Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Celebrating The Chosen Ones

Over the past few months, I had quite a record number of stories on Majalah 3. And they all had very tight deadline.

For example, for a 10-20 minute feature, I had approximately 2 days to shoot, 1 day to edit and 1 night to write the script.


If you're not familiar with documentary work, that is madness. A 20-minute feature on international TV channels would take about a year (or more) to complete a story and here we are, getting everything done in under a week.

I usually end up coming home late and not sleeping at night just to meet the deadline. During those period of sheer madness, I hardly see my kids too. Thank God Mer is able to help out (had to sacrifice his working hours though).

Most recently, in conjunction with Autism Awareness Month, I did a feature on Autism. The main idea was to do a story about 'gifted autistic kids.'

I wanted viewers to be amazed and inspired by these special people while creating awareness about it. That was my goal.


I approached two NGOs - NASOM and Yayasan FAQEH.

Via FAQEH, I discovered that the founder's 14-year-old son has a special gift.


And via NASOM, it was more difficult to decide because there were a few characters shortlisted. I finally decided to feature Hazim - the 20-year-old college student who learns foreign languages solely through YouTube.


The shoot took 4 days and what was initially supposed to be a 20-min feature ended up being a full 1-hour documentary about these gifted individuals.

YouTube Video

I must say it was a different experience doing this story because I feel it. As a parent of a special child, I learned a lot.


I can't deny that I worry about Raees' future. He's almost 7 years old and we never had a proper 2-way conversation with him. Then I found out, these individuals I featured only began stringing sentences and conversing properly at 9-10 years old.

And looking at how amazing they turn out to be, I have faith and confidence that Raees' future will be OK. It may be challenging but I know there's hope.

So did I achieve my goal with this feature? Were viewers amazed by these specials individuals? Yes. Did their story inspire others? Yes.

But I think I achieved more than that. It made me look Autism in a bigger picture. It gave me hope. It gave me strength. And I believe many other parents like me felt the same.


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Friday, January 15, 2016

The School Boy

2016 is when Raees will turn 7 years old. As of last year, quite a number of people would say,"Your son is going to be in standard 1 next year!"

When I came across such situation, I just smiled and left it at that. Truth is, I wasn't even sure if he was going to enter standard 1.


At year end, I see a lot of photos of friends sending their kids for orientation and first day of school in uniform. A proud moment for any parent, definitely. I couldn't help but feel a bit envious.

Raising a child as special as Raees is not easy. In order to ensure he gets the chance to learn as well as other kids in his early years, the choice of preschool is vital. 

We tried enrolling him to a kindergarten when he was 3-4 years old. But that didn't turn out well. 

We turned to Early Intervention Programme (EIP) that aims to help children with learning issues. Besides academic, the programme also includes occupational therapy and speech therapy. So that was just perfect!


But it didn't come cheap. We had to spend A LOT every month for Raees. At one point it took a toll on our financial. But we had to make that sacrifice for Raees' sake.

As 2016 was fast approaching, as of December we were still uncertain on where he would go. We knew he's not ready for mainstream school. 

It was either:

A) Special education at a government school
B) Delay entry to primary school by a year and enter kindergarten (with hope he'll be ready for mainstream school a year later)
C) Private/international school with shadow aide (a person dedicated to guide him in class)

We were not keen on option A - we have our reasons. Option B looked most likely but we had second thoughts. And we couldn't afford option C.

But in late December, we discovered a special school. A brand-spanking new school just 2 minutes drive from our home. It teaches mainstream school syllabus (KBSR) but with special approach for special children. It has classes for standard 1-3.

When I first heard it, I thought Raees must go there! It's everything we were looking for. We paid a visit to the center with the kids. I liked what I saw and heard. 

But first Raees needed to pass the assessment. This bugged me because Raees doesn't cooperate well with new people and environment.

Two days later we received a call from the center saying that judging from the first impression during our visit to the center, it seems that Raees isn't ready for the school.

Bummer. Raees didn't even make it to the assessment. 

But I didn't give up. I appealed. I showed doctor's report on Raees' school readiness assessment, sample exercises that he has done, video of him obediently doing his work, comments from his teachers...anything I can think of to proof what Raees is really capable of.

You see, Raees behaves differently at school with teachers compared when he's with us (especially with his daddy, Raees tends to do his own thing his way). So what they saw before that was the other side of him. 

Given the new info, the school agreed to conduct the assessment. Four days of assessment and we finally got the good news we were hoping for. Alhamdulillah!

Now I can confidently say, my son, Raees, is in standard 1 😊 (man, that feels good!)

So Raees bids farewell to EIP and starts a new journey as a school boy. #PrayForRaees








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Monday, September 28, 2015

Special, He Is

'Special' has a lot of meaning to it depending on how you apply it.

Special someone - a person who is so dear to you. Special place - a location that holds a memory that is close to your heart. Special moment - a particular time that is significant in your life.

Special is simply, unique.

Raees is special.


He's special because he's my first born, he made me a mom.


He's special because he's the first grandchild in my family.

He's special because he's unique.

Raees isn't just special to me and my family, he's a special child...with special needs.

And this the first time I ever admitted it openly. I had my reasons for keeping it low over the past few years but now I feel it is time to let the cat out of the bag. Keeping things to yourself could take a toll on your emotions.

I've somewhat shared the early warning signs in this blog, before I went on a long hiatus because I didn't know what else to write about besides our struggle with his condition. And I wasn't ready to share at that point in time.

Raees did say a few words when he was little. But his vocabulary didn't evolve, in fact it disappeared. He just didn't say a word. He didn't communicate verbally or expressed with gestures that much.

Then there was the crying stage...he just cried his heart out every time we went to someone's house, especially when there's a lot of people e.g birthday parties.

Heck, he even cried at his own birthday party!


As a toddler he didn't sleep well. He didn't play well with other kids either. In fact one would say he was in a world of his own.

The only thing he was interested in was the iPad - which we so generously let him play with to keep him from running away from us at public places.


I began suspecting something was not right when he was about 2 years old, after observing other kids his age. I could say that I was in denial when his development was not according to the development chart anymore. I simply stopped referring to it because I held on to the phrase 'children develop at their own pace'.

Also, MANY people told me,"it's normal for a boy, especially the first born, to have slight delay in speech. He will be talking in no time."

So I wished they were right and just waited for to hear more words but they didn't come around.

The warning signs just got too great so we knew we needed to do something to help him. I won't go into detail about what we have done, at least not yet. The doctors diagnosed him as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

For those who aren't familiar with ASD, let's just say their thinking process is different. It's like our brain is running on Mac OS and kids with ASD are on Windows. It is a wide spectrum and the effects vary. But these kids have their strengths and if the right approach is figured out, they're able to excel.

It's been about 3-4 years since we embarked on Raees' journey to recovery. Now at 6 years old, he's able to communicate his basic needs, toilet trained and learning quite well. He may have a long way to go but, Alhamdulillah, he's showing progress.

Raees being the first born, I didn't have a benchmark to compare to. That's another reason why in the beginning I thought that was how all toddlers behave. Now that I have Razeen, I see a huge difference. I'm experiencing a lot of firsts with Razeen.

Anyway, today is also a special. I'm a year older :)


It's also time for me to grow up and get out of this shell. It's time to open up about our journey with Raees and to *properly* reach out to you, my loyal readers, for support. I know I know...I should've done this a long time ago. Better late than never!

I believe many parents are going through the same experience as I am. It would be great if they could also share their journey as well and together we could help our precious children.


You know, this truly is special post ;)


Note: my apologies as some of the links' photos have gone missing :-/

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Monday, July 06, 2015

Diary Of An Exclusive Pumping Mom

I've always thought mothers who exclusively pump have very strong determination.

To be attached to the pump so many times in a day...

To stick to a strict pumping schedule to maintain supply...

To wake up in the wee hours of the night everyday to pump...

It takes a lot from the mother to continue giving her child breast milk when the child is unable to direct feed.

I never thought I would eventually be that mom. But I am now.

I'm an exclusive pumping mom.


This photo above was when I was on my way to an event and forgot to bring the bottles. Hence, I improvised (I should remember to thank the mamak).

Anyway, it all began a week ago when Razeen was cruising at a table, lost his balance, fell and knocked his lip at the edge.


He didn't cry hard, nor did I see any blood. So I thought it was just another fall. But I did notice he was a bit more cranky than usual and didn't eat as much. He was breast feeding as usual though.

Later that night I noticed his lip was slightly swollen. So I thought, "Ah..that must've been from that fall."

The next morning, my mom asked me to check inside his lip, just in case.


Poor Razeen...it must've been painful. No wonder he was cranky. But he had no problem breast feeding so I thought I'll just let it heal on its own.

Two days later, he was at the peak of his crankiness. He woke up at night for his usual dose of milk but was crying hysterically when he attempted to latch on. He finally settled down after he had milk from the bottle.

It did cross my mind, would Razeen be traumatised and reject the boob all together?

The next day, after I came back from work at night, I attempted to direct feed him and to my relief he managed to do so without any problem. Little did I know, that was the last time I would direct feed Razeen :(


He's totally turned off at the idea of direct feeding now. Whenever I attempt, he would cry and struggle to get off me. Until today, about a week since the last direct feed, I am still offering him "fresh milk" straight from the source.

I have yet to succeed :(

Although when he wants milk, he still points at the boobs and at times he pulls down my collar to look inside and continue pointing. Haha.. Not TMI I hope :D Anyway that's his way of saying,"I want that...4.5oz ok? In a bottle, thanks."

I know it's only been a few days but I miss having Razeen latched on. Holding the bottle is just...different.


And I'm pressured trying to produce more milk. Now with the fasting month, supply has gone down a bit.

I don't take take any supplements, as many have asked. I find consuming oats (in a form of chocolate granola bars because they taste so good) and soya bean help boost my milk supply.

Also nowadays whenever I can I would do power pumping.

If you're not familiar with the term 'power pumping' it's basically this: pump for 10 mins, rest 10 mins and pump for another 10 mins.

So far so good. But it is indeed very tiring.

Just as I reached the 1 year mark in my journey to breastfeed Razeen, I am now forced to take a new path. The destination remains the same.

I hope I'll be able to cope for the next one year. Where there's a will there's a way. In Shaa Allah.

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A Year Wiser

It's Razeen here again. Guess what? I just turned 1 year old!


*this is your cue to bring out the confetti, balloons and cake*

*crick*crick*crick*

Hey, where did everybody go? Where's the cake? Balloons? Not a single balloon??

I heard so much from my abang about the cool parties he had. You know with all those colourful balloons and the fancy cake with the candle where many people gather to sing a birthday song just for you? Where's all that??

Wait...hang on a sec...

Heyyy, where's my mommyyy??

Mommy just sent me a selfie. Hang on...


What is she doing way over there?? She's supposed to be here celebrating my very first birthday. *cry lagi*

Oh wait, she sent me a message:

"Sorry mommy has to go to work, Razeen. If I could I wouldn't go on your birthday but I have no choice. I promise we will have a birthday party for you soon ok darling?

Meanwhile, I'm celebrating your birthday over there with this piece of cake...



Love,
Mommy"



I'm feeling much better now! Looking forward for my BIG BIRTHDAY BASH as promised.

Selamat berpuasa everyone!


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

More Than Half A Year Already

Hi! Razeen here!


Turning 6 months is a lot of fun! Not only do I get to wear new clothes (6-9mths), I get to eat yummy food too! At last, gone were the days where I just stare at other people eat.


Mommy's been pretty excited about making homemade food for me. Although I never tasted other food before, I know what mommy's been preparing for me is the yummiest of all coz there's a secret ingredient...

...A dash of LOVE (everybody together now...awww).


So far I've had puréed fruits, rice and vegetables. After a month of trying them out, I now enjoy a mixture of the food. Yummy! Hence, the weight gain. I'm about 9.2kg already.


7 months is also an exciting age. I can crawl!!! I'm so happy to be able to move around on my own. I'm quite fast too. Mommy says I crawl like a robot. I didn't know there's such thing as a crawling robot. You sure mommy?


Playing with toys is a lot easier now too because I can sit without support. Put me in my cot and I can actually stand for you too! Yes, I wanna grow up THAT fast.


But one thing's for sure, I'm glad I still have almost-unlimited supply of mommy's milk. Even with all that food, I will always make room for susu.

Now that I'm 8 months young, I'm looking forward to uncover my other capabilities. I wonder when I will start walking (running)? I surely would like to see my mommy chase after me. Teehee!


P/S: What do you mean you didn't notice this post before? It's been here all the while lah. You aunties (and uncles) are getting old -_-

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Monday, March 02, 2015

Nursing Mom On Ground

February was a super busy month for me. Besides hosting WHI, I was busy with Majalah 3's special episode for Army Day.

So I flew to Tawau, Sabah. My first long trip away from Razeen. 5 days to be exact. I was determined to try and bring back some breast milk this time.


I was doing a story on the army's latest armoured vehicle called AV8 Gempita.


It's super new! Bau kilang lagi..


We even went on the helicopter which we got super nice arial shots.





When I was in the army camp, I actually used a guest room to pump.

But more than half the time in Tawau, I was shooting here...


So the van and the nursing cover were my saviours...

Because I didn't bring any icepacks or ice box, I had to throw away the milk.

No, I didn't pump every 2-3 hours. The best I got was 4-5 hours. It was OK for me, although not the most ideal.

Back at the hotel, using boiled water, this was how I sterilised the pump and bottles...


I only manage to store milk that I pump in the hotel. At least not all is lost..


I used the tiny ice maker compartment at the top part of the hotel's minibar to freeze the milk. You'd be surprised, it freezes quite well and quick too.


Once the compartment was full (fits around 7 packs max), I asked the concierge to store them in their freezer.

I checked it out...it was located in the concierge office, an open top freezer and almost empty. Perfect for my expressed breast milk!

So when it was time to go back, I went looking for a styrofoam box and a bag of ice to store the 20+ packs of frozen milk.


My crew were kind enough to help me pack :)


Tadaaa..ready to go back to KL!


Alhamdulillah...the frozen milk survived the journey.


So that's the story behind the milk that I brought back from my 5 days in Sabah while shooting an army story for Majalah 3.

Speaking of that, check out the full episode tonight at 9 pm on TV3!



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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

EBM 2.0

The greatest joy for me is seeing my child grow healthy with 100% of my milk. So proud to see him so chubby and happy and it's all because of ME!


The nature of my work that requires me to go out station for many days got me all prepared with loads and loads of EBM. Lucky for me so far I didn't have to spend a night away from Razeen (except when he had jaundice). There was plan for the outdoor jungle assignment but it was later replaced by someone else.

Despite not going outstation, I still struggled to keep to the 2-3 hourly pumping at work. In fact at times it's difficult to do so every 3-4 hours.

There was a time I was so engorged, I got this much milk in 20 minutes!


That's about 17oz. My all time record. I myself can't believe I can hold that much milk inside me. Haha!

When I Instagram the photo above, I wrote in the caption,"I like to capture moments like this when susu tengah banyak. I will miss this when supply starts decreasing one day."

That happened like 1.5 months ago.

Because I didn't stick to the proper pumping schedule and left them boobies engorged a few times, naturally my body took it as a sign that it should reduce the amount of milk produced. Hence, my supply dropped.

I keep track of my EBM stock and November was the all time low.


Razeen usually takes the milk that was pumped at work one day before. So he always gets rather fresh milk. But November came and that's when the frozen EBM were finally utilised because I didn't pump enough at work.

Oh boy, he hates it all right! He would cry and cry and push the bottle away because he doesn't like the taste, I suppose.

It's normal for frozen EBM to taste a bit different. But I didn't think Razeen would reject it. Banyak kot! What am I gonna do with them if he doesn't take it? What will happen when I have to go for out station assignments?

Right now my mom is attempting to mix frozen and refrigerated EBM so that he doesn't experience the sudden change in taste. So far he still protests but gives in when he's really hungry.

Haiya, you make mommy worried you know. Minum laa Razeen! Mommy loves you very much *muax*


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