The organised chaos

Most wonderful time of the year

And just like that, December has descended upon us.

I love December, I really do. There’s so much to look forward to. Christmas, New Year’s, our anniversary. Taking time off from work to catch up with our friends. Family gatherings. Time to cook!

This year, I am feeling especially hopeful and excited and pensive, all at the same time. I know, what a strange mix, isn’t it.

The truth is, this year hasn’t exactly been that great. So many worries and anxieties and stress on the home front. For starters, the littles have been sick more often than not. We have spent most of this year battling colds and coughs and fevers, trying to eliminate phlegm and snotty noses. It was almost as if we were bouncing from illness to illness, with very little recovery time in between. Our paediatrician was mentioning asthma and allergies and respiratory problems. The boys were on meds and puffs and nebulisers. Every other weekend, we found ourselves at a clinic.

It was really tough. And it wasn’t just physically tough, but mentally. Seeing our babies ill is so hard on us emotionally.

Then, there is work. Some days, I feel really torn about what I do. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, but there’s a lot about this job that I detest. To be honest, I often feel as if I am not cut out for public service, I am not the model employee that my company is seeking. Look, let’s just say that administrative work is NOT my strongest suit and yet it is something that is highly valued here. And yet I want to try to bring about change, to help improve the system somewhat.

It also doesn’t help that work leaves me exhausted at the end of the day. Dealing with young people for hours and hours, tackling the mountain of paperwork – I come home feeling drained and then mum guilt sets in because, hey, I expended all my energy on other children, leaving none for my two. How is that a balance? But I suspect that this will be demons that I am constantly fighting in my mind, being the kind of mother that I am (read: wants to handle everything by herself, thank you very much.)

And I feel like I have not been fulfilling what I want to do in life. Maybe it’s an existential crisis but I did wake up one morning thinking, Holy fuck, I am turning 35 and what have I done with my life? I am scared of lying on my deathbed one day, regretting my life.

Thankfully, not all is doom and gloom. It ISN’T. There’s loads to be cheerful about too. Like the fact that we are getting a brand new kitchen! Well, that’s only because our current kitchen is falling apart. Like, it is LITERALLY falling apart. We’d wake up everyday to see little sand particles on our countertop. THE CUPBOARDS ARE FALLING APART! Therefore, a new kitchen is a necessity.

So, yes. December. A time to look back at what I have or have not done. To plan ahead for 2016. And there are plans. I am determined NOT to let life go by just like that, existing day by day.

No, I want to live. And damn it, I am about to hit middle age and whatever dreams I have ever had, I had better start putting them in place. Yes, I had dreams of becoming a mother but that is not ALL. There’s more to who I am and I am trying to figure out how I can turn these dreams and ideas into a solid plan.

Clarity of mind. That shall be my goal for next year.

But in the meantime, I am going to enjoy December and all its cool weather, festivities and joy.

The organised chaos

My childhood at The Cathay

The Cathay//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

I literally grew up here.

Back in the ’80s, My aunt and uncle owned the snack/drinks store at The Cathay and my mama worked for them. Weekends were spent at the cinema. In the mornings, I would board SBS number 25 with my mum for that one-hour ride into town. Of course, buses were not air-conditioned then but I don’t remember being put off by it. In fact, I loved to sit by an open window, feeling the sting of the wind whipping on my face. I still love that sensation now, come to think of it.

At the store, my uncle was kind enough to let me sit on the counter top, behind a dizzying array of snacks that were on offer. He used to let me scratch those lucky draw cards that came with cartons of packet drinks, which was SO! MUCH! FUN! for a tot. And when I was done with running the business, the cinema attendants would quietly sneak me into the theatre. Inside the darkened theatre, I would perch on the steps to watch movies.

One movie that remained steadfastly in my memories was The Fly. Because it FREAKED ME OUT SO BAD. I was terrorised and had nightmares for ages. In fact, I can still vividly remember some scenes from that movie. TRAUMATISED, I WAS.

Mmm, not the best movie to show a preschooler, on hindsight. Clearly nobody thought, then, to think about the movies that a little person could sit in on. (Note to self: Do not screen shows featuring man transforming into a human-sized, gooey mess of a fly to my children.)

When the owners closed the cinema for renovations, my mum and aunt and uncle lost their jobs. And when it eventually reopened again, it had become nothing like the Cathay that I knew. Everything was so new and snazzy and shiny and bright.

BUT. The greatest thing was that the owners re-hired some of the old cinema attendants whom I grew up with. There was once my cousins and I went to watch a movie at The Cathay and the attendants recognised them! It was so amazing.

Come to think of it, it was a pretty simple childhood that I led. But wow, some of the memories that I still retain after so many years – who would have known? Something to keep in mind as I totter along this parenting journey which has no instruction manual and no back button to push.

The organised chaos

SG50: The lady turns 50

After much fanfare for the past year or so, we are FINALLY here: August 9, the day that our forefathers declared our independence from our noisy neighbour up north.

While many Singaporeans chose to make use of the long weekend to travel, we opted to stay home. Strangely enough, it never occurred to us to go for an opportune holiday, we simply decided that we wanted to remain in Singapore to celebrate the golden jubilee of our nation.

Maybe we are patriotic, I don’t know. I never thought of us as that. We are just Singaporeans who love our nation deeply. At the same time, we are not entirely blind to the faults of our leaders and our government. But we know that it would be a massive injustice to equate our home with our government.

Like most Singaporeans, I love many things about this country. The food, for instance. The well-connected public transport system. The cleanliness. The greenery. The crisp air. The Singlish. The malls. The parks and playgrounds. The convenience. The relative safety. The education system. And like most Singaporeans, I dislike many things about this country. The education (yes, it’s a love-hate thing). The kiasu parents. The one-track way of evaluating and assessing our young. The crazy car prices. The ridiculous property prices. Policy makers who live in ivory towers and have no clue of the struggles the rest of us face. Social media lynch mobs whose mouths are larger than their brains.

But as I stood at the bridge connecting Gardens by the Bay, Bay East to Marina Barrage while watching the Black Knights take to the skies, I was moved. By the stunning and thrilling performance, of course, but also by the infectious joy and happiness that connected my fellow countrymen and me.

Despite what many critics and naysayers proclaim, Singaporeans are not a bunch of emotion-less, joy-less people. As a nation, we may not be adept at showing our emotions but this does not mean that we do not feel. I only have to look back at the past seven months to find great examples that show just how good and kind and compassionate we can be: the kindness rendered to us when we paid our last respects to Mr Lee, when Singaporeans rushed to pull up a truck that was pinning a man down, those who helped out frustrated commuters stuck during the massive MRT breakdown.

As we take a step towards the next 50 years of our short but fulfilling history, I think it’s time that we aspire towards Singapore 2.0. While the past 50 years was all about economic viability and progress, now that we have achieved that, it’s time we look at the heartware and build a better Singapore.

A home that is more compassionate to those who may not be measured by the same yardsticks as everybody else. A home that allows for responsible, open conversation without the fear or threat of being incarcerated. A home that accepts, encourages and allows for divergence. A home that respects all individuals, regardless of who they love, where they studied, what they look like.

Happy birthday, my beloved Singapore. It has always been you, and it always will be. Let’s make the next 50 years a beautiful one together, shall we?

NDP 2005
NDP 2007

Love letters to my nation:
2008
2007
2006
2004

The organised chaos

Life’s many faults

One of the best things about being an educator is that I get to interact, communicate with and observe teenagers.

(Well, sometimes it can be the worst thing ever. Like when I am plastered against the wall and stuck in the lift with what smells like 20 dead and rotting teenage male elephants.)

Every day, as I try to impart some knowledge and skills to them, I have come to realise that they teach me a great deal about life, about people and about myself too.

One of the greatest lessons that I have learnt from them is to STOP BLAMING OTHERS. We see it on a regular basis. Kid is late, blames the bus/MRT/traffic/lift. Kid forgets to hand in homework, blames the tutor/computer/dog. Kid is falling asleep in class, blames the aircon/assignments/tests/tutor. Basically, it’s NEVER their fault. It’s always something.

In more serious cases, we often see kids who are straying from the path, who are clearly on the road to self-destruction. And when we investigate, we see that the reasons are staring in our faces: broken family, spoilt by overly-indulgent parents etc. The latter is beyond our control (and all hope, most of the time) but when I counsel kids who are acting out because their family SUCKS, I always tell them that it’s not about the kind of cards that life hands you, it’s how you deal with the cards that matters most.

It is a reason for your unhappiness, yes, but it sure ain’t an EXCUSE to whine and do stupid things.

And then I tell them about my life. How my father died when I was six and how different I have felt since then. How we were poor and we often walked home because my mother wanted to save on the bus fares. How I started working at 16 and that by the time I entered university, I was all but financially independent.

I had a terrible childhood, a lonely and isolating experience.

And then I tell them, look at where I am now.

There were moments in my life when I really wanted to disappear from this miserable existence. But I had no choice but to suck it up and move on, work hard so that I could get me out of that hole in the ground. Could I have blamed it on my dead father? Or my mother who had to slog it out to bring us up? I just did the best I could, did what I had to, and MOVE ON.

And later on in life, who could I have blamed my infertility on? God? Because He clearly didn’t love me enough to give me babies? My genes? My husband’s genes? My confused uterus?

I don’t know if things happen for a reason, I don’t really buy that theory now. Because, how do you explain starving children, dead children, abused animals and Donald Trump? But I do know that it’s how we emerge from what’s given to us that changes our present and forges our future.

And so I tell them, yeah, life sucks sometimes. But you just got to move on. Quit whining and playing the blame game and just DO.

At the end of the day, be thankful for what you have and not bitter for what you do not have. And there, really, are plenty of things to be grateful for, if you would just open your eyes and see.

Health Goddess, The organised chaos

Life in the heartlands

This morning, I decided to go for a run instead of lazing around at home in the morning. Of course, my littles refused to let me out of their sights but I could only take one of them so poor bubba had to stay at home with papa while Aidan came with me. I strapped him into our trusty stroller, packed a bottle of cold water and snacks for him, put Spotify on my phone and off we went.

It was such a hard run. The weather was starting to burn up at 815am and the sun was blazing. It was my first time running with our stroller AND Aidan but thankfully, our amazing stroller was so easy to manoeuvre and it was gliding along the pavement smoothly.

I lasted, hmm, all of 10 minutes. And then I had to alternate between running and brisk walking. It was okay though. I knew I hadn’t been running for a while and the body needs to adapt to having to push the stroller. And when I was walking, the little man and I were having conversations about what we were seeing – rubbish trucks, MRT, construction, (cranky) cranes etc. We were admiring the butterflies flapping among the greenery and shouting out the numbers of the buses that zoomed past us.

On our way back, a young Malay couple, who were devouring cold drinks after their run, hastily made way for me as I rounded the corner with the stroller.

“Thank you!” I called out.

The man smiled. “Most welcome!”

As we neared home, an elderly Sikh was walking his dog with a cup of coffee in hand. Our eyes met and we smiled.

I decided to break the ice and be neighbourly. “Good morning,” I said.

“Lovely morning to you too,” he replied, tipping his cup in our direction.

Behind him was a Chinese woman walking hand in hand with a little girl.

“Look at didi on the stroller,” she said to the girl. I smiled at her and she smiled back, before urging the girl to wave to us.

Even though it wasn’t much of a run, I went home with a happy heart. This is the Singapore that I love, the country I call home. There are many imperfections, no doubt about it, but there is also much to be proud of.

There are many cynics out there who feel that we are overdoing this SG50 celebration, that every company and every ministry is trying to milk it. True it may be but then again, when I turn 50 and I am still Fabulously Gorgeous, you can bet that I will want to celebrate gloriously too.

So let’s pack away the cynicism for just a month more, let the lady turn 50 in a blaze of fireworks, song and dance, and then we can go back to being the practical Singaporeans that we are.

The organised chaos

Love wins

I’ve been meaning to pen my thoughts on my little one’s first birthday but a horrible, horrible illness on three out of the four of us (me and my littles) took away my strength and energy for the better part of two weeks.

No matter, we are all well now and I’ll just put it down as extremely bad luck (and bad hygiene on the caregiver’s part, urghs). I still have the photos to sort out and all so that’s not going to be posted anytime soon. Hopefully before he turns 13 months old, heh.

Something’s been brewing in my mind for the past couple of days though and I really need to get it out of my system. I’m not particularly eloquent or articulate, especially with the lack of uninterrupted sleep, so forgive my ramblings here (you may scoot off, of course, and just ignore me completely haha). Unless you have been living under a rock, you would have known that the Supreme Court in the US recently ruled in favour of marriage equality, ensuring that same-sex marriages are legal in the country. Theoretically, it should not concern me because the chances of such a ruling being put in place in Singapore in my lifetime is as good as zilch. But it does matter to me – I am beyond thrilled. I think it’s criminal that we deny gays and lesbians the same right that heterosexual couples have enjoyed all this while.

Someone once said to me, that it’s odd that I should be so supportive of same-sex unions, being a mother and all in a Confucian society. Ironically, though, it’s precisely because I am a mother that I am even more supportive of equal marital rights to all, regardless of sexual orientation. I always think, what if one day my child were to tell me that he is gay? How would/should I react? The way I see it, my love for him is unconditional. And I should accept him for who he loves (unless he marries some crazy ass bitch, in which case Tiger Mum emerges, hah!). I would very much rather welcome a third son into my family than to lose my son.

Beyond personal ideals, however, I simply believe that everyone should have the right to marry whom he or she loves. Period. Religion should not matter here, this is a question of equality among humans. And frankly speaking, I don’t give a rat’s ass what your God thinks. If this is not a God who advocates love above all things, then it’s not a God that matters to me. Also, I do not see why society sees a need to condone the actions of the gay community. Who are we to sit in glass houses and cast stones?

While I accept that there will always be others who do not share the same views as I do, it makes me sad to see them post articles, words that “justify” their rejection of the ruling. I cannot fathom why they do not see that at the heart of it all, it’s about love, and inclusivity and equality. That it’s about redefining the traditional concept of family and enlarging it to include the different permutations.

Maybe I am dense but I just don’t get it: why would people think that this ruling destabilises families and society? Why is it a sad thing?

Never mind. Like I said, I just needed to get it off my chest, incoherence and all. Anyway, there’s too much hatred and negativity in this world already. Let’s celebrate love, people. Love and Pride. (And I dare you to watch the following video with dry eyes. Okay, I couldn’t. I was bawling.)

The organised chaos

Enjoying home

I am currently typing this while sitting with my ass half out of my chair. Because my fat cat is occupying my chair and I decided not to move her out lest she starts her caterwauling outside the bedrooms again. She does this yowling thing almost every night, it drives us bonkers because, hello, SLEEPING BABIES.

Anyway, life is pretty much tiring these days. I am doing a lot at work and coupled with the lack of sleep, my brains are pretty much fried. Seriously. I wrote “Newspapers is not dead” in my lecture slides the other day and my kids laughed at me.

AND THEN I REPEATED IT ON ANOTHER SLIDE.

In a bid to prevent my brains from atrophying further, I am going to force myself to write. Write, write, write.

Well. Just the other day, we spent pretty much most of the weekend doing nothing much. We probably hit the supermarket and a park, and that was it. The rest of the day was spent at home. We had breakfast out and then I cooked lunch and it felt pretty good.

The thing is, when Aidan was a bubs, he hardly napped. Story of my life then. The only way to get him to nap was to baby wear him. And so, we went out. Every single weekend. We went out so that we could take turns to wear him and put him to sleep. And when he woke up, he was usually a delight and we would do stuff together. It was exhausting but that was our solution.

It has become our way of life. Come weekends, we’d pack our baby bag and hit the road. Sometimes, we go to the gardens, sometimes to the museums. Or a park. Or a mall to get my eyebrows done (do you really think I’d go to a mall to shop? C’mon!). Or a playground with a sandpit. I think we have forgotten how to stay at home.

But now that Aidan doesn’t really need a nap – although he does crash in the late afternoon for a short while – and Zac is pretty good at taking naps at home, I think we need to shift our way of living a little. Stay in, enjoy our lovely home and just be. There are recipes I want to try out and my three-year-old has his imagination to tide him through the day. The littlest is perfectly happy exploring the house and the man, well, he can survive happily on a deserted island as long as it has power and wifi for his gadgets.

Funny thing is, I actually love staying home. Don’t tell my kids but sometimes, I would take half day leave just to come back to an empty home while they are at daycare/grandma’s. I enjoy the quietness, the solitude, and the comfort of being, well, home.

Home is really where the heart is.