Wednesday, October 04, 2017

lanterns

Our annual do

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* Lu. In jacket and hat at night. She does make a nice picture

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* Pomelo and mooncakes under the moon and starlight

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* A better pix by Choon

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* Day and I. Pix by Choon

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* Our gang. That orb is the street light, not the moon. Pix by Choon

Monday, October 02, 2017

lu’s sport medal

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This is the first sports medal Lu has won in her life. For Hopscotch in the Lower Primary level during the School Sports Day.

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It was just another piece of metal. Until I thought about it and realized that she’s never taken part in any of the runs which her Gor and Jae participated in. Nor does she have gym. And in school, she’s the kid who has her nose buried in a book, not running around.

She was very stressed about Sports Day the night before. “I don’t want to take part in the Sports Day, Mama, what if I want to vomit?”

In the morning she wanted to skip school, her face was downcast. But it was a different face I saw when I picked her up after school. She was rather smiley.

She whipped out the medal at home, proudly, placing it around her neck and strutting like a peacock.

If she has her way, though, it’d be the last sports medal she ever gets. She still hates sports. And competition in general.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Thursday, September 28, 2017

“we’re not rich”

One of the strangest comments I ever received about the kids was from an adult friend several years ago. I didn’t know what to make of it. She said, “You’re so lucky, your kids look like rich kids.”

I was actually quite offended. First thing I thought: Did I raise spoilt brats? I don’t think that’s what she meant, but I let it slide.

However, that questionable vibe has apparently persisted.

Both girls have gotten such comments, from their peers.

Lu’s friend, pointing to the stained shirt she wears to school every other day, said, “How come your shirt is so dirty?”

Lu said, “My brother wore it in Primary 1 and he’s now in Sec 1. We want to save money.”

Friend was taken aback. “Why? You’re rich, right?”

Lu was horrified. “Oh no I’m not! Don’t think that!”

Jo gets the same. Friends who think she is rich have been wanting to go to her house, to do project work, look around and satisfy their curiosity. She of course dead refuses. “I’m not rich,” she insists.

She has always been ashamed of her own home and not one of her friends has ever crossed our front door, even though I keep lobbying for her to bring friends home.

I said, “Jo, the best times I ever had at my friend’s houses were not the ones spent with the rich kids OK.”

(Actually they were the ones where the Mums or maids cooked spectacularly. I don’t cook well but there’s nothing a few good sausages or ice-cream won’t fix)

Day never gets such “you look rich” comments.

If the girls come off as “rich kids” it’s really super annoying. And why should financial status be of concern to young kids anyway?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

haley?

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Hello, Haley (in tummy)!

Well that’s her name for the moment, the beloved Niece-To-Be-Born-in-December.

Choon asked the kids for their top pick from several options. They chose Stella (“because it goes with Wong,” they said) but the parents-to-be went with Haley. 

It might change, but we can't wait to meet her.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

fishing update

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We’re still fishing.

The beginner’s luck has worn off. Or, well, perhaps it ended when the parks officer took down KK’s details for fishing illegally in a non-fishing place (which explains why there were so many fish).

We haven’t caught any fish the last three weekends.

KK has bought another fishing rod, Day still doesn’t like fishing (especially not when KK scolded him for tangling his wires), Jo and Lu have both tried casting, and I have gotten a shade darker.

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* Day and what he thinks of fishing

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* Jo casting

I also wish I could take a picture of myself, dragging a market trolley full of water and drinks and food and portable chairs and umbrella and what not, chasing after the rest of my family who are merrily walking or skate-scooting away, and providing them with all the creature comforts when they finally settle down.

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* Chair, books, food

Such is the life of a… fishing widow?

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* The phone, Jo brought herself

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* Strange pink things we saw

But as a taxi driver whom I was chatting to wisely told me, “You better follow your husband when he goes fishing. Don’t be like some women so stupid, otherwise he’ll find a companion then you know.”

I would have told him that’s not why I’m following him. I just want the family to do things together besides eat. But OK lor. Thanks, Uncle.

Friday, September 22, 2017

town job

I am very thankful because I got a job with a fixed monthly wage. An ongoing research project which will end... when I'm done I guess.

It comes with a library space which I am welcome to use, as there are materials there which can't be found anywhere else.

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* Looking out the window

It is a challenge to try and go 2, 3 times a week; it is very disruptive to the schedule the kids and I have gotten used to, and after a month of this I have found that it is a lot more tiring than I thought it would be.

But truth be told, I do love going in, even if it means "abandoning" the kids and the housework.

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The thrill of going to an “office” of sorts, dead silent and air-conditioned and spotlessly maintained where even after five hours of continuous intense brain work I don’t feel the least bit tired.

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(At home, I manage to convince myself that it’s fabulous doing work while perspiring in the heat and humidity - I don't turn on the aircon to save on the bill, with the opportunity to jump up and do some housework in-between, but this office experience has put cracks in my self psycho-ing)

There are experiences aplenty which I have missed out on in the last 13 years, not all good but all interesting.

Going to “work” on the MRT (I once drove and attracted a $20 parking charge after 2-3 hours), waiting in a queue as packed train after packed train zooms past (830am, worst time), walking slowly among the very brisk walkers of Shenton Way, perusing the numerous salad bars in the area (I love rabbit food), grabbing rice paper rolls and enjoying it with an aloe vera-goji drink in the open air (so pretentious but I like it), making a hot drink and enjoying it in the office pantry, buying nice croissants from Paul for the girls (they love the pastries, very expensive but tasty), hopping onto the Obike or Mobike or Ofo bike from the MRT station to cycle home (exercise to end the day!).

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* Lunch. Out in the open so I don't have to jostle with the crowds

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* Favourite lunch. The building I go to looks like it has a USB port built in the middle of it

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* Spoilt for choice of bikes at the MRT

Every time I go to work, it’s an escape. I freaking feel like I’m going to the spa, it's so peaceful. It's probably just the novelty but I'll enjoy while it lasts.

Day and Jo wave me off. They tell me, Go Mama, just go, we're OK. With the computer spoilt, there is even more reason to go in because I can't quite work at home.

But Lulu doesn't want me to go to work. "I don't want you to be like Papa," she says, "I want you to be with me". I tell her the project won't last forever. It's a temporary blessing from the Heavens so Mama can help Papa to pay for stuff.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

whatsup

One of the kids finally gets excited about what I write, and it’s not the blog. (although it warms the cockles of my heart to see Lu scroll through the entries for leisure reading and giggle away at she and her siblings’ past shenanigans)

I recently got a gig to write articles for a school kiddy newspaper. It’s a newspaper which first Day, now Jo, regularly brought back home from school and which, I am sad to say, they didn’t read very much of.

I agree to the job, even though it does not pay well, because:
  • ·        I get to write simply which is my dream brief (unlike the fluff-it-up lingo of marketing stuff)
  • ·        I know the target audience and how to speak to them
  • ·        The editor is someone I have the greatest respect for and to have him say my articles pass muster – even if it’s for a kid newspaper – would make me smile
  • ·        I learn and hopefully become a somewhat smarter person. (I’m actually very plebian in my approach to knowledge) It’s through writing that I learn and this job would give me the excuse to finally start reading up on global affairs
So I dived right in.

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Jo came back home, clutching the newspaper excitedly for the first time ever, to say: “We had to read out articles from the newspaper today and my friend chose to read yours! When he came to your name he said, this one must be some journalist. I wanted to say, it’s my Mummy! Well, actually I only told the people close to me.”

She knows, I stayed up until 4am to research and write about this madman (like I said when it comes to world affairs I’m a big fat zero) but it can only get easier. And it thrills me to think some kid is reading my article out aloud in class!

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On a sad note, I think that newspaper she is holding may be one of the last she ever holds, looking at how newspapers are going extinct.

None of the kids have the newspaper reading habit. Heck, even I don’t anymore. Nobody read the newspaper I subscribed to, and even later when I brought home the freesheets, no one took a second look except me.

I look at my files containing reams of yellowed newspaper clippings with my byline on it and I think, back in the day, I would never have thought it would come to this. in such a short time too.

Monday, September 18, 2017

tech crunch

The universe is trying to teach me something, using tech.

First, the mobile. I cycled, it dropped out of the basket, it got run over by cars, I brought it in for repair to the tune of about $150 because the repair whiz kids said it was a simple matter of changing the screen, I spent several painful days without a phone, got it back, Lu dropped it on the floor within a week, the screen blacked out, I brought it in for repair again, I was so downcast KK lobbied for a temporary phone on my behalf, but it will again be several painful days without my phone and Whatsapp.

Along the way, KK exited several of my chat groups and deleted them by accident (after I placed my SIM card into his phone to check my Whatsapps and they remained even after I took out the card), to my great dismay because sometimes it’s politically insensitive to leave a group. People wonder – Why don’t you want to friend us anymore?

Around the same time, the relatively new desktop blacked out at the time that my usual IT consultant Teng was away in Queensland for reservist duty, I lugged the CPU in to some random IT outfit I found online, they charged $90 for doing essentially very little, found another problem with the power supply, charged another $150, was not ready on the promised day, I still do not have it. I have not had my desktop for a week.

No one else around me as a readily available computer with Microsoft Word I can use. I grab opportunities to use whatever computer I can get my hands on, typing articles in Google Docs or gmail or whatever.

So here I am, a freelance writer with jobs due and million other people to “get back to”, with no desktop, no Microsoft Word, no IT consultant and no mobile phone.

The funniest bit was actually when I tried to take a taxi to bring the girls to tuition. I walked out with the girls to try and flag a cab by the roadside (yeah, NO ONE does that anymore) No cabs were available, not after 10 minutes. People stared at me as I waved my arm, I think it’s a rare sight these days.

I had no phone to Grab, no phone to call 65521111, I had ordered Day to leave his phone at home so he wouldn’t be staring at the screen all day, and when I wanted to borrow Jo’s phone to call for a cab, I find to my horror that KK had not paid her bill and so she couldn’t make calls (that’s us, collectively scatter-brained). I made Day run home to get his phone so I could call.

As Day puts it, “what is it with you and making screens go black?” (this after I tried to use KK’s laptop and the screen turned black. Turns out the power was low and I had plugged in using a faulty socket)

I don’t know. What is the learning point here?

I think it’s that I’m too behind and too easily frustrated. When it comes to tech, this is a recurring theme in my life. Mum is ahead of me. She tells me – “Why don’t you just change your phone?” I say, “I have stuff in the old one”. She says, “But I just bring everything over”. (I don’t know how to do that. I don’t even know how people ensure that their contacts are ported over every time they change a phone. I always end up having to re-key in numbers and names)

And as I desperately tell myself that these are first-world problems and that essentially I should be grateful I am still strong enough to do housework and the laundry, and that everyone around me is healthy, stuff like that does seep in. Somewhat. Because it is true, isn't it? 

There’s no need to bust a vein just because I am cut off from the world, even if my livelihood depends on it. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

academic issues

I am too hands-off when it comes to their work, I know, but as I don’t get calls from teachers about how badly they’re doing that’s good enough for me.

I take care of the values, try and raise them right, and pray that providence takes care of the rest. That in future they will meet the right people and mentors, be in the right place at the right time etc.

But in the bare minimum that I do, these are the issues I face:

DAY

Nothing, because he is the one most left alone (not because he’s academically strong). If anything, I think more about how to nurture his cooking skills.

He doesn’t enjoy school nor schoolwork, an increasing array of school projects are done in a very lame manner (ie. hardly any effort put in) but he does it all with reasonable diligence, and neatly.

JO

Unlike Day, who never asks me anything, Jo keeps asking me for help, and she keeps rolling her eyes / sighing in exasperation because I’m unable to.

These all mostly have to do with Science, because she is the most scared of her Science teacher. The other day, she kept hammering away at me about how an egg splits into a placenta and an embryo, drilling in a question about some tiny little technical detail which escapes me now, which literally made me want to run out of the house and escape because I DON’T KNOW.

She doesn’t ask me about Maths anymore because she’s given up. She consults Teng.

With her, I have to train her to self-help. Or at least get up the guts to ask others, because I’m incapable. The constant refrain from me, to her, is, "Jo, my Chinese is not good" or "Jo, Mama is not a scientist" or "Jo, you know Mama failed Maths in secondary school right?"

And oh, even in English, I do not satisfy her because I cannot explain grammar rules. I can only tell her what the answer should be by feel, but not why. (ie the technicalities about things like prepositions, what goes with what etc. She asks - "But why is this the answer, Mama?" and I can only say "Because it sounds right lor")

But she does love her school projects. Meeting up with friends and doing project work. She throws herself 120 percent into these. 

LU

Lu needs a lot of help, from me. At Primary 3, I am still able to. I am concerned, though, because #1 and #2 never needed this much coaching at Primary 3.

Not for English, which is her pillar of strength. And not for Science, at the moment.

Her Herculean labours are Chinese and Maths.

I think, for her, for what she doesn’t like, her brain acts like a sieve and everything just slips through.

My “teaching” sessions with her are rare but epic, and all have to do with Maths. These usually occur when she asks me for some help with homework and I realize to my great horror that she completely doesn’t understand fractions, or time, or model-drawing. Or that she can’t quite multiply and divide. I mean, these concepts are necessary in life, not just in school.

I grab paper, sit down with her, and as time passes and I realize that all my attempts to explain in different ways are futile, I start to act strange. I look heavenward, I grip my fists, I take deep breaths, I start to speak with a very soft voice in a very clipped accent – as if the problem was that she didn’t understand me in the first place. Sometimes I actually want to cry.

At this, she starts to huff. “Fine I’ll do it myself, forget it, don’t help me!” She scurries off like a cockroach on the run, I yell at her to come back because I’m not giving up by any measure, she reluctantly trudges back, and we do it again.

I have been trying to explain supposition to her for weeks, and weeks. From duck and dog legs, to buttons on dresses and shorts, to 10 and 20 cent coins, we’ve done so many examples and still I get stuck at the same stage where she simply doesn't get it. (these questions are the sort which go: There are 20 ducks and dogs on a farm. The farmer counted a total of 50 legs. How many of each animal are there?)

Who came to the rescue? Jo. She managed to explain to Lu – for now.

As for Chinese? I think Lu’s Chinese tuition teacher wants to tear her (own) hair out.