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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

Festive road trip fun

Posted: 30 Jan 2014 04:03 PM PST

Here are some tips for a smooth drive home this Chinese New Year.

As the Chinese New Year festivities dawn upon us, families who plan on visiting friends and family in other states or faraway towns will definitely be planning a road trip with their entire troop. And while some families look forward to the long hours on the road, some (especially those with younger kids) dread these journeys.

It's hard sometimes for young children to stay cooped up in the car for hours. So, it's only expected that they tend to get cranky. Some also get car sick. To keep these trips as stress-free and as fun as possible for everyone in the vehicle, here are some tips. 

- Prepare a travel goody bag

Pack a bag with fun-filled activities for your little ones, with i tems such as colouring books, stickers, magic markers, simple crafts and so on can keep the kiddies entertained for several hours. Before you know it, your child will tire themselves out with these activities and probably snooze throughout the rest of the journey.

- Play fun but safe games

Playing "I spy" is probably one of the most popular road trip games out there. But, why not spice it up a little by offering the kids a pair of toy binoculars to make the game more fun? This game has proved to be fun and educational for the entire family. "Spy" on items like car numbers and colours, or state and town names. Or learn the different types of flora and fauna throughout your trip. 

For those who don't know how the game goes, here's an example; the first person to take their turn on the game will say, "I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with the letter K." Then, everyone playing the game will try to guess what that item is. It could be a Kingfisher that just flew past your vehicle or a picture of a kitten seen on a book.  Whoever who gets the correct answer, will take their turn next and repeat the initial question but with a different letter. 

- Fun with maps, state capitals and more

If you are travelling with older kids, hand them a map and let them mark the areas you have covered throughout your journey. Prepare a quiz on the towns you will be passing through. If you are travelling with smartphones and tablets, log onto the Internet and find out what the specialities are in each state you drive through. 

-Take pictures

Make use of the cameras in smartphones and tablets, and get your kids to take pictures of sceneries outside the car. Ensure that your windows are up for safety reasons. You can set a theme for these pictures, such as "Only take pictures of blue cars on the road," or "Only take pictures of trees with brown leaves," and so on. These pictures can later be saved as a fond-family-road-trip-memory and compiled into an album or a folder on the computer.

- Plan your pit stops

If you're going to be travelling for many hours, ensure you plan some fun pit stops. If you're travelling along the highway, plan ahead and check out where the fun Rest and Recreation (R&R) stops are at. Some have play areas for the kids to unwind at; some have everyone's favourite eateries such as fast food and ice cream parlours. 

If you want to be a little more adventurous take the 'scenic-route' and use the costal roads. Some of the smaller towns throughout our country have very interesting eateries that are significant to the local town folk. For example, Tanjung Malim in Perak is famous for their massive pao buns filled with various fillings (kaya, red bean etc).

Most importantly, drive safe and arrive safely at your destinations.

Have fun balik kampung, and Happy Chinese New Year!

Joyous festive traditions

Posted: 30 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

There is just no horse-ing around with Chinese New Year rituals.

CHILDREN have the best of times celebrating Chinese New Year ... they get to dress up in new clothes, feast on all the cookies and soft drinks they want and play with firecrackers. The highlight of it all, of course, is receiving angpows, regardless of whether they have been naughty or nice.

"When you're a child, Chinese New Year puts you at the receiving end. It's all about fun and playtime with the cousins and collecting angpow money. You don't really think about why your long-lost relatives have suddenly come to visit or why you have to greet elderly strangers with well wishes; you just go with the flow," says mother-of-three Tisha Ng, 31.

Chinese New Year comes with its own set of values and traditions. As Ng has learned, parents need to make a conscious effort to share these values and traditions with their children.

"Families aren't as close as they used to be. Now with Facebook, we hardly ever catch up with our relatives outside the online world, even though we may be staying in the same area. I don't want my kids to grow up not knowing who their cousins are. So, no matter how busy we are, we make it a point to bring the children back to our hometown to join in the celebrations. It may be just once a year, but it is a reunion, and there's no better time for that than during Chinese New Year."

Ng's husband Lawrence Choy believes that exposing their city kids to the simpler lifestyle back in the kampung will actually help keep them grounded.

"Back in the village, the TV will be on but there'll be no cartoons. There'll be festive programmes but they're more for the adults. And, so the kids will be running around being kids, just like how it used to be," says the 31-year-old.

Thinking about the Chinese New Year from his past evokes nostalgia for Choy, who co-owns a restaurant with Ng.

With much laughter and merry-making in the household, Chinese New Year is one of the Liew family├ó¿¿s favourite times of the year. Seen here is Liew's mother,  Lim Lee Ying, and her grandchildren.

With much laughter and merry-making in the household, Chinese New Year is one of the Liew family's favourite times of the year. Seen here is Liew's mother, Lim Lee Ying, and her grandchildren.

"Chinese New Year doesn't feel as festive as it used to be. There's a lot of hype in the malls but in the home, the decoration has just gotten simpler and simpler over the years. I think people these days emphasise too much on their working life and just breeze through their days like that. My family is guilty of doing the same. Though we may no longer observe all of the same traditions, we do keep the important ones."

The eldest of the Choy family children, aged five, is being trained to master the art of greeting and paying respects to the elderly, which, in essence, is something that should be observed beyond the festive season.

"Having my son wish his grandmas and grandpas 'Happy New Year' and 'the best of health' is a simple thing, but it makes the older generation so happy to be greeted that way. Sometimes, it's really the little things that count," Choy opines.

Blessings in abundance

When it comes to angpows, there is an unspoken rule that one should give according to their own means. Getting children to see the red packet for what it represents, rather than what it contains, can be a challenge, says homemaker Liew Yoke Puey, 37.

"When my kids were younger, their understanding of money is that the more one has, the better it is. So, whenever they received an angpow containing RM2, they would make a face and look unhappy. I had to keep reminding them that an angpow is a form of blessing from our loved ones and that the value is only a tiny part of the bigger picture."

Liew's children, aged nine and 12, have also been taught to keep from immediately opening their angpows – according to Chinese culture, it is rude for one to do so. "As long as you're willing to take the time to explain things to your kids, they will listen," she quips.

It is customary for Liew's family to give out the red packets on the eve of Chinese New Year – these angpows are considered to be ya sui chien, or "money to keep one's youth". The recipients would sleep with the angpows placed beneath the pillows, an act meant to signify the continuity of good luck from year to year.

Liew reveals that in her family, the older siblings are encouraged to give angpows to the younger ones, regardless of their marital status.

"My older brother still gives me an angpow every year. As I am the second eldest, I will give angpows to my two younger sisters, who already have children of their own. This tradition signifies the responsibility of older siblings and how they should be looking after the younger ones. It's something that was passed down from my parents' time and I'd like it if my kids could continue with this tradition."

Chinese New Year comes with its own set of values and traditions. As Tisha Ng (in red) puts it, parents need to make a conscious effort to share them with the next generation.

Chinese New Year comes with its own set of values and traditions. As Tisha Ng (in red) puts it, parents need to make a conscious effort to share them with the next generation.

Liew adds that Chinese New Year is in fact one of the family's favourite times of the year. "We enjoy all the details that go into making the celebration what it is today. I stay very close to my parents and my siblings and I think that is why we've managed to keep certain traditions intact. The family may have grown bigger, but we've not grown apart. My parents have always been strong believers in upholding family values and traditions, and they let us know what they really expect from us. There's a lot I can still learn from them."

Enjoying the moment

On the first day of the Lunar New Year, Yeoh Jin Shan's family strictly observes the ban on hair washing and doing laundry (so as not to wash the good luck away). The family also practises giving out ya sui chien, and is big on reunion dinners.

The kindergarten principal has taken to storytelling to give her firstborn a better idea of the traditions associated with the Spring Festival, another way of referring to the Chinese New Year.

"The story starts with Nian, a monster from ancient times. Nian would terrorise the towns every Spring Festival. As a solution, the villagers would put up a lot of red items and burn firecrackers just to scare the monster away. And the traditions have been passed on till today. I managed to find an animation of the story on YouTube to help put things in perspective for my daughter. She really loves the story," says Yeoh, 34.

To get her eldest more involved in the festive preparations, Yeoh encourages the five-year-old to make Chinese New Year-themed crafts to decorate the home with.

"Now that she's able to do some paper-cutting, I got her to cut some simple shapes out of red packets and had her paste them on the wall. When she's older, I hope that she'll pick up some baking skills from my mother-in-law and join the family in baking homemade festive snacks.

"What matters isn't so much learning a new skill, but learning how to appreciate the time spent together with the family," Yeoh adds.

While it is important that parents ensure that traditions live on through their children, Yeoh feels that families should not lose sight of one of the more important elements in life: enjoying the moment.

"Traditions are important, but it shouldn't consume your life. We are but role models for our children. Save some space for fun and the rest will fall into place."

Resolutions for Year of the Horse

Posted: 26 Jan 2014 08:45 PM PST

Amid the challenges of caring for a special needs child, this mother is determined to take time to live in the moment this new year.


HAPPY New Year, everyone! Most of us will agree that 2013 and the first month of January went by too quickly. So I will pretend that we are just at the beginning of a new year, according to the Chinese calendar. It's time to review my New Year resolutions.

Have more patience

I have been working on this for many years. I read somewhere that the same events will occur until the lessons have been learnt. I think there is a breakthrough here! I can finally turn to Page 2, but remaining on the same chapter, "Patience". Kind of anti-climatic, right?

Well, it is a long journey but I am just glad I am able to move on. Most times, it is because I am impatient and I want to see results. For parents with special needs children (learning and/or physical disabilities), patience is all the more important because it's harder to predict tangible outcomes.

For other parents in the same boat, I want to assure you that our kids are better for the learning they have embarked on. We don't realise that, do we? We only know that they have yet to achieve the desired results. Take a step back, and you will know that the efforts are worth it. They have acquired some level of skills, the progress they have made is important and we should use that to motivate and guide them to improve further.

Laugh with the kids

It is easier to laugh and enjoy "mum-baby" moments with my younger son. At nine-going-on-10, he is still cheeky and mischievous. He is playful and is not resistant to cuddles and hugs ... yet.

My special needs daughter will turn 19 soon, so I suppose joking and laughing with mum is not so cool anymore. However, we do get to enjoy each other's company.

On my part, I try to converse with her as much as possible. There are times when this requires a bit of effort (on my part) as the topics of conversations are not that of a young adult and mum. However, I remind myself that it is important for me as I need to learn and understand how she thinks so that I can be more effective in reaching out to her.

For other parents reading this, remember to always hug your kids and enjoy all the silly moments with them. This is one way to bond and bonding is very important when they are young.

Appreciate the 'present-moment'

I think I have worried less, so perhaps I can move on. Worrying is part of being a mother but I always ask myself, "Can I do anything differently, now?" If the answer is, "No!" then I will launch into prayer mode and ask for divine intervention.

I have wasted much time and energy worrying about things that never took place. So, now I try to be positive and do whatever is in my power. Otherwise, I will try my best not to think of the worst and worry unnecessarily.

Allocate more 'me-time'

We spend many hours taking care of our family, kids (and more so if they require extra attention because of their special needs) and hardly have any time for ourselves.

In fact, we are often the last priority and it didn't hit me how bad that was till I fell ill. During those days, I realised I had to re-think my way of life, such as payimg more attention to myself and my health. In reality, allocating time for exercise is a real challenge but I am quite happy to spend some quiet moments with a cup of coffee and a book.

Happy New Year again and may all of you make meaningful resolutions.

> Anna Wong will be giving a talk on 'Parenting The Special Child – How Do You Give Your Best?' Feb 22 from 9am-1pm at Secita Building in Kelana Jaya, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. For more information, call Wong at 012-372 3776.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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