Wednesday, July 27, 2016

erhu lu

Lu has been learning the erhu in school, as part of music class. 

Not everyone in class learns the erhu. But because the teachers know that Jo play the erhu, I think they somehow think that Lu should also play the same. Synergies, right.

I disagree. If she were to start on another instrument, it must be different. That's also unlikely because Lu is determined that her erhu lessons will end with music class. She says “I hate instruments and I hate music”.

Right. That’s kind of sad to hear.

But she has been wanting to practice at home and saw through her Twinkle Twinkles.

Jo lends her the Chinese Orchestra’s erhu which she is allowed to bring home from school because she’s a school player, and corrects Lu’s playing every other second.

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* "Like this lah, Lulu..."

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* "Alamak...."

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Monday, July 25, 2016

violent

I have a temper which I keep under wraps but I do get violent sometimes.

Things which get to me: Overwhelming IT, disrespectful kids and screen addiction. The problem is that I try very hard to repress and when it builds up beyond a certain point it all explodes.

Cane marks.

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Day’s phone. I smashed it by throwing it on the ground, from height, then proceeded to kick it like it was a soccer ball while screaming that phones are demonic. The kids, eyes agog, were all witness to the murder.

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Not proud of the ugly side. I'm sorry.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

papa comes home

Goodness me, just after I say it, it happens!

(If I were Godly I’d say that the good Lord granted my prayers.)

KK doesn’t have to go to Mandai anymore.

That means he has an extra 75 hours a month, a lot more time in which to spend a lot less money.

The point is that he’ll get to be home a lot more, and he’ll be with us on Saturdays once again, and even a weekday afternoon or two. Never mind the money. We’ll get by.

It’s time to celebrate!

In memory of this great occasion, Jo and I do a video of his first weekend post-Mandai. I shoot the videos, send them to her via Whatsapp, and she edits and puts together the entire thing just like what she did the last time

I must say, for all the difficulties I have with Jo, as a Mother trying to make her do things, it's such a joy to work with her as a collaborator. She is a fantastic worker. She is dead-focused on the task at hand, is finicky to the extreme (I think she has to time the wipes and whatnot) and won’t give up.

I wanted to put KK’s current favourite song, 7 Years, as the soundtrack but when it appeared somewhat bothersome, I told her to forget it and just use one of the provided soundtracks. She told me to go and take my shower while she figured it out. By the time I came out, she had did it. Ripped the soundtrack off somewhere and laid the video on it. She hates the little audio hiccup at the start, but I shooed her in to bathe, told her forget it.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

can speak chinese, ah!



To be very clear:

School provides a base script and all the kid/parent has to do is fill in the blanks.

Does she understand everything? Probably about three-quarters. She has no idea what 其中包括 or 的来 or means. Those parts she is singing in a foreign language.

So its mindless drilling and rote memory and whatnot. Heck. She’s so proud of it she sings it a dozen times a day because she feels she's come very far.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

jo gets independent

Jo said – “Mama I’m going to my friend’s house”.

Oh the sweet, sweet sound!

She’s finally going to her friend’s house! Without me!

Even though it’s not quite a social gathering in that the quartet of girls are actually meeting after school to work on a science project to make intestines out of something like stockings (really), I gather from Jo that the girls were really excited, from planning for it to spending the morning in school on a high because they had something to look forward to.

“We are going by bus after school, Mama! By bus! We are going to go on our own!”

(Then someone’s mum said she was going to follow them on the bus, I think just to make sure that the 10-year-olds were OK)

“Urgh, we don’t want any Mums there! Must she come along?”

I never dreamt that the day would come when Jo, my skirt-hugger, would want to have pure girlie fun, but it’s come. And I know one day when she’s absent more than present that I will want the clingy girl back. But for now, I like that she wants to spread her wings.

The girls went, they played with the host’s bunnies (Jo fell in love and she’s now clamouring for rabbits), they went downstairs to the playground for some fun.

Of course, before doing all of that, they finished the intestines.

These friends she hangs out with are her canteen set, and they are really, really, amazingly sweet decent soft-spoken girls. All wholesome as apple pie.

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Jo avoids the “popular” girls (the too-smart, too-pretty, too-confident, too-bitchy ones) like the plague.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

lu’s hair minion

That would be me.

For some reason she likes me to cut her hair. It's not something I like to do because I don't understand hair and how it behaves. She's also older and a lot more conscious about how she looks. But she also doesn’t like how the hair salons “strangle” her with capes, she thinks she’ll retch. Between vomiting and a bad hairdresser, she prefers the latter.

Of late, she decided that she wanted to cut her hair.

It was a two-stage process (the luxury of having a hair minion at home).

First stage, I dragged the mirror into our kitchen, the brightest place in the house, chucked her on one of our stools and did the job as she looked at herself; exactly like in a hair salon.

Armed with KK’s not-very-sharp steel scissors (the hair tends to “bend” in or out when I trim) I lop off an inch. Even better is how it was accidentally layered, because I first pinned up the “outside” parts of the hair and cut the insides, then she decided she wanted it longer so I cut less from the “outsides”. Fine and good.

Second stage occurred a fortnight later when she decided she wanted a bob with a full fringe. This time, to Bach’s cello suites (to steady myself because it really is quite stressful to cut hair with a blunt tool and I suck) I gave her a bob.

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* 2nd stage cut, with Jo as my assistant

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* Lu refused to be phtographed. Hence the back and side views.

I started a few snips on the right, a few snips on the left side (to make sure they match in length) then cut my way to the back. I cried "Hallelujah!" when both sides met, to Jo's great amusement.

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* The right

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* The left

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* The back which somehow ended up tapered like a V

Lu yelled and whined. It was shorter than what she wanted. “All my friends will laugh at me!” she cried.

KK and I love it. We think the bob suits her little face. Best of all, she won't have to do a thing in the morning but shake out her hair.

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* Bye, hair

Friday, July 15, 2016

standing chips

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Life skill: Making potato chip bags stand.

Day picks it up from the Internet and does it every Saturday night when we have our movie nights. Just like making breakfast pancakes, he thoroughly enjoys being useful.

He’s the man!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

snapshot

I don’t quite feel like blogging these days.

Day and Lu don’t want to be photographed, they run away from me every time I whip out the camera even if I’m taking photographs that have nothing to do with the blog.

Jo is a little bit more open but she vets her photos. So while I'm happily thinking about captions, I first have to clear it. Which is very xian. She is also very conscious that she has school mates whose mothers read the blog (They tell her! And they tell her not to tell me! Which is actually really so cute!) and she is very mindful about her image.

While in the past I blogged because they were doing cute and funny things and seemed to be blossoming into lovely useful people, these days whatever they do is more a case of – What did I do wrong in my parenting?

Mothering seemed more exciting then. Now, it’s all really humdrum. I don’t try to do very much by way of “doing fun things” because it isn’t very much appreciated. I'm getting the sense that they'd like it much more if I cleaned the toilets better or cooked better food.

I think they’re becoming TEENS who are very much a product of their generation and it’s something which I don’t find particularly joyful. It's also a blogging minefield which I don't want to tread on.

Monday, July 11, 2016

jo generates content

In support of Jo’s latest aspiration to be a YouTuber (I think one shared by Day too, and quite a few other kids around), her first edited video.


I’m impressed because she uses a Video App with music and jump cuts to do the entire thing in her phone. It’s more than I could ever do. She sends it to the Family Group Chat with the words (and two smileys): Made it myself. Enjoy!

It’s also hilarious to me because it captures the utterly humdrum detached after 7pm-life of a Singapore family where everyone is absorbed in a screen of some sort – Dad on TV, Boy on laptop AND mobile, Mum and Sister on desktop and Jo herself doing around the house filming with her phone – while uplifting music which she chose plays in the background. The sort of music where you’d expect to see children running in the grass, parents hugging the kids, bonding as a family. 

The images and the music is disconnected, but it's laughably real. I told her, next time we have to act for you. And we'll pack up the house first.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

art lesson

When an art session for Jo and Lu – to separately work on two canvases which will be combined into one - illuminates who they are.

1: Lu is the one with the art interest, and confidence, to stride into class with a sketch of an owl she had made and say – I want to paint this. Jo follows her lead.

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* Lulu's owl sketch

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2: Jo is the perfectionist who, once she is clear about the direction, dominates the work, eventually straying onto Lu’s canvas, correcting Lu’s work and terrorizing Lu out of the picture because she deems that Lu’s handiwork is “wrong”. Maybe it's the teacher part of her. This is also the part which makes my blood boil, as I see Jo modifying Lu's strokes and pushing Lu away from her own painting, and which eventually leads to the teacher positioning Lu’s canvas at a 90 degree angle to Jo’s instead of being side-by-side so the girls can’t quite see each other’s work.

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* Teacher Ocean working with Lu

3: Jo paints as if her life is on the line. Lu paints as if she wouldn’t mind the picture going into the trash. Jo is very worried and stressed throughout, Lu paints with a smile.

4: Lu’s strokes are rough, but she finishes on time with a drawing which she is proud of. Jo’s strokes are impeccable, but she doesn’t finish on time with a drawing which she says sucks.

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* Lu's

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* Jo's, which she actually didn't want me to take a picture of because its incomplete

5: Through it all, neither of them listen to anything I say, unlike all the other kids who seem to go along with what their Mums say and do.

6: They sit still at their easels for three hours.

7: Unlike other kids who make friends with other kids and then spend part of the time running amok and playing, these two don't talk to any kid, not even the ones they know. Like these ones:

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* Norman, Bridgette and Val

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* Jolene and Eva

Thursday, July 07, 2016

atas anniversary meal

Our 13th wedding anniversary (the wedding dinner one not the ROM one) is on 6 July.

KK said – Let’s go eat at one of those restaurants where the food looks very small on the plate and you don’t feel full when you’re done.

I knew exactly what he meant. I had always yearned to be one of those fools.

I’m a happy hawker center person, KK is a slightly more upmarket café person, but don’t we all aspire to eat some fine-dining mosh at least once in our lives? I've been meaning to since 2012, took me that long to take the plunge.

Moreover, one of the most interesting books I’ve read was one on El Bulli and Ferran Adria’s food inventions. For a while I craved foams and whatnot. Now I’d get my chance to nibble at pricey food inventions, courtesy of KK’s wallet.

I searched online. And I found it. My former boss, a highly-respected food critic, had also once recommended this man’s food to me above all the other fine-dining restaurants in the country. This year, his restaurant ranks 32 on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, the only Singapore restaurant to make it in.

I e-mailed for a lunch reservation (dinner would have been excessive), I got a date a week later (KK will have to take leave but hey it’s our anniversary), we had to pay a $50 deposit to secure the table, for a meal that would cost nearly $500.

We turn up half an hour early on the day, at 1130am, the first amongst a handful of diners. The place is a recessed slice of white studded with French windows, set back from the buildings on both sides like it’s not quite meant to be seen, with a sprig of olive tree like a big decorative bonsai in front.

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We step in, slightly fearful that we’d be outclassed, or maybe jeans and sports shoes is not allowed (it is). Inside, the first floor is all dark paneling, chandeliers and mirrors. A black opague sliding door at the end reveals the kitchen, which we are shown twice because it’s clearly an exhibition of Gattaca-ish stylings. It’s a dark, glassy, futuristic space where a team of chefs (numbering more than the diners I think) silently assemble their delicate creations in great concentration. The atmosphere is probably not unlike that of a semi-conductor facility and its terribly impressive.

We are led to the third floor – an airier lighter space which the waitress calls the “fun” space - and given a prime table next to the chef’s personal library, where apart from cook books he also stores his raw pottery creations and sketches.

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Do we have fun? Um. Not quite. We don’t quite know what to do. We cringe at the thick silence, eschew the wine (“warm water for me please, thank you”) and in what was the ultimate faux pas, walked up from the table to try and search for the place to pay before the meal was finished. (our Japanese Waiter, a very prim and proper gentleman in a suit who precisely recites the story of each dish before he serves it to us, raises an eyebrow as we head toward the lift – We have not served you the petit fours, Madam, you have not finished your meal.)

I honestly had no idea. What are petit fours? Food Noobs that we are, we are likely not able to fully appreciate what we are served, like how I as a Car Noob will never appreciate how a Volkswagen is superior to a Lancer.

But it is an experience. We are served like we have never been served before (different sets of cutlery in different styles for every course, a towelette served on a wooden dish looking for all the world like a dry round white biscuit until boiling water is poured on it when it then springs open like an accordion) and we put strange things in our mouth which have never been there and which do even stranger things once in there.

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* Towelette

Now I turn to the food, which I will dwell on at length because this will be the last time I’m eating like this. We are served nine plates. I give the official names, then my food noob observations.

PLATE 1: Seafood Tamara with Gluten Bun

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That’s a translucent carrot chip (finally! I eat a carrot chip! It’s sweet!) with salmon roe under, sitting on an incredibly light and crispy puff which explodes in a shower of warm crumbs in my mouth.

PLATE 2: Abalone/Liver/Crispy Kombu and Prawn Head

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* Abalone with purple things (don't know what) sticking out

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* Prawn Head

This plate which looks like a coral reef is put under my nose. It's the prettiest dish of the meal. The very thinly-sliced abalone sits on a piece of crispy seaweed, I don’t know where is the abalone’s liver, while the prawn head (where IS the head?) tastes like some sort of airy Japanese keropok. The really good part is when I start tearing off the bland greens lining the plate and stuffing it in my mouth. Along comes Mr Japanese Waiter to clear our plates. KK asks, pointing at me – Are we supposed to eat that? Waiter doesn’t blink – Not really, no.

PLATE 3: Dry Aged Scallop, Textures of Mushroom and Tofu, Kombucha Granite, Vegetables Demi-Glace

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* The melt-in-your-mouth scallop

Lu would squeal. This dish looks like two cute ball-y creatures prancing on a meadow. There’s the brittle ball of what tastes like onion ice-kacang on the left (KK does not like the iciness), while on the right is a truly succulent springy scallop, the flesh of which isn’t the least bit like the usual “strands” texture of scallops, wearing a cloak of very artistically burnt (?) mushroom strips. That powdery stuff is tofu powder, ground from a block of dried tofu and I think the meadow is spring onion oil?

PLATE 4: “Terre Et Mer” Gillardeau Oyster Tartare, Cured Lardo, Shima-Aji and Pork Trotter Broth

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Mr Japanese Waiter announces – This dish is a very interesting combination of the sea (fish) and the land (pork). Ah, so. The dab of paint is a salty, smoky puree of onion and smoked eel, the pile in the centre is oyster with what seems to be potato cubes covered with a white veil of something, the perfect tiny triangle of seared fish with straight-cut sides (I’m very impressed at how each side of the fish is exactly perpendicular to the plate) is apparently stuffed with chicken. I cut very small pieces trying to find the chicken in the fish, but I can’t. Maybe it’s blended in. 

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* Got chicken?

The dish also comes with a small cup of spectacularly rich intense pork soup, so rich it feels like if you dripped it from a spoon it’d drip slowly.

PLATE 5: Burnt Beef Tongue Salad, Ruban of Butternut Squash, Warm Foie Gras Soup

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The story for this is that it combines poor food (butternut) which takes centrestage as the star of the dish, and rich food (foie gras). This was our favourite. Usually I hate pickles and those delicatedly-folded origami-ish columns (no idea what the white dot on top is) have a definite whiff of sweet/sour pickle about it. However it’s supposed to go with the bed of stuff under, presumably the beef tongue although I can’t decipher the beef’s tongue, and some crunchy bits. The waiter pours a rich foie gras soup into the plate. Everything goes into the mouth at the same time. It’s intensely sweet, salty, rich, crispy, crunchy, sleek, jelat, satisfying.

PLATE 6: Salt Baked Poulet De Bresse, Grilled Leek Flower, Egg Noodles, Tasmanian Truffle and Emulsion

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* Chicken wrapped in the dark lotus leaf

This was the big surprise. These sort of meals usually have some sort of surprise element, whether it be from ingredients which have been turned into a completely different form or unique combinations. The waiter first brings a small loaf of black bread as long as my hand to our table and beams – “This is your main course. Actually, your main course is chicken breast from France, which is the best chicken in the world (like a showman, he then proceeds to cut the bread to magically reveal, in the cross-section, a perfect circle of chicken. He continues slicing the bread). The chicken is wrapped in lotus leaf and baked in the bread so the flavor is intense (he removes the bread and places one tiny piece of chicken on my place). Enjoy.” He walks away with the bread and chicken which is still in the two ends of the loaf, where it would presumably be discarded (no!!! I can dabao for the kids!)

We’ve never had chicken like this, KK says it tastes and feels like ham, it's salty moist and springy. We don’t like the egg noodle (chewy) or the leek flower (grassy) but hey, I had my foam! All three patches of it!

PLATE 7: Porcini Crème Glacee, Milk Skin, Buttermilk Curd

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Mushroom ice-cream with crumbles (one spoon's worth) and on the other side, something sweet with what tastes like sweet beancurd skin.

PLATE 8: Carbonated Red Grapes, White Peach Parfait, Honey Ice Cream on Raspberry Ice

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* What lies beneath

A sliver of ice which really tastes like raspberry. sits like an ice-skating rink over a cocktail of peach ice cream, raspberries and grapes. The grapes fizz when I bite them. For me, because I’m not a fan of berries, the honey ice-cream wins the day.

PLATE 9: Petit Fours

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The course we almost missed, I’m glad we didn’t. A warm soft chestnut madeleine, kaya toast macaron and a Dr Pepper lollipop which I was told was a specialty but which I refused to eat because I hate cherry Coke and I hate lollipops. KK ate mine.

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* The chef behind, talking to another couple, as KK fingers the bill with an interesting expression of... resignation? The chef doesn't open the restaurant if he isn't in town, so he can cook / supervise personally.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

bedtime

What a travesty.

To think I used to be so diligent about sleep. These days I’m lucky if they are in bed by 10pm.

Most times, I shoo Day and Lu in by 10, they end up sleeping at something like 1030, and I leave Jo to her devices because her will is too strong. She sleeps 11-ish, sometimes midnight.

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* The Terrible Two

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* Jo at midnight before a school day

Everyone wakes up at 615am.

I wish they were like the Western kids who bed down at 830pm. Instead, they have become Sleep Deprived Singapore Kids, joining the rest of the nation in leading the sleep deprived world brigade.

Where did we go wrong?
  • We weren’t firm enough at the start. I know people whose kids (aged 10 and above) obediently go to bed at 9pm, but I can count them on two fingers. These folks were stern, every night, from the time their kids were little babies. We let up too often, like on weekends when bedtime flew out of the window. Their nightly routine is brush teeth, read books, play… and wait for Mum to nag and nag and nag.
  • As they get older, it’s become a lot harder to make them do things they don’t want to. They don’t like to sleep.
  • Homework. Not so much an issue for Day and Lu (they'd just not do the work and get in trouble which is fine by me) but one for Jo, who, because she takes so long to eat and shower and read and play etc, she has developed a habit of starting on her homework after 9. And because she’s so fussy about it, she insists on finishing everything perfectly. But if there is one kid amongst the three who can survive on six hours of sleep and behave normally the next day, it’d be Jo.
  • We didn’t separate them. They all share the same room (Day has drifted over because his room doesn't have air-con). If one kid is tucked in first, the noisy entrance of the next one will wake him or her up.
  • We work late. I start work after 10pm. KK also works late into the night. Monkey see, monkey do.
  • They have mobile phones. Perhaps it’s the blue light which is keeping them up?

Sunday, July 03, 2016

watermelon song

And now, Lu’s voice. For real. Singing the Watermelon Song which they made up.

Lyrics:

Watermelon, watermelon, sitting on the tree
One so big and one so small, and one watermelon for me.
Watermelon, watermelon, sitting on the tree
One so big and one so small, and one for my Christmas tree.

Friday, July 01, 2016

jo’s "interview"

Jo interviews Lu. Except in the interview, she’s pretending to be Lu.

The recording is in my phone and it cracks me up. Not so much for the content but how she impeccably copies Lu's voice, and Lu’s utterly bo-chup, occasionally uncertain, slightly off-kilter demeanour. 

I listen to it whenever I need a laugh.


The Transcript

Ok we are back to the interview about Lulu.

Lulu is a cute little girl but she can be weird sometimes. So I’m gonna ask her a question.

Lulu what do you like to eat?

[ Lu ]: Erm, I like to eat, erm, some potatoes with shit and sometimes celery.

Erm, OK. What else do you like to eat?

[ Lu ]: Erm, potatoes and shit, and sometimes, celery.

Er, OK. What do you like to do?

[ Lu ]: Er, I like, I like going into the toilet bowl and swimming. Because it’s very delicious.