, introducing our international school to the public! This was a realization of my dream, of establishing a holistic school that focuses not only on academic performance, but more importantly, in bringing out the best in every child. Just the mere thought that this day had dawn, was a reminder to me that with God, nothing is impossible!

I could still vividly recall that starting an international school in Kampar was a crazy idea. Afterall, Kampar is not the place to even begin if we were to make money (between you and me: this is not meant to be a profit driven project). To pour more cold water to the already bad idea, getting teachers is a challenge. Just over one month ago, our principal (I know, we have a principal onboard, and a very well qualified one too!) shared, “Team, we may have to start thinking about advertising for teachers as I am not getting any application from anyone I know! To make matter worse, schools in the Klang Valley are pinching teachers from one another; some had even gone as far as India and Sri Lanka to recruit!”

As the author of this crazy idea wasn’t me (although I would be very tempted to take the credit for it), but God, He had impressed upon me that He had already prepared the teachers for us. “How is that possible Lord?” I kept asking myself when the meeting ended, too timid to even share my conviction with the team then. In the weeks that follow, people whom I know started to come to me, asking for teaching positions in the school. To add icing to the cake, they even recommend their friends from Kuala Lumpur to join us! I could almost hear our Father in Heaven chuckled “See, didn’t I tell you so! Have faith!” The picture of Noah’s ark came to my mind: when the ark was completed, God just called the animals by pairs to enter the ark, predestined, pre-prepared and the best part was: no human intervention required!

Today, we had expected about 20 pax to attend our briefing, but almost 30 turned up. After the session, R came up to me and inspired me with this “Fee, 2 years ago when you shared about starting a school in Kampar, I thought it was a crazy idea. Now, when I tell my friends that I am moving to Kampar because my wife will be teaching there, they are calling me crazy! Now, the thing that strikes me is this: Your craze has brought crazy people like us to come to Kampar! Don’t you feel blessed?!”

My engine of worry in whether we could bring in enough students died that very instant! “Yes, I do feel immensely blessed!” He, who could bring in the teachers, would also bring in the students. :)

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

PS: To date, we have a principal, one curriculum director and one student affair & admin director onboard. These are all very highly qualified individuals who gave up their high-flying career to settle with their families in hilly Kampar. In addition, two extremely talented and sought after teachers will be joining us here. When I asked the husband of one of the teachers how he felt about relocating, his reply was most unexpected "Whereever my wife is happy, I am happy!"This could only be possible, when God called His people. Glory to Him.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Training at Home

Those who know me, would label me as demure but really, I am just quite shy to voice up my views. In fact, I am just quite happy to be left by myself, indulging in my own thoughts. But God has other plans for me, such as bringing Ray into my life to be my spouse. With Ray, silence is not an option: He would grille me for an answer for every single one of his questions. To top it all, my response must be sensible, thorough, logical and convincing! And as though Ray alone is not adequate, God gave me Joseph, which is a mini dose of Ray! So there it is, in our family, there are two men (or boys) who are constantly pushing me to come out of my introvert shell.

When Clarissa started school this year, I was dismayed to discover that her school had taken Science and Maths in English out of her timetable. Clearly this wasn’t right but given my inert nature, I would normally have contained my displeasure. However, this time, my activist string has been struck. The very next day I called the school principal to find out more and here was the her answer “The government has stopped issuing new textbooks to our school in view of the recent change from dual to single language system. So, I have instructed for the textbooks to be shared in the classrooms by the students.” She explained. “Sharing textbooks in school would not really help the students to master the subject in English as the children needs to bring back the textbook for reference. And if there is a shortage of books, could we bring these books to be photocopied, so that everyone would have a copy?” I refused to give up. Finally, she agreed to look into the matter, on the condition that I submit a letter, signed by parents, requesting the school to conduct the respective subjects in dual language!

There I was, after having drafted the letter, I was at the school during recess time and after school hours, explaining the school’s “new policy” to parents and why we shouldn’t take it. There were parents who looked at me strangely, wondering what was the big deal; there were others who shared the same sentiment as me. Eventually, I managed to secure 16 signatures. A day later, Clarissa came home, exclaiming that she had received the English textbooks! Joy was on my face! The years of training by big and mini-Ray had come in handy for me! Perhaps God foresee this day and roped in Ray and Joe to toughen me up! May His name be praised!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Joseph is now 7 years' old

This year, Joseph will be entering the BIG primary school! Although progression is to be congratulated and celebrated, I will miss my boy, afterall, he is slowing stepping into the path of independence!

Unlike his demure and serious sister, Joseph is humorous and loves to talk nonsense! Over the past 7 years, he has taught me how to laugh at my mistake, let loose and be silly for a while (yup, I am too serious at times!). His most annoying trademark – possessing a loose tongue, has caused me to look at things differently.

He loves to call me “naughty mummy” when I give him too much homework but wears the sweetest smile if he needs my permission to indulge in a packet of junk. To an outsider, he might seem rough and loud, he has a tender side that trickle through.

In April 2011, our family celebrated the arrival of our no 3, Priscilla. Joseph has risen to be a very responsible and dotting brother, much to my surprise. Whenever he received any presents, he would not delay in showing his little sister his latest prized possession. Recently over Christmas, he displayed his mini-collection of nerf guns to Priscilla, showing her how to load, aim and shoot!

I am really blessed to have Joseph in my life, its God’s way of telling me that its ok to be silly sometimes! 

Joseph restoring joy to a friend

We were at a family retreat at Cameron Highlands. Children were having a fun time playing frisbees when one child, Ashton, threw the frisbee...