Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Life - The Before/After Kids Edition

Everything I know about being a human being changed the minute I had kids. Nothing has ever been the same again. Even little things like waking up from sleep. Do they give me a chance to wake at my own pace? No, I spring out of bed at the sound of CRASH!- "Mama!!!"

Sure, I get to do some things I'm familiar with. Like reading. Except I used to read stuff with fewer pictures and more words. 

But in any case, here are some more examples. 

SLEEPING
Once upon a time, you used to snuggle in bed. Or read, or watch a movie, or do whatever it is you do to make babies. I don't know about you but in our house, babies arrive by Stork Express.

After kids, we had more and more night time activities. But let's just say they are nothing of the stork delivery sort. Oh yes, night times are loads of fun. Here's what one of our typical nights looked like, not too long ago.

     

SHOPPING
Before kids, spending an hour in a store deciding whether I should choose between a light or dark blue blouse, or size S or XS (oh those were the days), was nothing. In fact, it was done often. After kids, I count the grocery run alone as a special treat. Fusilli or penne? Oh I could so enjoy this. But the kids go just about everywhere with me, even to the personal care store where they (the store, not my kids) sell um impulse items at the counter. One such occasion led my daughter to ask me about um, "sexy time"; I wrote about it here.



SWIMMING
Oh swimming. I don't swim myself, but of course, there was the occasional hang out in the sun, lounging on a deck chair with a big hat. Ahhhh. Now swimming means an arm float in one arm and a swim board kiapped under my armpit. Sorry, KIAP is a word that doesn't exist in any other language. I can't explain it. "Squeezed between", I guess? 

Anyway, a big bag of stuff and very few of those things are actually for me. The shower after the swim? With slippery kids and wet public pool floors? Hell. Or close enough. 



MEAL TIMES
Eating with kids must be, hands down, my favourite activity ever! Not. Once upon a time I could eat with two hands. Though it's now such a distant memory that I may have to attend some crash course of sorts just to remember. I used to be able to read a book with my lunch. I used to be able to chew my food at a pace I desired.

Now, well, stuff like this happens.



Anyway, kids are awesome and we love them! Well, most of the time. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

5 Family Meals for $50!

I will come right out and say it. I'm an Auntie. I love going to the wet market because most things are cheaper at the market, as compared to the supermarket.

I have a relationship with the stall owners there that simply cannot be replicated at a supermarket. I have a fish guy (he guts and descales them for me!), a meat guy (I choose my slices of meat and he minces them for me!), a fruit lady (she remembers what I like!), a veggie guy (he gives me free spring onions and coriander!), a chicken guy (I even know his mother!) and am pretty chummy with the dried goods stall folks as well.

But most times I am with a kid or two who are either more interested in things on the floor or are cross with me because market time = no playground time.

However when this Mama shared that she made 5 dinners with a marketing budget of $50 recently, she got me thinking: $50 a week x 4 weeks is $200. That's reasonable for a family of 4 isn't it? So for the past week, grumpy kids or not, I kept my strict budget in mind on my marketing trips, and this is what we ate:

Day 1: Katsu-don with broccoli on the side (recipe below)


Day 2: Stir fried udon with salmon, carrots, xiao bai cai and miso (recipe below)


Honey and soy air fried chicken wings, steamed fish and fried cabbage with carrot and glass noodles (recipe below)


Beef burgers with oven baked fries (recipe below)

Fried wantans, steamed fish with tofu, and pork rib watercress soup (recipe below)

Recipes!
Day 1: Katsu-don

Ingredients for tonkatsu
Chicken fillet (I used breast)
Breadcrumbs (I used panko)
Salt and pepper
Egg
Flour

Ingredients for gravy
1 tbsp miso paste (I got one that says "Dashi type")
1 small onion
Spring onions
1 cup water
2 tbsp mirin
1 egg

For the tonkatsu
1. Use the back of a heavy knife to pound on the chicken to tenderise it
2. Sprinkle salt and pepper over it and set aside to marinade for half an hour
3. Lightly flour the chicken and then dip it in egg, and then press it into the breadcrumbs
4. Set chicken on Air Fryer basket and cook for 13 minutes at 180 degrees C
5. Once chicken is done, cut it into strips and set aside
* Start off with 12 minutes, and if chicken is not cooked enough, increase cook time by a minute each time so as not to overcook

For the gravy
1. Slice (not chop) onion finely
2. Add water, onions, miso paste, mirin and bring to boil
3. Once onion is soft, add egg and stir gently
4. Just before egg is cooked, add spring onions

Place tonkatsu on top of Japanese steamed rice, and pour gravy over. Itadakimasu!



Day 2: Stir fried udon
Ingredients
Udon
Salmon (I usually buy the tail because there are less bones there)
Carrots
Xiao bai cai
Miso paste
Mushrooms
1/2 cup water

How to make it
1. Finely slice carrots, onions, mushrooms, salmon
2. Heat oil and fry salmon and onions. When salmon is almost cooked, add mushrooms
3. Mix miso paste and water then pour in, with carrots
4. Add udon and leafy veggie. Cover for 2 minutes
5. Serve!

Day 3: Honey and soy air fried chicken wings, steamed fish and fried cabbage with carrot and glass noodles (with rice)
Ingredients for chicken wings
10 chicken wings
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp soy sauce

How to make it
1. Marinate chicken wings in a zip lock bag with garlic, honey and soy sauce for an hour at least. I usually do it overnight, turning occasionally.
2. Place chicken wings in Air Fryer basket and cook at 185 degrees C for 12 minutes, tossing wings regularly (just open the basket and give them a shake every 3-4 minutes)
3. Serve

Ingredients for steamed fish
Fish (I usually buy pomfret but my fish guy suggested I try a 'small ang go li' instead and I loved it! Firm and sweet meat, yum!)
Ginger
Tomatoes
1 tsp sesame oil
Water - optional

How to make it
1. Make 2 cuts on fish on both sides. This allows it to cook better
2. Drizzel sesame oil over it
3. Place sliced tomatoes around fish and sliced ginger on top of fish
4. Place a small dish (like the kind you use for dips) in wok and add water around it. When water comes to boil, place plate with fish on the small dish. Cover and steam at medium heat for about 8 minutes, depending on size of fish.
5. Fish is done once you poke a chopstick in the flesh and chopstick comes out clean
6. Optional: I like lots of gravy on my rice so I also like to add a bit of water to the plate

How to make cabbage dish
1. Fry minced garlic with sliced carrots
2. Add 1/2 cup water and sliced cabbage
3. Add salt if desired, then glass noodles and simmer for about 2 minutes or until glass noodles are cooked

Day 4: Beef burgers with oven baked fries
Ingredients for beef burgers
1 pack of hamburger buns
Cheese slices
About 300g minced beef
Carrots
1 small onion
Breadcrumbs
Egg


How to make it
1. Mix minced beef with finely diced carrots and onions
2. Add breadcrums and egg to the mixture
3. Set aside for about half an hour
4. Use your hands to shape the meat into patties
5. Pan patties in olive oil for about 2 minutes per side, depending on size of patties
6. Serve on toasted buns with a slice of cheese


Day 5: Fried wantans, steamed fish with tofu, and pork rib watercress soup (with rice)
Ingredients for wantans
200g minced pork
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
White pepper
5 water chestnuts (or 1 small onion if you don't have any water chestnuts)
Wantan skin (I like the square ones but round ones are fun too)

How to make wantans
1. Mix minced pork, sesame oil, soy sauce, white pepper and finely chopped water chestnuts (remove skin!)
2. Dip a clean finger into a bowl of clean water and dab around the edges of the wantan skin
3. Place a small portion of meat mixture in the centre of a piece of wantan skin
4. Fold wantan skin from a square to a triangle and press down firmly on the edges to seal
5. Pan fry wantans on low fire in vegetable oil. They fry rather quickly and should need only about 1-2 minutes
6. Pat dry on kitchen towels to soak up excess oil if you like

Ingredients for water cress soup
Pork ribs
Water cress, cut into managable pieces
5 red dates
1 handful wolfberries
4 cups water
1/2 ear of corn


How to make water cress soup

1. Boil water in pot. Once water is boiling rapidly, scoop some out to pour over pork ribs
2. Add corn to pot
3. Wash red dates and add to pot
4. After about 5 minutes of 'soaking' pork ribs, remove ribs and add to pot (do not keep the water in which the ribs were soaking)
5. Once everything comes to a boil, add wolfberries and lower fire. Simmer for about half an hour
6. 5 minutes before meal time, add water cress and simmer then serve



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My Imperfect Perfect Life

The IKEA Expedit shelving unit is on sale, did you know? It's the big thing with many squares - great as room dividers, great for toys, great for books. It's every homelearning parent's dream bookcase, and something I've been dreaming for for ages. I never got round to buying one because it's just a tad too pricey for my liking. But IKEA seems to be discontinuing the Expedit range so everything is going at a steal, and now that it's priced at $99, I found myself rooted at IKEA's bookcase section today, and salivating.

I love it, I really do. But Max thinks it's a bit well, massive. Which is true. He's asking me all these grown-up questions like where will we put it, and what will we have to get rid off so that we can fit it in our home?

Oh I don't know! I just know that I want one so that I can put all the girls' learning stuff in there, and put globes on top of it and lean back and look at it and sigh because our home would be perfect, and our lives would be perfect, all because of that IKEA Expedit shelving unit.

Oh look at that. Everything's so neat and organised. Nothing spilling out, nothing there that doesn't belong....
Oh and I have to clarify each time I draw this that those aren't my sagging boobs. Not to say that I don't have them. But that's not the point.

This evening as I put the girls to bed, I was half-heartedly talking to them while scanning the room to see what we could move/keep/donate. Surely we could get rid of some stuff! We have so much!!!

I looked at each piece of furniture - the chest of drawers with the faulty rail that causes the bottom drawer to get de-railed occasionally, the changing table with the changing shelf removed so it's now a bookcase, the more modest and smaller sized 8-squared Expedit that's now jammed with Poppy's school stuff and craft stuff and activity stuff including the "fun box" from the time she was home for over 2 weeks with HFMD, Calla's cot with one side removed so it also doubles up as a little reading/snuggling spot for us, the double-decker bed that's been fliped top to bottom, bottom to top countless times, the tall toy storage unit with removable plastic drawers with bottom drawers filled with little plastic animals, Duplo blocks and wooden train tracks and top drawers filled with I don't know what - dust probably.

And finally, the thin mattress protector on the floor that I was lying on. It's not even a mattress; it's a mattress protector, which we brought over from our room, so that we can all camp together sometimes. Sometimes, 'sometimes' slowly morphs into 'a couple of days, or even weeks'.

Perhaps the cot could go; the girls have that double decker bed now so we don't need a cot anymore. But that would mean I won't get to sit there with them anymore. Perhaps we could do with a smaller chest of drawers. But we got this one even before we had Poppy and it's seen us through zero to two kids so that's quite special isn't it? Or perhaps the toy storage? That's big and cumbersome and a little bit of an eyesore. But I love seeing the kids going to it and pulling out the buckets of toys.

For every piece of furniture I thought I could part with, I remembered the history behind it. I remembered why we bought it in the first place, and how it's served us. I see all the things that it holds and even if it's something that we no longer use, it's still something that has been a part of our lives. It may have been bought after a long process of deliberation, or on a whim. It may fit beautifully with everything else or stick out like a sore thumb. It may be fully utilised, or simply a dust collector. But it's part of our lives.

And then again, I looked at everything in the room, everything that was bought at a different time, all these mismatched things, and then at my two sleeping children, and suddenly I became kinder to all these things that I was in such a hurry to throw. Because in a strange way, amidst all its imperfections, I suppose my life is rather perfect.

So I suppose, no Expedit for me now for a 'perfect life'. Or maybe I could just buy it and keep it flat packed under my bed until we move to a new place. If we move to a new place. Or maybe not :)

If you'd like to vote for me at the Singapore Blog Awards, here's the link (I'm in the 'Best Individual Blog' category, under the Editors/Judges choice!) And if you've enjoyed these drawings, here are more!


If you're wondering about the drawings: I've so been inspired by this mum. Her writing is hilarious and her drawings sometimes make me pee in my pants. But before you go all copycat-kiss-the-rat on me, you may like to read her FAQ page where she states that she 'is not the first ever human to draw pictures', and that she too was inspired by and accused of copying someone else. 

When the Potty is the Enemy

One day, out of the blue, the 2-year old happily decided that she was a big girl. She ditched her diapers, went straight to the potty, sat on it and did a poo.

We were elated. Wow! And without any help from us too! We'd save a ton of money on good-girl stickers! We wouldn't need to borrow potty training books from the library! Oh how we celebrated! How we jived and high-fived! How we moved and grooved! How we boogied and woogied!

But we'd broken the golden rule of parenting: We had jinxed ourselves by celebrating too early, and soon after came the days of "No-yike-puntees!"

Now she's diaper-less at home (but yes, appropriately covered), and heads to the potty on her own if she needs to pee. Where she will (no prizes for guessing) pee. Oh and use up half the roll of toilet paper, play with the flush or use her thumb to block the faucet, watching the water spray all around. Fun times, folks, fun times.

But wait, I mentioned pee.... so what about poop? Ah. Here it comes, folks. My explaination I mean, not the poop.

So here's the truth: I have a partially potty trained toddler. She's cool with peeing in the potty but when it comes to poop, the potty is the enemy. It's like her tiny butt and the potty are repelled by opposing magnetic forces.

"Potty is enemy! No yike potty!"

She won't poop in a potty, but will in a mobile potty, in the form of a pants diaper, one that she sticks her feet in and pulls up. And then she'll scrunch up her face and do what she needs to do in a half-squat in a little corner somewhere, and stick her hand out and command in a strained voice that I "don't come here! Stay away!".  And we laugh. We laugh because as ridiculous and frustrating this sounds, we remember the second rule of parenting, and that is that every stage will pass.

*****

While putting on a pants diaper may be easy, there are still several things to look out for. Newer parents, you may want to take special note of this:

Ill-fitting diapers may result in big messes that may stain your pants/sofa/car seat permanently. 

Consider yourselves duly warned.

Now that I've got your attention, may I proceed to sharing some things to look out for when putting a pants diaper on your baby? Thank you.

If you, like me, have an active child, you will not regret paying attention.




These must be the cuties mascots I've seen in a long time! Think you can help Airy and Softie turn plain diapers into Drypers Drypantz diapers? Take part in the Drypers "Breathe Easy Breeze" game on Facebook for a chance to win an array of prizes!


"I'm free as a bird!"

1. Make sure pants diaper is put on the right way
Make sure that the side that says "back" is on your active baby's bottom. There's a reason for it - the back is designed a little bigger to fit baby's bum and capture pee and poop more effectively. It's not rocket science. Sure you laugh now; you won't be laughing when you're squirting disinfectant on your mattress.

Standard uniform at home

If you, like me, have an anti-potty toddler, try teaching her to recognise the front and back of the pants diaper so that she can put it on by herself. With Drypers Drypantz, it's easy: the back of the diaper shows a big number (the size of the diaper your child is wearing - keeping bums clean and learning numbers at the same time! Score!). Proper placement of pants diaper on baby ensures utmost freedom of movement for baby! Hooray!

Comfort is a very subjective word. I can actually feel my own hamstrings stretch when I see her sitting like this

2. Make sure pants diaper fits properly
Are you a fan of a wedgie? I'm guessing not. So don't make your baby go through that. It's not only highly uncomfortable, it's also a big fashion boo-boo. While you're at it, you might want to check that the waistband of the pants diaper isn't twisted or folded - it should fit above the baby's navel - and check the fit around your baby's thighs.

For babies with thighs of the more um, voluptous nature, make sure that the gathers are pulled properly and not folded inwards. For slender babies, take special care to make sure there are no gaps around the thighs and waist; you might even consider tucking baby's clothing under the waistband for a better fit*

* This tip also applies to anyone who needs to be dressed in a shirt and pants: Tuck your shirt INTO your underwear (and not just your pants) to ensure that it stays in snugly. And I neither deny nor confirm that my husband does this** 

** He does not. Not even when I plead and plead just so I can find out if it really works.

New Drypers Drypantz now has Comfort Fit™’s properties comprising of a softer cloth-like material and added breathability in the diaper, especially around the waistband, which helps to avoid red marks while reducing pressure on baby's tummy and allowing baby to enjoy greater comfort, air circulation and softness. 
 

When babies are on either end of the quiet/active scale, it's pretty safe to say they're happy in their diaper. It's when they fidgit for no reason and claw at their butts or try to tear their diapers off that you should really check.

3. Check for tell-tale signs that something's not right
When put on properly, a well-fitten pants diaper does not restrict your baby's movement. Instead it gives her utmost freedom in movement. An ill-fitted diaper however, can literally be a pain in the butt. It's easy to forget about the diaper because it's usually hidden under a layer of clothing. So remember to take a look around when you're changing kiddo's diaper, and keep an eye out for redness around the waist and thighs, rashes and pressure marks: That could simply mean that baby is growing well and putting on some weight, so you might want to consider getting a size bigger.

If you find that she's pulling her diaper up constantly, it could be either than it's too loose or that it's too heavy. Either way, it's time for a fresh diaper!

******


Drypers Drypantz are available at all participating supermarkets and hypermarkets at an exclusive, special trial price of only S$10.95 for a limited period of the month of July 2014 only. Grab yours quickly, or ask for a sample through the Drypers Facebook page.


*Disclaimer: I've received Drypers Drypantz to test out for purposes of review and am being compensated for this post, so that I can buy more mobile toilets for my baby. All opinions are my own. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Primary 1 Registration

From all that I've seen, heard and read, it seems to me that parents of children who are to be registered for Primary 1, fall into 2 categories:

There are those who work everything through as a couple. Those who keep their Primary School report cards (seriously, they should really tell us, as 12 year olds, that our report cards would be useful one day, no?). Those who plan their home-buying to coincide with the schools they want their kids to go to. Those who copulate on certain dates and times of the lunar cycle so they can have two children of the same gender, to be able to get them into the same school.

Parents who are on the same page, every step of the way. They spend hours pouring over school lists, debate about who's to volunteer, and drawing circles with campuses, marking "1km" in red and "2km" in blue on the maps over their dining tables.

Note the stance adopted by the man. His feet a placed shoulder width apart. His hands are on the table. He's immersed in the conversation. Note the woman's hands. She's got her hand on her chin. She's thinking hard about something. And it's probably not about her thinning hair.

And then there are couples where one parent is more - shall we say - involved in the process, than the other.

Note Man's innocent "Quoi? Moi?" hand gesture, and Woman's universal "You're sleeping on the sofa tonight" placement of hand on hip.


Oh we belong to one of the above two :) What about you?

Oh by the way, hook up with me on Facebook and find out all that's been happening in the land of the Gingerbreadmum. And if you'd like to vote for me at the Singapore Blog Awards, here's the link (I'm in the 'Best Individual Blog' category, under the Editors/Judges choice!)

And if you've enjoyed these drawings, here are more!


If you're wondering about the drawings: I've so been inspired by this mum. Her writing is hilarious and her drawings sometimes make me pee in my pants. But before you go all copycat-kiss-the-rat on me, you may like to read her FAQ page where she states that she 'is not the first ever human to draw pictures', and that she too was inspired by and accused of copying someone else. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Foodie Tips for Non-Food Bloggers

If you live in Singapore, there's a very high chance you're a foodie. Or in my case, a greedie. Today I'd like to share some tips on how to make the best out of a dinner with a big group of people - a particularly useful thing for non-foodie bloggers (like me!) to take note of. Because Heaven forbid that you miss out on all the good food just because you're spending time arranging plates and propping chilli slices for the perfect photo, right?


1. Wear comfortable, non tight-fitting clothes
Leave the well-fitting dresses at home and opt for looser outfits instead. Why? So that you can pig out without your tummy bearing witness, of course. Remember, elastic waist bands are your best friends.

With your elastic waist band, you will be able to enjoy dishes like 姜丝麻油鸡 Claypot Chicken with Ginger and Sesame Oil without any guilt

2. Always pretend to be pai say 
Make a big show about offering the best parts of dishes to other guests. Say, "No no, please, you go ahead and have the biggest prawn/chicken thigh/crab claw" when actually you mean "it's mine and don't you dare take it". Meanwhile, maintain eye contact with and send telepathic brain waves to that elusive crab claw.

Is there typically a lot of meat on a fish head? No. So do your pai say act quick when a dish like the 亚叁鱼头              Assam Fish Head arrives, get it over and done with, so that you can quickly savour the goodness. 

3. Don't forget to make small talk
And I don't mean with your phone. Ask the other diners about their day, their thoughts on the whole penguin book thing, and how crazy/easy it was to find parking. This is a good activity to engage in, particularly when there is an empty time belt between dishes, so no one is looking uncomfortably at the ceiling or floor.

A dish like the 鸳鸯芥兰 Yuan Yang Kai Lan (cooked in 2 styles) makes an excellent topic for small talk. "Wow this looks so interesting! I would never have thought of cooking vegetables like this!" Carry on.


4. Have a wet wipe prepared before you dig into your food
You will thank me when you're trying to clumsily tear open the pack of wipes with the base of your palms while your fingers are dripping with chilli crab gravy or prawn juice.

Hello 帝皇焗大明虾 Prawns with Salted Egg Yolk, I enjoyed biting into your succulent flesh

5. Don't faint before your meal
If the meal is set for a time later than your usual meal times, have a snack before, so you don't faint on your way there and miss the meal altogether. But don't have anything too filling or too yummy which would potentially ruin your appetite. Have something small and boring. Like cardboard.

Because missing out on something like the 京都排骨 Kyoto Pork Ribs with Yam Ring would be such a shame indeed
 
6. If you don't get what you want, don't be afraid to steal
Distract others and when they're not looking, steal their food. Like how one minute I was playing scissors, paper, stone with my little friend, and the next minute he realised his ice cream was gone. Remember, distraction is key and you have to act fast if you want to get what you want. Works with all kinds of food, though could be a little tricky with noodles.


Thanks to 姑妈家 (Gu Ma Jia) Restaurant for making this post possible; I really enjoyed the meal, and the company. 
姑妈家 (Gu Ma Jia) Restaurant is located at 45 Tai Thong Crescent, Sennett Estate, Singapore 347866. Tel: 6285 2023. Closest MRT station: Potong Pasir on the EW line. Limited parking space is available.

Disclaimer: For the record, I was very well behaved during the dinner and remembered my manners.  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Country Called Eurasia

Racial Harmony Day is coming up, did you know that? We never had Racial Harmony Day when I was a kid; I only learnt about it when my 6 year-old came back with a slip from her school, informing us that she needed to dress up "in any of the 4 ethnic costumes". 

Over the years, she's gone in a sari, a Peranakan kebaya, and a cheongsam. This year I'm hoping to get a baju kurung for her. One year, her classmate claimed his white t-shirt and shorts outfit was "a Eurasian boy's outfit". Come to think of it, I have no idea what Eurasians consider their traditional outfit. Then again, I don't know much about Eurasians. Which is terrible. Particularly since I'm a mum to two first-degree Eurasians. 

When we were registering the birth of my first-born, we wondered what to put in the "race" column. She's the product of a French-Canadian father and a Singaporean-Chinese mother. She will, undoubtedly, be classified as "others" her whole life in Singapore, but still, we needed to put something in her birth certificate, and "others" wasn't the answer.

In the end we settled for "Eurasian". Because it made logical sense since my husband's ancestors originated from France in the early 1600s, and mine, from China. So that would make a Europe-Asia equation. Hence the term "Eurasian". Her sister, born 3.5 years later, took on the same race even though the people at the registration booth tried to make us register her as "Caucasian". I know, my Asian blood feels slightly offended as well. 


Anyway. 

If you know me by now, I'm the sort who tries to make a lesson for the kids out of anything. So of course I would like them to learn about their culture. But here's the thing: I may learn to cook Feng or Devil's Curry for them but I most probably will never bring them to the Eurasian Association. Just because it doesn't make sense for me to. 

Most Eurasians I know tell me they have Portuguese or Dutch roots somewhere along the lines. Some are able to pull out old photos of great grandparents - a Caucasian-Asian pair. Others have sharper noses and fairer skin. 

But they all have one thing in common: they were all born into Eurasian families. They all grew up with an Eurasian influence, since one or both of their parents also grew up in Eurasian families, as did their parents. 

That's where we are different. My kids are being raised by their father, who was born and raised in Canada, lived and worked in China, and now forging a new life with his family in Singapore; and me their mother, a Singaporean who grew up speaking Hokkien, taught by her kebaya wearing Peranakan grandmother. 

They will learn Chinese values about filial piety and greeting elders before meals, as I did when I was a child. They will celebrate Chinese New Year and Christmas. They will count their great grandmother's kerosang as a cherished heirloom. They will speak English as their main language and hopefully be able to converse in Mandarin and French as well. 

We're like any typical family I suppose, in the way we pass our values down to our kids, and share our heritage with them. It's just tricky that we're starting a brand new culture of sorts with them, and there's nowhere and no one we can turn to for a helping hand or guidance. 

I guess it will also be confusing when they read History textbooks in school, if they continue with formal education in Singapore. We will probably have to remind them that the Eurasians that are referred to in the books aren't really the same kind of Eurasians as they, our kids, are. Now I'm starting to get a little confused myself!

If you're part of an inter-racial family, whether as a parent or a child, I'd love to hear your thoughts! 

Disclaimer: maybe I should just state for the record that I know there isn't a real country called Eurasia. In case this is your first time at my blog (in which case, hello!). I mean, of course I know they came from my womb. Well, just the two that I helped create. Not all the Eurasians of the world. 

Welcome to my Home

This article original appeared in the IKEA Family magazine (Singapore) last year.  Yes, I wrote it. And yes, I drew the really professional-like pictures.

******

7 years ago, we moved into our new home, giddy with excitement. We had big plans. Radical plans. Two-DINKS-with-no-kids-on-the-way kind of plans.

The master bedroom was painted a deep red. Bring on the romance, I say! We had a beautiful four poster bed in dark brown, and draped deep purple drapes from the tops. Very Arabian Nights. We lit candles and had romantic dim lights (you know, the kind that made reading impossible. Mood lighting, I think it's called). Hello, sexy time!

Our living room, oh how I loved our living room. Here's what it looked like on the day we moved in :
 




We had a luxurious L-seat sofa with funky matching cushions, and a jet black coffee table. How cool is that. Oh how many wine glasses that table has seen. How often we propped our feet up on it as we watched hour after hour of late-night TV. Window grilles for our gorgeous wall-to-wall windows? And ruin our spectacular view? Goodness, no!

See that bookcase? See how neat it is? Oh no, those books that are not at straight? That’s all on purpose. Artistically angled. Oh, we had books. French classics for my husband, and prized possessions from my childhood – Aesop’s Fables with my 8-year old self’s handwriting on the inside cover, and a copy of When We Were Very Young, my favourite collection of poems. All proudly displayed on our white bookcase.

We also had one of those stylish wooden window frames, you know, the ones with the mirror inside? For an ‘I’m proud of my Asian heritage’ kind of statement. Was it from Bali? I don’t remember. It was nice. Our living room was nice. People who visited said it was nice. And we had people visiting often. Real people. Grown ups. Without kids. Like us. Then.

7 years have passed, and we now have two kids, aged 6 and 2 respectively. And this is what our living room looks like now, on any given day:





Living room as in most-lived-in-where-all-activities-take-place room? Doesn’t get truer than this, I tell ya. We wanted a minimalist look but the kids didn’t get the memo we sent.

So anyway. Here’s what has changed: The sofa. That’s gone. It was taking up too much space. Space that could be utilised for serious train track constructions. And it was too heavy to move each time we had to rescue a runaway toy from under it. So we got a practical 2 seat sofa. With washable covers. Here’s an important thing to remember when you have kids – drawings are always nicer when not done on paper.

Matching cushions? Um yeah, when they’re not being used as make-shift trampolines, launching pads, and picnic mats. Stylish coffee table? Just made more stylish with personlised artwork, courtesy of our 6 year-old.

The wooden window? It’s still around. And providing entertainment to our kids’ friends. Every single child that has visited has tried to swing from it and rip it from the wall. None has succeeded. It rattles and threatens to break, the mirror is smudgy with countless fingerprints and let’s not talk about the dust that has accumulated in the grooves. But still, it’s remained up on the wall. The force is strong in this one.

Books? Yeah, we’ve still got them. How are they categorised now, you ask? By genre? By size? By colour? Umm, right now ‘off the floor and without any yoghurt’ suits us just fine. Whichever books get picked up are shoved into the lowest shelves for easy reach for the kids, but packed so tightly that the kids are not able to pull them out. The irony. On top of the bookcase? That’s home to whatever we don’t want the kids grabbing. So our educational certificates and the like.

Toys. Where on earth do they all come from! We’d like to think that we don’t have many toys, but not many can seem like a lot in a small apartment. And every single one of those building blocks, cars, train tracks, dolls and felt vegetables needs a home. Sheesh. Can’t they just go check out the classifieds and rent a place for themselves? No, it seems. We have to find a home for them within our home. And somehow, ‘on the floor’ isn’t a socially acceptable home for stray toys. 

Oh well. Step by step. Life’s too short to be picking toys up from the floor. Right now, we’ll just enjoy our kids and their messes, and flop on our tired but happy bodies on our marker-stained sofas at the end of each day.
 
******

The author contributes regularly to IKEA Family publications but pays for her own furniture and meatballs.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Carpe Diem

It could have turned into a really sucky day. It almost did.

The plan was to check out the new Sports Hub but here's the thing. Sometimes I plan everything down to the smallest detail. You know, military style: fall in at 0800hrs, march off at 0810hrs, stuff like that.

But sometimes, I assume too much and think that I can simply just go with the flow. Today was one of those days.


There were signs saying "No sitting on steps". So the big girl said "Sit on my feet, 妹妹"

We got there, and after a really long walk, didn't manage to see the amazing OCBC Aquatic Centre (it was closed), nor the new National Stadium (also closed). The girls had spied a new playground but it was (guess what) closed. So there I was with two tired and bored girls who thought I was the worst Mama ever for lying to them about this new fantastic place that possibly didn't even exist.

And then we saw it. The little fountain that was happily splashing away, minding its own business.



"Can we play in it?" my 6 year old asked.

I made a frowny kind of face. One that she understood rightaway. It mean "Um well, no because _____ (insert whatever crappy parent-like excuse here. It doesn't matter, because whatever reason I give, it's a crappy one to a child)".

As it happens, my reason was that I didn't have a spare set of clothes for her. But I did have a set for the baby, and our date brought spares for her kids, and I recalled seeing a clothing store closeby so I could really just zip in and buy a new and inexpensive dress for Poppy to change into after splashing around.




And so it took me 2 seconds to turn the frown into a huge smile and I gave my kids the go-ahead to go run in the fountain. Did they enjoy themselves? You bet. Am I hoping that they'll catch a cold or something? Of course not. What I'm hoping for is that they will remember being spontaneous as children, being carefree as children, laughing with their friends and not having a care in the world.

And that, my friends, is why I believe in seizing the day. Happy day seizing, everyone!





PS Said clothing store did not have a kids section so Poppy ended up wearing an adult sized dress for the evening! Oh well, she'll have lots to write about in her sketch book! And lots to laugh about when she's older :)




Sunday, July 13, 2014

I've Got a Knife but Nobody Cares

This post is about my kitchen. Not about the things that come out of it (lovingly prepared meals and all), but rather the kind of things that go into it.

I prepare 3 meals a day. Plus snacks. So I'm in the kitchen a lot. I like being in the kitchen alone. It's my territory. It's my me time. Being alone allows me to move around freely without having to worry about little hands pulling on pots or little bodies beng squirted with tomato juice (I could have said fish blood but I think you get the general idea) or grating little fingers. Stuff like that. 

The others though, neither understand nor respect this. They don't care if I have a knife, blender, or onion. They don't hear the splattering oil when I fry fish or the sizzle of the butter when I slide a piece of chicken breast on the pan.

No, this is the time, the best time, the no other time than now time, to ask me all kinds of crap.

Can I have some water? Go find your bottle

Where's my silver glitter glue? Go find your craft box 

Fish have gills right? Do whales? Ask your father 

They also need to, absolutely need to, tell me things when I'm in the kitchen.

Did you know that there's going to be a meteor shower over Slovakia in 2038? Don't care* 

* friends on Slovakia, I mean no disrespect. I would love to hear about the meteor shower. But after dinner please. 

I start work at that new place on this date, and will work Tuesday mornings, Thursday afternoons and all day on Fridays. If I nod, or grunt some form of acknowledgement, will you get out?

Calla stepped on my glitter and now there are little silver footprints all over the house! Tell your father 

I repeat. Knife. Fire. Danger. Etc etc.

They reply with

I'm hungry! Can I have a snack? Just wait for your dinner

Sometimes the husband is home early and he watches the girls while I cook. But sometimes that doesn't last long and in ten minutes there is a baby clinging on my legs with her "pick me up, pick me up! Play with me!" eyes. Or the preschooler with her "Mama, Papa says I can watch 21 hours of TV". Or the husband with his "What's for dinner tonight?"

Dinner is the last meal of the day. By that time I would have already prepared and cleaned up over 2 meals and 2 rounds of snacks. I want dinner to be done quickly so that everyone can get fed and go to bed so that I can finally have time to myself.

So no I do not want to know what Captain Hook said to Mr Smee or what "open" is in Spanish. I don't want to talk about the weather. I don't want to remind anyone of anything that's going to be happening over the weekend. I don't want to do anything except cook and get food on the table without losing any of my limbs.

But no, I try waving my knives at them, I try sprinkling water on them, I try ignoring them but they just keep coming back. They're like zombies in the movies and I'm the only living meal available. 

So finally dinner is done. Can I rest now? No. I have to ask the preschooler to set the table, the husband to clear all kinds of crap off the table, the baby to stop opening drawers full of dangerous things that we have yet to throw out.  All that before dinner can be set on the table.

Then we eat. But two seconds after I'm seated I get up to bring drinks. Then before my butt warms the seat, "Mama can I have ketchup?"  Then dinner is dotted by "Poppy don't forget to eat," and picking up Calla's toys from the floor. 

But after that, it's finally bath time for the girls and I hand them over to their father while I melt into sofa. For about 5 minutes then I hear "Mama come see this! We look so funny with bubbles on ur head!" Or "honey I forgot the towel".

Not a full-time-working mum? Honey, it doesn't get more full time than this.




  © Theme Designed by Patricia Alix-Villa of Fancy Girl Designs 2012

Back to TOP