My priority ring (An actual ring)


One night about a year after I had Q, after a particular harried day trying to balance my incredibly full plate of obligations, errands and what have you, I had a massive meltdown. It was not your average huge cathartic cry type of meltdown; but a real questioning of “what the heck are you doing?” that I think shook the depths of my very being.

The full gravity of motherhood (having a tiny little thing fully depend on you is a scary scary reality to behold), the massive weight of growing a company, the colossal undertaking to constantly keep it together was simply too much to bear. I think most new moms, or even more seasoned ones, sometimes hit that kind of mountain. It makes you doubt who you are, what you are doing, your self worth and it’s a slippery slope.

Anyway, I waded through THAT quagmire and somehow found my footing again- yay to my amazing mummy support system; but I felt like I needed to find a physical anchor, like a reminder of what I needed and decided to design myself a priority ring. Also, another excuse for new jewelery (yay!).


The design is fairly simple: two distinct but connected bands (at the base). One thin and gravelly, one broader and smoother. The thinner band was to represent me and my “me life”. I asked for it to be sand blasted so that it was gravely to touch and textured to look at which represented my imperfections.

The thicker band was to be in smooth gold (though it’s now sporting a slightly more worn look) and represent my other identities: my being a wife to W, mom to Q (and now Ev), a daughter to my parents, sister to my sisters and a friend.

Both bands are joined at the base, ultimately, a connected life of personal space and growth and my life’s obligations, duties and priorities.

I deliberated over the order of the words for those became my priorities and it took me a long while to decide that my first priority is to be a WIFE, then a MOTHER. That whilst mummy duties take a lot of time, energy and effort, it is important that my better half is, well, my better half and kinda my partner in the whole parenthood business so, it makes sense that I remember that.

Of course, not to say I’m going to run off to do frivolous things with W while our poor kids languish at home like unwanted latch key kids. But that the husband has to matter. That its dangerous for a marriage to simply get caught up with being a mom, or parenting. So, yes, WIFE, then MOTHER.

I had wanted to write child-of-God right in front, but it wouldn’t fit hence I made the ring out of gold because I have always loved Job 23:10 that says:


So, the ring reads:

Wife. Mother. Daughter. Sister. Friend.

I never used wear the ring much, but I find myself wearing more and more, even daily, these days as I find that life today so often means we so easily lose track of what is important to us. We are so caught up with doing stuff, we forget to give weight to the things that should matter.

That amidst all the doing, I’d always be reminded of the being.

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Our firstborn is off to school!

Because we were ill when the new school term started, Q only started school this week. Since we knew he would not have the luxury of parent accompanied orientation days like the rest of his classmates, we did our best to psych him up as far as we could. We talked about how fun school would, be, that there would be playground time, oodles of new friends and, most importantly, it would only last three hours and he would still have time to go do all the fun stuff we used to do, like the zoo.

All things considering, he weathered his first day at school fairly well. He had never been to an accompanied class before after all. There was the usual waterworks but we claim small victories like the fact that he didn’t kick up a fuss on day 2, wearing his uniform happily and trotting off to class albeit in a more somber mood. Teacher reported some intermittent tears but we think he’ll get there at some point. He burst into tears when I came to pick him but calmed down by the time we got home and was quick to tell Evan he had a great time in school even if he cried.

The decision put Q in school was a deeply deliberated one as we considered homeschooling for a long time. After considering our family’s needs and lifestyle, we decided we would send him to school, but to one that was a more relaxed and play-orientated one. And most importantly, a school that understood that loving the kids is always more important to educating them, however crucial that was.

We were originally attending the accompanied cherrytots class at Cherrybrooks- which we loved, but their kindy at 4.5hrs, was longer than we liked. We settled on Gracefields Kindergarten @Gilstead. We really liked the school even if it is not Montessori. (We figured maybe I’d just go get certified. Heh.) The school is a Christian school and runs slightly more like an “old style” kindy with a more relaxed approach to education. The fact at they have three playgrounds and fees that did not cost an arm and a leg didn’t hurt. Also, seeing as our housing plans are still up in the air, their more central location suited us well.

So, In what seems like a twinkling of an eye, we begin this long journey of school. And because we live in a tiger mom rampant age of tuition center placement horror stories, school pressure related child mental meltdowns and suicides, and an incessant barrage of enrichment class ads that tell you that good parenting means packing your child’s day with classes; I do worry for my children but take heart that we are acutely clear that that is not how we want our children to grow up.

A child psychiatrist friend (and soon to be godfather to my kids since he’s marrying Godma) once reminded us that in the face of rat races that can sometimes begin as young as birth, it is our duty as parents to protect our children’s childhood. That they are still meant to climb trees, wade in rivers, catch ants and run through open fields of hope, freedom and unbridled joy.

To our dear son Quentin:

As you embark on your schooling journey, it is our deepest prayer and hope that you will never lose your sense of wonder about the world around you, or your natural curiosity for new things, your tenacity to keep at something till you succeed and the humility to know when to ask for help. And most of all, that you will always rest secure in the knowledge- deeply embedded in the depths of your soul, that you are loved unconditionally and supported unequivocally.

Mummies don’t get to fall sick, not really.

images-1I am fortunate insofar that I really rarely fall sick. I may have one or two off days but I usually bounce back fairly quickly; life never even misses a beat, I am none worse for wear.

I do my fair share to stay healthy: I eat fairly well, loads of vegetables, fruits and juice. My one big unhealthy indulgence is that I love Lemon Tea- I have been told that too much tea is not great for the system. I reckon, too much most things are bad for any system anyway. Plus, I always joke with W; that mummies are usually not allowed to fall sick. So we rarely do.

It was probably culmination of a crazy work schedule meets travel demands, add a stint of not sleeping well, a dash of far too many activities and festivities and a sprinkle of an over active mind that never stops that finally did me in. Shortly after Christmas, as we entered the new year, not long after W and Q fell to some bug, my body finally gave out on me and left me- even after a two week course of anti-biotics, at the mercy of what will be the worst sinus infection of my life.

I had 38-39 degree fever (chills, shivers and all) for almost a week over the new year, and could only medicate with the usual over the counter Flu and sinus stuff because most medical places were closed and I really needed a specialist cos clearly the GP level stuff weren’t working. During which time, we still had to cope with W being ill, Q’s fever not bating (took him almost five days to be rid of the bug, night sponge baths and all) and Evan generally being unhappy because Mummy could not carry him, Daddy was flat out and Kor Kor was banned from playing with the bub. Gratefully, our helpers stayed healthy, as did Evan.

I was pretty much a wreck: days flowed into nights into days. And my fever persisted, my sinuses were clogged beyond relief and I was developing awful sinus related headaches. I barely ate, felt nauseous mostly (from backdrip) and lost weight that I didn’t have to lose.

I finally got to see my Ear Nose and Throat doctor (the wonderful Dr. Leong Hoo Kwong at Mt. E, if you are interested); second patient, on the second day of the new year. And he took one look at me and figured out I was probably hit by some super sinus bug. W convinced me to get a sinus washout which he (under) described as a mere saline rinse. I almost had a heart attack when the nurse took out two ice-pick looking things and explained the doctor would have to break some bone before being able to do the rinse. I’m sure there’s some cool fangled medical term they use, but, as far as I was concerned, my husband signed me up to be half lobotomised. If I weren’t already LA-ed, set up and in pretty much sinus hell, I would not have signed the consent form.

To cut the gross story short, they did the washout, sent stuff to get tested (its streptococcus pneumoniae) and I was sent home with a new course of antibiotics, more meds, orders to rest rest rest and a hilarious offer for medical leave. Looking back, I should have taken it and given it to Evan; maybe he’d stop being mad at mummy cos she’s suddenly always holed up in bed.

It took another two days for the fever to bate sufficiently, another two after that for my nose to stop bleeding (finally) and as I write a week hence, I am much better, but hardly in the all clear zone. I am still blocked up though my osteopath and Rolfer have done wonders to help with the situation and in helping me ease those awful sinus headaches. I still find myself needing more rest than my schedule can afford.

In between, Q missed his first week of school (he was sick, we were sick, and we didn’t want to be that family that sends the runny nosed, coughing kid to school; worse, with the nose bleeding, nasally congested accompanying mom).

Upside to all this? I got tons of readings done, caught up on all the world news (mainly politics, which is a lot) and spent oodles of time with W, who was also, like me, banned from being around the kids much. We even manage to catch up on some TV shows. Small mercies.

My lovely across the street neighbour- who feeds us ever so often, was quick to remind me that this was probably God’s way of making me rest, slow down and take time for myself. I do many things well, resting is not one of them. As a full time working from home mom, my days are choker-block full. In any given day, I barely have time to be mummy, wife, boss, much less, to simply be me. As is, that I no longer battle housework on the day to day basis, is already absolutely wonderful.

And as I take stock of these very difficult past weeks, and knowing it might be several more before I am completely right as rain, I am grateful the kids are none worse for wear, if only a little cabin fevered. And that W is getting better. And that I have somehow toddled through the worst of work stuff whilst sick leaving the rest of the year fairly easy going (I hope). We have also figured out our work stuff, gave up on some huge projects since we have decided to prioritise our bandwidth better and planned several well spaced family holidays.

Not the greatest way to start the year, but grateful anyway.

Our year in review: 2012


January passed in a blur of work and baby prep, though Quentin and I found time to take part in our first joint fashion campaign. In February, we welcomed little Evan into our family, February 21st, to be exact. In March, we celebrated our firstborn’s second birthday and wondered where the two years went. In April, we did our company’s yearly photoshoot and I am reminded of the amazing team I work with that puts up with my mummy-ness.

In May, we took Q to watch the Wiggles on their final concert tour and realized that kids at a Wiggles concert are more “heong” than adult fans at a lady Gaga concert. In June, we travelled for the first time as a family of four to Myanmar (yes, we go there alot) and my kids got to meet up with the kids at Grace Home Orphanage, a place that is very dear to my heart. Seeing kids I’ve known for over 16 years (now grown up, some with kids of their own) play with my kids brings a smile to my heart.

In July, we finally finished our ABC program. It took us 26 weeks and we left them on display far longer than we should have. Heh. In August, my sister got married to the amazing man that I now call my brother-in-law. Q got to be ring bearer, though in actual fact, he had to be carried down by my youngest sister.

In September, we took the boys to Taiwan on a part work part holiday trip to a safari resort. The biggest highlight of that trip- not to take anything away from lovely Taiwan, was Q dropping his pacifier into the animal cages below our room and became pacifier-free. In October, Evan learnt to crawl and Q jumped on the Oppa Gangnam style wagon.

In November, Evan scored his first car- an orange BMW GTS. Q was quick to share it. In December, we put together our yearly Christmas pack and the kids got to actively participate, even if it meant Evan trying to bite into the snack packs. Bub #2 celebrated his first Christmas with a slew of parties and far too many gifts. Ditto for Q who loved ripping into the gifts.

So, that’s our year in review and when we look back, we are thankful for so many wonderful things and blessings. Thanks for sharing 2012 with us, we look forward to more memories, experiences and milestones in 2013.

Difficult kid questions (Part 1): Why do some parents abandon their kids?

We were at a friend’s baby’s baptism (Hello Alison Png!) earlier in the day. Late, no less, cos we were waiting for Evan to wake from his nap; the fella slept on and on, so I ended up with a (truth be told, much needed) one-on-one date with my firstborn. After the party- grateful that we caught the tail end of things, I decided to swing by Animal Resort so this animal loving kid could go feed some animals.

We were just about done there when this lady who voluntarily takes care of several abandoned parrots came by and brought out said parrots for a small meet and greet. Naturally, we had to go see the parrots, one of which was blind, squawking its guts out and almost featherless. Q, of course, had to know why this bird was bald when its friend was in its full plume glory.

Q to the volunteer lady: Why does the parrot have no feathers?
Lady: Cos the parrot is sad.
Q: Why is the parrot sad?
Lady: Cos his mummy and daddy didn’t want him anymore.
Q: That’s terrible. (To the bird) I’m sorry you are sad, parrot. Here, have a carrot.
(We had a pack of carrots cos we were just feeding the not-very-hungry horse)
Lady: He’s blind, so although he can hear you, he can’t see the carrot.
Q: He cannot see? How come?
Lady: Cos he had no shades in his cage and the sunlight made him blind.
Q: He needs sunglasses.

We left shortly after and he was recounting to me in the car all the animals he saw at the farm and spent a long time talking about the parrot with no feathers. Other than telling me that he had to tell Evan and daddy about the parrot- that he saw, fed and pet it; he had more questions for me. I had an inkling as to how this was going to go down….

Q: Why the parrot’s mummy and daddy don’t want the parrot anymore?
Me: I don’t know son. Maybe they felt like they can’t take care of the parrot anymore.
Q: Did they throw him away?
Me: I suppose so.
Q: That’s not nice. (Long pause)
Me: Some mummies and daddies think they can take care of a parrot, or dog, or baby; but then they realize they cannot. So they have to give them away and hopefully someone else will take better care of them.
Q: Like in Myanmar

It took me a while to figure this link out, then it dawned on me he was talking about Grace Home Orphanage cos Aunty Amar (matron of the home) explained to him the last trip that some kids there were there because their mummies and daddies could not take care of them (or want them anymore).

Me: Yes, like in Myanmar. Grace Home. Like Noble (his friend at the home his age)
Q: We (should) buy Noble bubble tea. I am tired, I going to sleep.

Five minutes later, this little boy was fast asleep in his car seat.

These are the moments I really wonder what goes on in that little mind of his; how much he knows, how much he understands. There are moments he seems to get a lot- far more than I ever give him credit for. Then there are moments, like when he was home and talking to/at Evan- about the giant rabbit, the noisy ducks, the hungry fish and the bald parrot; it seems the depth of what he asked me about in the car never happened. Its like his brain hits a “query”, he asks-gets his answers, files them away in this little mind vault, and he’s moved on to the next curiouser thing.

Kids, they keep you on your toes don’t they?

Why world affairs should matter to our kids

My love for politics started back in 1996 when I visited Myanmar and found myself at the cusp of a student riot and political change. To cut the long story short, it made me deeply interested in politics- the art and the science of things, and I ended up double majoring in psychology and political science with special interest in political campaigns, elections and how all of that impacts world politics.

Needless to say, US elections hold particular fascination for me since the impact of the person sitting in the Oval Office holds sway for the world, world politics and world policies. Wun and I took leave in 2008 to watch America elect their first black president (I would have preferred Hillary personally) and when Q was born, our good friend and fellow Politiko Aunty Karyn made Q his very one ABC onesie: A is for Arendt… N is for Nasser…T is for Thatcher… Y is for Yoda.

When our local elections took place (GE2011), we let Q stay up with us to wait for the results, explaining to my not yet 2yo who Lee Hsien Loong was, who the men in blue were and he clapped and cheered along with us at the various speeches and all. Somedays, instead of our usual ABC 123 lessons, we teach him about the great people in the world; a modge-podge of world leaders and other notable characters that have shaped our world.

When Neil Armstrong died, we learnt about the moon, talked about the Mars Explorer, looked at photos, built mock Apollo 11z, re-created walking on the moon (not the moon walk; we walked on sponges) and pretended to be aliens.

Yes, its important our kids learn their ABCs, 123s and all the other classroom stuff… but we also think its darn important they learn about the world.

 

Meet Robug and DoodleBug

Now that I think about it, we must have been quite nuts to decide that we should introduce Q to the world of robots. We don’t mean to show him what robots are (he already knows that), but rather, take him behind the scenes to see how robots are made.

We originally spoke to a robotics specialist friend of ours that runs Ministry of Robotics and he said that his robots can take skilled engineers up to half a day to assemble a simple version. So we canned that plan and went with our next best plan of buying a little robot kit. We found some at Toys R Us and settled on a fly-robot and a doodling robot that draws from the spectacular 4M range of science toys.

As it turns out, the bots were too hard for Q to fix though the fella had a field day playing with the bit parts, handing stuff to us and being able to handle real tools. We let him take the lead with decorating Ro-Bug and in sharing in the soda in the can we were fervently trying to empty. The kits were fairly straight forward though I would most certainly recommend reading ALL the instructions and accounting for ALL the bit parts BEFORE embarking on building either of these robots.

Come check our robots in action in these videos: our robug and doodle bug