Thursday, April 26, 2007

Making Time

When I was very young, the days seemed to be longer and there was lots of time to do many things. After returning home from school, I would have lunch and finish my homework immediately. The afternoons were spent reading, practising the piano, watching TV, playing with my dog, or going to Math or Bahasa Malaysia tuition, or school extra curricular activities.

Nowadays, the days seem so short and it feels like there's so little time to do everything I need or want to do. I have to keep reminding myself that if I want to do something that I feel is important, I have to make time for it; and as the famous sportswear brand says, "just do it". I must not let my busy daily routine take up all my time. I must not use the "no time" excuse.

Keeping in touch with friends is one of the main challenges. Everyone seems busy with their own lives and our meetings are far and few, and most of the time 'virtual' via email or online chat.

Travelling or going on holiday is another one on the list. My last holiday with Eugene was our so-called honeymoon trip over 5 years ago. And the last real family holiday we had with Caitlin was in 2005. Like most people, Eugene is a 'bird in a cage'* aka an employee, and has not much time freedom to go on holidays simply on a whim.

Reading for knowledge is the other item I find it hard to make time for. Gone are the days when I used to be able to read at least one or two books a month.

I think if I dig deeper, I could come up with a few more items but I guess I'll have to work on these few first.

*I liken employees with birds in cages singing for their supper. Sing better and you get a bigger serving, and a bigger cage. Ultimately, you are still in a cage...no time or money freedom to fly and soar in the skies. Fortunately, there are avenues for those seeking a change!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

'Tis the season...to file income tax....

We are five days away from the 30 April deadline to submit our annual income tax forms. Eugene and I have yet to get started on it. The Inland Revenue Board has introduced the e-filing option in keeping up with the times. But each time I try to access the site, the pages take ages to load. I can go to the kitchen, cook a dish and return to my PC to a screen that is still blank. And this is with broadband.

While e-filing is supposed to be faster and more convenient, we have not been fortunate enough to experience that yet. It was introduced last year and before one starts filling in the forms online, one needs to get a digital signature, PIN code, log in, etc etc etc....I think we'll stick to the manual filing this year and aspire to experience the wonders of e-filing next year.

I tried their 1800 hotline twice so far to make some enquiries and after going through the standard IVR (interactive voice response) service, pressing "2" for English, "1" for enquiries and "0" to speak to an officer, I get: "Our hotline is busy...please call again later..."

Sigh...such is life with technology.

Monday, April 23, 2007

More kids, more work?

A few days ago, while chatting with a female friend who is married without kids, she mentioned that she recently got to know a housewife with two kids. In a pretty casual manner, she said her housewife friend has twice as much work compared to me based on the fact that I only have one kid. The statement didn't strike me until later in the evening when I thought about our conversation. Now, is that true?

I don't think it is. The number of kids one has is definitely not proportionate to the amount of work or responsibilities one has to bear. Even if all the physical conditions such as living conditions, household duties, financial status etc are equal, how much work and responsibility a housewife has is ultimately subject to the choices and decisions the housewife makes.

She could have five kids and not even care to cook for them or attend to their studies, thus having less work than another housewife who has just one kid but ensures the kid is well taken care of in all aspects. But assuming both housewives are caring and responsible, how old the kids are also make a difference. Older kids equals less attention to things like having to bathe or feed them, put them to bed, help them in the toilet, ensure they are playing safely etc. And if mum wishes to go out, older kids could be left alone at home or with minimal adult supervision more easily compared to much younger ones.

I would agree that a responsible housewife who has more than three kids would have a heavier burden. But between one which has two kids and another with just one kid, it's hard to convince me that the former has twice the burden. Some of you may think I'm being petty but I feel the need to share this; especially with those who are not parents yet, and those who are planning to be, that parenting is not math, not even the most complicated algebra or calculus. They have definite answers. In parenting, you create the answers yourself.

Each child and each mum is different and unique so I feel that we should not compare at all in any aspect.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Eugene is another year older!


The cake was chosen by none other than Caitlin because of the generous amount of chocolate pieces used to decorate it. In her excitement yesterday evening, she forgot it was to be a surprise cake for her Daddy after dinner. She had let the cat out the minute Daddy came home from work. At our age, birthdays are not that exciting anymore (who wants to celebrate once you are past 35?), but with a 4 1/2-year-old around, you can't help but join in the fun of choosing the cake, lighting the candles, singing the song, blowing out the candles, cutting and finally eating it! Happy Birthday Daddy!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Spirit of Adventure

I enjoy the interesting moments when Caitlin voices her enthusiasm for trying out new things. Most of them are activities that she has seen on TV, read in books or watched others doing. Among them are ice skating, playing the drums (the real ones), going on a roller coaster, driving a racing car, going camping, surfing, diving and joining an acrobatic school! These ideas sometimes awaken my long-forgotten spirit of adventure.

Some of these activities such as ice skating, surfing, and diving were also my desire during my younger days. While these have yet to be fulfilled, I had managed to experience several roller coaster rides, and got an overdose of camping in our mosquito-infested jungles. And I wonder if trying out the high-wire trapeze at Club Med counts for acrobatics.

It is a shame that Caitlin is still a little too young to try out some of these activities now. I can’t wait for the day when she can. I can then scratch that long-suppressed itch to get out there and play! Talk about being deprived of outdoor fun!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Saltpipe Therapy

Having a child with rhinitis and mild asthma i.e. respiratory problems, has made me more curious about such conditions and what remedies are available to bring some relief. The Internet has been a major source, giving endless lists of reading material, enough for you to write a book or simply to confuse you!

A few years ago, I came across a news article about people with asthma or respiratory ailments seeking treatment in underground saltmines in the Ukraine. My initial thought was "How do I get Caitlin there to try it out?" According to the article, the salty air in the mines help clear respiratory congestion and being unpolluted and salty, it is "clean" air.

Two days ago, an ad which appeared on my screen caught my eye. It triggered my memory about that news article. I just did a search and found among many, a website which claims to have the "authentic original patented saltpipe". Could this be the answer to my question especially since I can't picture where Ukraine is on the world map?!

The saltpipe is like an "inhaler" containing salt crystals. Excerpt from the site: "Breathing through the Saltpipe will draw air across the 20-22 million year old minerals, the beneficial effects of which then reach every microscopic aspect of the respiratory system and could influence breathing problems which may be caused by:

- Asthma, Allergies
- Sinus problem, Hay fever
- Chest infections, bronchitis, COPD
- Persitent Cough and Sore throats
- Breathing difficulty, Shortness of breath
- Respiratory problems caused by smoking

I wonder if this "inhaler" is as good as testified by the manufacturer and users. If yes, it would be a good alternative to the inhaled steroids normally prescribed by doctors.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"Racing driver" is not "work"?

Last Friday at school, Caitlin's art lesson required the children to draw a picture of what they dream of becoming when they grow up. I was a little surprised when she told me she drew an astronaut. Although she had mentioned "astronaut" before in her ambitions list, I had not expected her to have drawn it since it was not one of her favourites compared with "veterinarian", "racing driver" or "chef". I let the thought pass.

Today, in the course of a conversation, she mentioned that her teacher told her "racing driver is not work". After some probing, it was clear that my dear daughter had mentioned "racing driver" as her ambition to her teacher and subsequently drew "astronaut" after she was told the former was not "work"....

I am of the opinion that the teacher has erred. As one responsible to develop young minds, she should have not killed the idea. While becoming a racing driver could be out of the question to most people, it is a fact and proven that it is a career one could consider or strive for, unlike becoming a drug dealer, prostitute or criminal!

So some damage control had to be done with telling Caitlin that her teacher was wrong. Among other things, I reminded her that Michael Schumacher works (or rather "worked" since he has retired) as a racing driver and even earns a lot of money. And to that, she said, "Yes! And his brother too!"

Caitlin vs. Mr. Virus

Today is the fifth day Caitlin has been down with a viral infection which started with a gassy tummy and watery stool. Then came the fever followed by ulcers in her throat. The poor girl always complains of pain especially during meals as it is painful to swallow. And after meals, it would be followed by complains of tummy ache and a visit to the toilet (or potty if she is glued to the TV! Yes, she has her priorities right!)

We were told to watch out for rashes on her hands and feet as the Coxsackie virus is said to be going around these two weeks. So far after five days, the doctor has ruled that out and her fever is gone today. As for the sore throat, we will just have to be patient.

I hope we will all sleep better tonight as the past few nights have been spent monitoring her temperature and renewing wet towels on her forehead. Caitlin is one who detests taking medication so it's challenging come medicine time.

Viral infections are frustrating, especially when there are so many types of viruses and only some have been identified. Even then, there has not been any cure for some of the common ones yet. We can only manage the symptoms. At least bacterial infections can mostly be identified and the specific antibiotic prescribed to kill the bothersome microbes.

I hope Caitlin will win the fight with Mr. Virus in the next few days. She has however been pretty much her usual mischievous, active self most times when her fever medication is in charge and when her tummy is not acting up.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Formula 1 weekend

Today officially marks the start of the Malaysian F1 race at the Sepang circuit. And the dear husband is going to damage his eardrums further on race day Sunday together with his dad, both being racing fans.

His love for cars and racing began at age seven. And after more than three decades, he has turned into a walking dictionary of anything related to F1, Rally and passenger cars, drivers, teams, trivia, manufacturers, car parts, websites and whatever else related to cars.

After experiencing and even enjoying it with him in 1998, I don't think I'm crazy enough about it to subject myself to the heat and loud engines a second time. Well, there's always the air-conditioned boxes and grandstand seats to escape the scorching sun or rain but where's the thrill if you're not out there located at a strategic turn to really be close to see and hear the cars when they zoom past? (And back in 1998, the cool and good-looking Mika Hakinnen was racing...as you know, we girls generally tend to enjoy sports sometimes more for the players than the game/sport itself!)

So, dear hubby can enjoy it by himself again this year. I'm sure he would love to bring Caitlin along but she is definitely too young to be exposed to the long hours and loud engine noise (despite the availability of ear plugs). He has, however, already instilled the interest in cars and racing in her. She enjoys riding in cars and has developed a 'relationship' with our family car. She's always asking us to drive faster and screams with thrill when we take a sharp bend, she's looking forward to riding on a roller coaster (because of the nature of the ride)and has a sizeable toy car collection. She has named her red remote control car Schumacher and has also stated "racing driver" consistently as one of her ambitions besides veterinarian, doctor and chef.

Come Sunday, it will be just Caitlin and me at home together and I doubt we will watch the race on TV. She is still unaware that Schumacher is not racing this year and I simply do not want to get badgered with questions like "I see the red car but not Schumacher's red helmet. Where's Schumacher? What's happening? (especially when there's a crash)" .... Maybe we could play "doctor" or "cooking" and at most, line her toy cars up to see who can rival Lightning McQueen....

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Your Comments

Has anyone of you tried placing comments in my blog and was unable to? I just realised that the setting for my blog to allow comments from readers was set at "don't allow"....I've now re-set it to allow comments, my apologies!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Chinese Wedding Dinners

The typical Chinese wedding dinner is usually an eight-course dinner which, if everyone turns up punctually as the invitation states "7.00pm sharp", would have ended probably within one and a half hours. I just returned from one and as expected, dinner was served closer to 8.30pm. It is now 11.00pm.

I do not know whether it's an age-old tradition that dinner has to start at least one hour late or does this happen only in Malaysia due to a phenomenon known as "Malaysian time"? Some try to make the wait less frustrating by serving cocktails prior to the proper sit-down dinner while others display screen projections of their bridal shots.

Having experienced many a Chinese wedding dinners, we were well prepared having "alas perut" (Malay for "pad your tummmy") with some snacks at tea time to avoid hunger pangs while waiting for dinner to be served. And if you have young children, be sure to give them an early dinner at home first if they are to attend the dinner with you. They can still eat or pick on some of the dishes they like at the dinner but at least, you can rest assured that they will not be starving by the time dinner is served.

With the dinner comes the usual champagne pouring, cake cutting and the must-have loud and prolonged three cheers of "Yum seng" to wish the newly weds long life, health and wealth, and many, many children.

(This is Caitlin's favourite part as she too would join in the chorus, raising her glass of plain water and shouting "yum seng" with much delight, clinking her glass to mine before drinking some water. Somehow Caitlin loves attending weddings and is always thrilled to see the bridal couple make their grand entrance, cut their cake and of course partake in the "yum seng".)

So guess why Eugene and I did not organise a typical Chinese wedding dinner when we tied the knot...Of course, to this day, we're reminded of how some of my relatives "didn't have enough to eat" at our afternoon tea reception if the subject of our wedding five years ago crops up.




We did cut a cake and if I remember correctly, we did have a "yum seng". The difference was it wasn't an eight-course dinner which killed dozens of sharks for their fins, nor did we start an hour late or agonised over seating arrangements. I'm glad we did it our way and am thankful for friends who helped make it happen and "happening" with a little dancing and fun and games.

I wish more young couples nowadays would throw such wedding parties be it lunch, tea or dinner!