Monthly Archives: July 2015

When mum is busy

There are times our normal life gets thrown out of whack, like in the past few weeks. When I’m swamped with work and under the weather, the family has to find new ways to cope.

Outings – have been few and far between because I have been rushing interviews, transcripts and stories for a book project this month. So my husband has taken over ferrying duties and bringing Shannon for some after school fun while I get in that extra hour of working time.

Shannon’s Chinese name 橦 (tong2), means cotton tree. We chose it because it we liked the meaning – many uses, useful to society. Her papa had the great idea of bringing her to hunt down the tree she is named after. So after school one day, the two of them went on an “adventure”. Adventure because the said tree, tall and majestic, was located beside a busy expressway, across a large drain. Somehow, they made it to the tree, and Shannon had a picture taken while balancing precariously on a railing (on the side away from the road).

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They found some soft, white cotton on the ground beside the tree, which made a comfortable bed for the bugs!

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She still talks about the “adventure” she went on with Papa.

Entertainment – has been self-directed because I simply have no time or energy to think up ways to entertain them. There have been too many TV days. But there have also been moments they derived simple pleasure from staying at home. So forget things like “let’s do some painting on canvas”. Jason dug out some old art books and started drawing again. Simple pencil sketches I love.

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Housework – only the bare minimum has been done, and on some days, not even the bare minimum. Shannon has had to wear the same uniform two days in a row a couple of times in the past weeks because her parents completely forgot to get in a load of laundry before they fell asleep. Not that she knows. She cannot know because she refuses to rewear what she thinks are soiled clothes…

My part-time helper remarked that I must have been busy because the home is dirtier than ever. I usually sweep every day (she mops once a week), but even sweeping has taken a backseat. I do make the kids sweep up crumbs they scatter and that’s how we’ve been managing.

Jason has taken it upon himself to pack his table without being asked, so that was a nice surprise!

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Dinners – have been tiffin meals lovingly cooked and delivered piping hot by their grandma. We would otherwise be eating out most days. Now they get a say in the dishes they want from the “tiffin service” and get to provide unsolicited feedback on the meals to the cook. We’re blessed! (I only remembered to take pictures on one day)

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We did manage to get out one evening over the weekend for a birthday meal at a vegan restaurant, Loving Hut. Their favourite aunt, my youngest sister, turned 19!

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We had delicious vegan food that well, didn’t taste vegan!

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Thankfully, I’m seeing the light at the end of the busy tunnel soon. 🙂

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Goodbye, Lao ma (great-grandma)

Two years after my maternal grandmother (ah chor) passed away, we said goodbye to my paternal grandmother (ah ma) – the kids great-grandmother whom they called Lao ma.

wpid-imag0069.jpgLike ah chor, Lao ma lived a good, long life. She was 90, had 8 children, 11 grandchildren, 8 great-grandchildren. She died of a brain aneurysm leading to a stroke. She was in a coma for nine days before she succumbed.

She was lucky to have her full mental capacity right up to the day before her stroke. My uncle recalled discussing the buying and selling of shares with her just hours before she went to bed and never woke up. She had great fun dabbling in the stock markets in the last few decades of her life, often helping my parents monitor the stocks and shares on Teletext while they were at work. She did not read much English but could recognise the alphabets that formed the stocks she owned!

When my sister graduated, we went to the studio for her graduation photoshoot. Below, my parents, sisters, my husband and ah ma.

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It was a couple of years after my grandfather passed on. So during the studio shoot, ah ma had her “funeral portrait” taken as well. As it turned out, she outlived ah gong by almost 20 years. My mother kept her portrait in the cupboard all this while.

wpid-img-20150704-wa0006.jpgShe lived with us during our school days, cooking lunches for my sister and I, and dinners for my family.

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So I was grateful to have had the opportunity to cook her a meal on Mother’s Day just last month.

wpid-img_0021.jpgMy cousin, Kevin, was back from Switzerland with wife Steffi, and we had one of the best family reunions in a long while.

wpid-img_0013.jpgOf course we never expected it would be our last gathering with ah ma. She was full of life, enjoying the family, the food and our laughter, apart from dozing off towards the end of the evening on my sofa. She had some minor ailments and walked with the help of a walking stick. Apart from that, she was blessed with largely good health. For that, we’re thankful.

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While we mourn her passing, we celebrate the good life she led. We will miss her signature cabbage duck dish cooked over the charcoal stove every Chinese New Year, but we will go on to continue to cook for our family, feeding them homecooked meals the way she fed us. Rest well, ah ma. You deserve it.

Brandname school or neighbourhood school?

I’ve never thought it really important that my kids attend a brandname school – even though I was from one myself. So Jason has been attending a neighbourhood school near home for the last few years. Shannon is due for Primary 1 next year, and the time has come for school registration. In a column in Straits Times published today, I wrote about the dilemma of selecting a school for her – my alma mater, or her korkor’s school. (ST has a new education section that comes out every Monday and I’ll be writing a monthly column there.)

If I didn’t feel so strongly about my alma mater, perhaps there wouldn’t be much of an issue. But I have fond memories of my primary school life, even though it’s been decades since I left the school. The most iconic person from my primary school was my principal, Mrs Hwang. She has since retired, but the last time I met her several years ago, she was working as a primary school counsellor. She is not one to rest on her laurels. I was delighted to meet her in the course of my work, during an interview in a primary school. I greeted her the only way I knew how: “校长!”(“Principal”, in mandarin) And the first thing she said? “来, 校长抱抱一下!” (Come, let me give you a hug)

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I was not a high profile student in school, and I’m pretty sure she did not remember or recognise me since it had been more than 20 years since I left the school. But such is her warmth. She hugs all her students. All her ex-students still call her 校长, even though she has retired long ago. She set the tone for the school. Ask anyone from the school then and they remember her motherly reminders to drink water, her lengthy assembly talks and more.

I will always be grateful to Mrs Hwang, my teachers in primary school, and the friends I made there. They have contributed to who I am today. They made primary school enjoyable. All I hope is my children will also have fond memories of their school life. When they leave school, I hope it is not the brand of the school, the marks they get in tests and exams, or the homework they remember. I hope they remember the friends they played with during recess, the fun they had during CCA after school, and the antics they got up to with their friends during lessons. And such memories, can be made anywhere, whether the school is a brandname or neighbourhood one.

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