Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Get this lesson started!

(Last updated on 8 September)


Disclaimer: This post was late in coming as my FreeVPN has been miserably failing me of late, so I had to resort in blogging in word eons ago (and updating it countless times) and pasting it when I could finally access my own blog (via Hotspot Shield, which also failed me previously...). Drat.

Last Wednesday, I brought Rosabelle for a free trial
Kindermusik session at Beijing Color Studio, near 798, as I read about it from the BeijingMamas forum. Class started at 11am and I was actually hoping to bring her for a walk around 798 (later, I realized that it was a drive, and not just a walk away…) if we managed to head out earlier. As luck would have it, by the time we got out of the house and managed to catch a taxi, we were there just about on time. Luckily I asked the teacher, Sharon, for directions to the place, and the nice taxi driver amazingly found it without a hitch.

When we reached, Rosabelle started exploring the place as it’s a vast art studio where children can learn art, and there were snacks of muffins, raisins, and juices nicely prepared for us. Rosabelle was probably too distracted by it all to want to eat the pear I had prepared and brought along for her, oh well… and so we started class with another German boy half a year younger.

As it was a demo class, it took only 30 minutes instead of the usual 45 minutes, and they were exposed to sounds like that of a hammer (pounding fists together and going ‘rap, rap, rap’), and a saw (swishing palms together with a ‘see, saw, see’). Rosabelle was rather responsive and liked ringing the bells on sticks, answered Sharon’s questions of what sound the hammer made (‘doong, doong, doong’), pointing out objects in a book during story time, and liking it when we washed them like clothes in a washing machine.

Later, another girl of about Rosabelle’s age joined in, but was quite fretful when she wanted to take the storybook away but could not. Thankfully Rosabelle did not start nudging at/pushing her, and was instead her loving self when she kissed another younger baby lying on the floor, and even handed the girl the bells when she first joined in.

After class ended, I gave her a muffin from the table since she did not have any fruit snacks, and she was so very happy and kept asking me ‘玥玥吃什么?'. Think she wants to remember it fully so that she can ask for it next time!

Whilst playing around the studio, she then brought me a metal tin of Fisherman’s Friend and asked for my help in opening it. I thought that they might have used it to put some toys, and when I opened it, there were some lozenges in it, so I told her that this belongs to Ayi (Sharon), and that she has a cough and uses this as medicine to cure her cough. When I asked her to return it, I half expected her to just bring it back to the table where she took it from but no, she instead went up to Sharon, who was then speaking with another parent, and went, ‘Ayi的medicine. Ayi ork-ork-ork – (pretends to cough)’. Hahaha…

I then brought her outside and went into an art gallery next door, where she exclaimed when she saw a ‘毛主席爷爷' portrait, heh!
I will probably have to save 798 for a separate trip, or make our way down to some other museum to expose her to the arts, since she has been asking me many ‘什么东西?' whenever she sees sculptures.
And then we started to head for home – the others probably came in their own cars and had drivers (guess it’s not everyday they get plebians like us…), but we had to take a 10-minute walk to the main road, which wasn’t exactly the most pleasant of walk with the cobbled pavements and dingy-looking rows of warehouses. Luckily there wasn’t a long wait for the taxi, as we quickly hopped onto one home for lunch. The ride cost me RMB37, the same as the ride there, and if I factored in the cost of the lesson, it would not really be worth it for me to come all the way here – guess I would not be signing up for the session no matter how nice and warm Sharon was – pity!

That afternoon, she slept for more than 3 hours, and woke up close to 7pm for Wayne to bring us all out for dinner at The Asian Kitchen at Sanlitun Village. Now, this is the de facto place for us as it has good food and service everytime, except maybe this time. The food was really slow in coming, and we had to ask the servers on three separate occasions to speed up the preparation (as did the couple at the table next to us). One of the waitresses was nice and radioed the kitchen to get them to speed up, and explained that it needed 20-30 minutes for the food to come. I told her I’d never had to wait this long in the past, and that this wasn’t Western cuisine where you had to wait for each course to be completed before serving the next (ok, slightly bitchy but I was quite bored waiting together with just my in-laws as Wayne was entertaining Rosabelle as she waited for her food).

Half an hour later, the food was still slow in coming and I beckoned a waiter, who said, ‘菜得做的,小姐!', in a not-too-friendly tone and that’s when I got really riled up, since Rosabelle had already started on dinner with just noodles, mushrooms, and prawns (and I really wanted her to eat the fish and vegetables that had yet to come). I told him off with a, ‘我当然知道得做的,说什么风凉话。我是想知道为什么这么久啊,到底来不来啊!'. With that, the nice waitress quickly took over – think she’s more senior – and quickly strutted downstairs, and within 5 minutes, we had the fish coming, but she was going to serve it OVER Rosabelle’s head – my goodness! I had to physically block her arm away (on hindsight, that was a dangerous move, as she could have toppled the whole plateful of hot food onto our girl), and told her severely to not serve food over a child’s head, EVER.

Hmmm… looks like it’d be awhile before I go back – pity, as it’s one of those establishments that WAS offering decent food at decent prices, with decent service, and got too busy/famous much too soon to cope with the many customers, and that’s when quality in all areas start getting compromised.

After dinner, we walked around Village abit, for Rosabelle to let off steam, as she seemed really hyper, coming up the stairs at the restaurant and sitting down at the top as she danced from side to side, then greeting Ye Ye with a loud, ear-piercing ‘Ye Ye!!!!!’, making everybody turn and stare at us. She ran around (at one point, she was running around in circles around some seats – finished at least 20 laps…), climbed steps, sang in stores (inspired by the rabbits in the shop displays), and basically tired us 4 adults all out.
When we got home and I nursed her, it was already midnight, and I got quite worried whether she would wake up in time for another Kindermusik trial class I’d signed up with another teacher, Yuliya, at Familier, at 10am on Thursday. Thankfully, she was very cooperative and also tried to finish her fried egg breakfast fast. I had the hindsight to book a cab in advance since it was morning peak hours (and Wayne could not drive the car Thursdays as our vehicle registration number is prohibited from getting on the roads) and got there with 10 minutes to spare.

It was my first time to
Familier, and I’d read so much about it in magazines and on forums, and thought it’s quite a nice, cosy two-storey place for Rosabelle. I didn’t take any photos as I wanted to let her play more naturally, and also nobody else was doing it (I didn’t want to seem silly!). There were little rooms with different themes like cars and blocks, building legos, girly make-up room, ball pit with bridge and climbing stairs, and upstairs, there was a small corner stacking fake fruits/vegetables, with a small cashier counter (though nothing of the scale at Magic Bean House). There was a reading room with suspiciously, only Chinese, books, another ball pit room, and best of all, they seem to serve nice and healthy food in an in-house restaurant (I say seem to, as we did not eat anything there). They even have meal specials where you pay for set deals and get admission charges waived.
There were three other toddlers in the class (all laowais), and we swam like whales with scarves, tapped and rolled egg shakers, jigged along to a pop version of ‘Wheels on the Bus’, and ended up with quiet time to wind down and just snuggle with each other. After the class, Yuliya held another one specially for the two younger infants, and Rosabelle even gatecrashed – think she was very attracted to the fake baby in Yuliya’s arms as the latter danced with, and massaged it. Later, Rosabelle even sat down next to Yuliya and wanted to help massage the baby’s leg, saying that the baby’s ‘脚坏了', as its thigh was attached with just a thin cloth to the hip bone, and was rather limp, haha!

I let her play around awhile more at the center, and noticed they have art/crafts sessions as well, but unfortunately, for older kids only. I love it that the place isn’t rowdy like Yu Island at The Place, and it looks like somewhere I can sanely enjoy a meal on my own whilst making sure that she’s playing safely nearby as the assistants look very welcoming but importantly, not overwhelming (i.e. trying too hard like they do at some kiddy places). The assistant mentioned that there aren’t too many people at any one time, which is good, and that if I signed up for a VIP card of RMB5,000, I can get 20% discounts off Kindermusik classes too.

Yuliya has already given me more details and as everything is agreeable (price/schedule/curriculum-wise), I have signed-up for a 16-week Fall package that starts this Thursday (Our Time: Milk & Cookies - sounds so cute!) as I find Yuliya very warm, amiable and speedy/concise/sincere in her emails with me too (though it can get quite intimidating with all laowais – but it’s good exposure as well since all her current playmates in the yard are Chinese). Further, Rosabelle can also play at Familier during/after the sessions (main grouse is the toilet is a common one located outside on the level, so we have to make our way out to use it) and its location at Chaowai Soho is near Wayne’s office (hopefully he can then fetch us in the mornings). If we went into Familier on our own, we need to pay RMB88 per child (adults go in free), which I find highly steep. So I’ve finally managed to get Rosabelle started on classes after going through so many rounds of trials and demo playgroups at various places – I sure am looking forward to it!

Think she will enjoy these classes as she’s quite sensitive/receptive to music, swaying to any tune, and picking up songs very quickly. Of late, I’ve been singing to her ‘You are my sunshine’ and 'Somewhere over the rainbow’ and she loves them – she suddenly blurted out the first two lines of the former song at night one day, which is great! She has also started singing lines from 母鸭带小鸭on her own and loves ‘John Jacob Jingleheimer Schimdt’, a very cute song we downloaded from the Disney Children’s Choir discs, anticipating the loud shouting and following along to the lyrics. A proud Nainai in the yard with a grandson older than Rosabelle by a month was showing off and saying that her child can now recite about 20唐诗, or actually, the last three words of each line (used to be just the last word). Erm… I wasn’t sure to go ‘Wow!’ and risk looking like I was faking it, or start bragging that Rosabelle can sing a medley of Chinese and English songs and 唐诗, every single word of it. So there, I’ve bragged. But it’s my own blog, and you can choose not to read it – haha!

After that, close to lunch time, I brought her home and just as I was stepping out of the lobby to try to walk to the main road and catch a taxi, my shoe broke, or more specifically the inner part of the left sandal got detached. Oh dear me… I hobbled around looking for a shoe shop and gave up after some time, going back into Familier where they thankfully had a huge staple gun and pressed it in – good enough for me to get a taxi home. The location of Chaowai Soho is quite central, so taking a taxi was also convenient.

Once I got down the taxi, the sole of the left sandal came off. Haha! Oh well… this was a buy from my Hong Kong 2006 trip with Vanessa before I started work at Weber Shandwick. It has lasted me a good 4 years, so I can bid adieu to it!

After lunch, I let Rosabelle try out some crafts which I’d prepared some time back. I love sites like No Time for Flash Cards, and get very inspired by the many interesting things they can create out of everyday things. But I figured Rosabelle might still be a tad young to try out some of the crafts, so I thought I’d first introduce her to sticky tape and glue before we do any more complicated projects.

And there you have it – I had cut up corresponding shapes (and the equivalent numbers and colors of them) and asked for her help to stick them into the correct shapes I’d drawn on the paper, using either the glue or the sticky tape. She was more attracted to the gluestick, and opening/closing the cap on (and getting glue stuck to the sides of the cap in the process), but I taught her to either dab the glue onto the shapes, or put the shapes on the head of the gluestick, and then press them onto the paper. She had trouble with the sticky tape getting all rolled up into a ball between her fingers, but now knows an alternative to sticking things is using the sticky tape.
In the end, she wasn’t very keen on helping me complete and match the shapes to the respective big shapes/colours, so I helped her with them and asked her to help in pressing them down. On hindsight, I should have whipped out the gluestick on a much earlier occasion so that she’s familiar with it, and can focus on the task at hand. And here it is – her work of craft (or maybe mine, haha…), and it’s going up onto the wall of fame as she proudly declared to Ye Ye that night, ‘爷爷,看玥玥做的!'.
Another thing that I let her try out yesterday was this toothbrush/toothpaste activity – I’ve been brushing her teeth for her every night after using a wet wipe on them, and need her cooperation to give me a Cheshire cat grin to reach at the front teeth properly. So I decided to make use of the spare toothbrushes and toothpaste around the house (those taken from airlines and hotels), and let her at them.
Since it was her first time seeing/using the toothpaste, I demonstrated to her how to squeeze it out onto the toothbrush or onto the paper, and encouraged her to help clean Jie Jie’s and Ge Ge’s teeth. I also had cotton buds ready for her to use as a tool to smear the toothpaste around. Pardon my drawing, but it was enough to revise facial parts with her as she continued to use the cotton buds to clean all possible orifices (down to the hair ribbons on the girl) on their faces…

There she is, intent on squeezing toothpaste out of the tube – best thing I love about this is that the more she gets dirty, the cleaner she gets, haha! I just had a wet wipe on hand as my rather anal girl (no thanks to me) insisted on cleaning her hands/arms if she accidentally got some toothpaste onto herself. She was kept occupied for about half an hour – not too bad, and at night, even remembered Jie Jie and Ge Ge when I was brushing her teeth, heh!
Since we are on a post about early learning, I registered my girl for kindergarten yesterday. In case you think I’m moving too fast, I was actually quite placid about it all, until I realized that parents with kids of Rosabelle’s age were already booking places or making site recces at the schools of their choice. Oh dear me… even though I had enquired earlier this year, and was reassured that I was registering too early, I made some calls again today to Ke’er, a kindergarten at Apple Compound (Pingod) near our place, and Qiming, or Venus, another one near Carrefour around the corner (both are attended by some of the other kids in the yard). Thankfully they all said that it’s too early to make any confirmations, as classes only start in July and September respectively in 2011. However, I left my details with Ke’er, who will be in touch once they are ready for admissions. One of them also told me places are tight this year as the kids are vying with the hot years of 2008 Olympics and Pig Year babies – thank goodness we won’t have that next year! One of these days, I will have to make trips down to these two schools myself to take a look, hopefully with Rosabelle in tow, to see how she will like them. It’s never too fast to plan ahead, right? Especially since I am planning to head back to work after… nice… (A happy update is that the Choons are coming back to Beijing – yaaaaay! Vanessa will be back at work November 1 at our old workplace in Beijing, so the entourage will be making their way home soon – can’t wait to see them all!).

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