Monday, March 30, 2015

The Pursuit of Happiness - by D

Hi everyone, this a guest posting by D.
Happiness is a topic that has been hotly debated and always on everyone's mind. Here in Singapore, in my growing years and as an adult, we have always been exposed to views in the media that happiness meant material happiness; the 5 Cs: cars, cash, condo, country club and career.

And so it was that when I graduated and started my own business as a naive and doe-eyed individual, I never saw what was to hit me. My business flopped and I tried to move location to keep it afloat, incurring huge debts in the process. Things got so bad that at one point I didn't have any income for 6 months, my dear wife was expecting our daughter in a few months and there were mortgages and business loans to pay. Naturally I ended up in hospital twice in the middle of the night with stress-induced gastric attacks. Things looked bleak and happiness seemed so far away... My friends, on the other hand, had blossoming careers and I was wallowing in self-pity; until one day I received a revelation from a very unlikely source, the little-known B-grade movie The Legend of Bagger Vance. 

Will Smith and Matt Damon were the leads of this movie. Matt Damon was a prodigious golfer who was winning awards until he hit a rough patch. Will Smith appeared from out of the woods one day and became his caddy and life coach. One scene which remained etched in my mind was when Matt Damon was playing a major tournament and his nerves were getting the better of him, so much so that he was making amateur errors and failing to keep pace with the leaders. Will Smith told him to deliberately hit his golf ball out of bounds so that he would effectively take himself off the pace of the competition and he could play his own game. He did just that, went from strength to strength, and won the tournament.

I closed my business, sucked it up, kept my head down, started working seven days a week and paid off the bad debts. I played my own game and was no longer concerned about whether other people were soon better or worse than me. I had found my nirvana.

I learnt many valuable lessons in that time. My wife and children were my biggest joys and this really was the true happiness that was all along under my nose. They gave me great strength to persevere and at the end of a hard day, just the sight of your children running up to you to greet and hug you is enough to sustain and nourish you. When you have to fight for a greater cause than yourself, you know you will not fail.

In the movie of the same title as this blog post, Will Smith fights tooth and nail to ensure survival for his son and himself. I personally find it a very moving and powerful movie. When you fight for the survival and a greater cause than yourself, you will succeed. 

I have learnt many lessons in my short lifetime. Man proposes but sometimes God disposes; to make you learn certain lessons and to show you the true meaning in life, sometimes you just have to learn the hard way. 

I wanted to fast-track my career but He made me learn Patience. I wanted riches but he showed me unconditional Love from my family, which is far more valuable than any worldly riches. He opened my eyes to how nasty people can be, even your own friends and ex-business partners who will not hesitate to take advantage of you; and I resolved never to be like them. 

Happiness is not a destination, it is a decision. You decide your own happiness and find your own joy in the mundane grind of life. Get rid of old baggages and see the beauty of the world and Life! My true happiness is knowing I get to see and spend quality time with my family, doing things for people who cannot repay you.

I genuinely delight when people do well in their careers and family. I do not profess to be a sage and have all the answers in life, but like you, I am still trying...

To quote the great Lee Kuan Yew: "At the end of the day, what I cherish most are the human relationships. With the unfailing support of my wife and partner I have lived my life to the fullest. It is the friendships I made and the close family ties I nurtured that have provided me with that sense of satisfaction at a life well lived, and have made me what I am."

I live my life according to two mantras: "Illegitimi Non Carborundum" and "No Regrets, Not Now, Not Ever", as I go about the pursuit of Happyness.... 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The tyrant with a heart…

During the past week, if you switch on the television, most likely you will be watching documentaries on MM Lee, or at least updates on his mourning. It is sad that my children will never truly know how much LKY has impacted Singapore. To Julian, LKY is just the old man who died.
(Isaac asked D why had LKY died and D explained that he was very old and very sick. Julian looked around him saw another old man, he said "he's going to die already…. everyone going to die already" shook his head and walked away.)

Throughout the week, I learnt more and more things about MM Lee which amazes me.. Like how he rejected the $3.3m bribe or how much he has influenced India that they have declared a day's mourning for him (You mean TH also invest money into India??)
But above all, the things that stuck me were how humane this tyrant could be and how loved his wife must be..

1) They were so interested in each other's lives… They WERE each other's lives...

A friend shared this was her
 favorite photo of him… It is mine too
I am sure many have heard this before:

Woman was made from the rib of man,
She was not created from his head to top him,
Nor from his feet to be stepped upon,
She was made from his side to be close to him,
From beneath his arm to be protected by him,
Near his heart to be loved by him.

For 63 years, MM Lee trusted his wife as his equal, his confidante, his life. While he wasn't a Christian, his marriage was his covenant to her. She was his pride and while she always walked two steps behind him, he felt good having her there.

It's amazing how a "chauvinist" like him saw her as an equal. How he trusts her enough to confide in her all his woes and concerns. How he respected her enough to seek and asks her for advise and actually listened to it. (Not many men can do this..)
It's amazing how an educated woman like her saw him as her pillar. That while she knew they were in this together, he was always the head of the family. That while she was busy managing the family, she never felt tired or bored listening to what was happening in his life. (I can't do this either at times..)

I pray and hope that D and I won't take a lifetime to appreciate the fact that we are each other's lives...

2) Their marriage vows weren't just words
How to die like that?
A friend once posted on Facebook that the wedding day should be the day when one loves his/her spouse the least.
There was once when I needed to depend on him after the c-section for Isaac. He had to help me to the toilet and bathed me. He was helpless seeing me in pain, but he tenderly cleaned me and was patient with me. (I was touched… not just literally.. and I knew I could be vulnerable in front of him)
D and I haven't talked much about what would happen when we grow old and fall sick. I mean we planned our finances for fear that we become a burden to our kids, but we never really discussed on what would happen, how we would look after each other, how we might cope with each other's physical liabilities should we one day reach that point. (We did share that how he can't die before me.. as I won't be able to cope)

The fear of not being able to cope alone must have struck a man like MM Lee who saw his life partner become more and more helpless. 
We recognize that one day our kids will grow up and have their own families. D and I know that one day we will only have each other to depend on. Mdm Kwa lived on for a few more years because she had someone to make it worth living, not because she was scared of dying. That's the difference.

Whether you are married or not, is your life worth living?

3) What would life be without the other?

Finally… in life and death, they are together
Many reports have gone on saying how there was a void in MM Lee's life after the passing of his wife. At her funeral, he continuously planted kisses on her lips and face as he knew he was going to miss her dearly.
Even though he had other things to focus on - his country, his family and his work, it was never the same. It took him 9 months to get used to life without her. His health was slowly deteriorating and his life was left with a void.
When younger, I always asked D what would happen if I was no more around. He always said, "Like that la". (Okay.. I was more like hoping how his life would change and how he would be miserable and ladida… but oh well… I grew older and I thought this wasn't important anymore)
MM Lee foresaw what life for Singapore be in 30 years. How can he not foresee what life is like without his partner? I applaud MM Lee for despite all these, not give up his will for living. No one else knows how hard it must be, and we can only imagine. But I'm glad that their 63 years of togetherness continues into eternity now… 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

When the "Tiger Mum" Learns to just be a Mum...

This week has been declared as the mourning period for LKY's death. Throughout the week, videos have provided insights  to what his family is like. (I've learnt many things watching the videos like what's "aplomb" and "jaunty" which I bet not many know either.) One of the things I am very amazed at is how his parents as well as he and his wife were able to somehow groom each child into a maverick. (How come they never write a book on that as well????)

If you have been reading my blog, you will realize that Audrey is quite an independent learner. No doubt, her academic is not my major concern as she gets her concepts fast and I find that my role when teaching her is to make sure she doesn't become complacent or arrogant. I can be harsh with her when needed and push her when she is taking things too easy. In short, she's an "angel" baby when it comes to studies.
He finally got "Ge" right after reading it
as "Yi Ren" for so many times
Isaac is her exact opposite. Don't get me wrong, it's not because he has bad attitude. (In fact, he doesn't understand why people even need to study.) Yet, when you asks him to sit beside you during revision time, he does so happily and with so much enthusiasm.
Unfortunately, Isaac is what society deems as a slow learner.

Yesterday, Audrey had netball in school and I took some time to go through his work with him. There's no denying that Isaac has been lagging severely in his studies. If there were 4 points in the instructions, he probably remembers the last and maybe the first, but he will not be able to digest everything. I can go through a new word with him 5 times, and when we revisit it 5 minutes later, he won't be able to remember what the word is. (Guess we need to revise it 10 times now…)

After sitting with him for just 40 min to do 6 pages, I decided I needed a break. I realized that if I
Two of the pages we attempted
continued, I may actually start to raise my voice and get impatient. I applaud him for his perseverance and told him that he was free to play his toys.

That night, the Mr and I had our own dinner. Because of what happened in the afternoon, halfway through our dinner, I broke down and cried. (The Mr obviously got uncomfortable this time… imagine you are in a restaurant, and you see a woman crying while having dinner with a partner… you will be thinking.. Confirm quarrel)

D asked what happened. I said that I felt bad because I didn't know how to help Isaac. What's worse, I fear that Isaac wouldn't be able to cope in such a system as ours. I shared that how for the next few years when he gets formal education, he's just going to fall through the cracks and suffer.. (Okay, i'm exaggerating a little here…)

D smiled, and asked me when I see Isaac, what do I see.
Amongst the three, he is my most well-behaved child. He is the kindest and gentlest. Surprisingly, while he's not the oldest, he always looks out for his siblings. Like when he and julian wake up from their nap, he will take on the responsibility of changing Julian (and him) out of pampers and help him with his underwear and shorts, before switching off the fan/air-con and bringing him down. (No one told him to do so…)
He is the most giving. Sometimes, we leave our stuff upstairs in our room, and when we asked him to help us to bring it down, even if he was in the middle of something, he has no hesitation doing it for us. (Though he will ask sheepishly why are we so lazy)
He's also the most charming amongst the three. I remember we were in a birthday party when two girls were fighting to play with him. One even cried when the other girl managed to hold his arm. (That was awkward… to see your son being so "hot")

But yes, that is Isaac - the happy-go-lucky, innocent, child-like kid.
If not by me, if not once, academics can always be taught. But these virtues… it's a gift. How do you teach a 5 year old to be charming, to be giving and to be kind?
The toughest part was to accept that the world/system might be unkind to him… of course, I could be the system and force him to adapt in it… but he won't be happy and what good will come out of it?
On the other hand, I could just congratulate for remembering that word we tried to learn for the past 30 min.. and know that he is happy, secure and enjoy life.

He's my child. And I his mother.  And while it is tough for me to not be sucked into the system, my promise to him is that he matters more to me than that. I have to remember that he is here to live God's plan, not mine.
Will he be successful? I don't know. Will he be loved? I am sure. :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

When a Picture says More than a Thousand words

The school term has started and so has my revision time with the kids.
Looking at last term's work, I wanted to do addition word problems with Audrey.
This week, instead of eggs, let me introduce our new character - Gingerbread Men!

This seems easy right? Ha! If only...

This (thank God) is not a question from Audrey's test, it's one of the questions we went through today.
To be fair, this is not a difficult question. I am sure suspect when teachers teach such questions, they would basically highlight the words "at first"and explain to them that it means finding out the number of items at the beginning. To do so, it would mean to add what is left and and is missing.

But here's what my dear girl did…

I'm not sure if you can see, but she struck 2 gingerbread men from the picture, and wrote as 6-2=4. (I don't even know to mark right or wrong)
After the egg incident, I have learnt it is more important (especially for kids) to understand rather than to be understood.
I asked her what made her do this way and here's her explanation:

There were 6 gingerbread men (Like why did they even draw that out?)
4 gingerbread were left.
So… She thought her working was supposed to be 6 - 2 = 4.
(I checked with D and he gave the same explanation as to why she could have done this way. Brilliant! My daughter is going to be a dentist too!)
I thanked her for teaching me something new and told her to take a break, since we would be continuing after dinner.

I tried to ask some friends whose kids are in Primary 1 to let their child try the above question. Basically I wanted to understand if their kids got it right or wrong, and if they did was it because they read the question or looked at the picture.

So one of my girlfriends got her daughter to try and she got it right. I asked did she solve it by reading the question or looking at the picture. She told me the former. She didn't even bother with the pictures.
Another two did the same thing as my girl… (okay now we got 2 more dentists!)

My concern, at this point, wasn't Audrey's train of thought. I was worried. Worried that she would not be able to proceed on questions when it didn't have any pictures (misleading or otherwise) and more importantly, that she will not be able to fit into what the system wants of her.

After dinner, I got her to redo the question again, this time, I covered the picture. I asked her to solve the question for me.
Just to showcase her artistic talent...
So I covered the pictures and she got the right answer. (did you know how loud my sigh of relief was????) I know why schools needed to provide pictures for word problems - for the consideration of other students who can't read.
However, through this one incident, I am not sure if the use of the pictures here has made matters worse. Or rather, the use of pictures has indirectly led to a failure of showing her concept understanding here.

SO if the kids generally didn't get it right because of the picture and if they get it wrong because of the picture… I'm trying to understand… does it mean:

1) Word problems should henceforth not have pictures?
2) If the child can't read, they shouldn't be given word problems?

It's sad that a good intention (picture in this case) didn't produce a good result.
Honestly, if I didn't have this incident with Audrey, I won't have known better as well. (Because I read the question instead of looking at the picture)
And if i were in the school management team, I won't have known that kids may be confused by the pictures and/or whether pictures should be drawn for word problems.
But instead of being critical of what has been done, I hope this post entry would create an opportunity to discuss on what could be done… after all, at some point, chances are your child will be going through the same education as mine.
So I'm posing to you readers, IF you were the setter, what can you do differently?

I do hope you share your thoughts on this… if not, I hope, this will help you further understand how a normal 7 year old think. :)

added note: my friend told me that it's probably easier to let audrey learn how to give answers people want.. Maybe.. but I would also hope that from this post, people would also learn to accept what answers my child (and many other children give) because of the little things we as adults overlook. Will it change overnight, no. But will that make a difference to what you do with a child like this? Maybe… :)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Boy Named Harry

His story started back in 16 September 1923
He was called to be anything but ordinary.
Telok Kurau was his primary school,
Which he noticed his classmates to be poor and not so smart too.

He got into Raffles Institution through his own merit,
Amongst the best, he worked hard to prove he wasn’t a dimwit.
Getting scholarships was like his second nature,
He ended as top student in Singapore and Malaya.

His education got disrupted during the World War II,
For survival, he worked as a clerk, transcriber and even sold his own glue.
The Japanese however always thought he was a threat,
Fortunately, he managed to escape the Sook Ching massacre’s blood shed

After the Japanese said Sayonara,
He went to England and graduated with a rare Double Starred.
He saw how the British abandoned Singapore,
And decided to come back to lead Singapore in case of any war.

On 12 November 1954, he started the ‘socialist’ People’s Action Party
Together with pro-Communists, they wanted to end the British rule ultimately
He won the Tanjong Pagar seat in 1955,
But had to contend with rivals both in and out of PAP in order to survive.

He was our first prime minister on 3 June 1959
While his estranged members started Barisan Sosialis when they were sidelined
He believed in the merger with Malaysia,
And on 16 September 1963, we were united with Sabah, Sarawak and Malaya

The marriage was not one filled with happiness,
The Malaysian government thought a majority Chinese PAP was dangerous
Racial riots got worse in 1964
And on 7 August 1965, he agreed to Tunku’s decision to expel Singapore.

We were now alone, this little red dot.
A lack of natural resources and limited defense left him distraught
On national television, he held back his tears,
Only because he knew that won’t help alleviate our fears.

Unknown to many, he had neglected his health subsequently
He took on the burden to consider his actions and consequences carefully
More and more immigrants started to come in 1970s-1980s
Together with his team, he focused on multiculturalism and built an unique identity

Throughout his term, he made radical decisions
Some may not agree with them, but no one can doubt he had a vision.
With the housing shortage, Singapore was once known as ‘the world’s worst slums’,
Slowly he moved his people from squatters to what it has now become.

He believed that education could build a nation
And so, he introduced bilingualism policy as part of integration
Slowly from a survival driven system,
It evolved to one on abilities, one that was not without wisdom

He knew we wouldn’t be able to survive any war or fight,
And so started the Armed Forces and seek help from Israel to set it right.
He knew without water from our neighbors we would die,
Recycling our own water was one of the things he knew we had to try.

Even with the demise of the love of his life,
He never forgot his love for his second wife.
He held this baby close to his heart
He was committed to not see it fall apart

This morning, saw a demise of a great man
One which we cannot deny, for Singapore at least, it was a God-sent
Without tubes and needles, you have been set free,
So rest well now Harry, 
And thank you for being that special leader to me. 

Picture taken from FoundingFatherSingapore

Saturday, March 21, 2015

How do you discipline your kids?

We were having dinner with some of our friends and the topic of the disciplining of children came up. Some talked about spanking, while others talked about reasoning. Regardless, chances are there will be ONE parent who does the disciplining while the other uses that parent as a threat.

D is the fun-loving parent. He has the patience to play with them, to reason with them and to just have fun with them. The kids adore him and will choose to play with him over me ANY time.
But just because he plays with them doesn't mean that the kids listen to him when it is time for disciplining. Hence D's favorite line "I tell Mummy.." (In fact, that's everyone's favorite line)

D and I (mainly I) tried many ways of disciplining… From spanking to reward charts to reasoning to the ever famous naughty corners. There were a few times each worked, but there were times when the methods fell flat. 
Of course, when Audrey was in Cherrybrook Kindergarten, the tutor taught us some methods that we actually found more effective than others! So here's a write up on the reviews of the methods we tried:

1) Naughty Corner
D and I started the naughty corner with Audrey. Audrey knew how to count and initially when we started this, we would get Audrey to go to a corner and count to 10 before coming back.

M: Go to that corner and count to 10
(After Audrey finishes her counting, she comes back)
M: Are you ready to behave?
A: No
M: Okay fine. Go back there and count to 20
(Happily walks to a corner and counts. After so, she comes back and reports)
M: Are you ready to behave?
A: Yes
M: Are you now willing to listen to mummy and sit still? 
A: Yes (And she gives you the biggest smile ever and is more receptive on being disciplined)

The ever famous spot in our house...
You can say that it was easy but to even put her in the spot initially was hell… in fact, it was really painful to get all 3 of them to stay at the spot at first. You put them there, they move and run away from the corner. I lost count of how many times we had to carry them back to the spot. But they get the idea at one point. They can't win the parent (mummy in this case) and after a while, they just stay there until they have cooled down. 

The naughty corner works best when our kids throw a tantrum. (Do note that if they are tired, this is probably one method which will drain you out most. At such times, I hardly use this method or if I do, it will be for short periods) It makes them cool down and lets them realize that their tantrums won't get them anywhere.

2) Spanking 
All our kids have been spanked. But we draw the line on using the cane. While we both got caned by our parents and we are fine, D isn't comfortable with that. He believes that there are better methods than that. I listened to his stand and respected it. (He's their father regardless) We didn't know how we will discipline the kids subsequently, but we tried not to consider caning as an option.

However, we still spank them regardless. We do so mainly when they are stubborn or when they are disrespectful. 

3) Reward Chart
The ever popular stickers used...
We tried once… and only once. (and we didn't even finish it) To be fair, as much as it catches everyone's interest at first, sustaining it is another matter all together. That's our problem. It was hard work to keep track of their good behavior and giving them stickers for it everyday. 
But we also felt at one point, they were only behaving because they want to rewarded, not because they learnt the better thing to do.
What's worse is that this system depends heavily on their moods. If they felt like it, they behave and asked for their stickers, if they didn't, they still went back their old ways. Also, Audrey being the competitive one, always tried to have more stars on her chart than Isaac. After a while, D and I thought it wasn't exactly one of the best system and we discontinued it.

4) Asking "What" questions 
It is common that we always ask the children "Why", like "Why aren't you sharing your toys?" or "Why didn't you behave yourself".. etc. Audrey's tutor in Cherrybrooks taught us that asking why questions usually create a stumbling block. The children at one point, may not understand why they did so, and another they aren't sure what answer the adult is trying to get so that they will not be in trouble.
So we ask "What" questions instead.

Isaac was sitting on the sofa with his legs stretched out. Audrey wanted to sit at the edge of the sofa, however, Isaac was insistent not to let her do so, despite her asking nicely.

M: Isaac, can you move your legs and let her sit on the sofa?
I: No
M: What is stopping you from moving your legs?
I: (thought for a while) Nothing..
M: If nothing is stopping you, can you let her sit?
I: No
M: Okay. Is there anything I can do to help that?
I: No.
M: So is anything stopping you to move your legs again?
I: No
M: Can you now move your legs and let her sit?
I: Okay. 

Apparently, "What" questions make it less threatening. You may want to consider using that, this is one of the highly recommended methods!

5) Focus on what virtue can be practiced
A list of virtues that the school focuses on...
One of the reasons why I like Cherrybrook Kindergarten is their emphasis on virtues. Like some afternoons when Audrey sits and does her revision work with me, she does have her moments of procrastinating and gets distracted.

A: Mummy, I don't want to do already
M: Audrey, you are almost done. You just have half a page left. Can you practice some perseverance and self-discipline and finish it? After which, you can take a short break.
A: (thought for a while) okay…

So instead of saying to your child, "Don't be shy.", another way is to say "Let's practice the virtue of courage and friendliness and make some friends". My kids still need some encouragement here and there, but with consistency, they are getting there. Saying things like "Shy" or "Lazy" just highlights and gives them the reason to continue behaving the way they were, there was nothing (positive) for them to work on.

Whatever methods I use, I always end the discipline session with a hug and a kiss, reminding them that I love them a lot.
Discipling is a pain, but lack of discipline is worse. Do you have any methods that you use and don't mind sharing? Hope to hear stories from you too! 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

When You have a Bad Parenting Day

I started this blog about two weeks back thinking it would just be a reflection of my life as a parent and wife. (Ok… D thinks I did so because I was just bored…)

I did hope I wasn't just writing to myself but I didn't expect people to actually read my blog. But… people do (Thanks for the free kite! Now… if only I can get a car…. :) ) And (almost) everyday, I get messages to tell me that they enjoyed reading the blog and it had inspired them in their day or journey as a mummy. I even got compliments on doing a good job (I feel like it's time to run for Mrs Singapore..)

In case you didn't know which car… BTW, I am not a fan of pineapples… and white will do :D
And while it seemed like I did inspire people (Ha! I know… it's unreal), I am just like any of you too - Clueless (maybe a little better than the parent with 1 child), irritable and just… ordinary

I too had my share of bad days and doubts. I remembered when Audrey was just 1 week old, the confinement nanny had to go to get her passport stamped, and I was alone with her. Well, let's just say I'm glad God made them hardy, because within that short 1.5 hrs with her, not only I couldn't get her to latch on well (who ever said breastfeeding was natural???), I kinda knocked her nose while changing her clothes (It's an accident!) It was a nightmare! 
There was another time when Audrey was a baby, and she just couldn't stop fussing, I wanted to teach her a lesson to stop crying so much. (Like what was i thinking… teach a baby not to cry?!?) I raised my voice at her, in the hope of disciplining her, but in the end, she just got louder and I got irritated and frustrated and I just got the helper to take over while I just cried in the room. (yes… i know… loser)

But as any other mummy (or parent) would tell me, it is normal. And in case you need a reminder, this is for you..

1) Mummy's bad day… is usually just for ONE day.
No matter how terrible that day was for me, after I wake up the next day, chances are it gets better. The next day the kids forget you even scolded them the day before, their eyes light up when they see you and they just drop everything and run to you. (Doesn't that amaze you on their gift of forgiveness?) And that moment just made up for whatever bad day you had yesterday. 
Now, if everyday seems like hell to you, then you are having depression or the blues. This is serious… Talk to someone about it… 

2) Yesterday's failures doesn't mean I've failed.
Is this an egg or not???
Remember the ever famous egg blog when I shared about how I failed my test as a mum? Sure, on hindsight, I have learnt certain things that I could do better - look at her small successes than her minor failures. 
And I have to learn that lesson myself. To look at my other small successes along the way and not just that incident because it doesn't define me as a mum. Like even after a hectic day, I still am able to plan and cook a family dinner (for 9) by 7pm. 
So yes, cheer up, you still got another chance to better yourself. :)

3) Know that you are not alone
The best journeys are the ones travelled
with someone who loves you…. as much
as you love them… 
I'm grateful that whenever I doubt myself, I can turn to my friends and D for support. They may not offer any advice, but just by letting me pour out my frustrations and just let me cry it out, it's enough.
D may not agree with how I cope with my negative emotions at times, but he doesn't judge me. He doesn't agree with how I may choose to show my negative emotions (be it anger or sadness), but he doesn't tell me that I shouldn't feel that way. (I think because of that, he should just get the Husband of the Year award already!) He listens to me rant, doesn't judge me and ends up asking me if I need a drink. (Ha! Don't you love him too?

4) Guidelines should just be a guide
Sure, there are many studies which tell you how certain things you do will make your child develop better etc. When God gave you a child, besides giving you enough love to protect and nurture the kid, He also equipped you with some intelligence and intuition to know what your child is like and how you  can be a better mummy to that kid. So if those guidelines stress you more than help you, ditch them on that bad mummy day… Go with the flow and enjoy your kids.

5) Even if you think you are a bad mummy, your kids don't
I think this is the one that takes the cake. Not every comment I received so far is positive, though with 1 of those I get, I have 8 more that are encouraging. Sometimes I wonder if I had opened my life to criticism when all I wanted to do was to share with people some positive energy on motherhood and I forget that my duty is towards my children and not to the rest of the world. I can't tell you the many times when my kids hugged and kissed me and tell me they think I'm pretty (ha.. they are not joking…), that they love me tops (okay.. sometimes it drops to the 3rd place after daddy and their dolls), or when they perform on stage they look out for D and me and not care whether the rest of the world sees them, and when at night, they choose to snuggle up to me even when during the day I would be disciplining them… 
The list goes on… but nothing can deny that you are your child's superhero… and they are yours. 

So trot on fellow parents… You are not alone, and you are doing just fine. Anyone who tells you otherwise, probably don't have any kids of their own. :) My prayers are specially with you today… :)

Share with me if you have any other times when you feel like your day is terrible, and how something got you going. :) 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

What ONLY a mother of three can tell you...

I may just be 33 years old this year, but compared to many people, I have the luxury that not many have - to experience the journey of having 3 kids. :) With that, someone asked me to share what I learnt as a mummy so far. (I mean you could have three kids, but reading for most is much easier… )

So here goes….

1) The first kid is always the hardest. 
Looking back, it was hardest for us to be parents to no1 than any of the kids. We had no idea what to expect, so many things to read (half of which I have already forgotten), everyone had their "two cents" worth (which honestly, it will be better if they had kept quiet and gave us cash) and basically, your life is turned upside down because of one small being…

And that's just ONE of the MANY tests I did...
I remembered after Audrey was born, D and I actually had a tough time appreciating each other. (I mean I even considered separation…) I had post baby blues and I hated how i looked in the mirror. When i wanted to eat, so did Audrey. Sure I read about breast-fed babies need to be fed every 2 hrs… but NOBODY said each breastfeeding session was 30-45min (especially if you are a first time mummy and your milk supply hasn't kicked in). So effectively, you are breastfeeding every 1 hr. With breastfeeding comes breast engorgement, which is damn painful. My breasts at one point were uneven since I produced more on one side… So I had one boob slightly bigger than the other. (BTW, just a tip.. cradle hold helps engorgement if the inner side is engorged, a football cradle eases the engorgement on the outer side.)
My diet, bathing styles and routine was significantly disrupted.

I thought D wasn't being supportive and D thought that when I gave birth, I lost my mind. It was horrible. At one point, I was giving him the cold shoulder… which only ended when he broke the ice and listened to what I was going through. 
(If you didn't go through this.. you automatically qualify for no 2,3 and 4.. :) and according to many of my friends the government will love you for this… but until now, I am still waiting for that commendation letter from the prime minister...)

2) If the dad had wanted a boy as a firstborn, chances are it will be a girl
I have witnessed many of our friends starting a family of their own. Many of the dads (D included) seemed very sure that they will conceive a boy. It was like a statement they tell their peers that they are able to produce an heir… and the first one is a boy. Maybe it's just something they are able to relate better to. Who knows? But from all the guy friends who thought that their wives are definitely having a boy… I look forward to seeing their look when it turns out to be a girl. :)
(Let's just say if there's a way for God to play a prank on them, this is one very successful way.)
D thought that I would be having a boy too. Even when we went for a thorough scan and after the doctor confirming that it was a girl, he wondered if there would be a mistake. (This all ended when I got upset at his behavior) When Audrey was born however, he fell in love with her instantly. Until now, she has a special footing in his heart. 
So yes, while it is true the dads had wished for a boy at first, after seeing their first born, they won't have asked for anything different. :)

3) You will truly enjoy motherhood at No 3
When you have the first kid, everyone rushes to compete with you for that baby's attention. The only time when you get the baby back is when it's time to feed in the middle of the night. Our parents would always come and comment about our style of looking after the baby and suggest a "better" way to do so, undermining what you intend to do, especially when you are a young parent. In short, you just feel lousy.

Art piece by Isaac of him and his siblings
When no 2 comes, you will suffer another set of problems, mainly parent's guilt. Suddenly your first-born is no more the baby in the family. He/she is forced to grow up. As a mum, you suddenly cannot do as many things with your no 1 as you did before because the younger one needs you. Spending too much time with the younger one, makes you feel bad that you have left your older one out. Spending too much time with the older one, makes you feel terrible because the second is neglected. If you think you will be able to spend equal amount of time with both, you might. But chances are, either the older one will demand more time from you or that would just tire you out.

In comes no 3. NO ONE tells you what to do and what not to do already (they either don't bother or they don't dare). You don't compete with the helper/parents to do everything for the baby. Things like washing the butt, making milk etc suddenly make you realize there's no value add if you personally did it. As long as it is done, it is just as well it is outsourced. 
The kids play by themselves and they don't bother you as much, leaving you some time with the baby (without guilt). You don't need to buy some welcome gift for the older siblings and say it's from the youngest, because a good part of their lives they are already used to siblings and one more won't hurt. In fact if anything, the first two are really quite excited meeting the new baby. :)

4) Love is multiplied and not divided
Love in the heart is not the same as water in a jug. It is not a fixed amount which with each cup, becomes lesser. Ironically, with another child, you will be amazed by how much more patient you become, how much more tolerant you are to mistakes, how much more you can forgive and not hold grudges, how much kinder you are to a crying kid (who's not yours) in public… (you just learnt the true meaning of 1 Corinthians 13!) But of course with each child who teach you that, you also become older, have lesser sleep and eat faster.
And yes, I do admit that I have a soft spot for Julian because he's the youngest who spends the most time with me, but each of them means a lot to me. :)

Back in 07.07.07
5) Your greatest love at ALL times has got to be your spouse
If anything, this has to be the number 1 rule of all times. With kids, love in the family is not like a food chain where Daddy loves mummy, mummy loves children… and children love their toys.
I was first a Mrs before I became the kids' mother. The kids actually appreciate this fact. They like it when we kiss each other, when we hold hands, and even feed each other! They may giggle and cover their eyes once a while (nothing graphic here…) but deep down they are really happy to know that daddy and mummy are securely one. :)
Does anyone realize that in the olden times, marriages seem to work better than the ones now? I suspect it's largely because people love the one they married and not marry the one they love. It makes a difference, because one requires commitment.

Of course, there's other things like not buying the cot and strollers before the baby comes and don't sweat about breastfeeding but those are personal preference. (A stroller is like another child, esp if you don't have a car. It becomes really annoying to fold and unfold at different parts of your journey. While the baby may end up on your bed most times rather than on the cot because of breastfeeding) Also, sometimes in life, we only learn by making that mistakes ourselves rather than listening what people say. Just like how people learn mahjong, we just learn through paying… :)

These are not big principles… in fact some are common sensical. But sometimes common sense is not so common. :)

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Greatest Love

Many times, when D and I go out, friends always ask about the kids. "Great!" I will say, "they are still alive" While most times we laughed at the response, many don't know that to me, that's the best thing I feel each day when I wake up - to know that my kids are safe and alive.

I'm not sure if many realize but while we many be able to decide and control the amount of money we earn, the type of friends we hang out with, the spouse/partner to be with, the type of job to do, the gift of parenthood is one that's not based on one's merit and choice. That makes being mummy to Audrey, Isaac and Julian (and now no4) even more special. Because, even through my limitations, mistakes and unworthiness, the one above thinks i can love and be loved by ways more than one.

Yet the gift of parenthood comes with the gift of fear - fear that I will fail them as a mum, fear that I will not able to see them blossom, fear that I may not know what to do when something bad happens to them and the greatest one.. the fear I will lose them.

I was sharing with some friends that though I am at 18 weeks now, I don't really feel the movement of the baby… I am a little paranoid that something might happen to it, especially when now I seem to see quite a bit of Facebook postings on stillborns and failed pregnancies etc. I can't help at times to wonder if it is a sign to prepare me for the worse. 
Many didn't know, but between Isaac and Julian, I had a failed pregnancy. Though it was only 7-8 weeks then, I remembered for some nights subsequently I actually broke down and wondered if I could have done anything different to protect that baby… But the pregnancy ended and though 3 months later I was given Julian, the pain of losing that baby will always be there. 

Of all the funerals that I have attended, the most painful ones are those when the parents have to bury their child, because when they lay their child to rest, a part of their hearts goes down with them. 

Lent helps me to reflect how much then God loves me (and you… and basically everyone on earth). Isn't it the greatest irony that the carpenter's son was to be hammered onto a cross and left there to die? I mean, all the while Christ could be a fisherman's son or whatever… but growing up for him was playing with the tools that one day will kill him. And God the Father knows but all He would do was to let it happen.

If you haven't had the chance to listen to this song - Sacrifice by Bob Fitts, I highly recommend that you take some time to watch it on youtube ( In short, this song was on how Abraham was brought to the test of sacrificing the one child whom he had been waiting for basically all his life…
The song writes the pain and struggle of the Abraham as he walks up the hill to sacrifice his son who essentially is his dreams, hopes and his everything. 
The songs ends asking us to consider that love when God chose to sacrifice Jesus just to save us. Of course, He is God… and with a snap of his fingers (if he even wants to do it) everyone will be saved, but just to make us understand how much love He has for us, He had to sacrifice his son. (I mean isn't it easier to just kill yourself than to sacrifice your child?)

So… Thank you Father… for time and again reminding me that I'm specially made according to Your plan. Thank you for giving me the reassurance that no matter what happens, You will always carry me through… And i pray that should the time come for me to obey, your sacrifice gives me the strength to say yes. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

When a triangle becomes a diamond/square...

It's been about 1 week since I started blogging… Throughout the week, I have friends and strangers dropping me a note telling me that whilst they don't normally read blogs, they do find what I write interesting and at (most) times inspiring… (I'm sure that's largely because they never expected me to be that 'wise'.. ) It was quite humbling to know that even one of my teachers back in school was actually reading my blog (Aww… you know who you are.. and with that, thank you for your quiet support )

Somehow my experiences, as mundane and simple, were something they could relate to and at times made them re-evaluate their choices in life. (Awww…) It does seem my struggles as essentially a wife and mother are not mine alone. The only thing that was different was I talked about it and added in how I grew from it. Of course, while many may not have down the same as I have, I hope it had at least provided you a glimpse as to what could have happen if you so did the same as me. (After all, we don't need to touch fire to know it burns)

And somehow, of all the entries I wrote, nothing beats the one on Audrey's test. Till date, that alone has received 16200 views (and it is increasing as I type…) That post went 'viral'. It struck a chord with parents, educators and even students. People from Australia, America, UK, Indonesia and even South Korea could identify with it. With that I also have received some comments that if I had been too harsh on Audrey. Maybe I did, but the key take away was not that I was harsh. It was I failed to celebrate her small successes and hopefully I had subsequently inspire her to do better in her next test. I admitted that I failed my test as a mum, but I was not shy to admit it and I shared what I would do differently next.

But I do wish that mothers and teachers could share with me how they have been proven otherwise before by their students. That the child had seen or done something before because it was something that as adults we have overlooked on our part.

I share another example with you…
When I was a trainee teacher, my professor always told us to be mindful how we draw our triangles.
Most times when we introduce a triangle to young kids especially, we tend to draw our triangles as should in Figure 1. I did a symmetry class with a P3 (9 year olds) then and I too did show them over the projector a triangle like that. 

Me: Class, do you know what shape is this?
Class: Triangle.
M: Very good. (I slowly inverted the triangle until the tip was at the base in front of them) Now class, what is this shape?
C: Square (said some) NO! diamond! (said others… essentially i have every shape but triangle)
M: Ok. Calm down. (I inverted the triangle back to Figure 1 again) Let's try again. What shape is this?
C: (in unison) Triangle.
M: (I tried inverting to Figure 2 again with them witnessing it) And this?
(Again the class responded with anything but triangle… and no i can't continue teaching symmetry if they can't get this right)

How is that possible?? With that I switched off the projector, and I called a girl up.
M: Class, what's her name?
C: Ying Xi
M: Okay. (I asked YX to sit) Class, who is she?
C: Ying Xi
M: Very good. (Now i asked YX to turn around with her back facing them) Class who is she? 
C: Ying Xi (The class was starting to giggle… obviously, they are either getting it or they thought I was dumb)
M: (Now i got YX to bend over) Class who is she?
C: YING XI! (okay… they finally got what I wanted to say)

With that I asked the girl to go back to her seat and switched on the projector again. 
M: (Showing them a triangle just like Figure 1) Class what is this?
C: Triangle
M: (Inverting it to Figure 2) And class, what's this?
C: Triangle! (Woo hoo… I TAUGHT THEM!)

The lesson continued and everyone was happy.

I am sure most times adults do their best to protect and teach the young ones. But if no one shares what they learnt or what to do differently, our ways will be just our limited knowledge on figuring what is best… It could be a similar experience that you have experienced form a test paper, or just a normal session chatting with your kids…anything! Point is.. Why reinvent the wheel? 
If you have anything that had inspire you through your teaching with your kids… please share… If you are willing to share, you can always email me at, and with your permission I will post it for others to read… 
I'm not sure if anyone would respond to this… (Ha!) but if you could… let's be each other's eyes and support for our kids. :) 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A journey of 9 years as a Mrs...

The much talked about pi-day came and gone. How was that special for you? It didn't make much difference except the fact that 9 years ago, D and I legally became husband and wife. I'm sure it would be more romantic if D actually remembered that it was today and not 16.3.2006.

While strolling in the park..

M: You know what day it is today?
D: (He looked at me…) It's not today. It's 16/3 (I have to say, it feels good being with someone who knows what you are thinking.)
M: What's on 16/3?
D: Our ROM lah. You very horrible very dates.
M: My dear, we registered on the 14?
D: Please… my memory better than you… wanna bet?
M: You must be getting old, it is 14.
D: I'm very confident.
(I laughed. Boy I love it when I get to prove him wrong… I took my phone and looked through my archive mail… Finally, I found the email that had the booking for the restaurant for 14/3/2006. The taste of victory never got sweeter…)
M: Your memory still good?
(D looked through the email…)
D: Yes… see.. it's on 16.3. I'm right. (whatever… I knew i got him… like WHY would you doubt a woman on her wedding date? It's not like asking her when Singapore was forced to surrender… Ok in case you didn't know it's 15/2/1942)

Oh and why I chose 14/3? I don't know if you guys remember the pager phase, when 143 actually means I love you? :)

After the stroll, we met some friends for dinner… and they were all surprised that he was able to sit there and enjoy himself. 

But yes… while the Mr got the date mixed up, I know that he loves me… and that's more important. So  today, i took some time to slowly go through the emails we used to send to each other when we were dating. (If you have the time and chance to do so, read those mails again… You will be laughing at times, tearing at some but smiling all the time) I was actually quite romantic when I was 21… Ha.. okay maybe more to cheesy and really quite high maintenance. I read some of the emails and even I couldn't carry on… (What the hell was I thinking????) And D had to put up with it and even replied them… (I told you he loves me…)

One of the emails that caught my attention was an email that I wrote to him attaching a letter to my future husband. Since I hope you will be able to last through this whole blog entry, I will just copy and paste a small portion of what is interesting in the letter…

One day, my looks will fade, my busts will sag, my body will go fat but i hope you will always see me as ur beautiful princess just like how when my hearing and vision fail... i will take extra effort to listen to you and close my eyes to your weaknesses... and love me darling... not because of my hair length or whatsoever... but when compared to another girl.. your eyes will still be attracted to me.. regardless how interesting the other person's teeth may be, how smooth and soft her hair may be, how witty and loud she makes you laugh, how great her figure is complimented with her cup C or D busts... just like how i know u are the one for me.. over john, joseph, bryan, lester, adrian.. blah blah.. i might take a little longer time to digest the differences... but i am sure at the end of the day.. if u wait for a while longer, my answer would be you still and i dun want anyone else…
(Okay I really don't know who the guys are… but that's not really the point in that really… 

This was written when I was about 21 (Gawd… I was so young…) and it's amazing how we managed to stick by each other through it all… See when I was younger, I was more insecure, possessive, very easily jealous… In short, I was just young and irritating.. :)

That made me reflect on this bible verse… and appreciate it more…

Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited
It is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offense or store up grievances 

I remembered for one of the wedding masses I attended, a priest actually asked, ever since when love makes one patient, kind, not jealous, not boastful or conceited? Which lover will not be rude (I suppose when angry) and not love for self's advantage? How does one not take offense or be okay when things go bad?

Probably when we love based on the mere ability of human.

It's not love per se, but with God, that loving becomes 'unnatural'. Of course, you may be a person with no faith and still be in a wonderful relationship. But all I am saying is that because I have faith, loving becomes easier to understand and show. Loving D was not based on how I wanted to love, but how he needed to be love. :) 

So on pi-day, I'm thankful that God has given me a glimpse of what His love to me can me… Through D. Thank you D… for showing me what heaven is like… even for someone as undeserving as me. :)

P.S. Why isn't Pi-day on 22/7????