Letters to, Two of Us

We are 10

Dear Aidan and Zac,

Before the two of you came along, there was the two of us – me and Papa.

We met in 1998, got together when the new millennium rolled in, broke up a couple of years later, realised that nobody else measured up to each other, got back together again (it’s all been recorded down for posterity here), and then recited our wedding vows to our family and friends on a rainy September 14 evening in 2008.

After the wedding, we made a home and decided it was time to have children. We tried, failed, went for numerous IUIs, took the plunge and went for IVF, failed and then were pregnant by surprisetwice. That’s where you two come in.

Six and a half years of parenthood have flown by. We fought, cried, sunk into our beds each night in sheer exhaustion, drank copious amounts of caffeine, laughed at every antic you display, burst with joy at every milestone that you hit and drove our blood pressure sky high whenever you did something that made us mad. We stopped holding hands because we had to hold yours, and then started holding hands again when you decided you no longer needed ours to keep you steady. We kissed you, and we kissed each other just to make you squeal.

That’s your papa and I, in a nutshell. That’s 10 years of marriage summed up in a few pithy words. These words, of course, are not quite enough to encapsulate every moment, every tear, every smile, every angry thought, every loving gesture, every frustrated silence, every (temporary…trust me) murderous intent.

Oh yes, anger and frustration and sadness. There’s definitely some of those in our marriage.

Because you see, my dear littles, our marriage is not perfect. We have highs and lows. There are times when we love each other dearly but dislike each other intensely concurrently. There are moments when we would rather be alone than with each other. There are times when we want to spend time with others, away from each other (and you…but you’d probably cry if I tell you that so oops.)

And you know what? That’s absolutely fine. I’ve only been married once in my life but I reckon that no married couple go through only the highs and never the lows. At the end of the day, if there is anything that you learn from our marriage, it is that we make our choice. Every. Single. Day.

We choose to love each other. We choose to let each other have that last piece of chocolate. We choose to let go of our individual pride and be the unit that our family needs. We choose to walk our own path together, away from the naysayers.

We choose us, over and over again.

Remember, our marriage is a choice made by two individuals to commit to each other. We are still individuals but we are also equal partners.

And so it has been for the past 10 years. And for many more 10 years, hopefully.

You always tell mummy that you don’t want us to die, you want us to stay with you forever. Well, my darling boys, you know that is impossible and that’s okay. Because I am pretty damn sure that when papa and I are dead and gone, we will still be together. If not in your hearts and memories, then probably in the afterlife, roaming the world together as we have always intended.

Here’s to many more wedding anniversaries celebrated with the two of you, the greatest gifts of our marriage.

Love,
Mummy

The organised chaos

National Day Parade (NDP) 2018

Me, I have an uncomfortable relationship with my island home. It is where I was born, where I grew up and collected fond (and not-so-fond) memories over the past 37 years, where I got married, where we built our home, where my two boys were born, where we are bringing them up.

It’s everything I have ever known and loved, and yet it’s also a place which gives me dissonance. Home is where my family, my friends, my food (I am a Singaporean after all…) are. Home is beautiful. Home is also run by a government whom I feel strongly for and against in so many different ways.

In my own little way, I try to imprint the changes I want to see, in the area that I am most familiar and skilled in. And that is one reason why I remain in public service, in education, because I feel a strong pull to try to put in changes from within. There have been many, many times when I feel completely out of place in public service because I do not fit the typical mould of what a government employee should behave but I also know that an organisation needs variety – strange people like me – in order to thrive. And so I stay and try to fit in where necessary and push against boundaries when I can.

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Two weekends ago, I was given tickets by my god-brother to see the first public rehearsal of the National Day Parade (NDP). He, through the connections that he had built in the army, had received four tickets but chose to give them to me as his babies were too little to attend. Family rocks. 🙂

So off we went, me and my boys and the husband, and sat ourselves down in the Marina Bay Floating Platform. And I daresay that this is really one of the best NDP that I have seen.

Look, we all know that while part of the purpose of having a parade on the day of our independence is for us to show off our pride in our country, a lot of it has also to do with propaganda (for the lack of a better word). There is a nationalistic message that needs to be sent out to the citizens and the rest of the world: we may be little but we have plenty of might, just look at our tanks and our armed forces. This is usually the part in the parade that I skip.

This year, while there is still some element of that, much of it has been removed or shown in unbelievable subtlety. Much of it has to do with the creative direction of Boo Junfeng – there is so, so much less of that LOOK AT MY MUSCLES AND LOVE ME bellowing and pounding on the chest, and more of that gentle, introspective feel. The films were exquisitely shot and edited (needless to say), and evoke emotion and thought. I was wiping away my tears while perched on the tiny yellow plastic seats at the platform. The performances were less cliched (giant Aedes mosquitoes, remember?) and less showy, and that is honestly an amazing feat in itself.

The best part – to me! – was the music. If you had seen that video of We Are Singapore and loved it, then you’ll be happy to know that many of the songs that we know and used to sing as kids in school have received the same treatment. I won’t spoil it for you but I just want to say that Aisyah Aziz’s rendition of The Water is Wide brought tears to my eyes. Her voice soars effortlessly and is packed with the right balance of ethereal lilt and gravitas.

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So. I count myself lucky to have been able to catch this NDP “live” and to experience all the works on the spot. It was a masterstroke from the organising committee to get Boo as the creative director and I think it’s more than paid off. If you have the chance to watch either the rehearsals or parade live, yay! Otherwise, don’t forget to catch it on TV. It will be well worth your time.

Just make sure you have some tissues near.

Geek Girl

Geeking out at Tech Saturday (Upsized!) 2018

(I am back! Well, sort of. I graduated from my master’s course AND sold/bought/renovated our home so things are still a bit crazy around here. One month after graduation and it still has not sunk in that I. HAVE. GRADUATED. That realisation will kick in soon and I will write soon but in the meantime, I am excited about something else!)

The man that I married is a geek. He loves tinkering with computer things. When I was pursuing my master’s, one of the subjects that killed most of my brain cells was on the measurement of electronic audience. I know, I know, I was also all -_- when I started the subject.

Anyway, the husband sweetly tried to explain how web beacons and something something worked and all I heard was “blah blah packet sent here blah blah sent there”. Suffice to say, I was a terrible (live) audience, my eyes literally glazed over and till today, the technicality of it all eludes me. And that is a fate that I would like my boys to avoid. In this technologically driven world, they need to be adept at understanding and mastering technology such that they are not only consumers of technological content but producers too.

Actually, one of the things that I really want them to pick up is coding. I think coding requires a level of logical thinking, it teaches patience and above all, it allows them to be creative while having fun. These are skills that are necessary for kids to survive in tomorrow’s world. So I am always interested in all things educational and tech-related for them.

Last year, we went to Tech Saturday (Upsized), the tech carnival for everyone (SERIOUSLY, they have activities for, like, four- to 70-year-olds or something) and the kiddos had fun coding and playing with bots. We also attended the Little Artists for VR workshop, where Aidan had fun creating his own VR world (while Zac was busy terrorizing the room…in his defense, he was not quite three so..). This year, we are looking forward to go back again.

I have signed the boys up for the Augmented Reality Animal Flashcards workshop, only because they are nuts over AR (thanks, Pokemon). They’ll get to search for animals and feed them, all via AR!

If you are keen, here are five other activities that I would love to check out when we are there.

AI Goalkeeper
When we were in Zurich, we visited the FIFA World Football Museum. It was an incredible place, filled with really cool multimedia exhibits. But what made my boys go animal-creature-wild-thing-wild was the gaming zone, where they could play football in a pinball-styled setting. They were all over it, trying to kick the balls into the net to score points. I reckon they will be super excited over the AI goalie, trying to beat it. (They are no Messi though, so I think the AI will triumph over them.) This was also developed by Temasek Polytechnic students, and I am totally not biased even though I happen to teach there.

Make a Light-Up Greeting Card with Circuit Stickers
Since Father’s Day would be approaching, why not get your pre-schooler to make a greeting card that lights up with an LED? Dads – geeks and non-geeks alike – will surely appreciate this gesture while the kiddos can learn about the electrical circuit. Don’t worry, the LED is safe and this activity is meant for four- to six-year-olds accompanied by a parent.

Design and Print a 3D Model
This one is for the big kids aged 17 and above (ie. ME. And probably YOU). You get to learn more about 3D printing, and even design your own 3D model. I first saw a 3D printer at PIXEL (same time as when A was attending the VR workshop) and it’s seriously fascinating. I’d ditch the kids with their geeky papa (they’d probably go to the Lego booths and code a Lego bot or something) and do this for me.

Star Wars Jedi Challenge
To find out if the force is strong in you, you can put on a headset and wield your very own lightsaber in the Lenovo’s Starwars Jedi Challenge Augmented Reality experience. I have always wanted a purple lightsaber, like Mace Windu‘s, bless his very dead Jedi soul.

IMDA Lab on Wheels
My boys have a strange fascination with buses and I think the IMDA Lab on Wheels might excite their easily excitable selves. The interactive buses – there are two of them at the event – have AR/VR/MR headsets on one while the second requires your to solve puzzles in order to ‘escape’ from the ‘escape bus’.

Check out Tech Saturday 2018 (Upsized) on June 2 and 3 for a fun weekend out!

EVENT DETAILS
Date : June 2 & 3 2018
Time : 11am to 7pm
Venue : Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre Halls 404 and 405
Price : FREE!!
Register for workshops here, registration ends May 23, 5pm.

Thank you IMDA for sponsoring this post! We are looking forward to being geeks at Tech Saturday (Upsized) 2018!

The organised chaos

Hey, 2018

Ah, look, yet another year has passed us by. Goodbye 2017, I am not sure what to make of you but hello 2018 and the promises that you hold.

I have been largely absent in 2017 because, Master’s degree. When I first decided I wanted to embark on my further education, the constraints of my circumstances – full-time employee with a husband who travels and two littles – meant that I couldn’t go for a course that required regular and physical presence. Online was the only way to go, which was why I opted for a blended learning environment.

To be honest, having online lessons after a day’s work is tough. And exhausting.

But it was also good. The windows that have flipped open, the shutters that have been lifted, everything that I have read and learnt has shown me just how little I know. Gaining knowledge is an empowering and liberating experience, and I wish I had that same sort of thirst for knowledge – as opposed to simply getting good grades and a degree – when I was a student. It’s also made me realised just how broken and flawed our education system is.

On the work front, there have been many changes, some good and some not too great. It’s largely a “wait and see” scenario because so many things are in flux right now. I don’t know how things will pan out but in the meantime, it’s keep calm and carry on.

As a mother and wife, I constantly feel like I am a work in progress, especially since I embarked on my studies. I find myself short on temper and patience, and on some days, I just want to do absolutely nothing after work. I don’t want to talk to the kids, I don’t want to deal with cleaning their poopy asses, I don’t want to hustle them to eat their dinner/fruits/meds or to their showers. It sounds terrible but I just don’t.

Luckily for me, my kids still love their mama with the same amount of zeal and intensity. I remind myself, whenever guilt starts creeping into the fringes of my heart, that I am being an example to them. When they whine about my studies taking me away from them, I tell them that mummy has to put in effort in order to do well. And when I finally graduate (although it feels so, so far away!!), I hope they can see that as the fruit of my labour.

On top of everything, we – well, I – decided that it was time to move out of our current home. This place has served us well over the past nine years but it’s definitely not quite meeting our needs now. I dithered for so long because it’s our first home, the home which we welcomed our feline and human babies in.

This home has seen us hosting our friends for late night Guitar Heroes party. We had adopted our cats here and seen them destroy our things. We ate dinner on the floor while binge watching Supernatural. I had sat on the bathroom floor weeping while in the throes of infertility, and stared at the pee stick in incredulity in the same bathroom when I realised I was pregnant. My babies had slept with us in our bed since the day we brought them home. I had paced the floor of my bedroom in frustration when my baby woke up every 20 minutes. We have loved, laughed, cried, hugged in this house.

But I came to realise that home is where my loved ones are, not the physical walls that we live in. We could leave this house and still build a home somewhere so this is where we stand today, on the cusp of moulding the home of our dream and leaving behind the home where we first begun our marriage.

Consequently, the marriage is in the season where everything else is taking precedence. There is so much that needs to be done on all fronts and we have let ourselves slide down the back burner. So yes, definitely a work in progress but from now till April (when I finally graduate AND move into the new house – it’s all happening at the same time!), we just have to plod on.

Does it sound all doom and gloom? Oh no, not really. 2017 was great for the travel opportunities that we embraced. I took a solo trip to Madrid for my first round of classes and then headed to Paris for a quick getaway. It was truly what I needed, some time alone to be myself again and not the boys’ mummy. Then, we decided to hop onto a plane to visit old friends in Perth during winter and had a lovely drive down to the Margaret River region. Later on, when I had to go back to Madrid for the mid-term classes, I rallied the cousins to travel across Spain with me and we had a delightful two-week holiday with the boys.

In many ways, I have been pretty lucky and blessed in 2017. There were mistakes and tears and frustration, oh heaps of these, but I have lived through them relatively unscathed. If there is anything that I have learnt over the past one year, it is that I am stronger than I give myself credit for.

And there is much to look forward to this year. Finally, I graduate and can say that the blood, sweat, tears, wrinkles and eyebags have been all worth it. Finally, we can shift into a house that is exactly what we need in this season. And with the husband and I approaching our 10th year of marriage, I think it’s time we start prioritising ourselves over our boys and work on us.

So, 2018. Let’s slay, together.

The organised chaos

On hanging tight

Dashing off a quick one now because…just because.

Right now, at this very moment, I am feeling a little like an octopus. I have my hands tied in so many areas – my full-time job as an educator; being a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend; working on my Masters. Sometimes, it feels like one hand is slipping and I am barely keeping that role in place. Sometimes, I feel like I am spread so thin that I am barely functioning.

I breathe. And then plunge headlong into the madness.

It’s my own “fault”, really. I opted to take on this Masters, I pushed for it to happen. But it’s also because I really wanted it, I wanted my brains to start churning again and lapping up all the beautiful knowledge that I don’t currently have. So I don’t complain. I don’t cry. I compartmentalise, push the guilt out of sight (try having your kids crying at bedtime because you aren’t there to put them to bed), and work.

(And drink copious amounts of tea, coffee and wine. Good wine helps!)

Mondays to Thursdays, I spend the bulk of the night working on my classes. Sometimes I end at 12am, that’s early. Most nights see me up till 1am, 2am. There’s so much that I don’t know and so much that I need to research about. But the more I read, the more intrigued I become. And then come Saturday evenings, I have video-conferences to attend.

The studies have been incredibly fulfilling in so many ways. I am learning so much more than I would have on my own. I am so aware of my shortcomings – I feel really stupid some days! My classmates are so amazingly intelligent.

And more importantly, I am relishing the challenge. It’s a struggle on many days and on many fronts, but I know that I can do it. And then I rise above it and deliver.

It’s been three months of living like a zombie with my eyebags having eyebags. But guess what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. This life, right now, is full of chaos but I am not drowning, I am soaring. And I know I will miss it so, so much when it is over.

(PS: This song is so reflective of my current mood, it’s breathtakingly beautiful.)

Letters to, Zac

Three years of Zac

Dear Zac,

Exactly three years ago, at this very hour, I was trying to sleep. And failing. Terribly. Because you were then in my womb and you were preparing to make your appearance into this world. And boy, did you make it known to me that you were READY. TO. BE. OUT.

The contractions, oh, the contractions. They came in waves and robbed me of my sleep. I breathed and dozed and cringed and groaned. Goodness knows where I got the strength to withstand the never-ending torrent of pain. But I did. (And those people who talk of forgetting the pain? LIARS.)

12 hours after you started making your descent, out you came. But first, you had to tear the walls of my interior while you were making your grand appearance. And this, my darling, is our first taste of your personality.

At almost three (because it isn’t the hour yet), you dictate your own pace. You are such a little individual, you refuse to live by our hour. Instead, you choose what you want to do and when you want to do it. Nobody can force you to do anything, instead, you will go about it your own way.

Take a simple task such as getting a shower. Even after numerous warnings in advance, you do not comply. Instead, you will tell me, “I am practising the piano, Mummy” or “I am still building my ship/airplane/train/X-Wing fighter/whatever mode of transport”. I will leave you be and true enough, when you decide that it is time to shower, you will waltz into the bathroom.

It can be extremely frustrating, especially on days when I have to attend to my lessons after you go to bed and things are running behind schedule. But at the same time, I know that I have to let you go your own way. I shouldn’t clip your wings and confine you to a rigid world when you are still in the midst of testing the boundaries of your independence. And in time to come, this streak will serve you well as an adult. In the meantime, I just have to be patient and heave a big sigh inward.

Pace aside, you also have this complete and utter disregard for your safety. You just MOVE, no matter how, no matter what. There are times when I wonder if I had birthed a tornado instead of a child. You are always tearing around the house and I know I should stop you but then you are so freaking cute as you run around on your chubby little legs.

Oh yes, the chubs. Let’s talk about that. I love, LOVE that you are such a squishy pie. I love to hug you, to squeeze you tightly in my arms, to kiss your bouncy cheeks. You are my baby bear. I love that you still fit so snugly into my arms and you still allow me to kiss and snuggle up to you at bedtime.

But do you sleep? Hell no. Again, this thing with going at your own pace. You have perfected an elaborate dance which I have to adhere to. First, you tell me you want to nurse. And then you say that you are done and command me to lie down with your brother. But you will not sleep. Instead, you talk and sing songs and recite rhymes and talk some more (and your grandmothers thought that you were mute at two?!). Finally, you command me down to your bed, tell me you are thirsty, run out to get water, run back and ask to nurse before you drift off to sleep.

Really, I could go on and on about the things that you do and the things that you say but I daresay a post on my blog will not suffice. Nothing but seeing you in person can capture the kind of personality that you are. You are extremely annoying but so damn cute. You are extremely stubborn but so damn funny.

I mean, you are the kid who bursts into our bedroom at 6-freaking-AM and shouts, “I am here! Wake up Mummy! The sun is up!”

But you are also the kid who still wants mummy to carry him, and wraps his arms around my neck so lovingly. You are the kid who rolls on top of me to say “good morning” and to give me my good morning kiss. You are the kid who, when I pretend to be sad, will grab me by the neck, kiss me soundly on the lips and say, “I kiss you! You like?” You are the kid who chuckles so infectiously at the silliest things in the world. You are the kid who is ever so generous with your brother when he demands something that you have (although you are also the kid who will bop your brother on the face like a thug when you are pissed off with him). You are the kid who can play nicely with your brother without us actively supervising you. You are the kid who dances like nobody is watching. You are the kid who eats like a champ and tries everything. You are the kid who sometimes wake up and say, “Mummy I wake up already.” (You are also the kid who wakes up, talks up a storm LOUDLY and demands that we all wake up with you, unlike your brother who could quietly babble to himself until we were ready to be awake.)

I could go on and on but oh there aren’t enough words to say how much you mean to me. I love everything about you, from your smelly, sweaty head to your delicious little toes. From the moment I knew of your existence as a bunch of microscopic cells, I have loved you with everything that my fragile human heart can muster and more.

I don’t know if you will ever understand the depth of your mother’s love. But remember that no matter what, no matter where you do, our arms will always be a safe, open harbour for you to return to.

To my baby bubba, I love you to the moon and back. Stay fearless. Stay joyful.

Love,
Mummy

Aidan

Five years of Aidan

“Five years ago, at this very moment, you were trying to come out of mummy’s tummy but you couldn’t. So the doctor had to cut me up to take you out.”

“When you were a baby, papa could carry you in one hand, just like that.”

“When you were a baby, mummy carried you everywhere in the wrap and you would fall asleep in there.”

“When you were a newborn, you were so small and slept so much. Until you turned two weeks old and stopped sleeping.”

We were regaling the firstborn with all the stories of his babyhood this afternoon. Oh, there were plenty to share. Of all the times he refused to sleep and drove us nuts. Of all the times he giggled at us and brightened up our world in that nanosecond. Off all the times we rocked him gently in our arms, crooning lullaby after lullaby in the darkened room. Of all the times he fitted so neatly into the crook of our arms, his head floppy on our chests, his hair carrying that whiff of baby scent that we had so desperately wanted to bottle up and keep forever.

It then struck me how fast time was. Five years it had been since he came into our worlds and turned us into parents. The road has been equal parts acknowledged privilege, unbridled joy, sheer exhaustion, internal frustration, quiet retrospection and oodles of humility.

But most importantly, it has also been pure and utter love.

It’s not just the love that we have for our child, our beloved boy who came at a time when we were despondent and clawing so determinedly out of the barren pit we had found ourselves in. It’s also the love that he has for us, this unconditional and unselfish love that he has for us, and taught us about.

We are far from perfect, and there are times when we regret not being able to hold our tongues or keep our tempers in check. And yet, his love never faltered.

Every day, I look forward to waking up to his little voice going “good morning mummy”, before he plants a quick peck on my lips. When I drop him off in school, we hug and kiss for just a moment, enough to let us know that we love each other and that we will be waiting for that time when we are done for the day and can be together again. And when I finally rush off from work to pick him up, he never fails to fly towards me with the biggest of grins and the most exuberant of hugs.

He talks of growing up, of going to primary school. He wants to be a big boy. And whenever I sigh at this, he would ask me, “Why are you sad for me to grow up, mummy?”

Oh baby boy, it’s because you are fast outgrowing me. One day you will no longer want to nestle into my arms during music class. You will not want me to lie down with you at bedtime. You will not want to “cook” for me with your toy kitchen. You will not need me to read you books. Your hand will be bigger than mine, and no longer in mine as we walk. You will be too heavy for me to carry, and you will no longer lay your cheek down on my shoulder.

But grow up, my little man must. I do not have the power to hold back time and I shouldn’t want to. That’s not my job as a mother. I have to let him soar into the sky, in his own time, and learn to be his own person.

In the meantime, we will keep creating beautiful memories of even the seemingly most insignificant moments. And we will keep it in our pockets till the time comes when our children are off to explore the world on their own.

Happy fifth birthday, my darling. You are our dream come true.