Sunday, 30 January 2011

I'm watching ...

I am no idol chaser, for the age range that I am in. But I've been watching this Taiwanese idol drama serial from Monday to Friday, 10 - 11pm on Channel U.

I am enticed by it because of the idealistic world it portrays. The struggles of a poor but pretty and exceptionally kind and pure girl who eventually made it in life with a rich and handsome heir cum top-notch lawyer. You don't find it in real life, so you sought after it in fantasy, which materialises in the form of a drama serial. It's about the real meaning of love, cheesy as it sounds ie. the selflessness, the giving up, the non-possessiveness in the name of love. All too often in life, we covet in the name of love. It's refreshing that someone remembers that love is never intended to be that way.

The lines sound cheesy at some points, but I guess I could do with cheesy lines once in a long while. And I feel that we could do with some pure-sounding lines that you don't hear in real life.

The love story between the girl and the boy, after the birth of their child which is unknown to the boy, makes me tear.

I adore the little boy 小乐(starred by 小小彬) in the show. His cute and innocent face is an exact replica of his father's childhood impression.
There's a mistake on the left caption. It should be:
Left: the son 小小彬 Right: the father 小彬彬

Baby's hairstyle is similar to his and for some reason, we thought she looks like him, except for the eyes! At one point, I asked Baby,"Who's that? (pointing to the boy on the screen)" and she replied,"Yan Yan. (her own name)"

I honestly like to watch shows featuring single mothers, because I am able to identify and empathise with the kind of struggles they go through, financially and emotionally. I often wonder how I would cope with single motherhood when/if it happens again, even though by then I would be more financially able and emotionally mature.

No girls would want to be single mothers if they could help it. If the guy is not so useless, or simply a bummer, who would want to raise a child all by herself, face her future with uncertainties, live from hand to mouth on a day-by-day basis and possibly spend her old age in loneliness? It's amazing some people actually think that there are girls who WANT to be single mothers. Put yourself in the shoes of the girls, man! Social stigma, demeaning looks and unkind sneers aside, when all is quiet in the night, what comes to their mind? Probably how to face this child when he or she grows up, what to tell him or her about the father when he or she starts to ask, how to comfort the child when he or she is laughed at for not having a father in school, how best to protect and provide for the child ...

I never forget the many nights I spent weeping, quietly, be it because of loneliness, sense of helplessness or for the many fears I had.

You know, it's easy to say that single mothers should not just grab the first man that comes along. But very often, single mothers would be very grateful that a man is nice to them. When you are in tight financial situation, you would appreciate a helping hand to lift you up from the dumps. It's hard not to settle for the second best. The only factor that can stop you from doing that is probably young age, provided you become a single mother young. Even so, single mothers often worry that the next man might not come along if they missed the current one. I don't pretend to speak for all single mothers, but at least those were part of my worries.

I don't mean to, but somehow, my post often ends up being melancholic.

I chanced upon the image of the little boy's biological mother
Ironically, she and the boy's father had divorced when he was three, and the boy is in the father's custody.

I'll end this post with the essence of the drama serial:

因为爱 离开深爱着的人   
In the name of love, you depart from whom you deeply love

因为爱 终身守候不被爱的爱
In the name of love, you use a lifetime to safeguard the love that didn't come round to you
因为爱 选择退让与祝福   
In the name of love, you choose to withdraw and offer your blessings

因为爱 保护着不为人知的秘密  
In the name of love, you safeguard the secret so dear
因为爱 决定做永远的守护者   
In the name of love, you decided to be an eternal protector

因为爱 挺身而出   
In the name of love, you brave all odds

因为爱 愿意等待
In the name of love, you waited willingly

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Great News

I'm delighted despite having a 2h 45 min staff meeting today - my new Boss just declared that we do not have to go back to work during the March hols!

I am especially thrilled because I was lamenting how my option of going anywhere during that little one-week break was crushed because Coco has appointments for her spiro test (for lungs) and asthma clinic on Thursday and Friday respectively. The school had scheduled Monday to be a meeting day, and if that really happens, I would have hateful 2-day intervals throughout ie. Saturday and Sunday free, Tuesday and Wednesday free, then Saturday and Sunday free again. It's impossible to go anywhere with that kinda interval.

I am hoping to take a little break to somewhere, if it really comes true at all. I am toying with Sunway Lagoon + Port Dickson + Penang, Hong Kong and Thailand.

Money is some object though. I've been spending loads and am lusting after an expensive lens. I am not sure where the money should go really. If I buy the lens, I probably won't go anywhere.

Hmm ... who says money can't buy happiness? To a large extent, I do feel that money can buy happiness.

I just realised that there was an unread message in my facebook, and my single-mother colleague had sent me and a few other colleagues her blog address. I read it and in it were struggles with life, largely associated with money.

If not for money, I wouldn't be able to steal a trip down in my sister's car to Geylang Lorong 9 in the evening just to eat my favourite beef kway teow.

If not for money, I wouldn't be able to eat the $6-a-plate kway teow and feel at peace with myself, after satisfying my tastebud.

I've blogged about the kway teow, but never attached a picture, so here it is. Doesn't it look juicy and oh-so-good?

The essence of the kway teow lies in the tender and succulent beef. Imagine a beef-hater turn into beef-lover at the first bite. That's how powerful it was.

But admittedly, the portion has shrunk, compared to when I had it when I was in primary school. I remember the portion as being generous and more than enough. I loved the kway teow so much I wanted to devour it all, but couldn't due to the limited storage space, but now I lick it up within a few mouthfuls. Okay, I am exaggerating. But I don't feel it is enough after I finish it in one fell swooop nowadays. I even tah-poa it home. Fortunately, the filial daughter spirit suddenly came upon me and I remembered I had a starving father who used to love the beef kway teow at home, and I asked my sister to bring it home for him. If not, I would have put on another one or two kilo by the virtue of the kway teow.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Coco went camping

Coco has gone camping with her school these two days.

She will be back tomorrow.

I actually feel very relieved that she's not around. Sounds like a lousy mother huh. But that's really how I feel.

For two days, I do not have to hound her to do her homework, do my work, eat, eat faster, bathe, use her asthma medication, practise piano, practise till she's fluent at it, eat again, eat faster again, threaten to take away the meal if she does not finish it, pack her bag, get her uniform ready, sleep, close her eyes, stop reading, keep quiet, sleep properly ...

I hate to nag.

I am sure there are people who love to nag. I highly suspect William enjoys nagging. He can repeat something over and over again till you feel tired listening to him. But I don't.

But I do wonder how she is coping at the camp. Is she using her asthma medication regularly? Is she able to sleep well? Does she get enough sleep? Does she eat?

When your kid is at a camp, no news from the teacher is good news. I will see her again tomorrow. And the hounding will restart.

Sunday, 23 January 2011


I've posted the video on A-Mei's Hostage before. It was how I first felt being held hostage in the marriage.

Uncannily, the lyrics:


Pull the trigger - hard - at my heart
All shall return to nought with the blast

came to my mind again this morning when I thought about the state of our marriage.

What gives the melancholy?

He had asked me not to go meet a friend. I thought about why I would want to, and it went back to my nil trust in him.

I searched through my drawers for Baby's bracelet - her only gift for her baby shower, from my elder sister. And I couldn't find it.

I thought about my bangles he gave to me during our 过大礼, a Chinese bethrothal ceremony. They are still in the pawn shop.

I am sure he has pawned Baby's bracelet.
He is sure I've taken it and kept in a place I forgot about.

He demanded that I go look for the bracelet and stop falsely accusing him.

It was at 5.30am this morning.

The happily married, the happily-in-a-relationship, the singles and even the divorced readers probably think I am nuts, masochistic or it's just a case of serve-you-right to stay in this marriage, persistently, despite all the obvious unhappiness, even pains.

Just like in the song, the girl finds herself unable to break away from the relationship for a simple reason that she still finds gentleness in the relationship, which is the only solace.

Even though I struggle, or perhaps 'struggled', with his dishonesty and his obsession with monetary possession for his other fetish, I stay because:
  • he pays for just about every meal we have, including the ones at Swensen's, Bottletree, Crystal Jade, Yum Cha etc.
  • he teaches Coco Maths and Science
  • he loves and takes care of Baby
  • he was the one who looked after Baby in her infant stage, even though my mother was looking after me for the confinement month. He worked in the day, and stayed awake throughout the night to attend to Baby because she wouldn't be put to bed. She slept in his arms. The moment he put her down, she cried.
  • he wakes up at 5am every morning to prepare Coco for school

Except for point 3, the rest are superficial and are dispensable, you say.

Yes, I agree. But these are the reasons I have to stay.

On the other hand, as would all sane women with normal relationship needs, I don't feel happy in the marriage. At best, it is a legally-binding relationship, with kids and a flat in the picture.

At worst, it is a cohabitation of two strangers, with no connection whatsoever except for the above points in 'at best' scenario.

During courtship days, he was the best kind of boyfriend a woman could ask for. He didn't have a car (neither does he now), he didn't have alot of money, but he was considerate, gentle, sensitive, caring, understanding and listening. He looked and sounded like a prudent man and a strict but loving father to his own children. He sounded like he was a traditional man, like my father, to his future family.

I wouldn't have married him otherwise.

Of course, like most courtship stories that end in marriage, it's a different story after you marry.

My going-to-meet the friend is not vengeance. I am way past the age of seeking vengeance. I just want to keep myself sane and perhaps normal (albeit in a way that's not-me) in this marriage. I just want to enjoy a relationship that's free from the stifling legal obligations. I am not sure if I am happy doing just that, but I have led a life of zombie for so long. I am also a human being, a woman with normal needs of being genuinely loved and appreciated (by that I don't mean sexually).

A relationship without trust. How I can be in such a relationship for so many years baffles me even. Perhaps like what someone said of herself, I have compartmentalised my affection and love according to the invisible rules and regulations of this marriage. When it comes to my kids, no reservation of love and affection. When it comes to him, it's not 'love', but 'maintenance of a legal form of cohabitation'.

It sounds warped, but it's not. I have read about so many unhappy marriages I suspect I am not alone.

No, I am not 'too lazy' to file for divorce. In fact, my marriage cert is still with the lawyer. I have paid $800 as the first payment to him. If I don't finalise it, it'll be forfeited.

I believe that one of these days, I will.

I am waiting for that day. When? You ask.

When the hopelessness reaches the bottom-pit. When a divorce does not feel that painful anymore. I am not like those people who can cut the long pain short. When I have a band-aid that requires tearing off, I tear it off very very slowly, to minimise the pain. Yes, I know I now have 'age' to think about. But to a woman who has been through hell twice, she definitely will not want to visit it ever again. So it doesn't matter how old I am when I am finally divorced.

When I first posted the song eons ago, there was only a few lines I identified with. Now, the whole song seems to be a complete, and apt, description of my marriage:


我和你啊存在一种危险关系 You and I coexist in a precarious relationship

彼此挟持这另一部份的自己 Both hold hostage a certain portion of each other

本以为这完整了爱的定义 I thought by doing this, the meaning of love is completed

那就乖乖的守护着你 And I will stay by your side, faithfully

相爱变成猜忌怀疑的烂游戏 When love becomes a rotten game of suspicions

规则是要憋着呼吸越靠越近 The rule is to inch near each other with our breath held

但你的温柔是我唯一沉溺 But the only reason for me to stay is your gentleness

你是爱我的就不怕有缝隙 If you truly love me, there wouldn't be any gap between us

在我心上用力的开一枪 Pull the trigger - hard - at my heart

让一切归零在这声巨响 All shall return to nought with the blast

如果爱是说什么都不能放 If love is meant to be held on regardless the reasons

I will not struggle. In any case, I have never

人质在这一刻得到释放 The hostage is exonerated - at the pull of the trigger

相爱的纯粹落得如此下场 Such is the end of love - tragic

Are you happy now? Let's kid ourselves not

Monday, 17 January 2011

I am Proud to be a Chinese Mother

I heard about this infamous article from a single colleague and chanced upon it on a blog that I read:

Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it's like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I've done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:
• attend a sleepover

• have a playdate

• be in a school play

• complain about not being in a school play

• watch TV or play computer games

• choose their own extracurricular activities

• get any grade less than an A

• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

• play any instrument other than the piano or violin

• not play the piano or violin.

The author and her daughters

I'm using the term "Chinese mother" loosely. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West, who are not Chinese mothers, by choice or otherwise. I'm also using the term "Western parents" loosely. Western parents come in all varieties.

All the same, even when Western parents think they're being strict, they usually don't come close to being Chinese mothers. For example, my Western friends who consider themselves strict make their children practice their instruments 30 minutes every day. An hour at most. For a Chinese mother, the first hour is the easy part. It's hours two and three that get tough.

Despite our squeamishness about cultural stereotypes, there are tons of studies out there showing marked and quantifiable differences between Chinese and Westerners when it comes to parenting. In one study of 50 Western American mothers and 48 Chinese immigrant mothers, almost 70% of the Western mothers said either that "stressing academic success is not good for children" or that "parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun." By contrast, roughly 0% of the Chinese mothers felt the same way. Instead, the vast majority of the Chinese mothers said that they believe their children can be "the best" students, that "academic achievement reflects successful parenting," and that if children did not excel at school then there was "a problem" and parents "were not doing their job." Other studies indicate that compared to Western parents, Chinese parents spend approximately 10 times as long every day drilling academic activities with their children. By contrast, Western kids are more likely to participate in sports teams.

What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something—whether it's math, piano, pitching or ballet—he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.

Chinese parents can get away with things that Western parents can't. Once when I was young—maybe more than once—when I was extremely disrespectful to my mother, my father angrily called me "garbage" in our native Hokkien dialect. It worked really well. I felt terrible and deeply ashamed of what I had done. But it didn't damage my self-esteem or anything like that. I knew exactly how highly he thought of me. I didn't actually think I was worthless or feel like a piece of garbage.

As an adult, I once did the same thing to Sophia, calling her garbage in English when she acted extremely disrespectfully toward me. When I mentioned that I had done this at a dinner party, I was immediately ostracized. One guest named Marcy got so upset she broke down in tears and had to leave early. My friend Susan, the host, tried to rehabilitate me with the remaining guests.

The fact is that Chinese parents can do things that would seem unimaginable—even legally actionable—to Westerners. Chinese mothers can say to their daughters, "Hey fatty—lose some weight." By contrast, Western parents have to tiptoe around the issue, talking in terms of "health" and never ever mentioning the f-word, and their kids still end up in therapy for eating disorders and negative self-image. (I also once heard a Western father toast his adult daughter by calling her "beautiful and incredibly competent." She later told me that made her feel like garbage.)

Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best. Chinese parents can say, "You're lazy. All your classmates are getting ahead of you." By contrast, Western parents have to struggle with their own conflicted feelings about achievement, and try to persuade themselves that they're not disappointed about how their kids turned out.

I've thought long and hard about how Chinese parents can get away with what they do. I think there are three big differences between the Chinese and Western parental mind-sets.
First, I've noticed that Western parents are extremely anxious about their children's self-esteem. They worry about how their children will feel if they fail at something, and they constantly try to reassure their children about how good they are notwithstanding a mediocre performance on a test or at a recital. In other words, Western parents are concerned about their children's psyches. Chinese parents aren't. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently.

For example, if a child comes home with an A-minus on a test, a Western parent will most likely praise the child. The Chinese mother will gasp in horror and ask what went wrong. If the child comes home with a B on the test, some Western parents will still praise the child. Other Western parents will sit their child down and express disapproval, but they will be careful not to make their child feel inadequate or insecure, and they will not call their child "stupid," "worthless" or "a disgrace." Privately, the Western parents may worry that their child does not test well or have aptitude in the subject or that there is something wrong with the curriculum and possibly the whole school. If the child's grades do not improve, they may eventually schedule a meeting with the school principal to challenge the way the subject is being taught or to call into question the teacher's credentials.

If a Chinese child gets a B—which would never happen—there would first be a screaming, hair-tearing explosion. The devastated Chinese mother would then get dozens, maybe hundreds of practice tests and work through them with her child for as long as it takes to get the grade up to an A.

Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them. If their child doesn't get them, the Chinese parent assumes it's because the child didn't work hard enough. That's why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child. The Chinese parent believes that their child will be strong enough to take the shaming and to improve from it. (And when Chinese kids do excel, there is plenty of ego-inflating parental praise lavished in the privacy of the home.)

Second, Chinese parents believe that their kids owe them everything. The reason for this is a little unclear, but it's probably a combination of Confucian filial piety and the fact that the parents have sacrificed and done so much for their children. (And it's true that Chinese mothers get in the trenches, putting in long grueling hours personally tutoring, training, interrogating and spying on their kids.) Anyway, the understanding is that Chinese children must spend their lives repaying their parents by obeying them and making them proud.

By contrast, I don't think most Westerners have the same view of children being permanently indebted to their parents. My husband, Jed, actually has the opposite view. "Children don't choose their parents," he once said to me. "They don't even choose to be born. It's parents who foist life on their kids, so it's the parents' responsibility to provide for them. Kids don't owe their parents anything. Their duty will be to their own kids." This strikes me as a terrible deal for the Western parent.

Third, Chinese parents believe that they know what is best for their children and therefore override all of their children's own desires and preferences. That's why Chinese daughters can't have boyfriends in high school and why Chinese kids can't go to sleepaway camp. It's also why no Chinese kid would ever dare say to their mother, "I got a part in the school play! I'm Villager Number Six. I'll have to stay after school for rehearsal every day from 3:00 to 7:00, and I'll also need a ride on weekends." God help any Chinese kid who tried that one.
Don't get me wrong: It's not that Chinese parents don't care about their children. Just the opposite. They would give up anything for their children. It's just an entirely different parenting model.

Here's a story in favor of coercion, Chinese-style. Lulu was about 7, still playing two instruments, and working on a piano piece called "The Little White Donkey" by the French composer Jacques Ibert. The piece is really cute—you can just imagine a little donkey ambling along a country road with its master—but it's also incredibly difficult for young players because the two hands have to keep schizophrenically different rhythms.

Lulu couldn't do it. We worked on it nonstop for a week, drilling each of her hands separately, over and over. But whenever we tried putting the hands together, one always morphed into the other, and everything fell apart. Finally, the day before her lesson, Lulu announced in exasperation that she was giving up and stomped off.

"Get back to the piano now," I ordered.

"You can't make me."

"Oh yes, I can."

Back at the piano, Lulu made me pay. She punched, thrashed and kicked. She grabbed the music score and tore it to shreds. I taped the score back together and encased it in a plastic shield so that it could never be destroyed again. Then I hauled Lulu's dollhouse to the car and told her I'd donate it to the Salvation Army piece by piece if she didn't have "The Little White Donkey" perfect by the next day. When Lulu said, "I thought you were going to the Salvation Army, why are you still here?" I threatened her with no lunch, no dinner, no Christmas or Hanukkah presents, no birthday parties for two, three, four years. When she still kept playing it wrong, I told her she was purposely working herself into a frenzy because she was secretly afraid she couldn't do it. I told her to stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic.

Jed took me aside. He told me to stop insulting Lulu—which I wasn't even doing, I was just motivating her—and that he didn't think threatening Lulu was helpful. Also, he said, maybe Lulu really just couldn't do the technique—perhaps she didn't have the coordination yet—had I considered that possibility?

"You just don't believe in her," I accused.

"That's ridiculous," Jed said scornfully. "Of course I do."

"Sophia could play the piece when she was this age."

"But Lulu and Sophia are different people," Jed pointed out.

"Oh no, not this," I said, rolling my eyes. "Everyone is special in their special own way," I mimicked sarcastically. "Even losers are special in their own special way. Well don't worry, you don't have to lift a finger. I'm willing to put in as long as it takes, and I'm happy to be the one hated. And you can be the one they adore because you make them pancakes and take them to Yankees games."

I rolled up my sleeves and went back to Lulu. I used every weapon and tactic I could think of. We worked right through dinner into the night, and I wouldn't let Lulu get up, not for water, not even to go to the bathroom. The house became a war zone, and I lost my voice yelling, but still there seemed to be only negative progress, and even I began to have doubts.

Then, out of the blue, Lulu did it. Her hands suddenly came together—her right and left hands each doing their own imperturbable thing—just like that.

Lulu realized it the same time I did. I held my breath. She tried it tentatively again. Then she played it more confidently and faster, and still the rhythm held. A moment later, she was beaming.

"Mommy, look—it's easy!" After that, she wanted to play the piece over and over and wouldn't leave the piano. That night, she came to sleep in my bed, and we snuggled and hugged, cracking each other up. When she performed "The Little White Donkey" at a recital a few weeks later, parents came up to me and said, "What a perfect piece for Lulu—it's so spunky and so her."

Even Jed gave me credit for that one. Western parents worry a lot about their children's self-esteem. But as a parent, one of the worst things you can do for your child's self-esteem is to let them give up. On the flip side, there's nothing better for building confidence than learning you can do something you thought you couldn't.

There are all these new books out there portraying Asian mothers as scheming, callous, overdriven people indifferent to their kids' true interests. For their part, many Chinese secretly believe that they care more about their children and are willing to sacrifice much more for them than Westerners, who seem perfectly content to let their children turn out badly. I think it's a misunderstanding on both sides. All decent parents want to do what's best for their children. The Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that.

Western parents try to respect their children's individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they're capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.

Contrary to the controversies it has given rise to, I don't feel insulted. I did for a moment wonder if it was a satire poking fun at Chinese mothers. But I realised that I identify with the author's unforgiving parenting style almost all the time. I find the inner me agreeing almost whole-heartedly about how a child ought to be raised. The intent and implications beneath our treatment of our children cannot be better worded - one of the worst things you can do for your child's self-esteem is to let them give up, to protect their children is ... preparing them for the future, letting them see what they're capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.

All too often, I feel guilty or am made to feel guilty about my treatment of Coco. Friends and sisters chastise me for being too harsh/too hard/too lenient/too soft on her. Now that I blog about it, I do feel like the father and son who listened to the 'advice' of the onlookers on how they should handle their donkey and eventually lost their donkey to the river they cross over. No matter what or how I do it, I am criticised for the way I raise Coco.

So many have told me,"If she doesn't like it, don't force her." as if that's what a mother should do - to give in to the child's whims at her slightest whine. And I must say I have, under pressure, given in and allowed her to give up a few things the moment she cites difficulty ie. gymastics and ballet. I really shouldn't have, but I was torn - between being a kind and motherly figure and being a strict and disciplining figure. The article is a scorn at my letting-go of the two activities at Coco's pleas.

The only thing I wouldn't let go is her academics. I did everything I could to get her into the school I deem the best for her. I envisioned with my elder sister how she would have to support Coco together with me in our old age when she took Coco out for play instead of making her stay home to study. To maximise the possibility of Coco getting an A* for her best subject, I send her to an enrichment centre renowned for producing students scoring above 260. Unfortunately, it is too expensive for me to enrol her for all three English-medium subjects. The rule of cutting your coat according to your cloth still applies.

I want her to do well in Chinese, even if I first exposed her properly to the language when she was 7. I am sending her to a Chinese enrichment course for Creative Writing to up her chance at getting a high A or even an A* at PSLE next year. I am speaking to her a lot more awfully in Chinese to immerse her in the language. I have always wanted to ground her in English, the supposedly more challenging language for Chinese, first, before I get her to master Chinese.

I want her to be musically trained, at least in piano. She need not be a high-achiever in the field of music though. After all, her own mother is a music score illiterate. But I expect her to do her grading exams well enough not to look shabby on paper. I am very tempted to make her give up piano simply because her aptitude does not seem to lie in piano. She is lacklustre in practising. I am just short of dragging her by the collar to the piano to get her to practise her pieces. I constantly threaten to stop her music lessons if she does not get to take at least Grade Two exam this year. The only thing that makes me press on is what a friend once said to me,"If only my mother was strict to me ... I would be a Grade 8 piano player by now ... (sigh)" I tell myself that I don't want Coco to say the same thing about me 8 or 9 years down the road.

All this while, I am prepping Coco for her own future, her own life. Coco is not mine to own. Eventually, she has to lead her own life. What I have been doing so far is endeavouring to equip her with skills and hopefully correct mindset so that she is able to feed herself - not just adequately, but comfortably - when the time comes.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Things are Starting to Look Up

Our new First Boss has been receiving good reviews from her staff.

First, she axed the annual Open House event.

A senior colleague had commented last year that we did not need an Open House as an Open House is meant to attract top pupils. For the kind of profile of students that we attract, we do not need an Open House at all. And she was right. Some Heads up there apparently had proposed to have an Open House to allow potential students to visit the premise and to 'attract' potential students just before the Pri One registration exercise.

I am so glad that someone finally saw the light and put a stop to the rubbish.

For a one-day event, we had to make a lot of preparations leading up to the day itself.

For instance, the year I had to prepare some 'student ambassadors' for that day to welcome visitors and to show visitors around the school, I had to ask colleagues teaching a certain level to volunteer a few students from each class. After that, I had to meet up with these students for a few rounds of briefing and practices. I had to prepare their scripts for them as they were too young to know what to say to visitors - adults and children. I had to plan the route for a visit for them so that they knew where to start from and where to end. I had to train them repeatedly as they were only children, although they were 11 or 12 years old.

Such 'rehearsals' took up a lot of time after school, and it was stressful as the institute I was trained in did not provide training for such a role. I had to figure it out all by myself.

Sadly, the appraisal has been conducted in such a way that we are counted for roles like that, how much you do outside the classroom, rather than how well you teach or the result you produce. Apparently, some idiots have decided that all teachers teach in the same manner and produce the same outcome and so the only way to differentiate the abilities of teachers is through such means - doing things unrelated to teaching.

After knowing that the Open House has been axed, the morale amongst us went up quite a bit.

Then the next thing I heard, she wanted the prize-giving ceremony to be simple. The ceremony had been planned since last year before school closed that it was going to be a great fanfare. A 'musical-themed' ceremony they said. I have to train up 6 kids to act on stage to complement the ceremony. Needless to say, it gave me alot of stress as well since I have never been drama-trained. I even have stage-fright! I don't know what made them think I would do a good job at it. I even had a hard time shortlisting the kids as given the kind of children we have been attracting, the ones who get the prizes are already the cream of the crop and they are at best average in better schools, I was left with very few choices since I was not supposed to involve any of the prize-winners in the drama.

So naturally, I was very grateful, and many others were happy, to hear the good news that the First Boss did not want any performance this time round.

But some idiot apparently suggested to keep the original plan, since much effort have been put into it, and use it for the next prize-giving ceremony at the end of this year.

Sigh! Sometimes, you can't help but marvel at the brainlessness of these people.

But we are starting to like our First Boss. Unlike our previous Boss, she talks to the kids regularly, on stage. In fact, she has talked to them at least 3 times already within one week. Our previous Boss hardly talked to the kids. Most of the time, he talked to them once on the first day of school, the last day before the June holidays, the first day of school after the June holidays and the official last day of school.

We feel that this new Boss is oh-so-traditional in a very good way. She believes that the academics must go first as many doors are closed if you don't even possess the academic qualifications - which coincides with my belief! She is in the process of streamlining the processes to make sure that the academics take the priority. And I love that!

Perhaps the next thing she should do is to cut down on the number of workshops and training that we are made to go. Within 7 working days, we are asked to attend 4 workshops - after school. And I have not talked about the meetings which are done on separate days.

Dreamt of her again

I dreamt of my English Boss sending me an sms.

I can't recall the exact message, but it was something about her not being able to be in school that day and getting me to do something, as usual.

In the dream, I was half-relieved and half-suspicious about the sms. I wondered if the sms was really sent by her. If it was, it would be great because it would mean she was well. If it wasn't, her husband was probably the one who sent the sms, but he did not have to do that.

It was a short dream nonetheless.

Today is the day she will be discharged from the rehabilitation centre and returned to her mother's place to be taken care of as no further treatment will be provided from the hospital. I heard from colleagues that her baby will be taken care of by her mother-in-law so that it will not overload her mother. I hope she gets to see her baby very frequently. Mothers have this belief that our own babies can spur us to do well, in whatever situation we may be in. I hope that a miracle can happen as she sees her baby by and by, because it will take a miracle for her to be recovered quickly.

Monday, 10 January 2011

A Sunday Afternoon Tea

I love Yum Cha, so much so that I ordered its dim sum on Baby's birthday.

I missed its Mango Prawn, so off we went today!

With a spread of at least 10 dishes and a few repetitions, we ate to our hearts' content
My love - mango with prawn in crusted exterior
Our company:
My sister

My brother and his girlfriend

We are happy!

About A (Silly) Boy

I feel sad for the silly boy, Xavier, who got a 'T' (for 'termination') for each of his examinable subjects at 'O' levels for uploading an exam cover page on Tweeter.

The picture of him looks innocent enough for a 16-year-old.

I thought that the punishment is really too harsh for a youth who obviously was playing a prank - on the authorities no less.

He has completed his exams. By giving him a 'T' for all his subjects, he will have to resit for his 'O' levels, and waste a year of his precious youth - over a silly thing.

All he did was to bring in a mobile phone and took a picture of the COVER PAGE. It's a cover page for goodness' sake! He did not even leak the questions. The point of it all was to prove that he was daring. I understand that there is a need to send a 'strong signal' to deter future potential pranksters to mess with education matter, but to penalise a 16-year-old so heavily for no harm done, I thought it too severe. It would be a stigma for him in future, whichever he chooses to pursue his education. As if that's not enough, his photograph is enlarged on The New Paper to make sure readers can identify him on the street.

I feel sorry for the boy. At his age, it is easy to think you're a cut above the rest because you are able to rake in $6, 000 in 3 weeks, and being able to drive at an age where most of his peers can't. Hell, $6, 000 a month for an adult is a lot of money too!

I wonder who makes the final decision to allow the boy to get 'T' for his results. Does the person have a 16-year-old son to understand how it is like to have his own child's future stalled and potentially ruined, depending on what he makes of the saga, all because he was being naive, silly and ignorant? True, he was informed that he was not allowed to bring a mobile phone into the examination hall, but was the consequence ever conveyed to him, or the students?

I 'studied' my 'O' levels with a class of what teachers would deem 'pranksters'. I put quotation marks for the word 'studied' because the class did not study at all, or most of the time. We partied in class instead. A teacher told us that she was informed by other teachers that we were a class that played practical jokes on teachers. It's true that some girls put superglue on the teacher's chair but that was it. Once. And we were condemned as 'a class that plays practical jokes on teachers'. I know that we ought to have grown up at sixteen, but if we had been a notch or two cleverer than we actually were, would we have arrived at that school after our PSLE? My classmates were very playful - true. But that was about it. We were not thinking of doing something criminal. Likewise for Xavier. He was just being boastful and was trying to show that he was above his peers in the 'daring' department.

His prank did not cause harm to anyone. He should have been given a warning, and closely watched and monitored by the authorities for a year or two to humble his pride, and be let off, instead of being penalised so harshly, that potentially has a great impact on his young life.

I remember having an ex-classmate who made headlines on the Chinese evening tabloids many years ago. He set fire to my alma mater together with 2 of his friends. Isn't that worse? I can't remember what happened to him eventually but he had left school by then.

I know that the boy should not have tempted fate, but he was just being silly and ignorant. Above all, no tangible harm was done. He definitely should be dealt with, but penalising him with 'O' level results is too severe.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

The real reason for hating her job

I was out at Sakae Sushi with a friend and my kids.

We were sitting at a booth seat where we were back to back with other patrons.

Baby was standing on the seat. Suddenly, my friend gasped in shock and looked horrified! I was shocked to see her expression and asked what had happened.

She said,"Your baby touched that guy in blue!"

I was 'huh ...? ... So what? Very shocking meh?'

But I didn't verbalise how I felt, and continued to have my meal.

The patrons went away, and another set of patrons sat behind us.

After some time, my friend expressed displeasure,"Your child is looking at them (the patrons behind us)."

I said,"Oh, yeah."

She was quite upset that I didn't do anything about that, and sought to educate me,"If I were that person, I would scold your child."

I expressed puzzlement,"Why?"

She continued,"Because it's not right to stare at others. I would scold your child and then tell you off if I were her."

I replied, not without some incredulity,"Up till now, no one has been so nasty. She has always been doing that and people are fine with children looking at them."

She mellowed a bit,"It's okay if it's someone who has children or likes children, but if you meet someone who does not like children, she will scold your child."

I was like 'okay, if you say so.'

I am quite surprised that my friend is so easily irritated by a two-year-old. I am starting to understand why teaching to her is so painful, despite not having to do as many miscellaneous stuff as me. She has always complained to me about how hateful and nasty and horrible the children under her charge are although her school's intake has always been better than mine. I suspect that she does not even realise that she hates children.

I always thought that only a handful of self-centred men does not like children and that all women love, or at least 'like', children, since maternal instinct is natural in women. But that day, I witnessed how much dislike a woman can have for kids.

It was not the first time she told me what I should do to 'educate' my kids. All along, I had dismissed it as her good intention and that she probably did see the picture better as an outsider and wanted to help me be a better, and more considerate mother. Each time we talk about kids, she would criticise my parenting method, and how and what I should do for each situation.

But that day, I realised that it is always easy to say how parenting should be done when you don't have a child yourself. It is always easy to criticise how other parents are being inconsistent and not disciplining their children when you are totally single. It is even easier to say how you would treat your child ie. slap your child to discipline her when a child of your own is merely a figment of your imagination.

I know, because I had been there.

I'd always imagined how disciplined and consistent a parent I would be when I had a child. When I really had one, I realised that it was almost impossible to be consistent as a parent all your life. Perhaps there are parents like that, but I am not one.

I was shocked to see my friend frantically pressing the 'close' button in the lift to prevent others from entering the lift. I was even more shocked when she was visibly irritated as we got out of the lift. There were some people in the same lift and they inevitably blocked the path of my stroller out despite us saying 'excuse me'. My friend said,"These idiots are the reason why I don't like to share lifts with others. They block your way."

I had to differ,"But it's a public area. Of course someone will block your way."

I definitely do not want Coco and Baby to pick up such ungracious etiquettes.

Up till now, you would think that I hate my friend. I don't. I appreciate her showing her real side to me. All along, she had always been quite reserved in her opinion and not wanted to say much the moment she saw me not agreeing with what she said. I feel that she was treating me as a friend that she was showing her 'inconsiderate' and 'ugly' side that day, although I did experience quite a few episodes of culture shock. Despite living in Singapore all my life, I am still not quite Singaporean at heart.

That said, I will try not to bring my kids out with her the next time we meet.

Dreamt about her Recovery

I woke up from a dream about my English Boss.

In my dream, I visited her with two other colleagues. When we reached the rehabilitation centre, her bed was empty. We were referred to the physiotherapy room where she was lying on a bed after doing some exercises. Even in the dream, I was full of hope that we could see her supporting herself on the walking bars and trying very hard to walk, while approaching the physiotherapy room.

When I saw her, I had my daughters with me. I showed her my baby and told her how delightful the baby was, and touched her hand with Baby's.

Then she spoke!

And it was exactly how she had spoken before she was down with stroke.

I was very surprised and thrilled that she was speaking, but apparently, she did not want to let everybody know she could speak already.

Then I woke up to find that it was just a dream.

And I was sad.

Although she is remembered in my prayer and I am sure she will recover for the strength of character and determination she possessed, it's difficult not to wonder how long it will take for her to make a significant recovery. Every step that she takes is so tiny and tedious.

A Mainlander colleague was telling me that her aged father had a stroke similar to my English Boss - a blood vessel burst in the brain. Like her, he could not recognise anyone or speak at all when it first happened.

But after 2 to 3 months of treatment at a hospital in China, her father was able to speak, albeit not fluent anymore, and walk by himself before he was discharged. The recovery only became very slow after he was taken home as there was no further treatment.

She felt that the medical knowledge and skills of Singapore doctors were not as advanced as China's and that made a difference to her father's and my English Boss' situations. She said that she had never heard of stroke patients in similar state after an operation in China. To give me a better picture of the medical scene in China, she went on to tell me that trainee doctors are strictly not allowed to perform an operation. Even certified doctors cannot operate on patients unless they have been understudying old and experienced doctors for at least 8 years. She was shocked to know that trainee doctors in Singapore were allowed to operate on patients. Furthermore, doctors in China have more experience operating on patients because of the sheer size of population.

If what she said is true, then it's either the government has been doing a great job at propaganding or we have all been had and are paying premium for a figment of our imagination.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Meaningless Meetings

It's only the second day of school, and I feel a little tired. It's as if it's just another day from last year.

Yesterday was the only day I knocked off early. I got home at about 3pm.

Today's meeting ended at 4.15pm.
Tomorrow's after-school workshop will end at 4pm.
Friday's meeting will take up another 2 hours.

It's amazing how many meetings teachers have to attend. Just for now, we have many Speech Day meetings, lesson plans meeting, committee meeting.

It's also amazing how the endless meetings make one tired, when you are just shifting from one place to another for different meetings.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

A Paint Job on New Year's Day

We have always wanted to change the colour of the TV wall ever since Mark Lee ordered it to be painted dark brown during the Home Survivor episode more than four years ago.

However, I for one knew that a paint job was not as easy as it seemed. I had done it before for my parents' place and I swore to myself never to do a DIY paint job ever again. My siblings and parents did up the place on our own, even the cornice, more than 10 years ago. I still remember sorely how the cornice plaster stung my palms all over.

Recently, William asked if I wanted to change the colour of the wall. At first, I was reluctant as he was one who sat on the job and would leave it half done, like our gate. He painted it half-way, and left it there for days. My father saw it unfinished and he completed it on William's behalf to spare us the embarrassing sight of a half-done gate.

Then on New Year's morning, I asked William if he really wanted to paint it over. Once he said yes, I pestered him to go buy the paint. I decided on a light beige colour coded 'Lace' by Nippon eventually.

I was amazed by how technology had advanced, even for a paint-mixing machine. I'd wished I had brought my camera along. The guy at Home Fix Store keyed in 'Lace' on his computer and some coloured paints dripped into a tin of white paint. After that, he transferred the pail of paint into an oven-lookalike. The machine then shook the pail of paint up and down vigorously for about 10 seconds. And viola! The paint became 'Lace'!

The 'Before' pic - dark wall resulting in a dark living room
Baby tried playing with the roller

"What's that camera click I heard?"

"I always smile for the camera!"

First coat of white paint to cover the dark wall
Second coat of white paint
The painting of 'Lace'
Done with the TV wall
We decided to paint the balcony walls as well

The actual colour of 'Lace'. William changed the warm cove lights to white fluorescent, and reduced 4 lights to 1. Now it's not so glaring anymore.
We also decided to paint over the flower wall to see the effect of having another wall being beige

We took 1.5 days to do the painting. It was not as difficult as I had thought it would be (phew!). Perhaps the paint's superior quality did help.

Now the living room gets brightened up by the lighter shade of colour in the day. We love it!

A Bag and A Woman

Each year, I would take Coco to Orchard Road to soak in the Christmas atmosphere and took pictures with the Christmas decorations, especially a huge Christmas tree at Takashimaya.

This year, I was late for Christmas at Orchard. When I went there with the kids a few hours ago, the lights were switched off. I was shocked as I had last year's pictures taken on 3rd January. I had assumed that they would not remove the Christmas lightings so soon. But I guess Chinese New Year is coming early this year, so they had to remove the old and put up the new early as well.

I was disappointed - until I walked into Gucci Paragon, and met my new love ie. a classic Gucci tote!

I did not have the intention to buy a bag last night. I just wanted to window shop and see if there were any 'nice bags' for future reference (read: save up to buy).

Sigh! The bag had to give me new hope in life, after the sore disappointment of not being able to take Christmas lightings pictures with the kids. So I had to buy it, at Takashimaya because it went out of stock at Paragon.

I would title the pics below "Two things that make a woman happy":

her beloved daughter
and her bag

An unexpected, incidental buy makes it all the more a delight!

In case I get senile and can't remember the price, or in case anyone is interested, it made me $830 poorer, but happier.

Giving Thanks

In 3.5 hours' time, I'll be preparing Coco for school, and after that, myself for work.

But I can't get to sleep.

Earlier on, Coco told me that she could not get to sleep. I told her this: Lie down there, close your eyes and don't move, and you'll fall asleep.

She told me she couldn't do it.

I tried the darn method myself, and I couldn't get to sleep!

There are too many things on my mind.

I was thinking about how blessed a life I am living.

I had to talk to the One above about it, that I am thankful for:

1) the life that I am leading. Countless on the face of this earth would give an arm or a leg for a life like mine

2) the job that I am doing. I even get to buy branded bags for the pay I am receiving. Many would not earn enough to even survive, much less think about a branded bag.

3) the health I am enjoying. I may not be the strongest, but am one of the healthiest persons on the face of this earth, to date. Apart from childhood asthma which is soooo negligible for now, I do not have any ailment, not even backache or whatever ache, that causes me to be troubled over.

4) the blessedness of my life. I have two healthy parents, many siblings, two beautiful and clever daughters. I remember reading a chain email about how lucky a tiny minority you are if you have two living parents because too many people don't have.

5) being able to live in one of the best countries in this world. Singapore is one of the safest place to dwell in in today's world. Chinese being the predominant race in the country. I can't ask for more, really.

I just had to thank Him for all the blessings that I am receiving, despite not faithful in spending time with Him and reading the Word. I thought of the suffering little children on this earth. I thought of my stroke-stricken English Boss who can't see her little baby through his childhood. I thought to myself how fortunate I am to enjoy so much of life when I don't deserve.

Despite all my grouses and grumbles about life, about my marriage, about my job, I am really grateful for all that He has done in my life. If you know me in reality, you will know that I am a really unlucky person. The one-in-a-millionth unlucky thing would happen to me. But despite my unluckiness, I really feel that God has blessed me in so many ways, it's amazing!

Indeed, despite all my grouses, and petty complaints, and whining, I am really thankful for the divine blessings He has showered on me.

Thank you, God.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Baby's Speaking

Baby is experiencing a growth spurt in her speech.

Many have commented that she is a quiet baby ie. the doctor, the babysitter, the church's nursery caregiver.

However, we have made a conscious effort to speak to her more often.

Recently, she is beginning to string words into sentences eg. ‘弟弟(little brother) 咬 (bit) Yan Yan leg.' As she speaks, she would point to her cheek to indicate that Yan Yan is herself, and point to her calf to show 'leg'. So cute!

I have also been trying to potty-train her this holiday. I remove her diaper when she is at home with me and take her to the potty every hour. I soon realise that she relieves herself many times more within an hour. She often wets her shorts and pants and would say 'she she' after she passes urine. I would tell her, every time as I wipe up her leaks, that it is too late already and that she should have said it before she passes it out.

Today, she said this,"I want she she!"

I took her to the potty and there she went!

Subsequently, she did it a second time!

I am impressed.

I put on a diaper for her when she naps or sleeps at night since she would be too young to control her bladder while sleeping.

A wonderful baby she is!