Saturday, January 30, 2016

jo’s message

Jo was sick. Day was sick.

I sent Lu to school alone. She was crying, which is usual when she has to go solo.

She had to stay back in school and I brought lunch to her. Jo decided to write her sister a little message.

(I just realize I fed two sick children sausage and toasted baguette)

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

big p6 year

The one big question everyone asked me at the start of the year was: Your son is taking his PSLE this year? Stressful, hor.

It’s almost the end of January.

Day is very, very busy. From school alone, he’s got soccer on Mondays (luckily temporary because its competition season) and Wednesdays, remedial on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Nothing on weekends.

He comes home with a boatload of homework. Once home, he moves from one task to the next while wolfing down snacks in between, with hardly any time for conversation.

The amount of work he brings home often keeps him up past his 10pm bedtime. The sleep debt mounts. I do miss the rosy cheeks, bright eyes and serene temperament he had during the holidays when he slept 9 hours or more a day.

He also has one session of Chinese tuition a week which comes with homework.

He has nothing extra from me. The only thing I make him do is sleep, eat well, brush his teeth and get off the computer/mobile.

The good thing is, he doesn’t drown. He’s resilient that way, and he's progressively become more and more responsible in the past year, so he doesn't owe any teacher homework for too long. 

He does the best he can, neatly and mindfully, and cheerily chin-chai’s the rest away. In that sense, I think the best way to view the PSLE is as a resilience-building exercise. He is stretching without any help from me, knowing that he is in charge of his own destiny and also with the assurance that his parents (mum at least) aren’t hung up on an aggregate. 

(I think he is, however, being pressured at school by teachers and peers. I also realise that his schedule is actually rather laissez-faire compared to any other P6 kid. I also think it might get more stressful as the PSLE nears.)

It’s also strange that Jo in Primary 4 seems a lot more stressed than Day in Primary 6.

Character, I suppose. Chin chai isn’t quite her. Most times, she sleeps much later than Day but she seems to get by quite well. Someone told me women have much better stamina than men and it shows early.

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* I'm stressed? You're stressed?
(Photo reminds me of this one)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

loving assurances…

… come from Lu.

The stream of “I love you” cards has completely stopped from Day and Jo. But these still emanate from the seven-year-old in a slowing trickle.

She presents them to me out of the blue, after having spent time secreted away in a corner working on them usually because she has nothing to do. (no homework, no nothing, no TV, no mobile, siblings too busy to play with, thus she has time to think of me)

And they’re usually apologetic in content.

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* I just noticed this... "regards"?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

body scrutiny

The kids have been assessing and forming opinions about their own bodies and of course, there are parts they don't like.

Day hates his stick-out ears and Long Life Lobes and, and has asked me: Ma can I cut these (ear lobes) off?

Jo hates her butt and has shouted in exasperation: Ma, when David and Lulu stand together they look the same (moves hands in parallel up and down) but when I stand next to them I look like this! (moves hands in a very dramatic hour glass with a huge big bottom)

Lu hates her hairy legs and has used a pair of scissors to cut off the hairs.

I tell them what I really think of course, which is that I heartily disagree.

That they are perfect and functional. That Day according to Chinese beliefs will live a long and prosperous life, that Jo has a butt that lesser women pay to put implants in, and Lu's legs won't feel so cold in air-conditioning.

At this stage, however, none of these positive statements stick. 

Neither do all my "You are so lucky... at least..." statements ie. You all don't know how lucky you are, at least you have ears that can listen, at least you have a butt you can sit on, at least you have legs that can move and run.

It attracts eye-rolling.

Jo, discerning as usual, bites back: You tell me some women like big butts, well what will you tell me if I have a flat butt, huh? You will tell me that a flat butt is nice, right? Whatever I complain about you will say it’s nice right?

To which I say, well a butt's a butt as long as you can use it to shit, which drives her completely nuts.

Friday, January 22, 2016

tadpole

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Why this?

The girls think this is the height of hilarity. Lu’s hair, looking like a tadpole.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

family talk

As we are hanging around the library on a weekend just before lunch, a lady comes up to us waving a bunch of leaflets in her hand, like she’s trying to sell something. “Would you like to attend our family talk today at 3pm? I know it’s very last-minute, but do join us if you can.”

I look at the leaflet. It said, “Join us for a unique and meaningful bonding experience and connect with your family members!”

We had the entire afternoon free at our disposal and KK was not around. Why the hell not?

Day wanted out. These days, he has a deep suspicion of free events with titles like “Family Talk” which have to be touted. So I brought him home and left him there.

Well, he missed a glorious three hours.

Once again, we (the girls and I) have benefited from a fabulous, great value-for-money (free in this case) CC event which we serendipidously stumbled into.

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* First to arrive, as usual

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There was a talk – an interesting one – about our personality profiles. Jo is a Beaver, Lu and I are Golden Retrievers.

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* Jo grouped with her fellow Beavers

There was a family activity where the girls and I got to decorate a Family Memory Board with scrapbooking materials which were given to us, and Polaroid photos taken of us on the spot.

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There was a fantastic Amazing Race which was the undoubted highlight for us. I was blindfolded and tied to the girls (my right ankle to Jo’s left ankle, my left wrist to Lu’s right wrist). The girls, Lu on my left and Jo on my right, had to lead me around an obstacle course with stations. They had to verbally guide me to draw a house, make an 2D apple tree out of dough and climb through a series of criss-crossing ropes. We had serious fun.

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* My work, as directed by the girls

There was food.

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* Spring rolls, satay, chicken wings, kueh pie tee!

And unbelievably, there were presents at the end of it. The girls were given crayons and a Lego Spiderman.

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Throughout, a team of volunteers kept spirits high as they squeezed rubber chickens which squeak, and sang songs (Barney’s I Love You Song seemed to be the theme song).

I am so grateful. We are so grateful.

Monday, January 18, 2016

eraser dust

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Lu is fixated on making eraser dust.

This, I have discovered, is created by repeatedly using an eraser to rub across coloured patches in textbooks and such.

She lovingly collects all the dust in a little plastic cup. Once, when Day accidentally gave her a shove and the dust went flying, she cried like her dog died.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

conversation with an 8-year-old

“I have violin class after this.”

The 8-year-old girl (maybe 7 because it’s just January) who had inexplicably chosen to sit next to me instead of all her other classmates on the excursion bus suddenly piped up.

She and the rest of her friends had just finished 90 minutes at the pool as part of the school’s swimming programme and the bus was taking us – pupils, teachers and parent volunteers - back to school.

Small, fair and slightly pudgy with still-chubby fingers clutching a red waterproof bag, she had a fringe and ponytail and black-framed specs, but what I noticed was her name tag. She had a lofty three-syllable name which would fit right into a Shakespearan play.

I was entranced. Seldom do you get chatted up by cute little girls who, as a general rule, avoid talking to adults.

“So you have violin class?” I asked.

“Yes I do,” she carefully articulated while looking up at me straight in the eye. Her head was somewhere around my shoulder level.

“Do you like it?”

“Not really. I prefer piano.”

“Oh, you do piano too?”

“Yes. I like piano. I take part in competitions.”

“Oh! Who’s your teacher?”

“Erm. It’s XXX. He’s very famous.” (I start. He IS very famous with a  menu of decorated students and I happen to hear from a student that he charges $150 per lesson)

“Well what are you playing now?”

“I do scales and sight-reading. I’m now playing the Spinning Song.”

“Ah! The one which goes (I hum it).”

“Yes!” (she starts. She must have wondered how I knew it. It so happens it was my first recital piece) “I also take part in competitions. I try to practise every day, but sometimes I don’t.”

“Oh I see. Good luck for your competition. Aren’t you tired, to have violin class right after swimming?”

“Sometimes. Let me see… my only free day is Wednesday and Sunday when I go to church. I have art on Mondays, swimming and violin on Tuesdays, Wednesday I’m free, piano on Thursdays, English on Friday, ballet on Saturday, and church on Sunday. Oh wait, I do tennis on Sunday too!”

“Wow! You’re very busy.”

“I do ballet just for fun. My parents just want me to do it for fun, not for exams or anything.”

“Then what do you do on Wednesdays?”

“I watch TV sometimes. My favourite is Takeshi’s Castle. (she pronounces Ca as Care, like an American would) Or I read books. I’ve heard about Roald Dahl, but I haven’t tried it yet.”

“Do you have Chinese classes then?”

“What do you mean?”

“Like Chinese tuition?”

“No. My parents are from China.”

“Oh! 们是从中国的那一部分?” (pardon my Chinese)

上海.”

“你喜欢回去吗?”

“喜欢!我住在我表哥的家。”

(we continue to talk all the way back to school)

Colour me impressed. Busy lifestyle notwithstanding, she’s remarkably composed, articulate, bilingual, smart and very likeable.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

sailing

KK takes the rare Saturday off and he decides to bring Day sailing.

(The girls, of course, demur and I am left to supervise them as they swim. Even then I’m not sure I want to get into the hot sun for long as the spots are lurking just under my skin…)

Our benefactor is our insurance agent and good friend Chong, who is a member of the Changi Sailing Club.

What a lovely spot, one I wish we had discovered before.

It’s by the sea, it’s old (from 1936) and it’s very charming.

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* Residential chalets

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* Nautical toilet signs ("Head" is a ship's toilet)

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* The pool and the sea

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* A baked crab

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But it’s one of those vintage spots in Singapore where the land lease is expiring. This year, in fact (2016). After which the land may be put up for tender and some organization which proposes some hideous water park or some other money-making endeavor may put up the highest bid, and then it’ll be farewell to the 80-year-old club.

Chong, KK and Day spend a good two hours out at sea, slowly drifting along and getting sunburnt because there’ s hardly any wind. Thanks to Chong, who does everything, from rigging up to instructing, it’s an easy two hours.

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* It's very le-cheh to set up

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* KK, who endeavours to protect his skin these days

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* My sunglasses on Day

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* Launching off

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

bimbo swimsuits

Barring the time when they were very small and allowed me to stuff them in all manner of bikinis or whatever swimsuits other people generously passed down to me, the girls have never wanted to swim in anything other than wetsuits. Thick neoprene affairs with sleeves and legs which supposedly keep them warm in the cold water.

Then we went to KL with Liyen and they saw her navy blue one-piece with gold hearts. They wanted one just like it. A nice cutesy affair, not even the functional one-colour Speedo types. Something with pretty patterns.

I searched high and low. Honestly, because I shop so little, I had no idea where to find a cutesy but not TOO cutesy swimsuit for girls. I didn’t know where to find one online, and I didn’t know which brick-and-mortar shop to go to.

After a lot of time-wasting checking out all sorts of shops, we finally went to where Liyen got hers: Cotton on Kids at United Square. Which was far away and and there weren’t a lot of options. But what they had was what the girls wanted. Due to a lack of sizes, Jo consented to having a different patterned swimsuit from Lu (clap clap, because she usually still insists on being Lu's twin). And it was CHEAP.

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KK was full of disapproval. He didn't like seeing his girls in fussy patterns and frills. He tutted – This is so baby-ish, you’re not babies anymore!

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* Our ice cream girls

Sunday, January 10, 2016

star wars

I never liked Star Wars.

Not Episodes 4, 5, 6, the ones which screened when I was a young girl, which I felt absolutely nothing for and which I was confused by. Episode 1 which came later I liked, because there was a cute young boy in it with powers (I’m a sucker for Disney-ish plotlines) but the series lost me at dreary draggy Episode 2.

Episode 7. Now.

How to avoid it?

At its peak in December, the marketing for the film just hit you over the head, 24 hours a day. On our fast food, in the neighbouring mall, at the airport.  I was thoroughly annoyed. Watching the film became an event for people around me, friends were going with their kids. It apparently attained the highest-grossing worldwide opening of all time.

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* Star Wars bag tag won at a games station at Changi Airport

Because my brother Teng said he wanted to go, we did. KK and I and the kids and Teng.

Because we weren’t fans to start off with, we weren’t impressed or moved.

But because we saw 7, it made sense to watch the rest to answer those little historical niggling questions which arise.

So we’re right in the middle of it. Saturday movie nights, we watch Star Wars. (Order: 4, 5, 6, then 1, 2, 3)

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I can’t explain why but the best thing for me is still John William’s music. I feel nothing for the rest of it.

The kids, however, are a tad more enthusiastic. The incredible marketing effort for 7 has lured them into the Star Wars universe.

Star Wars has also been all the talk in school. Apparently all their friends go around saying – Luke. I Am Your Father. When we reached that line (unfortunately they knew everything before watching the movies) the trio laughed uproariously because they had finally heard it. 

Watching the movies, they've also gotten a good look at how people age. They are most fascinated with Harrison Ford because they also know him as Indiana Jones.

Friday, January 08, 2016

jo’s projects

I suppose trying things out is part and parcel of the luxury of childhood.

Jo, more than the other two, has lots of little projects lying around the house. Certain things catch her fancy and she wants to learn it, or try it out, or tackle it.

She embarks on every project with characteristic zeal and perfectionist fervor. But because she wants things to be perfect, she takes a l-o-n-g time and seldom finishes before something new she Has To Do comes along.

Her projects in cold storage (all of which she means to come back to, but I doubt she ever will unless she makes time for it):

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* Photo scrapbook (pasted, captioned and decorated seven photos about a year ago, with another 12 photos awaiting their turn!)

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* Learning Cantonese, a project which she embarked on several years ago. She hasn't got past the first few pages and no she still can't speak it.

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* Song-writing, which was to have culminated in a great big file of original music, but we didn't even get the lyrics down to this first sheet

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* Packing her table, a school holiday endeavour which has not been completed two months on

Jo
* Her blog, inspired by mine and which she made a valiant effort of for a while

Come to think of it, I have a laundry list of half-completed things to do too. We ALL need some time management skills.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

sewing…

…school uniforms.

Fixing dropped hooks, tightening loose waist-bands, loosening tight waist-bands.

I just thought I would capture how diligent and funny-looking I am.

Sew

Monday, January 04, 2016

school revelation

By this time there are no more pretences. Nobody wants to go back to school. They have seen through it all. They moan and they groan.

In the lead-up to Monday, there really isn’t much to do.

I dump their school bags in the washing machine for a quick tumble, the new books are duly bought, old textbooks which be re-used are duly passed down (from Day to Jo and from Jo to Lu), and worksheets are removed from plastic files which they re-use every year. They slip their feet into the same grotty old shoes (thankfully still fitting) and head off at 7am.

When I pick them up, they make a complaint which is a revelation. I’ve never heard it before.

“All my friends have new school bags. When I told them I’ve been using mine since Primary 1, they couldn’t believe it!” (Jo)

“Ya. I think I’ve been using this bag since P2 and my friends always change their bags. But that’s OK. I don’t mind.” (Day)

“I have a friend who uses a different bag every day!” (Jo)

“My friend’s shoes are nice and new and white. But mine are so dirty and black! Mama! Can we please wash this?” (Lu)

“Why do I have to recycle my files? My friends all get new files.” (Jo, as she carefully applies correction tape on the side of the file to change the class)

They do have some new stuff, but all of it was Christmas gifts. If it isn't broke beyond repair, I wouldn't buy them new things.

And who are these people? Are there actually people around who change their children’s bags / stationary / pencil cases / files / water bottles / shoes / uniforms every YEAR?

That’s NUTS! What do they do with the old stuff??

Saturday, January 02, 2016

last holiday high

The last outing we make before school starts, is Lulu’s heart’s desire.

She really wanted to go to the beach to make sandcastles. (If not at home, she likes simple activities like these and I love her for it)

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It’s a wonderful evening, cool, almost cold as usual, with perfect sand slightly wet from the rain for building things.

As the kids play quietly around me, I lie on my mat and Thank God for everything.

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* Measly ECP pickings which the girls, however, are very proud of because they haven't seen any better