Monday, September 01, 2014

mondays

(Our daily, minute, cheong-hei, occasionally confusing routines once again, because as blah as it is, once Lu starts primary school next year it will all change.)

Mondays are bitter-sweet. Sweet because everyone is fresh from the weekend rest, bitter because no one looks forward to school or work.

630am I wake Day and Jo. I have gotten used to waking up at 630am for the past two years. On occasion when I work very late the night before and I sleep through the alarm, no one wakes up. The morning call responsibility rests heavily on my skinny shoulders.

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* Cornflakes for Day and Nutella bread for Jo (milk makes her tummy churn), the Easy Breakfast

I make Jo's lunchbox. That routine is unfortunately alive and kicking.

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* Always something nugget-y on Mondays because no marketing was done over the weekend

The duo get their pocket money for the week, $10 for Day, $5 for Jo ($1 a day because she gets a lunchbox).

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* Jo's Yakult wallet

They dress themselves, brush their teeth, comb and tie their own hair (YES! Jo has been TRAINED!), get their own bags ready.

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By 7am, we're downstairs waiting for Auntie Ah Quiong and Yi Shen in the car. Day always reads in the car. I have been the school chaffeur for the past two years, ever since Jo started school and KK could not ferry two kids.

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Once they're at school, I return home to wrap my arms around Lulu to sleep for another hour...

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... which inevitable turns into 90 minutes because I need sleep. By the time I wake Lu up its her school reporting time. She is always 30 minutes late for school.

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* Empty, everyone's gone in

Free, I usually squeeze all the personal business I need to do into the next precious four hours. Meet clients, conduct interviews, do housework, do laundry, finish articles, exercise (skip at home), practise music, run errands.

Mondays is my one exercise indulgence: Yoga at the Community Centre.

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And if there's no work, its followed by my favourite breakfast routine. And then more work.

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* Favourite: Toast (Barbie plate) and teh tarik (Batman cup) with a book. Teh tarik must be Lipton brand

130pm I pick Jo up from school. Day has soccer in school. Me and her alone, she is at her best. I enjoy her company thoroughly. Then I drop her off at the gym, for her two-hour session.

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On the way back, I pick Lu up from school. Me and Lu alone, she is at her best too. She loves TV, more than her siblings, and when I have work I let her watch to her heart's content.

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* Current fav: The Wolf Children

But I usually can't get much work done because soon its time to hop up again and drive, this time to bring Day home...

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* Sometimes he walks but when he's tired with a lot of homework, he summons the chaffeur

... and then Jo home.

By this time I'm exhausted from chaffeuring. Dinner is usually a one-pot affair.

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Post-dinner, I nag them to bathe, nag them to finish their homework, nag them to practise their piano, nag them to brush teeth, nag them to read books, nag them to sleep.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

the usual rant

Many a time, I give them the “walk in my shoes” lecture.

Usually when I’m beleaguered, tired, or am issued the 20th request to do something in five minutes (Can I have Milo, where is my Maths homework, XXX is bullying me Mummy, can you switch on the light for me, I spilled the Milo …)

My buzzing around comes to a complete stop, I sigh and they all know it’s coming. The Rant and Rave - Kids, please walk in Mummy’s shoes, you all want mummy to do things for you but have you ever heard mummy ask you to do something, I have been….. yadda yadda yadda.

It always ends with this defiant question from Jo: Then why have kids?

And this sad-eyed plea from Lu: But mama, I didn’t ask you for anything, right? You're not talking about me, right?

(I think Day usually sneaks off to play the computer)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

nokia to xiaomi

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As all my friends would say, FINALLY.

The passing of the days finally led to this point: I have had to exchange my durable trusty never-lost Nokia (only good for calls and SMS) for a smartphone with a Data Plan (gasp).

Why have I been so reluctant to release my grip on my beloved Nokia?
  • By now, it’s a rare vintage. Nobody else uses it and I like using something which nobody else does. It was a conversation starter with nearly every stranger I've met for a long time, as in "Oh you're still using an old phone!"
  • I never lost it. The few times I misplaced it, it was unerringly returned to me (meaning, I call my number and the person who picked up the phone always gives it back). No one wanted it.
  • It was durable. Even though of late it occasionally died during calls, multiple drops never killed it.
  • It’s small, smaller than a smartphone.
  • Amidst talk of privacy and stealing of data, there was nothing much to steal from my Nokia apart from a bunch of phone numbers. No transactions could be conducted on it.
  • The kids never snatched it because there was nothing in it (apart from the ancient snake game and pinball on a tiny screen). Which means that they hardly get to touch - and get their lives sucked into - a smart phone and I liked it that way.
  • The kids (except Lu) learnt how to SMS using the numeric keypad. That’s a skill that’s dead to most of their (and maybe my) generation.
But here’s the Number One reason for conversion: I needed Whatsapp.

I don’t care about the million and one apps which purportedly transform lives. I was losing out on information because it wasn't convenient for people to send me a SMS separate from group Whatsapp messages. Often I didn’t know what was going on, in a “Oh, no one informed me!” kind of way. It got to the point where I had to apologise for not having Whatsapp.

So when KK tripped across the wire which was charging up my Nokia sometime last week, and the wire split, it seemed timely.

I still stubbornly wanted to stick with my Nokia, by borrowing another charger from my Mum.

But KK jumped at the opportunity. He hinted, suggested, badgered me into getting a smartphone. I’ll pay for it, he said.

He calls me from work and arranges to meet me alone at the mall in the evening (that NEVER happens). He walks into the shop, picks out a phone for me, and that’s it. As it turns out, the phone – a Xiaomi – is free because I bind myself to a two-year plan.

Still, I pout because I have to pay about $10 more a month. Having figured out how to call, SMS and Whatsapp (that’s all I need), I drop the phone in my bag, forgotten. I'm not the least bit interested in it.

Once home, however, the phone is whipped out by the kids who all descend on it, swiping here, swiping there. KK himself is wide-eyed with glee: Oh the Xiaomi is so COOL! It’s so much better than iPhone, I want one too! I can re-contract! Oh let’s download Clumsy Ninja!

The kids squeal. I eyeball KK, stern: No games in my phone. NO GAMES. You download it, you delete it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

lu's beach cycling

Too many photos of Lu cycling, but she’s smiling in every one I take of her!
(the little blue bag holds two packets of biscuits)

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

anthony horowitz

Parents always like to thrust what we think are good books on our children. We think: They’re reading such crap these days. What do they know about good literature?

And then we try to get them to read “good” stuff like The Little Prince, Roald Dahl, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Enid Blyton, JK Rowling.

Sometimes it works. Jo has cottoned on to ethereal and fantastic tales of Joan Aiken, one of my childhood favourites.

Often it doesn’t. 

But it can also work the other way around. I read the books they bring back from the library, Day’s in particular (I think I’ve said before I’m not a very clever writer or reader who delves into Pulitzer and Booker prize-winning works because they usually bore the socks off me, I have very base, possibly juvenile, reading tastes).

There was The Amulet series before. Now I have completely fallen in love with the works of Anthony Horowitz who writes for kids.

An English writer who specializes in mystery and suspense, his horror is utterly enjoyable and I am hooked onto his Alex Rider series, about a 14-year-old boy modeled after James Bond who is schoolboy by day and spy by night. It’s a boy’s fantasy come true.

I lugged home five Horowitz books from the library’s Young Adults section on my own the other day (I was the only auntie in the section), and Day was delighted – Mum likes what I read!

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Friday, August 22, 2014

lu cycles

K spots a little girl cycling downstairs our house last week and he suddenly declares that it’s time for Lu to learn.

Lu almost rolls her eyes: Yay, you are finally going to teach me. It’s about time, man.

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* Big man on a small bike

She eagerly pulls on her helmet and track shoes and runs downstairs, raring to go.

Her training is a full family session. Beside KK, Day and Jo stride alongside.

Not in support of Lu, no. But because they miss cycling and they are very sore that Lu is using the only good child’s bike in the house, Jo’s. Day’s bike is so severely rusted its dead. They stay close, in event that Lu gets tired and they can quickly jump on for a quick spin around the carpark.

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* Jo all ready in helmet, discussing with Day: When she stops its MY turn OK?

Lu glides on Day 1, and starts cycling the next day.

Little Miss Sunshine is all smiles. Without the least bit of frustration (Day style) or dogged determination (Jo style), she cheerfully glides to and fro, giggling at herself. She pipes up: Mummy I prayed that I can do it and I can! I kept telling myself, I can do it, I can do it, and I can!

She absolutely loves cycling. That would make cycling the first physical activity she's ever liked, and doesn't mind sweating over.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

don't-want-to-lose

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 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?

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Monday, August 18, 2014

a household experiment

I conducted an experiment.

Question
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?

Hypothesis
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.

Experiment
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).

Results
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)

Conclusions
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.

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* 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.

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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.

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* 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.

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* 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?”

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* 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)

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* Ah Qiong and Ah Mian