Friday, July 03, 2015

erhu

As much as I love music and the violin, I don’t have the slightest desire to push any of the children to take up a second instrument.

If it happens, it would be because they want to (nope, no one wants to) or through circumstance.

Jo has been assigned to learn the erhu in the school Chinese Orchestra, an instrument which is the violin equivalent in the world of Chinese music.

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It wasn’t her first choice. After she had been asked to list out three preferences and after I took her through loads of Youtube videos, she wanted to learn the pipa or the ruan. Erhu was her third choice, which KK disapproved of because he said ‘it’s an instrument which old men use to play sad music’.

Anyway. She ended up with it.

Happily (maybe not), practice is lackadaisical and she hasn’t beyond playing six notes in six months. This, perhaps, could be termed ‘giving the child time to develop instead of pushing them’!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

bmw

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What were we doing at a European car showroom on a Wednesday afternoon?

It’s all terribly exciting, because we were there to collect a brand-new vehicle.

But it wasn’t a car. It was a bike. A motorbike.

A 1,200cc BMW motorbike, model R1200R, which costs the same price as our car, jeez.

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How did we get here?

One, it was necessary. With his freelance work, KK found himself having to travel to places in Singapore with no buses or MRT stations and which no taxi driver wants to go to at all sorts of odd hours. Like in far-off Mandai, or to Jurong Island.

Can he take the family car? I said yes, he can have it, the kids and I can bus and cab around. That was my preferred option. He said no.

Can he get a second car? Both of us agree, no way.

Two, it’s on his bucket list. He's missed riding since he sold off the Harley nine years ago. Since he needs a bike, he will get one that he wants. Yeah, he did the whole checking out second-hand bikes thing, but all his research ultimately led him to BMW.

Did I - as a conscientious wife who would want to keep her family intact and preserve the life of her husband - object? Especially given the spate of articles about fatal motorbike crashes? Of course not. I told him to go spend his bonus on his heart’s desire.

In preparation for re-entry into the world of slippery roads, rainy days and crazy drivers, KK kitted himself out with new boots (better traction), gloves, padded jacket (protection in case he scrapes the road), helmet with in-built sun visor and an eye-hurting luminuous yellow vest which apparently acts as a force-field to repel cars. (because drivers would be misled into thinking he’s a cop)

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* Track shoes to bike shoes

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* Jacket and gloves

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* KK straight out of the showroom on the road. The vest works! Drivers think he's a cop!

The kids are all eyes at the showroom, where a young man takes something like an hour to explain the multitude of switches and gadgets on the bike. It all looks foreign to me, and a bit scary to think of KK riding a machine which he just learnt about minutes ago.

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* The young salesman with the tinted hair, a BMW bike rider who tells me he just had a bike accident and injured his right wrist. I laugh and say that's very reassuring to hear.

But that’s not KK’s concern. He turns to me and whispers – You didn’t happen to bring my spectacles right? (No I didn’t.)

He hasn’t ridden in years. But once on the road, he confidently zipped off. We meant to escort him home but he shook us off in five minutes when he rode past the long line of cars waiting to turn onto the expressway.

When we get home, he is waiting, glowing. “It’s quite fun”, he says.

But in true hypocritical fashion, he says he would not allow his children to ride.

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* Too bad. Day's picked out the bike of his choice.

Monday, June 29, 2015

baby season

Suddenly we’re surrounded by newborns. From where we are, it seems a bumper year for babies.

There’s Xueying with her first-born daughter Kei An.

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And Bliss (Riley's mum) with her squishy third son, Ryden, who was born at home!

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I always used to wonder why women would want to have babies when their children are grown up. The ones who have children aged 2 and 15, or 5 and 17. Where the gap is huge.

Now, I think maybe I understand why.

When I see newborns now, I feel a yearning. I think it’s because the youngest has outgrown all babyish-ness and the other two are fast growing into teenhood. There really isn’t anyone who’s cute at home anymore. And because I’ve seen through three, I know what it entails, more or less.

I just find babies cuter than EVER.

Well. Now that I recognise that, I will of course tamp down the temptation, although the kids (still) go on about how they’d love to have a baby in the house.

I look to Jody and say, I can’t wait to carry your baby. (she says, however, she will only have one child because she wants to lavish all her money and love on that one. She says - I will make sure my child has a new school bag and stationary at the start of every year.)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

graciousness

By and large I don’t think the kids are particularly polite. Inculcating graciousness is very much work in progress.

So when a stranger at a restaurant taps me on the shoulder to tell me – Your kids are so NICE! – I am honestly surprised.

It seems they held open a door for her while they were at the toilet. Or something to that effect. I’m not sure what else transpired.

She beams at me, her entire table beams at me (because she must have told her friends) and my heart warms. It’s nice to have kids whom other people think are nice.

I tell her very truthfully – "I’m glad they’re nice to you! But they’re not very nice to me." She laughs her head off.

Day sighs and tells me later, do you always have to be so frank, mama?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

bye, jamal

(Going to have to back-date my holiday posts because work has piled up once more!)

My 60-something friend called me up yesterday and even before she said hello, shrieked: They’re closing!

Well, only one person I know would shriek like that, but what is closing?

Turns out my (and her) favourite Indian coffeeshop down the road, Jamal Restaurant, would be gone forever today.

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It’s part of re-development plans for Siglap, to tear down the four HDB blocks comprising the area's only HDB enclave for what was at first thought to be the MRT station but is now a complete mystery. (though everyone swears it will be another icky money-making condominium development with over-priced shops, probably including yet another pretentious artisanal coffee joint, on the ground floor)

The old shops, which have mostly been run by the same people for decades, are on the ground floor.

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* HDB blocks in the background

My friend is furious: What is the Government doing? That is the only place I can buy a whole load of cooked vegetables for $2. $2! I’m so ANGRY! Development is fine, but not when it’s being replaced by something worse!

I think it’s hard growing old in Singapore. For her, things are changing too fast. Everything she knows is going.

Me, I never get angry. I sigh and take photos to say farewell.

The article on the re-development was written in the news in 2013. But the moving out only became apparent several weeks back, when the shop signs were ripped off and people who had been there for decades emptied their shops. The time has finally come.

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The uncle who has been there forever Mr Soh - who developed our photos and whom Day loved to buy drinks from (because it cost 80 cents at his shop instead of $1.20 elsewhere) - left this sign outside his door.

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The ladies next door who have been cutting hair there since they were young and curvy, apparently cried when they cut the hair for their last few customers.

Jamal is our favourite haunt in the entire row (our meaning the kids and I. KK didn’t like it very much, he prefers Starbucks). Prata, briyani, teh tarik and drinks, while I enjoy the free newspapers. It was the only place I could get prata and a hot drink for $2.

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* Day's favourite briyani with a chilli egg

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* Last day: A quiet Thursday

Jo and I go today. “Prata bawang”, I say. The onion prata is my favourite. “No prata”, they say disconsolately. My heart drops. A cup of teh tarik later, I wave goodbye. They are not moving anywhere else. One says he’s going back to India.

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* The sign calling for workers still up on the wall

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* One last glass of my favourite teh tarik

For the first time, I look at the Indian workers in the coffeshop, whom I’ve been seeing but not really seeing for years, in the eye. We are mutually bereft.

(Other blog posts about the Siglap HDB blocks are here and this great one by an Opposition MP who grew up in the area, thank God he wrote it.)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

snow

Why Melbourne?

One of the kids – it might have been Lu – said one day, I want to see snow.

We've never had a cold holiday. Not a truly cold one with snow.

It's always seemed extravagant. Cold implies having to pay to travel far. It means having to spend money on a lot of puffy and wooly apparel which will be untouched in Singapore. It potentially means more spent on food because people eat more when they are cold (yeah I think like that).

But then Jun has spoken about skiing around Melbourne, Australia often enough. Because he talked about it, and because he's done it, a snow holiday sounded accessible and do-able and it'd be a different experience altogether.

So I said, let's do snow. Out of 10 days in Melbourne, we spend three days up the mountain in Falls Creek, about five hours away from Melbourne city.

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It’s early in the season. It's so early we are the first to check into the lodge which is completely empty, there are few people arounds, and while we are there we are subject to freezing rain rather than cold.

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* Rain-slick streets that during peak period is a road of snow. The entire road is usually ours, no one else around

There is a reason for that: Everything is cheaper because the snow might not have fallen and we wanted to save some dollars.

But thankfully, higher up the mountain, some snow did fall early this year. They saw what they wanted to see, did what they wanted to do.

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* Snowball fight. Boy versus girls.

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* Mega ball with Day's name on it

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

winter in Melbourne

Our big family holiday.

Where:  Melbourne (city) and Falls Creek (mountain with snow)
When:   9 June – 19 June
Who:     Me and parents and two brothers, KK and the trio (9 in all)

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Friday, June 05, 2015

portraits

It used to be quite easy to draw them. I try again.

Man. Lulu, mincing no words, gives me a lot of lip for these terrible portraits.

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* My nose is too small, mama!

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* Mama, Jody looks like a woman from China!

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

swim

Random holiday snaps.

What better thing to do on hot days than to swim?

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The girls and I (Day is at a school camp where he is apparently swimming through and putting his head into a muddy river) head to one of my favourite swimming pools. It’s the one I first learnt how to swim in and which has remained unchanged in nearly 40 years. It still charges a very reasonable $1 per adult and 50 cents per kid for entry.

The girls swim to their heart’s content, until their fingers are prune-y.

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While I go around and take some shots of the old pool. In Singapore, you never know. I think its a good habit to take photos of old places. They may just decide that since everyone has pools in their house or condo, public pools are passe, and old ones like these should be done away with pronto because maintaining a not-very-well-used public pool is a waste of taxpayer's money.

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* The distinctive look of the pool complete with that huge round thing in the foreground (never knew what it was for)

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* I see a ghost of myself aged seven, post-shower, running up the steps to very crowded tables and chairs where everyone is munching on bouncy hot fishballs and chicken wings

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* That old clock hasn't changed

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

cast off

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The friendly man who made Lulu cry three weeks back – he was ‘shaping’ and ‘massaging’ her still-painful arm to fit nicely into the purple fiberglass cast – took a saw to the cast today. Yes, the same man attended to us.

It’s time to take off the cast. Finally.

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* Saw

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* Pry open 

The nice Filipino doctor pronounced that her bone had healed beautifully: “See the white patch there? That’s the new bone! These young ones really heal very fast!”

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* Then. The mouse is hovering over the crack which looks terribly small and miniscule but which caused her so much pain

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* Today

The skin under the cast was unexpectedly dark with what looked to be grime and dead skin which is sloughing off. And Lulu is complaining of pain in her elbow because it hasn’t been straightened in ages. She still prefers to write and do things with her left arm.

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* Her very neat left-handed writing

The good thing about the cast, however, is that her inner elbow eczema is for the moment entirely gone because she hasn’t been able to scratch it for a month. And I supposed she's had some right-brain training.

Total cost (3 visits including A&E): About $300 and 12 man hours (mine). Not letting her on a monkey bar again.