Wednesday, August 09, 2017

national day

The outstanding bit about National Day this year is seeing Day in “officer wear”.

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It’s his band uniform and its a real punch in the gut - takes my breath away in a good way.

The stiff clothes fills him out and he morphs from skinny beanpole to, well, officer, which potentially isn’t all that far away, in seven years or so (if he becomes an officer).

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* Day, wearing the long pants which will be part of his school uniform once he reaches Secondary 3, can't wait to wear them daily. He doesn't like shorts

He looks such an adult.

He was part of the school band performing for the school’s National Day Observance ceremony, and that was the other bit.

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* Day below me, but he doesn't know (invited parents aren't supposed to excitedly 'declare' themselves to their kids, lest they come off helicopter-ish)

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Watching him play the clarinet for the first time, after several months of two-times-a-week (sometimes more) practices. Efficiently assembling the clarinet and watching his fingers move, correctly! (not that I can pick out his sound, I’m too far away, but the fingers, visually, are correctly dancing to the melody)

* National Day observance in Day's school. The band is playing Hermes, he's fourth from the right, front row

Monday, August 07, 2017

slime & spinners

By the way, no one plays with wholesome toys anymore. I’m glad I did the toys and games series when I did, and maybe the last time I "caught" them playing was here in 2015. These days, even the Lego is untouched. I've washed and packed them up for my grandchildren.

The latest fads:

The fidget spinner was Day’s thing, for a while. He bought one in Penang which I helped him to bargain for. KK sniffed at it, and bought another one for himself online. Between the two, KK’s spins on it own for far longer.

I think the fad has already passed, though. Neither of them are touching their spinners, which leaves me with yet another set of useless fad-dish devices around the house to squirrel away.

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* Day's on left, KK's on right

Slime is Jo’s thing. I think this one is generally a girl’s thing. For a while, Jo and Lu attempted to make their own slime at home, with smelly gooey mixtures of white glue and detergent and I don’t know what else. Nothing quite worked.

In the end, Jo bought a tub of slime from an Instagram seller who turned out to be her classmate (!) for about $3. Classmate threw in another complimentary tub. Both tubs were scented, one with lychee and the other with... something.

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* The red tub of 'butter' slime

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* The initially blush-pink tub which turned white, and which came with a bag of balls which Jo chucked in and which I think makes the entire thing look like something diseased

Jo carefully washes her hands, opens the tubs, and squish the slimes around several times a day on a piece of transparent plastic which she taped to our table – so the slime isn’t dirtied by the table, mind you, not the other way around.

* It is clay-ey, but feels wetter and more pliable. Perhaps its a form of therapy, to take her mind off Maths problem sums

I don’t get the slime. It doesn’t do anything and it repulses me, especially when Jo grips my hand and forces me to give it a poke or two. I don’t get the fidget spinner either.

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.

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* 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.

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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)

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* 13 fish

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* 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.

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* Lu checking if fish are trapped beneath the grass pads

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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.

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

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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.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2017

sec 1 homies

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* Old-old friend Nikita & old friend Kesh

Sunday, July 30, 2017

more growing

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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.

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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).

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

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

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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.

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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. 

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

sewing

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

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 (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.

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* 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.

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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.”

Silence.

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.