August 29, 2011

Cracking under pressure

When I first met Yoda, one of the first few things he asked me was “How do you work best?” I didn’t think much of this question so I blurted out the first thing that came to my mind, “I work best under pressure” Bunuh diri kan? Little did I know that this simple answer would affect the way I was going to be supervised in the future.

At that time, all I knew about Yoda was that he’s an old professor whose fields of expertise include literacy acquisition and learning difficulties. I didn’t know that Educational Psychology was also one his majors. Being in this field, Yoda supposedly understands the different processes and conditions under which a person can fulfill his individual potential. So. The question he asked me in the beginning was meant to help him help me fulfill my potential.

Thanks to my candid answer, Yoda has given me lots of motivation in the form of pressure. My data collection work, analysis, drafts, presentations etc were all done UNDER PRESSURE. My proposal defence for example, was presented 16 hours before I gave birth to Alva. I work so well under pressure that it has literally become part of my life. Last February, I was diagnosed with hypertension stage 2.

Until today, Yoda still insists on having weekly meetings so that I could work UNDER PRESSURE. I should probably tell him I don't want to work like this anymore but I figured, ah, too late now. I have 8 more months to go.

I'm having one those weekly meetings tomorrow and I am supposed to submit a discussion section for Chapter 5.  Everything's so fuzzy, I don't know where to begin. I haven’t even started writing the first paragraph. But then, that's not really what I'm worried about. What bothers me is the fact that I am no longer motivated by pressure.

I've got less than 10 hours to get my work done and yet I'm not panicking. It feels so refreshingly scary cos  this is so not me.

Is there another way I could work better?

"Hamm: This is the perfect time to be hysterical!!!"

Or should I just take Hamm's advice?


August 24, 2011

Grocery Shopping

I hate doing grocery shopping with the kids if hubby isn’t around. Taking Alva is not too bad. But if Alden tags along, it automatically becomes a grocery-shopping nightmare.

He doesn’t want to sit on the trolley, likes to wander off and wants everything. When I ask him to hold my hand, he pulls away and says NO. When I chase him, he laughs at me and says na na na na na. Yang style bikin girigitan tu ba. When I’m not looking, he grabs stuff from the shelves and puts them in the trolley. There was one time, I found a packet of 8 AA batteries in the shopping bag. I didn't even realised he took it and I already paid for them.

Any mother who has had the joy of doing grocery with their toddlers would understand how crazy things can get at the supermarket.  It can be really frustrating cos you never get to finish your shooping. I always ended up leaving the store in a hurry cos all I wanted to do was to get home.

When my sister sent me the following short story, I immediately thought about the many shopping adventures I have had with Alden. The story really hit home cos I can totally relate to the grandfather.  

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did :)


A woman in a supermarket is following a grandfather and his badly behaved 3-year-old grandson.

It's obvious to her that he has his hands full, with the child screaming for sweets in the sweet aisle, biscuits in the biscuit aisle, and for fruit, cereal and drinks in the other aisles.

Meanwhile, granddad is working his way around, saying in a gentle controlled voice, "Easy, William, we won't be long . . . Easy, boy."

Another outburst, and she hears the granddad calmly say again "It's okay, William, just a couple more minutes and we'll be out of here. Hang in there, boy."

At the checkout, the little terror is throwing items out of the cart, and granddad says again in a controlled voice, "William, William, relax mate, don't get upset. We'll be home in five minutes; stay cool, William."

Very impressed, the woman goes outside where the grandfather is loading his groceries and the boy into the car.

She said to the elderly gentleman, "It's none of my business, but you were amazing in there. I don't know how you did it. That whole time, you kept your composure. No matter how loud and disruptive he got, you just calmly kept saying things would be okay. William is very lucky to have you as his grandpa."

"Thanks," said the grandfather, "but I'm William … The little bastard's name is Kevin."

source: unknown

August 22, 2011

Being a nomadic student

Before February 22nd, I used to have a study space at the College of Education. It was located on the fifth floor of the tower block, overlooking the college office and administration building. I loved coming in everyday because it was the only place I could focus on my work.

In addition to having a nice office, I also had a great  bunch of colleagues to work with. Every Tuesday, we'd gather at the lounge suite to catch up and talk about our work. These gatherings were therapeutic cos they gave me the consolation that I wasn't alone in this head-damaging journey.

One day, a violent earthquake struck Christchurch and caused significant damage to our campus buildings. This changed everything. The tower, where my office was located was deemed unsafe and labelled as a red zone area. Since all my data were still stuck in the room, I felt understandably suicidal.

Three weeks later, we were given access to enter the tower with a security team. We were told to retrieve important research materials and were briefed on the things to do should another earthquake strike. Since we were still having heaps of aftershocks then, we were given only 10  minutes to complete the mission.

Ready for the mission (Photo courtesy of Abdullah Nawi)

This is what I saw

A crack between two buildings (photo courtesy of Abdullah Nawi)

The post-grad lounge suite (photo courtesy of Abdullah Nawi)

My roomate's desk

My desk

My roomate Amir 
After seeing my office, I came to terms with reality. I had to find a new study space. My Dean suggested that I work at Otakaro 232. It's a  big computer lab equipped with over 20 Mac computers. At first, this seemed to be a perfect solution cos the room was not crowded. Somehow, in just a week, news about this room went viral on campus. The number of users multiplied, making the lab a not-so-condusive environment for writing.

You see, the lab was always full, so people tend to come early and sit on the same spot everyday. I always ended up sitting next to this  noisy-breather who snorted when he breathed. He didn't have a cold or anything. It's just the way he was programmed you know. Whenever he's around, my stress level went through the roof cos I couldn't concentrate on anything else.  I know what some of you are thinking. The problem is me, not him, right? But imagine this. Imagine the sound of someone whining and snorting while and and and out.

Now amplify that a little. That's what I had to endure. Hearing that sound in a totally quiet roomdrives me insane. I couldn't very well ask him to stop breathing right? That would be murder. I had no choice but to move on.

Days later, I found a place called the Post-grad Hub. It's a TOTALLY QUIET ROOM catered specifically for thesis students.  I left my whiny lab partner and quickly found solace in the hub. Things were going well at first but after some time, more people came in to use the PCs. Not to write, but to  chat, check FB status and watch videos. 

One day, while I was writing a difficult Chapter 3, a group of students laughed out loud at something they saw on YouTube. Annoyed, I made the SHHHH sound to get them to shut up. They did, as I expected. I heaved a noisy sigh and continued writing. Moments later they started laughing again. I could feel the atomic bom inside me ticking.  I heaved another noisy sigh. This time longer and more dramatic.

But it didn't work. They were still HAHAHA-ing like hyenas.

That did it.

I marched to their table, pointed to the sign which said "THIS IS A QUIET ROOM!" and read it out loud. Everyone fell silent. I went back to my seat feeling all crappy inside. It totally ruined  my mood.

I soon realised that the hub wasn't such a quiet room after all. Despite having a sign that said For Thesis Students Only, all types of students came to use the space. After a month of working in the hub and shhhhh-ing ignorant pinheads, I was finally offered a temporary office space at Wairarapa.

This is what it looks like.

My research assistant
I am contented cos my new roomate, Abdullah, doesn't snort when he breathes or  make other irritating sounds that drive me insane.  My new office may not have a big desk or a printer or a lounge suite for Tuesday afternoon teas, but for the time being, it is enough. All I want is a little bit of peace and quiet.

*The moment I finished this draft, I got an email saying that I could move into a new office early September :)

August 20, 2011

The dress that made it to the altar

Blog Guest (Topic:My Wedding Dress)

When my husband and I got engaged, my mind immediately started thinking about our wedding day. The thing that excited me most was the thought of me wearing a poofy, white, princess gown often seen in wedding magazines.

About eight months after our engagement, hubby and I signed up for a bridal package which included a photo shoot, photo albums, wedding/evening gown rental etc. Getting my own wedding dress wasn't a priority cos I could only wear it once.

Three months before our big day, hubby and I went for our first fitting. I spent more than an hour trying on dresses before I  found one that I liked. It was a strapless, poofy, wedding gown that had beadings and lace embelishments on the bodice. It wasn’t exactly my dream dress but it was close to the one I envisioned in my head.

When I showed it to hubby, he said it didn't look special. I was a bit shattered. Since I wasn’t 100% happy with the dress (thanks to hubby's comment), I asked the shop assistant to bring in more dresses for me to try on. One of them caught my attention. It was an off-white, halter-neck gown which had embroidery and beadings on the bodice and hemline of the skirt. I had mixed feelings about this one but hubby and the shop assistant said it was lovely and way classier than the strapless number I tried on earlier. Well, I did like the details on the bodice and hemline but I wasn’t crazy about the neckline.

I couldn't make up my mind so I tried on a few more dresses in all sorts of styles. I kept going back to the strapless designs but none of them caught my fancy. In the end, hubby and the shop assistant managed to convince me that the halter-neck gown was the perfect choice.

I still didn't like it as much as I should but I started to agree with them. I don’t know what got into me. I guess I was tired of trying on all the wrong dresses. And so the decision was made.
That's how I ended up getting married in this gown.

I didn't find my dream wedding dress but at least I married the man of my dreams. There’s so much more to a wedding than a gorgeous dress right?

My advice to future brides: 1) When it comes to your wedding dress, always trust your own taste and listen to that little voice in your head (that's what I should've done), 2) Make up your mind on the look you want and try your best to get it 3) Look and feel as gorgeous as you are on your wedding day!

August 17, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: What I did on snow day

a not-so-impressive snowcastle

a pick-up truck

a famous mountain

Warning: The following pictures contain nudity and violent act that might offend some people.

FYI, she is NOT pregnant. Snowmen/women are meant to be chubby.

Thanks for all the good ideas :)

August 15, 2011

Another Polar Outbreak!

I am super excited cos a big Antarctic snowstorm has hit Christchurch. It started snowing yesterday but it wasn't enough to turn the entire place into a winter wonderland. When I woke up this morning, I was in for a surprise.

Everything's covered in snow!

Our front yard

A view of our backyard
Snow is predicted for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and it’s supposed to be heavier than the one we had a few weeks ago.

If there's enough snow today, I might build a small igloo at our backyard. What else do you think I should make/ build with the snow? Any good ideas?

I'll write more as this cold event unfolds :)

August 8, 2011

The Princess Who Rocks My World

Dearest Alva

Six weeks ago, I took out your old photos taken on the morning of 26 June 2009. Looking at these pictures, I ended up reminiscing the moments we spent at the hospital, minutes after you were born. What I remember most was watching you  sleep on my chest with your belly against me, looking so tiny and adorably fragile. I was so in awe of you.

That was 25 months and 12 days ago. It's crazy how time flies huh?

Anyway, shortly after your birthday, I discovered that “The Terrible Twos” theory doesn't exist. I have braced myself for the horror to happen but it never did. Instead of turning into one of those scary toddlers in Super Nanny,  you  have continued to behave like an angel. You don't throw tantrums or yell or run amok in shopping malls. Alden does all that.

From the day you were born, you've always been a perfect baby who does everything by the book. You turned over at 6 months, crawled at 8 months and started walking when you turned 1. Your best achievement so far is your speech. You started saying words like Mama, Dada, Yes, No, Car, There, Nenen and many more at 11 months. Now at two, your vocabulary size has multiplied.
8 months old
Apart from answering questions and voicing out your thoughts, you can easily carry out a simple conversation. This one transpired a few weeks ago when the two of us were spending time together.

Alva: Mummy....

Mummy: Yes?

Alva: You put-put? (put-put= fart/ farted)

Mummy: NO!! Not me.

Alva: Eee..SMELLY! Mummy put-put!! (smiling)

Mummy: Ok la..ok la...mummy put-put. Hehehe.

Alva: You naughty girl! Say kius me mummy! Say kius me!

Mummy: Excuse me.

Too bad Alden wasn't there to take the blame.

You know, whenever we go out together, people would ask me how old you are and whether you could talk. I like this a lot cos I get the chance to show people what an awesome baby you are. Unfortunately, you never help me on this. It is as though you resent the idea of mummy showing off. You never respond to questions and you're always silent when I ask you to talk. Why Alva? Why?? Do you know that because of your silence, no one ever believes me?

We should really work on your PR skills.

Talking about skills, I noticed that you have a keen interest in drawing. Everyday, you'd sit for at least 30 minutes to sketch on your doodling board. Objects you enjoy sketching include grapes, banana, spiders, apples and circles. You have actually drawn heaps of stuff but those are the only ones I recognised. Apart from sketching, your other hobbies include playing with make-up, singing, watching me do the laundry and pretending to read out loud.

That's your version of a banana

Your relationship with your brother has also improved. Yes. There are still lots of fights between you two but at the end of the day, you'd kiss and make up. Because you spend most of your time with him, you like to mimic every little thing he does. In fact, you learned most of your new motor skills from him. You know, stuff like table-climbing, pillow-fighting, drumming,  hair-pulling and jumping off couch. Thanks to these the hands-on tutorials, you have become more independent and you are now able to defend yourself from Alden. At times, you can even make him cry.

Unlike your brother, who is very picky with food, you consume anything I give you. You eat prawns, chicken, beef, noodles, hinava, rice, lamb, pasta, curry etc. There is no limit to what you can eat. Because of your flexibility, I have no trouble feeding you. It's really a blessing cos I don't think I can handle two picky eaters at the same time.

In terms of personality, you are very maternal and caring. I remember having gastric attack a few weeks ago and was curled up on the couch in pain. When you saw me, you came to caress my forehead and said “Pain mummy?”. That was really sweet. At such a young age, you can sense when I’m angry, happy or sad. This caring trait of yours will come in handy when you become a plastic surgeon in the future. I'm not pressuring you or anything. I'm just thinking what's best for you :)

You and I share a special bond together. The way you open up to me is amazing and I think your dad is a bit envious of our relationship. You always favour me over him. For e.g. you’d give me kisses without being asked to and you’d continue doing it until I kiss you back. Your dad gets a different treatment. You only kiss him when he begs you to. I know you adore me more than him but try not to be so obvious okay?

So. What's my favourite part of the day when it comes to you?

It is seeing you wake up in the morning all happy and excited. You'll say Morning mummy!! Yay! Look, sunny day!! Vava want nenen!! When I do give you nenen, you'd smile your biggest smile and give me a warm cuddle. The feeling I get when we cuddle is like eating a mouthful of banana-chocolate cake from Secret Recipe. I get a rush of endorphins in my head and a feeling of euphoria akin to having a retail therapy. It is an awesome, awesome feeling. It is when we cuddle that I see what's important in my life and why I do the things I do.

You don't know it yet, but you have the power to bring out the best in me.


What else can I say? You are everything I ever wished for in a daughter: Angelic, smart, adorable, bubbly, kind and loving. I am truly blessed to have you.