I had a quiet lunch but it felt so empty

Today I had a quiet lunch before I set off for work in the afternoon.

Having the chance to sleep in later, to walk around the market at leisure, to sit down and quietly enjoy my hipster cafe lunch.

It felt like I had my old life back. And it felt strangely empty.

A mama walked into the cafe with her toddler in a Tula, and sat 2 tables away from me. I watched their interaction and it made me smile and feel an ache deep inside my heart.

A glimpse of my life not too ago.

I missed my Little Foot sorely (she went to her childcare preschool as usual). Her demands, her constant “why?”, even her tantrums which disrupts my meals a lot.

I really missed her presence at this meal.

And tonight, she will reach home to find biscuits and the papaya I just bought for her. And no mummy. And she will wait in vain until her eyelids are too heavy. Only Papa will be around.

For the umpteenth time, I wondered what I had gotten myself into, this job that takes me away from her more and more.

And I have no answer… really.

Sigh

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Closer to Mother Nature

11 to 13 Aug 2017

Post-National Day (and my birthday), I wanted to make the most of our time together this long weekend. I feel a sense of urgency because this baby is growing so fast. And also because of the dreadful feeling knowing that next week, work duty calls again.

So, for three days in a row, we went close to nature. I am hardly a nature lover, because mozzies just love me too much, but since I had decided on a whim to sign myself up for a school field trip with her, I bit the bullet and just went.

Of course I made sure I overpacked my Ju-Ju-Be Be Right Back with every cream and ointment we would need plus other toddler essentials.

Loading up my Ju-Ju-Be Be Right Back for the trip

(This mama really one kiasu mama!)

The field trip to Gardenasia was rather fun. Little Foot had been anticipating the visit to the “plants farm!” since I started mentally preparing her for it a few days ahead.

And so here we are, accomplished plant potters!

❤Little Foot’s first plant! ❤

To many parents, a day out alone with the Little One is nothing. For me, it is still a leap of faith… taking baby steps to overcome my anxieties and irrational fears. I am hardly out alone with her since that near-fainting on the MRT episode when she was 8 months young.

As I consciously worked towards overcoming my anxieties, every little achievement seems like I’ve conquered a mountain.

And so it was that I successfully did this field trip with Little Foot without Papa Long in tow. Celebrate with me!

Then on Saturday, by chance, a trip to Little Foot’s BFF’s place brought us to Seng Kang Riverside Park. A little piece of mangrove and a floating platform…. the two toddlers had fun holding hands and walking around, and then chasing some bubbles.

After her flirt with nature, we had a situation in McDonald’s… sighhh… someone tell me why she always misbehaves when she is with me and Aunty Lily… but that shall be another story for another day.

At night before bedtime, Little Foot talked about feeding fishes. So it was that she went to bed holding that thought. I went to bed wondering if I shouldn’t have threatened to put her in the dustbin for her atrocious behaviour.

On Sunday we woke up and I tried to get us all ready to go somewhere as painlessly as possible. There were of course the usual procrastinations when it came to taking a bath and brushing teeth.

And then we asked ourselves, “Where shall we go?”

Papa Long suggested the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden before we went to feed the fishes at another part of Botanical Gardens.

Our first visit to the place, which would have rivalled all the nature walks we did in Perth, if not for our tropical weather which also meant the place is a home for all kinds od insects including mosquitoes!

Little Foot was distracted by her packet of Jagabee which she has been demanding to rip open while in the car. So Papa made it a game — every house you reached is a checkpoint, and you get one chip when you get there. And so began the exploration of the little garden.

Some of the areas were undergoing construction/upgrading, but there was definitely enough for a kid to be entertained.

1st checkpoint!

Conquering her dislike for sand for awhile because she likes going down the slides more!

Let’s cross some bridges

And find some fishes

And look for some herbs too!

Finally we fed the fishes and had lunch at Food For Thought (incidentally, it was their last day of operation)

And so as the sun starts to set on this week, I do think a little bit more of nature will be good for Little Foot. Even if my legs are now peppered with mozzie bites.

A piece of memory from the past

Because of a conversation among some mummy friends of mine, about our younger days, a long forgotten memory surfaced. The first person who held my hand, albeit for awhile.

Everyone celebrates their present, but try to ignore their past… perhaps that is basic human coping mechanism. I don’t know.

Or we think we respect our current partner, so we try to pretend no one came before him/her.

Remembering doesn’t mean a piece of me is still in love. Remembering simply is remembering, because we are also made up partly of our life encounters. And because we can’t delete memories like how we delete files from our computers.

So here goes…. a recollection based on faded memories.

February 1997.

Not yet 16 years old, this was my final year in Chung Cheng High School.

Our school band was putting up an evening performance by the lake. This is the band I lived and breathed for… finally a decent size after a couple of rough years when the combined band was forced to split up. Alumnis were coming back for a gala event and we were one of the performances for the night. All I had on my mind was the performance. One of my last before we bowed out and focused on our O Levels preparations.

I saw a bunch of seniors from the band turn up too….and didn’t give too much notice. I remembered most of them from my Sec One days. The days when the band was a combined band between the two Chung Cheng High Schools. They wouldn’t remember me I figured.

And then the lamest screw up happened. Halfway across the school with the performance about to start and we forgot our coins. The darn coins we needed to tap on the music stands as part of a piece of music.

Desperate. So I went and borrowed coins from one of them. And it was there I spoke to him again. Nervous, not because I was talking to anyone I fancied. Just nervous because this was someone 4 years older. When you are 16,  a senior that much older can feel like 老祖宗! And he lent me the coins we needed. Didn’t think much about it, not even the good natured bantering during the conversation because too stressed.

It should have been the end, after that evening.

And then I got a phone call. I think. (back then we had pagers. And friends called your house phones. I wasnt even sure I got my mobile that early in ’97). Or was it that I called him to return the money? Also possible.

And so the phone conversations started.

How I spoke with ease with him, I can’t quite fathom. What we spoke about, I can’t quite recall. Me trying to be a decent percussionist on top of a trumpeter… him and some of the seniors and friends from the Branch school still playing music, having his band….family, his NS, my studies… I don’t know.

Meeting again.

To the world, it was an army boy walking alongside a girl in a school uniform. 

I asked him why he was serving as a clerk. And then I had the answer.

“Listen….” and with the side of my head leaned against him, I heard it for the first time in my life.

In my mind I thought, “How can it sound like an ocean?” The sound of waves, instead of rhythmic beats.

Hole in the heart.

Born with it. His doctor said his condition was probably more scary. He could do anything… run, swim, play basketball without issues, but the heart may give up without warning, unlike those who turned blue when exhausted.

I liked walking with him…. the big smile, the matter of factly way he treats things that came his way. It was always confortable.

As days went by, I felt an affinity for this person.

One who was once distant and who was simply “the Sec 5 senior” who was so good at his percussion and drumming  and just a little cheeky/playful in his mannerisms. And who liked another senior. 

And so it was that I would call him the first one, by accident. 

It didn’t last very long. We were always nice and respectful…. but the conversations ran dry…. and finally we both came to realise that deep down, 
I couldn’t replace of the ex. And he apologised. 

I don’t remember doing anything drastic like crying or being angry.  Which is rather unlike me. I guess without ever having dated anyone, one did not know what to expect, or what should a “typical” reaction br. 

We parted amicably. And I engrossed myself in my music and schoolwork, refusing to let the loss creep up on me. Eventually, when the reality finally hit me, it got to a point I felt I needed a bigger distraction. And so it was I forced myself to sort of move on. Date someone else. 

But for years 3 things kept their place in the depths of my drawer – a photo, a pair of earrings and that 20 cent coin I never returned him. Until sometime in university, I cleaned out my wardrobe and gave the earrings away and put the coin into a piggybank to be lost amongst other coins. And the photo too, was gone. 

Between 1997 and the time I did the final spring cleaning, I continued to wonder occasionally if he was well and fine. An ache that finally was eroded over time to nothing, until it was all forgotten. 

A relationship at a time where there was so little technology to connect us. 

No mobile phone , only pagers. When the best one could do was put a 10cent coin into a public phone and press “1771554” when in camp and let the numbers appear on the pager to convey so much in a string of numbers. It sounded cheesy, but it was enough then. 

At a time when there was no Friendster, Multiply, Facebook or Google+ to continue to stalk your ex after he had walked out on you…. goodbye meant goodbye for real. More so when we had almost no mutual friends.

You couldn’t call the house phone…. and paging became too intrusive… so you bottled up any random mad feelings and just simply stared at the photo, fiddled with the coin, then closed the drawer and continued with life. 

I finished my Os at the top of my class (the last class)…. and eventually here I am. With my own family.  

But the sound of waves, I never forgot. Because it made me realise from that day on, that one has to live each day to the fullest. 

**********

人, 往往一直向前冲。。。日子一天,一天的过, 直到一天, 发现已过了20 年。

而岁月会不知何时, 替我们埋没一些宝贵的少年记忆。

或许老了…  突然今天偶然想起了你。

不是应为念念不忘, 或还对你有任何感情, 而是应为一种不知怎么形容的眷恋, 也是一些好奇。

你, 好吗?

你, 的心还在撑着吗?

你, 是否还是没有放弃你的音乐, 你的鼓?

到最后, 你, 有实现年少时的梦想吗?

我很好奇。也回想起, 从16岁起多年仍一直偶尔为你担心的我… 直到我忘了担心你。

是在什么时候, 渐渐放开了对你的操心与思念?

过了20 年了。我, 忘记了许多, 却还记得你的心的声音。

今天想起了你, 勾起了很多蒙蒙的回忆。

你, 现在长得怎么样了?

也会有丝毫担心。。。你, 还在吗?

听见 Beyond 的 《海阔天空》 时, 我还是会不知不觉的想到你。 

不管怎样, 仍是跟当时一样, 希望你, 健康快乐。

************

Every encounter, every relationship has shaped me … some broke me more than others, one particularly bad one led me to discover God when I almost wanted to give up on life  

Looking back, I am thankful that the first love was a nice memory consisting more of a respectful friendship than some turmultous 要死要活 kind of thing. 

And so he lives in my faded somewhat wonky memory, but no longer in my heart. Time has a way of setting things in order, and I hope one day, my child will believe me when I say it does. It really does. Strip away any romanticism and really only what is normal human feelings towards any old friend is what is left. 

May you be well, as always. 

The Little Person has the largest luggage

Packing for a trip (and creating a spectacular mess of the house in the process) got me
musing to myself  – “it used to be a 1 hour affair the night before, this packing thing”.

So amid the exciting of a imminent trip, here’s the crazy packing process.

Packing for a kid is like packing your house for war. You plan for ALL CONTINGENCIES.

 

Diapers:

I start off packing maybe 10 diapers, then you go “what if there’s not enough?” then the entire pack of diapers goes in. Ok, add a giant pack of wet wipes.

Medical Survival Box:

I know I have to bring Paracetamol for fever… then ok, how about Zyrtec for flu… then what about neurofen in case fever persists… what about rashes, cuts etc. So I end up with 1 big bag of meds, plus a medipouch filled with essential oils.

Clothes:

it’s gonna be freezing and rainy. Ok, boots, lots of long sleeves, some short sleeves to layer on, hats, socks, leg warmers, more socks… raincoat, puffy coat. Actually this still doesn’t take up much compared to Papa’s winter clothes.

Entertainment:

Scared she’s bored on the plane. So we pre-loaded the tablet with videos. Gotta bring Barney (all three of them), and Elsa and Anna. Oh dear… what about lego bricks? Birthday Cake toys? Ahhhh… ok we will leave the Legos behind. we can buy those there. Maybe I will lose the Papa and Mama Barneys. Still undecided about the birthday cake toy.

Sustenance: 

Ok this is always the crazy tricky thing. You bring milk bottles, you need something to wash and sterilize them. The box and brush takes up a lot of space.

For food, I packed the food scissors, food jar (useful for packing leftovers for a later meal), bibs, fork and spoon. Also stuffed in 2 packs of UHT and 6 feeds of milk powder to survive till we get there. We intend to buy a can of milk when we reach.

Toiletries & grooming: 
Oh yes, almost forgot this. Gotta bring her Silly Shampoo, her Aquafresh kids toothpaste and pink toothbrush. Have to pack her hairbrush, washcloths and a bath towel. And creams.

Diaper bag for the flight: 

Diapers, spare clothes, milk and bottles, blanket and pillow. and then pray hard she knocks out on the plane. Oh yes, and our Kinderpack Carrier.

Somehow we managed to squeeze our things into 1 big 1 small luggage and 2 handcarry ones.

P.S. Little Foot is very specific in the things she uses, and she is a creature of habit. As much as possible, we have to keep to the same things she is used to. Like the pink toothbrush, and her Dog print milk bottles, otherwise, woe betide us!

Ok, ready or not, we have to go!

Pray for a safe flight tonight!

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Our carry on-luggage, mostly all Little Foot’s essentials and toys! 

Hello Dentist, Goodbye cavities!

*this is not a sponsored post*
Last week, I was horrorstruck to spot two cavities in Little Foot’s upper molars. 

She was throwing a tantrum and had thrown her head back. 

“Oh. My. 天!!!!!!!” 

Mummy felt so guilty about being so busy with work lately, I haven’t had time to take notice of all the little changes. Plus she has a sweet tooth AND still latches at night. 

Was worried about extractions or worse…root canal! 

So we got an appointment at Petite Smiles after asking some mummy friends for recommendations. 

The experience was very good. I had told the receptionist that it would be Little Foot’s first time to a dentist, we definitely need a friendly dentist! 

D-Day

We picked her up earlier than usual from school. Along the way I prepped her – We are going to the dentist who will make your teeth white, and then the tooth fairy won’t come to collect your teeth. The dentist can shoo the tooth fairy away!

Helps that this Jun holidays, they have been learning about oral hygiene in school and she had the honour of helping baby crocodile to remove the yellow stains on its teeth during one of their classes.  

The moment we walked in to the dental clinic, a homely setting and this awsome play area greeted us. Little Foot was delighted to throw some balls and go down the slide while I filled up her particulars. 

Little Foot warmed up to the dentist’s chair and got in once we chose the ‘Frozen’ movie to watch. 

Throughout the cleaning of the cavities and filling the holes up, the dentist, Dr Ng, chatted and sang along to the songs. 

Little Foot was also very pleased to inform me that the dentist has Elmos on her hat!

Overall a very successful first time visit to the dentist! 

Little Foot actually made us hang around for awhile after her session was over so she could continue to play at the play area.

To round it off, we had some good advice from Dr Ng on adjusting her eating habits, the type of toothpaste to use, and flossing. 

Thank goodness the decays were not as bad as I imagined! 

We paid $250 for this visit. Which is not too bad… about how much we pay for our adult dental visits too. 

 So who said visits to dentists needs to be a horror film? 

Letting my mother role spill over 

This week, I made a mistake.

I allowed the emotions of me as a mother to spill over into the me as a worker – I cried in front of my colleagues (to my own horror really, on hindsight).

That morning, I woke up elated “Little Foot is exactly 2.5 years young today!” And I texted Papa to get some small cake for celebration. It was tradition since she was born to mark the half-year milestone. And the little lady really loves a good chocolate cake these days.

Work is always busy, but this week was particularly crappy. And that day was the start of a series of atomic shit hitting rhe ceiling.  And then despite my remarks about having something on in the evening, and I had to leave, somehow I found myself being made to stay back. AGAIN.

The frustration started to build up because this is happening rather too frequently. Despite me already burning  midnight oil on Fridays or Saturdays just to work on things so as not to waste time or push too close to deadlines.

In my blog post ‘Of working mothers and our unnecessary guilt‘ over a year ago,  I have said this very clearly , as a working mother, I do not allow myself to show my emotions at work.

…We don’t bring our moods to work. Because moods and tantrums makes us less effective at work….

And then I allowed myself to let my frustrations get the better of me that evening as the clock ticked away, one by one people carried their bags and left and a few asked me “Why are you still here?” The good-natured show of concern for me still being there simply allowed the dam I had built to break. I really couldn’t care less anymore, at that point, what people thought of me.

And so the dam broke.

On hindsight, if I didn’t waste time crying, I could have typed faster. If I didn’t waste time airing my “grievances”, I could have shut down sooner. If I had just stood up and insisted that something at home was more important that evening, I would have made it in time for the cake session.

And so in the end, I reached home after Little Foot had cut the cake and done many replays of “Light candle, Little Foot sing ‘Happy Birthday’, Little Foot blow out candle”.

She happily informed me when I got to our lift landing and found her there waiting for me that she ate a chocolate cake and she had burnt her lip a little on the candle. “Mummy! It’s hot hot!”

Taking a picture after I missed the party

It was past her bedtime and Papa had dragged for as long as he could before he took out the cake. I understood he had tried his best.

This is every working mother’s recurrent nightmare. Somewhere along the way, there will inevitably be something at work will make you miss the party, miss a milestone, miss a moment. Perhaps cumulatively, it will make you the absent mother.

It is a fate that no working mother can avoid. So really, who am I to think I am special or right to demand that my after hours time be out-of-bounds?

As a working mother, I try my best to ensure that my motherhood status does not become a convenient excuse to shun work or make others take on my load. Put simply, I don’t ask for concessions at work just because I am a mother. Since we take the same pay., as far as I can, I will put in the same amount of effort and hard work as the rest. I detest people who pull this trump card out to ask single or childless colleagues to take the odd hours shift, or settle something that crops up in the weekend. Singles and childless folks have their own life too, and they too have private affairs and families which are just as precious as ours.

Yet I cannot help but feel that perhaps, there are times when something gotta give, and maybe, just maybe, I should speak up.

 

My child is in a full-day childcare and gave up her right to my time while I am at work. The least she deserves is that work don’t encroach into her time with me at night and on weekends. 

Just like employers don’t want distracted workers, children don’t want distracted parents. Simple yet so hard to make a reality in this society. 

If only people stopped to think that way, then perhaps we will stop promoting this crazy culture here in Singapore where people just work longer and longer, and start expecting others to do the same.  No, we do not get paid overtime, and in this day and age with phones and mobile devices, work just encroaches more and more into our family time. For one, the phone messages never stops, and that is in itself a destructive distraction from family.

What will I do next? I have no idea, but at this point, I can only give you the other side of the story. Stop invading your employees’ personal time unnecessarily. Sure if there is a crisis, we will drop everything and rush back, but this privilege is abused/taken as a given, overtime, burnout occurs, people stop reacting. Like the boy who cries wolf, by the time the real wolf comes, you can bet, half the people who can help would have left the farm in search of a better place.

 

Family Day! 

Today is a good day! #tgif!

On leave to spend time with the family. 

1st up: GV Gold Class! 

In our late 30s and this is the first time we went to experience the atas GV Gold Class! Finally utilised the prize I won in January during D&D. And Wonder Woman was so Wowowow!! Totally loved the movie! (But I  really can’t justify paying over  $30 for a ticket)

Next Up: School Family Day! 

We were invited to the Family Day organised by the preschool Little Foot is in. Displayed my hopelessness at painting and handicrafts (It’s not the same as scrapbooking!), also displayed my uselessness with a Capteh (a feathery shuttercock from yesteryears)

Grand Finale: coffee and cake 

Oh we love to bring Little Foot along for our hipster cafe sessions. So here we are with a Rainbow cake to share, Flat White for the Papa and an Iced chocolate topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

Happiness is so simple yet so terribly hard to achieve because of the pace of worklife in Singapore. 

Can’t believe one has to take leave in order to just mute the phone and spend time with the people who matter the most. 

In any case, it was a good day even with small pockets of tantrums from Little Foot. 

If only everyday was like today.