Monday, February 29, 2016

future of us


Day and all the rest of the Primary 6 kids went to the Future of Us exhibition at Gardens by the Bay, which ends soon. So did I.

* The class girls having their snacks

* Class boys, in another corner

Even though some of the screened shows are a bit OTT in the feel-good way, I enjoyed some of the ideas in the exhibition on future homes. Floor boards which transform the kinetic energy from footsteps to power the home, sky gardens which offer fresh produce to all of a building’s occupants, intelligent clothes which can diagnose medical issues like heart attacks or fractures.

* Shows screened on a Dome, IMAX style

* Future homes

But this is what I hear the kids say:

Goodness, learning journeys are getting more and more boring. This is so boring.

I don’t think any of these ideas can work (this courtesy of Day).

On the way back on the bus, Day’s teacher grabs the mike (the sort which tour operators use) and rips into the kids.

“I saw you all taking selfies with the iPad. Selfies! The iPad belongs to the school and is meant for you to take photos of the exhibition! Instead I saw you all taking photos of yourself! What is this?

I also said, you are not allowed to take out your mobile devices but I saw many of you taking out your phones! I have confiscated three phones and I am NOT going to return the phones until our supplementary class is over!

I also saw some of you writing inappropriate things when you were supposed to write down your future wishes for Singapore!

Please remember you are in school uniform, you represent the school! I had to shout at you all so many times to behave!

I am very concerned, I can tell you all. This exhibition is called the Future of Us. My future is in your hands! If this is what you are, I am afraid for my future!"

Honestly, learning journeys for little kids take a lot more work and are a lot more tiring, but I think they’re more satisfying. The bigger they grow the more cynical and unenthused they become.

* Probably one of the funnest parts of the exhibition, the 3D photo sticker on the ground, which looks nothing like this in real life, and which apparently cost the organisers a lot of money to put up (Evan and Day)


Saturday, February 27, 2016

new bestie trio

Day has completely shed his old set of friends, for a new bunch. It's been quite a dramatic shift. 

Over the past year, he’s slowly gravitated toward a boy in class who, like him, had stayed in Australia for a year but as a result is a year older. (because Evan left when he had already started primary school, and had to re-join at the same level he left)

Day said: I get along with him. We think the same way.

As Evan hung out with another boy, Matthew, they now make a trio.

* Day, Matthew, Evan


Day routinely goes to Evan’s house after school, and sometimes on weekends.

Sometimes I ask him why he doesn’t hang out with his old friends anymore. He says they’re immature.

What is he looking for in his friends at this stage in his life?

For one, both Evan and Matthew are Christians, who say Grace before meals. The first time Day shared a meal with Evan’s family and they said Grace, he was a little taken aback. Does he gravitate toward Christians? I don’t know. Perhaps he gravitates toward some of the values the religion espouses. If his friends asked him to go to church, however, he’d probably back out of the friendship.

They don’t like the rest of the class. I’ve heard one of them say – I hate all the girls in this class and most of the boys. I'm not sure what they have in common, and what the rest of the class represents, which warrants this.

On a field trip, I saw that they were conspicuously apart from the girls, who sat in a bunch, and the rest of the boys who sat in another bunch. I asked Evan why. He smiled and said – We’re different.


* Oh they all don't wear specs!

Thursday, February 25, 2016


Story of my writer’s life:

“My fear of turning in nothing eventually surpasses my fear of turning in something terrible.”

Best quote ever. 

Is it any surprise that I always bust deadlines when it comes to "new" sort of work? I'm terrified right now.

And I need to link to this so when I feel this terrified I can click it and understand, once again, that I possibly suffer from the Imposter Syndrome.

Come on, I can do this, I'm not a fraud...

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

lu and the 7 boys

This is Lu at swim class.


When her best friend doesn’t turn up, which has happened several times, she’s the only girl amongst seven boys.

The school teachers ask me, very concerned – Is she OK with that? Does she want to switch to a group with more girls?

No she doesn’t. She’s fine with the boys.

The class comprising eight lessons is one organised by the school at a minimal rate for non-swimmers, at a nearby swimming complex where I grew up swimming in.

(Lu can swim, but only minimally. We hardly swim after we were chased out of the condominium and stopped lessons.)

The pool is always empty, save for school groups, I even see some from secondary schools. I suppose that's how the public pools rake in some dough these days.


Tuesdays after school, the kids take their lunch, change into their swimsuits, pile onto a bus and start their swim class at a blistering 3pm.

* Lu with best friend Kallie


After being baked and browned, they shuffle into the toilets at 430pm to change back to their uniforms – sans bath or shower – head toward the waiting buses and go home where they are picked up.

She hated swim classes before. The funny thing is, she enjoys this one.

I thought about it: She probably felt really lousy learning alongside Day and Jo who are older and obviously stronger. Here in this class, where some of the boys are truly, truly abysmal, she is happy to have the upper hand. Also, in a group of 8, there is a lot less attention on her.

* Lulu and the coach, in cap

* Lu and dimpled Kallie

What she really doesn't like is being brown. Together with Jo, these two have developed a tendre for milk-white skin. Tan, golden glow, healthy sheen, cuts no ice with them. 

As such, Jo is most pleased that Lu is now even darker than me.


Then again, I seem to be getting darker too because I'm at the pool every Tuesday, faithfully helping the teachers to ensure the safety of the children as a staunch parent volunteer...


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Friday, February 19, 2016

end of soccer

After three years and a bit, Day’s finished with his soccer CCA.

The last official session took place at the Pasir Ris Primary School where the boys had a competitive match. They lost, 3-0.

* The Soccer Boys

The CCA was one which he had picked himself, back when he was eight. He just wanted to play soccer.

In hindsight, some thoughts on his CCA experience:

  • Soccer has always been enjoyable and fun. It’s always been a great time-out for him every Wednesday, to have a rolling good time with his friends and sweat it out.
  • The CCA is one which I like because it comprised a diverse mix. For that reason, Day seems comfortable with walking up to and making friends with groups of strange boys of all colours.

  • At times, Day has regretted his choice because they seldom win. Then I wonder if, for him, just “having fun” is enough. Perhaps he would actually like achieve something or work towards something, as a team, with his friends.
  • The formation of values. This, I realise, is very much dependent on the CCA teacher. Fellow mums have told me before that they choose CCAs for their children based on the teacher; they simply pick the man or woman who is the most zai (inspirational, strict etc) What they want the CCA for is to build up character and values. Putting in the hours, working as a team, etc. The activity is not important. (by this, then, the best CCAs are actually those which are a bit stressful with rather a lot of time commitment)
  • I also thought about this when I interviewed one of the most amazing teachers I have ever met: A bit of a socially-awkward low-achiever who turned a team of water polo losers into champions, military-style. (A boy who was 10 minutes late for practice was made to do 600 push-ups, one for every second.) I wish my kids would one day meet a teacher like this man.
This, then, is the one thing I wish I had thought more about. In hindsight I might have suggested that Day go with a different CCA.

Applying that hindsight, between Lu's choices now of the Art Club versus the Brownies, I'm gently suggesting the latter...

Wednesday, February 17, 2016



Some dastardly creature has been biting Jo.

It comes to her in the night, emerging in the dark, preying on her while she sleeps.

She wakes up with clusters of red bumps slightly larger than mosquito bites, but harder as if it’s a boil. They’re concentrated on specific parts of her body, as if the creature fed in one area and once full, fell away.

They last a few days. Occasionally, they itch and she gets in a tizzy stroking and slapping away at it.

Once resolved, they leave circular light brown marks.

I think the creatures have fed twice, always from Jo, never from Day or Lu.

What creature is it?

We’re not sure. It never happens when she’s in her own bed, only when she shares a separate mattress with her siblings. In response, we’ve thrown away that mattress. Then she got bitten again.

Is it bed bugs?

Apparently not. A pest control guy who was in our compound and whom I accosted for expert advice pronounced that bed bug bites don’t look like that. He thinks it’s some sort of flea and is very puzzled when we say we haven’t got cats.

The doctor I brought her to, who gave her some anti-itch cream, says it looks like sandfly bites, but he isn’t any wiser.

Surprisingly, Jo doesn’t care the least about the bites. The girl who fusses over her own appearance is non-plussed and goes on as if they don’t exist (unless it’s itchy).

Me, I’m actually quite furious. I need to get rid of these things.

Monday, February 15, 2016

groceries with kids

I set out to buy a bag of potatoes from the supermarket.

On a whim, I announce to the kids: OK you can all follow me and buy things.

I come back with this. It looks like one of those photos in the series "What a Week of Groceries Looks Like Around the World" and its not one of the conscionable ones! Thankfully this is a one-off.

* My potatoes looking very small on the right in a plastic bag

Saturday, February 13, 2016

cny change

For us, Chinese New Year has become an annual milestone where the ebb and flow of life is most apparent. Because the same things are supposed to happen every year, and when you look for it and they don’t happen, it’s destabilizing. (if I were younger I’d probably say CNY is so boring, we need change to shake it up)

I realise I say the same thing every year, or every few years. I think I'm just getting old and repeating myself.

This year, a record of change.

Day 1

For the first time, their Por Por leads the prayer rituals at the temple. Why? There’s no one else to. My father who used to do it fell out with the temple management and he doesn’t go back. My uncle who could also do it had an abdominal aneurysm last year and is too weak to.

* The temple

Mum looks around. For a moment I almost push Day forward to do the praying and lead the kneeling, he’s quite sporting that way, but luckily she steps forward and gets a quick one-minute lesson on Red Swastika prayers 101.


Back home, the numbers of people, noise level and visiting hours have progressively decreased over the years.

This year, as one stroke-ridden Aunt is unable to make it, another Aunt is unable to come due to heart issues, and as a third (and her entire brood of children and grandchildren) fail to turn up, it’s a strangely cool and uninspired CNY. Nobody even plays mahjong.

I can now say definitively that the CNY mahjong, a noisy click-clack of tiles punctuated by yells which I’ve been hearing once a year since I was born, ended in 2015. That was the last round of mahjong I will ever hear my Uncles and Aunties play.

The people who still come:

* The three old ones. Gong Gong, his 84-year-old brother, and his cousin

* Qiying and family




Day 2

This will be our last year at the Mei Ling Street flat, one I’ve been coming to – again – since I was born.

* Cousins: Janine and Jadon, Day, Jo, Zackarus, Caleb, Lu, Kaitlyn, Angel, Joyanne, Danielle




Next year, Carrot Cake Auntie moves house to another part of Singapore. While there is some sadness, I’m certain her carrot cake will taste the same even in Sengkang.

* Farewell to what's past

Thursday, February 11, 2016

family pics

The annual everybody-dress-up family photos. We really should do this more than once a year. Oh well.

The girls finally decide to embrace cheong sams, thank goodness we have several great hand-me-downs. They pair it with boots because Lu has no other shoe apart from her school shoes and Jo wants to “match”.

* Two brothers, two daughters, I don't look like any of them

* Everybody!


Tuesday, February 09, 2016

work attitudes

If I could compare the three’s work attitudes to a badminton match:

Day is the player who’d try to score points with the least amount of effort. He won’t particularly care if he drops a ball, but he’d at least run and he’d think about how to run so he can get the most balls without sweating too much. If he loses, he’d shrug and smile and say, Ah I’m just crap.

Jo is the player who would sweat and perspire her way to hitting every single ball, sometimes to her own detriment. She might sprain her ankle, she might have a crap racket, but she won’t want to drop a single one and she’d want to score the highest. (at the same time she wouldn’t want anyone to see her playing lest she loses)

Lulu would stand still and smile beatifically, racket on the floor, as she enjoys the sight of the shuttlecocks raining down on the floor around her. She doesn’t quite know how to play but she doesn’t care even if she’s in a game.

I say to Lu: "Let’s play this part of the piano score again, so you will remember."

Lu says, smiling: "I won’t. I just have a very bad memory."

I say: "Come on, let’s do some Chinese."

Lu responds: "Nope. I don’t want to take life too seriously. I just want to have fun."


Sunday, February 07, 2016

reunion food

Discussion and argument on what to eat for our re-union dinner commenced more than a month before the event.

Steamboat or cooked dishes? Teng and I were all for cooked dishes. We think steamboat is boring.

As to cooked dishes, I took reference from last year’s report card. In the end, Gong Gong and Por Por called the shots.

Reunion dinner rating, again, in descending order of popularity (because I found last year’s post pretty useful):

Mum's red-bean soup with a tang-yuan (repeat dish): 10/10. I told Mum to buy one pack of glutinous rice balls (10 balls) because everyone will be too full. She insisted on buying two. Both packs were polished off as some people ate as many as three balls as they wolfed down their soup.


Stir-fried kalian with liberally-strewn abalone (repeat dish): 9/10. It was just the first dish to disappear. I would like to add that the row of abalones were placed by me, and that was my sole contribution to the reunion dinner. 


Pig stomach soup with pork, cabbage, bai guo and water chestnut (repeat dish): 9/10. So good my mother-in-law dabao-ed a packet of soup for her meals the next day (she doesn’t go out at all on the first day of CNY and no one visits).


Samsui lettuce-wrapped chicken with ginger sauce from Soup Restaurant (repeat dish): 8/10. Choon’s first taste of this dish. He’s never had it. He likes the chicken with the ginger sauce, even without the lettuce.


Home-made Ngoh Hiang (new dish): 8/10. I’m no fan of Ngoh Hiang and kept telling Mum not to make it. She did and it was snapped up pretty quickly. I’m just biased against Ngoh Hiang.


Steamed fish (new dish): 7/10. This was good but it came out so late (because its steamed last and we start eating so the other dishes won’t get cold), that people were already quite full. My mother-in-law dabao all the remaining fish (mostly the head) back home, presumably to accompany her soup.


Stewed black mushrooms with “hair” and dried oyster (repeat dish): 5/10. Good but keep-able so not much was eaten.


Chilli tamarind prawns (new dish): 2/10. This dish was the biggest point of contention. We were strongly against prawns cooked in shells because history has shown that no one touches it. But Mum said prawns sound like laughter in Cantonese (Hee “Ha” Dai Siu) and is a must-have dish as a symbol of happiness in the new year. We said cook it without its shell. Gong Gong said it’s not nice and all the prawns would shrivel up. So they did the same old thing. True enough, no one touched it.


The family. This is the first year the three kids all join the Main Table, and are not sitting on a side table watching TV in the living room. They've graduated!

* Jo, Teng, KK's brother, Tata, Day, KK, Nene, Choon, Gong Gong (missing Por Por and me and Lulu)

At the back of house, the able cook who shouldered the entire reunion dinner burden:


That was a joke. He just pushed prawns around for a minute. The REAL cooks:

* Jai and Por Por

And at the front of house, the “Restaurant” manager who kept everyone entertained. (he does the same thing every year. Talk and talk and talk about how to keep healthy – this year the theme was Every Year after 70 is a Blessing! – while KK’s relatively sedate family nod in agreement.)


My three lovelies, not paying attention to Gong Gong at all...