Sunday, 21 September 2014

Good News :)

My father was discharged from the hospital after a 43-day tumultuous stay.

He couldn't wait to get out of that place, and I totally understood it.

I already felt like it was an eternity when I stayed at the hospital for 3 days! The treatment for my excessive bleeding after a caesarian was utterly painful. You get broken sleep every 4 hours - for medication or blood-pressure taking. You get worried about whether there would be more complications that require more painful treatment. And in my father's case, he had to worry about the hospital bill that jumped by thousands every night.

He got ready to leave at 11am and made a big fuss when the nurse came around just before he left to feed him through his tube. He refused to stay any longer. But it was all good in the end.

That happened nearly 3 months ago.

He has been home, with milk fed through a tube that goes into his stomach.

It has been miserable for a man who loves food.

Although the doctor mentioned that my father could have another surgery done within one to three months to get his remaining oesophagus reconnected to his stomach so that he could consume food through mouth normally again, my elder sister insisted that the doctor was giving us false hope. She said that the internet says that patients with perforated oesophagus normally do the reconnection within six months to one year.

It was bleak for me, at least. And I think my father suspected it to be the case too. We just stopped talking about the reconnection so that he didn't feel so bad about it.

My mother stopped cooking. Everybody abstained from eating in his presence. We even tried not to mention 'eat', 'food', 'hungry', 'lunch' and other food-related words when he was in earshot.

Last Thursday, when my fifth sister took my father for a review at a restructured hospital and enquired about the possibility of the reconnection surgery, the doctor was positive that my father was ready for it. However, he said that he had no experience with my father's case ie. having a two-part surgery for a perforated oesophagus. He had only done surgeries that remove and reconnect the oesophagus in one sitting. He also insisted on doing a scope to measure the length of the remaining oesophagus, which my father absolutely resisted. The breaking point for my father was: the doctor stated that there was a possibility of the reconnected oesophagus leaking or disconnecting, and if that happened, my father would have to survive on milk that feeds through his nose, for life!

The next day, we took him to the surgeon who operated on him to remove a large part of his oesophagus. We checked with him if my father was fit enough to have the remaining oesophagus reconnected to his stomach. And he said yes, after some checking and questioning. He needed to check with the cardiologist if the heart is strong enough for the second operation though.

We had tentatively booked the surgery some time next week.

I am excited about it. My father will be able to eat again!

This surgery will set us back by yet another $30k - $40k.

My sisters, as usual, hope that he goes to the restructured hospital to save costs, but I am glad that my father insists on going private. I don't know how we are going to pay the bill. As it is, we haven't settled the last bill yet. Even the surgeon urged us to go to the restructured hospital to save costs. But I know  this doctor is the only one we can entrust our father's life with.

The restructured hospital doctor mentioned that to survive a perforated oesophagus is very rare. To survive an operation from a perforated oesophagus is yet rarer. And to survive a second operation from a perforated oesophagus is the rarest! He probably never saw it (I assume this myself - the way he put it!). So how can my father go to him?

Please continue to keep my father and our medical bill that is under review in your prayer. I find that prayer had been a source of comfort and solace to my father when he was in the hospital. And it has been powerful. For so many times when situations were life-threatening, we prayed, and my father became well. For a high-risk patient, coupled with old-age complications and weaker-than-average heart and lungs due to heavy smoking, it was nothing short of a miracle that my father's life-threatening conditions became better or well over and over again.

I overheard my fifth sister telling my father that he should follow her to church after he was well and he nodded his head. For a proud man who proclaimed that he was his own god, I can't help but sometimes wonder if this incident is something that God 'allows' to happen to bring my father to Him? I can't imagine my father opening his heart to God in an otherwise strong and healthy physique.

Please pray for us.

Monday, 15 September 2014

A Date with Mother at Chihuly Lounge

My mother had mentioned that she had poor appetite. 

I called Chiluny Lounge to reserve a table for 2 adults and 1 child for an Afternoon Tea and we were there the next day.

I read that the Lounge serves 8 courses for Tea, and the mini dishes looked delectable on every blog and website.

First course: passion fruit drink with crackers and their special XO chilli sauce

The crackers were nothing out of the ordinary. I am no fan of passion fruit, but the drink was not repulsive to me. It was light and thirst-quenching.

Second course: Beef Wellington

We enjoyed it. Tender meat with a thin layer of crust wrapped around it. Although there seemed to be a hint of wasabi, it didn't hinder me from enjoying it at all.

Then I am lost here. Some said that this three-tier rack consists of 2 courses, but unless it actually consists of 3 courses, I can't seem to locate 8 courses in all!

But never mind how many courses are there in this rack. It looked so pretty I must have a picture with it.

High class hotels have high class waiters.

He must be the first waiter to take a sharp picture using my DSLR, and without a flash at that! 
A closer look at the 3 tiers:

First tier - plain scones and scones with raisins, with the hotel's special buttery cream

I like the scones here better than the ones at The Regent. These are soft on the outside as well as the inside, and the buttery cream is a cross between clotted cream and butter. Love it!

Second tier - cucumber sandwich, smoked chicken sandwich and salmon sandwich

I failed to catch what the waiter said for the second one from the left but it could be chicken mayonnaise sandwich.

Third tier - desserts (raspberry macarons, cheesecakes, passion fruit tarts and chocolates)

 Sixth course: Berries (strawberry, blueberry and raspberry) with cream

Seven course: raspberry sorbet ice-cream

I am not a sorbet person. It is just too sour for me.

Eighth course: kuehs and chocolates

The waitress pushed the cart to us and we made our choices

Baby didn't like the insides of the chocolates

We thought these green orchids in test tubes hanging from the ceiling display were really pretty and creative!

The ambience at Ritz Carlton Hotel was peaceful and classy. There were normal table-and-chair seats as well as lounge seats which we were led to. The lounge was flooded with natural light that came in from the floor-to-ceiling glass windows.

The servers were a mixture of foreign talents consisting of 1 caucasian, some filipinos and at least one other nationality that I could not tell. She looked Chinese, but didn't engage us in Mandarin when I was explaining what she said to my mother. All in all, the servers were polite and attentive although I could be overly sensitive to the 'are you sure you belong here?' vibe emitted from the male caucasian server.

The available beverages: ice teas and hot coffees

I am alien to ang moh teas. The only coffees I know are the frappucinos from Coffee Bean but I didn't want to have coffee for fear of being too filling. I had to rely on the waiter's recommendation - Earl Grey.

Each person can have a pot of tea throughout the afternoon. I asked for one pot first in case Earl Grey was not our cup of tea, but it turned out to be acceptable to us, so we opted for Earl Grey again for the second pot.

The afternoon tea cost $49++ per set. It used to have child's price for the tea but it seems to have been done away. However, the nice waiter allowed me to share my set with Baby. I would not take it as a common practice though.

Overall, we enjoyed the afternoon tea at Chihuly Lounge.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Why Primary One Registration is Similar to PSLE

As Baby's birth date is 8 years apart from Coco's, I didn't have the privilege of enrolling Baby at Phase 1, the phase that allows those who have existing siblings in the school to enrol without worries, at Primary One registration exercise this year.

For both girls, I had to register them at Phase 2A2, the alumni phase for alumni who didn't join the alumni association.

So after 8 years, I had to go through the tormenting and stressful exercise again.

I recall following the statistics on the school website (the school would update the P1 enrolment statistics on a daily basis like what Nanhua Primary School did this year) closely. Every day, I would try to calculate in vain the chance of Coco being enrolled in William's alma mater. Although during that time, there was no cap on the number of applicants for 2A2, I was very worried as it was a baby-boom year. The numbers at Phases 1 and 2A1 doubled those of previous years'. If the number at 2A2 also doubled, the school would go into balloting.

Every day, I would tell William that I was worried that we had to ballot. He would dismiss my worry saying that there hadn't been any balloting done at 2A2 in the history of P1 registration.

Thankfully, much to my relief, the number of enrolment at 2A2 remained similar to the previous years' and Coco got in the school without any drama.

This year, most of us were caught by surprise what the Prime Minister announced at last year's National Day Speech Rally in August, that 40 seats would be reserved for Phases 2B and 2C. As the deadline for alumni to join the alumni association, and 'upgrade' themselves to 2A1, was 30 June, those who did not join the association could not join it in time. Talk about unfairness!

But thankfully, Baby was enrolled in Coco's and William's alma mater without any drama as well.

When I look back at the whole episode, I feel that there are a few similarities between P1 registration and PSLE, something that I am not too foreign with:

1) People withhold information from one another.

I am quite certain that some people were privy to the information about the 40-seat reservation policy for Phases 2B and 2C before the Prime Minister had announced it. For some reason, this year, we saw the number of applicants at 2A1 shoot up. Historically, Coco's alma mater always had more applicants at 2A2 for the last 7 or 8 years as reflected on its website. However, this year, 2A1 had about 14 applicants more than 2A2. It was most unusual!

Then a forummer revealed that actually his alumni association had told them that there would be changes to P1 registration and he would only stand to benefit if he joined the association.

Such withholding of information reminds me of PSLE preparation when parents or children do not want to share their resources or tutors' contacts.

2) People discourage others from doing more so as to eliminate competition.

A few years ago, a mother on my Facebook asked for opinion on whether she should be a parent volunteer as a highly sought-after school in terms of the number of applicants.

Just about every single contribution asked her not to, citing different reasons. One of the reasons that stood out was: you should go for a school that is more holistic. Academic-driven ones only focus on one aspect, the academic.

It is quite similar to how others telling one that certain tuition centres are no good during PSLE preparation, and so should not go for tuition at those centres, or those who professed 'I never study at home' who happen to do very well in tests and exams.

Then, this year, it surprised me that many mothers enrolled their P1-going children at top schools or very good schools!

The poor mother who had asked for opinion could not get a place for her child at the school she had given up her parent-volunteer opportunity at. In the end, she had to register her child at Phase 2C Supplementary, a phase for those who didn't manage to get in their preferred at earlier phases, whether it was based on connection or distance. It meant that she would have lost out on schools that were generally more popular with parents. It also meant that her choice of schools would be limited.

This is similar to PSLE preparation where children who believe that their friends who 'never study' could really end up not studying, or not studying as hard as they should. In the end, these children realised that their friends had not been telling the truth all along when results were released, but it's all too late.

3) People would do anything and everything to increase their chance to do better than their competitor.

At P1 registration, I was surprised to hear from a colleague that at her husband's school, which happened to be Coco's alma mater, more than 20 teachers have children who are due to register for P1 in 4 years' time, which is the dragon year.

More often than not, newly transferred teachers at this school have young children waiting to enter a primary school.

It gives me insight on what even teachers would do to up their chance at P1 registration.

When I was intensely worried about Baby's P1 registration, the same colleague told me that her husband had mentioned that the principal at his school was very busy those few days. She was busy meeting parents. Parents were walking in and out of the principal's office and asking a favour from the principal ie. to make their children's entry to the school certain.

The principal was kept so busy that she decided to put a stop to it. She sent an email to the whole school asking the staff not to entertain parents' request to meet the principal!

At PSLE, we see the ugly faces of parents and students when they suddenly become oral or composition experts, foretelling what their friends say or write would warrant a 'fail', so that it could affect their friends' morale during PSLE.

4) People feel that the process is 'unfair' to them.

I do not need to say more about P1 registration. Parents in phases 2B and 2C feel that it is unfair that the alumni applicants are not capped at a number while they are left with the remaining 'unwanted' seats. A lot of reasons and arguments are shouted out by the 2B and 2C parents to rationalise why the alumni should get lost from their alma maters, whether they are self-serving or selfish does not matter.

At PSLE, parents feel that it is unfair when oral topics are easier for the earlier or latter group of students. The mainstream students' parents feel that it is unfair that GEP students only need to hit 250 as T-score to qualify for the EESIS award while the mainstream students had to meet the higher T-score of  more than 260. The mainstream students' parents also feel that it is unfair that the GEP students are more sought-after by top schools during the DSA (Direct School Admission) than the mainstream students.

5) People get jealous of others who get a better school or result.

It is especially blatant or obvious when you visit a P1 registration thread on kiasuparents forum. The sense of jealousy is emitted strongly when those 2B and 2C parents do not want co-existence with the 2A (alumni) parents. They want elimination of Phase 2A so that they have the popular schools for themselves.

A mother who was a parent-volunteer on my Facebook used words like 'disgusted' to describe the alumni, knowing that I placed my child in a popular school at the alumni phase. It turned out that she was having a hard time during P1 registration. It sounded like jealousy to me.

Jealousy over better T-scores at PSLE, and subsequently enrolment at better schools need no elaboration. A mother whose child got into a good girls' school insisted that her child's school was on the same footing as the top girls' school, and constantly compared the two girls' schools and concluding that both were similar in their academic achievements also tells me the mother was jealous of my child getting into a better school despite being better in her T-score than her daughter's by fewer than 10 points.

It was not a conscious effort to type out a list of similarities between P1 registration and PSLE. Perhaps it is because I had gone through PSLE 1.5 years ago. Coupled with the intense P1 registration I went through this year, I have fairly strong feelings about both processes. The list just came out like that as I typed, one point after another.

Both are high-stake processes which parents who bother about their children's studies would be very concerned with. My wish for these processes would be that there could be more sharing and genuine opinion to be given when asked, the way you hope someone else would share with you or give you when you solicit for help or opinion. Both processes are stressful on their own. We really don't need to create enemies or competitors out of our acquaintances or friends while going through them. But judging from the fact that most of us can't be happy for another when another does better or have a better situation, I think we have a long way to go.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

A Misunderstood Job

I was reading newsfeed on Facebook when an educator friend posted a poster reading:

I have been a lousy friend because I have been busy being an awesome mother.

Her sister posted a sarcastic comment.

My friend tried explaining her exhaustion: after school, she had to attend a workshop till 5pm, then rushed to pick up her younger kid before going home to cook dinner. After that, she had to revise work with her P6 daughter. Her legs were swollen and hadn't the time to rest.

Her sister commented that she was a 'complaint queen'. The 'hero' in me acted up again and I commented that I wouldn't have done all that she did because so many hours at work would have tired me out.

Her sister retaliated by saying that my friend had 'company' and that she hadn't taken a leaf out of their teacher-mothers and grandmothers' book.

I left my comment saying that my sisters are also stuck in the days of their teachers.

Teaching, like motherhood, is such a misunderstood job.

People who are never teachers still see teaching as a half-day job that only requires you to sit in the class and talk to yourself, and after that, mark a little and go home at 1pm!

They thought that children these days are the same as their generation, fearful of teachers, quiet as mice in class.

They don't realise that their mothers and grandmothers didn't need to attend workshops and trainings or even meetings after school.

They don't realise that teaching is a lot more demanding these days.

They don't realise the teachers of yesteryears didn't need to do EPMS, SEM, CIP, TRAISI, Weekly lesson plans, Reflection, detailed lesson plans, lesson observations ... Those teachers probably haven't seen or heard of those terms even, and these are just random terms and things that I just plucked off my head!

For curiosity's sake, I did a count on the number of teachers I have on my Facebook. 20 out of 45, excluding the 2 that were pending on Friends' Request.

And I counted the number of teachers who have left the service. 11. Out of these 11, 5 are mothers who quit as they could not cope with the demands of teaching and the load of motherhood. Interestingly, the other 6 are singles (still single) who were disillusioned or unhappy with the system. Most of them have switched to another field that has nothing to do with teaching.

I am left with 9 existing teachers on my Facebook. Out of these 9, only 1 seems to be genuinely happy with the charges under her. No surprise at all, as she is teaching gifted children in a top school.

I know, I know. I am too old to argue with someone outside the field about the job.

I have had my share of being criticised by my sisters like how my friend's sister did her.

I guess I am still protective of the job, like how I would stand up for motherhood when people with no kid try telling me how to teach mine.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Thoughts on the CHC Trial with Kong Hee at the Stand

I have read a few blogs that are 'shared' by CHC friends on Facebook. These personal blogs are maintained by CHC staff or members and they often have at least one entry to defend or state their support for the 6 accused who are charged for Criminal Breach of Trust.

I was reading CHC Confession when someone posted another CHC member's blog that had similar sentiments, that she didn't know everything, but she still supported the accused because the church was her life.

Because it was written by an ordinary member who didn't obtain monetary benefits from the church, I was moved to write a comment to her, and I think it generally sums up how I feel as the trial unfolds:

Use your heart to recall and try to link what Pastor Kong said in the past and now, at the pulpit and in court. Do they concur? Use your mind to decipher the vagueness of his words as he always employs. "I maintain my integrity! " Is being evasive and acting blur the way to maintain integrity? Is Kong a person to delegate finances and any matter totally to another without close supervision? If you have served in 2 ministries, they should have opened your eyes to the working style of the church, which is incidentally the style of Kong. He always demands excellence and accountability. And suddenly, he's become a rancher who doesn't know what's going on in the church he fathers for about 25 years?

Think about it.

Just as the bad he does doesn't erase the good he did, the good he did doesn't erase the bad he does.

Are you supporting something you are in full knowledge of, or what you hear from the leadership and the pulpit? Isn't it just common-sense to make informed decisions (if you decide that you don't need to know everything)?

When the case just broke out a few years ago, I recall someone scrutinise the statistics on CHC website and deduced that only a very small percentage of the money went into the community service. Conversely, a large percentage went to the salaries of the staff. If you think that CHC has reached out to many via community service, think about the poor woman who gave all she had compared to the rich who gave more than her. What did Jesus say? "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others." And Pastor Kong said Jesus wants us to give all, not a small fraction of what we have.

I won't comment on CHC staff's blogs bcos no matter what they say in defence of the leaders, they have vested interest in it. I probably would defend them too if I were a staff. It's a no-brainer. But for you as an ordinary member, I just want to share with you in the capacity of an ex-member who left CHC before you joined the church, that you should think more about the words that Kong uses. I have respected him, loved him, supported him, admired him (with no crush involved as he was 10 years older and wiser), but it is a fact that he has served another god. Just look at the way he spent the money member took pains in giving. How do you justify him admitting to not giving to the Building Fund while urging members to give earnestly? How do you explain him not tithing to the church when tithe-and-pledge is such an important part of the church? What does it say about his integrity when he wrote a cheque on stage and struck it off without anyone's knowledge? He said not tithing is tantamount to robbing God. How long has he been robbing God?

My dearest friends come from CHC. We may not be close now but I will always be grateful for the friendships I found in CHC. I will always be grateful for the love and forgiveness I found there, and I am thankful for Pastor Kong who founded the church. I probably even owe my proficiency in English, in part, to CHC. However, if he has done wrong, he deserves the punishment. And the trial so far has revealed his wrongdoings over a prolong period of time. His so-called mistakes are deliberate, not accidental. I hope the difference between the two speaks something to you.

I can't change what you want to believe, just like how I can't and won't attempt to persuade my CHC friends, of a few who are also staff of CHC. I just hope you can open your heart and mind to the things the trial has revealed, the contradictory words Kong has spoken over the years eg. didn't spend a cent on Sun's albums vs the members are aware that money goes into producing her albums, must tithe but he himself doesn't. Judge for yourself, for your own sake.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Westgate Wonderland

Even before it was officially open, I took Baby to Westgate Wonderland early this year, in January.

It was extremely child-friendly and fun!

The happy, welcoming entrance:

Just do a gentle slap on the insect prints and you get a nice 'ding' or 'dong'. 
Adults are equally, if not more, fascinated by the pretty tulips that glow when melodious sounds are produced.

A few insects for play on display
The caterpillar steps that has since been removed
A pumpkin rocking swing

for which kids queue in sync
A tiny rock-climbing wall that made her raise a white flag

A pink and pretty playground
that got her brave her fears of climbing web-like ropes

just for the thrill of sliding to the ground
A treehouse playground

Climbing down the ropes is such a feat, but nothing stops one who truly wants a kick!

Saw some secondary school kids dashing through the playground though
The 3rd playground: didn't realise it was a cracked flower pot till I walked farther from it!

Children's ultimate delight: the wet area

Without swimwear, she dives straight into the area

Comes complete with a changing room and a blow-dry room!


The Wonderland is definitely worth going. If you had noticed, Baby was in different clothes in the above pictures. We were there 3 times within a month, if not a fortnight, I believe! However, it gets really crowded on the weekends, so if you are a SAHM, do go on a weekday. Of course, bring along a set of swimsuit and towel! And did I mention that admission is FREE?

Where to go:
Westgate Shopping Mall
Level 4

Alight at Jurong East MRT and follow the sign to 'Westgate'.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

A Teary National Day

Friday was the day all schools celebrated Singapore's 49th birthday.

Mine did too.

I have never felt special about National Day, but this year, tears welled up in my eyes as I sang 'Home' as the last song sung before the kids were dismissed.

Images of my childhood and friends who converted came to my mind. I thought about what one of those friends said about why he converted,"There's no benefit (being a Malaysian)." The other reason being he felt that Singapore was a land of opportunities compared to Malaysia. He did hold back for a good number of years though. He came to Singapore to work when he was 19. He only became a citizen when he was in his 40s, for the sake of his children. His son was an outstanding pupil in a well-sought after school in Choa Chu Kang and he emerged the top pupil last year. Throughout his primary school years, his teachers had wanted to nominate the child for various awards but they could not since he was not a citizen. One of the teachers actually called the mother and asked why they did not convert. I think he did convert for good reasons.

Why haven't I converted?

I don't know.

I have blogged about why I don't convert, but really, I don't have practical or pragmatic reasons not to convert.

Do I love Singapore? I do. It's where my home is. It's where my heart is. When I was in Paris, I was in love with the beauty of Paris but I missed Singapore. I missed the nice people, the chicken rice, the hot sun. I can't imagine living elsewhere. It's where my memories are.

I was moved when the kids joined in at the chorus of 'Home', when they didn't have the lyrics!

I was a little shocked when the Second Boss was asked to lead in the song. I was doubly shocked when she gladly obliged and sang loudly. I was worried for her that when it came to the chorus, it would still be her singing alone, but it totally surprised me.

What spontaneity!

When you listened and watched these kids sing, you saw their simple and pure pride for the nation. I think we could even say 'love'. The song that they didn't have lyrics for, they sang the loudest, and proudest.

I was not just impressed. I was moved.

I held back my tears.

I didn't know that people do cry on National Day until I saw the posts on Facebook.