Monday, October 29, 2012

{Guest Post} My Favourite Children's Author: Hans Christian Andersen

Some of my favourite fairy tales are penned by the legendary Hans Christian Andersen. From The Ugly Duckling to the Little Mermaid, these are tales that I grew up with and will never forget.

So I am very delighted that PC is sharing all about this wonderful author with us today. She is a mother of two girls, aged 7 and 2 respectively. She takes a part-time working scheme this year to learn better juggling between family and work (as well as her self). She blogs at Simply Us, a place where keeping her sane amidst the all the whining and messes.


Hans Christian Andersen was a Danish author and poet who wrote many poems, plays, stories and travelogues, but is best known for his fairy tales. He once said that ideas for his stories 'lie in my mind like seeds and only need the kiss of a sunbeam or a drop of malice to flower'. Andersen's fairy tales of fantasy that are filled with moral values are popular with children and adults all over the world. 

Andersen was born on April 2, 1805, in Odense, Denmark. His father was a shoemaker, and his mother earned money washing other people's clothes. His parents spoiled him and encouraged him to develop his imagination. Many say his life is a fairy tale itself, as he came from a poor background and yet became a remarkable storyteller for many decades. 

This was my first book of fairy tales.

I could not remember when exactly I got it, probably it was during my upper primary schooling years. The book consists of twelve long stories with only one picture to illustrate each story. Some even had no pictures. But those powerful words were enough to blow my mind as a child. Not all of the stories ended happily ever-after, but I was immersed in the rich, imaginary world of the author to learn about good life values through princes and princesses, the poor and the wealthy classes, sparrows, swallows, ducklings, swans, peas, shoemakers and what not. I read the book so many times that I wonder if the tales were true? Most of the tales begin by saying it was a tale told long ago and retold before it is forgotten, or it was a tale told by a swallow or sparrow, which made the tales so believable, that I hoped I could listen and understand the birds tweeting. And, some stories sounded so real to me that I wished I could visit the museum that displayed the pea!

Yes, I am talking about stories written by Hans Christian Andersen.  It was very much later I realised that Hans C. Andersen is one of the world's most beloved children's author in the world. Almost everyone would have heard of his famous tales such as The Ugly Duckling, Princess and the Pea, The Little Mermaid, The Emperor's New Suit, and many more. Many of his stories are sophisticated and beautifully written, with tales that provoked my emotionss. I took a long time to accept that Little Mermaid didn't get to become a princess and instead transformed into the cold foam of sea. 

He wrote more than one hundred and fifty fairy tales. He set new ground in both style and content, and employed idioms and forms of spoken language in a way that was new in Danish writing, leading many critics to commend his informal, chatty style. While fairy tales in his time were didactic and meant to convey information, he brought wit, irony and often ambiguity to his tales. Many of these tales teach us moral values that would help in everyday life or warn against something.

To me, he is the greatest storyteller, with an ability to weave the imaginary with reality. Different individuals would perceive different messages from each and every story of Andersen. For example, The Little Match Girl spoke out for exploited children sent by their parents to beg in the streets. I was shock to learn that, and at the same time, it taught me a lesson that how blessed I was with what I had as a little girl (I thought I was poor, but neh). Whilst, in The Fir Tree, he told a very meaningful story of the life of a Fir Tree rejoice in its growth and presence. 

"He now felt glad at having suffered sorrow and trouble, because it enabled him to enjoy so much better all the pleasure and happiness around him; for the great swans swam round the new-comer, and stroked his neck with their beaks, as a welcome."(from 'The Ugly Duckling') 

Over the years, Andersen's tales have “evolved”. Reading his tales again after growing up with abridged and altered versions of his creations can be quite amusing, especially with a pre-schooler. Many of the stories are simpler and yet still contain amazing appeal to inspire a new generation. When my elder daughter was three (or four), I started to read Thumbelina and The Ugly Duckling to her. We even went to watch The Ugly Duckling.

However, my girl first learned about the Little Mermaid through Walt Disney, so much so she refused to accept the ending of the original version. I can't blame her, it is a happy ending compared to Andersen's original. Well, she will learn the real beauty and power of Andersen's literary wonders someday.

She has since continued with other stories like The Emperor's New Suit. I love this as Andersen used the character of a child to speak the truth and question the moral of deluding oneself. Not every criticism or opinion is worth to be uttered:

"But he has nothing on at all," said a little child at last. "Good heavens! listen to the voice of an innocent child," said the father, and one whispered to the other what the child had said. "But he has nothing on at all," cried at last the whole people. That made a deep impression upon the emperor, for it seemed to him that they were right; but he thought to himself, "Now I must bear up to the end." And the chamberlains walked with still greater dignity, as if they carried train which did not exist." (from 'The Emperor's New Suit,').

Recently my girl got to read The Nightingale in a simpler version via Usborne (part of the school reading program). It was a version without Death and very much easier for her to read on her own. I took the opportunity to get The Nightingale from library and go through the story with her. This version contained many more difficult words and more complicated scenes (compare to Usborne's).

"The king seemed on the verge of death until the nightingale who had been banished from the court upon hearing of his illness came to offer comfort and indeed she managed to chase death away. By doing so, she gained her freedom and a promise from the king that he would listen his little bird and be a just and compassionate ruler. In turn, the nightingale would come back and sing for him to fill his heart with joy." (extracted from here)

While I read, explained along the way, Death is introduced to her for the first time. So she asked, "Who is he?" The book happened to have the illustration of the Death staring at the ill emperor with his cold, hollow eyes and many faces surrounded the room, making the scene fearfully still.

Her other questions included: "Can Death take away the emperor's spirit by judging his good and bad deeds?", "Why do you want to take away the emperor's spirit?" and "Why are there so many faces?"

I pondered, knowing what a scaredy-cat she is. "He is someone very powerful who does his work like an emperor to decide whether you can live or die," I replied.


I tried to answer it tactfully. In many story books, Death is more of a loss, intangible, rather than being portrayed as a character  that comes judges you at the last moment of your life. I told her that, it is the uniqueness of the story and is meant to remind us that there is nothing to be afraid of, even if it seems fearful in the story. Death is part of life, and in the case of The Nightingale, the emperor was ill and his body may just "stop working", hence the spirit has to leave the body and resulting in the death of the emperor.

I wasn't sure, but I reckon it was good to keep her contemplating and come back to me with other forms of question relating to death.

We'll see.

The story leads to a happy ending after all. The Nightingale showed her appreciation, revisited the ill emperor and chased the evil faces away. By doing that, she earned her freedom and a promise from the emperor.

L-R: The Ugly Duckling, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, The Princess and the Pea, The Nightingale, The Little Match Girl, The Emperor's New Clothes
There are far too many Andersen's tales to share here. The books illustrated above are just some I can find from the fairy tale corner of a local library. Perhaps you could find a suitable story for your child(ren) in the list here before you head to the library to borrow the book.

Andersen's tales has been published in numerous collections during his life and many are still in print today. Through this exercise of re-reading the tales and researching more about Andersen, I enjoyed my self once again in his fabulous stories in English vis-a-vis the Chinese version of mine. My first book of fairy tales was somewhat unabridged from the English version, not bad, in my opinion. 

[Some other tales in my book include The Red Shoes, The Pea Blossom, The Buckwheat, The Flying Trunk that I opine they are more suitable to older children in upper primary school level.]

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Oodles of cuddles and a ‘house’ in the home

I like to be silly with Becky and we did lots of that last week. We had lots of hugs and kisses, and tickles and giggles. Becky would always say gamely ‘again!’, and we would do it all over again.

There were lots of monkeying around too, as we made monkey faces during story time and when we were trampling through long grass and wadding through a river on our indoor bear hunt. After ‘finding’ the bear, we were not scared and made friends with it. We even lay down to rest with it sleeping between us.

Becky and I played our ‘stuck to the mattress’ game again this week. We played this during story time, when I laid flat on the mattress, as still as possible and say ‘I’m stuck!’. Becky came to ‘rescue’ me by ‘un-sticking’ my arms and legs from the mattress and turn me around. And then I gave her a big hug to thank her. This game of ours always leaves her in chuckles. It is also a good form of distraction when she’s in one of her ‘going to throw a tantrum’ moods.

Becky also built a ‘house’ in our room, using two mattresses. It was a cosy spot, complete with a pillow. She had lots of fun with it, and even invited mummy to join her. Occasionally, the house fell, and she exclaimed ‘Oh no, my house collapse!’, before she proceeded to rebuild it again.

As for Ron Ron, well… Strangely, he loves the word ‘yucky’, and would break into endless chuckles every time anyone says it. Even Becky is catching on and saying that just to hear him laugh. I still can’t figure out why, but I’m glad that just a single word is enough to keep him entertained and laughing. I’ll have to crack my head for more ideas soon though, as he’s quickly growing up.

I can’t wait for my next silly, giggly moment with Becky and Ron Ron again! Yucky!

Linking up with:

TPP Follow the giggles

Monday, October 22, 2012

Caring for others is simpler than 1, 2, 3

Caring for the people around us is extremely important to me. No matter how successful or rich one is, if one can’t even spare a second, spare a thought for others, I think there is only so far that this person can go.

So ever since I was carrying Becky, I have been sharing with the little being in my tummy about my belief in showing compassion to others. As she was growing up and discovering the world, I would also ask her to check in with daddy, grandparents, our helper or other family members, to basically reach out and care for them and to relate to their feelings and situations.

I had hoped that by doing so, she will grow up to be a generous and understanding young lady who is able to empathise with others.

She has surprised me with so much more. Way way beyond what I would expect of a 32 month old toddler.

Of course, I am not saying that she has become a selfless toddler, who takes everyone’s wishes upon herself. No no. My little Becky is one individualistic toddler with a firm mind. And I encourage that, often asking her to make decisions like what she would like to do in our cosy learning corner, or what dress she wanted to wear. And if she doesn’t like something, she will say so quietly and firmly with a shake of the head.

She will have moments when she will want to be by herself to draw or reflect. Or she will absolutely refuse to let her younger brother play a certain toy, claiming it as completely her own and throwing a fit if Ron Ron even lays a single finger on it.

But then the moment Ron Ron cries, she would immediately stop what she is doing and run to me saying ‘It’s ok, it’s ok.’ If any adults stop her from doing so, she will throw a fit.

What touches me greatly is her ability to show compassion to even strangers. Not too long ago, I brought her for lunch at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Just the two of us. When she had finished, she wanted to get out of the baby chair to play with the little girl from the next table. While I finished up my pasta, she played with the girl, and occasionally played with the baby chair she was sitting on. Even though I warned her not to, she continued, until she slipped and fell backwards on to her bum, pulling the chair with her. Thank goodness I was quick enough to grab the chair, and as I picked Becky up, I could see the fright in her eyes, but she did not shed a single tear. She quickly braced herself and continued playing with the other girl. I guess the other girl was curious about the baby chair too, and wanted to play with it the way my girl did. The moment Becky saw that, she reached out, held the other girl’s arm, shook her head and said no. In her own little way, she was warning the other girl about the danger, and didn’t want her to fall down like she did.

We left CBTL to run errands and happened to walk past the girl and her mother again. The girl was still playing with the baby chair. My little Becky ran to the girl, and did the same thing: held the girl’s arm, shook her head and said no.

I was really surprised at what Becky did. She was reaching out to a toddler she completely did not know, showing care and concern, even having the ability to ‘predict’ what might happen if that toddler had continued playing with the baby chair. What is more amazing is she actually ran to that toddler again to prevent her from playing with the chair. She didn’t just walk, she ran, toddled quickly as she realised the urgency of preventing the danger.

Just the other day, I brought her to pay respects to my grandparents. She had seen my grandfather in the hospital bed, before he passed away earlier this year, and she remembered him. My grandmummy, she had never seen before. My dearest grandmummy had passed away in 2005 and I still miss her dearly. I was explaining to Becky about her mummy’s grandmummy, how her greatest wish was to have great grandchildren, but she never got the chance to. She never got to meet Becky or Ron Ron. I shared with Becky how sad I was that her mummy’s grandmummy never got a chance to meet her great grandchild, and how happy she would be if she did.

Becky looked at me, patted me on the shoulder, gave me a hug and said ‘it’s ok’.

That touched my heart deeply.

At such a young age, Becky has such great empathy for the people around her. It’s amazing how she is able to reach out and make you feel so much better. It does not really matter whether she truly understands what is going on. The fact is she is able to relate to what the other person is feeling, and reach out in her own little way, a way that is pure and innocent. A way that makes you feel all warm and cosy inside.

Caring for others is as simple as that. There is no need to think too much about it. Or contemplate ‘should I, or should I not’.

I started out wanting to teach Becky about the importance of caring for others. She has shown me that we adults often hesitate in our caring actions because we think too much.

If you care for someone, if you feel the compassion, just reach out, no matter how big or small the act may be.

Thank you, my dear daughter, for showing me the pure simplicity of it all.

Who have you cared for today?

Linking up with:

A Juggling Mom Motivational Monday

{Guest Post} My Favourite Children's Author: Emily Lim

This week, we discover more about a Singapore award-winning author Emily Lim. A graduate of the Nanyang Business School, Emily Lim's debut picture book Prince Bear and Pauper Bear is based on her personal experiences of coping with Spasmodic Dysphonia, a rare voice disorder. She went on to write more picture books, including Just Teddy and The Tale of Rusty Horse.

In 2008 and 2009, Prince Bear & Pauper Bear and Just Teddy won the bronze Medals at the IPPY Awards, the world's largest book awards competition. She became the first in Asia to win 2 IPPYs and also the first in Southeast Asia to win an IPPY in children's books since the inception of the awards. Her third book, The Tale of Rusty Horse also won the Gold Medal at the Moonbeam Awards, one of the fastest growing US-based children's book awards.

I am happy to introduce Ng Ling Siew, who will be sharing with us one of her favourite books by Emily Lim.

She is a mother to two boys – Nathan (almost 3 years old) and Noah (1 year old).  She recently quit her full time job, so that she could have more time for her boys. It took her a long time before she decided to stay home full time, and boy is she glad she did.  She’s started Mama Shoppe, which she operates out of home.  She blogs at The View from Mama’s Desk, where she writes about her boys’ adventures at school, at ‘work’ and at play.


I chanced upon Emily Lim's books before I even had kids, and loved how she weaves important life lessons into her stories. Neal Sharp does a fantastic job with the illustrations, and really brings the book to life for young kids. We've read Bunny Finds The Right Stuff, The Tale of Rusty Horse and Prince Bear & Pauper Bear. Of these, my favourite is Bunny Finds the Right Stuff.

The story goes... bunny is a toy rabbit who isn't happy with the way he was - flat feet, floppy ears and droopy shoulders. He keeps thinking that he is missing out on some stuff, and was always feeling down. He went about looking for stuffing so he could stuff himself up, but was not able to find any. He went about filling himself up with soil and blueberries, and these things weighed him down further and caused him to feel rather blue. At the end of the story, we read about how his friends went about helping him to step out of his rut. In the end, bunny realised that he had been lovingly made and also was thankful for all the friends he has.

I liked that the story is simple, and spoke about truths that all of us should cling to - that we are all lovingly created, and special in our own way.

Emily Lim is from Singapore and her books are inspired by her own journey of seeking God after she was diagnosed with a rare voice disorder. She shared about how her own journey of seeking God took her down many "rabbit holes" just like bunny. Finally, she realised that her need for completeness could only be met through knowing God.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A day in my life

I hold multiple portfolios in my life: mummy, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, sister, aunt, educator. Being busy is an understatement; I feel like a spider with two hands! Just what goes on in a typical day in my life? I invite you to take a peek.

I am soothed awake by the classical tunes of 92.4FM. Sometimes, I have to drag myself out of bed, especially after being woken up by Ron Ron for milk more than once in the night. First a hot shower to get the blood circulating and the body awake, then I do my daily milking duty. I’m usually out of the house around 645am, to start my day as an educator.

A nice hot cup of Lipton tea and a muesli bar starts my day, which is filled with lessons, student consultations, lesson and curriculum planning and meetings.

In between, I do my mummy duty. If there are no last periods or additional meetings, I leave around 2pm or so. Otherwise, I will stay on till 530pm, especially on days when there are staff meetings or curricular activities.

On these early days, I take the opportunity to spend some quality time with the kids, or run household errands like going to the supermarket. Activities are less defined, but are usually the following:

1. Mummy duty if Ron Ron has been fed before I reach home
2. Feed Ron Ron directly
3. Home teach Becky
4. Play with Becky and Ron Ron
5. Bath Becky and Ron Ron
6. Practise the piano
7. Squeeze in some me-time and catch up with fellow SMB mummies on Facebook

Dinner time!

Start to quieten down and prepare the kids for bed. If Ron Ron is hungry, I will feed him. Otherwise, I would read to both kids. Occasionally, Becky wants to do some colouring or play with some blocks first.

Hopefully, the kids are sleeping, but sometimes, Becky may fuss till 1030pm, or even 11pm. If I’m too tired, I do a final pump and then sleep. Other times, I squeeze in some more me-time to update my finances, blog or chat online. 

11pm to 12 midnight
Sometimes, I get so engrossed in writing that post, that I completely forget the time. It's these times of 'flow' that I love best, when I feel fulfilled after a writing frenzy. Then I melt into a deep sleep, just waiting for the hour when Ron Ron whimpers for his very early morning milk. Nitey nite!

Linking up with:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Alphabets in a row: K, L, M, N and O

When the hubby was away for two months, it had been hard to find time to blog. But the time the kids fell asleep, I was exhausted though occasionally, I could garner a few ounces of energy to do that rare post, which was still few and far between. 

Now that he’s back, I can blog and blog to my heart’s content! If you have noticed, I have been on a blogging roll lately. And it continues today with the long overdue post about what fun Becky and I have been at home school.

We were learning the letters K, L, M, N and O, and I am happy to share that, Becky is getting her letters and sounds real quickly!

From a young age, we’ve considered our girl to be our ‘koala’, because she loves to hang on to us like a little marsupial. So this was a very apt letter to learn with her. From the Jolly Phonics Finger Phonics Book 2, I had showed her that C and K made the same /c/ sound, so this was not totally new to her.

The K words we learnt were kangaroo, kitten, kite, knot, kayak, kettle, keys, king and koala. And as always, Becky loved pasting the pictures and writing the words out with me. One of the crafts we did was to paste small aluminium foil pieces to a picture of a kettle. We also did a little kangaroo rocking puppet. 

I borrowed two books that focused on the K sound – Koala Lou by Mem Fox and Three Little Kittens by Paul Galdone. What a perfect choice! 

Becky not only loved these two books, she also demonstrated some pre-reading skills! She recited the phrase ‘Koala Lou, I do love you’ every time we went through the book. She would also flip the pages of The Three Kittens by herself, recite ‘you naughty kittens’ and also try to ‘read’ the story by memory. Granted it wasn’t word for word, and sometimes, she recited the phrases from the wrong pages, but it was clear that she remembered the story and was reading it aloud from memory. I’m so proud of her! 

A new activity I introduced is what I call 'news writing'. I would write down the day's date in English and Chinese, then ask Becky what she did on that day. She would recall and I would write it for her, also in both languages. After that, I would read through what I had written. Then I would ask her to draw how she felt about what she did that day. This allowed me model the act of writing to her and help her understand that what she recounted to me had been written. It also gives her an opportunity to reflect on the activities that she did and her feelings towards it, while also practising her writing skills.

During the week that we did this letter, L was for lobster, lips, ladybird, leaf, lamp, lion, lollipop, leg, lemon, lamb and log. The crafts we did included paper lollipops and painting with a tiny leaf. We also had fun roaring like a lion.

M was for mummy, and relatively easy to teach Becky the sounds. By this time, the decision to expose her casually to Jolly Phonics early, by playing the songs and showing her the finger phonics books, was showing results. She was familiar with the sounds and respective actions of two groups of sounds (12 sounds in all),  so when I did the sound and action for M (action is rubbing one’s tummy), she eagerly repeated after me. M was for muffin, mushrooms, milk, mouse, mop, moth, mittens, mango, moon, monkey, man and motorbike. She loves mushrooms, so we ate a lot of that too.

Masks have a magical effect on young kids, and Becky is no exception. Her eyes immediately lightened up the moment she saw the monkey mask that we were making using a paper plate and two brown felt pieces as ears. She was totally at ease emotionally, and this really helped in making her more receptive to learning the letter. The version we made could also easily become a puppet, as you can see.

Some M books we read included Molly and the Night Monster by Chris Wormell, which was a 'scary' tale about a girl who caught a night monster creeping into her room, who turned out to be her mummy. We also read Are You My Mummy by Mae Brown about a duckling searching for its mother.

This must be one of Becky's favourite letters. It is the sixth letter in group one of Jolly phonics (s, a, t, i, p, n), which I previously just go through with her casually, as though I'm reading a story book, or I ask her to hunt for things in the pictures, to increase her observation skills. Now, I try to focus a bit more on the sounds and actions.

I showed her the Jolly sound and action for N (spreading the arms out like an aeroplane), and being the aeroplane lover she is, she enjoyed making the sound immensely. My little human 'aeroplane' also had great fun making a pasta necklace, which tested her motor skills.

We also fashioned a bird's nest using a paper plate, paper towel, pom poms and felt. 

O was all about oranges, onions and octopus. Besides making a octopus hanging mobile and a recycled toilet paper roll octopus, we also peeled onions, which brought tears to our eyes, an experience Becky didn't quite enjoy.

We also squeezed oranges! And made yummy jelly after that.

Five alphabets in a row... Phew! We're on to P and Q now, and we will share what fun we had in a later post.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Getting way back into scrapping love

I admit. I have not been scrapping very much. Rather, I have not been doing so at all. Mummyhood has become my main focus. 

Even though I’m inundated by thoughts of how this photo would be great for this layout and how that photo would be fantastic for a altered photo frame, I never actually got round to it. All my scrapbooking materials and tools are screaming to come out of the cupboard, to be ‘alive’ again on a beautiful layout, to find creative meaning together instead of just being paper, alphas, mists or brads.

After a long hiatus, I want to start scrapping again and chronicle my kids’ growing journeys and my own mummy adventure. It will be challenging to find time, time when I will not have Becky inquisitively asking ‘what’s that?’, time when I can truly be alone and scrap. 

But I must.

To inspire myself, I looked up some of my past layouts.

My fingers are just itching to get started. I've got the photos I want to use, now I just have to motivate myself to get it done. Get moving girl!

In the meantime, I’m dedicating this to those who introduced me to scrapbooking: Swee Ching, Jasmine and Kelly. Thanks for introducing me to such a meaningful hobby!

Linking up with:

A Juggling Mom Motiviational Monday