Wednesday, May 18, 2016

exercise high

My favourite exercise routine when there is no need to rush anything in the morning and when I have the luxury of time, is to ride the 8km to the Gardens by the Bay and back. I used to do these things with KK but cycling doesn't fit into his schedule these days. I go solo.

This must be done on a weekday. The best timings are: 730am to start, hit MacDonalds for breakfast which opens at 830am with a book for company, and then visit any one of the conservatories at 9am.

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* I'm the sole Macs customer

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* Not a single soul in the entire Flower Dome, apart from a few staff

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* Changing the tulip display to lilies

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* Last glance at the tulips

The timing is ideal in that there is no one (most times, GB is swarming with people like ants) and the weather is still cool. By the time I head back, at 9-ish near 10, it is already somewhat hot. But that’s fine.

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It is most calming and rejuvenating – it’s great to start the day with plants - and I like to reward myself with such a trip after I finish onerous jobs.

Monday, May 16, 2016

baby of the family

We fall easily and willingly into the trap of wanting to treat the littlest one like a baby for as long as possible. KK is particularly permissive toward Lu (although he would say it’s due more to her blur sweet harmless demeanour more than her age), every morning she wraps her legs around my waist and I carry her down the flight of steps from her bed, and I tend to snuggle up with her more than the other two because she’s still small and soft.

Jo accuses us of favouring her more than her and Day.

What can I say? Once upon a time, I said – I’ll never have favourites – but I realise now while I love them all equally, I have to love them all differently because they are three unique individuals. Maybe the way we treat Lu appeals to Jo enormously, but the fact of the matter is that Lu never resists. She’s like the sweet bully-able bunny in the house, while Jo is the pit bull who bites against instruction. That demands different parenting approaches and treatment.

Also, while I snuggle up to Lu, I probably wouldn’t let her go out alone with money, but I would for Day, even when he was her age. And the one I’d be most likely to send for a course or class is Jo. Does that make sense?

Birth order also matters. I didn’t’ use to understand this. Choon and I used to think that Teng was given special treatment. He absolutely was. For he, like Lu, will always be the youngest child and that will be a lifelong badge in the parents’ eyes. I think it’s just human nature. I can’t resist Lu’s lure as the baby of the family.

I was looking through photos, though, and I realize that through the lens Lu looks all grown up. With a decidedly university campus-ish dress sense (jeans and cardigan and haversack and high ponytail) and skinny long chopstick legs.

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* She's that tall already... she also seems to have outgrown her slippers, I never noticed

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* Looking very much like Papa, no?

How long more can I envelope her in my arms?

(to those people who keep telling me to have a #4 - there still are - NO)

Saturday, May 14, 2016

squid

I try cooking squid for the first time. I like squid but don’t usually think of it as a home dish.

First time the squid emerges tough as rubber bands. I go online. The instructions are: Cook it very, very fast or very, very slow.

Second time I fry the squid for what feels like 20 seconds or less. I recall that the Hokkien Mee sellers only add in the squid rings and prawn at the last-minute, and they seem to spend very little time tossing the seafood around before dishing out the noodles.

The squid is perfectly chewy tender. I pray it’s cooked through. No one gets tummy upset. Yay!

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* Squid, only for the one night in a week when I go beyond a one-pot meal

Thursday, May 12, 2016

neighbourly relations

It’s become a bit of a ritual so I thought I’d log it.

Neighbour Ah Qiong likes to treat us all at the nearby shopping mall’s food court when the exams are over, or whenever there is early dismissal for a public holiday.

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* Ah Qiong with Yi Shen

She also likes dropping in with pots of red and green bean soup whenever she makes it.

I’ve never had much luck with getting close to neighbours. The people who live opposite us, in seven years I have never seen the man crack a smile much less looked into his eyes. He lumbers up and down, passes us on the stairs, as if we were invisible.

Right now, Ah Qiong is the closest thing I have to a neighbourly Neighbour, the sort which people in the 60s and 70s might have plenty of when the community spirit was strong. But it's an interesting sort of friendship, because we are different in so many ways. She disapproves of many things I do (without saying so outrightly but I know so because she shouts at her kid to not do it, like cycling in the rain or flouncing themselves onto display beds in Ikea), and I raise an eyebrow at many things she does, like being what I deem as over-protective.

Another lady I met today from Ipoh who came to study in Singapore said the one thing she found odd when she came here in the early 80s, was that people here don’t invite friends back to their homes. At least, to a much lesser extent to what she was used to in Ipoh.

I thought about it. It’s true. Very few people come to our place. Up till now the kids have never invited a single friend back home. The one time Day’s friend came, it was because he insisted on coming over to visit, such a sweet boy.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

the ring

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KK, for his 45th birthday, indulges himself. He buys a Bulgari ring.

It’s a centimetre-wide clunker of a ring, huge and heavy and totally at odds with KK’s role as the official family dishwasher, which he still is because I insist. (won’t detergent and suds get trapped under?)

It comes in a heavy box with sheen and a certificate. That ring cost more than my entire trip to Nepal.

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I’m overall really terrible at buying presents for anyone (except kids perhaps) because I really hate shopping and I can’t quite relate to people who enjoy pretty packaging, things which cost a bomb because someone else was paid to brand it, and buying things which don’t actually serve any function in life. So I always end up buying not-very-nice presents.

I’m particularly terrible at buying things for my own husband because I can’t bring myself to spend on the things I know he’d like.

Now that ring has become part of our lives. It is a very striking ring and no one can miss it. Neither of us wear our wedding rings but he's taken to wearing this one. It's like a symbol of his, er, consultancy.

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* Spot it

The moment I saw it, I sighed but left it at that.

Then within two days, KK turned to me as I was ready to nod off in bed at about 12 midnight: Did you see my ring?

What, what, what???

He took it off to cut a mango, and when he wanted to put it back on his finger a few hours later, it wasn’t where he thought it’d be.

I swear. My heart rate went up and I started hyper-ventilating. I flipped out of bed and started searching with him. First slowly and patiently, then increasingly desperately. We turned out the dustbins, searched through food peels and slimy mango skins, looked in all the nooks and crannies, found a lot of things but none of them were The Ring. We searched till past 2am then gave up.

I cursed the day he bought it. I thought – Why would anyone spend so much money on such a small useless thing so easily lost?

The happy ending is that Lu spotted it the very next morning at 630am as she was combing her hair in our dark bedroom getting ready for school. I asked if she saw it, she made what she meant to be a cursory search of our table, and there it was right in front of her at her eye level in the shade of a file. KK swears he searched that exact spot.

I said: The Ring is hiding from you. It was searching for Lu. I HATE that ring. I HATE it. It’s such a stressful thing in our lives.

He didn’t think it was very funny.

I didn’t think it was very funny either when he misplaced The Ring AGAIN a few days later.

He called from his golfing session – Did you see the ring somewhere lying at home on my table? I took it off to cut mango last night.

I swear. My sweet kid-free Sunday was instantly decimated. I tread tentatively to his table. It wasn’t there.

Worse. I had just spent the morning cleaning house. Vacuuming and whatnot. I didn’t see The Ring. A thousand questions haunted me as I searched in the most ridiculous places including boxes which hadn’t been opened in years: Did I accidentally vacuum it up and throw it away with the rest of the refuse? Had I accidentally swept it away as I was cleaning the table? Had I subconsciously hidden it somewhere? Was The Ring haunted?

He returned home with the kids. I screamed, I shouted, I yelled, which is totally out of character: How could you misplace it again? I’m so stressed!

I shut my mouth up when he miraculously found it in his jeans pocket, where he had put it the night before.

Me and this ring, we ain’t friends.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

me mum

One of very, very, very few photos of me and my babies.

Happy Mother’s Day to me.

Mothers Day

* Jo’s phone and its beautifying effects in action. I really don't look like myself. Which is good.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

no more silverware

The last gym competition will be their last, I think.

They (and I) are simply not taking it seriously enough to warrant entering a competition.

At the start, in the beginning when everyone starts on a similar base, it’s easier to bring home some silverware, for Day and for Jo.

Now, at a higher level, the work ethic shows.  Those who work harder do better. How can they, on just two hours of practice a week, do well? They go home empty-handed.

Fortunately or unfortunately, neither of them are compelled to look at others, look at themselves, and say – I will work harder. Not in gym anyway.

Instead, they say – Aiya I don’t want to take part in competitions anymore. Can't we just have fun?

I also find it terribly difficult to try and inspire anyone, starting with my kids, to work harder or look beyond failure or how failure is the mother of success and all of those clich├ęs which can actually be really powerful coming from the mouth of the right person (not me).

I just ruffle their hair, grin, and take videos of every one of their events, for posterity, lest it is the last time they wear their sparklies and do those routines. I'm grateful they had the chance to. Gymnastics and taking part in competitions is a luxury.

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* Buay-song Day with Gyan and Giorgio

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I hope that one day they will find that something in which they want to be better than everyone else, and will work for it. 

Thursday, May 05, 2016

minjoot

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This is a minjoot.

It’s the name I plucked from thin air for the oven-baked eggplant (or brinjal or aubergine), so the girls would try it.

At first I refused to name it. They asked me repeatedly, what it was. I sagely shook my head. Then they said, “If Mama doesn’t want to name it, it means she knows we won’t eat it once we know what it is.”

Sometimes, it’s even harder trying to introduce new foods to young girls than it is to babies.

So I said it’s a minjoot. A WHAT, they chorused. Is it a Korean vegetable?

Visually, they didn’t recognise it as the slimy purple vegetable they sometimes see on the dinner table at their grandparent’s place, and which they deemed disgusting after a glance and a taste. The baked eggplant also seemed to smell very nice, like roasted sweet potatoes.

I really wanted them to like eggplant. So if I cooked it at home I won’t be the only person eating it.

Did they put the minjoot in their mouths?

Sort of. Lu took a bite and said it’s disgusting. She’s consistent.

Jo took one slice, ate up all the gooey insides leaving the skin behind because she said it was tough, and said it tasted like and had the consistency of “a cross between a banana and a marshmallow”.

Which sounds like it’s a good thing. Only she looked very doubtful and didn’t want a second slice.

I ate up the other 15 or so slices, which comprises one entire eggplant, for my lunch while they sucked up all of my baked mushrooms and potatoes.

A while later, I said – Girls I want to tell you something. The minjoot isn't really a minjoot. It's a brinjal.

Lulu mock-wailed, “Mama, you’ve changed! You’re not the same anymore!” while Jo got really mad.

I just wish they (and Day and KK) would someday fall in love with eggplants and bittergourds.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

exam lull

Examination season is actually quite a nice time to relax.

Apart from Day-Before panic, the weeks leading up to the four big ones (Science, English, Maths and Chinese) are halcyon days, because all supplementary and enrichment classes and CCAs stop.

That effectively means that instead of having to stay back in school multiple days a week, they get to reach home after school at an honest 2pm for leisurely home-cooked lunches, and on most days, unless its classes I send them for, they have nothing else on.

Coming after a madcap routine where at least 1 kid would stay back after school every day of the week, and juggling chauffeuring duties every afternoon, it’s such a break. Their cheeks are pinking up nicely because they get more rest, and I’m enjoying cooking dinners because I don’t have to try and slice and dice and fry in between ferrying kids.

By rights, shouldn’t school be like that? When they say school dismisses at 1.30pm, shouldn’t it? Without supplementary lessons and without enrichment classes which are supposedly optional, but which you know you should sign up for because it came through the school?

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* Time for play

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* Time for evening spins around the carpark

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* Time for helping Mama to cook

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* Time to zuobo

Sunday, May 01, 2016

choon’s ST byline

Kaofu Choon gets his first byline in the national broadsheet!

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It appears on what is probably the most-read page in the paper, the Forum page! And its right on top! (placement matters!)

It’s about his life work in combating diabetes, which is very much the talking point in Singapore right now; what with the Health Minister declaring war on the disease and the Health Promotion Board saying that white rice is more potent than sweet soda drinks in causing diabetes.

Here’s what he wrote:

I disagree with the arguments put forth by Mr Chan Yeow Chuan ("Sugar tax may not be best weapon in war on diabetes"; last Friday). Singapore should consider a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.
The war on diabetes has already started and we would be fighting a losing battle if we adopt a wait-and-see approach.
As a diabetes dietitian, I see the disease manifesting in many forms, from heart attacks to amputation and kidney failure. I am constantly encouraging people with diabetes to adopt a healthy diet and maintain a suitable weight.
For those who are overweight, all too often, when they manage to lose weight, it is due to a bout of illness, coupled with poor appetite.
Hence, I have found that even after educating patients, they do not make informed decisions. It is perhaps only with taxation that we can hope to alter behaviour.
All consumption taxes, including those on tobacco and alcohol, are regressive, representing a higher proportion of a low-income family's expendable income than that of the rich.
A tax on sugar-sweetened beverages is no different. But it is the poor who are much more likely to have unhealthy diets and experience ill health than the affluent. This leads to higher costs in the form of medication, more sick days off work and, ultimately, lower productivity.
Improving public awareness works only for the upper class, who are better able to make informed decisions. The economically underprivileged families tend to make decisions based on price.
I think most would agree with me that there is no place nutritionally for sugar-sweetened beverages.
But when we walk into the supermarket and notice a 1.5-litre bottle of soft drink selling for between $1 and $2 - in some cases, cheaper than water - we have to ask ourselves, what are we promoting?
The science about the link between sugar and diabetes may not be all that clear. But the decision to impose a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages should not be a scientific one but, rather, one of moral obligation.
Gerard Wong Choon Hoe
To me, when I sent him the link to the white rice article for advice, he said: Look at the Nepalese porters. (they ate mountains of rice) Rice is not an issue if you’re working it off. You get KK and the kids to give up all sugar-sweetened drinks and lollies and cereal. Those might be worse than your rice.

Uphill battle, man, uphill battle. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person who drinks water in the house.

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* Here's Choon looking very healthy and strong (while doing yoga) and the reason why he's so is because he's in Darwin where he can get off work at 430 to work out every day