Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year 2009

It's another half hour to when the clock strikes midnight and when the 2008 calendar can be dumped into the dustbin. It's the time when many people you don't hear from throughout the year suddenly drop you a mass email or SMS wishing you the usual wishes of a 'happy new year', etc etc etc. Or some simply forward you some wishes or e-card that's been forwarded all around the world over and over again. Where's the originality and personal touch?

So this one below is my original wish to one and all.

"May you usher in the new year with a contented heart, a hopeful spirit for better things despite the present realities, and joy and gratitude for all the blessings you and yours have received this year. May your prayers and wishes be granted and may you continue to enjoy good health, and the company, support and love of family and close friends. May you find strength and peace during stormy weathers and sing like a bird in spring when the flowers bloom."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Busy day today

I'm simply recording my busy day. Not required reading for you as it could be boring.

I've just completed two hours of writing for some $$ and going to call it a day. My day began at 6.30am today to get ready to bring Caitlin to her new school for her orientation.

We listened to the briefing by the Headmistress and various teachers, met her class teacher, got a mini-tour of the school for her to know where her classroom, the washroom, field and canteen are. We listened to the rules, drop-off and pick-up arrangements, administrative matters required etc etc etc.

We then drove home to jump-start my car (it couldn't start since two days ago) to get it checked at the workshop. We then drove to a hypermarket on the way home to pick up some stuff and then met Eugene's parents when they arrived and went straight out for lunch.

After lunch we dropped mum, dad and Caitlin home and went straight to the new house to meet some contractors. The appointment was for 2pm but they turned up one-and-a-half hours late. When they arrived, we hit a snag with the job. Part of it was done by 5pm and can only be completed on Saturday, hopefully.

We then rushed to the workshop to pick up my car. Turns out that the alternator (second time now) was faulty and failed to fully charge the batteries resulting in failure to start the engine...Cost us a sizeable dent again following last month's humongous dent. This Continental car of mine has been rather troublesome of late....In between 2pm and 6pm, I got two calls from Caitlin asking why we weren't home yet.

Got home slightly past 6pm and immediately whipped up a vegetable dish for dinner. Thankfully, mum and dad brought Klang's famous 'bak kut teh' so I didn't have to cook any meat, soup or rice.

After dinner, I started writing at 9pm. Eugene put Caitlin to bed at 9pm and she slept by 9.30pm. I'm blogging now to end the day, after 17 hours on the go non-stop. It's been a very long day.

I've lived every moment in the moment today needless to say as my brains did not have the opportunity to think of the past or future.

The next moment to live now is to sleep. Ha ha. We're trying to get Caitlin to change her body clock to sleep by 9pm and arise by 6am for when school starts in five days' time. Hope I can wake at 6am tomorrow... :(

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Peronal year-end thoughts

The year is ending in a few days' time. For me to say "time flies" is just an understatement. Where did all the days of 2008 go? They have whizzed by. There are moments which, like a whirlwind romance(not that I ever had one!), I wish could have lasted longer for me to savour them better. Some of those times could have even been boring, depressing, tiring, or frustrating ones but looking back, yes, looking back, they were the times that were unique only at that very particular moment then.

I realised this weirdly enough as I was doing something trivial but necessary this morning. After being tired of nagging Caitlin to complete her art-and-craft wind chime which has been abandoned in a heap on the dining table for one week, I decided to just finish up the job myself. During Christmas with extended family, she was introduced to a PC game called Spore. She is now hooked to it and has left some of her very-recent interests like some new Christmas gifts and this wind chime to rot for the time being. "Why am I doing this?" I asked myself aloud. "Because you love her", replied Eugene as he was vacuuming...

Self-awareness is an important thing. Being aware of the moment you are in and how you are (in doing and being) in that moment is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Miss it and it's gone. You never know what little reminders or gems of knowledge you can pick up when you are IN that moment.

Coincidentally, I've been following this TV series (on DVD and online) called 'Life' of late. The main character, Charlie Crews, is a cop who was wrongly imprisoned for 12 years. After he was cleared, his focus is living life one moment to the next, and doing his best to make sure each one is better than the last, in the midst of fighting crime (he was reinstated) and trying to figure out who had framed him.

2009 heralds a bunch of new things for ACE: new home i.e. new surroundings, new education experience (Caitlin is going to Year 1 in primary school on Jan 5th) which means a whole new daily routine for the entire family, new pet dogs (yup, in the plural until such time we convince Caitlin to give up one), a new client for me hopefully (I'm awaiting their confirmation), new plans for year-round activities, vacations etc.

Before we sing Auld Lang Syne, it's time to ask how 2008 really was for us. What should we be mindful of in 2009? Or should we live in the moment and focus on right here, right now, today, this minute? I am pondering on that. Many a time we live in the past and in the future. Our thoughts are always jumping between the past and the future, where we were and what we did in the past and what we envision and want the future to be. Seldom are we, or rather I'm speaking for myself, seldom am I, fully aware of the 'right here, right now', habits of a worrier and perfectionist.

Life is this moment in time. Why go shopping when you don't need anything? Why eat or buy more than you need to? Today, I discovered that on Christmas day, my former employer's wife had passed away after three months battling lymphoma. I feel sad for him and his kids. I had worked relatively closely with him (compared to others I've worked for whom I hardly ever took a liking to or respected) and met and spoken to his wife before too. She was a pleasant and good lady.

In the middle of this year, my dear grandmother left this world following colorectal cancer surgery. I lost a dear girlfriend my age close to three years ago, another colleague in her mid-20s 10 years ago, an aunt over 20 years ago, a classmate about 15 years ago...all to some form of cancer. Two weeks ago, my sister-in-law's dad passed away too from leukemia. Getting cancer is almost like catching a cold these days. I read somewhere that the risk is now one in every four people...

Cancer or no cancer, everyone dies. Living in the moment, knowing our purpose in life, leaving a beautiful legacy for our loved ones matters more than all the material things of this world. How much do we actually need? My girlfriend who lost her fight to cancer said in my last meeting with her that she didn't need much. How much clothes can you wear? One set for each day of the week is more than enough compared to those who don't even have a shirt on their backs.

And here, Caitlin and other kids whose parents can afford it have pretty dresses which they wear only a couple of times before they get outgrown. Being able to 'recyle' them as hand-me-downs is beside the point. Caitlin right now has enough pencils, erasers, sharpeners, crayons, colour pencils, pencil cases of all shapes and colours and designs, to last her entire 10-12 years of education probably. Mobile phones, computers, handheld game consoles, iPods, portable DVD players.... It's got to stop somewhere. We need to start somewhere to decide what's most important. I'm not saying we must live deprived lives deliberately but some sense of control, focus, balance must be there.

I don't find it easy to avoid temptation from eating more than I should (oh how I love to eat nice food!) or buying Caitlin a Nintendo simply because she looks so pitiful beside some kids who have their very own, but it is something I think I should stay steadfast on. Eat healthily, buy only what's necessary, live in the moment.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Working from home

Working from home is a good option for mothers who are crazy enough to want to hold two demanding jobs i.e. caring for her kids full-time and earning money by providing goods or services.

But not all mothers are crazy. Some have no choice because circumstances dictate such measures. It is a juggling feat to keep up with domestic chores (I'm talking about mums who are not fortunate enough to have maids), caring for the kids and meeting all their daily needs, and working at the same time.

One's self-discipine, time management skill, patience and commitment are tested to the hilt.

I'm trying to work at my desk but Caitlin keeps pestering me to help her try out her new toy, a nail art salon thing which she can decorate her nails with. While supervising her piano practice, the phone rings and I've to deal with the contractor of our new house and follow up with other phone calls to make new arrangements. She continues playing in the background but I missed what she played. I ask her to repeat but she's reluctant. Depending on what mood both of us are in, the stalemate is resolved either amicably or with tension and aggession. Such is a typical scenario.

And the phone is ringing again now...(not joking).

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Autumn leaves

This is an eight-minute video worth watching which combines the unique styles of jazz and classical by two great Singaporean teams - Jeremy Monteiro and T'ang Quartet. Such effortless and flawless playing.

O Holy Night

Various versions of one of my favourite Christmas songs. Always gives me goose bumps. The one by Mariah Carey does not allow embedding so you need to watch it here.

Merry Christmas

Christmas greetings from ACE! May we all count our blessings and remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Wrap, wrap, wrap

The past few days at home were spent with paper, scissors, coloured markers, colour pencils, crayons, and sticky tape. We made our own Christmas gift wrappers again this year for all the presents we bought for our family members.

Eugene, Caitlin and I (mainly I) drew Christmas motifs and patterns on white paper and wrapped all the various shapes and sizes of gifts. I completed the wrapping yesterday. Left them on a heap on the floor in the dining room and today, I managed to pack them into three large bags, ready to be brought to the Ong family home in Klang tomorrow evening to be put under the tree before they get distributed after midnight mass and Christmas supper.

I then moved from paper to clear plastic wrappers to wrap Caitlin's school text and work books. Still have half of the entire stack to finish as I got tired after about six books yesterday.... I got Caitlin to write her name on the books herself.

We're 12 days away from the first day of primary school for Caitlin on 5 January. I worry about how we're going to get up really early in the morning to get to school on time the first one or two weeks. School is a reasonable distance away and we're not familiar with how traffic will be at that hour. I'm a worrier. Caitlin's always been a late sleeper and difficult riser, and slow to get moving. That's very much from the X chromosome contributed by Eugene! Of course, the other X from me carries some troublesome traits too I must admit.

The next few days will be busy ones, juggling Christmas obligations and trying to tie up loose ends for our new home. We are however still quite far from being able to move in.... Turning a completely new and bare house into something livable for a FAMILY takes a lot of planning and persevering as we are discovering.

We've also discovered that all building and renovation contractors, whether known to us or recommended by others, are one and the same! This is said with much annoyance. I've yet to come across one who is not unscrupulous, conscientious and totally commited to work and service quality. And their use of unskilled foreign labour totally irks me!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Outings with Caitlin

A picture to remember every special outing with Caitlin before she grows any faster and I lose track. Hope I've not left out any. The photos are in chronological order starting from Caitlin at 18 months till Caitlin at 6+ currently.

Fraser's Hill, 1 May 2004

Malacca Zoo, 4 July 2004

Butterfly Park, Kuala Lumpur, 22 Jan 2005

Kuala Lumpur Bird Park, 24 July 2005

Penang Mutiara Beach Resort, 21 Oct 2005

Penang Butterfly Farm, 16 Jan 2006

Singapore, 1 Sept 2007

The Eye on Malaysia, Titiwangsa Lake Kuala Lumpur, 1 Jan 2008

Taman Tasik Perdana Lake Gardens, Kuala Lumpur, 17 Feb 2008

Genting Highlands Theme Park, 27 Apr 2008

Damai Puri Resort, Rainforest World Music Festival, Santubong near Kuching, Sarawak,16 July 2008

Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary, Pahang, 22 Aug 2008

Mutiara Burau Bay Resort, Langkawi, 11 Dec 2008

The times

It is easy to hide, avoid, procrastinate, give excuses when you are online. You just select to be invisible or block selected people from viewing you. You can choose not to reply, or to reply with words that are vague for instance. You can say you missed the email or did not receive it at all if confronted. Maybe it went into your spam box, which you don't check, by mistake. You can avoid issues and confrontations simply by keeping quiet and ignoring.

You can also use pseudonyms for email addresses or fake identities in chatboxes or social networking sites. You can change your identity, and become someone else without anyone knowing. Seems like anyone can do anything these days online. People can hack, steal others' identities, blackmail, cheat, spam, learn how to make a bomb, spread viruses etc

We are living in dangerous times...

I think I've been watching too much Criminal Minds and marveling at Penelope Garcia's tech abilities!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Shakespeare, Henry V

"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother...."

Monday, December 15, 2008


Everytime Caitlin visits the Giant hypermart nearby, she'll ask to buy Pokemon figurines from a stall selling knick-knacks to add on to her collection. After seeing how many (countless!) a son of our friend's has, she has been even more eager to boost her collection. The boy's name is Michael Jr. and he is a bespectacled 10-year-old kid.

Today, Caitlin added another six Pokemons to her collection and in the process asked me why Michael Jr has stopped collecting. I told her that he's now probably more interested in other things. End of conversation. A few hours later upon reaching home, another conversation took place.

Caitlin: Can I be Michael Jr's girlfriend?

Me (suspecting that it's because of his interest in Pokemon): Why?

Caitlin: I have a crush in him.

Me (surprised that my six-year-old knows how to use the word 'crush'): I have a crush ON him. Why do you have a crush on him?

Caitlin: Because I like boys with glasses!

Me: ???!!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Langkawi pictures

Brother JM and family's visit back home in Seremban

Back from Langkawi

We went on a family holiday on Thursday and returned home yesterday afternoon. The Ong family, comprising Eugene's parents, brother and sister and their families, and us, spent our first family holiday together in Langkawi for 3 days and 2 nights. The kids, and adults, had lots of fun on the beach, in the sea and pool. Lots of energy was released those 3 days and gave us, especially the kids, time together to bond. We stayed at the Mutiara Burau Bay Resort. Their accommodation was chalet-style. The chalets were cosy but rather small and cramped and old. Needs refurbishment.

We rented a van for those 3 days and went out for meals and some shopping (duty free alcohol, snacks and drinks, ikan bilis and cashew nuts). The weather was good i.e. top-grade sunshine and occasional soothing sea breeze.

The highlight of our beach experience was the discovery of a sizeable area of sea bed near the shore during low tide that was concentrated with hundreds (or maybe thousands) of hermit crabs. Kids and adults alike spent over an hour scooping them up, marvelling at the beautiful patterns on the shells and the crabs peeking out of them. We even managed to catch a few small crabs, one of which gave me a shockingly painful pinch with both its pincers.

We had lunch one afternoon at Palmville Seafood Restaurant in the Pantai Cenang stretch of shoplots. The food was quite tasty and reasonably priced. Too bad we didn't manage to take pics of the food. We were all so hungry that the dishes were polished off rather quickly!

On our second and last night there, we went to Perdana Quay for dinner. We decided to check out Pulau Pulau Seafood and Steamboat Restaurant. They have steamboat at RM38++ per adult (half price for kids) but we opted to order dishes. We decided never to go back there again if we go to Langkawi in future. Service was terribly lousy and so was the food. We made up for the lousy dinner with dessert at The Loaf, the much-publicised bakery cum cafe of which our former prime minister is a shareholder. They have a branch in Kuala Lumpur at Pavilion mall.

Will post some pics of our holiday later.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Busy week with kids and family

For the past nine days, I was back home at my parent's house spending time with family. My older brother and his family are visiting from the States and the house was abuzz with trying to keep up with breakfast, lunch, dinner, feeding the kids, managing their crankiness and keeping them from mischief and fights. There was never a moment that you could hear a pin drop. Many things we said to the kids were with exclamation marks, and most of the time, they were repeated at least thrice. The wooden staircase in the house got a good workout with the kids stomping up and down it all the time.

Chestnut and Jenna were 'tortured' by Caitlin and Kinglee, her 3.5-year-old American cousin, during bath time, while training them to get used to their leash and during short walks for toilet training.

Caitlin, being the 'big sister', found a groupie in Kinglee who literally followed her around, copying exactly everything she did and said. Caitlin was totally irritated with her sweet little cousin's adoration resulting in us adults having to sort them out almost all day everyday. Kids these days are a handful. My bro and I commented that we doubt we were ever like that during our time. We were more 'blur' then I believe.

As my parents' home is hardly child-friendly, keeping Ryan, my 1.5-year-old nephew, from touching my dad's breakable collectibles and endangering himself, was another energy-sapping task. This little boy is more curious than the proverbial cat and likes poking his fingers into places he's not supposed to, and turning things upside down to see what's interesting underneath. Life at his grandparents' house was so interesting with so many adults and kids and stuff to explore that his routine was thrown out of sync. This usually greedy, good eater decided exploration was better than food and sleep for once.

As for Kinglee's baby sister Kingmei, she's the most well-behaved, mainly because she's only 7 months old! She could be rather loud at times but always gives you the most adorable smile when her eyes meet yours. Caitlin loves her a lot and enjoyed cooing, playing peek-a-boo and 'This little piggy' with her.

Food was abundant throughout the day, typical of my mum who shows her motherly love by keeping our tummies filled all the time. A mixture of home-cooked and outside fare filled the dining table all day. It sure felt like Chinese New Year with so much food during and in-between meals. I guess it was called for since we are a 'complete' family only every few years when my older brother and his family visit from the States.

Speaking of food, I'm hungry now and am craving for some Seremban beef noodles. Too bad I'm back in KL. It's almost dinner time and Caitlin and I are waiting for Eugene to return from work before we go out for dinner. Not cooking tonight. Had not been the past 9 days which is a good break, and I will not be till the weekend as we'll be taking a short holiday somewhere up north.

I'll blog again next week I guess.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Additions to our family

We'll be having additions to our family soon. It will happen next year after we move to our new home (which currently is giving us headaches with some snags with the defects...sigh, I foresee a battle with the developers).

We had been planning for just one but it looks like we may end up with two. One is female and the other male. They are named Jenna and Rusty. Jenna is a mongrel my dad found with her other four brothers and sisters. We adopted Jenna and her brother Chestnut while dad's neighbours took in the other three pups.

At the same time, Eugene's friend's miniature schnauzer gave birth and we've booked one male pup. Caitlin has been dreaming of having a schnauzer for the longest time so it's her dream come true. She had decided last year that she would name her schnauzer Rusty if she ever got one.

Since we now can't care for the pups at our apartment, my dad is looking after Jenna with his own pup Chestnut at his house. Meanwhile, Rusty has yet to grow old enough (only 2-3 weeks old now) for us to collect him.

Caitlin with Jenna