Pretty Eveel Adventures

Pretty Eveel Adventures

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Winter break--> Almost over *Screams*

Oh my...winter break is almost over and I've done very little that I had set out to do. I had grand plans to revisit readings, consolidate the learning that I had experienced during the last quarter and to blog more. But all this lazy ass has done is bingewatched shows on Netflix.

Oh wait, I did read Purity by Jonathan Franzen and went on a road-trip so all was not lost...i guess. It's a really good book, btw. I saw it at the Evanston library and picked it up, only because I read on NYT that President Obama is reading it. Yes...I read it because the president is reading it. I trusted that he had good taste in books. It was good. A little twisted. That is, almost all the relationships of the characters in the book are all twisted and dysfunctional.

Anyway. It's almost the end of the break and I've learnt something about myself. I'm an all or nothing kinda gal. A person of extremes. I'm either working very very hard or i'm totally slacking off. There is no in between or at least it feels as if there is no in between. I'm either very stressed or totally chill.

I bet i'm in need of some mindfulness. yes... well...sighs...

Till later...

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Pumpkin Season!

What else would we do in Fall and during Halloween season but go check out the pumpkin farms right?? 

OMG! We had such an awesome day!

First, it is always much more fun when you go with friends! We arranged to go with some friends. Fern and Stanley introduced us to a family with 3 lil kids and our kids get along real well. So we all, including auntie Fern and uncle Stanley, came along for a Saturday morning with pumpkins. So the boys really had a lot of fun running around together.

It's funny that initially Irfan felt conflicted about his new friends. He told me he couldn't play with these new friends because he already had his cousin Mik as a friend. He was afraid of betraying their frienship I think- everyone say awwwww....I explained to him that Mik wouldn't mind if he made some new friends...Right Mik???

We had some options to choose from and we chose Krolls Farm, a small family owned farm about 40 mins from where we live. It's known more for being a more traditional farm with a simpler fall festival. There are a lot of more commercialized farms with more activity, but you know *ka ching* everything needs $$$.

I was given the responsibility of where we would go and I decided that given this is my kid's first experience at a pumpkin farm, that I should definitely not raise the bar too high. If we went to a flashy farm with bouncy castle, rides, etc. then they''ll expect ALL pumpkin farms to be like that right? So decided for cheaper option. Which really ended up to be a wonderful experience!

There was a small petting zoo, enough to get the boys excited but not too big that they go totally nuts! We also went on a tractor ride (not too expensive) and the tractor was driven by Mr Randy Kroll, the owner of the farm. He was quite amazing, telling us fun facts about pumpkins and gourds and he was funny and entertaining. It was nice to get driven around by the owner of the farm.

Did I mention it was a beautiful day? We were very lucky. The boys already miss the pumpkin farm, and we may go back this season just for fun. =)

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Friday, October 9, 2015

Maggie Daley Park- More fun times!

" In 2012, the Chicago Park District began transforming the northeastern part of Grant Park into Maggie Daley Park. For many decades, an expansive surface parking lot occupied this site with a portion of the Illinois Central’s sunken rail yard extending along the northwestern edge. In the mid-1970s, the Chicago Park District replaced the old park lot with the Richard J. Daley Bicentennial Plaza, a complex that provided a new 3700-car underground garage with major recreational facilities. Dedicated to Chicago’s former Mayor Richard J. Daley (1902 – 1976), the facility included a new fieldhouse for indoor recreational programming as well as several outdoor amenities such as tennis courts, an ice skating rink, picnic areas, and Grant Park’s first playground."

Oh boy, weren't we happy to discover the Maggie Daley park. Free too, yo! (Although we paid a whopping $33 for parking- but it was worth it la! Must tell myself that right?)

The boys had such a great time at the park. There were several play areas and all very well-designed. My photos do such a poor job at showing how well designed this place is- adventurous, exciting but at the same time, very safe. I promise to take better pics the next time we go!

I was interested to learn when I checked out its website that they made the effort to do some public consultation during the design process- focus groups, meetings and surveys. I think it paid off.  I do hope we can make another trip there, while the weather is good.

So parents with kids, come to Chicago, and come visit us ok? =P

More pics from our day out at Millennium park, which is right next door!


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Being present and owning my journey.

I'm supposed to be finishing up some work for school but I had to just stop and blog. I was in the middle of reading some chapters from Immunity to Change- how to overcome it and unlock the potential in yourself and your organization (Kegan and Lahey, 2009).

Chapter 9 is about Cathy who identifies her very emotional, wears-her-heart-on-her-sleeve characteristic as an area for development. She feels it gets in the way of her being effective in her team environment because her emotional reactions, to things that go wrong or unexpected, spills over into her interactions with others.

Sound familiar? Sounds very like me. Can't remember how many ex-bosses have told me that I need to be less emotional.

Going back to Cathy. Her exploration and journey into this change, following a framework that Kegan and Lahey features in the book, makes her realize that it isn't her emotions that is an issue, but instead the high expectations that she holds for herself, especially. For example,  a good Cathy in her book gives 150% percent of herself (she only expects 115% from other team members).

"It doesn't take much to imagine how a belief in this level of personal effort leads to extremely high stress (self-imposed though it may be), which increase the likelihood of becoming emotionally over-whelmed. Everything is high stakes when your performance expectations are so high".

Digging deeper, it's this fear that she's not good enough. A lack of confidence and self-belief in her that drives this high performance expectations. A fear of disappointing herself, a fear of failing others.

I received a text this morning from an angel from across the pond. She read my recent blogposts and said "You are an amazing woman, mother and wife and are not defined by the jobs/education we have or participate in.  Own YOUR journey and be happy in each moment as this is your life."

Delighted to hear from her, I replied to say thank you for her encouragement, and didn't think about that message until I came across Cathy's story in the book.

Her boss's feedback to Cathy- "Your value isn't tied to what you do. It's your special insights. You value is you. It's the way you are present in what you do."

I couldn't get past that line. It was almost exactly the message my friend had texted me not 12 hours ago.

It's what I'm doing right? Have you noticed? I haven't. Part of this habit of blogging, is not just about sharing my experiences, it may as well be, a channel by which I have been communicating my insecurities. It's really my way of trying to assure myself that I am a good mother, a good wife, a good responsible student, but at the same time beating myself about it and tearing myself down, because I don't want to end up disappointing myself, disappointing you. So everything is laced with this negativity, masked as humility?

My friends, the ones who know me well, I think they can see it, spot the patterns. See the insecurities. even where I am not able to.

It must be why I've been cooking like crazy right? To prove something to myself? To try and make myself believe that I'm as good as I want and hope to be, in all aspects of life.

But what do i lose? I lose being in the moment, being present fully in what I do.

This doesn't mean I'm going to stop blogging.... should i? i love it too much... or i won't until it gets clearer to me that i should? ...It just means I have a better, renewed, transformed perspective of what I'm doing and how i'm doing it...

( u know it...if this was written parchment paper, you'd see tear marks everywhere...)

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A day in the life of ....

It is 10.43pm. And I have time for only a short one...

7am today. Woke up and dragged myself out of bed to go and do some cardio at the gym. I haven't been at the gym for the last 5 days. I thought it was time to break the terrible pattern. Brought my iPad and watched the first episode of 'How to Get Away with Murder'. I've promised myself I only get to watch my shows when I'm on the treadmill or elliptical (thanks Alyssa for the idea, it's a real horrible idea you know, such torture)

Came home. Showered and had breakfast.

9am. The day was so gloomy but we had already planned to head to the Shedd aquarium today. Ihsan had been repeating on loop how he missed the aquarium. He also said he wants to live right next to it (sighs). So we went. But, I spent most of my time at a cafe, going over readings for a class I had tonight (I was feeling guilty for the half-assed blogpost I put up last night, 1 day late mind you. And nothing in comparison to the quality of writing of some of my classmates). I did take the boys to the aquatic show, letting hubs sit at the cafe with a cup of hot chocolate to be away from the boys for a little (Nothing to feel guilty about, very important for parental sanity).

The view from the cafe. Dark dark skies terribly chilly winds. Welcome to the Windy City, huh?

I napped in the car on the way home. We had lunch and then we went for the boys first swimming lessons at a nearby swimming school. You guessed it, I had my readings along with me.

Will blog more about this experience another time!
We headed home. I had an early dinner (4.30pm). Had a hot shower. Popped some pills and lay down for a rest. I've been having tension headaches almost every day. 

I then walked over to school for a 6pm team meeting. We're working on a problem-based assignment for a class I'm taking. 

Before the meeting, I spent about 15 minutes complaining about how the readings are so dense. How all the activity on our hive (our online learning platform) is making me feel very unintelligent compared to my colleagues.

Virtual meetings are huge in this prog!

At 7pm, we log onto our virtual class. I'm blown away by the technology and how I'm in a small actual classroom on campus with my team-mates, but also online with 44 other students, some as far away as Australia! It's my first ever online virtual class. 

It's daunting, at the same time hilarious! The comments on the chat bar blow me away1

At one point, there was a poll and I was in the minority that answered positively to the question. My team, the one I was with non-virtually in the classroom, urged me to 'raise my hand' in the class and share my views. I felt a little pressured, even though one of my classmates, sensing my discomfort assured me that I didn't have to. But I did. I spoke up and I don't know whether what I said was even logical, but I was glad I had team mates willing to put me out of my comfort zone.

Our virtual class ended at 8.30pm. Our team stuck around to finish up our meeting, picking up on juicy bits our professors had doled out during the class. We worked out what needed to be done before our next meeting.

I walk home. It's 9.15pm. The boys are fast asleep. I let out a grunt of acknowledgement to my hubs, changed into jammies, opened up my laptop and tackled my blog reflection post for Thursday's class. Tomorrow, I have to read the 4 chapters plus 1 compulsory reading for that same class (never mind the 3 other optional readings assigned) and complete 1 assignment that we're discussing in THAT SAME CLASS. 

I also have to find time to do some interviews for a discovery assignment for another class (why aren't the contacts replying me?) and then start tackling assignments for next week.

It's 11.07pm now. I'm feeling good that I'm spending this little time blogging. I do want to share my academic experience (with those who are keen to learn about it). Also, it would really help address any concerns that my colleagues or former/current/potential bosses may have about how I spend my time here. It's not all about fishing, sunny days with the kids touring around. It's pure hard work la!!! *cries*

I find it even more difficult to balance between my priorities now. Especially since I've stated how time with my kids is important and a priority over these 2 years. It would be easier to just chuck them in school all day, the way I do in Singapore. Sighs......(yes, still carrying around years of mommy guilt).

I'm going to have some left over tiramisu now and watch a little bit of tv. Brainless stuff like fixing homes. And then tomorrow wake up to go to the gym so I can finish that episode of 'How to get away with murder' and maybe start on the new episode of Jane the Virgin. Sigh, who am I kidding? I should dump all this entertainment and just watch Ted Talks and podcasts like all my other brilliant classmates!

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015


When I saw that there was fishing for lil kiddos, I knew i had to sign us up. It was one activity that I knew hubs would jump at and get all excited about. The boys were excited too of course, although lil Irfan does actually prefer to sit with me with his book. Me with my homework to read and Irfan with his Pete the cat book.

What an awesome program, right by a lake a short drive from our place! It's just an experience of fishing. You just come between 10-1pm, pick up a rod and some worms, that are provided free and just fish. There are some experts around to help guide you if you don't know what to do, but we have hubs who loves nothing more than fishing- okay maybe fishing ranks as high as Man United and maybe MMA.

It was crazy weather that day. It would be nice warm and sunny for like 15 minutes before the clouds rolled by and it was freezing cold for another 15 minutes before the clouds rolled away. It was like that all day! I just watched the clouds hoping for them to roll away faster, while the boys fished!

I made the mistake of taking a picture of the first fish they caught, for purpose of this blog. And then Ihsan insisted that I take a picture of every little fish they caught. It was very disruptive. Between cloud watching and taking pics of the fish, I got very little reading done. =(

Ihsan trying to kiss the fish! sighs...

But they had a fab time, which is what matters most! I'm thinking as I'm loading this pics- that I'm going to miss the warm toasty sun...I'd better enjoy the weather while it lasts!

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Tiny Trekkers...

It's not been an easy last few weeks. Although we are quite settled and happy in our new home, I am still transitioning into my new role now as a student, a mother in-school and a home-schooling parent. And for some reason, I can't stop cooking- so that, especially hunting down Asian ingredients, takes a lot of time too!

The beautiful building where the class is held.

Look, life at work in Singapore was definitely more stressful and more challenging. But it was familiar. I think what I'm struggling with now, is the 'newness' of being back in school, dense readings, concepts and having people grade my work. 

I also think that our decision to home-school the boys adds a different dimension of stress that I had not experienced before. I think i may have spent more time with my boys over the last few weeks we've been here than in the last 6 months we were in Singapore. I was always sneaking out before they woke up, that I spent very few hours of the day with them.

Ihsan was stoked that the
 first class was about fish!

Here, i take Mondays and Wed mornings when    we do Malay or Arabic (ngaji or quranic recitation). Iman takes Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings when they do English or Math (How we are progressing on this front, deserves it's own blog post. Watch out for it!).

We spend Thursday mornings at Tiny Trekkers (but not before a round of spelling =P), a program run by the Evanston Ecology Centre

Since we're home-schooling them, we looked for opportunities for the boys to interact with other children and we are very very lucky that there are so many educational activities, most at very reasonable prices, for our boys.

My kids loved the fishing activity!

Tiny Trekkers focuses on what we can learn about wild-life. It was very interesting that during the last class we learnt about the raccoon- it's an animal that the boys are not at all familiar with.

The class is designed the usual way these classes are- some intro activity indoors, outdoor activity, snack time, craft, story time and songs. It's like sending my kids to Julia Gabriel's but at a fraction of the cost!

I'm loving this experience because I have never seen my kids in a classroom environment before. I usually sneak out of the house before they wake up in Singapore so I never really drop them off at school. Plus we never did sign them up for enrichment classes- we were too stingy to part with our money- so I'm fascinated to see how they interact with others, listen to the teacher, get excited over the activities, etc.

When I used to work as a teaching assistant at JGC, i did remember observing how excited and fascinated parents look about what their kid says and does. Now I know what it feels like to be on the other side. 

Taking the time to attend these activities with my kids, instead of heading to the library to read or tackle assignments, is really important, especially if I'm to meet my goal of nurturing the relationship between my children and I

Hidden forest animals, waiting for the children to discover then!
We've signed up for more one-off events with the centre, like a campfire experience. It is wonderful that we have this opportunity to experience a whole different part of the world, its beautiful flora and fauna! I'll definitely keep you updated.

Irfan and his list, which included raccoons and beavers, animals we aren't familiar with.

The boys spot a hawk in the tree (it is not real, this picture isn't very clear)!

My two lil raccoons!

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