I Lend You My Cheese Stick

The kids enjoy a snack once in a while after dinner, thanks to dearest PoPo. Their current favourite is Cheese Dippers – sticks of biscuit with a cream cheese dip in handy packages.

The kids love to coat the biscuit with cheese, and are learning the principle of balance, though they do not know it yet. There are x number of biscuits, and the small cube of cream cheese. How to coat just the right amount of cheese on each stick of biscuit so one doesn’t end up with too much cream cheese or run out of biscuits too quickly. A fine art of balance that took me many, many tubs of Yan Yan Chocolate Cream and Biscuits to perfect when I was young. At least the kids are practising on cream cheese instead of chocolate cream.

Just starting out on this training, the kids have ended up with too much cream cheese so far. Which is a better outcome than running out of cream cheese, I think. When they first ran out of biscuits to scoop out the remaining cream cheese, they were at a loss, staring longingly at the cream cheese but not knowing how to get the cream cheese into their mouths.

Ah Yi suggested Megan use her finger to scoop out the cheese. Being the tactile person she is, Megan eagerly did as instructed. Both girls ended up being chided by PoPo for being unhygienic - one for suggesting the idea, and one for doing it without a second thought. I suggested using a chopstick which cleaned out the corners of the container very well. Matthew decided a spoon works better for him.

One evening, Megan soon ran out of biscuits as she was generously sharing her biscuits with a dollop of cream cheese with each of us. Matthew, a stickler for fairness and thinks that one should only have his apportioned share without taking from others, concentrated on enjoying his snack. But when he found out Megan has no more biscuits left, he magnanimously suggested to Megan:

“MeiMei, I lend you my cheese stick.” We were pleasantly surprised, as sharing his food willingly is not something he does instinctively; he being the first born in the family, has enjoyed exclusive use of items for the first 2 years of his life.

We, however, burst out laughing at his next words: “But you have to return the biscuit to me after you finished the cheese, okay?” In between our laughter, one of us managed to ask Matthew to rethink his question, and if he really wanted Megan to return him the biscuit.

He paused for a while, and decided that it was not such a good idea after all, flashing his lop-sided grin. And we all knew he had it figured out when he got out of his seat and went to get Megan a chopstick, her preferred tool to get all the cheese.

Life lessons from a simple act of eating biscuit and cream cheese. Look forward to what else life with the kids will reveal…

She’s So Like You!

People have commented that my mother and I look alike ever since I can remember. Mum and I have peered in the mirror together countless times in the past, trying very hard to see the similarities people say that “it’s so obvious you’re mother and daughter!”, and failing to do so every time. We have since stopped trying, and accepting people’s comments with a polite smile and thanks. My mum is quite pretty in my eyes, so I guess I really don’t mind if I supposedly resemble her!

Now, when people see me with Megan together, they will start to say that Megan looks like me. In fact, they go as far as saying that Megan looks like a carbon copy of me. In local colloquial terms, it means Megan is a photostat(ed) copy of me (means I’m the photocopier machine), or an Ang Ku Kueh (in this case I become the Ang Ku Kueh mould). For an excellent read on Ang Ku Kueh and the details on the mould, try this. Again, I cannot see how Megan resembles me. But to me, she’s a very pretty girl so I really don’t mind if people say so! Well, the good-looking genes have to come from somewhere, right?

Apparently, however, the resemblance is not merely skin deep.

Recent events have gathered relatives together more often than usual. My aunties and cousins observed Megan weaving in and out of the crowd, never shy, prancing about and never still, talking animatedly and assertively (read: being bossy).

One auntie’s first comment was: “Megan very tom-boy hor?”. This comment immediately brought on a sea of heads nodding in agreement! I cringed and tried to hide my head in embarrassment, because I knew what was coming next.

“Exactly like her mother when she was young!” My older cousin piped up. That is the problem growing up in a family as the lone ranger, with much older and younger cousins. I was under the undivided (unwanted more like) scrutiny of all the aunties, uncle and cousins, since I was the only one at any point in time. It wasn’t until 5 years later when my younger cousins came along and took the heat off my back. By then, it was too late. Everyone could remember all the stuff I did for the past 5 years.

“She (me) used to hit her forehead on the floor when she was angry, remember?” someone said, and everyone nodded.

“Remember how she used to pull up her top and stand in front of the air conditioner to cool off whenever she was angry?” someone else said, and everyone nodded enthusiastically. This is the BIG thing I was infamous for, but surprisingly, I have no memories of this at all. But the Man has heard this for the past 17 years; it was one of the first things my relatives warned him about, when we started dating. Sweet of him to still chuckle along, after all these years.

“And how she used to whack someone first, and then promptly burst into tears as if that other person hit her?” And there I was, subject to the retelling of my childhood misbehaviours, as my nieces and nephew listened on. Yes, I was the “chilli padi” of the family.

My mum didn’t quite remember how I was when young, except that she likes to say that I was very skinny (different from what I am now), and I ran around with my “chicken legs”.  I also sported lots of bruises and scabs as I bumped, knocked and fell down a lot. Now I look at Megan’s “chicken legs” with lots of “Gor Jiam Ji Gark” (literally 5 and 10 cents in Hokkien, used to describe bruises colloquially), I think I am seeing a mini me as my mum saw me all those decades ago. It is surreal.

And then I met an auntie I haven’t seen in over 20 years. “Oh this is her?! She was so cute when young!”, she lamented with a shake of her head. Hammer to my ego. Ouch. And my eldest cousin replied, “Now her daughter (Megan) is the cute one.” Well, at least my bruised ego has some respite, since I have passed on the “cute” genes to my daughter.

And the same dearest cousin added with a dramatic sigh and a lot of regret in her voice, “And she was so smart when she was young.” I so want to cry.

Now I hope Megan will grow up with fond memories of her childhood, and I am pretty sure she will remember well, with so many helping to remember and recount tales. But perhaps a little less fiery in temperament and a lot less stubborn and willful? Who am I kidding? What goes round really does come around…

Aiyoh, Don’t Call Them Monkeys!

Time and again, life has shown me that what goes round, does come around. Given how the Man and I were as kids, it should really be no wonder that our kids are boisterous.

Matthew and Megan have a lot of energy and are very imaginative when it comes to inventing play. And they are LOUD. The 2 of them generate enough noise for a class of 10 in school, I believe. And when they are not quarrelling or fighting with each other (make that at least 10 times a day), they play very well together.

Hence I like to call them my monkeys. However, not all appreciate me calling my kids monkeys. I even get chided for the endearment chosen for the kids.

“Aiyoh, why for no reason call them monkeys! Tsk!” “Don’t call them that! They’re just kids!” are the usual responses from those who disapprove, complete with dismissing hand flicks in the air.

I’m puzzled by these reactions. What is wrong with calling my (not their) kids monkeys?

Monkeys are active and noisy, but great problem solvers as those in the animal kingdom. Energetic and imaginative if we use the Chinese astrology/zodiac explanation.

All in all, it is not so bad being called monkeys by their own mother right? Besides, do those disapprovers expect me to sing high praises of my own kids in front of others? Chinese decorum drummed into me since young certainly does not allow me to!

Darling Monkeys

With (overgrown) kids like these on Natalie’s (a 1yo!) toys, circling around PoPo’s living room for a good 15 minutes and laughing their heads off, tell me how they can not be monkeys!

Despite the severe auditory assult they inflicted on my eardrums and head, and the emotional thrashing I suffered following any auditory overload, I’ll take these monkeys to be my lawful kids anytime. So what I am now officially the Mother Monkey. Bring it on!

He’s the Funny Guy, She’s the Social Butterfly, and She’s their Grandmother

Sunday was Natalie’s 1st Birthday bash, and the kids had a field day, catching up with their first cousin (which they do every week day), and their second cousins (only when schedules coincide). PoPo’s flat and corridor was jam packed with people!

Matthew, displaying his first-born tendency to shoulder responsibility, was enthusiastically yet shyly serving up cake to almost everyone present because we asked for his help. Later, when the crowd thinned, and we sat down for a second round of hi-tea, he again busied himself by getting us food and drinks. He was in love with the custard cream puffs with a wedge of strawberry on the top, and kept helping himself to more.

He returned from one of his custard cream puffs-only trips and exclaimed while proudly displaying his plate, “Look! I’ve got a bug!”. He sure knew how to get our immediate attention.

There, sticking out of his custard puff were 2 curved strands of deep-fried vermicilli. The puff did resemble a beetle. He grinned his wry smile, and added “These are the bug’s tentacles.” The Man, displaying his must-be-accurate tendency, corrected Matthew who prompted chuckled and said, “Oh hur hur, ya, antennae.” Then he happily proceeded to fit the entire puff into his small mouth.

Having eaten his fill of custard cream puffs, he got hold of Megan’s light-up ring from Smiggle and started spinning it on the table. “Look! A ballerina! And she’s break dancing too!” Encouraged by our smiles, he wore his wide grin while spinning the ring repeatedly on the table. He, the funny guy who prefers the company of his parents and PoPo.


Megan only has the pink ring. Photo taken from http://www.pinterest.com/89lilmiszwog/smiggle/

While we were enjoying Matthew’s funny antics and company, it suddenly dawned on me that my younger daughter was nowhere in sight. I was then told she was busy socialising with Ah Yi’s friends along the corridor, taking selfie after selfie. She also catwalked with first her pink shades, and then her hairclips or something. Throughout the party, she preferred the company of others. It was with others that she could have the attention she wanted, and be the star attraction. She, the social butterfly who prefers friends to family.

It also gave me a glimpse of the lifestyle she would most likely adopt in about 10 years’ time – out with lots of friends most of the time. Quick, shut out that image! Will worry about it later.

PoPo. I followed my mum to bring extra food to her good friend living in the next block of flats after the party, carrying my niece Natalie along. As the sun was still too bright for my light-sensitive eyes, I wore my sunglasses. At the lift lobby, we met a friendly auntie whom I initially thought my mum knew . The first thing she said to us after my mum said “hi” was, “Wah, your daughter looks so much like you!”

I was taken aback at auntie’s penetrative eyes, since my sunglassess covered about half my face. How was she able to tell my mum and I looked alike? Anyway, as we entered the lift, the auntie confirmed with my mum that the baby I was carrying was her grandchild.

In the lift, the auntie would not stop sweeping her glance between Natalie and me. Once, twice, thrice. I could hear the questions in auntie’s head. Trying to look for similarities to confirm Natalie was my daughter.

“She (jutting my jaw at Natalie since my arms were full) is her (jutting my jaw at my mum) grandchild. But she is not my daughter.”

Auntie was stunned; she tried to recover her wits while figuring out what I said. She looked at my mum questioningly.

My mum took pity on auntie, after what I did to confuse her terribly. She launched into her grandmother story (literally and figuratively). Within a few seconds however, my mum managed to un-confuse auntie, patiently explaining that Natalie is my younger sister’s daughter, whereas my kids are older. For the confusion I purposely caused auntie, she was very nice to compliment that I looked very young, like I was still unmarried. You have got to hand it to aunties for their diplomatic skills! I have much to learn from these veterans.

As Natalie is quickly developing her own personality, it should not be long before I will be able to add one more grandchild’s story to PoPo’s credit. Wonderful, capable, self-sacrificing PoPo who is raising 3 grandchildren. I count my blessings everyday…

Being Together

Being caught up at work over the weekends this month has taken me away from my family physically, but it was a story retold during a chat with colleagues that provided me with much to muse on.

A cab driver was sharing with his passenger the reason he became one. He had a successful career throughout his working years, climbing higher and higher up the corporate ladder. Finally, the day came for him to retire, financially comfortable. He started planning how he was finally going to spend all his free time with his wife; the places they will go, the fine food they were going to taste, and more, because he was financially very capable now.

Retired life presented him with a different reality. His wife, having lived through many years of not having her husband around much, had developed her own interests and her own circle of friends. She could not get used to having him around and ‘suddenly’ wanting to spend time with her, because they no longer had anything in common. He did not know her friends, and she was reluctant to change her lifestyle to spend her time with a “stranger”. He became the one who was left alone, with too much time on his own.  In order to keep himself occupied and get out of his wife’s way, he decided to become a cab driver.

This story struck a chord in my heart, and I imagined the desolate scenes of a couple going their separate ways, while remaining legally married to each other. Then I realised, to my horror, I am seeing these scenes, and hearing such stories or comments, regularly.

“After 12 years of marriage, what else can I talk to my wife about except the kids?” My ex-colleague told me many years ago, when I was just 2, 3 years into my own marriage and curious to find out more. I still remember the look of surprise on his face, as if I asked a stupid DUH question, when I asked him what he and his wife talked about as an ‘old’ couple with kids.

“I’m bringing our grandson along for our overseas trip, or else the trip would be sooooo boring. At least with the grandson coming along, we would have something in common to focus all our attention on.”

“Don’t let him know where we are going. I don’t want him to come along.”

And I see married couples going out for breakfast together, each with his/her set of newspapers. They occupy a big table, spread out the newspapers between them, and go about reading and eating ‘together’. Or he would be playing games on his mobile phone, and she would be catching up on the lastest feeds on Facebook. The whole meal would be spent in each other’s presence, but not with each other.

I do a lot of people-watching in my spare time, and whenever I can. And I don’t see many couples, dating or married, look into the eyes of their chosen partners anymore. It seems their smart phones are their partners instead. I can see the smiles on their faces, and the excitement in their eyes when they stare deep into their phones. What happened to the magic of staring into each other’s eyes, and seeing the smile and excitement reflected from the “windows to the soul”?

Granted, there is much pleasure to derive from the portable devices; little effort needs to be invested for maximum satisfaction. It is less complicated; you get the same or more in return for the energy you invest. There is instant gratification. Interactions with people are complicated. A lot of energy is needed to look into a loved one’s eyes, listen carefully to what is being shared, and contribute something in return to maintain the relationship. But who knows all the while, the mind is ticking off the seconds one can return to harvesting the crops, animals, coins, or whatever, and when the energy for the hero has been fully (or at least not 0%!) restored to continue the progress in the game. Or what the next episode of whatever drama is going to happen.

And it’s not just limited to couples; friends and families out for a meal together are glued to their own electronic devices. Streaming videos are now the time fillers and baby sitters. Kids are kept occupied and quiet, making mealtimes such a breeze. To each his/her own device. Fuss free.

And what happens to the partner, the family member who thinks all the time spent together on one’s own electronic device is wrong, and wants to make a positive contribution to quality family time, and even set a good example? She (I usually see the females) would be trying to entertain the kids and contain their restless energies, while he would be frantically working his thumbs into a frenzy, excitement glittering from his eyes. The only times he would stop are before and after the meal. And again, no eye contact during the meal because he is forced to stop his exciting progress in the game(s), and wants to get back to the game(s) as soon as he can.

What happens to this member who tries so hard to keep the family from sliding down the electronic slope of irrestible and instant gratifications in the long run?

I think, while it has taken the previous generation 20, 30 years for a couple to no longer have anything in common, the advance in technology will halve the time, if not more. Very soon, the meaning of ‘being together’ will cease to have any meaning at all…

Her Powers of Perception

No one perplexes me more than my little gal who turns 5 in March. Most of the time she seems to be in her little dream world, oblivious to what is being said and done around her. But when she wants in for a piece of action, she will repeat tirelessly until we finally address, or rather, blow up at her for her incessant noise and inappropriate timing.

I scold her for being a noise machine; not stopping to think, observe, think, listen, think, then finally speak. Instead, she speaks off the cuff, anytime she likes. And she is naturally loud. Which is a bad match with me, for I value peace and quiet so much. She head-butts my big, glowing “Please be Quiet” button all the time, albeit unintentionally.

Once in a while, however, she amazes me with her powers of perception, which she hides very well under her chatty personality.

I was keeping my eyes downcast and averted all eye contact during dinnertime, but was unable to avoid Megan’s eyes because she was sitting right next to me. When our eyes met the first time, I saw that she was taken aback. Immediately, her eyes took on a curious and very concerned twinkle.

“MaMa, what happened to your eyes?” she blurted out, a bit too loudly. I quickly hushed her, not wishing to draw any attention to myself. “I’ll tell you later. Not now.”

“You can whisper in my ears.” She mimicked my quiet voice, while turning her head and presenting me with her pretty ear to whisper into.

“Later,” was my response to the next 6 times she asked me, staring into my eyes every time. I did tell her a white lie eventually. Sorry, darling.

When we reached home, I busied myself preparing for the kids’ schoolday the next day. Megan helped by bringing their water bottles to me for rinsing and filling up with water.

“MaMa, I help you?” She asked to unscrew the bottle caps. “It’s okay Megan, MaMa can do it.”

“I don’t want you to be 辛苦.” she said, her eyes downcast and watching the bottles in the sink. I did a double take, certain I had misheard her words spoken over noisy running water. I asked her to repeat and she did. She didn’t want me to work so hard.

At that moment, I wished I had disregarded the washing and scooped her up for a hug. This is my gal! I wanted to shout to the world. My sweet, sensitive gal! The only family member who looked into my eyes and watched my body language and deduced stuff!

But I stayed true to my cold personality. I missed the opportunity to show my affection. To the one who cared. I didn’t know how; I am still learning.

I did thank her though, and she smiled her shy smile. Then just as quickly, she bounded away while talking loudly to herself, her naturally loud voice trailing behind her intermixing with the noise of the running water, assulting my sensitive auditory sense again.

But this time, I had a small smile on my face…

Captain Pirate

Matthew can be a mystery at times. He can be happy-go-lucky one moment, temperamental another, but otherwise he’s generally quiet and nonchalant. Nothing much ruffles his feathers; the only person who can do that with a high success rate is his sister. Sometimes he’s so quiet that when he speaks up, I get jolted by the richness of his imagination.

I was experiencing a rare moment of intense emotion myself when I called the Man and the kids my 宝贝, which I then had to translate to Megan that I called them my treasures. My dearest treasures.

“Then MaMa you’re a pirate.” Matthew piped in. “Because you have treasures.”, came his explanation when I probed.

Matthew didn’t stop there. So many ideas came tumbling out. “You are the Captain Pirate with a golden ship. The golden ship has heart-shaped sails, a heart shaped steering wheel (helm), heart-shaped blanket and bed. And you have your treasures.”

Indeed, I could just imagine my (super girly) golden pirate ship with all the heart-shaped parts, sailing out into the deep blue ocean with my 3 treasures. So this is what life with kids is about, living for moments like these…

Captain Pirate

An attempt to make my beloved Spongebob Squarepants pirate ship look girly. Let’s go have a blast!