Thursday, May 31, 2007

A new baby cousin

Caitlin is so excited and thrilled that she now has a new baby cousin. He was born at 11.40am yesterday (30 May), weighing 3.1kg, to my younger brother Joon King and his wife Ee Ling. The baby is their first child and third grandchild for my parents.

Caitlin jumped and shouted "Yay! The baby is born" yesterday morning when I told her that aunty Ee Ling was at the hospital. She loves babies and adores her other baby cousins Sarah (22 months), Mark (8 months)and Kinglee (2 years, tomorrow). She had been talking to the baby in aunty's tummy the past months.

We saw the baby when he was just three hours old and this morning, Caitlin pestered to visit the baby again. Today, she touched him, stroked his head gently and kept saying he is so adorable.

Congratulations JK and EL! Welcome to parenthood and the start of a looong and exciting journey!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Making a living or making a life?

Eugene has been rather busy the past two weeks, coming home later than usual. Caitlin is getting used to the fact that daddy has to work late and go out for meetings. She has developed a special goodbye routine in the mornings. She says goodbye and waves her hand side to side, gives a flying kiss and then waves again with fingers bending up and down. Sometimes the routine is preceded with a hug.

The typical working life in Kuala Lumpur includes hours spent on the road travelling to and from work due to traffic jams. It gets worse if it rains. And most Malaysian companies have work culture that involves staying after hours to complete some work or rush a deadline.

On the average, one spends at least 12-15 hours away from home on a weekday. How much time is there left to live and savour the remaining hours of a day considering the additional hours needed to attend to the basics of having meals, baths, sleep, minor chores etc? And how much time is there left to spend with the family?

What can one do to swing the weight over the other side and achieve balance? Or even better, to achieve freedom from the drudgery of exchanging your time for a salary, which for most, will not see you through retirement? This is where terms like 'financial freedom', 'flexi-time', 'work from home', 'freelance', etc have become buzzwords to those who realise the need to break away from the traditional practice of working as an employee to make a living. With so little time in our hands, should we spend our 24 hours simply making a living or making a LIFE for ourselves and our loved ones?

"Seek and you shall find"
"You reap what you sow"
"Time and tide wait for no man"
"Money is not the most important thing in life, but it does affect the most important things in life"
"It is what we think we know already that often prevents us from learning"
"The mind is like a parachute, it only works when it is open"
"There is nothing you cannot be, do or have"

Monday, May 28, 2007

School break

The mid-term school holiday has officially begun. It's not much different for me but for the employed like Eugene, it means lighter traffic on the roads in the mornings. For Caitlin, today seems like just an extension from last week when she was down with HFM. To her, she had started her holiday last week itself when I told her the first few mornings that she didn't have to go to school.

This week will be spent replacing the Mandarin classes she missed last week, catching up on schoolwork and playing. She had a good time playing and ate relatively well today as she no longer has painful ulcers on her tongue.

She was pretty much in her own world today, role-playing camping with her stuffed dog and teddy, doing her homework on her own with them (she taught the dog to write 'bus'), reading to herself (and to the toys) at the 'camp site', colouring, singing and chattering away by herself.

At this time of writing, she is making up her own words to a book she is reading aloud while Eugene is in another corner reading his book quietly. This is a rare occasion Eugene and I get to do our own thing, even if it is only for 20 minutes before our 'lady boss' decides to switch focus and summon us for a joint activity.

I hope the next two weeks will be as easy as today.

Business, ethics, integrity, honour, image...

A friend presented a scenario to me and sought my thoughts this afternoon. Company A whose partnership with Company B in a joint-venture business turned sour. Now A wants to put B in bad light by highlighting B's possible misdeeds, unrelated to their past business together, through a public relations exercise.

B has allegedly delayed or not complied (not sure if intentional or unintentional) to a requirement set by the authorities. A, however, does not have any business operations in the country that B is operating in which the latter has committed the alleged misdeed....

Is it ethical or right for A to disguise their revengeful intentions using a public relations campaign (a smear campaign?) although the campaign may not single out B specifically? If the campaign is positioned in such a way that A is seen as supportive of the authorities and helping the authorities and various industries across the board achieve compliance, wouldn't anyone question A's true intentions since A does not have any business operations whatsoever in that country?

What benefit would A derive from this PR campaign apart from the satisfaction of seeing its rival go down if the campaign is successful? A positive image with the authorities, media and investors which in turn opens doors for easier entry, investment funds etc should it decide to start business there?

Is it prudent and worth spending the money for such a smear campaign? How would this be perceived in the eyes of its stakeholders i.e. shareholders, investors, employees?

These are just my initial unorganised thoughts.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Caitlin vs. Mr Virus again!

Caitlin has HFM (more info at this link) or to those not familiar with the abbreviation, it is hand, foot and mouth disease. She most likely caught it at school. She's got ulcers on her tongue, in other parts of her mouth and some rashes on her soles. There were some on her bottom too but they've disappeared.

What's most challenging in caring for her is her reluctance to eat as her tongue hurts. Besides that, she is behaving like her usual self and does not have a fever. Liquids, soft and cold food have been on the menu the past 2-3 days and even then, she's complaining and takes even longer than usual to finish her meal, or rather, for me to feed and coax her to finish it.

It's the week before school closes for a two-week mid-term break so it looks like she's getting a three-week break instead, with unlimited access to cold drinks, popsicles and ice cream thrown in, plus skipping her mandarin and music lessons!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Preserving your identity

Upon awaking this morning, Caitlin's Question Of The Day was: What does strawberry juice look like?

After all the hustle and bustle of getting her to school (she woke late and was extra slow in getting ready, what's new?), I arrived home for breakfast and started pondering about that question! I decided in my mind what I thought strawberry juice should look like and told myself, "Ok, that's enough, only spend time on more profound questions of hers. Otherwise, she will rule my life!"

It's amazing how mothers get so caught up doing their "mother" job that they risk losing their own identity. There is a need to make time to do my own things and pursue my own interests. Many parenting and mothering magazines carry such articles and provide a list of suggestions on how to go about it. The problem is they sometimes make it sound so easy.

Either the writers are not mums themselves or they are super mums to be able to go for yoga lessons, for instance, and still have time to do the laundry, fetch the kids from school, send them to piano lessons and then cook a full-course dinner for two adults and three kids. And how about weekends you may ask? I don't know about other mums but by the time I reach the weekend, I just feel like vegetating and not get into any activity, even if it's for myself! Is my age showing?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Tough Questions

Every now and then, Caitlin comes up with questions which require some thinking before we answer her. That's because, from experience, we know that the answer would lead to more questions of "why" and how".

This morning, on the way to school, she got into one of her dreamy, pondering moments in the car. The silence broke with a question: "Mum, how did God make humans?". How that question came about beats me as I don't recall talking to her about the creation of mankind anytime recently.

My answer: God is special and used spiritual powers to make humans....pregnant pause.
Immediate question: How and what powers? Thus began my effort in digging my brains for that part of Genesis, mentioning how God spoke and the animals and plants and man appeared, ending with the fact that the first man's name was Adam.... Phew, that satisfied her.

Then came another question: How do sweets make you sick? Here we go again...blah, blah, blah about sugar content, 'poisonous' chemical stuff for flavouring and colouring, cavities....and a reminder that sweets are not good and cannot be eaten too often.

She then went back to her thoughtful silence until we reached school.

You just never know what kids would ask these days. They are so privileged and are exposed to so many things.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A fun weekend

We had fun yesterday at Lynette's (Eugene's sis) place. Caitlin thoroughly enjoyed herself with her cousins. They all skipped their afternoon nap, trading it for swimming, toys and even Nintendo Wii challenges. By dinnertime, Caitlin's eyelids were getting heavy but she stubbornly kept them open to finish her favourite meal of carbonara pasta while continuing to play.

After the early dinner, we headed home and as expected, she fell asleep in the car.

We also got her a new car seat yesterday, one that she can grow with up to 36kg in weight. It's a booster seat with detachable back rest, arm rests and cupholders on both sides. How's that for a cool ride? It uses the car's seat belt instead of its own harness so getting her in and out of the seat is now easier. To get her to switch to the new one, we told her it looks just like a racing car seat and that really helped her accept the idea.

This picture shows what the seat looks like except that the one we got is blue in colour.


Somehow my mind seems to be dwelling on food today. I had mentioned earlier that I have leftovers most times cooking for 2.5 people. That's what happened over the weekend and today I was lucky enough to have been able to turn those leftovers into 'new' dishes.

The frozen angel hair pasta was thawed, stir fried with a leftover vege dish of mushrooms and celery (what Caitlin will eat!) and minced meat, thick as well as light soy sauce, then topped with omelette threads to make a slightly wet oriental fried noodle lunch for Caitlin and me. Caitlin enjoyed it and asked for more. Yippee!

And for dinner, my fish dish is from some fried fish pieces which were untouched and refrigerated two days ago. Instead of merely reheating it in the microwave making it harder and drier, I stewed them slightly in some garlic bean paste gravy. It tastes reasonably fine to me and I hope it will for the other 1.5 people in my household tonight!

Cooking for 2 1/2

Having a small family has its plus and minus points. It means less laundry and ironing, and fewer mouths to feed. On the other hand, having fewer mouths to feed also means having to cut down the recipes by half, quarter or even one-tenth, if the recipe is for 10 people. If I don't, I'd end up having tons of leftovers. If I do, shopping for relatively minute amounts of special ingredients and spices especially, is just not convenient.

I enjoy cooking but on a daily basis, cooking for just Eugene, Caitlin and myself can sometimes be frustrating as I tend to run out of ideas. It is limiting when it comes to the variety and quantity. That's when the internet and my old cookbooks and food magazines come in useful. I get transported into another world when I start browsing through them (but that's another story). I usually go for simple one-pot type dishes, steamed food, soups, and stir fries.

Having to cater to Caitlin's and Eugene's food preferences is quite a task at times. In their past life, they were probably Italian, prefering pasta and noodles to rice and porridge. Both also have no liking towards vegetables especially the 'mushy' types like okra and brinjals. Sneaking in the fibres and greens into the food for Caitlin is not always a success. The only vegetables I can happily prepare for her which will not be turned down are celery and carrots.

We were told by a doctor once that we should try being vegetarian as animal protein contribute to many ailments. I can just picture a bigger headache if we do that!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Business vs. employment

Joy is a Filipina from a very poor family. She was determined to receive higher education and managed to get a scholarship. She qualified as an accountant and worked for one of the Big 5 firms in Jakarta, working hard from 7am to 10pm daily. Because of that, her two young sons were under the care of babysitters at home. When she returned home, her sons ran to the door. She thought it was their excitement to greet her but actually to her painful realisation, it was to hug and say goodbye to the babysitters. Mums, isn't it heart wrenching to know your children are closer to 'strangers' than their own mum?

When she went home to the Phillipines for a holiday, a friend who lived in another city 1 1/2 hours flight away, persistently tried to ask her for some time, simply to share a business opportunity but she refused to meet that friend many times. On New Year's eve, the friend just turned up at her doorstep. Realising her friend's sacrifice (in the Phillipines, it's tradition to spend new year's with family) in leaving her family to see her, she reluctantly granted the friend only 5 minutes to say what she wanted. What can one achieve in 5 minutes? The 5 minutes became 3 hours and Joy joined her friend in the business.

When she went back to Jakarta, she tried to ask her boss to participate in her business. He was agreeable to support it on condition that the Vice President of the company joined. She approached the VP who appeared supportive but the very next day he told her that if she went ahead she would be sacked. (Joy's business was in fact not in conflict with her company's.)

Joy persisted with her business and is now reaping the benefits of her hard work.

This is a true story. It made me think and I discovered the following:

1. A job takes up all your time even though it pays you money. Your time is not yours. No time for yourself or your family.
2. There is no job security nowadays. The friendliest colleague or boss who appears to care for you actually cares only for himself and the company's welfare as that is their job.
3. There is no harm in listening to what others have to share with you, especially from concerned friends. You never know what you can find and learn until you keep an open mind and heart.
4.Persistence and determination to get what you want will bring you success, no matter how long it takes.

"Study hard, get a degree and a good job in a good company and climb the corporate ladder. Then, you are set for life." That's what we've been taught. Is that the only way or is going into business better?

I'm digging my brains for names of people who climbed the corporate ladder and became billionaires. There are but they were more difficult to remember compared to those of business people/entrepreneurs - Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Ananda Krishnan, Robert Kuok, Quek Leng to help me add to the list?

A poem

As I become older and experience more in life, there are times when I have doubts. I came across this poem by an unknown author which I found useful, and I hope those of you reading it will too, for yourself or for others.

Believe In Yourself

There may be days when you get up in the morning and things aren't the way you had hoped they would be,
....that's when you have to tell yourself that things will get better.

There are times when people disappoint you and let you down,
but those are the times when you must remind yourself to trust your own judgments and opinions, to keep your life focused on believing in yourself and all that you are capable of.

There will be challenges to face and changes to make in your life,
and it is up to you to accept them.

Constantly keep yourself headed in the right direction for you. It may not be easy at times, but in those times of struggle you will find a stronger sense of who you are, So when the days come that are filled with frustration
and unexpected responsibilities,

Remember to believe in yourself and all you want your life to be, because the challenges and changes will only help you to find the goals that you know are meant to come true for you.

Keep believing in yourself.

Author Unknown

Friday, May 4, 2007

Miss Parrot

Me: Caitlin, please pick up your toys.
Caitlin: Caitlin, please pick up your toys
Me: Please don't repeat what I say.
Caitlin: Please don't repeat what I say. (followed by cheeky snigger)
Me: Stop it before I smack you.
Caitlin: Stop it before I smack you.

Smack! goes my hand on her bottoom. (Yup, I'm one who does not spare the rod although I understand the "no hitting" school of thought)

Caitlin: Daddy, mummy is naughty!

Daddy now comes into the picture and takes on the good guy role, pacifies and reasons with the actual one who was naughty...

I'm sure many of you experience the same thing. Mummy always plays the baddie while Daddy plays the good guy. Is it because Mummy,despite having a full time job just like Daddy, somehow ends up being the one spending more time taking care of the child; thus taking on the disciplinarian role? Daddy always seems to be the one who puts a plaster on the knee and wipes away the crocodile tears.

I'm not complaining about having to be the baddie but simply stating a realisation of how the good guy-bad guy roles fall upon the respective parents.

Caitlin gets into what I call 'Miss Parrot' phases every now and then and it can be pretty irritating. Anyone with suggestions on how I can stop this particular behaviour? I don't know where she picked this up from (at school?) or did she just come up with it on her own?