Monday, July 28, 2014

useable lego

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I make a stationary Lego holder to contain my mess. It’s perfect. Every unit is perfectly sized and I can quirk it up any way I like.

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Day follows suit. He likes elephant heads.

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

a taste of babycare

Day hums the Mission Impossible theme song as he and the girls trail after their cousin Liyen, laughing their heads off.

KK is playing Scramble on his phone, Liyen’s mum (KK’s sister) is absorbed in her phone, I’m reading a newspaper.

The trio are in charge of the baby. The baby remains fine.

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Day and Lu avoids Liyen’s drool like its sulphuric acid but the trio are rather good, especially Jo who does things like hold on to a piece of tissue to gently mop the sweat off Liyen’s head and break off bits of cheese to feed her.

They collectively read to Liyen...

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... play games with her...

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... escort her up the stairs...

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... escort her down the stairs...

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... "walk" her by holding onto her armpits...

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... and er, they learn from the expert.

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They're old enough to look after babies!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

kampong soccer

One of the most kampong things Day does is to go downstairs with water bottle and ball in arm to the nearby green in the evenings, for a spot of soccer with the neighbourhood boys.

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It’s a loose informal motley gathering of boys who really have nothing in common apart from soccer. All it took was for one of them to say he’ll be there every day at a particular time, and even though the originator is no longer there, whoever is there will kick the ball around.

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There are young ones, old ones, fat ones, thin ones, brown ones, blonde ones, black ones, Singaporean ones and foreign ones. Day is usually the goal keeper or defender.

Sometimes no one brings a ball and they yell to the boy who lives in the old flats next to the green to come down NOW with his soccer ball.

Day goes two to three times a week and returns dripping after 30-45 minutes, smelly and ravenous. He loves his kampong soccer and only misses if he has must-do things.

I ask Day about the boys: Who did you play with today? What’s his name? How old is he?

He turns huffy: Mummy I don’t know. Boys don’t talk, we just play, OK?

(It's exactly the same when I ask KK about his friends)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

silver lining

I do so much exercise. Without the car, I am moving, perspiring and exerting like never before.

And none of this is ‘fake’ exercise, which is exercise for the sake of exercise (the kind you pay for or have to make time for). This exercise is necessary and compulsory. 

This, truly, is the way to lose weight and get fit because you have no choice.

I walk everywhere, carrying loads.

More importantly, I cycle with the relevant kid. The problem with our daily commutes is that while all the bus routes run horizontal on a map, we usually move vertical. There are no relevant buses. Most times it’s too far to walk. A 30-minute walk (with kid) is a 10-minute bike ride.

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* With child, child's seat cushion, child's bag and brown bag of chicken, pork, vegetables and fruit. I am utterly defeated

Then after I cycle, I heave the bike up the 36 steps of our lift-less walk-up apartment. Today I went up and down six times. School, tuition, whatnot.

Other car-less silver linings:
  • I learn how to become even more patient because trying to hail a taxi on the occasion I need to go far makes me even more pissed off than giving 听写
  • We have to plan a lot better because there can be no last-minute scrambling to get to places on time or buy things. 
God I miss the car.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

badmouthing papa

In this family mother is Friend, while father is Bad Cop.

In a typical pre-bedtime scenario the other night, KK gets pissed off with everybody and banishes them from sleeping in the only air-con room – ours. (chasing them from our room is his favourite form of punishment)

KK: What is this? The toilet light is on, the kitchen light is on, the fan in on. Nobody switched it off? Do you know who is paying the bills? I don’t care. All of you cannot sleep in my room tonight. Get out.

(He marches to the back toilet leaving the kids and I in the living room. They start muttering after a minute)

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* The Pity Party

Day: Stupid papa. Papa is a fat slob. He is always like this.

Jo: Ya. Stupid papa. I switch off the lights sometimes, right? Why can’t I sleep in his room?

Lu (who is prone to dramatic monologues these days): Stupid papa. He always says ‘Get out you cannot sleep in my room. If I hear any noise, you get out. If you don’t behave, you get out.' 

Just take a knife and kill me now. Life is horrible. I want to die.

(turning to me) Why did you marry this man, mama, WHY?

Friday, July 18, 2014

car-less

Once upon a time I asked if a maid or a car were more important if one can only afford one option.

I still don’t really know because we’ve never had the maid, but for sure, no maid and the sudden loss of a car can be a tad challenging.

Our Lancer dies on me (I do realize that someone once left a comment when we purchased the Lancer that it's a crap car).

At the grand old age of eight years, it went silent at a traffic junction as I was merrily ferrying Jo home from school today.

It had been rattling and wheezing in a most alarming manner for several weeks. Its asthma, which seemed to rise and fall in concert with the strength of the aircon, was loud enough for the entire estate to hear when I woke the car up in the mornings. 

But I was hoping to save a few bucks and put my faith in divine car healing. And not turning on the aircon. It didn’t work.

The car was towed to our usual workshop where we were told it required a $4,000 overhaul.

In typical meek manner, I said OH and got ready to accept every Tom Dick and Harry job that gets thrown my way. To try and earn back the amount, see. (I'm so easy to bully it's absurd)

KK the Taurus man turned bullish. Smoke rising from his nostrils, he leveled his firepower at the workshop which he accused of not doing a good job at our last service check, and got another tow truck to tow Lancer to another workshop where we will pay the cheaper sum of $2,800.

Such consolation!

The major overhaul involves the engine and some such technical gibberish. We will be car-less in the coming week. Lancer's rotten insides, I have no idea what I'm seeing:

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Anyway. I tell KK that I think we are ready to live without a car. It is a drain on resources. With good planning and some shifting of schedules, we can do what the Government wants us to do, be eco-friendly, live a simpler life, and rely on public transport.

He heartily disagrees. We need a car for the next 10 years, he says. 

I reckon its just very hard to let go of things you are already used to enjoying.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

junk jewel

I find treasure in a junk pile.

It was dirty with odd brown stains, but I scrubbed it clean with washing detergent and a brush.

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There was a rusty hole on it with jagged rusty edges like shark's teeth, but I hammered down the sharp points and plugged it up with epoxy putty (it's like Play Doh which hardens until its like cement).

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Part of it is dislodged, but I can live with it.

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It’s a welcome addition to the home.

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A vintage piece of furniture which I had been dreaming of because it’s so cooling, easy-to-clean and light (I don't even know what these plastic string chairs are officially called), but which I could never locate until it materialized before my eyes.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

slap

I wonder what it says of me as a mum that I only seem to slap the eldest child.

In a second moment of horror – two too many in Day’s short lifetime – I slap him.

The last time, as helpfully surfaced from this blog’s search function ("slap"), was in 2006. I have never slapped the girls.

Why?

Chinese (sigh).

As I help to pre-test him on his 听写 (Chinese spelling) tomorrow, and as I mark his work, the disappointment swells.

At how dismal his performance is, at how flippant and flagrantly dismissive he is, at how fundamentals learnt in Primary 1 and 2 are forgotten, at how when I gently remind him that there is 听写 he throws down the book he is reading and gives me a dirty look, at how promises made months before are forgotten.

But this is not about his Chinese. (After all, the above describes any other normal child)

It was my response. The despair, the disappointment, the anger, reaches boiling point. I take his worksheet and fling it over his head, but it’s not enough. I reach over and slap him hard.

His face crumples. I broke him.

I feel like I needed to break him. To yank off the mantle of intellectual superiority which makes him assume that he can breeze through everything with minimal effort. Yes, life has been easy and enjoyable and I have always strived to make it that way for the kids, but reality is tolling (at least, the Singapore reality).

Like before, I am broken up after I slap him.

There’s only so much one can do, believing and trying hard to realize the rhetoric about enjoyable learning, before one hits a wall.

I also realize how much I expect – perhaps unfairly - of my first-born. My unconscious mantra is that I can largely ignore him because he can do it on his own. That's not right.

Later, he comes out of his room where he has retreated, mumbling about a lizard on the ceiling. I pull him to me and he stops mumbling. His shoulders heave and I feel his tears on my chest.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

building blocks

When KK said he wanted to build up a collection of nano-block structures to display at the office, Day and I cheered.

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Because it means he is forking out money for us to play.

Day and I, we’re instruction manual people. Give us an Ikea flat pack and the first thing we’ll head for is the instruction sheet. There’s something so calming about mindlessly following a list of sequential instructions.

The lovely nano blocks are full of instructions. One mis-count and everything is potentially kaput.

The even lovelier thing is that KK just wants us to deliver the finished product. He sits there and watches us work, giving the occasional grunt of approval, as we fight over whose turn it is.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

library debacle

The library’s gotten in big trouble.

It’s history-making because I don’t think the library has ever gotten into such big trouble, not that I can remember.

It pulled three children’s books portraying alternative families off the shelves, after a member of a anti-gay group protested against it, and then said it would pulp the books.

It got caught right in the middle of what appears to be an increasingly inflammatory flash point in this country.

Streams of eloquent discourse have flowed in the last few days, from a very vested community of writers, artists and intellectuals, some of whom live alternative lifestyles themselves. I don’t even dare to add to the discourse (because I’m relatively simple-minded).

But I do have random thoughts.

* The library was one of my happiest haunts as a child and as an adult. It is a kind, open, inclusive place of learning where worlds were open to me. It can claim much credit for my choice of profession today.

* At the news, I was furious and then I felt betrayed. The library pulling out and pulping good-quality books I would borrow for my children is like seeing a sweet kindly old lady I loved and thought I knew, pulling out a knife to stab someone’s heart.

* My first job for 1 ½ years was spent at the library where I took minutes for management and Board meetings. The librarians and the senior management - many of whom are still there – are truly passionate about their jobs, including the lady who got most of the initial fire. They love and revere books. They love what they do. They have been there for decades. They are not bureaucrats who are just there to collect a pay cheque or who would unthinkingly apply the rules. So I cannot reconcile what I know of them, with how the library has come across in the past week. 

I wish I knew what was happening behind the scenes.