Friday, January 22, 2010

I Can't Stop Crying and Cursing at The Same Time...

I cried and cried because my uncle who is very close and very dear to me whom I adore just like a second dad has been diagnosed with lung cancer. It's critical. Stage 4.

I cursed and cursed the cigarette companies which made those damning cigarettes that he has been addicted to for the past 34 years. May you rot in hell!

I'm at lost. I can't imagine losing him. He's always been so strong, fit and very conscious with regard to his health. But when it comes to the cigarette demons, he lost it.

I now, truly hate cigarette companies with a vengeance! PFFFFFTTTTT!!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Did I Tell You I Dig Gadgets?

Yes, I totally do. Especially if it's the cooking kind hehehe. If you ever come to my house, you'll get the chance to see bountiful of them in my kitchen and in the store room.

Just like how some people go crazy over the latest phones or games or apps or home electronics, I would go bonkers over the latest cooking and baking gadgets, quirky utensils or handy cake decorating tools. I can literally spend hours just browsing from aisle to aisle and not buy anything OR come out with the basket filled to the brim.

So, when I read on Verde's blog about how easy it was to cook and how fast it took her to savor her cooking, I just can't resist and straightaway put in an order :). This happened last year during the month of Ramadhan but me being the great procrastinator, could only put it to good use last night after reading on KS's blog on her grilled chicken, yet again :) .

I present to you, the great Chefel pan :D

I marinated several pieces of chicken in soy sauce, black pepper, sesame oil, honey and a dash of garlic powder in a ziploc. Left them for an hour in the fridge. While waiting for magic to happen, I peeled six large russet potatoes and cubed them to be boiled in salty water to make mash potatoes.

While the potatoes were boiling away happily in the pot, I chucked in the marinated chicken in the Chefel pan. Closed the lid tight and got working on my black pepper mushroom gravy. Half way through, I opened the lid and tossed in chunky bits of carrot and broccoli. Shut the lid tight again and turned it over. Easy peasy!

All in all, it took me just an hour to cook everything. The keyword here is MULTITASKING! Zareef was extremely happy that he got to eat his grilled chicken with roasted veggies and mash potatoes with gravy.

Zara didn't want the chicken but ate her plate clean of roasted carrots and mash potatoes with gravy.

Mommy? Mommy had everything on her plate and wiped it clean :)

ps: Thanks Verde and Matun for the inspiration and motivation :D

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

It Could Have Been Avoided In The First Place...

I read with such remorse in the papers regarding the death of a teacher and his four students in the dragon boat incident in Penang two days ago. To me, sudden death is the worst death of all. It surprises you when you least expect it. Quick and swift. Death due to old age, terminal illness and the likes are more bearable. You are mentally prepared for it and you make whatever necessary preparations for it. So when the time comes, you at least know that the torment is over and you move on.

But what really ticks me is that, the death of these unfortunate souls could have been well avoided if all of them had worn life jackets. It's as easy as that! You know you're going out into the rough open sea and yet you don't wear life jackets. How crazy is that? It's like you're gambling your life away. You might just as well, put yourself in the same cage as a hungry lion or lie down on the tracks right in front of a moving train.

What shocked me more was when I read that more than half of the team did not know how to swim. Lagi tak mau pakai life jacket! I totally blame the teacher in charge for such ignorance on the lack of safety measures. He's the most adult of them all. He's in charge of everyone. Why didn't he put them in life jackets? Why? Why? Why?

I can swim but when I go snorkeling in the open sea, I opt to wear a life jacket. I know better than to fight against the mighty undercurrents with my minute energy. It's easier to just float and swim with the currents than to battle it. So can you imagine what a frightening situation those students who can't swim were in? It scared the living daylights out of them and the worst enemy would be panic itself. Once you panic, then you're as good as dead.

So my question is, why did the teacher took safety issues ever so lightly? Had he made sure all of them wore life jackets, then their chances of survival would be very high. He very well cannot answer that question now, can he?

May the souls rest in peace.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Zara's First Day At Preschool...

When every student in Malaysia started their first day of school on 4th January, Zareef included, my little girl was still fast asleep on her princess bed. She only started going to school during the third day of the second week and has been going there ever since :)

B and I have been contemplating for quite a while whether to start sending Zara to preschool at the age of four or five. But after seeing how eager she was upon seeing her brother going to school, day in day out, I decided to enroll her in one of the kindergartens available in my area.

I started scouting around with Zara in tow. I wanted her to choose her school so that she'll be comfortable and adapt to the school with ease. Her only condition for her school that it MUST be a pink school. Oh dear, I guess only Barbie would have such school, if it ever exists that is hehh...

Anyway, after checking out a few schools, I finally narrowed down to one school that fits my bill; no homework for the young ones, has an all-rounded curriculum, has a well-balanced mix of students from all races, has a computer program, a pink uniform (which Zara immediately agreed putting on, thank god!) and a swimming pool for which they'll have swimming lessons every Friday.

Once done emptying my pockets or should I say B's pockets on the necessary registration and monthly fee payment, the only thing left to do is to psyche up Zara for her first day of school.

Waking her up in the morning on her first day was a breeze. She was pretty excited and raring to go.

B and I sent her to her new school. Seen here, she' s being comforted by her Daddy.

As soon as she got in, she became all quiet, clingy and apprehensive. I could see that from the way she was biting her fingers. She clang to me like a koala bear never letting me go. But all that had to end as I had to be home by 10.30 as Zareef was due home from his Kafa at that time.

And oh boy! Did she screamed and wailed and almost brought the house down when I wanted to leave. It tore my heart to see her all stressed out like that but a Mom's gotta do what a Mom's gotta do and that is to leave her behind in the good hands of her teachers. I just picked her up, thrusted her into her teacher's arms and left without looking behind. I was beyond heartbroken and I knew if I were to stop and look behind, I'd wailed as well.

I left quickly and came back at noon to pick Zara up. Her teachers told me that she stopped crying right after I left and by the end of the day had made fast friends with two of her classmates and was quite chatty. Ceitttt! Auta sungguh anak aku nih!

So the next day, I just walked with her to the front door and handed her over to her teacher after kissing her goodbye. Alhamdulillah, she's all fine and dandy and is thoroughly enjoying her school especially now that she knows she can 'schwim macam kat hotel' on certain days.

One milestone done and that will last for three years. Lets just hope that it won't fly by so fast so that she'll cherish every moment that she'll get from her preschool where all they do is learn, play and have fun. And for me too before my princess grows up too fast before my very eyes. It is moments like this that I am thankful that I get to be with my daughter in every step of the way.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

When Streamlining Goes Awry...

Last year when Zareef officially became a Year 1 student, he had to sit for an aptitude test on the third day of school. The aptitude test consisted of Bahasa Malaysia, English and Mathematics questions. The reason for the aptitude test was to rate student's proficiency on those three subjects mentioned. Students with the highest total score will be placed in the first class and so on for the purpose of streamlining.

Zareef being the laid-back guy and with a couldn't care less attitude wasn't worried at all. I'd be lying to say if I weren't. Well, I didn't want him to end up in the last class, that's for sure. So, the night before, I grilled him on his BM, English and Math. He only lasted for less than an hour after which, he started complaining that his feet hurts from studying. Apakah? Marah betul aku! But I gave in. I didn't want to push it.

Next day, he sat for the test and the results came in on Monday. He scored above 85% for all three subjects but apparently those marks were not good enough for him to be in the first class nor the second or either the third. He was placed in 1 Mutiara which was the fourth class. Mummy agak kuciwa but I knew he did his best and looking from his marks, he scored A's in all three. So maybe, those kids who got in to the first class must have been geniuses to have scored 100% (in fact 75% of those in the first class did!) in all three papers. Oh well, can't have it all, can we?

Fast forward to his finals, Zareef managed to get fifth in class. He was so damn proud and so was I. He even said that he'll be moving up the ranks in classes for Year Two.

So, imagine his horror when he found out that he was placed in 2 Intan, which is ranked fifth in school. He was frustrated and sad beyond words. He kept asking me, "But why Mommy? Zareef dapat no. 5! Kenapa Zareef masuk 2 Intan pulak? At least Zareef masuk 2 Nilam (third in rank)". All I could do was hugged him tightly and assured him it was okay to be in that class. It doesn't matter if he was in the first or the last class (God forbid!), we would still love him unequivocally. We were baffled but most of all I was damn fcuking angry at the school for imposing such system.

To me, such system just serves as an unnecessary stress for the children. For the smart kids in the first and second class, it will be very taxing and distressing for them because they will have study their ass off just to maintain their position in class. A slack of even one point in any result will cause them to move to a lower class. It doesn't help either that the teachers play an important role in drumming such preposterous notion into these kids' heads that Kelas Zamrud is the top class while Delima and Berlian are the dunces.

Yeah, I'm not making this up. B heard it during one of the morning assemblies where the dickhead of a teacher made the ridiculous announcement; "Isnin ni, kamu semua ada peperiksaan akhir tahun. Pelajar-pelajar kelas Zamrud dan Permata kena belajar betul-betul kalau nak kekal dalam kelas masing-masing. Kalau tidak, kamu masuk kelas Delima atau Berlian. Pelajar-pelajar kelas Delima dan Berlian, kalau nak masuk kelas Zamrud atau Permata, pun kena belajar rajin-rajin dan dapat markah tinggi dalam peperiksaan".

Now, you tell me how sick and nauseating to listen to such announcement. That teacher was practically announcing to the whole world that students in Zamrud and Permata are the clever ones while those in Delima and Berlian are as good as nothing. Can you imagine how crushed and devastated the students must be to hear the teacher say that. I know I would. B did. In fact, he wanted to call out the teacher immediately but decided against it as he didn't want to make a scene. I was gobsmacked when B related the story to me and felt like punching that particular teacher in the face. How dare he! How dare he, to give labels to children when he doesn't even have an ounce of right in the first place to issue such statements.

Come 4th January 2010, I went to Zareef's school to pay his school and PTA fees but not before asking his class teacher as to why my son, who got 5th in his class last year was demoted to a class lower than Mutiara. I'm thankful that his class teacher (God bless her soul) for giving me a warm smile first before answering. It sure did a hell lot of good in calming me down.

"Puan, tahun ni, kami dah tak buat streaming. Kami campurkan semua pelajar dalam satu kelas. Jadi, dah takde isu Zamrud kelas pertama, Permata kelas kedua atau Delima kelas keenam. Kita tak nak pelajar-pelajar rasa beban untuk belajar semata-mata untuk masuk kelas terbaik. Kita nak mereka enjoy belajar. Kecuali untuk kelas Berlian, itu kelas pemulihan untuk pelajar-pelajar yang masih tak tahu membaca dan mengira".

Wahhh... this is good! Upon hearing her words, I felt as if a huge burden has been lifted from my shoulders and I heaved a huge sigh of relief, like you wouldn't believe it.

"Kalau Puan nak tahu, Encik yang sebelum Puan pun tanya soalan yang sama. Her daughter lagi la, dapat no. 5 dalam Kelas Zamrud (the first class) lepas tu tengok2 masuk kelas Intan. Ayah dia cerita, sepanjang cuti dok nangis tak nak pegi sekolah. Bukan dia sorang je, ramai budak-budak camtu".

To which I replied, "Huhhh... dan tu salah siapa? Sekolah kan? In the first place buat system macam tuh. Sepatutnya, bila buat rombakan dalam sistem kelas, kena la bagitau ibubapa. Ni tak, buat tanpa bagitau budak-budak mahupun ibubapa. Lepas tu, budak2 Tahun Dua kena sekolah petang pun ramai ibubapa tak tahu (for the past years, Year Two students were all in the morning session). Kenapa sekolah susah sangat nak hantar surat?. Ni semalam saya baru tahu daripada jiran. Tak ke kelam kabut jadinye?!". Ambik kau! Puas hati aku bagi sebijik kat cikgu eventhough dia tak bersalah sebenarnya. Yang bersalah are the upper management. Jangan lepas nih, anak aku kena victimized sudah. Memang aku datang serang cikgu tuh.

Later that evening when Zareef was all ready to go to sleep, I told him about everyone being equal and now there are no first or second or third class. Everyone is the same. He too, heaved a sigh of relief and was even elated to know that several top ten Zamrud and Permata students are in his class. That should make it more interesting to watch the fight to the top.

I blame all this on our exam-oriented education system. If all students were treated equal and instilled with a belief that learning is a fun and on-going process, none of this would happen. At least, that's what I think. It's how you use and apply all those knowledge and skills acquired in school and beyond, formally or informally, in the real life that matters. Interviewers doesn't care that you were in the first-ranked class during your primary school years nor do they ask which English or Math set were you in when you were in high school. Betul tak?!

For now, Zareef's goal in his Year Two is to obtain first in class so that he'll get his prized PSP. At least, he got his priorities right, right?! ;)

Friday, January 01, 2010

Farewell 2009, Hello 2010...

A decade ago, on this very day, I was at Universal Studios' Island of Adventure Orlando Florida with a bunch of great friends and hubby to be. We drove in two separate Ford Tauruses, clocking in close to 3000 miles from Purdue to Orlando.

Boy! Did we have a blast!! The new Island of Adventure was newly opened and the rides were awesome with a capital A. Waiting time averaged at 30 minutes but we didn't mind at all. We waited and rode and the vicious cycle continued. Oh... did I mention it was in the month of Ramadan? Yes... it was. I am rather ashamed to admit that I didn't fast on that day and so did the others except for two; Mr Chartered Engineer and Mr Motivator. We were musafir back then hehehe...

Come night time, the atmosphere heated up. The crowd went wild ringing in Y2K. Fireworks display was totally mind-blowing. Till this very day, I have not seen any fireworks to the likes that I saw ten years ago. Yupp, even the fireworks competition held annually in Putrajaya pales in comparison. Then, it was non-stop partying till the wee hours of the morning.

At about 5 am, we decided to call it quits and drove to the nearest Dennis for an early breakfast. After a hearty meal, we drove for about 3 hours to Tampa Bay for the Outback Bowl. Yes, for the first time ever, Purdue made it and played Georgia. We were there bright and early.

Again, the atmosphere was euphoric! We wore Purdue t-shirts, caps, wavy hands and face tattoo proudly. Purdue played like they've never played before in the first part of the game and was leading by a big margin. Everything went downhill from there. Georgia suddenly played like a possessed demon and started leading. They won the Outback Bowl and we went home frustrated like there's no tomorrow. The guys that is. Miss Auditor and I, we were fine by it because as we saw it, we got a life-altering fun experience and it was well worth it.

A decade has past and I am now happily married with a loving husband who was my traveling buddy back then and with two wonderful children. Life couldn't be any better and I am very thankful to Allah for all the good things in life that He has generously bestowed upon us. Syukur Alhamdulillah...

Reflecting on 2009, I am thankful and overwhelmed for all the good things that has happened. There are a few downs but I'm taking it all with a pinch of salt and moving on. Things happen for a reason and who am I to question it? I take it all as tests from Allah. Quoting B's boss, "Allah tidak akan menguji seseorang melainkan Dia tahu orang itu sudah bersedia untuk diuji". So, saya redha. Itu semua Qada' dan Qadar. Que Sera Sera.

For 2010, I pray and hope to be a better Muslim, a loving and patient mom and less of a momzilla, a doting wife to my husband, an attentive daughter to my parents and family, a lovable friend and a skillful baker.

Happy New Year everyone! May 2010 brings you lots of joy, love, an abundance of livelihood and renewed hope and dreams. God bless!! :D