Changing small habits

Anyone else having ‘Inspired to be a new me in January’ thoughts currently? I feel motivated to plan things in advance now (because my life this year will be organised! and I will actually do things I want to do!) and tick the boxes in my ‘to do list’. 

Go for a facial – tick

Book dentist appointment for me and kids – tick

Go full throttle on my quest for kids to learn malay – tick

Konmari kids clothes – tick

Rearrange furniture and buy stuff from ikea (more organised house, more mind is free, so they say…) – tick

A new year, a new me!

And then I thought – I really hope this feeling doesnt leave me. I mean I know we all have our ups and downs but I do hope the new habits and my enthusiasm will sustain through the year. 

That’s why I have come to learn that  this life lesson will work better than having big resolutions: change small habits and keep track of it everyday. It may be something simple as using floss every day or going to sleep at 10 pm. Yup doing a small habit consistently – m pretty sure it’s a sunnah. Gretchen Rubin wrote a whole chapter or two on it and I was like heyyy I learnt this already from Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w). Because when you do one small thing consistently, it will become part of you and then you get consequence from it (sleep early = less tired = wake up good mood = happier in morning to start the day…. kinda thing!). Hopefully then you will be motivated for next thing! 

Anyway just rambling now and heard my breakfast is ready (eggs & sausages. NYUMS). Ta!

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Yes, I’m your best friend

Ok I will admit that I’m all for having my own personal space as Ayman is more clingy nowadays. Nowadays meaning the last 6 months or so. Always wanting me for everything. Gets jealous if Zayan gets close to me. Waking up middle of night and coming to our bed (he didnt do this for the first 2.5 yrs of his childhood). Always wanting a kiss. Not just one peck. Peck me on right cheek. Peck me on left cheek. Peck on lips. And aggressive pecking at that! (more like smothering) Aghhh.

Then one night, he came to our bed in middle of night and I put him back in his bed, zombie-like. As I snuggled with him, he asked in his small, cute toddler voice “Am I your best friend, Mama?” 

Cue heart spilling everywhere.

“Yes Ayman,  you’re my best friend.” (Just dont tell Ayah and Zayan) 

That night, I didnt mind at all being woken up by this cutie monster.

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Zayan & Ayman’s malay journey

Continuing on my post of getting my kids to be more bilingual, let me expand more on how things have been and are doing for the kids.

When Zayan was a baby, I spoke more Malay with him. As he grew older, his speech was delayed. He didnt speak until he was 2 years plus – though his understanding of speech was good and he is a master of facial expressions and body language. 

I would be speaking to him in malay and pointing out objects: “Tu kerita!“ (Direct translation: That car) “kerita!” “car!” No response. Over time, it was just far easier to say it in one language to ensure he understands. Also plenty of words in Malay are two or three syllables.

Ke-re-ta = car

Ca-wan = cup

Pi-ring= plate

Ja-ngan= Dont

To-long = Help

So it seemed far easier (and lazier for me) to talk in English. What a rookie mistake, one that I actually regret a lot. It is far easier in the long run to speak malay and overcome that initial challenge, than to teach kids who already is proficient in the majority-language. I was and continue to be the only malay speaker in their lives, with family far away and little engagement with Bruneian/malaysian community here – I am usually working when there are events and because all the ones I know have gone home, I no longer know the community and feel like an outsider. Also I realise when we do meet with Bruneians here, they tend to talk in English to the kids – probably again because it is far easier and simpler to get communication across.

Now Zayan is just a chatterbox, wouldnt stop talking. Over time, I started talking in malay more. He just didnt get me though. And then he started getting frustrated. “I DONT understand you!” Seriously a year ago, he would be crying because he didnt understand what I was trying to say. Even when I explained it in English. Sigh.

As for Ayman, I was determined to learn from my mistake and start speaking from the beginning. I would be talking to him in malay when he was a baby and secretly hoping by osmosis that Zayan will get it too. Now Ayman actually knows a lot more malay words and understands me more. Also he doesnt get frustrated – he takes it like a baby who is learning a language. He just takes it in stride when he doesnt completely understand. I dont tend to explain in english to him unless I really need him to understand. Eg dont play near the hot oven! His speech development for both languages is more advanced than Zayan was at his age. I guess there is the advantage of having an older brother being chatty to you as well!

As he turned two, I saw a shift in him though. Whilst before he would say words in malay like ‘susu’, he now speaks in English. Especially since he started nursery 6 months ago. When he asks for milk, I would say ‘mau susu?’ and he would go ‘NO NOT SUSU! MILK!’ He knows susu is milk but he doesnt want that word to be used anymore. I persist though and go ‘ok, susu….’ to his background of ‘Milk! milk! not susu!’.

So in the last year, I became gentler with my approach. I say single malay words on things they encounter a lot. “Ok, let’s mandi…” “Tidur time…” “Do you want to eat nasi and ayam?” So now they recognise and even say the individual words. 

Zayan has also come to realise that he knows two languages. He knows susu and he knows milk. He used them interchangeably. M once said ‘what if he uses susu at nursery?’ but I think kids have innate ability to know when to speak what or learn when someone doesnt understand them anyway. I’m not sure what he was thinking when he heard malay and english… and in my case, I mix them up a lot even with malay friends and with my family. Now he has acknowledged they are two different languages. He also realised that he cant have a proper conversation with his grandparents and I think that fueled him to learn more. He now asks what the malay word is for so-and-so. The thing is a lot of times, I dont even know what it is! “Mama, what’s aubergine in malay?” “Whats construction in malay?” Oh dear, can you see my battle here. 

Over the last week, as I vow to speak more Malay and teach them more, I realise how much Zayan understands though. 

This was our conversation few days ago:

“Mama, my leg is hurting….”

“Kenapa ya sakit?”

“Why does it hurt? I dont know!”

“Zayan gugur kah?”

“No, I didnt fall….”

“Bila ya start sakit?” (ok I cannot say ‘mula’ … it sounds so formal)

“Are you asking when?”

“Yahh…”

“Uhhh 40 years…”

“Apa?? You’re not even born yet 40 years ago!” (Had to respond that ludricous statement in english)

“Ohh ok… erm 20 days…”

“Ok, kalau zayan lari, sakit?”

“No it doesnt hurt when I run.”

I was pleasantly surprised how much he understands! Which is now encouraging me to just speak in malay. 

As for Ayman, as I am introducing more malay reading and writing exercises to zayan (I know, I’m so nerdy and such a tiger mum), he feels proud that HE knows the answers. He knows the body parts and handful of animals. So now he is one up than his brother (who excels and ‘wins’ more on things usually). 

So hopefully this is a good start in the kids journey to mastering malay. Though their sensei mama is not even that great a speaker, but hey I worked hard at GCE O level malay, so I can do it again. Maybe this is my  opportunity to learn and get to know my language – both standard malay and bruneian dialect- more.

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One’s language is part of one’s identity

 

 

This year, I am making a very conscious effort to make Zayan and Ayman learn and speak more malay. I’ve finished reading the book ‘Raising a bilingual child’ – I dont really recommend it unless you’re into the whole research behind it. Most of the book is research on bilingualism and case studies of different bilingual (or trilingual or polygot) families. It didnt really add in that much practical tips, which is what I’m after.

What it did tell me is that to be successful in having a bilingual kid, you have to:

  1. Have positive attitude
  2. Have belief that they can do it
  3. Be consistent

See, I am only half-hearted in all three aspects above. I get frustrated when they dont understand me, I keep forgetting to talk more in Malay (also it is easy and less complicated) and I keep doubting that my kids will ever get there.

Some people have said ‘its ok, they’ll learn it once they’re in Brunei’. Really? I struggled with my Malay GCE O level and I lived in Brunei all my life!!! What I don’t want them to have to do is start at a disadvantage and having to catch up. What I also do not want is for them to feel like an outsider – language is after all a large part of one’s cultural identity.

One of the things pushing me more is the fact that my parents dont really speak English. They can get by in public places, buying things, asking for directions and understanding to navigate around in UK. To really have more than a superficial conversation, it would be done in Malay. So when the kids skype with their grandparents or when my parents come over (or when we visit), I do wish the kids can talk freely to my parents. Not just superficial conversation of ‘what did you do, do you want to eat, where did you go’.

I grew up in a household of Malay speaking parents and their generation and the generation above. Even now, most of our conversation will be done in Malay and the odd English word from me if I can’t remember what it is in Malay. My parents sent me to a private primary school. All private schools are of English medium, so I spoke English in my classes (except for obviously malay class). I watched American TV shows and movies, which half explains my (weird) accent. It’s funny because all the white teachers I’ve encountered in Brunei are either from UK, Australia or New Zealand. I read books in English mostly.

Then I went to a government high school, which is also of English medium. For awhile, I thought kids grew up like me – speaking a combination of malay and english. Until I started religious classes (think it was in Year 2), which is actually a different school of its own – you go to sekulah pagi (morning school), have lunch and then go to sekulah ugama in the afternoon (religious school). Most morning and ugama schools are located separately, though I think it’s combined now (or some schools are combined now).

In ugama school, everything is in malay. And it’s not the malay you talk at home, which is Bruneian malay dialect. It’s formal malay. Also ugama schools are government schools, so all the private school kids have to go to one anyway. I learnt very early on not to show my english speaking ability to my classmates. ‘Eeeee, speaking yaaaa….’ Yes you get mocked. You’re seen as a posh kid showing off, unless of course you meet other ‘speaking‘ kids.

And as I grew up, I just spoke, read and wrote more in English. My speech would be a combination of both malay and english language. I came to realise how bad my malay is when I was in Year 11. We had a mock oral Malay exam and I failed terribly (think I had a ‘Just Pass’). I couldnt utter complete sentences smoothly. Dont get me wrong, I can speak Bruneian malay just fine, but the problem is that the language you speak at home is informal and not in complete sentences. So I worked hard to get my malay grade up, mostly by reading and practising writing malay compositions.

Now I go days without talking in malay (does Whatsapp conversation even count?) and I actually miss it and do get tired of speaking in English! Ngalih bah sebenarnya cakap dalam urang puteh ani. Kadang2 mau cakap melayu saja pasal ngalih lidah ani.

I also realise that once it gets late late (past midnight), I struggle with putting english words together. It’s as if my brain is tired and then I think in malay and then have to think some more to translate it to speak english. I remember being really frustrated during handover after a night shift – I just couldn’t construct my sentences smoothly to hand over properly after a hectic 12 hour shift.

So yeah, I want my kids to learn malay (mumtathil is learning by osmosis and he’s good with languages like that) because they’ll learn more about me too. There are just some phrases in malay that you can’t translate properly into.

‘Gerigitan ku’ is a phrase usually directed to either cute babies or when you’re really annoyed at someone. It literally means ‘I want to bite’ – so either you mean ‘that baby is so cute, I just want to bite him/her’ OR ‘He’s so annoying, I just want to bite him’ (imagine annoyed person clenching jaw, fangs out kinda thing).

I have also used the phrase ‘Apeeeh’ (which is short version of ‘Apa eh’) with my kids. Usually when Ayman tries to be all cute and silly, kambang nya urang Brunei. The direct translation is ‘What eh’ but I mean it as ‘you’re being silly now, look at you’. It can also be used as an expression of dismay, disbelief or pleasant surprise. But said in a different tone.

‘So-and-so won the lottery!’

‘APEEEHHHH!’

‘I’m getting married!’

‘APEEEHHH!’

Kid acting all silly (aka capi-capi).

‘Apeeeh, kambang jua.’

I dont think the kids truly understand what it means but they seem to understand the context of it being used. Ayman was being capi-capi one day and Zayan went ‘Apeeeehhh’. That cracked me up.

Kambang and capi2 are also adjective words that cannot be truly translated into English. Kambang can be obnoxious or arrogant but when used with kids, it can also mean ‘acting up’. So sometimes kids act all silly and extra loud when there are guests/strangers, this is called ‘kambang’.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Next time I’ll talk about my struggles with raising bilingual kids!

 

 

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Travelling through 2017

What happened this year?

January

Stayed by MYSELF at a hotel in Kent for an impromptu overnight stay… cos I messed up my course dates. It was supposed to be day trip and then realise on arriving, the course was to be held the next day. M such a bimbo but at least it got me a solo trip away! Haa. Really I didnt plan it at all. 

February

I discovered the Konmari method of tidying and decluttering. Absolutely transformed my life. 

I am happy to say my items in drawers are still neatly folded and compartmentalised. 

Clearer space. Clearer mind. 

March

Parentals came to visit and we stayed over in a nice cottage. Love the retreat! 


April

Went to Amsterdam and the Hague. Loved the pancakes and waffles, lampuhkusis. Then absolutely fell in love with Keukenhof – defo recommends it. There’s also something nice about walking around the bridges and little alleyways of Amsterdam (as long asmo strong whiffs of weed). And the windmills area – quite enjoyed that. Although warning: at Keukenhof, flowers are so pretty that the (then) 2 year old kept wanting to rip it off. 

Yaya and Zayan hit it off and had the cutest conversations, esp when they realised theyre both from Brunei. Zayan also learnt to just be quiet when a girl is angry (she blamed him when she accidentally left her plush toy in the train. The more vehemently he denied any wrongdoings, the more upset she went. Told him to just be quiet when a girl is angry and wait till she calms done before reasoning with her. I think he learnt an important life lesson that day. They were friends again after half an hour.)

May 

Nothing eventful except I have survived 3 months in neonatal intensive care and was moved to a less hectic/stressful smaller neonatal unit. I learnt so many things in the neonatal rotation, but the most light-bulb-moment epiphany is that I need to believe in myself. Instead of waiting for approval and compliments, I need to just believe in myself and know that I am good. I had spent a good few months wondering if I was making the right decisions and one day realise that even after being complimented on various occasions, I was still doubting myself. I just had to believe in myself because no one else can do that for me. I cannot and will not go far by doubting myself. 

June 

For the first time ever, I went abroad without husband or kids. It was for the weekend and oh what a liberation it was! Tbh I just wanted to sleep but adventure awaits. I love Greece with its laidback attitude and mediterranean culture and food. And I was still fasting! I wish I could go there again, and discover the islands next time. Travel wishlist this year maybe?

Thank you Na for the lovely company (and booking the nicest hotel!) ❤️


Also met some awesome people who founded and ran the Orange House, housing refugee women. Did a massive grocery trip with them.

July 

July marked a year of being the editor of Babble, our region’s paediatric school newsletter. It’s a bit like a wedding where you prep first few weeks by brainstormig and assigning articles .  Most of the time I do not need to do much as the other team members get articles ready etc (we do one each usually). However come closer to the publication, I get stressed out each time on awaiting articles, editing and compiling them to make a presentable newsletter. Stressed for 1-2 weeks and then I can breathe again after each newsletter comes out.


Twice now the publication date coincided with my holidays and spent first few days of holiday trying to finalise the newsletter. This time it coincided with our annual holiday to Brunei.

KNK time! Found the visitor centre in Bandar. Muara Beach. Lots of nice brekkie places – of course cannot leave without JingChew roti kawin. Went to two nice soft play areas (I’m not a fan of soft play areas but agree these two are nice – one is Funazania and another is at Hua Ho Mall). Discovered Ecoponies Garden – a trek closer to Tutong but the boys loved discovering nature/kampung life. Warning: banyak rangit but possibly worth it. 


Ahh miss home already! Time for another trip soon I think.

August

Rotated to new rotation – Haematology/oncology which is such a new world of paediatrics. 

Zayan is now on Year 1 and Ayman started pre-school. Ayman, unlike his extrovert brother, hated it and cried for a good few months whenever we drop him off (esp me). If I ask him what he did there, he would say ‘I play, I eat and I cry.’ Think he enjoys it now – his vocab has exponentially risen and he says things like ‘oopsie daisy’ when he drops something. 



September 

Spent half hari raya haji (and weekend after) at the inlaws. 

Played Escape games twice this year! First time in Leics. Think Brunei ones are harder!

Impromptu decision to watch John Legend in London with Kiki and her brother, Syafiq. I think its my first concert in UK. I’m not exactly superfan of John Legend but I do enjoy his crooning smooth voice! And then we tai tai brunch even though this lady had to finish her dissertation (or whatever it was she had to finish writing)!


I also discovered that I can wear white tudung this year. I love it. White is so versatile. As is black. I also worr black tudung on a regular basis now. I am such a grownup.

October

Weekend liverpool trip. We visited (Mumtathil’s) Nani who we havent seen for years. Ayman has never met her so it was nice for kids to spend time with her. Her health was declining and for a very independent, active woman in her 70s, its quite sad to see. She passed away a week or so ago, so I’m glad we did get to see her again one last time.


Made birthday cake for Ayman (after a day of oncall, superwoman me – haha angkat bakul sendiri!). I have to say… thats a good recipe cake! It’s supposed to be an aeroplanencake btw!



November

Had our every-few-mths meet up with the Ogle family. These boys have been friends since babies so its always cute to see them together! (and reflect on how much theyve grown)



December

So many things happened!

Organised the paediatric trainees dinner. 

Organised Zayan’s science party and made his (pokemon tapi inda menjadi banar) cake. This requires a blog of its own but m still recuperating from the work of it all.

I met a dear old friend who I havent seen for eons! (9 years kali?)


Organised fundraising for unaccompanied minors in UK. Managed to get presents for 110 kids. So so chuffed as it was done kinda last minute (less than a month). The amazingness of social media and amazon wishlist!

Drove to Londres and went to Winter wonderland with Big Bro 2 (I just wanted my maggi from him). Look how misrable kids were with the cold!



And then topped it all off to a holiday in Morocco. 


I think this is the best idea: go for a good holiday away, end off the year with a bang and welcome the new one with good spirits and the motivation to improve oneself. Yes it is just another date but I find end of year/new year reflections to be handy. Kinda like a review check on one self/muhasabah diri. 

Looking back now, I have had so many great moments this year. Some sad moments too. Too personal for me to divulge here. One of the things that I wish to improve would be my friendships. I have let a fair few go astray and now I dont know how to (and whether I can) salvage it back. 

Anyway, the best thing in my life is this person here. After all, without him (and his patience and his ‘I’ll hold the fort and not complain whilst you do what you want to do’) I wouldnt have done many things this last year. 

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I just gotta write this because I know I’ll forget. 

Zayan, my first born. 

I think the fact that I went part time for the first 12 months after maternity leave really cemented our relationship. We spent so much time together and he was my buddy during maternity leave/off days. I took him everywhere. We went to the park, to town, drove outside Leicester just me and him. He was clingy and attention seeking as a baby and toddler and then somewhere after he turned four, he just became more and more independent and enjoyed playing by himself. 

We are so similar too that I understand where he’s coming from and how he feels. I get him. 

Sometimes because he’s independent and Ayman is the opposite (usually not because he cant but he wont), I leave him to it more. Ayman gets jealous when Zayan get cuddles or sits with me. They’re both competing to talk to me. And Zayan being ‘Abang’, mengalah jua selalu. So kadang2 kesian jua…. I really should make a point of spending time with just the two of us.

I cant even try to encapsulate what a character Zayan is. Maybe you can tell from my IG and Zayan’ sayings on facebook. He is definitely an extrovert, and also emotive and intuitive of people’s feelings. 

He asks a lot of things (though once claimed that I probably dont know what he’s asking and will ask Ayah instead – it was a science qs and he was right, I didnt know the answer to it).  He is also fairly philosophical and he asks the hardest questions (Is Allah a man or woman? So if he’s not both, what is he? How come Allah doesnt talk directly to us? Why do bad men do such and such? Why does Saturn have rings? Not how but why!). 

He cried when I said all animals die anyway (consequently our first proper conversation about death – aged 4.5 yrs) and when he was told that we will grow old (“like nini boy nini girl?” cue major drama and tears).

He is far more confident than I ever was as a kid and I hope nothing will dampen his spirits, confidence and thirst for knowledge. I love you Zayanino!

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Wait, did Trump just…

So I’m gonna let out a lil secret pasttime of mine. Whenever I want to have something funny to read, I google ‘Trump news’. It astounds and amuses me on what he comes up with! I guess partly why I feel it’s funny is because the US is the most powerful country in the world and they have a laughable man to lead them currently. It does give me the (inner) giggles…. 

Until the other day, I heard about the news of Trump retweeting of Britain First tweet. One that is anti-muslims. Suddenly it didnt feel funny anymore (of course, when it hits you more personally/closer to you, then you take note of the offensive things people do/say). 

Can we just pause here for a second? 

This man is a president. 

Of a country.

One of the biggest powers.

The biggest even.

And he is allowed to tweet this? 

The fact that millions are following him. The insidious ways he is smearing and staining people. 

I do not see the world shaking their fists and people protesting streets worldwide about this deplorable man. Instead many like me will carry on with our lives, thinking ‘as long as I live my good life and show people how kind/good the everyday muslims are, it doesnt really matter’. 

But it does, doesnt it?

For one, isnt this how brainwashing on a mass level starts?

Secondly, evil flourishes when the good man does not say a word. 

Thirdly, we are slowly thinking ‘this is a norm… Trump and his words…. old man with his insensible, crazy words’. But it’s so dangerous, I think,  because so many people ‘learn’ about the news from Facebook and Twitter these days. Things passed on whatsapp and shared on twitter is considered non-fake news. It’s news, so it must be true.

I dont know where I’m going with this. Just that I’m scared of the future and for my kids. I hope they will be strong to withstand any prejudice and be brave to stand up against hatred.

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