Sunday, July 30, 2017

more growing

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He asks me to buy him four tea eggs. Four. He eats three at one shot and leaves the fourth for later. He enquires: “Is it OK for me to eat four eggs? Is there a problem with high cholesterol?” I tell him he’s young, he can eat the sky and the earth.

Our three, none of them have particularly large appetites. I’ve never had stories to share of a child who walloped two large servings of anything.

But Day’s appetite has suddenly swelled. More than at any other point in his life, he is eating discernibly more. He finishes his own adult portion and polishes off Jo and Lu’s remains (that used to be my job).

And he’s turned somewhat carnivorous. He relishes meat. There never has been much meat in the house, top on my mind is always the issue of vegetable and how to make sure there is some edible (hopefully yummy) vegetable on the table, but wow he really loves his meat now.

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KK’s steaks are a bigger hit than ever, along with the winning sauce combination (garlic, onion, mushrooms, beef stock, very sinful cream, butter, loads of black pepper).

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The potatoes and peas are consumed in deference to Mum’s insistence on “balanced meals”.

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Oh and the other day he found his first pimple, to his great chagrin. 

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Rubbing his forehead, still dry and fuzzy as a peach, Day scrutinized himself in the mirror and groaned: Is that a PIMPLE? KK promptly went to squeeze it.

Oh and oh, he took a shaver and mowed off the wispy hairs on his upper lip, with some guidance from KK. He was most pleased.

So many life firsts.

Friday, July 28, 2017

jo on my bike

After months, maybe a year or two of talking about getting new bikes for the girls because they've outgrown theirs, Jo suddenly sits astride the bar of my bike, hops onto the seat, and off she goes. She can't touch the ground but she's fine.

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Well! That’s two out of three who can use adult-sized bikes now!

Yet another reminder of how their speed of growth bypasses good intentions which we are too slow to act on. Want to do this, want to do that, before we know it they've grown beyond. 

I should forget about getting a bike for Lu and just wait for her legs to grow sufficiently long.

Still on change, there's a new spot at the beach which is rather nice. A jetty-ish type thing which, unlike the other jetties which are essentially roads with lamp-posts and railings extending into the sea, this one has plant boxes and feels like an esplanade. 

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

sewing

I do it a lot more often than I want to.

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 (I also realize to my horror that I'm repeating myself! I've just discovered that I wrote the exact same post, wearing exactly the same headgear and specs, here! I'm forgetting things!)

Monday, July 24, 2017

myopic sisters

Oh, my dear littlest one. You don’t have my eyeballs either.

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* Girls trying to be twins

Lu mentioned in passing that sometimes she couldn’t read the words on the board in school, and had to copy off her friend. She sits in the second row in class.

Then after the school health check, the nurse ascertained and told her: Can you tell your Mummy that you need specs?

Lu was non-plussed and grinned. Her only concern was, “Am I going to look weird with specs?”

I sent the family a Whatsapp: “Boohoohoo! Lu needs specs!”

Jo was delighted beyond measure. "Lulu is getting specs at the same time as I did!"

I brought Lu to the optometrist. 50 on the right, 75 on the left. She picked out a pair of frames which Jo thought was very ugly indeed. She wanted something black, but not round.

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Jo herself spotted a pair of frames she liked, and therefore begged for another eye test. If the degree has gone up she can get new frames. It had, but by about 25 degrees on one side only. I was loath to change, her current specs really cost me a bomb.

“I’m straining already, Mama, even my teacher tells me she can tell that I’m straining. I NEED a new pair of specs! Fine, you want my eyesight to deteriorate, OK lor.”

Finally, I said, “OK you can change the lenses but we must use the same frame.”

Silence.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

online booking fiasco

With one wrong click of a mouse, Por Por loses $171.

See, she meant to book a hotel room in Hong Kong in November. She went through the hotel booking portal Agoda. Somehow, she clicked the wrong date, sometime in July.

The day she was to have stayed in the hotel went and passed. She discovered later that she was charged the full $171 for one night’s stay. She sends the family a Whatsapp: "I made a terrible mistake on my hotel booking".

Why did she make the mistake? She really cannot recall. Didn't she get any reminder e-mails? She's not sure, perhaps she didn't check or it didn't come into her Inbox for some reason. 

Can she get a full refund? No, says the hotel and Agoda.

Can she get a partial refund? No, says the hotel and Agoda.

And the hotel apparently wasn’t very nice either because Por Por, who never gets angry over anything, said, “I don’t mind the money. But I just don’t like the way I was treated.”

Agoda at least gives her a US$20 voucher. To use in her next booking.

It doesn’t quite take the sting out of things. Por Por resigns herself to making some noise online (Trip Advisor posting etc) and leaves it at that.

I’m not sure if there is any other recourse, especially if her booking was non-refundable. While it's completely unfair for her to lose $171 like that, there's also the issue of hotels and how they cannot possibly be acceding to every request to cancel last-minute or refund.

Anyway, it’s the kind of mistake a careless person like me could very easily make. The problem with everything being at our fingertips these days is that all the middlemen who could check before aren’t there.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

portfolio plus

By now I’ve realized that these award things (and other things regarded as “important" like certs) do matter. Two kids may be equally good, but packaging matters.

She could have made a clay butterfly at home, we’ll ooh and ah, I may blog about it, and it stops there. Lulu's butterflies:

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She makes clay butterflies in school, school submits it together with all the rest of the clay butterflies made by her friends as an entry for the Singapore Youth Festival, it wins an award.

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* "Butterflies in Paradise", the title of the work

“This will be important for her portfolio,” says the art teacher. “You must keep the programme which shows that this team project won a SYF award.”

Okay. I’m really glad the school is helping her to win prizes, and that she has at least one noteworthy item in her portfolio. I guess she wouldn't have much to show if she were just having fun at home.

Aside from that, I really enjoyed the SYF presentation at *Scape, a space for youths in town. All the kids from the Visual Arts Club, with some parent volunteers (like me), go on a little excursion there after school.

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It’s amazing what the kids churn out. The hall where the artworks are exhibited is a burst of colour and the inspiration behind the art is a lot less pretentious than adult art. I pore over and enjoy every piece.

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* Made of straws

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* One of my favourites because of its colours and textures

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* I spend a long time poring over the boy's booklet detailing every step of his artwork

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

day’s message

A typical Whatsapp from Day to tell me what he’s doing after school:

Out with friend no lunch low battery call keshiro

(Translation: I’m going out with my friend, so I won’t be eating lunch at home. My phone is low on battery, call Keshiro if you need to)

Sunday, July 16, 2017

desk purge

Jo really doesn’t do things by halves.

Just as she lopped off her hair, she decided to purge her desk.

It’s like she is going through some Marie Kondo phase, to de-clutter and rid her life of excess hair and junk.

I’ve been trying to get her to clean her desk and the area around it for months, maybe since last year. I start every holiday by asking the kids to wade through and weed out. Jo never does.

But suddenly, again to my great surprise, she took it upon herself one weekend to do so.

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It wasn’t an effort of an hour or two or even several, it took the entire weekend.

And it was a complete clean purge, surgical and unsentimental in the extent to which she methodically cut off and discarded all the things piled on her desk and on the floor.

Bear in mind that up until the purge, she tended to be a hoarder. She had kept all her school notes, from the early Primary’s, on a “just-in-case” basis. This time she threw it all out, even the notes from just last year.

In an uncharacteristic move, she merrily trotted things out from her room, happily giving them away to Lu and Eva who was visiting. It was like an auction: "Who wants this?" and the two younger girls would jump up and down for it. There were things which had never been touched, little souvenir elephants I gave her, stationary which had been gifted to her for good performance, stale food which she never opened but kept from months back (OK these were thrown and not given away).

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* Things she threw out but which I am keeping. The cute little white puff, the elephants I bought her, a Children's Day present from the piano teacher of Hello Kitty in bed
* EDIT: She read this, and said "I WANT the white puff! I gave it to you to clean!"

There were photos, Polaroids of her and her friends, little half-completed diaries. She took down all her class photos from her board. She even wanted to junk her Japan travel diary which contained loads of things she had written and postcards. “If I’d finished writing the whole thing I’d like it and keep it,” said Jo, who had only documented half the trip. “But I didn’t so I don’t want it.”

Then there were all the brand-new books, in which she had tried to start personal diaries. “This is such a nice book, but I don’t want such disgusting stuff inside.”

For the first time, I found myself imploring my child to keep, not throw or give away!

While I regularly throw things out, my weakness is sentiment. I asked if I could keep some of her stuff. And I think that as long as it’s not on her radar, she doesn’t care what I do with her “disgusting stuff”. Her lack of sentiment scares me, but I think it is truly admirable.

The good thing is, three years after we created the space for them, Jo is finally using the desk not as a storage platform, but as it was meant to be used: To study and do her homework.

In her clean, minimalist, de-cluttered space, she is at peace. And I think she is finally of age to be able to clear up every time she finishes, and keep the space clean.

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* Nothing was "shifted" to be stored somewhere else. Everything was thrown out. I guess what's left are the things which, in the words of Ms Kondo, "spark joy" for her!

(Lu is still using hers as a storage platform)

Friday, July 14, 2017

snip

See something different?

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It was the result of a long, well-considered and arduous decision.

For weeks, Jo had entertained the notion of cutting her hair.

It came out of the blue. Since her haircut in Primary 2, she never wanted her hair to go above her shoulder blades, and had notions of it reaching her waist.

Why did she suddenly want to cut her hair?

It had to do how she decided that taming her ponytail in the morning was too much work, with little to show for. First, she combs, combs and combs before gathering her hair back in a super-tight tail to ensure that there are no “balls” popping up on her scalp (anyone familiar with tying ponytails will know that hair will inevitably pop up in slightly looser places). Second, it is a great source of irritation to her when the ends of the ponytail don’t go in one direction. She curls, curls and curls, to no avail.

(her morning hair ritual can take 15-20 minutes)

There are many steps she takes before conclusively arriving at the eventual decision.

Simulation. She gathers up the ends of her hair and arranges a kind of bob, scrutinizing herself in the mirror to see if it’s acceptable. She does this not just once, but multiple times over weeks.

Feedback. She sends a message to the class group chat: Should I cut my hair? A boy replies: You should go bald.

Last-minute changes. A couple of times, I am on the brink of bringing her to the hairdresser when she says – No, no, no, I changed my mind. Of course I relent. This decision is firmly in her court, because I don’t want to be scolded if the cut is not ideal.

The day arrives. I walk with her to the hairdresser. 

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* One last look

She very specifically details to the lady exactly how short it should be, and that she does not want a short fringe.

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* Lady presents the ponytail. I could theoretically clone Jo in future with the DNA in that hair

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Result: She is quite happy.

But because the hair “springs” up a bit, it is shorter than she’d like. After her shower, she also realizes to her great dismay that her hair, in a bob, does not automatically curl inwards. She still spends about 15-20 minutes every morning trying to curl in the ends with her brush.

The good part is that aside from the irritating "ticks", she doesn't really care what other people think about her new hair, unlike in Primary 2. She likes not having to waste time tying the perfect ponytail. And KK, the man who hates long hair, is absolutely thrilled. He whoops - like how he’d whoop when Man U scores a goal - when he returns home to see his daughter’s new bob.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

big family

For Choon's wedding, the relatives turn up in droves, including the whole bunch from Malaysia who would normally have no good reason to step into a country where the exchange rate is so unfavourable.

It was a big family reunion of sorts. Between Gong Gong and his four siblings they produced over 20 children who had their own children, so on and so forth.

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* Gong Gong's family: #5, #3, #2 and Gong Gong who is #4. The father of my nine Malaysian cousins, #1, has passed away

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* Everybody's here for Choon!

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* My niece, Li Wen's, baby. I tell the girls that the baby's mummy is their generational peer. That is, if Gong Gong had married earlier they'd be having babies by now. They gape

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* Gong Gong and Ah Thim, saying something which must have been very funny

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* Some of our Malaysian relatives with Phoebe's relatives

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As Choon said in his wedding speech, a big family is a blessing and something to treasure.

For I don’t think there will be many big family photos like these once my parents pass on. Families are so small and contained these days. It’ll probably just be me, Choon and Teng and our offspring. Tiny.

Monday, July 10, 2017

choon & phoebe’s big day

When: Saturday, 8 July 2017

This - the gatecrash, the tea-ceremony and the hotel lunch - concludes Choon and Phoebe's matrimonial journey, which has enlivened our lives thoroughly in the past year. It was full-on, not an event(s) to be gotten over with to please the parents, but really, cause for celebration every stage of the way.

Here's the timeline of the big day. I hardly took photos, too busy, but of the few photos I took I decided to use the time stamp feature. The one which tells you exactly what time the photo was taken!

7:02am
KK and I wake up at 6am and make our way over to my folks. The two of us are part of the groom's party. KK's the driver, I'm the calefare. Here I help Teng to put on suspenders. He is a best man virgin. He's never done it, and he's certainly never worn suspenders in his life so he doesn't quite know how.
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7:28am
Arrival at Phoebe's home where the boys are greeted by the bride's ladies in waiting, for an early round of fun and games in the quiet back alley, as the neighbours rise from slumber and poke their heads out to check out what's going on. 
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7:30am
The trio of best men: Mario (Choon's friend from primary school), Sean (Choon's tenant in Darwin, who flew back for his wedding) and Teng. Phoebe has a network of very close girl friends to play bridesmaids, but for Choon, at the grand old age of 40, and having lived in Australia for over a decade, he was hard-pressed to find people who would be willing to go through the trial of Chinese wedding fun and games. Fortunately he managed to get these three. (Teng was very unwilling but no choice)
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7:32am
The games revolve around the idea of 酸甜苦辣 (sour, sweet, bitter, spicy). Sour starts the day as the boys manouver lemon slices from their foreheads to their mouths without hands. Something like that.
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7:38am
Sweet. They dangle bananas from the waist with raffia string and get another best man to remove the skin with teeth only.
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7:39am
Sporting chaps. KK stands with me at the side and silently gives thanks that he was the designated driver. Although the camera crew note that the fun and games are really quite tame, perhaps because "the couple and their friends are more mature".
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7:40am
Teng: "Ha? Is this never going to end?" Bitter is a drink, and spicy is chilli instant noodles, which they all slurp up with great enthusiasm because hungry...
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8:25am
After Choon and the gang make it through and upstairs, the bride comes down. Phoebe's dad holds a red umbrella over her (auspicious symbol I think) as they get into the bridal car, her Merc, to travel to the site of the morning photo shoot.
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8:53am
Somewhere around Gardens by the Bay East.
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8:55am
Phoebe and her gang of "sisters", beautifully clad in dresses custom-made and ordered online.
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8:58am
KK admiring the Malaysia-based photography and videography team's drone. "I want a drone," he murmured, to my great consternation. 
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8:59am
Choon's party. Comprising Sean, KK, me, Mario, Teng
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9:17am
Group shot against the Singapore skyline.
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10:19am
Upon return home to my folks, everyone in the house yells for Day. "What? What??" he responds. "Get on the bed and jump on it," orders the cameraman and videographer, who are poised with fingers to snap. "Ha? What? Jump?" Yes, everyone says in chorus. So he's the only "little boy" around who can do this. He gamely complies, jumping, lying on the bed, rolling everywhere. Its somewhat fitting as this was the room he used to hang out in as a baby, and he used to jump in exactly the same spot, next to the window, on a single bed (it's been converted into the master bedroom for Choon and Phoebe). Footage of his doing so makes it into the wedding video, its that important a tradition as its supposed to bless the couple with fertility.
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10:20am
Day has to punch his fist to break a barrier of red paper placed over the opening of a potty, which once broken reveals a packet of sweets which Day is supposed to take. Meaning of the ritual? I don't know.
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12:00pm
Or thereabouts (no idea of time because I took no photos) was the tea ceremony at the hotel during which I was completely swamped collecting red packets and scrambling to help Choon and Phoebe pack more for a surprisingly large number of kids.

1:04pm
At the reception waiting for guests to arrive. Again, no photos of anything because I was too busy saying hello. This photo was fortuitously taken because David (the guy in the centre), who moves musical instruments for a living and who worked closely with Por Por during her youth orchestra days, insisted on a photo with us. Thank God he did. Por Por custom-made that cheongsam she is wearing, while my dress was gifted to me by Pris who has a sense of style which dwarfs mine. 
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1:22pm
Guests waiting for the lunch to start at the St Regis ballroom. Why St Regis? Por Por suggested it way back in December right after Choon made his proposal - she did the homework and got the information - because she thinks the food there is good. They gamely went along with the hotel and all of its luxe pricing.
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1:33pm
First march-in, him in checks, she in white. Not bad, the lunch didn't start too late.
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1:56pm
Phoebe walks in to the ballroom solo, singing a Cantonese song as she starts tearing, to join her bevy of bridesmaids on stage. While she walks in, choking on the lyrics of the song as she is overtaken by emotion, Choon whispers to me, "I think I better go to her." Ya lah, then? You should cry too! (He didn't...)
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2:46pm
Blue for the second march-in.
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2:54pm
The couple make their Bombshell announcement during their speech, to cheers and applause: They're expecting a little girl in December! KIDS WILL HAVE ANOTHER LITTLE GIRL COUSIN! Day didn't even have to jump on the bed at 10:29am!
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3:00pm
Pa takes to the stage with great gusto, charisma and a whole lot of cheer. He's so thrilled that his eldest son is finally married, and that he'll have another grandchild. He speaks in Chinese (I meant to transcribe but its too cheem) before presenting Choon and Phoebe with the English song, "Only You" at the 2:20 mark. He didn't want to sing but we (Por Por and me) made him.


5:00pm
After all the hands are shaken and goodbyes are said, Day, Lu and I head up to the bridal suite with my folks (KK had to bring Jo to the NDP preview which she is attending with her school mates). It’s all hands on deck as we form a conveyor line to open red packets and count money, as Choon and Phoebe catch up on their meal (I’ve never met a couple who managed to eat properly during their own wedding). What’s the rush? The couple (very efficient) want to bank in the money that very evening.
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5:30pm 
Day and Lu who were acting terribly fatigued after the long lunch, weren't involved at first but after it becomes clear that counting money can be a tiresome task, they perk up when they get to join in the conveyor belt. Lu to open packets and check that they're empty, Day to count and categorise the notes. They are thrilled to touch all the dollar notes. Finally, Maths makes sense.
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