Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Jo doesn’t like competition, examination or participation (in anything extra).

Piano teacher: Jody I think you are ready to take a piano examination.
Jo: No I don’t like examinations.
Piano teacher: What about a concert? I think you can play this piece for the concert.
Jo: No I don’t want to play in a concert. What if I play something wrong? What if people laugh at me?

Chinese Dance teacher: Zijun, are you sure you don’t want to join Chinese dance?
Jo: (as told through me because she’s too scared to talk to the teacher) No I never want to go on stage. And it’s very difficult and I have to stay back in school. What if I can’t do what my friends are doing?
(she stopped at the beginning of the year)

Chinese Orchestra teacher: Jody can play the ruan well. Can she join the Chinese Orchestra?
Jo: (as told to me) No I don’t want to join Chinese Orchestra. I don’t want any CCAs. I just want to come home every day, OK?

Gym teacher: I want to send Jody for competition in Hong Kong at the end of the year.
Jo: No I don’t want to go for competition. I never want to go for competition. What if I don’t win? I don’t like to lose. Not even if it’s a fun competition.

Swim teacher: Jody can swim. I can send her for training so she can take part in competitions.
Jo: No. I don’t want to swim in a competition. Anyway I hate Uncle Desmond.

KK completely understands her, because he says he was like that. He says it is an intensely competitive streak which compels her to not even put herself in a possibly losing position in the first place.

I always encourage her to go for it, but in the end I always go along with her decision. Everything she decides she doesn’t want to do, I relent, so she can enjoy her childhood, so she has all the free time she wants to play with Lulu, so she can ultimately self-direct. I am hopeful that one day she will master herself.

But I am not certain if I am doing the right thing. Is relenting the best I can do for her to realize her potential?


Monday, August 18, 2014

a household experiment

I conducted an experiment.

If mummy does not clean house, will the rest of the household (once the tolerability threshold is crossed) step in to clear up the mess?

Once things start getting lost, clothes have to be re-worn (because it’s not washed) and everyone has to suffer the consequences of bad housekeeping, they will step up to the plate.

I do not clean house for three weeks. This is the time when renovation works are going on, all the girls’ stuff is shoved into my room and I am in an intensely busy period which actually necessitates the experiment (ie the experiment was compulsory).

At some point, KK heads out to buy some toilet cleaner (apparently it was out but nobody knew) and finally scrubs out the toilet bowls. But otherwise, nobody steps up. Instead, everyone’s tolerance for mess and dirt stretches. Even Jo. At some point, she wore a dirty smelly sweaty school uniform she wore the day before because the other set was at the bottom of the laundry basket and I had no time to do laundry. (Yes she whined but she has accepted)

My family is very adaptable, just not in the way I want or expect.
For the rest of my life I am doomed to be a solo housework warrior.

* My pitiable work space. Everything has been on the floor for three weeks. Everybody steps on stray bits of Lego but NOBODY picks it up.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

mama and lulu

Precious Lulu. This is how she sees our relationship. No KK, no Day and no Jo. Just her, leaning on me.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

neighbourly rift

Finally we have a friendly neighbour again. (By that I mean we have a neighbour with a child who is relatively open to friendship, and whom the kids can theoretically hang out with)

People talk about the general erosion of neighbourliness in Singapore over the years. It’s very marked where we are staying. Anecdotes from friends who rave about friendly neighbours who cook or buy food for them are, to me, marvelous tales of fancy which come from an alien planet.

We are surrounded by foreign workers who come and go, weirdos who snap at us to not park in their carpark space, strangers who leave empty canned drinks atop electrical metres, stone faces living three metres from our doorstep who have not once cracked a smile in five years, and best of all, selfish Singaporean neighbours who question why I bother to help fellow neighbours.

As in, “Wah! How come you have become their chauffeur ah?”

As it happens, I have made friends with a fellow Mama in the neighbourhood, and I am chauffeuring her and her kid, Yi Shen, to and from school every morning and afternoon.

* Jo, Day and Lu with Yi Shen on his 7th birthday

Why the hell not?

I insisted because she has no car and it is completely effortless.

Visions of the kids forming friendships like the way they did with Matthew and Sophia, however, have gone up in smoke.

Because the family speak Mandarin.

That’s right. We are all black-haired and yellow-skinned, but there is a yawning language divide.

Mama Ah Qiong, who comes from Hainan in China, speaks absolutely zero English. While I natter on and on with her in the car in Mandarin, twice a day, all the children are stone cold silent.

* Ah Qiong and Yi Shen

When she tries to speak to my kids, they clam up, refusing to speak Mandarin. (the only concession being David who can at least converse if he has no choice)

When I try to speak to Yi Shen, an only child who has also grown up with few friends, he turns to his mama and clams up.

After eight months, the kids barely speak to each other. My children – I hate to say this – do not want to make an effort (and it would be an effort) with people who can only speak Mandarin.

And while of course Yi Shen speaks English, he unfortunately sounds like his very fierce father every time he opens his mouth. So he would yell at Day: “Stop playing on the escalator, it’s very dangerous!” and Day would mutter: “So you’re my second mother, now?”

* Yi Shen and Jo, slightly tilting heads toward each other upon instruction by Ah Qiong - "站进一点!" - but that's about as near as they will go

Erm. So for the moment, it’s just Ah Qiong and I, Ah Mian, best of neighbour friends. (Nobody has ever called me Ah-anything, but I think its a China thing...? And while it was a bit disconcerting at first, I've gotten used to it)

* Ah Qiong and Ah Mian

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

a charity concert

The boy’s name is 盛文.

It implies that he is a culturally superior, a person of the arts. It seemed an auspicious portent when he was a day-old bub.

I think at this point it has become quite clear that he is not.

His preferences for math, sport and science are increasingly marked, and he increasingly makes it known. He’d rather die than to go for concerts, including the ones his mother are playing in. Every gentle suggestion I put forth – Mummy is playing in a concert, would you all like to go? – precedes eye-rolling, sighs and mutters of “so boring”.

(He’s still putting up with piano classes and pretending to like them)

Happily, this means KK has a companion to legitimately stay home with without offending his wife’s sensibilities. After all, someone has to keep the boy company, right?

As a result, my only supporters are the girls, who would cheerfully and tirelessly sit through long concerts to catch a glimpse of mummy on stage (Thank God for Girls).

I am not convinced they really enjoy it. But even if they don’t, at least they suffer for the sake of maternal love. 

And I am grateful they go, because this housewife is eternally grateful for every opportunity to indulge in music. 

Tonight, even though they have to wake up early for school the next day, they traipse along for Auntie Lorraine’s concert. It’s her annual charity fundraiser and this year she’s stuck it out and went through hell and back to raise $200,000 for the President’s Challenge.

* Photo by Jack Goh. Lorraine in red, President in gray and a CapitaLand towkay


Unfortunately they didn’t get to wave their light sticks and little Singapore flags for long for Gong Gong and Por Por – who chaperoned them – left early. They left even before Tony Tan left.

Therefore they also missed the part where they could actually see me from where they were sitting, in the far-off circle of the massive 5,000 seat Star auditorium, the part where I stepped forth to serenade Lorraine with a guitarist, pianist and cellist.

* Girls, somewhere out there


Luckily, I have a recording of our one and only rehearsal, made on an iPhone. Mistakes, warts and all, it is all they get to hear of the Chinese oldies mish-mash.

Its Lorraine on voice, Kheng Long on piano, Daniel guitar, Jing Li cello and violin me.

家后 (hokkien)
我的世界 (Lorraine's original song)

Now the question is whether I get tickets for them for the next concert on 23 August with re: mix. It involves a tad of movie screening from the old Hollywood black-and-whites, and some incredibly moving, intense, romantic music from these movie sound tracks.

Potentially fun. But again, at this point I’m not sure if they know how to enjoy the finer things in life!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Pix 7


Big Day Out. Dresses, roses in their hair, bunnies in their hands.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Pix 6


We Love Singapore… Food. (barbequed chicken wings and wanton mee)
Happy 49th, Singapore. It's so blessedly quiet when your birthday rolls around.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Pix 5


Their cousin Liyen turns 1. Her hair finally starts growing.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Pix 4


When did we stop drawing and colouring together?

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Pix 3


No time to cook, kids get chicken rice, no time to eat, dinner date at 1030pm with KK, prawn and pork rib noodles.