Saturday, August 05, 2017

enjoy vs exam

Jo’s erhu journey is completely different from her piano journey.

The piano teacher (who also teaches Day and Lu), a lady who also teaches piano at an international school, wants Jo to enjoy playing the piano. Jo has never taken a piano exam, but the focus is on playing a wide range of pieces, duets and performing. I guess the idea is to build up stage confidence and to develop the sense that music is meant to be shared, to bring joy to others.

The erhu teacher, a young man from China who goes around Singapore teaching various school Chinese orchestras, focuses on tangible results. He represents the teacher who teaches only exam pieces. Once the three pieces are learnt, the child registers for an exam. Once the exam is over, he starts teaching pieces for the next exam. Jo has taken the Grade 2 certificate, and just took the Grade 4 exam, which I hope she will pass. She doesn’t play any pieces outside of the exam repertoire.

* The examiner's comments in Chinese cursive, for which I needed someone to help decipher and translate

Notwithstanding the fact that the two are completely different instruments, do the two different approaches have any effect on Jo’s attitude?

At the moment, no.

Her level of enthusiasm and how I observe her interacting with the instruments, is exactly the same.

That is, she will not play either for fun. Well, she started out very passionate, but as with most musical instruments, when it starts to become difficult, it isn't always fun. 

Before each lesson, for both, she complains and whines about how she hates this or that teacher. She practices both instruments last-minute, the day before or on the actual day of lesson.

In other words, the “enjoy” approach, converse to my expectation, doesn’t compel her to love the piano any more than the “exam-ed” erhu.

And the sense I get for both is that she would be perfectly fine to stop both anytime. 

Why is she still learning? A bit of kiasuism I suppose, she's afraid she will want to "continue later" but she'd be behind. Plus, I am loath to let her stop because she is reasonably competent. The skills may bring her joy, or come in useful, in later life.

(With that in mind, I had intended to record her playing one of her exam erhu pieces, lest she quits straight after. As a swansong of sorts. It’s one that I rather like, called 赛马 - Sai Ma, or Racing Horse. I’ve tried for a fortnight to no avail because she feels that her playing is not worthy of recording. I say that’s not the point, it’s for memory. Still, no recording.)

Thursday, August 03, 2017

bonding over fish

Lulu yearned for a hamster, a furry warm-blooded Bibi come to life. That was the next thing she wanted to care for, a step up from flora.

KK refused. He’s had rabbits and warm-blooded pets in his youth, he thinks they are smelly and are nothing but trouble.

But then he had a conversation with Lu.

KK: Lulu, when Papa catches fish, I’ll catch some for you and you can keep them in a tank. (background to this is that KK's latest “thing” is fishing. He hasn’t spent any money yet, but all he watches on Youtube is fishing videos and when he’s ready he’s plans to splurge on a rod and prowl Singapore’s canals)

Lu: Oh, I want to keep fish!

KK: Hmmm, why not we get them for you now?

And that was it.


We popped into a fish shop where he bought a tiny tank about the size of two shoeboxes stacked up on each other, a filter, water plants in sufficient quantity to “carpet” the bottom of the tank and 13 tiny fishes which Lu carefully picked out after a long time. (long enough for Jo and I to walk somewhere else, get ice-creams and finish it)

* 13 fish

* The three distinctive types of "carpet" grass

Father and daughter spent the afternoon setting it up in the back balcony, the IT place of the moment.

* Lu checking if fish are trapped beneath the grass pads


True to promise (but its early days yet) I haven’t had to touch the tank. Lu checks on the fishes every day, carefully measuring out tiny pellets of fish food the size of sand grains twice a day and judiciously dropping them into the tank right on top of where the relevant fish are.

KK and Lu stare at the fishes, gradually identifying them by look and behavior. They check if all 13 are still there, observe how the fishes love hiding in a particularly “forested” corner, discuss if one fish is pregnant, Lu picks a favourite.

* Lulu's favourite fish, the largest one in this picture



Day, Jo and I are completely bo-chup. We don't fancy fish. But the presence of another glass box of life, the gentle sound of running water and the fairy lights (from Phoebe, leftover from the wedding) makes the balcony more relaxing than ever. Whenever I go there, I feel like shitting.


Tuesday, August 01, 2017

sec 1 homies

* Old-old friend Nikita & old friend Kesh

Sunday, July 30, 2017

more growing


He asks me to buy him four tea eggs. Four. He eats three at one shot and leaves the fourth for later. He enquires: “Is it OK for me to eat four eggs? Is there a problem with high cholesterol?” I tell him he’s young, he can eat the sky and the earth.

Our three, none of them have particularly large appetites. I’ve never had stories to share of a child who walloped two large servings of anything.

But Day’s appetite has suddenly swelled. More than at any other point in his life, he is eating discernibly more. He finishes his own adult portion and polishes off Jo and Lu’s remains (that used to be my job).

And he’s turned somewhat carnivorous. He relishes meat. There never has been much meat in the house, top on my mind is always the issue of vegetable and how to make sure there is some edible (hopefully yummy) vegetable on the table, but wow he really loves his meat now.


KK’s steaks are a bigger hit than ever, along with the winning sauce combination (garlic, onion, mushrooms, beef stock, very sinful cream, butter, loads of black pepper).


The potatoes and peas are consumed in deference to Mum’s insistence on “balanced meals”.


Oh and the other day he found his first pimple, to his great chagrin. 


Rubbing his forehead, still dry and fuzzy as a peach, Day scrutinized himself in the mirror and groaned: Is that a PIMPLE? KK promptly went to squeeze it.

Oh and oh, he took a shaver and mowed off the wispy hairs on his upper lip, with some guidance from KK. He was most pleased.

So many life firsts.

Friday, July 28, 2017

jo on my bike

After months, maybe a year or two of talking about getting new bikes for the girls because they've outgrown theirs, Jo suddenly sits astride the bar of my bike, hops onto the seat, and off she goes. She can't touch the ground but she's fine.


Well! That’s two out of three who can use adult-sized bikes now!

Yet another reminder of how their speed of growth bypasses good intentions which we are too slow to act on. Want to do this, want to do that, before we know it they've grown beyond. 

I should forget about getting a bike for Lu and just wait for her legs to grow sufficiently long.

Still on change, there's a new spot at the beach which is rather nice. A jetty-ish type thing which, unlike the other jetties which are essentially roads with lamp-posts and railings extending into the sea, this one has plant boxes and feels like an esplanade. 



Wednesday, July 26, 2017


I do it a lot more often than I want to.



 (I also realize to my horror that I'm repeating myself! I've just discovered that I wrote the exact same post, wearing exactly the same headgear and specs, here! I'm forgetting things!)

Monday, July 24, 2017

myopic sisters

Oh, my dear littlest one. You don’t have my eyeballs either.

* Girls trying to be twins

Lu mentioned in passing that sometimes she couldn’t read the words on the board in school, and had to copy off her friend. She sits in the second row in class.

Then after the school health check, the nurse ascertained and told her: Can you tell your Mummy that you need specs?

Lu was non-plussed and grinned. Her only concern was, “Am I going to look weird with specs?”

I sent the family a Whatsapp: “Boohoohoo! Lu needs specs!”

Jo was delighted beyond measure. "Lulu is getting specs at the same time as I did!"

I brought Lu to the optometrist. 50 on the right, 75 on the left. She picked out a pair of frames which Jo thought was very ugly indeed. She wanted something black, but not round.


Jo herself spotted a pair of frames she liked, and therefore begged for another eye test. If the degree has gone up she can get new frames. It had, but by about 25 degrees on one side only. I was loath to change, her current specs really cost me a bomb.

“I’m straining already, Mama, even my teacher tells me she can tell that I’m straining. I NEED a new pair of specs! Fine, you want my eyesight to deteriorate, OK lor.”

Finally, I said, “OK you can change the lenses but we must use the same frame.”


Saturday, July 22, 2017

online booking fiasco

With one wrong click of a mouse, Por Por loses $171.

See, she meant to book a hotel room in Hong Kong in November. She went through the hotel booking portal Agoda. Somehow, she clicked the wrong date, sometime in July.

The day she was to have stayed in the hotel went and passed. She discovered later that she was charged the full $171 for one night’s stay. She sends the family a Whatsapp: "I made a terrible mistake on my hotel booking".

Why did she make the mistake? She really cannot recall. Didn't she get any reminder e-mails? She's not sure, perhaps she didn't check or it didn't come into her Inbox for some reason. 

Can she get a full refund? No, says the hotel and Agoda.

Can she get a partial refund? No, says the hotel and Agoda.

And the hotel apparently wasn’t very nice either because Por Por, who never gets angry over anything, said, “I don’t mind the money. But I just don’t like the way I was treated.”

Agoda at least gives her a US$20 voucher. To use in her next booking.

It doesn’t quite take the sting out of things. Por Por resigns herself to making some noise online (Trip Advisor posting etc) and leaves it at that.

I’m not sure if there is any other recourse, especially if her booking was non-refundable. While it's completely unfair for her to lose $171 like that, there's also the issue of hotels and how they cannot possibly be acceding to every request to cancel last-minute or refund.

Anyway, it’s the kind of mistake a careless person like me could very easily make. The problem with everything being at our fingertips these days is that all the middlemen who could check before aren’t there.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

portfolio plus

By now I’ve realized that these award things (and other things regarded as “important" like certs) do matter. Two kids may be equally good, but packaging matters.

She could have made a clay butterfly at home, we’ll ooh and ah, I may blog about it, and it stops there. Lulu's butterflies:



She makes clay butterflies in school, school submits it together with all the rest of the clay butterflies made by her friends as an entry for the Singapore Youth Festival, it wins an award.

* "Butterflies in Paradise", the title of the work

“This will be important for her portfolio,” says the art teacher. “You must keep the programme which shows that this team project won a SYF award.”

Okay. I’m really glad the school is helping her to win prizes, and that she has at least one noteworthy item in her portfolio. I guess she wouldn't have much to show if she were just having fun at home.

Aside from that, I really enjoyed the SYF presentation at *Scape, a space for youths in town. All the kids from the Visual Arts Club, with some parent volunteers (like me), go on a little excursion there after school.


It’s amazing what the kids churn out. The hall where the artworks are exhibited is a burst of colour and the inspiration behind the art is a lot less pretentious than adult art. I pore over and enjoy every piece.

* Made of straws

* One of my favourites because of its colours and textures

* I spend a long time poring over the boy's booklet detailing every step of his artwork

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

day’s message

A typical Whatsapp from Day to tell me what he’s doing after school:

Out with friend no lunch low battery call keshiro

(Translation: I’m going out with my friend, so I won’t be eating lunch at home. My phone is low on battery, call Keshiro if you need to)