Tuesday, February 28, 2017

ball gown bunny

Lu, who relentlessly scours Youtube for art ideas, saw someone make a fat round bunny out of a sock and rice.

She pursued the idea and made one for me, with some help from er, the recipient. It’s got the feel of a stress ball, heavy and unmoving unless you really squeeze it, like a paperweight.

Here’s bunny in a Ball Gown, which can be removed and replaced with something less glamorous.

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The bunny’s got a mole on its left cheek, just like me.

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And it's crying tears of joy (because Lu's hand slipped).

Sunday, February 26, 2017

"you're gonna miss me"

From the start of the year, as the girls are assigned to different classes, the BFFAE (Best Friends Forever and Ever) quartet breaks up.

Such is life.

Jo ends up in the same class as the girl who has been her best friend since Primary 1, Emilyn. They seem to have a shared destiny.

Emma heads to a different class, and a fourth ups and leaves for home in Korea.

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* Lu and Jo sending Keunmin off at the airport

Keunmin, sassy and bold, made life very interesting for Jo. She was also the one who dragged Jo and Emilyn into putting up a performance at the school Talent Showcase last year, with her on vocals and the other two beating out a rhythm with cups.

It’s the Cup Song, see, something which old fogeys may not be too familiar with. 

"When I'm gone, when I'm gone, you're gonna miss me when I'm gone"... Strange but the lyrics are strangely prophetic, Keunmin had no idea she would be leaving when they performed this.

If I asked Jo to perform – and I have on multiple occasions – she would always say no, the impression is that she would rather be dragged through the coals of hell than embarrass herself this way. But when Keunmin asked, its “Oh OK”.

I’d better put this up because I think it’s the first and last time Jo is ever going to perform in the talent show.

Friday, February 24, 2017

music pics

Photos taken during two recent music concerts.

They’re not so rare now.

More people are taking more photos these days to post on social media. For me, it’s nice, to have a visual record of fun times.

CONCERT 1
Photos by Max Xu

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Music

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Photos by concert conductor, Gerard (quite a few musicians are very good photographers)

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* Stand partner Luke, and Joelle

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* Going through the scores before the concert and making sure that the pages flip correctly. Luke spreading his gym-toned wings

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

fce

Day’s new favourite subject: FCE.

That’s Food and Consumer Education, or what used to be known as Home Economics.

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(he finds all the new academic subjects like Geography, History and Literature a pain, a pain which was made more acute when he got his results from his first series of tests)

Unlike back in the day when girls did Home Ec and boys did Technical, boys and girls now do both. Day will rotate to doing Design and Technology in the second half of the year.

Clad in his school kit of blue apron and hair net ("we take hygiene very seriously in school, Mama, unlike you, you don't even wear a hair net"), he gets to work with one partner and cook in the school kitchen every few weeks.

The dishes – so far it’s been chicken macaroni soup, chicken kebab, mee goreng, rock buns with raisins – are eaten up at recess and after school. He quite enjoys his own cooking, more so than I did back in secondary school when I shrank from any fire and getting my hands “dirty” and so produced inedible crap.

I tried to start him early (did the same for the girls but those two seem to have no interest) and he has been getting better at this cooking gig, at home too, where I think he feels cooking is one area which he does better than his sisters in, and through which he can see he is making a huge difference when we lap up his food.

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I am effusive in my appreciation on the occasion when my head throbs and I desperately need a nap, or when I have to struggle to cook in a rush in-between ferrying this or that child, or on weekends when I really don’t want to cook, and he completely takes over the kitchen. He chops, slices and dices, and cooks, but doesn't wash up.

His repertoire isn’t large and is largely confined to stir-frying, which he can do because he is completely unafraid of oil splatters and fire. His food also tends to be tastier than mine. He is very liberal with his use of salt and sauces, in particular, because he hates how I make everything so bland.

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* Fried kway teow following a recipe which he got online from (of all people) Gordon Ramsay

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* Pancakes. He added baking soda to the flour/egg/milk batter so its more thick and fluffy like Mac's hotcakes rather than my prata ones

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* Same technique as kway teow but with beehoon

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* This, he cooked because it was what I planned, but which he didn't like because he doesn't like mushrooms and he thinks the salmon should have sauce

Unlike Jo, who seems to love what I cook, he also doesn’t think very much of my food; which I suppose is another motivation for him, to cook something nice which he himself would like to eat.

Monday, February 20, 2017

day's visitor

For the first time, Day’s friend comes over for a sleepover.

Day has gone over to other people’s houses to sleep, many times, but this is the first time someone has come.

This would be Day’s new bestie – I say new because I think Day is someone who is close to whoever happens to be near him at that moment in time. 

K was Day’s soccer buddy. While they used to walk home after school together, they weren’t particularly close.

This year, they’ve ended up in the same class - two boys with a shared primary school history amongst a bunch of strangers - and because K stays a stone’s throw away both take the same bus to school. They see each other first thing in the morning, through school, every day. I noticed that Day keeps patting K's hair, because its springy.

The sleepover outing: The boys came home after school, headed out to rock-climbing together (they took a bus), came back home, K decided to stay over as they were busy shooting people onscreen (I managed to find a new toothbrush for him and laid a mat for him on the ground), Day cooked pancakes for breakfast the next morning, they made their way to K’s house, then they went cycling at the beach.

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* Day and K. Cooking pancakes was the most hospitable thing Day did, because not once did he offer his friend water or food or even a chair. So teaching him to be hospitable is something I realize we have to work on now..

It’s all terribly exciting for the rest of us. Lu peers at K sleeping in the morning like he’s some exotic animal: “There’s a strange BOY sleeping in our house!”

And in a household where we are very liberal when it comes to privacy, we really had to watch our behavior. Like change our clothes behind a locked door.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

horror

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* This photo is posed. The rest are not

Horror is something relatively new to the family.

Well in book form, it isn’t. But in movie and TV form, it is.

There are plenty of horrific films in the media centre which we can watch on our weekend movie nights, but we haven’t managed to see a single one.

A few months ago, when I played The Babadook, an Aussie indie-ish film about a scary kid’s book and how the creature in it comes to life, I could literally see the chills creeping up the girls’ spines as the mother onscreen read aloud the story book and that was in the first few minutes of the film.

The cushions they clutched against their chests got higher and higher until all I could see was their little eyes. Then they ran out of the room and begged me to change a movie. The creature hadn’t even come to life.

Twilight Zone, the original black-and-white TV series from the 60s about the paranormal, has been more palatable (it's also brilliant and very thought-provoking, especially for Day who declares its one of the best things he's watched). Although a couple of episodes, like the one about a woman who kept seeing a mysterious twin everywhere, did give Lu nightmares.

These days, KK has latched on to a Japanese TV series featuring so-called real-life scary stories. They are terrific entertainment, for those watching (them) and those watching the watchers (me).

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* Lu somewhere on Jo's right, even her feet have disappeared behind the orange cushion

Typically, what happens is:

KK laughs and laughs at all the scary parts. He finds it hilarious. He is always talking, preparing the kids, like: OK you all better get ready, the feller is going to sleep and something’s going to happen. He is also always the one to predict the story arc, like “Oh the thing is in her house!”

Day, on the occasion he joins in (when I’ve taken away his devices) is quiet and serious. But he also clutches a cushion and doesn’t want to sleep alone after.

Jo and Lu are screamers, runners, and cushion-clutchers. They have leapt up and raced into my room, screaming at the top of their lungs, because a wraith with long black hair emerged from a squatting toilet. So on and so forth. Between the two, Lu is the more sensitive, while Jo’s reaction is more of wide-eyed amazement, with a smile. She enjoys the thrill.

I watch the watchers because I cannot make it. These days, I can’t take horror. At all. So while they watch I’m at work on my computer. Or if I’m outside, I fold my laundry facing the back wall of the living room, and if something scary is about to happen I clap my hands over my ears and hum.

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* Horror show expressions. Day and Jo are standing so they can make a quick getaway if need be

Thursday, February 16, 2017

stats

The strange spike isn’t one-off.

I don’t care much for the blog stats but of late I’ve been wondering.

This was last month’s page view stats.

Stats

And in the last week, there was a sudden and extreme spike on one day. Just one. I'm sure the small ripples are my usual crowd, but who's causing the spike?

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Particular posts which have been gathering views like a rolling stone continue to gather views, like the weevil post (which is really a nothing sort of post) has got over 4,000 views and its still going up.

It’s like a bunch of folk from some other part of the world are clicking on the blog once a week, on the same old posts, for God knows what purpose.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

terrarium

We’ve become such slobs at weekend-planning, waking up late, lying around waiting for everyone to get hungry, going out for lunch, coming back for a nap and then griping about the bother of having to eat dinner.

Choon packs his weekends with planned activities for himself and Phoebe. If something is cancelled, he actively seeks to fill up the gap with something else, just as long as the time isn't wasted.

The other day he signs up for a workshop in a quiet corner of Aljunied at a block of flats, in a space where people are encouraged to come and make their own stuff, to make a terrarium, which is a garden in a jar. He asks if we want to join in. Of course, I grab the opportunity to do something interesting.

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* The space, called Make Your Own

I go with the girls and it’s it a diplomatic kerfuffle. The big mistake I made was in foolishly thinking that they could work together to make one terrarium. Jo was the big aggressor, Lu was the small state and I was the United Nations.

Actually, everything, from the putting in of the soil to transplanting the plants, was fine.

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* Looking at the small state, there's some hint of things to come

Until it came to the actual landscaping - and picking out of cute little structures to dot the terrarium and "tell the story" - when the two clashed in ideas.

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Lu desperately wanted a slope. Jo felt it was ridiculous. She wanted an exact horizontal.

Lu wanted to put a tiny dinosaur on the bridge. Jo felt it was completely unrealistic to have a dinosaur which would spoil the entire thing.

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* The rubber dinosaur Lu brought from home which could not be used

Lu really wanted to put a lying-down horse in the scene. Jo felt it was utterly stupid.

Lu wanted to get a tiny ship. Jo felt that there's no way a ship would be floating on a small pond outside a house.

In the end, Jo did all the landscaping.

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* The UN, battle-scarred and fatigued, putting on a smile for the rest of the world

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* The blue lake was messed up on the way home and I re-did it, to Jo's horror: "Mama it's too big! The other side of the bridge is in the lake and it doesn't make sense at all! I don't want this anymore, it's not mine."

The young couple next to us couldn’t help inadvertently snorting at the tiny war and my useless mediation efforts to give voice to Lu, who stood morosely by the side clutching her horse. At one point, the girlfriend turned to me and whispered sympathetically, “My sister was exactly like that to me,” (she meant Jo), “very OCD and controlling.”

Finally, I bought a small DIY terrarium kit for Lu to make at home, where she realized her dream.

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* That brown horse on a hill of moss, the Totoro lying on its back on a lily pad, the ship, all of which Jo says are "very stupid"

Of course, when people work together in harmony, it's all good.

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* Choon and Phoebe's nautical terrarium and copper lamp

Sunday, February 12, 2017

going out things

The girls ask me, why do you want to take a photo of us?

(These days I get asked this question all the time. Isn’t it enough that I want to remember what you look like now?)

I said, because the two of you chose very different things to carry out with you. And I find that interesting. Can?

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* BB and book, brolly and shades

Friday, February 10, 2017

gong gong is 80

Well as Gong Gong is exactly the same as Por Por when it comes to parties, there’s little fanfare when he turns 80.

We have him a birthday lunch at a nice restaurant, and even then Por Por tells me to keep quiet. “Don’t say it’s for his birthday,” she warns.

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* Chinese timsum lunch at Lan Ting Cuisine

At least we celebrate. Every year, as far as I have noticed since I was born, his birthday passes and no one notices, so having a meal and a cake is really something special. He doesn't even really know when his birthday is because he comes from a time when births weren't properly recorded. Just that it's around this time.

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* 1 candle = 10 years

He even gets birthday presents, courtesy of Choon and Phoebe: A balancing board and a raincoat.

Recently, completely forgetting that he’s 80 with a lump in his lung, he cycled out in the rain to buy groceries from the wet market and fell sick promptly after. The raincoat will help a lot.

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* Birthday boy

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* Lulu the photobomber with her favourite cutesy face

When it’s time for him to make his birthday wish, he’s all smiles: “I have three wishes but I’m not going to say what they are.”

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* Making his wishes

Por Por, having had her wish fulfilled at Choon's birthday (he IS getting married in March, before he turns 40 in April!), shouts out, “I know, it’s for Teng to get married!” Gong Gong laughs very loudly, “How did you know?”

Teng screws up his face like he smelt something very bad. 

Unlike when Por Por made her wish for Choon, I don’t have a very good feeling for this one.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

healthy cooking oil

My cooking oil just finished, time to get a new one.

At the supermarket, I send Choon a text – what oil should I get?

I use olive oil for the Western stuff which doesn’t require high heat, but for the Chinese stuff, I’ve been meaning to get a healthy cooking oil for ages, but there’s so much literature and misconception I get confused.

Last time, I just picked up the Knife brand one because it was right in front of my face. I used to just pick whatever I felt like, including vegetable oils which I thought were healthy. Veggies, right?

This time, the dietitian happily responds in super-quick time:

Sunflower, peanut, rice bran oil is good. Read the label. Make sure there isn’t refined palm oil. Don’t buy vegetable oil. Or NTUC premium oil.

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* Sounds good but the RBD Palm Olein is a red flag

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* Avoid because of the Refined Palm Olein

I pick up the rice bran. I take a picture of the ingredients, which say: 100% rice bran oil.

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Choon: Yup OK. Rice bran has natural cholesterol lowering effects.

OK. You know this means?

I’ll probably end up buying rice bran oil for the rest of my life. I don’t need to know why it works or why it’s good. I just want someone I trust with no hidden agenda to tell me its good and I’m a lifelong fan.

(I try it out: It looks light in colour and feels clean. Does it add any flavor to the food? Probably not. But taste is not my criteria for cooking oil.)

Monday, February 06, 2017

braces

From this…

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To this.

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For him, braces have always been a consideration. The boy has been chomping at the bit for braces, particularly since last year, I think he dislikes the way his teeth look. But the dentist advised him to fix it after his PSLE.

Good thing, because it hurts. (The pain might have affected his results AHAHAHAHA)

Simply put, the wire is progressively tightened over months, years, until his teeth give up and stay put in nice new positions. Eating was a pain in week 1, biting down was agony, and I thought he looked even more sylph-like than usual due to weight loss.

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* Higgledy-piggledy teeth and a tiny moustache!

Is it really necessary?

I guess, not really. I actually have no issues with his teeth and it defines his cutesy smile. But he does, KK too. KK, who has no dental alignment issues apart from a gap between his two front teeth, recounts wistfully: “You’re so lucky. I needed braces when I was young but Nene was too poor.”

Day's procedure costs over $4k. (so I fully understand when the dentist's wife tells me that dentistry is one of the most over-subscribed and hard-to-get-in options at the university now. Who doesn't want to be a well-paid medical professional with sane working hours and little risk of killing a patient?)

Happily, Day doesn’t have to pull out any teeth, because he’s just got a big mouth with a jut-out jaw, resulting in his teeth growing out at a 45 degree angle in some portions. Dentist says ideally he would require plastic surgery to fix his jaw.

Nah, we won’t go there. So the doctor will try to do what he can with just the braces.

In the meantime, to friends who say he looks ugly now, he says he's a caterpillar which is on its way to becoming a handsome butterfly. May he have teeth which were as straight as his original milk set.

One last look at the God-given alignment which will never exist henceforth:

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* Quite cute, wat

Saturday, February 04, 2017

higher chinese

Last year, Jo was recommended to take up Higher Chinese.

Day wasn’t recommended to take it, so I never had cause to think about it. I don't think Lu would be recommended either, so this would be one-off, only for Jo!

I've said this before. Jo, unlike her siblings, clicks with Chinese. For all the talk about the home environment and families (like ours) not speaking Mandarin at home, some people are just genetically programmed to have a slightly easier time of it.

Memorizing characters, remembering them and understanding the flow of the language comes naturally to her. She still never has to study for ting xie.

These days, when I’m not sure of a word which Lu is struggling with, I consult Jo on how the word is written, and the stroke order. (she’s good at stroke orders and generally makes it a point to get them right, Lu doesn't give a hoot and draws the characters anyold-how)

Oral and composition is an entirely different matter, Jo never finds these easy, even in English. But essentially, she gets Chinese at the building block level quite easily.

We turned down the chance. She will not be taking up Higher Chinese.

Very simply put, because Jo has issues with time management, she is still learning how to get things done in a reasonable amount of time, and an extra couple of hours a week of Higher Chinese class plus the associated stress (they need to go for separate classes because it’s a different examination paper altogether) is going to put more load on her over-burdened shoulders.

As it is, she doesn’t have much time to faff around with her siblings or think about her actions (very important for her). And I don’t want to turn her life, at age 10, into one big serious grind by opting for things which will give her a competitive academic edge, but which rob her of her sleep and good humour and other life pleasures.

We may live to regret this. 

Or rather, I, who rob my competitive daughter of this competitive edge, may live to regret this.

Like at the end of 2018, if she lacks a point or two to get into a SAP secondary school of her choice (Higher Chinese will give her a bonus point or two depending on her performance), or in 2022, if she bemoans having to do Chinese in junior college (doing well in Higher Chinese up till O level would exempt the kid from this), she will look at me and say: It's your fault.

But there it is. It’s important to me that today, she has time in the day to enjoy her meals, get enough sleep and fool around a bit. She can spend the rest of the time stressing about her remaining subjects and trying to do well at all costs.

As it is, she asked that I send her for Chinese tuition for basic Chinese. She deems that unless she goes, her grades will fall. She evaluated several options and I dutifully sent her to her teacher of choice, back to the same Dragon Lady who once told me "这个不须要补习" (This one - meaning Jo - doesn't need tuition).

Thursday, February 02, 2017