Friday, March 13, 2015

After 10 years at home

This blog
I wrote the very first post in this blog on 20 March 2007, and up to the post before this one, there had been 797 others in the span of eight years. It covered a mish mash of topics, but mainly about things that matter to me i.e. my child, family, things we did, places we visited, my weird thoughts and feelings. In the early days of my blog, when my life was very focused on growing my toddler, I wrote several posts a day. As time passed and things changed, it was reduced to one post a day, one post a week, one post a fortnight, then one post a month and now, it looks like it's one post a year! One post a year is the very least I should do, so I'm writing one now as March appears to be a significant month when I left my 13-year career in corporate communication in March 2005, making it 10 years already now.

The past year, 2014, and present 2015
A few important and significant events and achievements I can remember off-hand right now:

Family Travels
During the March school holidays, we made a short trip to Ipoh. Besides enjoying Ipoh's yummy food, we visited Lost World of Tambun. The rides there were nothing to shout about, but we enjoyed its closeness to the limestone hills, and soaking in the hot spring.

We went on our very first cruise to Phuket and Krabi in May on Star Cruises. It was a fun and educational family holiday.

In November, we spent a few days by the beach in Penang, savoured hawker fare, got C hooked on 'ice kacang', and attended a relative's wedding at the Blue Mansion. We drove on the Second 'Crooked' Bridge for the very first time, visited Penang Hill and the 3D Museum.

In February 2015, we travelled to Seremban and Melaka for Chinese New Year.

C switched to a new school in January 2014, and began her first secondary school year. It took off on a bad note with a class bully targeting her. It was a rough patch which tested our perseverance and wisdom as parents. After a few dramatic incidents and the dismissal of the student, the rest of the school year moved on generally well. She joined her school floorball team and participated in two tournaments, both with victory, considering the team was only less than two months old. She continues to attend training every week.

She also performed a solo 'Hairspray' number in the year-end school concert. She and her friends practised hard singing and dancing with the guidance of good teachers. She also won 'Best Achievement' awards for English (her favourite subject) and ICT.

C still plays the drums and is into her seventh year making a ruckus at home when she practises. She is into her second year playing in church two Sundays a month. She also started vocal lessons.

In November, C insisted on adopting a rescued pup from Malaysian Dogs Deserve Better, much against our desire for practical reasons. We relented hoping that she would learn to be less self-centred and more responsible. We are still hoping *grit teeth and grin*. She named the pup Mocha. Mocha is a thriving, up-to-mischief, active six-month-old now.

E remains in his current job and continues to be the main breadwinner for our little family. He took up cycling seriously and had spent a considerable amount of time and money on this renewed interest, cycling with a group every weekend. He participated in his first 'century ride' (100 miles) in Trengganu. He has signed up for another century ride this May 2015 in Perak.

He is also exercising regularly by running on the treadmill, and for short distances with the dogs when he walks them in the evenings. Next, he would probably consider swimming...and the Ironman Triathlon, maybe?? As work and exercise take up most of his time, the rest is spent exercising his fingers on the TV remote, iPad or mobile phone....but he also spends a considerable amount of time picking up where I left off (the Cantonese would say 'mo ngan thai' or 'no eye see') in dealing with a strong-willed teenager, talking about stuff and giving pep talks at the dining table.

Ten years at home. And to say my oft-said phrase, time flies. In the span of 10 years, I have, and am still, raising a girl who is quite like me in some ways (strong-willed and opinionated to say the least); therefore I continue to struggle with constant battles of knowing when to release and when to pull in the kite strings. Parenthood is a treacherous yet weirdly fulfilling journey. All other responsibilities as a cook, chauffeur, housekeeper, administrator, nurse, teacher, gardener, laundrywoman, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, aunt, sister, etc., remain unchanged.

In 10 years, I have earned some supplementary income, mainly through writing and writing-related work. I tried making money by blogging and writing sponsored posts but discovered it just wasn't me to write stuff I wasn't interested in simply to earn some peanuts. It was different when I was in employment to do that. So I turned to writing about stuff I like. I had a fortnightly parenting column in a local daily for two years. Then I shifted to a different column under a pseudonym, and am still doing so. In between, I got random assignments to write interviews, website articles on parenting and educational subjects, transcribing and proofreading.

In June 2014, I was approached by C's principal to teach at their kindergarten. As I enjoyed being around children, and given the opportunity to teach them how to read, I accepted the offer. It started off quite uncomfortably with assisting a rather bossy co-worker, and other unexpected additional work, but progressed well with me becoming a part-time teacher, responsible for teaching reading only. As the timing and travel arrangements were not practical, I stopped teaching last month. Next month, I shall be helping a few kindergarten and primary school children in that school, guiding them with their homework in the afternoon. This arrangement would be better for me.

I am resuming my interest in reading books, not just articles on the internet. It is about time as I feel totally guilty hoarding books but never making the time to read them. So this month, being in-between jobs, I've managed to read three books and have started another one.

In the past three years, I've also become more active in my faith, by going to church every Sunday where possible, and serving in a few areas.

By God's grace and strength, I hope to continue doing everything I do with a joyful and generous heart. I have learned much in 10 years, too much to list out here.

2014 was a good year with many new things for us. May 2015 be as good, if not better.

Last but not least, another family member says, 'Hi!' Dear Rusty has been a good boy the past year. Unfortunately, he has not been getting as much attention since Mocha joined the family.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Nine years already?

Last month marked exactly nine years of my life as a homemaker mainly. Again, as I always say, how time flies. In a blink of an eye, the 2+ year old kid I stayed at home for is now 11+ going on 17. So much has changed.

We've moved homes, we've changed cars, changed schools, we've gotten plants and pets, we've experienced more of life as we grow older. She was knee-high then and now she can almost look me straight in the eye. She makes smart remarks not to amuse me but more to annoy me now. She had to be fed and changed but now she can cook (some food) and refuses to wear dresses and skirts, only jeans and tshirts or cool-looking blouses. She had to be read to but now she reads loads more books than me on her own. I can go on about her like how most mums would love to but I guess it's enough for now.

Is nine years a milestone? I'm not sure. Over these nine years, I've learned, seen, experienced, felt, eaten, visited, cooked, created, laughed, cried, screamed, shouted, made mistakes, thought, wrote, sang, played, made new friends. I could add more verbs if I continue to ramble.

Nine years of riding on a rollercoaster up and down, and driving in slow and fast lanes, and now in the middle lane. It would be good to cruise on autopilot but yet, there are some, just some areas that need piloting manually still. Such is life.

Glad and thankful I can rely on Higher Power all the time. Tasks and responsibilities seem to be increasing. So is the number of grey hairs, and the reading on the weighing scale! While the selfish me finds it a chore and pain at times in doing things as a service to others, I always end up feeling good. It is good to be generous, kind and helpful. It improves your spirit and soul. Never mind about looking good on the outside with branded clothes and shoes, and saying pretentious things to impress others. It's more fulfilling to look good on the inside, secretly, so to speak, where only you and your Creator know.

So what's next? Many tell me to, or ask if I'd go back to my 'old' life i.e. go back to employment. Should I? Do I know when? Will I ever? Do I want to? I don't know. Am I directionless? I doubt it. Was my education and work experience wasted? Only if you're narrow minded enough to think that. I do the little I can for now to supplement our income so that it's just enough to meet our needs. After nine years, I can't picture myself going back into the corporate world and running the rat race. I will run it only if I'm convinced it's good for me and my family, if it's something I'm passionate about.

Sometimes, you may plan all you want to get to your dream destination, but there could be unexpected detours. As the saying goes, yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift. Enjoy the gift and share it.

One of my favourite flowers :)

Monday, March 3, 2014


We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Do we spend it with purpose,  or are we so rooted in our daily routines that we've forgotten why we are doing certain things, that everything is on autopilot? A message a friend sent me on Whatsapp a few days ago prompted this thought.

This friend had shared with me an online business opportunity which she recently joined. She asked me to look into it as she said that in the past eight days, she had already made USD1000. I haven't made the time to do some research on this business she recommended, but one of my questions to her was how much time did she have to spend on the business daily? I told her I am always faced with the 'too much to do, too little time' conundrum. And it got me thinking that we all have 24 hours a day. We need to choose wisely and make conscious decisions on how we use our time and for what purpose we use it. This is because, as I always tell C when reminding her not to waste time, when we run out of things or money, we can always find ways to get more, but with time, once we pass that moment, it's gone forever, We cannot turn back the clock.

It's time to evaluate and take stock of what I do in a day, in a week, in a month. When we list and break down our chores, responsibilities and needs, and the time spent on them, we will know how effectively we have used our time. I'm not saying that our lives must be run like a precision machine with no margin for error and no flexibility to steal a catnap or take a long holiday. I am the first to confess that I waste way too much time, especially online. Although my blogging hours have much reduced, they've been replaced by Facebook and reading stuff online. I'm a sucker for information.

Yeah, so I Facebook and read stuff online daily. Apart from that, my time is used daily and weekly:

. making 3.5 meals a day
. using the washer to wash laundry, hanging them out in the sun, taking them in, folding and ironing
. going to the market and supermarket for food and household stuff
. rinsing the car porch off Rusty's pee every morning, he loves my car tyres :(
. feeding Rusty and all the fish in our small aquarium and water lily jars
. reading and sending email
. sweeping the car porch floor
. watering plants, pruning, pulling weeds, planting, uprooting
. washing bathrooms
. fetching C from school
. sending/fetching C to/from music lessons
. making beds
. blogging
. writing an average of one article a week
. preparing weekly church bulletin
. going to church
. going out for meals on weekends
. visiting my parents
. giving Rusty a bath
. supervising, advising, nagging, discussing, arguing, helping, teaching, caring for C
. cooking extra food to try out or create new recipes, or for freezing
. paying (a stack of) bills
. attending to household matters that crop up ever so often
. watching 1-2 hours of tv (a week)
. learning a language (when I remember to)
. planning ahead (projects, holidays) -- I trrry to.....
. sleeping 7-8 hours every night if possible
. eating
. attending to personal hygiene

I've not included the 'tidying up, clearing clutter' part which I keep procrastinating, and another important activity I have yet to get motivated on -- exercising.

"The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is." -- C. S. Lewis

Friday, February 21, 2014


While driving on the middle lane of life, I sometimes feel as if I'm being tailgated, that another 'vehicle' is tailing me so closely that I'm forced to either speed up, or shift gears and move to the slower lane.

That's life. You sometimes cannot move at the speed you choose because of external forces around you. I was hoping for a good start to C's school year, a steady, problem-free transition to a new school, and for her to settle in quickly with her studies in her first year of secondary school. But alas, she had the challenge of having to deal with a class bully who targeted her more because she is one who does not take things sitting down. Anyway, that situation has improved after intervention by the teacher and principal and I hope it will continue to improve.

Then, there are minor changes to the school timetable. That's to be expected at the start of the school year as the school tries to find balance in distributing their teachers' time to match the needs of each class. C is re-learning Mandarin as she didn't learn much in her previous school, partly because she wasn't interested, and partly because the teacher wasn't 'interested' too. So for one day a week, her school hours are extended by an extra 30 minutes for Mandarin, an extra hour for extra-curricular activities. By the time she reaches home, it's late afternoon. It's a good thing there's not much homework so far. With music lessons two days in a week, that's about all we can handle for now. 

Lunch at school didn't seem like value for money after January's trial so I'm now preparing breakfast, snack and lunch every morning for her. That means having to wake up 15 minutes earlier every morning, and planning and preparing some food the night before so it's ready to be cooked in the morning.

The weather has been very hot and dry since Chinese New Year. Water levels are low so many areas in the Klang Valley are facing water rationing. Last Friday, water supply was intermittent at my place right up to yesterday. It's a good thing we are a small family so it's not impacting us too much. We're not short of water yet, only facing the inconvenience of not having running taps in the kitchen and having to be more careful and not waste what we have in our storage tank. Laundry is done at odd hours when water supply is temporarily restored, regardless of day or night. Cooking is minimised so food stalls and restaurants are getting more business from us.

I smell smoke in the air today. Is the haze back?

The one-week school holiday is coming soon in March. I wish to go somewhere nearby since we didn't go anywhere the last long, year-end holidays. The task of finding some place affordable nearby is not so easy. I would like a beach holiday but C does not. E is indifferent. Local destinations are more affordable but will surely be fully-booked if I don't decide early. And they will surely be crowded too. Hmmm, I'm being tailgated by choices and decisions too....

Que sera sera.

By the way, did you know that 'que sera sera' is not exactly Spanish or Italian? Here's what Wikipedia says:

The popularity of the song has led to curiosity about the origins of the saying and the identity of its language. Both the Spanish-like spelling used by Livingston and Evans and an Italian-like form, "che sarà sarà", are first documented, in the 16th century, as an English heraldic motto.[6] The "Spanish" form appears on a brass plaque in a village church in Surrey, dated 1559.[7] The "Italian" form was first adopted as a family motto by either John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford, or his son, Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford. It is said by some sources to have been adopted by the elder Russell after his experience at the Battle of Pavia (1525), and to be engraved on his tomb (1555 N.S.).[8][9] The 2nd Earl's adoption of the motto is commemorated in a manuscript dated 1582.[10] Their successors—Earls and, later, Dukes of Bedford ("Sixth Creation"), as well as other aristocratic families—continued to use the motto. Soon after its adoption as a heraldic motto, it appeared in Christopher Marlowe's play Doctor Faustus (written ca. 1590; published 1604), whose text[11] (Act 1, Scene 1) contains a line with the archaic Italian spelling "Che sera, sera / What will be, shall be").[12] Early in the 17th century the saying begins to appear in the speech and thoughts of fictional characters as a spontaneous expression of a fatalistic attitude, always in an English-speaking context.
The saying has no history in Spain, Italy, or France, and in fact is ungrammatical in all three of these Romance languages.[13] It is composed of Spanish or Italian words superimposed on English syntax. It was evidently formed by a word-for-word mistranslation of English "What will be will be", merging the free relative pronoun what (= "that which") with the interrogative what?[14]
Livingston and Evans had some knowledge of Spanish, and early in their career they worked together as musicians on cruise ships to the Caribbean and South America. Composer Jay Livingston had seen the 1954 Hollywood film The Barefoot Contessa, in which a fictional Italian family has the motto "Che sarà sarà" carved in stone at their ancestral mansion. He immediately wrote it down as a possible song title, and he and lyricist Ray Evans later gave it a Spanish spelling "because there are so many Spanish-speaking people in the world".[15][16][17]
In modern times, thanks to the popularity of the song and its many translations, the phrase has been adopted in countries around the world to name a variety of entities, including books, movies, restaurants, vacation rentals, airplanes, and race horses.[18]


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

About Chinese New Year

We've another 10 days to Chinese New Year. This festival brings these to mind:

Angpows - I need to go to the bank to get some new notes! ....hmmm...or recycle the close-to-new ones I get directly from the ATM machine.

Spring cleaning - is it a tradition, a must? *grin* I'm trying. Have washed all our curtains, and we're turning the study/store rooms upside down to throw away old stuff. We even bought a paper shredder and you can't imagine how much paper we've shredded and sold to the old newspaper lorryman. Major work in this part of the house, which is actually the entire top floor, which I foresee will not be done by CNY!

CNY cookies - it would be nice if I had the time to bake some, but ....

CNY gifts - just did some shopping yesterday and packed the few goodie bags to be given to immediate family members.

CNY décor - no, we don't decorate the house much. I have only one 'Prosperity' poster on my main door.

Visits - we only visit elder family and relatives close to us, and hardly anyone visits us because we don't organise any 'open house' parties and we have very few friends :-p We don't come from extremely traditional Chinese families within our current generation, there's no rule that the younger ones must visit older ones to pay respect, etc. Although E is the eldest, his younger siblings address him by name and we treat each other equally. Hehehe, I can't imagine if we were to go back a few centuries. E will be addressed as 'tai gor' and I will be addressed as 'tai soh'....

Gatherings - we have a very, very small social circle so it's only a handful of friends that we will catch up with, either some place outside or in one of our homes.

Traditions - not sure about the extent of it. Yeah, we wish our elders, we give/receive angpows. We give/receive mandarin oranges. We exchange goodie bags/hampers. We have CNY Eve reunion lunch (with my family) and reunion dinner (with E's family).

Yee Sang - tossing 'yee sang' was never part of CNY tradition in my younger days. It's actually not a 'true' tradition, but whatever...., it's 'modern' tradition in this part of my world so yeah, I'm expecting a toss or two. When I was in a 'corporate' career, I remember tossing yee sang with various groups of people as many as 10 times or more within those 15 days of CNY. Talk about overkill.

In case I don't write any more posts here pre-CNY, here's wishing one and all, "Gong Xi Fa Cai" and may the Year of the Horse bring you health, happiness and prosperity.