Book review: 可爱的鼠小弟

In a previous post(eons ago :p), I mentioned that I would be introducing some books and tools that helped C gain interest in Chinese. Here’s the first of a series of posts on this topic.

One of the first Chinese books that C really enjoyed was the 可爱的鼠小弟 series. shuxiaodi This series is translated from a Japanese picture book collection by Yoshio Nakae, first published in the 1970s. The stories follow the exploits of Little Mouse (鼠小弟) and his animal friends. The story lines are easy to follow, and the charming illustrations hold their attention. Language used is simple and repetitive, like most early readers are.

Here’s a sneak peek into the contents. In the first book, Little Mouse shows off a new vest that his mother made for him.

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Little Mouse’s Vest

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This is the vest that my mum made for me, doesn’t it look good?

As the story progresses, each of his friends admire and compliment him on his beautiful new garment, and asks to try it on.

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Your vest is so beautiful! May I try it on?

The problem is… his friends are all bigger than Little Mouse!

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It’s a little tight, but doesn’t it look good on me?

I’ll leave you to guess the ending 😉

C’s review
C enjoyed the simple text and repetitive phrases in the book. She found the mouse really cute, and laughed along with Little Mouse’s experiences.

G’s review
I introduced this book to G recently. Like C, he was able to appreciate the humour in the book. Since C was already familiar with the book, she played the part of a big sister to read it to G. Win-win situation 🙂

My review
I enjoyed reading this picture book with the kids. The text was repetitive but not boring. The illustrations, while simple, did a lot to bring out the humour in the situation without being distracting. As I’ve mentioned earlier, C was really resistant to learning and speaking in Chinese, but she was willing to repeat the phrases after me, and learning to recognize some of the characters.

This is definitely a good book to start with young toddlers or even older reluctant readers like C 😉 Do try it!

For those who are residing in Singapore, this series is available at the National Library.

For those who are interested in the English version of the book, it can be found on Amazon.

Do you have any recommendations for Chinese books for kids?

Happy 7th birthday C!

C turned 7 on the 14th of July.

Dear C,

You’ve been looking forward to your birthday celebrations since the beginning of the year, counting down first by the number of months, then weeks, and finally by the number of days. Not because of the presents or party, but because you’ve been waiting to take that teeny-tiny step towards adulthood.

The day has arrived, and you are now officially a 7-year old. “Almost an adult,” you declare, proudly showing off the gaps in your teeth where two adult teeth have started to show. You can’t wait to grow up, but I wish for time to slow down, just a little.

You’ve grown so much over the past year. Sometimes, I forget that you are only 7.

There were the times when I was impressed by the maturity of your speech and actions. Did I tell you that I was extremely proud to hear that you stood up to the bully to protect your friend? Or how comforted I felt when you offered to keep your brother busy when you saw that I was tired so that I could rest?

Then there were the times when I’m reminded that you are still a little girl, one who still believes that the tooth fairy and book fairy is real. I try my best to keep that belief alive, by staying up late to write that note on behalf of the fairies, so that you are not disappointed when you wake. That sparkle in your eye when you see the letter is worth it. I hope that you will always believe that magic exists, in one form or other.

It was not so long ago that I woke up at 5am for your morning feeds. Just the two of us awake, you suckling quietly at my breast. You were a tiny baby then, dependent on me for your every need.

Now, 5am mornings are part of our daily routine again. Just the two of us awake, getting ready for school. But now, you do not need me to brush your teeth, or get changed – you can do that yourself. Then you sit quietly, sleepy and blurry-eyed, while I tie your hair.

You’ve been asking me to teach you how to bundle your hair in a ponytail. I’ve seen you standing in front of the mirror, trying to figure out how to do it properly. I will teach you, and you will keep on practicing till you get it right, just like how you learnt to button your own shirt and how you learnt to feed yourself.

Have patience, my dear daughter. I know that you can’t wait to grow up, to be fully independent. But before you get there, there are so many things that I hope you will learn. Not only to tie your own hair, but to learn from mistakes, to act with grace and humility, to be a person with integrity.

In the meantime, I will put off teaching you how to tie your hair for a little longer. I know that I will miss doing this little task for you, just like I miss the times when I helped you put on your socks, or when I fed you your rice cereal. So, I’m holding back, I want to keep tying my little girl’s hair for a little while longer.

Happy birthday, C!

Love,
Mummy

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Happy 3rd Birthday G!

G turned 3 on 31st May, so this post is almost 2 months late (gasp! Where did the time go??)

Dear G,
Last year flew by in a blur. You’ve grown so much over the past year. Your verbal skills have improved by leaps and bounds, and you’re able to express yourself well, be it narrating your own story, recounting your day in preschool, or complaining about your sis :p 

You love to sing, and I would hear you humming to yourself while playing. Your favourite songs? Eensy-Weensy Spider, Alphabet song, and of course, “Let It Go” from Frozen. You’ve also started to learn to play the piano, and your best (and only piece) is Hot Cross Buns. I hope that you will always enjoy music, and be able to sing your heart out whenever you feel like it (like you do when you start belting out Let It Go at midnight in the dark)

You show an affinity for the written word. I would catch you pointing out words in books and street signs, and you love learning how to spell (magnetic letters are one of your favourite toys now). You’ve learnt to spell your name, and simple words like milk, toy, dog. I would often catch you “reading” to your toys at bedtime 😉

G reading

G reading

You’ve progressed from a little boy who was afraid of going up the trampoline, hesitant to jump into a ball-pit or even try the balance-beam, to a little daredevil who leaps off into the ball-pit (or off the bed) if given half a chance. Although mummy is so proud that you’ve come so far, try not to give me too many heart-attacks, ok?

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Leaping in with wild abandon

You’re such an affectionate little boy, giving us warm hugs when you sense that we are upset. I love it when I get home from work every evening, to see you running to me shouting “Mummy, you’re home! I miss you!” I miss you too, everyday at work.

You really look up to your elder sis, parroting her words and imitating all her actions. I’m so glad that you are such a loving little brother, missing your sister when she is not around, giving her hugs when she is upset, offering to share your sweets with her whenever you get some. Always, always remember this bond that the two of you share.

Sharing a special bond

Sharing a special bond

Of course, there are the tantrums. Terrible twos and threes were not named by chance. You have a stubborn streak in you that drives me up the wall sometimes, yet I can’t stay upset for long. All it takes is “I’m sorry, mummy. Are you still angry?” and a big hug from you. And who could resist that cheeky grin? Please grow out of this phase soon, though. It’s really no fun. I have the proof on video, and I promise to show it to you when you are older.

I know that it’s not easy being the second child, and you have limited time alone with mummy because she has to work and spend time with your older sis for her school work. As a result, you’ve grown up to be more independent, playing quietly by yourself when everyone else is busy. Sorry my dear G, I will try to spend more time with you. And take lots more photos and videos.

Happy birthday my dear G, mummy loves you lots. Stay happy and healthy. Laugh lots, and I hope you never lose that twinkle in your eyes 🙂

Happy birthday G!

Happy birthday G!

Love,

Mummy

Learning Chinese – the journey

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Chinese? Difficult!

Chinese has always been a tough subject for C. When she was much younger, around 2 or 3, she used to ignore anyone who spoke to her in her mother tongue.

Who could blame her? To her, it was a totally foreign language.

Although we are ethnic Chinese, 99% of our conversations with her were held in English. We read English books, she watched cartoons and DVDs in English, even the punishments were meted out in English.

Our initial attempts at introducing Chinese were half-hearted at most. Truth be told, I had assumed (or maybe, hoped) that she would be able to pick up the language sooner or later. After all, she was Chinese, wasn’t she? Her grandmother watched Chinese shows, and she was exposed to the language at school. We had also enrolled her in a weekly 2-hour Chinese enrichment class. I never remembered any difficulty picking up the language myself, so I thought it would be the same for her.

How wrong (and deluded) I was. At 5 years old, she was barely able to conduct a conversation in Chinese. She could read some Chinese sentences, but understood little.

Alarm bells started ringing for us when we attended the Primary One Preparation Seminar conducted by the enrichment centre in May last year. In the seminar, the speaker covered the syllabus for primary school Chinese, in which the oral component played a major part (gasp!). We were shown sample test papers, and I found myself shaking my head… C had a loooong way to go, and it was all uphill.

We set to work trying to get her interested in Chinese. In a previous post, I posted about doing a lapbook on China. I had a reward chart marking each day that we managed a short conversation in Chinese. It was difficult to stay consistent, and I lapsed back to speaking in English from time to time. I started reading more Chinese books to her.

Fast forward one year later. I’m pleased to report that some progress has been made, and in her first term show and tell, she scored 19 out of 20 points. She is now able to conduct a fairly decent conversation, and picking up more vocabulary from reading Chinese books.

Although the push to start picking up Chinese was academic, I hope that in time, she will be able to appreciate the beauty of the language, and not treat it as another subject to study for.

The journey has just begun.

Do you face difficulties introducing a second language to your child?

p/s: I’ll be introducing some books and tools that helped C learn Chinese. Do stay tuned!

Winter comes to Singapore! 2Degree Ice Art

Who says winter does not come to Singapore?

Two weeks ago, over the weekend, we brought the kids to the 2Degree Ice Art Exhibition. Held inside a thermal-insulated hall kept at -15°C, it was the best way to beat the sweltering heat in Singapore!

The kids (especially C) were really excited about being able to experience winter for the first time. Ok, it’s not really winter, but it’s close enough. There were thick coats for rent ($5 each, including gloves), and C was really pleased to get one with pink flower buttons. We brought G’s fleece jacket, and he was relatively warmly bundled up with the fleece inside his rented winter coat.

Tip: If possible, bring ear muffs or hooded jackets for the little ones. It really does get very cold inside.

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All wrapped up and ready to go!

I was amused to see that the entrance to the hall was literally a door into a freezer container. Once they ascertained that we were appropriately bundled up, they opened the door to let us enter. As we stepped into the hall, we were hit by a blast of cold air. The kids were thrilled to see their breath in puffs of steam (“Just like they described in books!” according to C).

Coloured ice-carvings were scattered around the hall, and the first to greet us was Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore.

Sir Stamford Raffles

Sir Stamford Raffles

My favourite was the ‘icicle forest’ (I’m not sure if there was an actual name for this exhibit). Pretty!!!

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My favourite exhibit

There were also ice-sculptures depicting various landmarks from around the world, lit by coloured LED lights.

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Famous landmarks – in ice!

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Recognise any of these ice sculptures?

If you asked C, the best part of the entire exhibition were the ice-slides located at the children play area. There was a big slide where we slid down sitting on a tube (which we had to lug up from the bottom of the slide) and a little one on the right. C didn’t need any encouragement – she literally ran up the steps to take the smaller slide down before we could give any instructions.

Note: It can be slippery at the top of the slide. I slipped and landed on my butt while attempting to sit down. It’s been ages since I last sat on a slide, and I think this fact was glaringly apparent, as evidenced by my clumsy descent down (video has been censored). 

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Whee!

Getting ready to slide down on a tube

Getting ready to slide down on a tube

There was a small area on the left of the slides, where there was real snow (instead of the usual foam that we find in tropical Singapore). The kids did not get to play there as there was a large crowd in the area, and G was too tiny to squeeze in with the adults and older kids.

After C came down the slide for the nth time, we decided to move on as G was complaining of not being able to feel his fingers (he had taken his gloves off as he couldn’t see his hand :/)

Note: It would be a good idea to bring your own pair of gloves, as the snow would make the complimentary gloves wet. Wet fingers = frozen numb fingers = no fun

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More ice!

Although the hall was rather small, there was enough to see and do for us to stay there for an hour. The ice-sculptures were not that spectacular, so I thought that the tickets were a tad expensive without discounts (I got them at a discounted corporate rate). It was a good experience though, especially for the kids. I think they took to the cold pretty well, though G did complain a little towards the end. Time to plan for a ski trip!

Do you and your children enjoy the cold weather?

More Information:
2Degree Ice Art will be on till 15th May 2014.
Opening hours from 10am to 10pm
Adults – $32.00 (10% discount for MasterCard holders, and also discounted entry on weekdays)
Child – $26.00
Children below 1.2 metres or less than 9 years old get free entry with purchase of adult ticket
Winter coat rental – $5.00 each (complimentary gloves with coat rental)
Located at the Junction of Bayfront Ave and Sheares Link; Standalone building beside the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and opposite the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre.
Parking is available onsite, but places are limited.

 

 

We survived Term 1!

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Yay! We made it through term 1 of school, and it’s time to take a break. I’ve been looking forward to this week, when I can finally wake up at 7am, instead of the usual 5am routine.

I’m happy to report that all is going well in school, despite my initial worries. From waking up every morning at 5.30am, to completing her school work, to making new friends, C has coped marvellously well so far. In class, each of the students are given responsibilities, and she was proud to report that she was made the English rep of her class. I was amused to see her eyes shining as she told me how she helped to collect and carry the books during English class, and she wore the English rep badge with pride (I’m reminded that she has to wear the badge everyday and it must be in the correct place just above her name tag).

Of course, not everything was perfect. C had to learn how to stand-up for herself against bullies, taking responsibility when she forgot to hand in her work, handling disputes among friends. It was part of growing up, when she learnt that mummy will not always be around to handle unpleasant events.

To be truthful, I was very concerned about bullying, and was shocked to hear her saying that “someone was mean to her in school and threatened to throw her water-bottle away”. It took me a lot of self-restraint not to overreact, and to stay calm while we talked the incident through. It ended happily though, and she was able to resolve it by herself (the girls are best friends now!). That first incident gave her the courage to stand up against bullies on the school bus, to defend herself and a friend against the older girl (proud mum moment :)) It was certainly a reminder to myself to step aside and let her learn, instead of taking matters into my own hands.

Now that we’ve survived term one, it’s time to celebrate 😉 We will be bringing the kids out to have some fun. Have a great week ahead everyone!

Another year, another life lesson

Good morning, everyone!

It’s pretty quiet in here because I’ve been busy with life in general. Since C started primary school in Jan, I’ve been getting used to 5am mornings and early bedtimes. We’ve been working on brushing up C’s Chinese and G’s reading (more updates in later posts)

So, it’s been a year since I posted this list of 37 life lessons. Many things have happened along the way, and if there’s anything I’ve learnt, that’s:

38. Be prepared for change
Changes are inevitable. I can choose to accept and make the best out of it. Or I can choose to resist and be miserable. I’ve learnt that it’s ok to go with the flow (sometimes).

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Have a great day everyone. I’m off to celebrate the first day as a 38-year old 🙂