Sunday, 31 July 2016

Bye, Carbimazole!

 
Yesterday saw my last dosage of Carbimazole.

It was a 2.5mg pill. Twice a week for four weeks. As it comes in 5mg per pill, I had to cut every pill into half for the 2.5mg prescription. That's why the chopper and the cutting board.

I can finally stop asking "我吃药了没有?" ("Have I taken my medicine?") and feel like a 神经病. You would know what I mean if you had watched Hong Kong movies screened on television in the 80s and 90s. 

I started taking this medicine since March last year, which makes the duration of medication one year and four months. Although hyperthyroidism is not something that is life-threatening like cancer or as troubling as diabetes, high blood pressure, rheumatism or even hypothyroidism, you will understand how liberated I feel if you have been on long-term medication for a specific condition or disease and loathe the need to remember the days you have to take it :)

And the best thing of all, I don't have to get pricked for doing routine blood tests anymore, at least not in the next three to six months before I go for my review! 

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Cats & Mittens

A couple of cats have been loitering at our corridor these few days. The cats would make eye contact with us when we looked at them like they were asking us to take them in. I don't mind dogs but I am not a big fan of cats. There's something sinister about their eyes. Their claws are not something I would mess with. And I think their mewing sound sounds hauntingly and eerily like babies' cries.

William googled for reasons why cats hang out at certain spots and came back with an answer,"One of the cats is heavily pregnant. They are looking for a safe place to give birth."

I said,"Oh, okay."

Then he continued educating me with his new found knowledge,"According to the Internet, the cat should be giving birth tonight. It needs a safe and private place for giving birth. I am thinking of giving it a box to contain its kittens. The night will be cold and the kittens might freeze to death if they are left out there without a shelter."

He tried persuading me to let the cats in to give birth and promised to limit them to the common bathroom. I am not the cruelest person on the face of this earth, but I really could not see myself coexisting in a house with a cat, much less two! I had a mental picture of myself leaving the house, leaving the cats in the house!

I took out the biggest box we had, a HP printer box, and passed it to him. We stuck three flaps together so that a hole remained for the cats to enter and get out of the box. After that, we put a towel in the box in case the kittens needed some warmth.

And we left the box at our doorstep but the cats were wary and did not come near to the box.

At 12am, the cats were nowhere in sight. They seemed to have roamed off.

At 6am when we awoke, William informed me that the mother cat had given birth in the middle of the night. He had checked on the box at 5.30am and saw a kitten in the box with the mother. At 6.30am when William checked it again, there were three kittens in the box. 

He did some research on what to feed the nursing mother and went to the provision shop nearby to buy some cat's food. Next, he prepared a bowl of water and a litter tray lined with newspapers so that the mother cat could defecate in there. Not sure how the cat is going to be self-trained in littering though. 

By 8.30am, he found five kittens altogether. Apparently, unlike human beings, cats don't give birth to quintuplets by minutes apart.

He left the house to join me for breakfast and upon return, we found the box standing upright! Someone had tampered with the cats' shelter. William peeped into the box, relieved to find that the cat and her babies were still in there, but the tampering of the box had caused the kittens to be covered by the towel. He tilted the box gently back to its original position and tugged at the towel so that the kittens were uncovered.
We opened up the flaps to check if the kittens were fine and found them alive and wriggling.

 
The mother was very protective of her babies though.

I had read that cats, unlike hamsters, do not ignore or eat up their own babies even when the kittens are touched by foreign hands so that's a great start.

After the initial scare from knowing that someone had moved the box, I decided to stick up a notice to make it known that the cats are cared for and under scrutiny.

 
The father took it upon himself to sit-guard at the door. 
 I like how calm and cool he looks.
The mother stretched out her limb to put it over her babies when she saw me aiming a huge black thing at them. 'Maternal instinct', they call it.
She arched her back to cling onto her babies, stretching her limb even further in a bid to protect all her kittens.
She became more relaxed after she got used to my camera-aiming.

 
When we came home at 10.30pm last night, we were surprised that the mother was not in sight! It had probably gone on a date with the father after the babies were fast asleep.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Going On the Reading Adventures With Mooty

I saw an ex-colleague talking about these books with her friends on Facebook and they mentioned that they had read these books as children. 

I have never read these books myself so my curiosity was piqued. The next thing I knew, I had borrowed all five of them home from the library for Baby to read them.

When Coco was at Baby's age, she had finished reading all the Harry Potter books available in print.  She had gone on to thick and wordy children's literatures such as The Secret Garden and The Outsider and was scavenging the house and rummaging my cupboard for books to read. At P4, she was reading the study guide for Jane Eyre. The only books that threw her off were Hamlet and Volpone that were in Shakespearean language. 

I had tried to get Baby to read wordier children's books in vain. The only book she was willing to read on her own accord was Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes which was recommended by her P1 English teacher to the P4 pupils. I simply told Baby that her English teacher had recommended the book (without the part on P4 pupils) and she read it without a qualm. She even enjoyed it. Unfortunately, her good experience with the book strangely did not manage to whet her appetite for similar books.

I began to accept that Baby is a different child from Coco and that not every child progresses in reading in the same way. 

I decided that the love for reading is more important than the progress in reading age, so I made up my mind to be happy to borrow picture books for her. If these are the books she wants to read, so be it. After all, I enjoy these books myself!

These Mooty books are very simple books meant for young children aged before or up till 6. Simple words and simple structures generally.

Each book consists of two stories eg. Book Five has Mooty Falls In Love and Mooty Has a Son so they make for very quick and simple read. 
 

Book One actually features the local context ie. Mooty and the Satay-man. It fosters a familiar tie with the local reader. 
 

The other title is Mooty and Grandma which is the introductory story, and it represents the common fear and detest for a mouse by a grandmother in a candid way.
 

Book Two is about how Mooty Moves Out to find a place where he belongs, and there is a display of wit and courage in the next story Mooty Saves a Life.
 

In Book Three, Mooty Goes to School talks about the importance of literacy and mathematical skills in a simple manner ie. Mooty felt inferior that his younger friends could read, write and count but he could not, but his diligence was greatly rewarded when he worked harder than his friends who had a headstart.
 

After studying comes play. The next story Mooty Plays Hide-and-Seek is an educational story about how lizards' tails would grow back themselves after they drop off.
 

Book Four incorporates the space elements in which Mooty goes to space ie. Mooty and the Spacemen and Mooty the Space-Mouse.
 
 

The easy-to-understand storylines coupled with cute illustrations make for an enjoyable read. In fact, Baby liked the books so much she did not want to return them immediately after finished reading them. I am happy with these books because they open my mind to be more accepting to having Baby read simple books.

It appears these books have a Chinese-translated version as well but I will do well with developing Baby's love for reading for now.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Of Leaves & Flowers

 
The Garden Festival is around the corner and Baby's school will be showcasing its talents at Garden By The Bay some time this week.

I was in the school helping out with the preparations for the event. The jobscope included doing the ground work for the event by helping to cut flower stems and wrap flowers according to the requirements. It sounded simple enough.
 
I took Baby to school so that she could sleep in for another hour and after that, I waited till 8am before reporting at the venue as required.

I underestimated the requirement for the preparations. It was rather labour-intensive. The scissors I brought from home broke after cutting a few thick woody stems and one of the parent-volunteers in-charge lent me a cutter meant for cutting flower stems.

About twenty parent-volunteers turned up for the occasion.  From the receiving of flowers in huge boxes, to the unboxing, filling Toyogo boxes with water, cutting of stems, immersing flower stems in water and pulling out flowers to remove excessive leaves, everything was pure human labour. Behind the glamour of the event, there is an incredible amount of manual work to be done, by so many pairs of hands too!

The preparations make us realise that we don't just pay for the flowers and ribbons at the florist, but also the florist's ground work and creativity.

Look at the amount of leaves
 
and flowers!
 
 
 
 
 
When the flowers and leaves arrived at about 8.45am, we set to work cutting the stems and immersing the stems in water. By 10.30am, all were about done and we had to wait for two hours for the flowers to be 'conditioned', meaning the flowers would have, hopefully, absorbed enough water to preserve them till the end of the week. 

We sat around and waited for a while before breaking off for lunch, after which we returned to the room to wrap the flowers. However, there seemed to be too many pairs of hands in the room and I felt rather redundant there. By 1.30pm, I was quite tired and was relieved to leave the school with Baby. 

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Infuriating, Women-Objectifying NUS Sexualised Games

The New Paper ran an article about NUS students running camps with atrociously 'sexualised games' yesterday.
 

Incidentally, quite recently, Coco shared with me about how the boys in some of her social WhatsApp chat groups post pictures of their private parts on the chat.

I was outraged, naturally, "It's wrong! You should leave the chat group."

Unfortunately, Coco refused. She claimed that anyone who leaves the chat groups would be ostracised and she did not want to be left with no friends or social circles.

She went further than that,"Mum, my friends and I think there's nothing wrong with being prostitutes."

When I put up a feeble defense along the line of "Prostitution is wrong", she dismissed it with "Mum, that's YOUR generation. This is the way MY generation thinks now".

To me, "prostitution is wrong" is something that is as clear as day. I am not someone who is brilliant at laying out line-by-line arguments or even specific, logical arguments. I just know that something is not right without knowing how to defend my position. It's like "It's wrong to lie/gamble/steal/kill." I know they are wrong but I don't think of eloquent ways to word why they are wrong. Wrong means wrong lah! I find it even ridiculous I need to justify why they are wrong. But my inability to justify why prostitution is wrong was a stumbling block at that moment.

For all he's worth, William stepped into the living room to hear our debate on whether prostitution is right. He told Coco a story about how a friend who often flies overseas for work and some female fresh graduates who work for the company would offer to go overseas with him. He always turns them down (whether it's true, I do not know) as his stand is such that "if you can sell your own body, what else can't you sell?" He thinks such girls may even sell company secrets to their rivals.

That did conclude the topic for the night but I doubt the pursed-lips teenager was fully convinced.

William was also agitated when he heard that trying to leave the obnoxious WhatsApp chat groups could lead to Coco being put out of school. He shouted,"Which friend is that? I'll make sure he's expelled from school!" Coco ran back to her room!

Looks like peer pressure to be in social circles is very real among teenagers still. Some things never change, whether it's YOUR generation or MY generation.

Back to the NUS's disgusting camps, what I find even more infuriating is those creeps' idiotic self-righteous 'confessions' on NUS Whispers Facebook page:
 
The cheek of them to call those who dare to stand up for their beliefs and values 'brats'!

I totally agree with comments that stated those who organised the sexualised camps must be porn addicts who see nothing wrong or perverted with playing these 'games'. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. I am sure such perverted ideas do not bore out of nowhere. I shudder to think what the seniors who planned and organised these demeaning 'games' have been surfing, watching, looking at or doing to even think that these are simply 'games'. Very warped values they have!

 
 
I also agree that these confessors need to grow up and get their moral values right. These self-righteous pricks are bullies without a brain. It's scary that for all the knowledge they have in their pea brain, they know nuts about something as basic as invisible peer pressure. Don't they study General Paper these days? 

I am shocked the undergraduates who posted the above are unable to spare a thought for others, especially those who were coerced to join in under duress ("A group of us girls wanted to leave, but the orientation group leader stopped us and told us to finish playing the game."). The fault does not lie with the villain. The victim is to be blamed for not standing up to the villain. I am almost convinced the General Paper is not taught in the way I was. 

And there are those who actually have the cheek to say that such nonsense is a 'tradition' in the campus:
 
 
*face-palmed*

This kind of tradition, you can do without, kids! And self-righteous pricks calling others self-righteous, wow!

I think someone needs to tell this sex-deprived joker that adulthood is not all about sex:

"Such camps are meant for you to grow up". News flash: Your seniors all grew up a lot better than you without such camps, dude! 

The more I read the confessions on NUS Whispers, the more disheartened I am about our undergraduates today. It used to be that undergraduates were the smart learners, eloquent speakers and know their values right too. What has manifested from the camp activities is the lack of moral values in our youths today. They also come across as being crass, vulgar and childish. What I read totally inverted my impression of an NUS undergraduate. A VAST difference from the undergraduates of yesteryear. 

Another shocker is the institute where the 'games' are 'played': NUS (yes, I read the caption under the push-up picture that it's from SIM, but the paper was running a report on NUS no less).

The staff are actually aware of these lewd activities being run in the school compound for the last ten years and nothing has been done about it! Doesn't that mean the university consent to or approve of the activities? Does it mean that NUS share the same backward thinking as the the seniors who came up with the sickening activities that objectify girls? Is Singapore still a third-world nation in terms of its gender treatment or mentality since students at the higher education institution behave like animals? Shocking!

Above all, must social media be activated before something is done? Is there something wrong with our society? Do we do the right thing only when there's a big hoo-haa?

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

The New Scoring System

The new PSLE scoring system is on the tongue of just about every parent whether his or her children are going to be affected by it.


As an individual, I welcome the changes although I do not think the system is perfect:


- I do think that AL 6 is too big a band for marks ranging from 45 to 64.

- I prefer the current system's placement of school choice in which you don't have to worry too much about the order of the schools as long as they are somewhat realistic.

- I think raw scores can be used as an intervention tool where there is a tie. Balloting has too much uncertainties and gives people unnecessary stress no matter how small the percentage of students need to go through balloting. Balloting should end at P1 registration!


I have always felt that the T-score system contributes to the rise of elitism and the creation of elite schools. The more refined a system is, the more it sharpens the elitist elements in the system.


The T-score system tosses out the average children and tells them they don't matter. In fact, a teacher-friend shared that she wanted to emigrate because our education system is extremely unforgiving to the average children, and her own children are "average children in an average neighbourhood school".


My gut feel about the new system is it is more inclusive to a wider circle of children.


I did a quick search on the Internet and it seems to suggest that the T-score system was first introduced in the 1980s, but as far as I remember, the PSLE scores during my era in the late 1980s were never called 'T-scores'. They were formally known as 'aggregate scores' and everybody called them "the PSLE scores", and no one ever said that our scores were benchmarked against the whole cohort's performance. However, with the introduction of T-scores, schools started to educate parents about how it is computated, and how the average marks and standard deviation have a bearing on their children's T-score.


I like to think that during my time, our aggregate scores were the raw scores rather than T-scores.


I don't remember parents being so crazy about getting their children to squeeze into the Big Four: Raffles Institution, Hwa Chong Institute, Raffles Girls' Secondary and Nanyang Girls High. Rather, there was a good spread of top students going to a variety of top schools such as River Valley, Anglican High, Victoria Secondary, Dunman High, Catholic High, St Nicholas Girls', Cedar Girls', Methodist Girls' etc. I don't remember people drawing the line so thinly between the top schools ie. "These few are the Tier 1 schools. Those are the Tier 2, Tier 3 schools. And this one is just a 'good' school." What I remember was people saying "This is a good school. That is also a good school."


I hope by having a good spread of top scorers among the good schools, we will stop mentally rank and group the schools in such an unhealthy manner.


With the refining of T-score system down to the last digit for the sake of ranking the first children to the last 50, 000th, competition started to stiffen, to the point where every single mark matters.


I detest this horribly competitive culture. I heard about all sorts of things the children did to their friends to gain an edge over them. The lies they told, the stories they made up,  the bad luck they wished upon their friends, the 'prophecy' they spoke over their friend's composition marks ... and there are probably others that I don't know.


I feel that our education system has reached a sad state where children become vicious or vindictive at such a young age for the sake of a score.


It is good to be competitive trying to outdo your opponent by sharpening your skills but it's a different story when you stab someone to cripple him so that you could do better.


To me, T-scores serve the pick-out-the-elite system well. You easily identify the top students by their 3-digits on a piece of paper and you send them all to the Big Four to further sieve the diamonds from the shuff. However, the new system allows many top students to be distributed to the different top schools and nobody will be none the wiser who exactly is the real 'top'.


Under the new system, I honestly do not think that there will be that many AL 4-pointers that can't squeeze into the Big Four. In fact, I think the Big Four would have some 5-, 6- and 7-pointers as well. Even under the T-score system, how many 4A* scorers do we have? And A* may not necessarily be 90 marks and above. 


And why should all 4-pointers go to the Big Four? The way I see it, we should have many 4- to 8-pointers and the scores are not too far apart from one another actually, and since not all top scorers could get into these coveted schools, many such scorers would be distributed to the good schools elsewhere. These top scorers would give the good schools in different parts of Singapore a better distribution of talents, like what we used to have, rather than crowding themselves in only certain areas like now.


Being someone who has worked with children from disadvantaged backgrounds, my heart aches for these forsaken and forgotten children. Not only are they let down by their parents, they are also abandoned by our education system which is more interested in finding geniuses or top brains.


My heart often pains for the average students in neighbourhood schools who have not heard of RI and Hwa Chong, whose dream schools are average schools in their poor neighbourhoods. I rarely criticise something as 'unfair' but there are many times in my heart that I believe the T-score system is unfair to the students in neighbourhood schools.


The new scoring system is not fantastic for those bordering on the 'brilliant' category but it should help bridge the gap between the above-average and average students. I believe under the new scoring system, the divide between these two groups of students would not be as glaring as the cold, hard three-digit T-scores.


That said, it will not be a perfect system or even a fairer system. But I hope it is a better system.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Mother Scorned

J,

This is R, William's wife.

I am writing to you because I have heard from William what you said about my daughter, Coco. According to him, you have said that she "looks like someone who will sleep around when she grows up".

I must let you know that I am very upset about what you said bcos you have made very serious allegations about my daughter's integrity and they are an insult to my daughter's modesty.

According to William, you came across my daughter's Facebook and viewed her pics on her Facebook.

Firstly, as you are not related to her in any way, I am concerned and have my reservations on why you would be interested to look at a teenage girl's pictures. I question the intentions behind that scrutinisation.

Secondly, since you do not know her personally, it is inappropriate and juvenile of you to make slandering comments about her. 

Thirdly, on what basis do you deduce that she would grow up to be someone who sleeps around?

As a father, William has failed in his duty to protect his daughter. As a friend to William, it is utterly uncalled for and totally out of place to caution him that his daughter might grow up to be a girl who sleeps around. It only suggests that you think poorly of your friend's parenting. You have not only insulted my daughter's integrity, you have also insulted William and me the mother. What you said speaks volumes of what you think of me and it makes one wonder what William has been telling you about me.

I have endured 16 years of my sisters' criticisms of how strict and lenient I have been with my daughter, but they are my families and they criticise my parenting out of love for my daughter. May I know in what capacity are you criticising my daughter? 

If you have an opinion about my daughter, you are welcome to have one. If you had meant well, you are welcome to share it with William and share how he could teach her better. If you had meant it to be a passing remark and it will not edify William or my daughter, it would have been better if you kept it to yourself. I do not see how telling William that his daughter looks like someone who will grow up to sleep around can be edifying. It is offensive and insulting. You have crossed the line. I am sure you would think your friend is being offensive and has crossed the line if he were to tell you your girlfriend looks like a slut who has slept around behind your back.

I am writing in the capacity of a mother who sees it necessary to protect the integrity of her daughter. William may laugh it off since she is not his biological daughter, or he is just a lousy father and husband who is incapable of protecting his wife and children, but I cannot take it lying down when someone has vindictively attacked my daughter like this. A jealous peer has spread untrue rumours about her and I can understand it when a 15-year-old girl does that. But I cannot understand the purpose it serves when a man nearing 40 speaks words of vindictive nature about a child more than 2 decades his junior.

Finally, I do not appreciate you judging my daughter and do not wish that you discuss my daughter with William ever again. 

Lastly, if you have not read or heard it, I would like to point you to this old adage: "If you have nothing nice to say, you should keep it to yourself."


J's reply:

I'm sorry that I said that and I take it back.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Nostalgic Drinking Style

It surprised my friend when she saw me drinking Milo this way at Ya Kun.

After eating the egg/s, I pour my Milo into the same saucer that contained my egg/s, stir it and drink it.

My father did this for me when I was young for functional reason, to cool the Milo down and I do it for the girls now. Coco has since switched to drinking ice Milo but Baby is still taking hot Milo obediently. 

It's purely a nostalgic gesture to reminisce my childhood habit and one of those things my busy father did for me.

As I was having a quick breakfast at Ya Kun this morning, a realisation dawned on me. Ya Kun is one of those places that has not been dominated by the presence of China nationals yet. It is a typical local family breakfast place, a place where housewives gossip about schools and teachers, and share their expertise on how to prepare their children for the national exams, a place where friends meet up for breakfast. 

Places in Singapore are rapidly occupied with Filipinos, China nationals and other residents with foreign accents and unfamiliar languages. It has become a tall order to find a respite from the foreign infiltration. Even the public swimming pool where Baby goes for her weekly swimming class sees, or rather, hears, many who speak China-accented Mandarin. They seat themselves down beside you and get their family or friends to invade into the space you occupy. When you move to accommodate them, more of them come and join the invasion, forcing you to move further away.

"Singapore is no longer what it used to be," so said a friend who has emigrated to Australia.

Only small pockets of Singapore allow me to escape the reality of rapid changes. Eating at Ya Kun is one of them, even if its employees are China nationals. At least the girl manning the till adopts our lingo when I ask for 'Milo, less sugar'. She would rephrase it,"Milo, siew dai!"

Saturday, 23 July 2016

A Few Good Lights

The kitchen and service balcony lights conked out about a fortnight ago. 

We had been pottering around the kitchen and service balcony in the dark for a while. I actually got used to it except that it would be a challenge to do any cooking.

So William called up an electrician and asked him to come down to fix up lights for these two areas, but I was extremely displeased with the design, or rather, the lack of design, of the lights.

It was a round, mundane-looking ceiling light. 

I told him a grandmother's story,"Once, my friend visited me in the house and she asked,'Eh, why your kitchen light like that one?' I have been waiting for a lifetime to get the lights changed! They are so fugly! I am not going to let you put another ugly light up there!"

He didn't seem to have any choice. 

I Googled for 'nice kitchen lights' and found that Sembawang Lighting House had quite a variety and a few of those lights were what I found interesting. We made a trip down to the small lighting shop the next day.

I adored three lights and could not make up my mind on which two to buy. Incidentally, William wanted a brighter light for the study. An idea struck me,"Coco always complains that her room light is too bright. Why don't you shift her light to the study and we get one more light for her room?"

He agreed after a little consideration. However, he insisted the hanging light I chose was too dim for the girls' room. I argued that they have a study light and the ceiling light hangs directly above Coco's bed so a dim light would do just fine. Furthermore, it would be a 12-watt LED bulb which was quite bright.

After paying for the lights at $75 per unit, my next two days were spent worrying,"Oh dear, did I make the wrong decision? Hanging lights for the kitchen and service balcony? Should I change them for more practical options like the boring ceiling lights? Was I too impulsive? Am I crazy to have pendant lights for kitchen? Even Renotalkers don't have many - actually, only one or two - opting for hanging lights for kitchen or service balcony. Not both. And even then, their hanging lights are much bigger. The ones who fix lights I have chosen put them up at smaller areas like the toilets. Will I regret it? Is it a big mistake to choose these lights?"

I decided to be adventurous for once: At most, let William scold me for my mistake and pay again for boring and practical lights. If I don't try, I'd never know.

The following Monday, the electricians turned up as promised and these were the arrangements:
Geometric light (9 watt) for the kitchen
  
Triangle light (9 watt) for the service balcony
 
Square light (12 watt) for the girls' room. Baby made the choice and Coco had no objection.

William's worry that the 12-watt light would be too dim for the girls' room proves to be unfounded. It is just nice, a comfortable reduction from their original 22 megawatt LED ceiling light. It turns out that LED lights are a few times stronger or brighter than their non-LED counterparts with similar wattage eg. a 9-watt LED bulb produces the same brightness as a 60-watt incandescent bulb.

The kitchen and balcony lights are more than sufficient to illuminate the smaller areas. 

I also learnt a new thing: The nearer the lights are to the ceiling, the brighter they are. The theory works well with me as I didn't want the cords to be too long either.

The result: Everybody is pleased with the lights!

I'll worry about the part on cleaning later.

Charges for light installation ($80):
- $35 for fixing the first light and $10 for the two subsequent lights
- $12 for moving and fixing a light from the girls' room to the study
- I topped up $13 for them to patch up three holes that the lights were not able to cover

The Malaysian electricians seemed pleasant and experienced so I got a namecard from the main guy. Will look for them if I need their service again.

All in all, William spent $305 on the lights and installation. Not sure if it was too exorbitant a price he paid but we did not have the luxury of time to get them off Taobao, with the shipping time and all. William would not have trusted anything electrical from Taobao either.

Friday, 22 July 2016

The Spirit Behind Parent-Volunteering

Whenever I share with my friend (yes, just one friend) and sisters that I am doing some parent-volunteering works in Baby's school, they ask the same question,"Your kids have already got into the school. What are you volunteering in the school for?"

My answer would be "To help out".

I am one of those people who are of the opinion that becoming a parent-volunteer for the purpose of gaining entry to your school of choice is against the spirit of volunteering.

It's a personal belief that 'volunteer' means one gives of one's time and energy for intrinsic reasons, not extrinsic. It should not be a form of labour in exchange for something else. 

That said, I have nothing against people who become parent-volunteers so that they can help their children gain entry to the school of choice at Phase 2B. It's a legitimate avenue after all. Perhaps I just don't like the way it is packaged. 

I personally would not offer my services in the capacity of a parent-volunteer to exchange for a seat for my child in a school as it contradicts with my belief. I read about a parent who became a parent-volunteer for the purpose of enrolling her child in the school two years back, but she could not go through with it as it was not her personal conviction to do so. I admire her courage to give up the 'privilege' of being a parent-volunteer as we know that even the quest to become parent-volunteers can be very competitive and the phase at which allows one to register for Primary One is a slightly less stressful one than Phase 2C, the phase that goes by home-school distance.

When I was a young mother, I had fantasised about myself becoming a volunteer at orphanages, with Coco in tow to help out as well. However, when I reflected more deeply on the 'motive' behind that gesture, I realised it was to allow Coco to see how fortunate she was compared to the abandoned children. It would not be fair to the children. The impact of the children feeling the misfortune of not having a mother would be exponentially greater when they see a child having a mother. Instead of giving, I would be reaping benefits at those poor children's expense instead. If I am not volunteering for a pure intention, then I'd better not do it. The volunteering idea was soon banished from my mind.

In the same way, I want to be a parent-volunteer without an agenda that could benefit myself, or at least tangibly or materially. Baby would be happy to see me as a parent-volunteer in school for sure. That would be a benefit I would reap. Other than that, I might get to learn about how the school works for certain things or events. Another benefit. 

Other than that, I don't think I should take away anything as a parent-volunteer.

That is why I volunteer my services only when the girls have gained entry into the schools.

Do I have a problem with my friends or sisters becoming parent-volunteers for the sake of Primary One registration? Of course not. 

It's similar to how I would not pay tens of thousands for a Hermes bag but I have no objection to another who can afford it. These are personal choices that the parties involved make for themselves and I will not give them a lengthy lecture on why they should not do it. In fact, I would fully understand if they choose to be parent-volunteers for P1 registration, because I am a parent, and all (okay, most) parents want the best for their children.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Meeting the Unexpected at the Most Unlikely Place

I took Baby to a dental clinic for her tooth filling today.

After giving Baby's name and appointment time to the receptionist, I sat down to wait with Baby.

Then someone called me by my name. 

I looked up to see a practicum mate I knew from 13 years ago walking towards me!

I was surprised,"C, what are you doing here?"

She replied that she was working there.

I nodded to show that I understood why she left the service, and elaborated,"I am on no-pay leave. If not for the no-pay leaves I have taken, I wouldn't have been able to last so long."

We could not speak for long as Baby was soon called and C had to attend to her work.

From our brief conversation, I knew that C had resigned from teaching since a few years ago.

After Baby and I left the clinic, I thought about the number of years I possibly have in the service. Or more accurately, I wondered how long more I would stay in the service.

Another thing that set me thinking was, a teacher becoming a clinic assistant. 

Don't get me wrong. I am not saying being a clinic assistant is a lousy job or it is inferior to teaching. I was a clinic assistant to different clinics for a few years. But I know just about how much it pays and you only need an N level certificate to be one. Besides her diploma in teaching, my practicum mate had a poly diploma or A level cert. On top of these, she had also quite a few years, possibly at least ten years of teaching experience under her belt. In other words, she is over-qualified to do this job.

I thought it was a waste of her working experience and qualifications. I wondered why she chose to be a clinic assistant. But it occurred to me she probably did not have a Bachelor's degree. The lack of a degree could limit her choices. 

C was not the only ex-colleague I met by chance. I had bumped into another ex-colleague, E, from my first school at a McDonald's outlet during lunch time earlier this year. She called out to me when she saw Coco from afar and recognised her from my Facebook pictures. Like C, E did not have a degree. She felt that her diploma pay did not justify the number of responsibilities she had to shoulder, so she left the service to be a full-time private tutor since five or six years ago.

I knew both girls since their first day in the teaching service. Both were young and fresh when we started out. Now we have all aged, with crow's feet adorning the corners of our eyes when we laughed.

Both are still single, surprisingly. I'd considered both rather attractive in their younger days, with E being her school or class belle during her secondary school days. I recalled that at least C had a boyfriend back in our practicum days but why are they single till now? Both are probably in their mid thirties now. I thought,"What has teaching done to us?" (along the line of 'What has love done to us?') 

Many of my friends and ex-colleagues have left the service, with teaching years ranging from three to 20 years and most of them threw in the towel at their fifth to eighth year, I believe. Almost all of them are exhausted by the demands of the job. Each time someone leaves the job, I would wonder to myself,"How long more can I stay?" and the pragmatic question,"What will I do if I leave the job?"

It's been ten years. I can't say I love the job anymore, but I will always be grateful for the job and the opportunity to fulfil my childhood ambition.

Not everyone gets to fulfil his ambition.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Stunned



Photo: Facebook screengrab

A dashboard video of a boy getting hit by a car but was 'lucky to be alive' made its rounds on the Internet last week.

I viewed the video and scanned the comments.

Most blamed the boy for dashing recklessly out of the road. Some blamed the driver for not looking out for playful children. And others questioned why the driver did not get out of the car to help the boy.

The video took me back to an incident that happened earlier this year when I was in my sister's car, with my mother in the passenger seat beside the driver, and my sister being the driver.

My sister was moving her car back very slowly - for what, I can't remember.

Then suddenly, we could feel a jerk-bump on the back.

My mother turned and said,"妳撞到人了啦!看啦!(You hit someone already! See lah!)"

My sister spun her head around and looked shocked.

I froze on the spot. I was scared stiff. Lots of thoughts were rushing through my mind: What should we do? What should we do? Is the victim injured? What are we going to do? Is the victim dead? How seriously was the victim hurt? Should we run? 

The thought of a bloodied victim and the flaccid body that we should carry into the car to take to the hospital freaked me out.

I don't think I am a vicious person who means to leave a car-accident victim to bleed out and die but at that moment, panic took over and I became another person. At that moment, I finally understood why drivers hit and run. It was fear that gripped them. The fear that they had murdered someone. They fled because they didn't know what to do, not because they wanted the victim to die and not be found out.

When calm and rational, we know the first thing we should do is to render help to the victim. 

But yet, when an accident happens, we are stunned. Frozen. We lost the ability to think properly and humanely.

My feisty, and sometimes unreasonable, sister got out of the car and shouted,"You should have honked at me when you saw me moving back!" She had hit someone else's bumper.

At that instant, it relieved me immensely: It's not a human being we knocked into!

Although it was not a wonderful thing to run into an accident of any sort, but I was 'happy' that this 'crime' could be settled quite simply compared to if a human life was involved.

The lady was stunned at what my sister said at first. My sister also realised that she was in the wrong very quickly and apologised,"I am sorry. I am having a bad day."

The phlegmatic and gracious lady checked that the knock was a rather gentle one, which created a slight dent or a scratch though, and decided not to pursue the matter. She even told my sister that the more serious knock that her car had was an existing one so it was not my sister's doing. She said that she would get both repaired together at the workshop so she would not need my sister to compensate her.

Before they parted, the lady ended the encounter with "Next time, pay attention to what you say." 

Indeed. Other drivers would have quarrelled with my sister for blaming the accident on them at the first thought.

In defense of the driver involved in the accident at Jurong West St 81, I think we should cut him some slack. If you have knocked down someone and got out of the car to render help immediately, I commend your calmness and courage to do the right thing there and then. But if you have never been involved in such an accident, I urge you to hold your tongue, or your fingers. The driver did appear to be in a state of shock, judging from how the other pedestrians reacted. Just an imagination of the worst could freeze me on the spot, what more the occurrence of a real accident? I imagine the driver thinking similar thoughts that raced through my mind when I thought my sister had knocked somebody down: What am I going to do? Is he okay? Will I be charged? Will he die? Should I send him to the hospital? Should I call the police? The ambulance? Is he going to die? Should I run? Will the people out there kill me if I go out? How to help him?

I was worried that the boy could suffer internal injuries when the boy was unable to get up from the ground, but I just read an update of what had happened and it seems the boy was 'treated at the hospital and was resting well at home'.

School children are taught to 'look right, look left and then look right again' before they cross the road. Under no circumstances should they dash across the road. The boy was indeed lucky to be alive after such a hit-and-flung. Another boy who dashed across the road in the Sembawang area didn't make it a few years ago. Let's hope he recovers fully and learns his lessons from now on.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Cartwheel Tales

Baby: (sad) I don't know how to do cartwheel ...

Me: Cartwheel! Cartwheel! Your jie jie also used to tell me that she didn't know how to do cartwheel. The teacher scolded her for not knowing how to do cartwheel. So-and-so could do cartwheel but she couldn't. You all love cartwheel so much. I'll buy a cartwheel and stick it on the wall lah!

Baby: ?? What is a cartwheel?

Me: This one!
 

Monday, 18 July 2016

Bruised Toe


You wouldn't believe how I managed to do it.

I was in my track shoes when my foot slipped forward in the shoe. I felt a sharp pain in my toe but didn't think much of it.

A few days later, I saw a bruised patch under my toe nail. At first I thought it was dirt, but when I realised it could not be cleaned, I knew it was a bruise. When pressure is applied, the toe hurts.

I was hoping it would subside in a few days' time, but days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months, and the bruise and pain are still there.

Let's see how long it takes.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Hear What You Want To Hear

I learnt that people hear what they want to hear and different people see things differently from a real story I told them.

My story goes like this:

I know of an independent volunteer who started doing voluntary work all by herself. She started by selling all her branded bags away to exchange rice for the poor. Today, she has an independent voluntary organisation that runs on voluntary basis and purely depends on human efforts to clean flats for those who are unable to do it themselves, calling out for item donation whenever necessary. No monetary donation is involved. Every Sunday morning, she and her volunteers spend a few hours knocking on doors, asking if people need help. 

She didn't do any voluntary work for the school of her choice though. Her husband did. So they got a shot at Phase 2B at P1 registration.

However, they were unsuccessful at balloting.

But they live within 1km of the school so they got another shot at balloting for the school at Phase 2C.

Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful again.

But all was not lost. Their child was offered a seat as the principal wanted to be inclusive to the lady who has been helping the poor and the destitute in Singapore all these years. 

Incidentally, the school is also Baby's school.

When I told this story to my elder sister, her response was:

It's as if getting your kids into the school is your only achievement. You always talk about the school like it's a big deal to get in.

When I told it to William, he said:

She did the voluntary work for networking purpose and it paid off.

When I told it to my fifth sister, she said:

Wow, that's truly 好人有好报 (kind people will be rewarded in due time)!


Saturday, 16 July 2016

Once-In-A-Lifetime Primary One Balloting Exercise

I kay pohed at Primary One Balloting Exercise for Phase 2A2 today.

10 places have been taken up by those living within 1km (five of them) and between 1 to 2km (five of them). This balloting exercise is for: 
1) alumni who did not join the alumni association by paying the joining fee and live outside 2km of the school;
2) staff of the school who live outside 2km of the school.

I have never witnessed a balloting exercise. Curious about it, I requested to come in and help out. By 'helping out', it means harassing the parents to join the parent volunteer group after the balloting exercise.

I arrived bright and early at 8am. However, the balloting exercise only commenced at 9am. The principal appealed to the parents to wait for another five to ten minutes before she made a brief speech about how the balloting exercise would be conducted. 

I was impressed by the principal's kind gesture of looking through other schools' vacancies earlier in the day and informing parents of their other possible choices should they be unlucky in the balloting exercise, and she read off her printouts the number of vacancies in various good schools eg. Raffles Girls' Primary, Pei Hwa Presbyterian Primary, Methodist Girls' Primary, Bukit Timah Primary, left on top of the 40 seats reserved for Phases B and C. And most of them were good schools!

By doing what she did, it shows that the principal is highly considerate of the feelings of potentially disappointed parents. It helped to cushion the disappointment that was to come. Perhaps this was a key reason none of the parents cried in disappointment after the balloting.

After about five to ten minutes of the speech, the balloting exercise commenced. A numbered name list of the children was shown on the screen. Each ball had a number on it, representing the children's names. Each time, before a ball was tossed into the metal rotating device, the vice principal held it up in view of every parent and called out the corresponding child's name to show that every ball (and number) was accounted for.

After all the balls were placed in the rotating device, the chairwoman of the alumni association started turning the device. 

When a ball rolled out, the principal held it up and called out the number, and the vice principal called out the name corresponding to the number. Some teachers of the school were also there and the first ball that rolled out belonged to one of the staff. A few female teachers could not suppress their joy and let out repressed squeals of delight. Subsequently, most parents whose ping pong balls were drawn were visibly over the moon with a few among them giving out audible 'yay!'

By 9.30am, the balloting exercise was over.

A couple of parents came with their children. While a boy got in and kissed the father on the lips to celebrate the good news, a girl who came with her mother did not have the same luck.

Nobody shed tears over the disappointment but as a bystander, I believe the alumni who did not have their balls drawn must have regretted not joining the alumni association and paying the fee.

When I picked Baby up after school, I told her about the little girl who did not get in the school.

Me: I feel bad (for her) that she didn't get in.

Baby: (looks at me in my eyes) It's not your fault!


For some reason, I still hope that whichever school the 10 or 11 children go to, they will make it back to their parent's school eventually.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Final Trip

I am not a poem person but this was how I felt whenever I went for my routine blood test for my Hyperthyroidism. 

The melancholic feelings became stark as I climbed the overhead bridge and took dreadful steps towards the medical centre for the impending prick. Each passing moment became a pause-in-time. The words that came to me were short and exact.

The stairs are long,
And the steps dreary,
The squarish knob is metal-cold,
And the push heavy.
The room is claustrophobic,
And the air stifling.

The sharp-end stare is bloodcurdling,
But the lady calming.
The goosebumps raised
Hath my left arm braved.

Elbow awkwardly stiffened, 
Fist tightly clenched, 
Nails dug resolutely into the pale flesh.

The prick is certain,
The eyes widen with pain.
'Please end this quick,'
Comes the tiny prayer fix.

The heart is relieved,
And the depraved metal satisfied.
The crimson liquid drips into the plastic,
That will seal my fate, tragic or ecstatic.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

The Problem With Having FT Customer Service Officers

Me: Hi, I am redeeming Philips Epilator, model number  6420, but it's not available at Courts CWP and Courts Lot1. Can I know if you have the stocks at all?

FT: What's the issue with the epilator, M'am?

Me: No.  I am trying to redeem the epilator but it's not available at Courts CWP and Courts Lot1. I would like to know if you have the stock for it.

FT: Oh, you ordered it online?

Me: (with worn-out patience) No! I WANT TO KNOW IF YOU HAVE THE STOCK!

FT: Oh, Oh ... Let me check for you, M'am.

(4 min later)

FT: M'am, you can find the epilator at (this and that place)...

Me: No. I can only redeem it at Courts but it's not available at Courts CWP and Lot1. I want to know which Courts has this product.

FT: You can find it at supermarkets and ...

Me: No. My letter SAYS that I can only redeem it at Courts but there's no stock at Courts CWP and Courts Lot1. I want to know which Courts has it.

FT: Let me check ...

(2 min later)

FT: What is Courts, M'am?

Me: (outraged) !!! It's a SUPERSTORE, a furniture and electronics superstore.

FT: Can I have the spelling for 'Courts'?

Me: (can't believe what I heard) ??? Huh??? Sorry?

FT: Can I have the spelling for 'Courts'?

Me: (clarify) Are you asking how to spell 'Courts'?

FT: Yes.

Me: (resigned) Never mind ... *click*


I had experienced one round of disappointment at the abovementioned Courts outlet and I had to go through an exasperating and time-wasting experience with a Filipino customer service officer who did not know what 'Courts' is!

Can we have locals back, please?

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Being a Widow

I stumbled upon a blog whose author was a lady in her 50s. She lost her husband to cancer in the beginning of last year. 

The blog was a means by which she updated the journey to the end with her husband.

She blogged about how deeply grieved she felt, yet knowing that her husband was finally relieved of his fallible body of agony and pain, her profound faith she dearly held onto compelled her to take great joy that he finally joined his Saviour whom he so loved.

After ten months of being a widow and single parent, she revealed how she felt: exhausted because she had to do everything herself. Nobody would pick up the thing that was dropped on the floor if she didn't. Nobody except her had to cut the grass. Nobody would pick up the laundry if she didn't do it. She also felt lonely because there was no one to share her joy and sorrow with anymore. 

She missed her husband deeply, a sentiment I will never have the opportunity to appreciate.

As I read about her inner world, it dawned on me that I have been living like that all my life: exhausted and lonely.

I thought about if I would miss William if he ever dies. The answer is no.

I finally understand why people miss their spouse. Their spouse would have contributed a significant part of themselves to their lives. Be it physical help, money or emotional support. But I don't have these from William. If he ever dies, life will be as per normal for me. In fact, perhaps, life will be better for me. I won't have someone make my day bad at 1am, 5am or 6am. I don't have to wait for someone to have dinner at 10pm. I have less clothes to wash, to dry, to fold. I don't have to worry that the kids will see their parents fighting ever again. I don't have to lead a single mother lifestyle while legally married.

I will be freed from my shackles. Actually.

I probably won't shed a tear for him. Because there's no loss!

Perhaps I have all along been a widow, a spiritual widow, the moment I married him.

Don't assume that I am writing this sad. It's purely a matter of fact to me and I am writing it as it is. That's all. I no longer feel sorry for myself. I know it's my choice to remain imprisoned in this 'marriage' - if you want a name for it. 

I have been watching this Korean drama 'First Wives Club'《大老婆的反击》at 12am, Channel 8, on weekdays.

For some reason, I felt a sense of connection with the betrayed wives in the drama.

They all have unfaithful husbands who cheated on them and most of them divorce the losers, but the protagonist had to make up lies to convince her unfaithful husband to sign the papers, thinking that it was merely a fake divorce. Before she did that, she also cheated him of all his money for a bitter-sweet revenge.

She confided in her best pal, who was incidentally her husband's younger sister, that she hated her husband to death, so much so that she wished that he would be knocked down by a car and get killed. There were times she felt that perhaps she should resign to her fate and continue with her miserable life, putting up with a loser husband, but she was already 40, and did not know how long more she had on Earth. She hoped to be able to live for herself, and live it out. 

As I listened to that, it was like an exact reflection of how I feel, all the time. 

If you think I had kept these feelings to myself, I assure you I had not. William was there when the Korean drama was aired. I told him,"Look, this is how I feel!" 

He smiled sheepishly.

I also told him about the lady blogger and how she missed her late husband, and told him I will not miss him at all since he has never been much help to me.

He also smiled sheepishly.

You can't fight the truth.