Like an abstract painting, life has been throwing a lot of colors and textures lately, it creates a beautiful patina of art yet the canvas is so full and rich now, without realizing it, another week has just gone by.
Several weeks ago, Michael and I made a visit to a nearby kindergarten where he might continue his education next year. Looking for pre nursery program was a no-brainer, any good enough school within walking distance was granted a winner, and we had only one institution that fit to the requirement. The purpose of the pre nursery program was just to let him learn socializing with children his own age, and so far, we are pretty happy with Michael's development. He's less timid now, enriched his vocabulary in English, practiced writing numbers, and is no longer socially awkward around other children. He also has turned into quite a story teller, because with school and meeting other children, his young life as an only child became more colorful, that every evening before bedtime, he would make a garland of stories of the day's activities, plays, friends, and experiences which he presented in cute toddler's language to us, his parents. Not to mention list of new questions and curiosity!
However, continuing to kindergarten presented another issue. Originally, both Hubby and I were dead set on enrolling him to a good Catholic school in our neighborhood. However, some conversation with parents of older children, who enrolled their children to international schools, gave us new insight. At the same time, it humbled us, since previously we had prejudiced against international schools as institution for rich kids from snob parents who parade around in branded goods and expensive cars. Well, some of it rings true, even a friend who worked as a teacher at such institution told me a ridiculous story at how materialistic young children can be. During a school play, some of the third graders were supposed to wear "diamond necklaces" for a formal ball scene, and the main topic was "Are yours real diamonds? How much were they?" Whoa.
Yet some other parents, who enrolled other children at, I guess, more down-to-earth international schools, expensive as they are, told different stories. One parent, the mother told me that she and her husband chose international school for their children because they don't want the children to become "victims" of everchanging national education curriculum. Also, the curriculum imposed by Indonesian Ministry of Education is getting more and more ridiculous every year. There are too many subjects, too many things the children should learn for the National Exam, that teachers and schools have to basically thrust all the overwhelming study materials to the children, making them overstressed and fail to learn anything in deeper level. Hello, even trees cannot bear flowers and fruits at the same time, right?
An international curriculum will only require you to take five subjects, plus Indonesian language and Religion classes, which I have no problem about. Afterall, I'm not a big believer in education that cramp children in classrooms and cookie-cut them into champions of international science fair or students who can get the highest score in National Exam. Education is a life long process to better ourselves to be a better person, the way the Lord wants us to be: in school, in family, at work, in marriage, in community. It should go waaaay beyond SAT score.
Some of Hubby's friends enrolled their children at Mandarin School, where the children are not only taught two foreign languages: English and Chinese Mandarin, but also in old-fashioned manners and character building like, which sounds very appealing to us. So we decided to do some research on a Mandarin school near our neighborhood. Again, with all the traffic jam in Jakarta, Hubby and I don't want our children to spend hours and hours everyday just to satisfy the parents' ego, for the sake of going to prestigious school. At least until they are older and can make their own decision.
To cut the long story short, we finally narrowed down our option to two international schools: one teaches mainly in Mandarin - with English and Indonesian language on the side; and the other teaches mainly in English - with Mandarin and Indonesian language on the side. We gravitate more towards the Mandarin School, though, since both Hubby and I speak relatively good English, and to us it's an easy enough language to master. Everybody speaks English nowadays, but not too many are able to speak Chinese Mandarin. We understand that Mandarin - with all the different sounds and characters - is a difficult language, so naturally spending more time practicing them for future competitive advantage makes a lot of sense.
Michael and I have visited the kindergarten, and we have a good feeling about the school. Yes, I did my research, but visiting the school in person is a must. The Lord has implanted in us that little voice inside our heart and mind called instinct, that's why!
However, we also wanted to visit the primary school. The logic is simple, if the primary school is good, Michael is pretty much secure for the next nine years: three years of kindergarten, six years of primary school. We don't want to do another research two years down the row, looking for another school for after kindergarten!
Just like when we picked the pre nursery school for Michael, Hubby also wanted to come along. This grateful wife knows that his work was pretty hectic that week, so I really appreciate him being there with me for the visit.
The school is small, neat, and clean. They don't have too many students, which I like. They have all the basic facilities like library, sports facilities, science labs, etc. We were walking around the building with Ms. Inda from Registration Office when all of sudden the bell rang and out the students! Suddenly we were surrounded by children who communicate in a cheerful, noisy language foreign to us. Chinese Mandarin. Hubby and I are of Chinese descend, yet shamefully we don't speak a word of the language! Well, except "I love you", which is "wo ai ni". Haha!
The melodic sounds of the young voices took me back to my younger days, when I watched a lot Mandarin movies and listened to a lot of Mandarin songs. High pitch and in rapid fire speed, they sounded as flowy and eloquent as birds' singing on tree branches in front of Michael's room. It reminds me of the smell of Asian noodle shops and Chinese grocery stores, soy sauce and incense, of pale porcelain skin, long glossy black hair, martial arts, and Oriental wall paintings with mountains and clouds, peonies and dragons. It's like being transported to another world, another country. We were spellbound.
Yet the highlight of the day, was what we saw at an art class. The students have just finished class, and just like dilligent ants, they worked together in harmony - as fluid as a ballet or orchestra symphony - sweeping, mopping and taking out trash. We watched such scene on YouTube before, but seeing it with our own eyes was just surreal. In Indonesia, labor is so cheap that everybody we know have maids. We don't, but even we have someone to come and clean the house from time to time. Thus, we stood there, totally transfixed in silence. The Registration lady quietly explained that even young children at kindergarten are required to clean after themselves after lunch and napping sessions.
That did it. There's no way our son would turn out to be selfish, dependant child, with such traits embedded at school AND at home. Sold.
Now we only need to wait for registration time to kick off in December. And pray for our decision, AND that Michael will get a place, since the school is small and there are a lot of demands for enrollment.
We know that it would be challenging for non Mandarin speaking parents like us to send our child to Mandarin speaking school, but we do believe it's the right decision.
Getting Back to Exercising
I'm a Ms. Fix-It-Do-Everything at work. It means my work could range from preparing vegetarian dishes for guests at the Penthouse to building a 25-storey office tower. One of my latest project was building a gym and apartment facilities for employees, adjacent to the main office tower. Finally, in November, the gym is opened to the public, aka employees!
I'm giddy with joy for three reasons: the delicious feeling of accomplishing a well-done job, baing grateful to see how my work will benefit other people, and the fact that now I can just saunter to the gym next door after office hour to exercise! No need to join and pay for gym membership fee, drive to the nearest fitness center, look for a parking spot, and spend time that supposedly could be spent with family just to prepare to do the actual exercising!
I'm not a gym freak, but I had been enjoying yoga for several years when I was a single woman living on my own, so now I whip myself back to doing it twice a week. Quite often at work, my hours becomes hectic and my mind is similar to that highway during peak hours with so many things all going on at once. As much as I love my work, it feels so good to push my body to do yoga poses, flex my limbs and focus my mind to concentrate on only doing that one activity and that one activity alone. When you do difficult poses and sweat is trickling down your nose from the exercise, your mind cannot wander and multitask. You are right there, be present at the moment and only think of what you are actually doing at that very moment. Nothing else. After being multitasking all day long, it's very liberating. I also love the peace and calm feeling of the cooling down process, after the hard and vigorous exercise, your body and mind just quiets down to nothingness and all your stress and worries melt away. Not to mention the healthy benefit!
Being a Mom Who Works Outside The Home
I'm very very thankful that my office is only a short distance from home. Getting married at the ripe age of 34 might have its downsides, but it also has the upsides. Both me and Hubby have already spent years paying our dues and climbed the corporate ladder that when the time came to raise of family (for us, it happened late, yes) we are already at the position high enough to have flexibility. It means I can manage my time in any way I see fit, as long as it's not obnoxious, proper, and I get all the job done. For a mother, it means a lot more than salary or benefit. It means I can very well juggle my roles of being a mom and a career woman, without all the limitations of being someone, say, an entry level employee would have. It's something that we didn't plan, but we are grateful nonetheless.
For example, last week, Hubby decided to work from home and around four o'clock he took Michael to pick Mommy up at the office. He even brought Michael for a short walk in the park beforehand.
Two days later, it was Mommy who took a little longer than usual lunch time to pick him up from school. I try to give him that surprise once in while, and his face lights up with joy everytime he realizes that it's Mommy who is waiting for him in front of the class door! When I was little, my Mom almost never picked me up from school, and when she did, I was completely over the moon! Even when I was very young, I understood why Mom didn't pick me up from school like other moms, and I never asked her to, but it's always a special event when she did.
I'm a strong believer that children doesn't need a lot of toys. On the other hand, I strongly believe that children needs to PLAY a lot. How can children play when they don't have a lot of toys? Well, just read Little House series. For thousands of years, children have been playing with whatever they are able to find around them, out in nature, and use their imagination and creativity. While pre-determined push-a-button gadget can only do whatever spesific purpose they were designed to do, a set of wooden blocks can be built into bridges, buildings, castles, and in Michael's case, he even turned the blocks into veggies and meat in a "cooking show", a carwash soap, and loaves of bread at a "bakery."
Michael has plenty of things to play with, not neccessarily all toys. He has about ten toy cars in different sizes which I rotate regularly, a set of wooden block, a wooden train, a secondhand wine cart that he likes to play as grocery cart, about a dozen books in two different languages, two sets of puzzles, and about half a dozen stuffed animals which I also rotate regularly.
Last week, there came a new addition to the stuffed animals team! Hubby just got back from an office outing at a nearby town and he brought a plushed toy named Sippo for Michael. Sippo is such a soft, cuddly animal - I think he was filled with some sort of sand - that Michael flipped with joy the first time he held him with his little hands. In addition to cars, books and toys, Michael loves stuffed animals because he doesn't have any sibling(s) (yet, I hope) to play with, he can turn them into friends and audience and pillows and bolsters. Look at these pictures! Michael and Sippo are practically best friends nowadays! He carries the cow with him everywhere! They watched videos together, they played together, they slept together, it's just so cute.
When I was single, I couldn't comprehend mothers who continually post dozens of their children's picture on social media and go oh-and-ah on how flipping cute the children are. Now, I am one of those mothers! Haha! Yup, motherhood changed me. A lot.
Hubby's Birthday Party
Hubby's birthday is in October, and we held a celebratory dinner for his family on a Saturday about two weeks after his actual birthday. Hubby is always a happy camper during this time of the year, because I always make sure to make his birthday a fun and cheery family event. What started as dinner at a restaurant in 2012 has turned into a cherised family tradition that Hubby loves so much.
After reaching adulthood, and before marrying me, Hubby's family didn't do anything special for his birthday. Perhaps because birthday parties souns like something reserved only for children. Also, Hubby is not someone who likes inviting people over nor entertaining people at home. To him, it's all about having a meal at a restaurant, and that's about it. However, his wife just loves to entertain friends and family at home, a tendency that I started when I had my own apartment at college in the US, and have been cultivating ever since, now that I am married and have my own family. Over the years, Hubby has started to enjoy the idea, especially since he doesn't need to do anything but showing up, I do all the prep work but he does help with cleaning up afterwards. Somehow the idea has gotten under his skin.
I don't really care to throw an extravagant nor over the top party that will stress everyone out. To me, as long as the guests have enough food to eat and have fun, that's enough. I still remember with fondness the simple potluck dinner gathering with mismatched plates and cups on Friday nights when I was in college, held in friends' apartments. I don't remember the decoration or the food, I just remember the warm and buoyant feeling of community, togetherness, friendship and that we had a long of conversations, shared jokes, and lots and lots of laughters.
This year, I decided to throw a costume party. However, it's not an obligation. Some of the guests show up in costumes, but most don't. Hubby, Michael and me wore the tackiest, most colorful, flowery, tropical clothes that we were able to come up with, to represent tourists on a cruise to Hawaii!!
Here are some snapshots of the party.
Finally I could use the unique beer glasses and mugs that I got during my travel again! I love collecting souvenirs that I can use for daily life. Still I have not used these new ceramic and glass collections acquired during the last Europe travel for a couple of months. Well, such a celebratory dinner automatically warrant special tools for disposable forks and spoons and chopsticks! I usually avoid anything disposable because we're really trying to tone down our household waste. We even scrap the use of paper napkins completely, and limit the use of tissues at our house to a very minimal level. However, entertaining twelve people needs a lot of dish washing, and we don't have a dishwasher. Hence, Hubby insisted to use disposable plates and eating utensils for guest, as well as drinks in plastic cups; while we keep real plates to serve the dishes and real wine glasses.
I also serve sweet and savory crackers, as well as peanuts, for guests to munch on before the actual dinner. That will keep them occupied around the living room couch, having conversation while I was finishing the dinner preparation.
We ordered food from Angke, a favorite expensive restaurant in the neighborhood. Hubby and I think it's the best Chinese restaurant we have ever visited, but because the prices are rather high, especially if you are not a big family, we only splurge to order food from the restaurant once or twice a year. The food is simply delish!
The good thing about throwing a party at home? One, you save some money because you don't need to order overpriced rice and drinks. Two, your guests can stay looong after the restaurant closing time.
The atmosphere was casual and fun, so even the hostess, me, could enjoy the food and the guests. That's my number one rule of entertaining: enjoy.
Happy birthday, Hubby! *hugs and kisses*
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