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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That magic moment before bed

E asleep

As a full time working from home mom, I don’t have any defined office hours- not on most days, anyway, and work,  mummyhood and wifeyness all flows one into the other.

On any given day, I could be painting with Q one minute, then answering an email the next while waiting for him to take his bath, and then prepping my grocery list for a later-in-the-day grocery run while watching Evan practice his new fangled walking skills out in the garden. In between, I field calls, answer SMSs, pack the kids’ forever messy room and try and feather through the latest book I am trying to read, usually something on parenting, education or politics. I have help that sorts the unsavoury household chores (no more toilet cleaning, laundry and ironing! Yay!), and, for that, I never cease to be grateful. Small mercies eh?

But for all the here-and-there-ness that is my day, I relish when night rolls along cos there is simply something magical about bedtime with my boys. It’s a time that is different from all the other amazing moments in the day: quieter, calmer and more peaceful.

Evan sleeps earlier, usually about 830pm give or take and still has to be held pretty much to sleep. He snuggles into my neck, bounces himself (I joke that he needs to expend the last of his residual energy) and, for lack of a more accurate description, sings himself to sleep. It’s when this rambunctious child finally winds down, slows down and we spend those sacred quiet moments that are so far and few between in the day. Its when we say our goodnights, our night bedtime prayers and I talk about his/our day. And when he’s almost at sleep’s door, I put him down and he squiggles and squirms and enters dreamland.

The parade is the same with Q who now goes down at about 930pm, no thanks to school (yay!). We both squeeze in his little bed, he needs to arrange the stuff in his bed just so- the panda yiyi bought him, his blanket, the crocodile bolster Uncle James brought from Abu Dhabi… we talk about our day (I prod him along, he does the bulk of the talking), about what we are going to do the following day and funny things that stood out. Today, it might be Evan playing peek-a-boo, tomorrow might be a funny show he watched during TV time, sometimes its a made up story or joke. Then, we “say goodnight to God”, give thanks for the day, and pray for loved ones as we call an end to the day.

So, for a moment, or in my case, two- I get to slow down and go to a quiet place with my children. I get to go to a place where I  get to leave my crazy busy life aside for just a while- no emails, no calls, no interruptions; and just be mummy. It is a time that calms me down, allows me to catch my breath and soothe my soul.

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.

Why bochup is wrong

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Driving home today W and I got into a sort of fight/debate on Consumerism and social classes.

Well, not just about the concept of Consumerism in general (there was a lot of that too) but it all started because I said I don’t get how some tai-tais (@highbrow socialite types) can spend their whole life living in their own little bubble where they only care about the next bag they buy, the next gala they would attend and where next they should holiday.

Now, I’m all for living well if you have the means to, but I find it hard to comprehend when someone lives life utterly oblivious to how the rest of the world is faring. I recall a conversation with a (very) wealthy acquaintance from a developing (Southeast Asian) country a while back on the plight of poverty in her country. And her response: “You mean there’s that kind of poverty here? You must be kidding right? Things can’t be that bad.”

That’s like saying, since I live in a house/HDB in Singapore, there can’t possibly be people who find it hard on a day to day to make ends meet. I mean, really, right? *rolls eyes*

Or another that told me: I wanted to go charity work so I went to help out at an old folks’s home. But it was too smelly, to the point that I threw up. So, I decided giving money was easier. After all, it’s the same.

That’s like saying, I’ll just attend a gala that raises money for (fill in the blank charity) and that’s good enough. Cos, you know, at least at the gala, no one stinks or smells bad. Yeah, the real world works like that.

Or the ladies who quip: I bought this (branded) bag for only two thousand dollars ok. It’s for rough use anyway.

Yes, lady, cos two thousand dollars is chum change to the average joe.

I will be the first to admit that I live well, and yes, I like that I am able to go to any grocery store and buy whatever I feel like buying without really having to worry about the price on an item. It is not a habit to have to go to the cheapest source of, say, salmon. I simply shop where convenient. And while I don’t make dining fancy a habit, I do enjoy a nice meal at the next Michelin starred restaurant to celebrate my wedding anniversary. But I am acutely aware that it is a privilege and luxury, I am grateful to be able to enjoy. I work hard for my money, I live honestly and I remind myself to always be thankful.

As the conversation unfolded, W- who is generally more amiable that I am about these things, reminded me that people were entitled to lead their lives as they so choose. (I reckon maybe my husband thinks i can be quite a kay-poh.) And to expect people to care beyond themselves was taking a *gasp* self righteous stance and that I should live and let live.

That silenced me for a while (it seemed like a long time, but I think maybe it was more like 3 minutes; but to me that’s like a long time) and I said that I really don’t feel that it is wrong to “judge” someone who will not think about the greater world cos “it’s easier/simpler that way.” Far from self-righteous, how can I even BE ok with someone I know behaving that way.

Edmund Burke famously said: All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Silence is so often acquiescence and acceptance. To say, it’s perfectly fine for someone to live SO well and NOT care beyond themselves and their other equally fabulously wealthy and oblivious friends is wrong.

I know of many well heeled families who make it their life’s work to do good. They run foundations, they give scholarships, they personally spend time and effort with those that need. Sure they have their fair share of fancy bags, branded shoes, sports cars, big houses; but they are so very aware that because they have been so blessed, they have to give back.

Just yesterday I sent an old friend from Myanmar (they run the orphanage we visit) to one of their sponsors/friend who lives in a HUGE mansion. It was to confirm scholarships for 350 needy kids. Said wealthy family, also spends specially carved out personal time working on the ground. It is easy to give money, it’s infinitely harder to give of our time and efforts.

I don’t have the formula right (yet), I think. I might never get there and will most likely be a work in progress permanently. There is a lot about life I still have to learn, experience. But I truly and deeply feel that we cannot be content and oblivious just because we are in a good/great place. The world has to matter to us. I’m not saying go support every single cause that comes your way; I’m saying you gotta live life being aware that you are part of a greater humanity, and that humanity is everyone’s fight.

*end rant*

World Day: Suicide Prevention Day (10th Sept)

I only know this cos I am an avid follower of www.postsecret.com : September 10th is the annual day the world observes as World Suicide Prevention Day.

Global figures seem to suggest that almost 3000 people commit suicide daily and for every person who completes a suicide, 20 or more may attempt to end their lives. It is more likely someone will die from suicide than from homicide. For every two people killed by homicide, three people die of suicide*.

In Singapore, over 350 people commit suicide annually; more males than females and aging people are at the greatest risk. In China someone takes his or her own life on average every two minutes. China accounts for nearly a quarter of the global total of suicides with between 250,000 and 300,000 suicides a year*. In America, someone attempts suicide once every minute, and someone completes a suicide once every 17 minutes. Throughout the world, approximately 2,000 people kill themselves each day*.

Over the last decade, the suicide rate among young children has increased dramatically. In 2002, suicide was the sixth leading cause of death of five- to 14-year olds and the third leading cause of death in preteens. Suicidologists are alarmed that children as young as age two are also increasingly attempting suicide.*

(*Evans, Glen, et. al. 2003. The Encyclopedia of Suicide. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Facts on File, Inc)

I happen to be a talk my friend was giving on the 10th and at the end of the talk, he led everyone in a moment to remember Suicide Prevention Day by writing the word LOVE on our wrists. Some of the students at the talk asked if I had lost anyone to suicide, I have- unfortunately. A young life, gone too soon. An older one that saw no future.

The stories are never quite the same, but its usually rife with despair and, when we look back, there were signs. And we are all always left wondering “what could have been.”

 

 

World Day: International Literacy Day (8th Sept)

We take it for granted, the ability to read and write. In fact, most of us take education for granted. That we and our kids would go to school, learn to read and write; most likely go to university and beyond is something we actively plan for, not (just) because we are so confident in their (and our) ability, but because its a given.

That our kids would read- enjoy books, magazines, read school notes… and write- letters, emails, assignments… hey, even, text messages; are something we take for granted.

Over my many trips to Myanmar, it has always been very evident to me that there are kids that cannot read and write. Some probably never will. And no matter how much we support literacy programs there, there will be many that fall through the cracks. Around the world some 775 million adults lack minimum literacy skills; one in five adults is still not literate and two-thirds of them are women; 60.7 million children are out-of-school and many more attend irregularly or drop out.

To commemorate International Literacy Day, we took Q to the bookstore to use some of the book vouchers we’ve been saving for one of our “book drought” days.

We have several favorite authors we “collect”. One of our favourite-est is Sandra Boynton who wrote the famous Pookie series. Q’s favorite is Fifteen Animals and he recites it like a little comedy act.

We also love collaborations between Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler  the team behind the famous Gruffalo books. They also wrote Stickman and Room on a Broom. His all time favorite is Monkey Puzzle which he reads and re-reads and re-reads.

Q, who’s is way into Ironman and the Avengers, picked out a new Ironman book, complete with moveable arms at the bookstore and has been lugging the said book everywhere!

Because our nights are usually kinda haphazard, we moved reading time to first thing in the morning. And its been great. Before the day descends upon us, we spend time reading. Evan joins us with his picture and touch-and-feel books too!
So, on International Literacy Day, we remember those that may have never even seen a book or have books readily available to them. We have several friends working on community library projects and over the next few months, maybe I’d run a drive to collect books from all of you guys!