Thursday, March 16, 2017

42

Along with the girls, within the same week, I age a year. It does register dimly that if I don't live past 80, I'm past the mid-point. 

And perhaps now is the time for mid-life crisis if it should come. What applies to me - from a brief cursery look at online material - is that as my children are getting more and more independent, I am suddenly freed up to do all the things I could never think about earlier.

And if I compare myself to my peers, it is now that I might start to feel inadequate (because in the past it was always - No time to compare, too busy with kids...)

I do wonder these days: Can I do XX better, or achieve XX, since I seem to have more room for myself now? And is it my last chance to try XX because I'm going to be 50 soon?

But I highly doubt I will go through the mid-life crisis stages: Shock, denial, depression, anger, acceptance. Not so dramatic, lah.

The day itself, 16 March, is earmarked for the diligent completion of homework because our March holiday week is so chock-full of activity its absurd.

But at night, I sneak out for a solo late-night viewing of Beauty and the Beast which I thoroughly enjoy, sitting next to a strange man, also solo, who guffawed loudly at many parts in the movie. I don’t know why.

On my birthday, I just want to be alone. 

A few days before, however, we did a hotel stay at the same place with the cascading plants and heavenly water.

There were no other plans to do anything else on the island. I only wanted to be surrounded by nature, and its as invigorating as ever. 

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* In the warm comforting embrace of the hot chlorine-free jacuzzi, friendly to eczema-prone skin, and which makes Day very sleepy

Sometimes I think it'd be nice to get a laptop and retreat there to stay for two weeks, where I can also do my work. (but then the hotel only has Wifi at very selected spots to maintain the back-to-nature, tech-free approach. That is the one thing KK hates about it)

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* Feasting on over-priced coconut ice-cream which we unfortunately love. Day is stressed because he has to share, whole family shares two scoops which a $10 bill just about covers

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* Strolling along the amazing path of mosaic animals leading to the Merlion

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* Jo using her present, a brand-new eye mask! (she lost the Delta Airlines one)

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* Jo examining a stevia leaf before putting it in her mouth (it's sweet) and Lu taking photos of Bibi, at the rooftop nursery

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

jo's 11

Jo found Lu’s birthday do very lame indeed: Home-cooked food, games at home, where’s the fun?

She didn’t want to invite anyone either.

But she had grand plans requiring a tad more money than Lu’s celebration, which she outlined in Powerpoint slides so she could make a presentation to me.


1234 from SM Wong

The girl loves her Powerpoint. Aligning text, putting in pictures, cropping them to her exacting standards, and best of all, making transitions between slides. You know, the way the slide opens like a curtain on a stage or crumples up like a paper ball or folds into a paper airplane… she loves the effects. (which unfortunately can’t show up here)

So there was a slight change in order and we started off with her favourite, Japanese food. We had it at a restaurant I passed by and which I was curious about, serving Japanese buffet, the sort where you choose what you want from the menu and they cook it there and then for you, as many items as you want, for a fixed price per head.

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Every time a dish came, Jo stopped us from eating and faithfully took photos with her phone – she is starting to remind me of some women I know.

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* Erm.... girls... Lu is using a camera

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* Jo's collage of some of her food photos

She seemed to enjoy the meal. But at the end of it, she smiled a little bit and said, “It wasn’t as good as I thought it would be.”

Urgh.

Then it was on to Bounce, the trampoline park.

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Yes it was a Saturday, and it was absolute mayhem, the photo doesn't do justice. How I long, long, long for the days when there was only one quiet little-known trampoline park in Singapore. The space was teeming with sweaty jumpers, like ants on an ant hill, with plenty of big groups, so much so that the staff had to enforce five-minute rotations. Like, you can jump here for five minutes before you have to move on to another spot. The rule – only one person can bounce on each trampoline - was a huge challenge because everywhere I turned (I jumped too) every trampoline was occupied.

There were also queues at the obstacle course.

The last in her three-part birthday do was her chocolate cake.

Four Leaves – fortuitously a humble bakery where a cake costing $28 or $30 is enough to make us very happy – has become our cake place of choice. We really like the cakes there. Nothing pretentious, nothing organic, nothing gluten-free, nothing too sweet, nothing too fancy, nothing too expensive, nothing very Instagram-worthy. Just simple, honest, tasty cakes for regular birthday celebrations which we can finish in one sitting.

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Jo wanted a chocolate cake with “lots of crunchy bits inside” and there happened to be a cake there by the name of Coco Exotic which fit the bill perfectly. She loved it, lapped it all up, especially the extra-thick base of crunchy hazelnutty bits, and was most put out when I finished the last slice.

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

lu's 9

Lu’s last single-digit birthday.

She dreams and plans for the day weeks in advance.

I think, she might want an outing perhaps. Or this may be the year when one of my kids finally wants to have a party with other kids apart from their siblings, something happening, something exciting, a Party PARTY!

But no.

True to form, her wants are simple, she plans and writes it all out weeks in advance.

Where? Her grandparent’s house.
Activities? Balloons and bubbles.
Food? Meringue (she’s been dreaming of meringues for a long time), chocolate Cadbury mini-eggs and fried rice.
Cake: Strawberry shortcake from Four Leaves.
Guests? David and Jody.

I ask her, repeatedly: Your guests are David and Jody only ah?

She is very certain. Even though there is plenty of “I hate Jody”s and “I hate David”s flying around all day, she maintains: I only want my family. Just like last year.

I spend half a day procuring all the ingredients for her party with her alone. She is all smiles as I hold her hand and we go around ticking off all the items on her list, from ordering her dream cake, to finding a little HDB heartland shop which sells all manner of balloons, and finally locating the elusive meringues.

(Actually she led me there, because she passed by the shop once a long time ago and she never forgot that it sold meringues. It didn't taste very nice though, wasn't fresh)

The big day, we head to Gong Gong and Por Por’s house after lunch. It's a bit odd when the trio yell - Let's go! It's Party Time! - and it honestly feels like just another day when we're going over for meals and whatnot. 

Lu had organised and packed all of her party stuff, including her siblings' swimming clothes, into plastic bags with labels, and we carted it all over with cake and Bibi.

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* Lulu's stash of goodies for birthday fun

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* Filling up the water balloons, which is really dreadful work because we bought the cheap super-thin type which is impossible to tie

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* The kids manage... small fingers

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* An hour of effort, all exploded in five minutes

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* Fun with water, before water prices go up in July. Jo is making it "rain" by directing the water hose up onto the underside of the umbrella

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* Break between water balloons for the cartoon, Moana. Day and Jo are feasting on longans in syrup, another of Lulu's wants

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* Teng joining in the fun

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* Setting up outside, in a bid to find a different spot for birthday cake cutting ceremonies

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* Lulu's favourite cake in the whole wide world. It's special this time because her name is on it. Most times I buy off the rack and there's no writing, but by pre-ordering, we can write stuff. I didn't know that

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* With a flower headband from Phoebe meant for flower girl duties but which is also great for birthdays

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* Some of us are standing in the fountain area, which is bone dry. After a whole bunch of fish died from some air pump mechanical failure, Gong Gong never wanted to keep fish again so the fountain's useless

Lu was utterly thrilled and so, so happy. To her, the day was perfect.

Friday, March 10, 2017

18 hours

I have never seen Jo so utterly exhausted. It’s like she came back from the army after a road march. She crashed and slept for nearly 18 hours. I'm pretty sure its the longest duration she's ever slept, since the day she was born.

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* Jo (under quilt) and Lu (who missed her sister)

Following her first overnight school camp, I expected to see a happy flouncing girl brimming with stories about the fun she had when I picked her up from school at 3pm on a Friday, after not seeing her since Thursday morning.

Instead, as she walked toward me with her three bags, clad in her new red camp T-shirt and new gray track pants specially procured from Uniqlo for the camp, her face was a controlled plane of solemnity and gravity. There was no hint of a smile. Without breaking stride, she walked past as I took a bag from her. On the way to the car, her eyes started filling with tears and in the car, the tears started falling past her sun-reddened nose.

I’m so tired Mama I think I only slept 30 minutes or 1 hour last night, she said.

Back home, after wolfing down some papaya and taking a shower, she crawled into bed at 4pm and after languidly describing some of the camp activities, slept, past the evening (no dinner), through the night, till the next morning when she woke up at 830am to wolf down some food before falling asleep again at 10am. She eventually arose from her stupor at 11am.

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* Her mid-sleep snack of her favourite cheese omelette, Milo and warmed-up leftover chicken soup from the night before

The camp for the eleven-year-olds is a first for the school, which had (under this principal anyway) never organized any overnighters before.

Day was sore: How come they didn’t do one when I was in P5?

Lu was excited: Why can’t I have a camp in P3?

Essentially it comprised an Amazing Race-style series of challenges at the East Coast Park, a beach-cleaning exercise, some outdoor cooking for dinner (they boiled eggs), a campfire, sleeping in school, and ending off with a stint at an obstacle course complete with a zipline and abseiling.

It was all really, really fun and Jo loved most of it. From effortlessly traversing the obstacle course to eating packed food and learning cheers and shouting encouragement to her friends – You can do it! – she did fine.

The nightmare was sleep time.

To the credit of the forward-thinking one, she had anticipated this way before. Weeks before when I signed the consent form, she had pinpointed what she felt would be her biggest issue: Mama can I not go? I’m scared I can’t sleep.

But I told her to try it. I always had the best time of my life at school camps, even with the sleep deprivation.

What actually happened was that at lights out at 10pm, she struggled valiantly to sleep in the new environment. She doesn’t sleep in air-condition at home but it was particularly hot in the sports hall where all the girls were ensconced. Some kids played with torches, havoc for the light-sensitive one (she lost her eye mask). Occasionally there was noise, like slamming doors. The sleeping bag I had borrowed for her (Teng’s old one) worked marvelously for Day who slept like a baby during his camp (actually I think Day is one of those people who can sleep anywhere in any condition, it will come in useful during the Army) but was far too thin for her and she found the ground painfully hard.

When she finally fell asleep at around midnight or so, someone apparently woke her up barely 30 minutes later and she says she just couldn’t go back to sleep. At 5am, she got up and went to queue for a cold shower which she had to finish in under four minutes (she practised this at home, she usually takes about 15). She also doesn’t normally bath in the morning but she was told she had to.

Then it was on to the obstacle course programme which drained her battery even more.

I think it’s good she had the experience.

Many parents were concerned over the camp, worried about whether their delicate offspring would be able to wing it, and I think some opted out. But I’m really glad she did it, discover so much more about herself in the process, and grow up a little bit more.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

writing changes

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* Left, aged 9. Right, aged 12. (even the teacher tells him to 'write legibly')

Day’s writing has changed noticeably.

It used to be "very nice for a boy" but is now terribly illegible and so small it’s like ants crawling across a page, and which no person with lao hua yan would be able to make out.  

I exhort him to fatten and enlarge his writing, for the very practical reason that it constitutes bad communication, to no avail.

Monday, March 06, 2017

a new part of Singapore

Phoebe stays in an interesting part of Singapore and as she slowly integrates into our family, we get new insights into Geylang.

Well, not quite new in the sense that it’s not revelatory, but that we never quite interacted with the area beyond passing by and now we're occasionally hanging around.

In point form:

* I never used to like going to Geylang because trying to seek out tiny parking lots along narrow one-way streets is not fun, and I also cannot parallel park. But now we get to park at Phoebe’s apartment! It features a slick space-saving automated carparking system where cars are shifted and stacked. We all had fun with it, although Por Por said: Wah it takes so long to ‘retrieve’ the car, if I’m late for work sure die.

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* Photo because I'm suaku

* Geylang is quaint and very photogenic, with people jay-walking like they own the road (OK I knew this before and that was one reason why I hated driving there).

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* Day gazing at the home of a man who's taking a nap. I was arrested by the colour

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* That's our posse, lower right

* Geylang has good food. We never eat there (I know, criminal). To celebrate Phoebe’s birthday, we check out JB Ah Meng, a coffeeshop-zichar-turned-restaurant which is featured in the Michelin Guide Singapore. What’s noteworthy – to me – are the pails of live crabs lining the restaurant entrance, and the people that later line up alongside the crabs in queues which start very early and accumulate alarmingly. Food? Its good, of course, but I say again that we’re not such purveyors of good food that we can tell the difference between Ah Meng and some lesser restaurant. What’s certain is that if not for the fact that we turned up for dinner before 6pm and didn’t have to queue, we won’t queue.

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* What the crabs become: The signature white pepper crab. This one was chock-full of egg

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* Queues as 7pm approches

* Phoebe’s apartment, in the densely built-up area, is small with a tiny lap pool. For her birthday, Choon made a fabulous not-to-sweet tiramisu which we managed to eat comfortably despite initial concerns that the place was too small to contain 10 people, while at the same time poking into all the corners of her sweet sea-themed apartment. Hey, we’re family!

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* As Por Por puts it, we are finally cutting a cake against a different backdrop. Happy birthday, Phoebe!

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* Why are we blowing the candles? Because the cake is also sort of meant for the March babies ie. me, Jo and Lu

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* The tiramisu

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* Spot the touches of the 'sea'?

Saturday, March 04, 2017

teh tarik

How to raise a child who loves Teh Tarik?

Just drink it whenever you can, and show visible joy when the sweet milky froth hits your lips. It's my one sinful dietary indulgence.

It is with great regret that I announce that the nine-year-old has developed a definite love for the drink, greedily sharing any cup I order or make at home. (not Day and Jo though, only Lu)

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I greatly disapprove of Day drinking KK’s coffee. Honestly I think Teh Tarik is equally (or even more) sinful, packed with enough caffeine to keep me up all day with just one cup in the morning, and worse, loads of sugar.

But I don’t know how to tell her to stay away!

Thursday, March 02, 2017

a greater degree

Jo's degrees went up. Her eyes are now 225 on the right, 275 on the left.

Just saying. Such "improvements" are important to me.

She claimed that when she stood on the weighing scale she couldn’t quite read her weight right down by her feet. And she had been complaining for several weeks (maybe months) that she couldn’t see what was on the board in class, and had to copy off her table partner.

Of late, she had also been marveling at my ability to see far. “WHAT, OH MY GOD MUMMY YOU CAN READ THAT?? I’m so jealous!” I consoled her by showing her, again, how I am completely unable to see things right under my nose.

She is also put out, that both her siblings still have eagle eyes, and asked: Why am I different? It's so unfair.

Why did her degrees go up? I’m not sure.

I leave her completely on her own to choose a frame. She is very specific: No “nose” things which irritate her nose, and it has to be black, of a particular shape. No fluffy colours.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

ball gown bunny

Lu, who relentlessly scours Youtube for art ideas, saw someone make a fat round bunny out of a sock and rice.

She pursued the idea and made one for me, with some help from er, the recipient. It’s got the feel of a stress ball, heavy and unmoving unless you really squeeze it, like a paperweight.

Here’s bunny in a Ball Gown, which can be removed and replaced with something less glamorous.

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The bunny’s got a mole on its left cheek, just like me.

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And it's crying tears of joy (because Lu's hand slipped).

Sunday, February 26, 2017

"you're gonna miss me"

From the start of the year, as the girls are assigned to different classes, the BFFAE (Best Friends Forever and Ever) quartet breaks up.

Such is life.

Jo ends up in the same class as the girl who has been her best friend since Primary 1, Emilyn. They seem to have a shared destiny.

Emma heads to a different class, and a fourth ups and leaves for home in Korea.

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* Lu and Jo sending Keunmin off at the airport

Keunmin, sassy and bold, made life very interesting for Jo. She was also the one who dragged Jo and Emilyn into putting up a performance at the school Talent Showcase last year, with her on vocals and the other two beating out a rhythm with cups.

It’s the Cup Song, see, something which old fogeys may not be too familiar with. 

"When I'm gone, when I'm gone, you're gonna miss me when I'm gone"... Strange but the lyrics are strangely prophetic, Keunmin had no idea she would be leaving when they performed this.

If I asked Jo to perform – and I have on multiple occasions – she would always say no, the impression is that she would rather be dragged through the coals of hell than embarrass herself this way. But when Keunmin asked, its “Oh OK”.

I’d better put this up because I think it’s the first and last time Jo is ever going to perform in the talent show.