30 January 2013

Grandparents raising grandchildren

I was flipping through an older edition of The Star on my I-pad while waiting for my son outside his tuition teacher's house.

Da-dee-dum, then the article with the picture of a bespectacled Grandma wrapping presents with her grand-daughter popped up. The article was entitled, "Raising grandchildren can be hard on grandparents' health".

I reproduce an excerpt from the article here:
Two years ago, Ruth Maxey was raising six children, including twin granddaughters, a niece and the girl’s three siblings. She was also in her 60s. It got to be too much, and in January 2011, Maxey had a stroke, not long after she retired from a demanding job as a hospital administrator. She has high blood pressure, which is a risk factor, but “I’m sure the job and raising the kids and the rippin’ and runnin’ had something to do with it,” she said.

My own parents are in their 70s and my mom is still the granny-nanny. She was nanny to my kids until my elder boy turned 7 and my little girl turned 3, then I stopped work and looked after my own  children. At that time, my parents were only in their 60s. That was 5 years ago.

A difference of 10 years makes a big difference in the level of an elderly persons' capabilities - hearing loss, vision impairment, gait abnormalities, cognitive decline, reduced energy levels. A geriatrician said that grandparents face significant emotional and physical challenges as they try to keep up with toddlers, pre-schoolers and teenagers.

I have looked up several granny-nanny stories online, and all the grannies say that while they love their grandchildren to bits, they also admit that caring for them does take its toll on their health and emotional and social well being. Some of there grannies have their grand kids live with them on a full time basis, due to financial constraints faced by the parents or a breakdown in the relationship of the parents. Those situations, I believe, put even greater strain on the grandparents, but things being as they are, sacrifices need to be made.

My own mother dotes on her 2 toddler grandsons whom she babysits, but age is catching up with her. Her movements are slower, she complains of aches and pains, falls sick easily and does not have time for her own social and personal activities. That someone even asked my mom, "But what else have you got to do??" made me mad. That was such an unkind, stupid and selfish question to ask. Everyone has a right to his or her own time, to take care of their own personal matters, to have a morning stroll, chat with friends and go to church. Especially at 74.

I am very grateful for my parents' help in looking after my children when I was building my career, when we could not yet afford to be a single income family. Today, I just want my mother to be able to enjoy her old age, and to enjoy her grandchildren without the burden of caring for their daily needs. 


14 January 2013

Termite alert!

Yep, you don't want them eating up your house!

Unfortunately, we discovered termites munching on our bed frame in the room downstairs. And our house is just 4 years old.

The discovery of termite invasion

Tell tale signs of wood dust on the floor was the first observation. Being in denial, we ignored it (of course!) at first. But the wood dust kept appearing.

While we were away on holiday, my tenacious maid decided to pry open a section of the built-in wooden frame downstairs and discovered that indeed termites had entered our home. She called us while we were overseas and even sent us a picture through her mobile!

So, upon our return we consulted a couple of pest control companies.

Types of termites

 In general, there are the dry wood termites and the subterranean termites.

The dry wood ones don't do as much damage and are contained (and sometimes come with) within your wooden furniture. The pest control consultant told us that some wood furniture were not treated or dried properly thus harbored these termites, which take a few years before they consume the particular piece of furniture they arrived in.

The subterranean termites are the ones that live in the ground around us and make their way into our homes through cracks and fissures. They leave obvious dirt tracks in your home, making it easy to spot them. These tracks were obvious in our basement.

Termite treatment

Before calling the pest control experts, we did a quick read-up on termite extermination methods.

It seems the method of choice these days is to install termite baits which comprise boxes attached to specific spots in your home with established active termite activity. These boxes contain poisoned food material for the termites to consume which should eventually eliminate the termite colony causing the mischief.

We were told NOT to spry any insecticide as this would cause the termites to stop their activity where you saw them and go into hiding or migrate elsewhere in your house to continue their feeding.

I read that there are currently these brands of termite baits on the market: Exterra, Termibait and Sentricon.

I contacted 2 companies which use Exterra and Sentricon respectively, and they sent their staff to inspect our house and to provide a quote. As for Termibait, I found someone using this system from the net and spoke to him on the phone only, as he does not operate in Ipoh. I must say the Termibait consultant, Jack, was very friendly and generous with his information, despite knowing that he would not be getting my business.


We had 2 above-ground stations and 12 in-ground stations installed today using the Exterra system. This is another lesson and experience in house-keeping. We never stop learning.

(pictures from http://www.sentricon.com/, http://www.termibait.com.my/4320/, asgpestcontrol.com)

11 January 2013

Back from Tasmania

Happy new year! 2013 has well and truly kicked in, and we have got back into the home, school and office routine.

Our year-end family vacation in Melbourne and Tasmania was a nice 3-week long family bonding time, with lots of time spent out in nature, bush walking, doing a scary flying-fox routine above the tops of trees, enjoying Australian food and relaxing!

We went on 3 short boat rides during this trip - at Strahan, Port Arthur and Bruny Island - and my son developed a love for fresh raw oysters! Much to the surprise of everyone, as we think this culinary appreciation usually kicks in during adulthood. My little girl refuses to touch the stuff!

Australia is as my husband and I know and remember it from our student days - a familiar place that we like to go back to. With its weather, geographic closeness to Malaysia, excellent range of international-standard cuisine, abundance of outdoor activities, cleanliness and general safety, it is a sure bet for family holidays. Except for the strength of the Australian dollar!!! It's getting expensive to go to Australia.

The Hollybank Treetop Adventures  was a unique experience for us, a little scary for my 7-year old girl. She and I doubled up - we had our individual harnesses but shared the same heavy hook that clasps us to the cables- and as we zoom down the steel cables, she would hook her legs around mine and sit on my lap.

My boy did very well as he didn't double up with an adult and did all the 7 high-wire canopy rides by himself. I knew he was nervous and the whole family encouraged him. Due to his weight (under 40 kg) and the strength of winds that day, he only made it halfway down 2 of the longer cables; he was taught to do the "walrus", basically trying to wiggle yourself forward until the guides waiting on the other end of the cable can slide their locking-mechanism towards your hook, clamp on and reel you in like a fish. On the longest cable ride, my son couldn't walrus forward very much, so he had the privilege of being "rescued" by his guide - the guide hooked himself back onto the other parallel cable and climbed out towards my son to clamp the locking mechanism onto his hook. There my boy was, dangling very very high up above the tree line but calm.  I was very proud of him.

We had a different, and less frightening, tree top experience at the Tahune Air Walk . It was pleasant and refreshing to walk amongst the tops of the tall Australian trees on securely constructed steel bridges.

My little girl took one of her longest walks yet - when the family took in the sights of Cradle Mountain-  6km around the Dove Lake Circuit. Poor baby, and she was having a stomach bug too at that time. We stayed at a very charming log cabin at Highlander Cottages, complete with a fireplace, bunk beds and visiting wallabies every night. 

These were a few of the main highlights of our 2012 family holiday, and I am grateful for the good health and safety of my family then, in 2012 and pray for my family's well being into 2013. As well as good wishes for health and happiness to all my friends and readers in this year of the Snake.

(pictures from Hollybank, Tahune FB page and http://www.cradlehighlander.com.au/)