Wednesday, 26 December 2012


I woke up feeling queasy and bloated. Must be the result of over-eating these two days.

The only feeling that came to my mind was 'horrible'.

Then it came.

I dashed to the toilet bowl, and bits of liquidfied lamb leg trickled out my gullet forcefully, coupled with a bitter smell and taste.

Given vomit and diarrhoea, I'd choose diarrhoea anytime.

Stomach feels slightly better after that. Slightly not-so-horrible.

I will try never to over-eat ever again, even if the food is awesomely good.

Friday, 21 December 2012

A new chapter of her life

Yesterday, we made our way to Coco's new school for registration.

I woke up at 6.15am without the alarm.

I rummaged Coco's wardrobe for the whitest and most spotless set of uniform to iron.

As I ironed her primary school uniform, it dawned on me that it was the last time she would ever wear it.

Melancholy and nostalgia flooded me.

I remember the first time she skipped off her school bus, and smiled perkily with a sparkle in her eyes, that her friends did not mind her milo stains from recess on her uniform.

I remember her disappointment that her favourite Chinese-cum-form teacher punished her by making her stand in the hall for not bringing her silent-reading storybook.

I tried to recall something from her P2 to P5 school life, and I realised they were all a blur.

I have been a working mother. I can't remember anything except the few incidents about teachers that I blogged. Was I ever involved in her studies apart from her PSLE year?

The melancholy was soon overtaken by the excitement of her embarking on her new journey.

I took the MRT and bus with Coco to help her familiarise with the way to school. That would be the second time I did it with her. The first time we did it was to buy her books, a few weeks before.

When we were there to buy books, the school compound was empty except for some girls who were back for their CCAs.

I thought the school looked bright and clean. And it was a fine school.

And that was it.

Yesterday, during registration, the whole secondary one cohort was there.

Girls from different primary schools formed the majority - of course. It seized me that these children were the top brains in their schools, no matter which school they came from. Be it top schools, or neighbourhood schools, they were all among the top one, two, ten or twenty in their own schools.

The realisation that this is a good school, the dream school of many children for years hit me. In the words of the principal,"Before today, you only get to see the exterior of the school. Everytime you drive past the school, you would wish your child is studying in here. And now it has come true."

It is Coco's dream school since P1. In fact, she got to know the school from other children in her class. Everybody wanted to come here, and she is one of the more privileged ones to make it.

While the pride of Coco's new school swamped me, another part of me worries.

For the worry wart that I am, I think I would worry wherever Coco went.

If she had gone to a neighbourhood school, I would be really worried that she gets into bad company.

Now that she is in a good school, I am worried that she can't catch up.

See, we bought the books a few weeks ago. Most children with the slightest ounce of diligence in them would devour the books, especially the literature books.

No leh. Coco had left them on her bookshelves, like she did not have them in advance.

After two months of holidays, Coco is still at the second chapter of Maths.

In William's words, she has gone from a 50% 250 (score) environment to a 100% 250 environment.

I know of a blogger-mother whose child went to a top girls' school with 252 and eventually did well, given that the child is a gepper.

The mother said that some who got 270+ were struggling while others in the range of 250+ were acing their exams.

I hope it applies to Coco. We have too little faith in her, and then we rationalise why we have little confidence in her. We put her down too often. We don't lift her up enough. We nit-pick on her 'best' and break down 'the best' and 'her best' for definition. We are not the most nurturing or encouraging parents.

Despite that, she still exceeded our expectations.

She went for a selection test for an Art elective programme yesterday. I told her she didn't practise enough and didn't google for ideas despite knowing what she would be tested. She just said this,"I did my best."

And I believe her this time.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Bathroom Reno Journey Starts

I am going to renovate my two toilets. For the sake of sounding more refined, I use 'Bathroom' for my heading.

Hunting for a good contractor is a tedious process.

Usually, I get some contractors or IDs to come down to my place to give me an assessment and an accurate quotation. From there, I can also find out things that I need to do in order to achieve what I want.

I am actually quite keen to get a contractor's contact from the carpenter who did up my study. Although he got the measurements wrong for the the hanging cabinet and my settee which resulted in us not being able to put what we had intended them for, I was pleasantly surprised to hear from a contractor that the workmanship of my book cabinet is good, and the carpenter had indeed charged me at almost cost price for the sliding door. For some reason, I felt comfortable with the carpenter. I just felt that I could trust him not to cheat me or run away with a job half-done. However, he has been very busy and did not get back to me despite reminding him once.

This time round, I sent out a request for reno quotes on Renotalk forum. I received about 16 replies. I have invited some of them to come down to quote me for my toilet jobs. However, I don't have very good feelings with most of them.

So far, I have met up with:

1) Michael from Mix Box
However, I felt that he was more like a contractor. He was not able to suggest anything aesthetic and functional at the same time, but quotation is relatively cheap and quite a nice guy. However, I am not comfortable at the fact that he only wrote out the quotation on paper on the spot. There are quite a few items I had not thought of, and he only wrote down the items he could remember off-hand! When I mentioned water-proofing, he said,"Oh, now you remind me of something I haven't included - water-proofing."

Goodness! That was like a red-light warning to me.

2) Chen Kai from Hoe Heng Interior Construction
A very young guy in his twenties. Relatively inexperienced but rather sincere compared to the other contractors, but very honest in his opinion. I am not sure exactly who is right, but according to him, boxing and tiling up pipes in the toilets are not allowed. However, most other contractors said they are fine.

3) Ken from Edgespace
I was quite keen on meeting him as I saw that the company's website had a few toilet designs that I had in mind.

However, he said that he would email me the quotation - without getting my email address from me!

4) Mr Goh
No namecard. No introduction. A very private and quiet man who looked sad to come to my place. Quite inflexible I thought. He was not able to understand my puzzlement at why certain things had to be done in certain ways.

However, he was the only one who got back to me by smsing me that he had bought my floorplan and would give me a quotation by email soon. Unlike Ken, he got my email address before he left.

5) Mike Tan from Chin Ang or Esprit Interior
A big-tummy guy. I had thought I had good vibes about him.

He was able to advise on the hows and the whats. He was the only one who told me I had to change just about all my pipes to stainless steel. He could also give me an idea of what to do, and where to hang my storage heater. He was the only one who cautioned me against using natural marble as it is porous and sucks up water and any liquid that is placed on it readily.

I was quite ready to hand him the project. However a few things bugged me:

- he arranged a second meeting with me the next morning to show me the designs he would draw up but smsed me at the last minute to tell me that he had a fever.

I gave him the benefit of doubt and agreed to meet the following Monday.

However, he called on Monday and asked if he could come at a later timing, claiming that he was in the eastern part of Singapore for his lorry's repair.

- he called and smsed me the next day after the first meeting, telling me that he had lost his phone, and that that was his new number.

Naturally, I became suspicious. You mean you lost your phone, but still have my number?

- when he called me to schedule for the second meeting, he asked me if I was somebody else. Then suddenly, without any prompting, he asked if I was me!

All these make me highly uncomfortable. They sound like what an unreliable contractor would do. And if I am going to feel so uncomfortable, I would have to let go no matter how cheap or 'reasonable' the charges are.

He is just about the only contractor who follows up very closely. He would sms or call me to check on whether I have made up my mind on who to give the project to.

He arranged for me to view his workmanship after I communicated my worry about poor workmanship to him. We were to meet up at two flats that were half-done last Saturday.

However, something happened again.

He called me in the morning to tell me that the owner of the first flat had chased all his workers out of the flat as he was going to pray to the dieties, so we could not go over.

That made me suspicious: didn't he say that the flat was not completed yet?

But fine, there was still another flat.

Then he called me in the afternoon to tell me that the second flat was handed over to the owner and that the owner had locked it up.

Well, I just said,"Oh ok ..." I was quite sure I was not going to engage him because I had told myself to strike him off the list if he found excuses to prevent me from viewing his workmanship.

But he managed to source for a flat done up about 3 months ago and we viewed the common toilet.

I was not impressed with the grouting. Some of them were white while others were grey, like my kitchen grouting which I had done myself!

And something he said made me very uncomfortable,"This (wall) tile cost $3-something."

I was thinking,"You mean I have to pay more for this tile?"

And it made me reflect on the vague quotation - without specifications, measurements, type of materials used. Although he had told me there was no hidden cost, I don't want to get caught in the situation where I needed to top up because of the vagueness of the quotation.

6) Alan from Aian
Highly recommended by a few Renotalk members. A soft-spoken man, he gave me a quotation a few days after I smsed him a reminder. I am quite keen to engage him as his price is comparable to Mike - without the mirrors and boxing-up of pipes.

7) Mr Lou
A down-to-earth and seemingly honest man recommended by renotalk members. William was impressed that he closed the windows at the platform for us so that the rain did not wet the wood.

However, I was quite worried with the 'miscellaneous jobs' on his quotation and he was quite sure that he would build shower kerbs instead of the drop-down I prefer.

Some other ID firms which gave me quotations without meeting up:

1) Inspire by D'trenzo
The quotation is the highest among everybody's, excluding quite a few things I wanted to do - $13k.

On top of that, the parent company D'trenzo has a bad reputation among the renotalk forummers. So the answer is obvious.

2) Sky Creation
The quotation priced the works at close to $9k, excluding many things I wanted to do.

The quotation came very fast - 90/100 for their efficiency, but the service attitude did not sound great to me,"We can do it for less than $10k - what you had asked for ... Huh? You want us to go down to your place ah? Can you come down to our Ubi showroom tomorrow to see our workmanship? ... You want a quotation ah? Ok lah, later I got time, I do and send to you lah ..."

Haven't even met up, already so ya-ya. I can't imagine what would happen after I pay them a deposit.

3) Andrew from Designer Guys

Also highly recommended by Renotalk forum, we had arranged to meet up, but he had something 'urgent' to attend to and he emailed me a quotation after I specified what I needed to do. Wah ... the highest of them all: $17k for two toilets, without any sanitary ware.

4) Jiawei

Got his contact via a renotalk member whose house is tastefully done. However, his price seemed to be on the high side. He merely mentioned that hacking and tiling would be already more than $4000. And he did not seem to be willing to meet up. I tried arranging the meet-up at least twice and each time he could not make it.

After this arduous journey of trying to find a good contractor, I feel that this industry is quite similar to the photography industry - everything also hush-hush. And worse, it is largely unregulated besides having HDB officers coming down to check if you have done anything 'illegal'. No one is able to help you for poor workmanship, or if the contractor or ID decides to run away with your money and leaving you with undone or half-done jobs.

I always take a long time to think about the designs and colours I want. And I worry alot about whether the contractors would do a good job. After a horrible experience 7 years ago, it is enough to frighten me for a lifetime. The lousy works stay with you for a long time, so I don't want to repeat that awful experience ever again.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Her First Set

She chose pink and blue combi for her first set of braces! I'd preferred her to get just pink, but well, she is a big girl now, and has her own preference, so pink and blue it is!

She had some problems with eating solid food for the first few days, so I got her scallop porridge for her meals. She liked it though, claiming that it was delicious.

It was a good thing that she got used to wearing braces quite fast. She could eat the usual solid food after a few days. However, I need to urge her to brush her teeth after every meal. If not, she will try to get away with not doing it!

Pay the Price for Blogging

I had not been able to post any pictures because apparently, I had used up the "free 1 GB storage" provided by blogger.

Whenever I tried to post an image, a message that reads:

"Whoops! You are out of space. You are currently using 100% of your 1 GB quota for photos. Upgrade storage."

It seems that the photos I post on blogger are stored in a Picasa Web Album. So I went to the Web Album, and deleted some of my photos, thinking that that would free the space up. Surprise, surprise - the photos on my blog got deleted too!

After a lot of emotional and mental struggles, and the attempt to open another blog dedicated to travelling (since the bulk of the images come from there), I finally decided to just purchase the additional storage space for USD 2.45 per month for 25 GB. Sigh! Who says money can't buy happiness? When even $3 is a consideration ('What if I stop working and have problems with the subscription? What if something happens and I need that $3 per month?"), it's misery.

Feel so cheated by blogger lah. I don't remember reading anything about pictures posted having limited storage space and you need to buy the space if it runs out.

Monday, 3 December 2012

A Surprise with an Afterthought

Last night, when we returned from my birthday dinner at Lawry's, a pleasant surprise awaited me in the mailbox.

Coco got an 'Edusave Certificate of Academic Achievement' for 'being in the top 25% in terms of academic performance in the level and course and good conduct in school'.

It is the first time she ever received a certificate like this.

Top 25% in her school.

If you minus the GEP children in the cohort, she would be among the top 22 students in the mainstream.

I can't help but wonder if she would have got this certificate in her other years at school if I had not been a teacher.

Or maybe she was among the top 25% in her school at P1 and P2, or even P3, just that she was penalised for her conduct because I had been, admittedly, quite a 'difficult' parent by most teachers' definition.

Such things are by teachers' recommendation.

She didn't do very well at P4, a supposedly easy year. In fact, she did better at P5, which is 'strange', because most kids' results dip or plummet at that year.

But I was just thinking, if I had not ignored her academic progression, if I had stayed home and supervised her in her studies, if I had not been so stressed up and busy with teaching, could she have been among the top 25% all the time?

I was 'inspired' to take leave from work when an adjunct colleague told me that her children in a neighbourhood school would never have been able to get above 260 for their t-scores if she had not stayed home for their primary school years. Another colleague 'affirmed' this when she took a 3-month break from work and stayed home to 'be there' for her child before PSLE. The child hit 250, enough to get her into one of the better girls' school. The colleague didn't take leave for the second child though, at the request of the child herself. And she didn't do as well as her elder sister.

Time and again, parental involvement, especially the mother, seems to be the key to a child's academic excellence.

I just felt a little melancholic that the fact that we are not well-to-do enough to allow me to stay home for the kids, or my job is not one that allows me to spend time supervising and teaching my own kids. When I work, I basically ignore my own kids, not that I want to, but it is just that busy and preoccupying. I am called 'Ms Efficient' at work, but the amount of work is simply too much.

If 6 months spent with Coco can help her that much, I can imagine how much help I would have been to her if I had stayed home throughout her schooling years.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

An Encounter with the Malaysia Insolvensi

I have always said that Malaysia is my biological parent while Singapore is the foster.

Sometimes, I watch on TV about how a fostered or adopted child desperately seeks out his or her natural parents, just to realise how crass or materialistic the natural parents are, and feels awfully disappointed.

I would tell myself that this would never happen to me. I was, after all, making an analogy about the parentage thing. And for Malaysia to disappoint me? Come on! HA HA HA!

Recently, it happened to me.

My father bought a shophouse as a gift to my mother about 20 or 30 years ago.

He had bought a few properties in his better days. When his business hit a downturn, he sold them off to support his business, except the shophouse for my mother - because my mother refused to sell it for whatever reasons.

My father was sure that he had paid off the bulk of the housing loan, which stood at RM 90k then, but last year, when he tried to get the title deed of the house from the authority after he learnt that the developer went bankrupt and the Malaysia insolvensi took the house back, the lawyer representing him claimed that the authority wanted documentary proof that he had paid for the house. My father is not the most meticulous person where finance is concerned. He did not keep all the receipts he received for paying off the housing loan, but he did not think that was a case for concern. The incompetent lawyer sent in whatever receipts my father could find and came back telling him that he still owed the authority RM 58k.

Enraged, my father refused to pay the RM 58k.

Subsequently, without any written warning, the insolvensi sent two letters terminating my father's contract, stating that the house was now confiscated by the insolvensi! And if my father wanted to get the house back, he would need to pay RM 140k, the market price, instead!

One shock after another.

I spoke to the lawyer's clerk since June this year, because apparently the clerk was handling the matter.

I told her that we were willing to pay cash upfront and we would like to negotiate on the price - to be reduced to RM 110k.

When I called again in September, after the clerk took too long to revert to us, the clerk said that the insolvensi had agreed to it.

About a month ago, we paid the deposit of RM 11k within three days. In fact, we knew about it on Friday and sent the cheque down on Monday. They promised to call us in two weeks' time and we could have the house after paying the remaining sum.

We waited for more than a month.

I called again last week.

What I heard outraged all of us.

The clerk now said that the insolvensi had not cleared the cheque. They received a new bid for the house and that the new bidder was willing to pay more for the house. So if we wanted the house, we had to pay RM 140k, the 'market price'!

My elder sister was sure that it was a property agent's tactic: to show the cheque to potential buyers and ask them for higher bids if they want the property.

My father was upset that the insolvensi did not keep to what they had promised and had refused to issue a black-and-white to confirm the offer.

It totally changed the way I view Malaysia, my biological parent.

Like how those children in the drama serials feel, I am awfully, awfully disappointed. 'Disappointed' is an understatement. I am disheartened, disgusted.

It is clearly a case of corruption.

Could the drama serials a foreshadowing of what I was to experience?

I discussed with my father about the matter and we decided that we would give up the house if they would not sell it back to us at RM 110k.

If they had stood their ground and insisted on selling it at RM 140k at first, we would not have been so agitated. If the price had been non-negotiable, we would have paid the price.

But the insolvensi is behaving like a profitable organisation - whoever bids at a higher price is the keeper.

The house belongs to my mother in the first place.

In fact, they are withholding RM 22k which my father has receipts for to confirm his ownership on the house.

We have already confirmed that we want the house, paid the deposit for it. How can they say that there is no black-and-white to say that they are selling the house to us at RM 110k?!!

And isn't the lawyer our witness? How can a government organisation not honour what it had promised? How can it get away with all these?

You mean the country is lawless ah?

Totally ridiculous! Singapore's authorities will never do this, even if it's just spoken words.

As a child, I had heard from my aunt how corrupted the police were. Our neighbour's son was a police. Every night, when he went back to his police quarter, he and his team-mates would peel open the squashed notes surreptiously, inconspicuously thrust into their hands during their duty in the day, and divide the loot among themselves equally. These notes were also known as 'kopi money' for bribing the police into not taking the offenders to law. Sometimes, the police extorted money outrightly from locals or Singaporeans who drove Singapore cars in by threatening to charge them for an offence they did not commit.

Eventually, the acts pricked his conscience and the neighbour's son decided that he had had enough, and quit the job.

Like most other children, I naively asked my aunt,"Then why didn't he stop collecting the bribes? He could continue to be a police - an upright one!"

She replied,"Then the rest of his team-mates would wallop him, thinking that he wanted the bribes all for himself."

I had thought that such dark corruption would have ceased in this day and time.

Apparently, such practices are too rife, too rampant, too uncontrollable, such that even in this modern time, the government appears to give consent to them.

Like a wife who's betrayed by her husband, disgust and shock overwhelmed me.

I feel so stupid and lame to have stopped my brother in converting to being a Singaporean. What has Malaysia got to offer for us to retain our citizenship? Any faith I have in its governance is completely shattered by my encounter with the insolvensi, which is supposed to deal with bankruptcy. How ironical it is for such authority to want to take advantage of the situation!

The inefficiency, the ineffectiveness, the inability to converse or exchange in a global language - I reserve my judgement on these. But blatant corruption? I have nothing but an f-word for it.

Twisted Ankle

When I first saw a thread on a forum titled 'Twisted ankle', I thought it was just a case of bad English, until I experienced it myself.

'Twisted' is right.

About 3 weeks into the school term earlier this year, I was in the school hall getting ready for the flag-raising ceremony when my Science boss asked me for a document.

Boss: Do you have the (document) with you?

Me: Oh, it's not with me right now ... er ... (I think) it's at my cubicle. Do you need it now?

Boss: Yes. Is it on your table? I'll go and get it.

Me: (Not so sure, worried about Boss not able to find at my messy table and watching the time for flag-raising) Oh, no no no. I'll go get it.

Boss: No no no ... it's ok. I'll get it.

Me: No no no, I'll get it ... Ow!!! ...

It sounds comical and funny when I recount what happened to my friends and family, but the pain wasn't.

I twisted my ankle when I was making my way out from the hall. I did not see the drop from the hall's timber-strip flooring to the corridor's concrete walkway. And the fact that I was wearing heels didn't help.

The pain was acute. I froze for a minute. 

After that, I limped for the rest of the day, and a few days after.

The doctor gave me one or two days' mc and some painkillers and pills for reducing swelling.

I thought: give it a week or two and see how.

There was a slight but persistent pain on the ankle after that, which caused me to continue to limp. I thought: give it a month or two and see how.

It got a little better, but the pain comes back in the morning. In the afternoon, it gets better but on and off, the pain comes back to haunt me.

After PSLE and I had more time on my hand, I went to see a renowned Chinese physician, Cha Heng Choy, who has a PHD in what he does, highly recommended by my school gardener and netizens.

He said that it's an injured ligament. After 7 sessions of massaging or 'tui na' of my ankle, sometimes causing swelling because he rubbed very hard on it, it didn't get better still. In fact, after spending $210 on the massaging, I think it got worse. The pain was more frequent.

So I went to the polyclinic yesterday, waited for 4 hours for consultation, and 1 more for x-ray review, hoping to get a doctor's confirmation that I was being paranoid, and that it would just take a slightly longer time to heal.

The doctor suspected that it was an injured ligament, but the x-ray showed that there was a blurred area in my joint at the ankle. The doctor was not able to tell me much, except that there was a 'defect' at the ankle joint, and referred me to a specialist at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

What a depressing present to receive on my birthday! I felt like crying.

I asked if a surgery would be necessary, but the doctor was not able to advise me much. She said 'sometimes, physiotherapy is enough'. I think she was just trying to make me feel better.

I am quite worried that I can't wear heels when school reopens. I am going back to work and I don't want to look like I need 'special' treatment for whatever reasons.