Monday, October 20, 2014

p1 anticipation

By the time #3 is on the cusp of starting Big School, the blinkers have fallen off with a very loud Thud.

A letter arrives addressed to Lu the other day. She opens it excitedly – she never gets letters - but when she sees what’s in it, she is most dismayed.

It’s a letter titled “Preparations for P1 2015”.

She mopes, I don’t want to go to Primary School! I don’t want the teachers to scold me, I don’t want my friends to bully me, I don’t know how to buy things from the canteen, I can’t read any Chinese Words, I can’t do any ting xie (I’m so scared!) and I DON’T WANT CHINESE TUITION BECAUSE IT’S MY LIFE!


Like the unicorn, the idea of fun learning in primary school is a myth to Lu. Because for four years she’s seen the evolving reality which I have tried, but failed to sugar-coat or dismiss. She also hears her brother going on and on about how the "stupid Singapore education system doesn't care about people who want to do sports".

Back in 2011, Day was excited about school. He thought it was going to be a Carnival. Jo, too, was excited about school in 2013 because her brother in Primary 2 was still having fun.

Lu will start on a very different note.

The good thing is (in the weird way that people are), if she expects the worst, perhaps she will end up realizing that it’s better than she thinks? And er, like it?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

parkland green

Something new has sprung up at the East Coast Park.

I drive past the spot all the time and suddenly – as with many areas in Singapore – I realize there is something there which wasn’t there before.

It’s called Parkland Green.

Just across the expressway from the Parkway Parade shopping mall, it was the former Parkland Golf Driving Range, but is now an elegant expanse of long white roofs, stone benches, skylights with trees poking through and a couple of pricey glass-walled restaurants (and the obligatory Starbucks) with a sea view.

* Sea on the left, pardon the bad handphone photos

* $4.20 for a can of Seasons Iced Lemon Tea, which usually costs $1.20 at the coffeeshop

(Parkland Green also faces the yellow lighthouse, known as the Amber Beacon, where a woman was slashed and killed by a gang in May 1990, and where ghostly sightings have been occasionally reported, but I suppose only old fogeys like me will remember that)

I like Parkland Green.

It doesn’t try to manipulate the space too much and people can pretty much do what they want to do on the large green expanse. There is also loads of parking.


On the rainy day we visited, heaps of families which were seeking refuge from the rain laid out their mats under shelter and happily dug into their picnics.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

phone season

It’s phone season around here.

It started with mine.

Then because I got mine, KK got a new one, some newfangled phone with a big screen and a stylus. A Samsung something or other.

And because he got a new one, he gave his old one to Day, with a pre-paid SIM card in it.

This, then, would be Day’s first phone (I’m keeping a leash on it):


* One day this too will be a dinosaur...

I'm not sure how we, in two months, got from a family with just one coveted smartphone which was usually not at home, to three. I think its all my fault. I started it.

It is not a scenario I like because I have always liked that the kids have no smartphones to fiddle with, anywhere. Not eating, not in the car, nowhere. But it is a scenario which has developed and which I now have to manage.

But the one who has really bloomed in the presence of all these phones, is Jo.

She is the Queen of Whatsapp. She Whatsapps her father, her brother, me, using the many phones available.

While I’m at rehearsal, she sends me long reports of what’s happening at home, takes pictures of Lulu prancing around the house, asks me what she’s supposed to do if she can’t finish her food.

In typical tenacious fashion (it translates from real-life into her online persona) she sends me message after message if I don’t reply, lamenting at why I’m not answering. Then she always ends off with a sad selfie. Or two. Or three.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

lu's story

Lulu has written a story! I think it’s her first. And what a violent one it is. It’s got death and poison all in. What mind lurks behind that sweet facade? 

(It could possibly be due to all this, gulp)

Why she wrote it was because Jo gave her an assignment. It’s part of their teacher-student role-playing thing. Lu took it very seriously.


So did Jo, who, once Lu was done, sat down to mark in earnest and she was about as anal as the most anal copy-editors I have encountered, and demanding. 


This is the grade she gave Lu:


Lu was very put-out. Her face crumpled when she saw her grade. Despite the obligatory words of encouragement. (But she knows I love her story to bits)

Here’s her violent story (the version which has been edited by Jo), which even KK raised an eyebrow at:

Once upon a time, there were two boys named Charlie and Tommy. The older one was Charlie and the younger one was Tommy. Their mommy and daddy were dead a long time ago.

One day, Charlie and Tommy found a cave. Then, one morning Charlie found a fruit. It was filled with poison but Charlie did not know. Charlie gave Tommy the fruit. “Charlie” said Tommy, “is that poison?”

“I don’t know” said Charlie.

Tommy took one bite and fell to the ground. Charlie was surprised but also scared. He looked around and saw an old man.

“Hey, you there!” shouted Charlie. The old man got closer and closer to Charlie. Then, he said, “What are you doing here child?” in a creaky voice.

“I lost my mother and father. My brother ate poison fruit,” said Charlie. “Oh dear!” the old man said. “I better bring your brother to the hospital!”

Then, when Tommy was better, he said, “What is this old man doing here? And who saved my life?”

“This old man did” said Charlie.

“Please old man, let us stay in your house,” said Tommy and Charlie.

“OK,” said the old man.

They lived happily ever after.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

shrink plastic

We’re late to it, but the girls and I stumble onto the wonderful world of shrink plastic.

(The café which offers it as an activity, EatPlayLove Café, is next to where I have rehearsals now)

I bring the girls down and they promptly make themselves an identical pair of rainbow earrings.


They take a piece of special paper, they draw, they colour, they cut out the rainbows, chuck it in an oven toaster, it shrinks and becomes a piece of hard plastic.



Friday, October 10, 2014

renting real estate

Every since the re-development, the girls’ room has become prime real estate. Everyone wants to go there and everyone wants a piece of it, especially KK and Day. They want to sleep on the girls’ beds and use the girls’ tables.

Jo jealously guards her territory. No one can even get near her bed and table (her screams have the same effect as a construction site in progress next to your ear).

Lu tries very hard. She yells, vigorously jabs her fist in the air, flounces around, tries to drag her father or brother away. To no avail. Especially when it comes to her desk. She also tends to give up rather quickly, as if to say – Whatever.

I, like a property agent representing her interests, try to defend her turf. You have no right to her table, I say. It’s hers, it’s not fair, you are encroaching.

So KK has worked out a solution, a solution which I only found out about when I asked Day to clear his things from Lu’s table.

* Lu's messy desk

He said: Oh, papa’s renting out Lulu’s table. He paid her a tube of Mentos yesterday.

Lulu, dear child, is frustrated by how her tenants are using her space, but she is quite happy to accept the terms!

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

lao hua yan

I first realized something was wrong when I was eating my fishball noodles maybe a year or two ago and I couldn’t see it.

Like, my entire life I chopstick some beehoon into the spoon, scoop up some soup and glance over it to make sure an insect didn’t suddenly drown in it; but suddenly I had to pull the spoon further away to check.

Of course its presbyopia or lao hua yan.

I make little adjustments, get used to it, then the next big thing is when I realize I can’t read the street directory (yes I use the street directory still). Sitting in my car, I like to take out the directory, rest it on the steering wheel and find my way around (while parked). But I can no longer see the tiny street names if the directory is on the steering wheel.

I have to put it farther away toward the gear shift and then of course I can’t read the fine print because it’s too far away and its particularly hellish when I am lost at night because its impossible to try and read fine print at night. And so I’ve invested in a bigger-sized street directory.

But how big can it get, right? (well of course I could just use Google Maps or whatever but for now I still want to use my brain when it comes to navigation)

Then I have to get the kids to thread needles for me to replace their uniform buttons, and while they can hold the needle 5cm from their eyes and see the hole, they don't have the skill to draw the thread through.

So I get a pair of lao hua yan specs. For real. Not play play.


It’s the first time in my life I have ever walked into a spectacle shop and the first time I have ever felt better looking through a lens (before when I wear my friend’s specs its always blur). I cannot believe how clear and defined the words on a page look, with the specs. The spec shop lady says: "Wow, people with lao hua yan are getting younger and younger! I can't believe you walked in and said you had lao hua yan!" Well that's a trend story there.

The myth is that people with perfect eyesight tend to succumb to presbyopia earlier. I don’t know if it’s true.

But my lost-distance vision is clearer than ever, corrupted with a negligible bit of astigmatism.

* Sucks

Monday, October 06, 2014

a turning point

The last few months, in the second half of his Primary 4 year, Day reaches a turning point. Many firsts – and a last – have occurred. The signs:

I get the first unwelcome e-mail and phone call from a teacher.

The homework which has always been effortlessly completed in class piles up.

The grades slide.

He gets a sleep debt.

He (and I after we discuss it) stops piano class. Again . He has not been practicing and there is no longer any love.

* With his piano teacher, Uncle Jess, at his last class

At the same time, he’s started going out with his friends on his own after school for bubble tea, lunch, soccer, whatever. Not often, but its started.

Why the turning point now?

I don’t know. Biology? Hormones? Awareness? Maturity? Puberty? A crazy Maths teacher?

His concerned teacher politely enquires – "Is he facing any issues outside school which has been affecting his performance?" I have to say, no. The family is intact, everybody is healthy, life is exactly the same as it is before.

I think this expression sums it up best. Chin thrust out, mouth rebelliously closed, dead eyes.


He’s suddenly decided that life sucks and he’s not going to give a shit about what he doesn't want to do.

What can we do? We grimly, patiently, lovingly, soldier on.

(Ah, another teacher tells me: Next year is the great jump for all subjects so please prepare him in advance as kids usually can't cope with the Primary 5 workload. Well, how the hell am I supposed to prepare him in advance?)

Saturday, October 04, 2014


Strange but true: My wallet of five years starts leaking coins and cards so I ask my personal shopper to get me a new wallet because his workplace is above a mall. “I’ll pay you back” I say.

He says no need.

I come home to find a white bag on my desk with a brown ribbon on the handle. Inside is a brown box wrapped with a white ribbon. There’s a tiny Bally logo on the box. Its a repeat of the Bag scenario.

Oh dear.

Inside is more pomp and pageantry. I unwrap the white package and I find … my new lemon-yellow mega-sized wallet. It's huge.

* The old above (I'm very sad it has to be replaced) and the new

I say: Wow, wow, but I just needed a cheap wallet. (the kind I used in secondary school would do nicely)

Jo on the other hand lights up and grabs the wallet: Can I have it, mama?

Hmmm. This is forming up to be another family pattern.

(There is good reason why KK never asks me to buy anything for him)

Friday, October 03, 2014

back to "work"

On the Children’s Day holiday, I bring the trio to my old workplace.

I had a meeting, there was no one else to look after them and I did not want to leave them home alone.

I don’t think I have ever brought them to my ex-office. Well, once when Day was six months old when I had my farewell tea and I wanted to show off the reason for my resignation. But other than that, never, I think.


Upon approach, the three gaze on the gray monolith. Day, inspired, mutters: What a depressing place. It’s one of those offices right? Where the too-cold aircon blows on you and you have to open doors with a pass and it goes “beep” and everyone is sitting at their desks in cubicles, right?


Everyone is very nice to them because children are a rarity there and they are feted with lollipops and juice drinks. Although they are a bit taken aback, when I jokingly tell two veteran copy editors that they’re here to see what a reporter’s job is all about and the two ladies say: DON’T BE A REPORTER. IT’S A DYING TRADE.

We hang out in the canteen which hasn’t changed a bit, right down to the vendors and food quality (just by looking, my picky kids didn’t want to eat there).


Auntie Theresa pops by and tries to hug and take a picture with Lu but by now, all three do not like mum’s friends.


I show them my old desk, which is still solidly there and surrounded by almost the exact same people who used to sit around me - Christopher! Karam! Salma! Vijay! - looking exactly the same and doing exactly the same thing (talking on the phone). But my desk is empty apart from a huge Nerf gun. 


I was also very excited about showing them the toilet I puked in when I was pregnant with Day but by then their patience had worn thin.

Do I ever want to go back to work there? Its been 10 years since I left. But still, no.