Wednesday, September 17, 2014

head wound lesson

This time around, I learn my lesson. I listen to KK.

In the dark bedroom, Lu hits her head on an edge and bawls, I rub the area fully expecting just a bump to form, nothing forms after a few minutes, I pull my hands away and then I see the splotches of blood on her bedspread.


Lu, OK by now, is puzzled by the blood: Huh? Are you having your period, mama?

I know I didn’t sit anywhere on the spot and anyway I wasn’t having my period.

I realize the blood came from her head.

I put a towel on the spot and it comes away red. The water I dip the towel in turns brown and the metallic smell of blood wafts up. Now, she panics. “I smell so much blood, mama!” she wails.

KK glares at her. He says, why were you so careless, Lulu.

I am aghast at his callousness, and wonder if she needs stitches.

Don’t be ridiculous, KK intones. He asks Lu a few questions: What’s your name? How old are you? What is 6+4? (er she answers correctly)

Then he orders me to go and wash away the blood from her hair and apply Zambuk (just like in 2010) in case there’s a bump.

I follow instructions.

The shower clears the messy clot of blood and hair in seconds and the wound is revealed: All that blood came from a 1cm streak which is dark red and no longer bleeding.


I put on the Zambuk and then spend a good 10 minutes combing out her wet hair and clearing hair stuck to the wound. She is half asleep by then, and cries because she dirtied her nice, new quilt.

Monday, September 15, 2014

holiday horror

One glorious week of no school in September is just over.

Halcyon days of chilling out and doing absolutely nothing sped past, and then it was Sunday night.

Then the horror struck: Day was frantically rushing through 110 Maths problem sums. Which he was supposed to have done over the holiday.  I think it works out to slightly over 10 a day.

My way was to issue one reminder (no more because I can’t stand the sound of my own nagging and hey its a holiday!) every day – Have you done what you need to do? Have you completed your holiday homework? – and leave the rest to personal responsibility, which was clearly inadequate. The boy was fully enjoying himself for nine whole days.

At that point I didn’t even know if I should get angry at Day or the teacher/school!

Is he done? No. He has about 50 or 60 more to go, I didn't count. I let him face the consequences. 

(Jo finished all her work, but then she’s a girl which apparently explains everything)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

the medan wedding

Someone pays for my air ticket, hotel accommodation and good food, and even remunerates me for services delivered (playing the violin) at the end of it.

It’s probably par for the course for many friends who have found corporate success. But for me, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Would I say no? Of course not! It’s the most exciting thing that’s happened to me this year! (which just goes to show how mummy-fied my life is)

The occasion is a wedding in Medan, Indonesia. Dr Sophie – who studied music with a Singaporean musician friend in the US (that's how I get the gig) – is marrying Dr Andhika. 

* The quartet (I didn't know any of them prior to the gig): Cellist Gerald, Violist Jeremy and First Violinist Nanako

To sum up, here’s the Good and the Interesting.


* We fly Silkair. It’s the first time I have ever flown on Silkair. The only thing which occurs to me is that Singapore Airlines and Silkair planes smell the same: sort of crisp and cold and pine-y, and is infinitely better than the warm, slightly rotten, over-ripe smell of a Jetstar plane. (but of course I’m still loyally budget because I'm cheap)

* The JW Marriott hotel we stay in. It’s a five-star hotel. We are so pampered.


* I get so much sleep it’s ridiculous. What a fabulous break.

* The wedding d├ęcor. An incredible volume of Styrofoam, pleated satin and flowers transforms the reception area into – I think – a garden mansion. Inside, the stage is given the same treatment. Two 'trees' with hanging lamps are planted on stage and we have to play under one of these trees (my bow keeps hitting the lamp).

* All the 'walls' are made of styrofoam and satin, spotlights were also brought in to create an ambience

* Reception area

* The aisle

* The respect given to us. Most times wedding musicians are heard but not seen. This time our biographies are read out by the emcee, flashed on screen, and the audience claps after every song. We are told classical string quartets are a rarity in Medan, hence the need to fly us over.

* The Les Miserables performance which came after us (we only played for about 40 minutes). We were thrilled by the incredible show which features some of the popular Les Miz songs, but funnily enough the Indonesians seemed to think it was meh and the applause at the end was lukewarm. There was also a saxophonist and a band performance, so it was truly a musically-packed evening.

* The Les Miz folks

* Two side-panels 'broadcast' the wedding highlights, live. Up on the ceiling is the hotel's Power sound system.

* We got to eat the wedding food.

* My favourite: Calamansi sorbet and lemongrass jelly with a sesame ball

* The couple. So down-to-earth, accommodating and sensitive to our needs, they knocked on all of our doors after the wedding was over to pay and thank us.

* With Sophie and Andhika


* We the Singapore quartet, with instruments in tow, land at the swanky new glassy Medan airport; but once we say we are there to play for a wedding in response to the immigration officer’s query, we are led into a bare room where we obediently await one-to-one questioning together with other detainees. It takes a long time. But during the long 20-30 minute wait, we slowly realize that we mustn’t admit that we are getting paid. I whisper to the violist: Are they still corrupt here? During the interview, the uniform-clad policeman asks: “What are you doing here? Are you getting paid? The bride is your friend? How did you meet her?” I fortuitously brought the invitation card. Pointing to the bride in the picture, we say with fixed smiles: Our friend, our friend. He finally stamps our passports.

* The JW Marriott is an opulent castle dwarfing the buildings in the vicinity. Every possible entrance and exit is marred by a security gantry (to scan bags) and manned by uniformed guards. It made us feel like it’s a dangerous world beyond the Marriot's doors.

* View of Medan city from the Marriott pool

* But we did go out. To what seems to be other 'protected' enclaves like Lotte Mart (yes that's the Korean supermarket and what's it doing in Medan?) It looks like a CapitaLand mall (big and swanky) and is very, very empty.

* The Supermarket Museum (these are packs of detergent)

* A Lay's Display

* Out in the street, it’s a Horn Symphony. Someone is blaring their car or motorbike horn every second. I got a slight headache every time I was out. I think it’s a bit like modern music: you need to get used to it.

* My only crappy picture of Medan's streets

* A Medan native who speaks in Mandarin asks me at the wedding: Oh do you like Medan? You should come back and visit! I say honestly: We haven’t had time to see much. But life looks really interesting, especially the street stalls. I see a lot of Ayam Penyet (smashed fried chicken) which must be good. She cuts in: Oh but that’s their food! You must try our Chinese food instead!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

mr mum

Last weekend was not routine.

I left them to fly overseas for a gig. I was away from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon.

Did I miss them?

No. I had a smartphone!

Streams of Whatsapp messages flew back and forth between Singapore and Medan, I took pictures of the hotel, they took pictures of what they were doing, they made little 10 second Whatsapp voice recordings telling me they missed me. I was very tickled.

The one child who was doing the most Whatsapping by far was Jo. Even when KK couldn’t be bothered, she clung on to the phone (it seemed that way to me) and sent me her streams of consciousness with loads of smileys. I was 'talking' to her 80 percent of the time.

* Building sandcastles on Saturday afternoon

Saturday afternoon was appropriately dedicated to a father-and-child bonding activity organized by their primary school. It was apt because mum was out of the country and there KK was, with not just one but the entire trio. He did an admirable job of keeping them entertained the entire weekend.

* Er a wefie (I think that's what its called?) by KK and Whatsapped to me

(Therefore, I think I probably enjoyed myself more than KK)

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

dance: mamma mia

Inspired by a Teacher’s Day performance item, Jo and Lu lock themselves in their room for 30 minutes with my Xiaomi, which they use to play Abba’s Mamma Mia so Jo can choreograph a dance and teach it to her sister. They refuse to let me enter and are very angry when I stand outside trying to overhear.

(Lu makes it clear that she contributed a few moves)

Well. Both girls (Lu too) would NEVER be caught dead performing onstage, but thank goodness for home videos which they are amenable to. (Jo even allows me to post it on the blog)

So here’s Jo and Lu - who’s found her mojo this year - wildly swiveling their hips to Mamma Mia.

Thanks to Shereen for dresses!

Sunday, September 07, 2014


Sundays are days to spend with KK’s side of the family.

If they go to their paternal Grandparents, I still get my day off.

More often than not, however, everyone - including me - congregate at Liyen’s.


My days-off are therefore fewer now, but I have no qualms about going along because I love Liyen. Babies transform families, and not just the immediate but also the extended.

* Bathtub boat

Hours fly by when we are with Liyen. She makes me laugh so hard. I never got how people wanted to hang out with my kids when they were younger because they found them cute (Sure I found my kids cute myself but why would anyone who is not the mum feel the same way?)

* Sipping from Day's packet drink when he's not around

Now I get it. Plus my kids ain’t cute anymore, hence Liyen’s added appeal.


Sunday is also Finish Homework day (usually in the evening), to start off another Monday.

Saturday, September 06, 2014


Nothing happens on Saturdays.

There used to be some roller-blading, some swimming. But that has all stopped. (the roller-blading because Day lost interest, the swimming because mum’s condo management got nasty and barred all non-residents from the premises entirely. Which means the kids are very happy because they don't see Desmond anymore)

Mostly, Saturdays are Sleep In and Eat Out days if I don’t plan anything.

The Saturday I take pictures is one such day.

Morning, we walk out for roti prata.

* Please don't ever close down...


Afternoon, we head out for Hokkien Mee.

* The girls running out to the car. They are typically the slowest to get ready and come down to the car (sometimes we sit for 10 minutes or more in the car) and on occasion, impatient KK moves off so they have to run to catch up 



Night, we packed in a carrot cake.


And that’s followed by Movie Night. Or Movie Evening in this case as KK had a Manchester United match to catch.


I don’t think we did much else!

Friday, September 05, 2014


Lovely class-less Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. These are blank-page days on which we can scribble anything we want.

Fridays are our beloved Library Days. The library has grown in appeal over the years as we now all do our own thing. I go the 1st and 3rd floor (adults), Day goes to the Mezzanine floor (young adults) and the girls head to the 2nd floor (kids). I am unmolested and free to browse for a very long time. In the library, Jo is Lu’s ‘mummy’. She reads to her and helps her to select books while I disappear somewhere.



In the long space of time, they keep on adding books and we end up with a pile which I have to lug in my bag. 

* Bending over sideways to counter-balance the books

* The heavy pile

I have paid many a library fine – maybe one a month – because I am unable to locate a stray book or two out of the 20 or so, but for what we get out of the library, I supposed we can live with it.

Books borrowed, we still head to the mama shop. Management has changed; instead of the bald old man with the beard, it’s now run by a very young tired mum whose two very young kids hang out, play, drink milk from a bottle and sleep on a mat on the floor of the mama shop.


The kids still buy strange sweets which I veer away from. (the latest is hideous strips of sugary jelly rolled into a scotch-tape-like roll which they slowly unfurl and chew off)

Then we head straight to my folks for My Break.

* Delicious dinner of more than one or two dishes, cooked by someone else ie mum's helper Jai

* Their favourite Dinner-in-front-of-the-TV moment


Thursday is music day. All three have piano lessons, with two different teachers. Strange situation but there you have it.

Mornings are when my blessing comes in the form of Jai, who cleans our house once a week. She does the toilets, changes the bed sheets, sweeps and mops the floor (yes this is only done once a week).


Afternoons are pretty much standard except I make them practice.

At this point, if I were to ever meet a music prodigy, I would not look at the child but I would look up his or her mother and say, in awe – Wow, you did such a great job! Because apart from the very, very rare case, it really does come down to mum.

Earlier in the year, I resolved to sit down with Day and Jo for 30 minutes every day, in an attempt to get them used to the routine of practice, to show them how to practice productively, and to show them that they are capable of playing beyond what they think they can if they only practised. The value, after all, does apply to everything else in life.

But. After five months or so, I faltered. See, I utterly HATED it. I hate teaching, I hate doing it every day, and I especially hated teaching my own children (especially music) because it doesn’t take much for the anger to bloom. I cannot imagine doing this for a year or more.

Did the routine catch on? No.

So we go back to practising on the day of music lesson itself, and if I’m lucky, they practise 1 or 2 other days in the week.

* The death stare

Someone asked if they will they learn a second instrument? Are you bloody kidding me?

6pm, I bring both Jo and Lu for class with Ms Mona. Meticulous and structured, she teaches using the Suzuki method and her approach fits Jo to a tee. You know, going through the dynamics of every note and poring over fingering and pressure and such.

* Mona and Jo

* The Suzuki bow. Mona's lessons require the parent to be there throughout

At around the same time, Day heads upstairs for class with Jess, who remains ever easy-going and fun. Day genuinely likes his piano teacher as a friend.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014


While Mondays and Tuesdays are crammed with classes, it starts to ease from Wednesday.

These are bo-liao days for doing nothing, as only Day has Chinese tuition.

Back from school, Day routinely avoids what I cook. He lives for Instant Noodles. He saves it for the occasions when he asks me – What are we having for lunch, mum? -  and if he doesn’t like the answer he boils water and whips out his precious packet.

* Always looking for extras to add 'oomph' to his noodles. This time its an egg and a sausage.


I don’t stop him. If he’s resourceful enough to request for instant noodles from other people (like my sister-in-law) to store at home because I never buy it, as long as he prepares it himself, as long he is aware of all the evils of instant noodles, I’m fine.

* Our lunch table. It's not as if nuggets, peas and sunny-side egg are very healthy (that's what I cooked), but that's how much Day loves his instant noodles. There's junk and then there's JUNK.

Some days, when there is little or no homework (yes of course there are days in the week like that, maybe 2, or even 3 in a good week!), they read after lunch.


I fetch Lu from school.

Then I fetch Day to tuition.

Meanwhile, the girls potter around at home playing their favourite make-believe games.


I fetch Day back from tuition and there’s plenty of energy to put some love into the cooking.

* Salmon and butter

Sometime during or after dinner, their papa comes back from work. Papa hasn’t been mentioned in the routines, because he only comes back at night.

* KK still cycles to and from work several days a week

The official dishwasher washes up, plonks his laptop onto the kitchen table (its much neater than our official work desk) and starts doing his work unmolested and undisturbed. (they only ever disturb me) Sometimes the kids wander in for some bonding time with Papa.


9pm is bedtime – on paper. By the time everyone gets in, its 930pm, if we’re lucky. If they do get in on time, I treat them to a bedtime story. I still like reading aloud to them, and funny enough, while Lu is the intended target audience, everyone enjoys it, even Day who likes to ‘do’ the voices in the stories.


More often than not, they are ordered to bed by KK at 10pm and its far too late for bedtime reading. At 10pm I am supposed to start economically-productive work.