Two of Us

15 years of you and I


15 years ago, we decided to try being us.
It hasn’t always been easy.
There were ups and downs.
We walked away from each other.
And then realised we didn’t want to live without each other.

Here we are now, 15 years later.
That’s half of my life spent with you.
And yet it feels like it’s never enough.

There are still countries to explore together.
Ice-cream to share.
Photos to take.
Coffee to drink.
Geeky gadgets to ooh and aah over.

So to the love of my life, here’s to many more 15 years ahead of us.

Love you many many.

The organised chaos

On being “poor”

I was in the queue at the school canteen, waiting to buy my lunch at the chup chye peng stall. The line was long and I was whiling away the time by mucking around on my phone, as most of us do, hardly noticing who was ahead of me in the queue. When I finally neared the stall, I put the phone away to check out the offerings in front of me.

That’s when I noticed her.

She was dressed in the cleaners’ uniform – a red polo tee – and probably in her 60s. Like me, she was perusing her lunch options. And then she decided. On top of the mountain of rice went the sambal kang kong.

“Any more?” asked the stall assistant.

The cleaner jabbed at the tray of fried eggs and one landed on the plate with a plop.

“Some more?”

The aunty shook her head and moved on to the counter to pay for her lunch.


That incident has stayed on my mind for a while now. I have been musing about it, and wanting to pen it down but so far the words have eluded me. (Also, most nights see me snoozing while putting Aidan to bed – hardly conducive for rational thinking and reflective writing.)

And I realised that the reason why this has resonated with me is because of the fact that most of us take money for granted.

There I was, merrily ordering up a storm, thinking that lunch is pretty cheap on campus anyway. Plus, I was starving and had a long day of teaching with virtually no breaks ahead of me. I deserve a hearty lunch.

But so did the aunty. She also works hard for her money and yet she ended up with a plate of rice, vegetables and egg. Maybe she wasn’t hungry. Maybe she had a full breakfast. Maybe, just maybe, she ordered a meagre plate for food not because she did not want to spend the money.

When I was a kid, I was not rich. My father died when I was six, my mother worked long hours to earn just enough money for us to get by. Back then, buying a soft drink was considered a treat. My pricey secondary school education was mostly paid for by the school’s bursary, one reason why I am ever so grateful to my alma mater. I started earning my keep when I was 16. I paid off my education through loans.

I was not rich. And yet my mother refused to let us call ourselves poor. She said there were others who were truly poor, who had no roof over their heads and little to eat. We had enough, she said, and we were not poor.

And that mantra sort of stuck with me. My husband and I are not rich. We live in our HDB flat, a bargain purchase compared to the market prices of today. We spent so much money on our fertility treatments. We don’t go for fancy meals nor buy luxury goods. Our kids wear hand-me-downs and many of their things are gifts (they are indeed very loved). Our holidays are usually low-key, low-budget and it’s not like we go on many of those anyway. Some months, like when Zac was hospitalised and the bill was in the range of thousands of dollars and we paid for it in cash, we feel the stress of being in the sandwiched middle class. I get panicky some days, wondering how on earth we are ever going to retire in future, when the cost of tertiary education is going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. I wonder why I got into journalism because it sure as hell doesn’t pay well and inflation clearly outpaced my pay rise.

But this post is not about how “poor” we are. Because I still subscribe to the notion that we are lucky and bloody privileged. I can at least afford to order meat and tofu and vegetables to go with my rice. Some people can’t.

So it gets on my nerves when I hear people bandy the terms “poor” and “broke” around. No, you are not poor. You, with your cars and your big house and your pretty paraphernalia and your expensive gizmos and your frequent holidays and your gourmet meals. You are not poor. Stop this self-pitying and get real.

Just think of the aunty with an egg and a little pile of sambal kang kong on her plate of rice, whenever you complain about not having enough money.

Letters to, Zac

Six months of Zac

Dear bubba,

You just celebrated your first Christmas! Not that you know any better or care, really – life goes on for you as usual, with the exception that you had your papa, mama and big brother all to yourself for the past week.

Also, Mama is terribly late with this update but hey, it’s because we have been enjoying your company.

I have forgotten just how delightful this period of babyhood is. Six months is always such a fun time: you can sit upright, babble a lot, smile and laugh frequently and is oh-so-squishy! I love, LOVE squishing you in my arms and stealing a smell from your sweaty forehead. Seriously, someone should just bottle up baby scents and sell them. Suckers like mama would totally buy them up.

And the babbling…so adorable, especially when done in that breathy baby voice. Every morning, without fail, I will wake up to your chatter and early exercise routine of vigorous arms and legs kicking. I CANNOT ignore you, no matter how hard I try to sneak in more sleep. You won’t let me! But when I finally crack open my eyelids and take my first glimpse of you, your face will break out into the biggest, loveliest toothless smile. Tell me, how can I get angry at you?

You are a most physical child, my little bubba, and I fear that my old bones cannot keep up with you once you discover the magic of walking and running. You are constantly on the move and there is never a dull moment with you around. I’d put you on the mat while I have dinner after work and you’d be rolling around and off the mat. I guess that’s why I can’t justify purchasing an expensive (read: pretty) playmat when you don’t quite care for boundaries. You just cannot. Sit. Still. (Exactly like that ants-in-pants brother of yours. EXACTLY.)

But I must admit that you are an easy, happy baby nonetheless. I can put you in the cot or your bouncer for a short period of time and you will be contented with your toys or simply looking around. That frees me up to do things, like chores or handle your brother or work on the laptop. Maybe it’s a second-born trait? Whatever it is, thank you very much for your chill nature.

It’s pretty funny but the first thing that almost everyone says when they see you is that you have a lot of hair. And then they talk about your nom-worthy cheeks (VERY! NOM NOM NOM). And then they tell me that you look like me. And I think you do look like me too, but you have papa’s eyes (Most unfortunate, tsk, but we can’t have everything, I suppose). I also have strangers asking me if you are a girl simply because you have so much hair. What is this sexist nonsense?!

Sigh. Like I said, six months is such a loveable age. I love the coos, the gurgles, the sweet baby smells. I love how you reach out your hands to touch my face. I love how you laugh when I toss you into the air. I love the way you blow raspberries. I love the way you kick in your bouncer.

You have my heart, little garden gnome of mine, you and your brother both.

Love you to the moon and back,

The organised chaos

Christmas 2014

So here we are again, our favourite time of the year.

We’ve been spending time with our loved ones over this festive period in very low-key celebrations, which suits us just fine. Guess these old bag of bones are too tired for any partying! I’m also down with a bit of a sniffly cold so I’ve been taking it easy. I mean, we had family over and I decided not to kill myself cooking for them. So most of the stuff was store-bought – am so not the hostess with the mostest.

Anyhow, I’m taking a nice little break from work. Will be back on this space soon. In the meantime, hope you had a blessed Christmas with your loved ones and here’s hoping that Santa brought you your Happily Ever After, no matter what form it takes.

xx yann