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From Blog to Book.



Chapter 1 2007




Kevin - the generous (2007-01-29 23:18)

Kevin, my son, started Primary 1 this month. He is all of 6 years old ! Everyday, I would drop him off at KidzClub, the childcare, in the morning, and then a bus will come and bring him to school at about noon time. On the second day of school, I asked him when I picked him up that evening, as I do everyday - "What did you eat in school, today ?". Everyday he gets $1 to spend during break time. That day he said, "I had prata". (an Indian bread). Then he said, "My friend, Daryl, was hungry because he didn’t have money to eat, so I bought him some prata too". I told him he shouldn’t go around buying other kids food. But he said "Daryl was hungry". A few days later, when I asked him what he ate, he said "I forgot to bring my wallet today, but Daryl bought prata for me". Man, I was so ashamed and proud at the same time. Looks like my son is growing up .... 3


Kevin - the wise (2007-01-29 23:24)

One evening, as we were walking back from school, Kevin said "it is good to be small in school, you know why ?" "Why ?", I asked. "Because, if you are small, you can stand in front in the queue, during school assembly". When he younger, he was a difficult feeder and is short compared with his cohorts, but it looks like he is finding something good about that.... I wished I could be contented with life too.


Kevin - the clever (2007-01-29 23:31)

Last week, I was late and had to rush to work for a call, so I didn’t bring Kevin inside the Kidz Club (child care) as I normally do. "Do you know how to ring the bell and go in ?", I asked. The Kidz Club’s entrance had a door that opens outwards, and normally the auntie inside would open the electronic door latch remotely from inside the apartment, leaving the parent or the kid to twist the door knob, pull on the door to go in. Kevin, somehow, never figure the bit about pulling on the door after turning the door knob, so that evening I asked him, "Did you manage to go into the Kidz Club this morning". He said cheerfully, "Easy, I waited till another kid came, and we went in together". I felt bad about it. If only I had half of his patience. I bet that I would be jumping if that happened to him, and blame dad for not opening the door for me. But his lack of that expectation really made me ashamed. I will have to practice him on the door. 4


Kevin - the cheerful (2007-01-30 00:00)

I started my post-grad in Applied Physics 2 weeks ago. So every Tuesday and Thursday evenings, for the next 2 years will be spent in NIE. One thing I know I will miss is that I would not be picking up Kevin from school, my sister-inlaw does that, I believe on those days. I can visualize the students trooping out at about 6:35pm. Shu Hui, Kevin’s cousin would come out of school first, and then wait patiently for Kevin to come out of the school hall. Then she would "drag" him along towards home. It’s amazing, she is only 9 months older than Kevin, but she seems years more matured. We live near the school, so we will walk home. Shu Hui, would be pulling Kevin by the hand, while he waves merrily to all his friends as he passes them. While he walked the 10 minute walk homewards, he would be skipping every now and then. He seems so small in his uniform which was the smallest size, and even smaller with his school bag on his back. I wondered how my mother or father had felt so many years ago when I was in primary school. Were they as proud as I am now ?


Kevin - the compassionate (2007-01-31 18:00)

Kevin was about 4 years old. One day while we were walking to the car (going home from childcare), I let him have a sweet which he got for a birthday celebration. 12 kids in his group, so lots of birthdays. As he was walking to the car, he dropped his sweet. He looked very worried and asked, "Is the sweet happy ?" "Will it go to heaven ?" 5

A few days later, a dead insect on the floor. Same question. "Is the insect happy ?". His dead hamster. "I don’t want the hamster to die". "Is the hamster in heaven ?" As we grow other, most of us seemed to have lost this compassion for anything other than ourselves. Is the sweet happy ? "Yes, " I said, ".... because you cared"


Kevin - the lover (2007-01-31 23:04)

"I like Tiffany" declared my 4 year old one day. "Can she come to my house ?" "Why do you like her ?" "Because she lets me copy the spelling (test)" Girl friend #1 didn’t last very long before "I like LingYan". "Why" "Because she is pee-ty" "Can I call her ?" Yesterday, the same Primary 1 kid. "Can I call LingYan ?" He did. After a minute, the conversation was over. He went back to playing with his Lego (that’s another story), and seemed to have forgotten all about her. I am waiting to see what will happen next. His "girl friend" is in a different class in the same school, and doesn’t seem to share his enthusiasm for the relationship. Does that matter ? Not to a kid. I hope that girl friend number 3 will come soon. And that she will not be a head taller than he. And she’ll have her front teeth. 6




Kevin at the day care (2007-02-05 18:05)

This morning as I listened to the strains of "It’s a small world" playing outside the house, probably from a kid’s "musical" bike, I thought of the Kevin’s graduation concert from kindergarten last December. Children seemed to have very short memories. For weeks before that he was practicing to sing that song in Japanese. "My auntie Wai Ling taught us the song". Now Auntie Wai Ling is a distant memory. So are all his friends from his group - those who went on to other schools. He was very philosophical when it comes to people "dropping" off the group. "Masahiro went back to Japan". Auntie somebody stayed at home to look after her baby. Personally, I have a lot to thank the people at the childcare center. Most memorable of whom is the formidable Auntie Catherine whose claim to being able to see her charges even after day care, worried Kevin for a long time. "Can Auntie Catherine see me now with her bionic eyes ?". "Yes, you better be good, or Auntie Catherine will punish you on Monday". It was the childcare center that toilet trained him when he first went there barely 30 months old. It was also one evening after the childcare, that Kevin declared "throw away my pacifier", and amazingly enough, that was the last we saw the pacifier in his mouth. For 3 years or more, it hung from his mouth, and even when sleeping he would still be sucking on it. I suspected that he must have been shamed into getting rid of it by his friends or teachers. But what resoluteness for a 3 year old ! If that worked for people trying to quit smoking, the childcare could be rich ! And sometimes I envied the teachers at the childcare. Because they have seen more of Kevin than any of us at home. We have relied on the "kindness" of strangers to teach our kid basic lifeskills. Is that right ? 7


Kevin - the brave (2007-02-06 21:23)

"Is the ’oo-oo’ outside ?" is a frequent enough question asked at night when Kevin was younger. The ’oo oo’ was the result of a frustrated father trying to put his 3 year old to sleep. Picture this. 10pm and the kid is NOT sleeping. A dog howls outside the window. ’Oooooooo’. "You hear that ? That’s the oo-oo monster. If you don’t sleep, he is going to come and sleep with you". He closed his eyes quickly and crawled under the bed cover. Works !!! Bad daddy.... A few days later, the "moon doggie" is borned out of a similar need. Today, at 6 years old, Kevin still speaks with hushed tones about the "moon doggie" and the "oo-oo" as if they are real, and swears to having seen them. I hope that when it came his time to put his own kids to sleep, he will be more creative than I have been, and not have to enlist help from imaginary monsters. And I hope that he will be slaying his monsters in life instead of hiding from them.


Kevin - the spelling bee (2007-02-12 20:23)

What does it take for a child to want to get a perfect score all his spelling tests ? Every week for almost 2 years ? Frankly we don’t know but that is what our son managed to achieve. When he was in K1 and K2 (kindergarten), students were given 12 words each week and a test on Thursday. Each Thursday, when I pick him up at the end of the day, he would say "today, 8

my spelling all correct". There were a few days where he said he got some words wrong, but almost all of those occasions turned up to be false alarms, and on Friday when he got the test results back, there will be the familar "Excellent" and 3 shiny stars pasted on his test. Mind you, Kevin is far from being a scholar. In fact, he couldn’t count beyond 10 till K2, and can’t tell between his left and right shoes till he was in Primary 1. Could it be the Lego Bionicle toy that would sometimes await him if he got perfect scores ? Or was it Tiffany who helped him ? I would like to think that maybe spelling is his "thing" in life. There are things in life that come to us easily, and somethings that we simply don’t get. May he find his calling in life, and cruise through it like his spelling tests in kindergarten. Meanwhile, I can’t wait till he learns how to string all those words he knows into something meaningful. But I am sure he will do fine, afterall his old dad couldn’t even spell "one" when he was five !


Kevin - the gracious (2007-02-15 19:32)

When is a child not a child any more ? When he realizes that he doesn’t need to take it from the parent any more ? Do they learn something to be an adult ? I arrived one day at the child care slight after 2pm, made my way to the back of the room and found 2 sorry looking kids standing at the corner. I believe it’s his buddy - Zheng Wen and Kevin. They looked like they just finished their bath. Reminded me of 2 puppies with their tails between their legs. The other kids were playing. Aunty Catherine volunteered "Your son was very naughty, ......". Next morning, Kevin said, "I don’t want to go to school". Why ? "Because Aunty Catherine so bad, don’t let Zhen Wen and I play fighting". An adult will probably say "I was totally humilated", but to a child the loss of playtime was all he remembered. And I know a child knows "MINE". "Don’t let small chieh chieh (his cousin, ShuHui) play my toy ok ?". But 5 minutes after that is uttered, he could be playing with the same chieh chieh, directing her how the his Pokemon "kraks" should be handled. I believe I know the answer to the question I posed at the beginning. It is when a child sense of "I" becomes so developed that he starts to stop doing kiddy things because "I" and "my" considerations. So is that what an adult is - bigger ’I’ ? Well, I like kids with the little ’i’.... 9

1.3 1.3.1

May Kevin - pretend duck (2007-05-22 20:26)

It’s funny how things come around. My son arrives home one day and asked me how to make a the sound with the arm pit. He stuck his palm under his arm, and started flapping frantically. I can’t help but laughed and remembered how it was - so many years ago in primary school I was trying to do the same. I tried explaining how to cup the palm and squeeze the air out to make the sound - disgusting probably. For many days after that, Kevin was walking around trying to get a sound out of his uncooperative armpits, and then eureka ! One evening he came back and showed me his new skill. He could make the sound with his armpit AND his knee joint as well. Even today, some times during bath time he would do that. I wonder one day, in the future, he would be teaching his son to do the same thing. I hope that he will remember his old dad then..

1.4 1.4.1

June Mono Lake, Yosemite, CA (2007-06-26 19:37)

The drive yesterday up to Tuolumne Meadows and Mono Lakes wasn’t really planned. I would "blame" it on co-worker’s wife whom I met at the StepOne party, who said that the Southern 10

Tufas were "out of this world", but Mono Lake "was out of the way". I like challenges. Firstly the drive up 120 was nerve racking. I am a city driver. I can’t deal with roads that could take you a few 100 feet off a cliff if you were distracted ! The strawberries we got were great though. But $4 /gallon gas ! Ouch ! But I would say it was worth it. The scenery would be very different from what we see the next 2 days. I can almost imagine the glaciers on the meadows, with the rocks left behind, some perched at odd angles. The drive to our hotel at Cedar Lodge, at El Portal was long and tiring. It was getting dark and I actually got stopped doing above the 40mph speed limit. The park ranger let me off with a warning. I think he found out that I was on vacation in the US and didn’t want to spoil it. Thank you Mr Ranger, whomever you are. Doing the Route 140 at night was no fun too. We reached the hotel at about 9.30pm. No food was to be found anywhere. Had some stuff off the vending machine.


Yosemite Valley, CA (2007-06-26 19:41)

Never bring a kid on a hike ! Especially a city kid. I had to carry Kevin a lot of the time. We tried a hike to one of the smaller falls. According to the guide, it was an "easy" hike 1.5 miles ? Right, firstly, we didn’t realized that 1 mile out of that was uphill. We should have suspected something was amiss when we met people drenched on the way down while we were going up. But we soldiered on till Grace gave up. I went ahead and reached the falls. It was mostly an ego thing I think. How could I give up ? I hate failing, and that is one of my greater failings, I think. That hike sapped most of my energy that day, and I had a long drive to Monterey ahead. Americans are friendly people. At one point up the falls, I stopped for awhile, and somebody came up and asked me if I was alright. I must have looked bad. I can think of some places where they might not enquire about my well-being, and might clean me out instead ! On that day, if there was a report of a crazy skinny Chinese man that was running up the track to Bridalviel falls, that was me ! But the park was amazing ! We need to come back and stay longer next time. Man, I hope that Kevin will remember all the times I carried him on this trip... but I wouldn’t count on it. It is one of those parents thing. Besides, he didn’t asked to go on a "nature" trip. These first few days were the adults’. His time at the theme parks will come later. 11


Taft Point - Yosemite National Park, CA. (2007-06-26 19:45)

It had been a very long day. I drove from the valley and headed south towards Glacier Point where we were tempted to stay after learning that there will be a star gazing session later that evening at 8pm. However, that was not meant to be. When we reached the Taft Fissures, Kevin had a "stomach ache" and refused to walk. We got off the car and made the 1.5 miles (?) hike to Taft Point. It was worth it. To be separated by a frail looking railing from a 7000 ft drop brings a certain reality that is eerie. Not that it made any difference to a 7 year old. By the time we got back to the car, it was too late to make the trip up the Glacier Point, especially with Kevin’s condition. I can’t be sure if there was a "condition" or he just got tired of walking. But that prune juice in Ahwanee Hotel might have helped contributed some. Most of all, I suspect waterfalls and granite cliffs are not very exciting to a child. That night I made the 4 hours drive to Monterey Days Inn. It was a 1am by the time we checked in. Fortunately, I had the fore sight to call ahead when I made the reservations to tell them about our late check-in. Our keys were taped to the door outside. The person in charge picked up the call I made from the (locked) front door, and told me "see the toys on the floor beside the phone". "Look up". "See the keys taped on the wall ?". Strange but effective.


Monterey to LA (2007-06-26 19:50)

We woke up late that day. We had a tough night, driving from Yosemite to Monterey. I underestimated the trip, and on hindsight, we should have stayed somewhere near Yosemite and made the drive in the morning. 12

Monterey Aquarium was excellent. The sea nettles were not on display for some reason, but there was a new section "Living Art" that made up for that. I will always remember the first time I saw the jellyfish displays. Wall to wall display of living creatures that were so exquisite that they seemed unearthly. I am not so sure Kevin enjoyed any of that though. He was interested in a video of a archer fish eating up a fly or beetle, but not much of anything else. We left at about 3pm and headed down the 17 mile drive and then on to our next hotel at Morro Bay. The last trip we made here was rather rushed. This time we saw a lot more of the amazing coastline. However another piece of bad planning meant that I was driving on Route 1 in the night. We had dinner somewhere in Big Sur, and pressed on. The drive was to say the least tiring. Windy and lots of gradient - 35mph was considered a good speed most of the way. I was glad that I planned to be on the 101 the next day. We reached Morro Bay very late. Our second long night in a row. The next time we go on holiday, I must remember that I not be the planner. That way I don’t need to plan for a holiday to recover from the holiday.


Camarillo Outlets, Ventura, CA (2007-06-26 19:59)

We left our hotel in Morro Bay late morning. The town looked interesting but I know that the outlets are calling my wife. If anything can recharged our tired souls, this would be it. 100+ shops. And I was right, shopping is therapeutic. I bought some stuff that I never would have bought at home. What the heck ! If you are a tourist, everything seems fresh and appealing. Grace bought 2 bags - Coach and some other brand ! I can never understand the success marketing has on the "fairer sex" of our species. I see right through the crap the ads were, why can’t they do the same ? We left at about 5 and headed down to Universal City to collect our Southern California City Passes. But it was too late as the studio was closed, and we hanged around in Universal City looking at some of the shops, and then made the short drive to Anaheim, where we will stay for the next 4 days. It was a nice hotel - Hyatt. Got reservations from Hotwire at a pretty good rate. 13


Universal Studios, LA, CA (2007-06-26 20:10)

This was Grace’s and my second trip to Universal - the last visit being 7 years ago, before Kevin was borne. Must say that it was disappointing. Somehow the magic was lost. There were some updates to the attractions but it looked now very commercial, and I wondered what was the wonder we felt the last time we were here. Why should we care about a place that never existed, people whom played make believe in front of a camera ? Maybe it was shell shock after driving up Route 1 and Yosemite. We left the place early and went to DisneyLand for the evening. We also visited this the last time we came together to California. For me, the magic was also not there. We’ve been to Tokyo DisneyLand numerous times, and somehow it still felt good. Maybe driving 5 hours a day for the last 3 days was taking its toll on me. We did the Tommorrow Land attractions. Killing Buzz Lightyear’s enemies brought back a certain cheer to us. We went back to the hotel before the fireworks came on.


DisneyLand, Anaheim, CA (2007-06-26 20:21)

DisneyLand - the magic Kingdom. We came early as the CityPass allowed us "early entry". But was I surprised - it turned out that a few hundred other people also had the same privilege, and the car parks were not opened when we reached the gates at 7.30am. We queued for an hour for the Nemo submarine ride that apparently was just launched this week. Must say that only a die-hard fan would find the ride worth the wait. We didn’t see many Disney characters roaming the park like in Tokyo. And the queues were long, very long.. We did more of Tommorrow Land and then all the kiddy rides in the other 14

sections. Kevin was a "chicken" - almost everything was "very scarey". We did more of Buzz Lightyear, and decided to have dinner at Outback near our hotel. Our most relaxing day, yet. I had a scare that evening. After dinner, the whole world started swimming on me and I could bearly make it back to the hotel bed. I thought I was in big trouble. It was very sudden, like I was poisoned or something. Anyway, after a good night rest, everything seemed normal the next day. Any doctors out there ? What gives ?


Disney Adventure, Anaheim, CA (2007-06-26 20:22)

Another easy day. Disney Adventure was new for us. It wasn’t there the last time we were here. The "Soaring California" ride was great. Kevin was hysterical, for a different reason. He was laughing at all the legs of the people sitting above us, that were dangling above us during the ride. Well, little things for little minds, I guess. We drove around Anaheim. Stopped at Target and spend an hour or more there. More therapy for the adults. Went to Fry’s to try and get a Wii, but lucked out. They were sold out and would be in only the next morning, explained the sale guy. Unfortunately, tomorrow is something we take for granted, but there will be no tomorrow for us in Anaheim till the next trip to CA. Tonight will be our last night in Anaheim. We will be going to Lego Land tomorrow. 15


Zoo and Seaworld, San Diego, CA (2007-06-26 20:45)

As they say "all good things must come to an end". In this case, I was only just starting to relax after days of driving. After leaving Anaheim, we headed to San Diego Zoo. Not very exciting, I must say. The Singapore Zoo seemed pretty good as well - except that we don’t have Koala and Pandas. Guess our zoo keepers don’t have enough clout to get any of those. The tour guide, my alter ego, decided that we would take the bus tour, and then visit the Pandas and the Koalas and head to Seaworld. The photo shows us in the "top-less" tour bus. Seaworld was "ok". Again, the magic from the first trip wasn’t there. Memories sometimes play tricks on your minds, till the reality hits. Even the finale "Believe" seems a bit hackeyed. The killer whales were great ! But I remember now. We were sun-burnt the last time, and this time it was equally hot. My bare feet have this pattern of my sandals even now ! We reached our hotel early. It was near "Old Town" in San Diego, and we went there for dinner. Unfortunately it wasn’t very memorable. By the time we had a bath and went out, most of the shops and diners were closed. We managed to find a place to eat. Mexican aren’t really our thing, but we had no choice.



LegoLand, San Diego, CA (2007-06-26 21:33)

This was the highlight of the trip. Kevin loves his Legos. Another easy going day. The rides were more his age. We went on the ferris wheel. I made a bad choice and went for the moving carriages. The carriages will rock whenever the ferris stopped, I guess to pick up more people, and the first time it happened, Kevin was caught unaware and got thrown off the seat. After that, he freaked out and refused to get off the floor. Bad ride ! I was glad Grace made the investment in the Nintendo DS Lite. It kept Kevin busy most of the long drives. Unfortunately he likes it a bit too much, playing Chess with the computer whenever we had a break. We met this guy sitting in cafe. "How old is your son ?". "Six, going on seven". "He really likes playing chess, I hope my son can play chess when he reaches six". Hmmm... never thought of it that way. He is pretty special after all, our Kevin. Today will be our last day in California. Frankly I was looking forward to going home, for a rest from my vacation ! And the last drive to LAX was nerve racking since I was worried about hitting traffic. We got there with an hour to spare before boarding. Unfortunately, Grace and Kevin couldn’t get tickets on the same flight, they will be in the airport till 1am that evening.


Kevin - the poet (2007-06-28 21:10)

During the drive to LA, Kevin kept reciting this ditty in the car, and then would roll over laughing.

Early in the morning, 6 o’clock, Yuan Kai and his girlfriend went for a walk Sitting on a tree-top, eating curry-pok K-I-S-S-I-N-G What do they teach kids in school these days ! In my days it was Coconut, coconut, ABC (er, something, something ....), 123 Ahem, clearly it was a long time ago, and I may be irrelevant as an educator ! 17




Kevin starts reading (2007-07-16 20:10)

Last Saturday, I bought Kevin a book Ferno the Fire dragon (Beast Quest). I have been trying to catalyze his interest in reading for the longest time. I remembered my own experience oh so long ago. My sister bought me a book "The Elephant" at the ripe old age of 6 from a neighborhood Indian store (these stores are now all but gone - victims of the chains that came and took over the neighborhood, and in Singapore’s case - the entire country). I don’t remember ever reading anything before that, but that book started me on the most important skill I ever learnt - reading. After that I read everything in the house, and by a stroke of luck my cousins came to stay in our house and brought with them a set of encyclopedia - which I devoured. Curious enough, this book seemed to have captured his interest and he finished most of it the same day (115 pages), and asked for the next book in the series. I suspect it had something to do with the "dragons" theme, and the trading cards that came with the book. The next day I went and bought the entire series of 6 books. We had parked at a "coupon" carpark, and started walking to Borders. He had to run as I was walking fast (since I had a 30min coupon running). He was clearly very motivated to go get the books. I think I will long remember the sight of him running on his short little legs. I hope that I have given him a gift that will last him a life time, just like my sister did a long time ago. 18


Kevin - the Lego Master (2007-07-22 21:21)

When he was about 4 or 5 years old, Kevin started making these little figurines with his Lego blocks. He would say this was a dog or a bird, and I humored him. "Yes very nice, now go and make a car", I looked up from my notebook. Then one day, I noticed that he made a whole fleet of what seems to be airplanes and was running around, "flying" them. "Daddy, see my spaceships ?". "". A spaceship fired it’s laser on the another. Apparently, he had been paying more attention to his Bionicle VCD movies than I thought! What was interesting was that the "spaceships" were laterally symmetrical. There would be wings, spoilers, weapons and so on, and they were all properly located on each side of the "spaceship". I wonder if this idea of symmetry comes naturally to every kid. But he would go on to assemble many, many Bionicle figurines that were marked "7 or 8 years". He would not have the strength in his fingers to push some of the parts in, so he would ask for help, but other than that he assembled most of them himself, and asked for another one. Now almost 7 years old, he stopped making the little imaginary figurines. I sort of miss sitting or stepping on the pesky blocks as they lay scattered in the living room. Parents out there. Treasure those moments as they will be moving out of the house before you know it. And now, he would "bully" his grandpa into assembling the Bionicle figurines for him every Sunday, when we go visiting. I am hoping that he would transfer the same passion he has for Lego blocks to books. While I am proud of his mechanical bent, I think that applying himself to books would help him along more in life. But I guess that will be his choice. Still, until he develops that free will, he will be steered that way ! 19


Kevin - secret agent (2007-07-30 22:00)

"Bye bye dare dee", waves Kevin every morning as I dropped him off at the student care. This morning was different. He can’t wait to go tell his friends about the secret code he learnt from the new "Deltora Quest" book he was reading. It was right there, in the first chapter, a secret message that can be read only by people who know the code. Take out all the "el" in the message. He was fascinated by this, and wanted to write me a secret message at once with his new knowledge. I remembered my own excitement when I read about using orange juice as ink and then ironing the paper with a warm iron to look at the invisible message. Enid Blyton’s "Five Find Outers". So I wonder if every kid goes through this phase ? "I showed grandpa my secret message". "Grandpa don’t know how to read the message". "Yan Kai wants my book". "Everybody wants to know about the secret code". I guess he was the hero of the day, and he is going to finish the book to find other secret messages. Yes !

1.6 1.6.1

August Kevin’s letter to God (2007-08-06 19:28)

"Kids say the darnest things", so they say. Today, Kevin showed us a letter he wrote to God. 20

God I love you You are so clever that you can made everything You are very good to me that you can make me And could you send my parents and me to heaven. Thank you God. If there is a God and a heaven, we will take a rain check on that. Maybe in a few hundred years, okay ?


Kevin - spoilt little boy (2007-08-20 20:50)

A long time ago, two brothers and their father walked into a record shop. Yes, the 45s, 78s and the LPs - vinyls. I am not sure why they were there. Probably the father was there to check out a new record - one of his few indulgences, owning a record player. The boys flipped over the 45s, and one of the boys recognized a cartoon drawing on the record cover - The Archies. He had seen the cartoon on TV. He looked at it longingly, and puts it back. The father came by and saw the boy putting back record, and looked at it. He silently picked it up and went to the cashier to pay for it. The boy was surprised. He had never really gotten a present from his father before, at least he doesn’t remember receiving one that was bought. There was a wooden broad sword the father made for him. The father was good with wood and with his hands.... *************** That boy was me. I remembered playing the record again and again, and learning all the lyrics to the songs. I must have been about 10 or so. The Best of Archies was truly the only present that I remembered receiving from my father. We were not well to do, and we never asked for anything. Today, Kevin has boxes and boxes of toys. Some he played only once. Sometimes I worry. Are we spoiling the child ? I was never close to my father. But I miss him now. I hope I am bring up my son right as he did, bringing me up the best he knew how. Perhaps the toys Kevin has are a tribute to our parents - for all the toys I know they wanted us to have, if they could have afforded them. 21

1.7 1.7.1

September The willow tree in our garden (2007-09-02 07:59)

Yesterday, we brought Kevin to the doctor the school had referred him to. Apparently, during a routine checkup, they had found that he didn’t do well in his audiometry tests. After hearing how it was done, we won’t too worried. The tests required a child that followed instructions very well, signalling when he/she hears a tone. Knowing our child, we wouldn’t be too shocked if he did everything contrary to instructions. However, what was more worrying to us was that we saw it his health records that he was in the lowest percentile in his age group for his height. We knew he was short, but seeing it on a medical report is a very sobering experience. All parents, I guess, habor hopes that their offsprings would be smart, good looking and successful in life, and so on. Kevin looked to us puzzledly and said "small is good" when we showed him the height record, and went on running around the clinic. I now think he is right - not in that "small is good", but that there was nothing to worry about. Our willow tree in the garden grew up strong and tall. If I had pruned it a bit more while it was young, instead of worrying about the number branches it had, it would have even grown better. I think, while I would want to protect him from the world, I would not want to fight his battles for him. At least not too often. He will be fine, I believe. Just like the 30’ willow tree in the garden. ************* When we moved to our present house, I planted a 4’ or 5’ willow tree in the little patch of earth in front of our house we call our garden. It had to be transported back from a plant nursery where we bought it and you can imagine the fuss we went through, squeezing it into our car and driving home with it. Since Kevin was borned slightly after we moved into the house, that will make it sort of his "sibling". It was very fragile as willow trees went, but it did have a rather firm 1" trunk. I planted it at the front of the garden so that it will one day, I hoped, droop it’s willow branches down over the big drain outside the house (think river). I kept it in the pot it came in, knowing that one day it will outgrow it. That first year we had it, we had very windy seasons, which we don’t seem to get any more, on certain times of the year. I came back one day, to find the willow tree on its side; the winds had blown it over, and after that I tied a piece of wire to its trunk and tied the other end to the fencing. Even then, it go blown over a few more times over the next few months because the wire would break. Each time, I added stronger wire till it was right. Over a few years the tree grew and grew, and finally I decided that the pot that held it wasn’t necessary anymore and took a hammer to it. The tree stood in a pile of earth that came with the pot, and I realized that the tree had rooted itself through some holes in the pot and was quite strong. Even then, I left the wires in its trunk to hold it for another few months or so while it rooted itself firmly into the ground. The next thing I found was that the tree grew mostly vertically, and had very few branches. For years I didn’t know what to do about it, till a few weeks ago. Some of the lower branches were in the neighbour’s premises. So I decided to remove a few branches - the precious few that were growing unweildy and even had some kind of epiphyte growing on them.... Today, a few weeks later, I looked out our living room and looking at the willow tree, I found that where I cut the branches, many new young branches had grown. 22




Kevin the slob (2007-11-06 15:07)

Kids are funny ! Who would believe that the kids in the pictures are only 9 months apart. Kevin is in Primary 1 and Shu Hui in Primary 2. She was lucky (?), she was borned on January 1st and could enrol for school at age 5. Noticed how much more matured or bigger she looks ? Her T-shirt all nicely tucked into her shorts, while Kevin’s T-shirt hangs out. He is turning out to be the dressing slob that his father is !

One day, I hope they will look back and remember their school days back in Bukit Timah Primary School, when life was carefree, the road home was long and the world seemed so big. 23


A visit to the doctor (2007-11-15 11:22)

This morning I took Kevin to the doctor. A bad persistent cough that doesn’t seem to go away. As we walked back to the car, I held his hand and he described how Gladys was so smart being number 2 in class studies, and how he wants to be her friend. Kiddy worries. Do you remember when you last held your kid’s hand ? Well, cherish that feeling of the small hand in yours. A sign of absolute faith and trust in another being that perhaps will never be possible with anybody else. Don’t under-estimate the value of that trust. I think years from now, Kevin will be doing the same thing, walking with Kevin-junior and talking about kiddy fears and dreams. I don’t think those fears and dreams are any less real than adult ones. Just that as we grow old, most of us lose that sense of wonderment at "little things", and fall prey to other fears that are supposed to be more real. But I hope that he will remember the many walks we had then - especially to the childcare when he was even smaller.


Where are the bees ?

(2007-11-25 19:57)

"Where are bees ?", Kevin asked today. "What is he up to now," I wondered. He pointed to the bouquet of flowers on the table, and said, "I want the bees to suck the nectar". "So that I can eat the fruits later". "The bees are outside," I said. The next thing I know, the naughty boy was trying to move the bouquet of flowers outside ! I finally realized that he must be learning about pollination in school. Interesting. I lost that sense of wonderment at things like that a long time ago. Teachers, now no longer, are the custodians of wonderful knowledge to be applied. 24

And bees pollinating flowers are a given, or is it ? Innocence is a wonderful thing we have all lost in the name of growing up.

1.9 1.9.1

December Kevin and the tooth fairy (2007-12-16 01:48)

This week, Kevin lost one more tooth. At 7, he still has most of his baby teeth, rather amazing. Shu Hui lost most of hers already. He is missing one front incisor and a one lower one. I remembered when I started loosing teeth, I had a hard time with quite a few of them. I had to resort to pulling a few out with a string. When he lost his first tooth, Grace told him that the tooth-fairy will leave a coin under his pillow. This time round, nobody left the coin, and he woke up and started to ask "Where is the coin ?" I wanted him to keep believing in the tooth-fairy, so I told him, "Maybe the tooth fairy left it downstairs on the table". "We go and check later, ok ?". I went down before him and left 2 fifty cents coin on the table. "See, the tooth fairy left you some money", I said. "I know you put the money there. Grandpa told me the tooth fairy is one of the parent, you or Mommy", he said, and took the two coins quickly and reached on the store room ledge. I then realized that he has a hoard of coins he left there in a box. Hmm, kids aren’t that dumb after all. He had me all the while. He wanted the money, and never believed in the tooth fairy in any case.



Chapter 2





"I lost my notebook" (2008-01-12 13:33)

Yesterday, the first thing Kevin said to me as I picked him up from school was "I lost my notebook". He went on and on about how he went to "lost and found", general office to look for it, and how it wasn’t at Kidz club. Clearly it was pretty traumatic for him. I told him that he can go and try again on Monday at the General Office, and that I would buy him a new one if he can’t find it. Then he wanted to call Mummy to tell her about the notebook.... Finally, "I lost my notebook" was the first words he spoke this morning as he wakes up. I recalled then, many years ago, my brother came back from work. It was late, and he said he lost the envelope with the month’s pay check in it. I didn’t budge from when I was - probably in from of the TV. But I remembered what happened then. My mother went out of the house, retraced the steps back to the bus stop when my brother alighted from the bus - in the dark, with a torch light. Some time later, she came back. With the envelope and the money still in it. Like all those years ago, I did nothing to help. I wonder if I should have gone back to the school with Kevin to look for the notebook. It was important to him, even it was really insignificant to me. At least he would have maybe slept better. 27


My best friend - Darius (2008-01-12 13:51)

"Is Kevin quitting school ?", Darius asked me worriedly today as I picked Kevin from school. It seems that a few of the kids in Primary 2 had started to "drop off", apparently transferred to "better" schools, and he was worried that Kevin would too. Just last week, I said to Darius, "You are taller now, than Kevin". They were amongst the "runts" in their class last year. "Need to eat vitah mins, gee ten cee", he lisped. Lost some front teeth recently. Took me some time to realize. Right, the pharmacy - GNC.

I said, "No, Kevin is staying". I hope that Kevin will remember his best friend in primary school, years from now. Well, at least now he has pictures to look at :)

2.2 2.2.1

February "Want to bao bao ?" (2008-02-02 23:39)

"Want to bao bao ?" I asked Kevin every so often when we are out. For the uninitiated, that means want to "carry", or rather "want to be carried ?". The truth is that I like the feeling of his hands around my neck, and how his legs would wrap around my waist. Nowadays, at almost 8, he is very self conscious about seen being carried. If we are going back 28

from school, he would back away. In fact, while having a bath, he would insist on locking the bathroom and bedroom doors in "little chieh chieh" is around. I hope that that day he never wanted to be carried would be a few years away. At least till he is too heavy to be carried in may arms.


Happy Chinese New Year 2008 (2008-02-09 12:15)

It’s nice to be young, and I might add, very innocent ! No "grown up" would be caught in a "traditional" Chinese costume anywhere, let alone wear it to school. It was the eve of the lunar new year, and all the students in the school were supposed to come in their traditional costume.

Another year marched right by us, and that New Year Eve, two young make-believe Chinese mandarins went home with their goodies from school - little paper Chinese lanterns. 29


Kevin - Pokemon maniac (2008-02-12 23:02)

Kids very often do the very thing that worry their parents most. For the past year or so, Kevin transfered his craze for Lego’s Bionicles to Pokemon. It seemed to have started from a innoculous act on my part to try and get him to start reading. I bought him what I thought was a Pokemon book. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a Pokemon "omnibus" which described every Pokemon there was. Then there was the few Pokemon kraks that he got from Mommy for various incentives for doing "useful" work like studying, and assessment books. The thing that did him in was his pals in TKC (The Kidz Club, student care) introducing him to Pokemon Crater, an online Pokemon game. After that, Mommy decided, to my despair, to buy a Nintendo DS Lite with the Pokemon game in it. Nowadays, it’s Pokemon-this and Pokemon-that, everyday, and he would come home from school and immediately bury his nose in a Pokemon encyclopedia (another Mommy brainwave) that details how to get pass the various obstacles in the game. Oh, thank you, Mommy, just what the doctor ordered !


Pokemon II (2008-02-12 23:46)

How can a kid remember all the incarnations (evolutions) of a Pokemon and all their special attacks, and not remember the 2 times-table, or the proper parts of speech in his English homework ? And I swear he knows most of the Pokemons. When he meets another kid, in minutes, 30

they would be huddling together, discussing all their favorite Pokemons. Any kid that can help him capture another Pokemon becomes his "best friend". I think I need to hide that DS Lite from him ! Would he believe me if I told him the tooth fairy stole it ? Nah.....


The kindness of strangers (2008-02-24 20:05)

Last week, something Kevin related to me on our walk home after school restored my faith in human race. "I love mashed potatoes", he said that morning. "Very yummy, leh". I asked him how much does that cost. "60 cents, can I have 2 mashed potatoes ?", he asked. I gave him $1.20, but that evening, he said accusingly when he first saw me, "You gave me only 40cents!". "I went to buy mashed potatoes, but I had only 40 cents, so I cannot buy". "But then the auntie said ’ok, you can have the mashed potatoes for 40cents’". We went back and found the $1.20 on his writing table. He had forgotten to put the coins in his wallet as he left for school in the morning. The 40 cents was what was left from the previous day. In life, we meet people that change our lives in little ways. I hope that this incident will teach him to be kind and honest. One day, Kevin may remember the kindness of a stranger who didn’t let him go hungry during P2 school recess. 31


Little things in life (2008-02-26 22:53)

"My pencil....", said Kevin happily as he was getting into the car yesterday morning to go to school. He had just found his long lost pencil on the dark musky floor of the car, and he looked like he couldn’t be happier if he struck the lottery. A few weeks ago, it was his eraser. "I lost my eraser...", he wails. Invariably, the "lost" item would be found in school or at the student care. Of course the thought of getting a scolding from Mommy might be another reason for the anxiety. Adults don’t "sweat the little things", I wished that I could be that happy finding a lost 20-cents pencil. The little things in life are perhaps more worth more than we know. And maybe we should take notice and be happy with the "20-cents pencils" we have.

To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour William Blake 32


Kevin - protector of babies and girls with nice faces (2008-02-27 21:19)

Art Linkletter would be proud ! This morning in the car... Kevin: Do girls have to become soldiers ? (he was referring the draft system our army has) Me: No Kevin: Why do we have to protect girls then ? Me: (standard parent type answer, if you don’t know) Because you have to Kevin: Then I will only protect girls with nice faces Me: (suppressed laughter) Will you protect Mommy ? Kevin: Of course, Mommy has a nice face. Girls with not nice face will bite me.. Me: What about Ling Yan ? (old nursery girl friend) Kevin: Of course.... (after thinking for a while) and I will protect babies too.... babies need to grow up

2.3 2.3.1

March Kid’s minds (2008-03-01 11:04)

This morning, as we get ready to go to Berries (Chinese classes), Kevin declared, "We are not going to shopping centers, or bookstores after Berries. We are coming straight home." "What is that about ?", I thought. Lemme see, last week was the company’s family day, last week .... Ok, a few weeks ago, we came home late from Berries after going to the bookstore to pick up a book for myself. And Kevin went back home to find that his favorite Pokemon show was over. He complained for a while a long the same lines. "We are not going to bookstores next week. We need to go home...." I have forgotten all about that episode, and today it surfaced, rather obtusely, as a demand to come home quickly. As an adult, I would have framed the request as "we need to come home quickly to watch my Pokemon show". 33


Daddy and uncle (2008-03-02 21:44)

Went ramaging through some very old stuff with "da gu gu" (eldest aunt). Enjoy ! [EMBED] If you don’t have a flash player go here.


I am proud !

(2008-03-15 00:49)

In case I haven’t said it, I am proud ! I am proud for the time you played in the piano recital. I am proud for the time when you got 92 in the P1 exams for Chinese. I am proud that you can play chess and beat Mommy even ! I am proud that you are you.

2.4 2.4.1

May Of lost childhood and best friends (2008-05-01 11:38)

"I like Ren", said Kevin yesterday. This was something I’ve heard frequently the last few months. His best friend. His partner in capturing Pokemons on the Nintendo DS Lite they both have. They will be discussing the powers, the tricks needed to capture the next Pokemon when they meet. Last night, Kevin told me he wanted to call Ren. The second friend he ever called on the phone. He had written the number in his school notebook, in his rather scratchy handwriting. As he very seriously tried to enter the numbers in my mobile phone, I wondered if we had been fair to him. He spends most of his time studying, doing assessment books. He was the only child and his only other companion is the DS Lite. I remembered my own rather lonely childhood. Although I wasn’t the only child, I was always on my own. Today, he wakes up and asked, "Is there TKC (the student care) ?". "No, it’s a holiday". "I want to see Ren". I wish that I could do more for his childhood.


Brisbane - first night (2008-05-24 12:00)

After a lot of frantic planning on my part for a week or so, we finally are off on our holiday in Australia. I managed to redeem my miles for the today, Kevin’s last day of school. It was the morning flight, so he will miss the last day of school. We landed at about 8pm and whizzed through customs at Brisbane’s immigration. So we thought. We got into a taxi for the hotel, when Kevin suddenly realized his beloved Nintendo was not with him. More like his entire backpack with the DS Lite was not with him. I remembered he took it off to send it through the x-ray machine at the customs. The next 15mins or so was spend retracing our steps to the customs point where we last saw the bag. The cab driver was kind enough to wait while Grace went back to the customs where an officer redirected her to the "Lost and Found". Nothing. I refused to give up. At that point Kevin was wailing, and the cab driver looked quite concerned. I went back to the customs point and asked another officer 34

who said that they just sent a backpack to the "Lost and Found", when I spend 5mins filling up a form to reclaim the backpack. Funny - same question, different person, different results. I also realized that we left Kevin in the cab with a total stranger for a few minutes when we first went back to look. Luckily, child-napping was not a problem in Australia. Interesting start to the vacation ! We reached our hotel, "Mantra on Queens" without any more events. For the AUD140 price tag, the hotel was very mediocre. I selected it because the car rental was located next to it. Hiring at the airport is expensive - taxes and whatnot. And I didn’t feel like navigating my way in a strange country on our first night. Based on our previous trip to the US, navigation was a cause of great tension. Don’t do it !


Mermaid Beach - second day (2008-05-25 01:40)

After last night’s adventure of sorts, we spent the morning at the Queen Street mall, picked up the rental car, and went to South Bank to have a look at the artificial beach there. It seemed weird to me that people would need to have an artificial beach when the acclaimed Gold Coast is an hour away. Finding the place not very interesting, we had lunch at one of the restaurants there, and drove to Habor Town for some shopping. It was pretty boring the Kevin and myself, but Grace managed to buy some shoes for herself. I planned this to loosen up everybody. Kevin was irritatingly playing his Nintendo every spare moment he has. At 5 o’clock, every store closes. In fact, some closed even earlier. I drove to the hotel at Mermaid Beach. It was Saturday night and the motel there was the only reasonably priced accommoda35

tion I could find on the web. I had booked ALL the hotels for the entire stay. No hunting for a place to stay and stressing up everybody. Subsequently, all the hotel stays were 2 nights at least, again to avoid the stress of packing and unpacking. We had dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant nearby. It was dark at 6pm and we retired early. Not very exciting so far, I must say. I learnt from previous trips not to plan too many activities, so everything was still going on plan so far. We were in Gold Coast and Surfer’s Paradise, but we haven’t seen the beaches or the ocean yet.

2.5 2.5.1

June Seaworld - third night (2008-06-08 01:56)

It was our second visit to Seaworld for Grace and myself. We were here more than 10 years ago, before we were married. We are creatures of habit, ordering the same stuff from menus, going the same places every weekend, so we didn’t really mind. Driving in Australia turned out to be very easy for me. I have this knack of being able to drive on any side of the road. The GPS is a gem, no fussing with road directions, just follow the mechanical voice. However, I realized that entering the address wasn’t that straight forward. One had to know which city the address was in. For some destinations later, the city was clear, and I had to guess many times (by looking at a map) before getting it correct. Seaworld in Australia wasn’t as good as the Seaworld at San Diego. They had dolphins, no killer whales, and the shows weren’t as good. Another easy day. I drove into Surfer’s Paradise to have a look at the town’s attractions. Didn’t managed to get into any because it was late by the time we left Seaworld. We did manage to visit the much "Infinity" attraction, only to find at the door that it didn’t looked very exciting, and over priced, so we gave it a pass. Had dinner at Hog’s Breath. A chain that is also in Singapore. I wanted to see if they were the "same". So far so good. No stress, slow walks in Seaworld, and even managed to squeeze in somethings I saw in the tourist brochures. 36


The Mouses House, SpringBrook (2008-06-17 23:09)

It was a long drive from Seaworld to Springbrook. I headed straight for the hotel, stopping at the observatory we saw. We were to visit it later that night. The Mouses House. I went to the reception to check in and got a show round the chalet. When I first saw it, I knew that we were all going to love it. The chalet had a fireplace, a very nice bedroom and an attic where Kevin was supposed to sleep. I went back to the car, surprised that Kevin and Mommy hasn’t joined me yet. It turned out that there was a huge dog that kept them in the car. We finally got our stuff into the house. And I was right everybody loved it. The owner said that possums would come if we leave food outside, and Kevin was entralled immediately. He loved the idea of sleeping up in the attic. 37


"I would choose no other companions" (2008-06-21 11:39)

At The Mouses House, it appeared that we were not the only ones enthralled by the place. There are a few journals left near the couch and it seemed a tradition for all guests to put an entry there. This was ours. "If you are reading this, I guess I don’t have to tell you what The Mouses House is like. We did not see the possums, but the brush turkeys came around to be fed. We went to the lookouts, the observatory, and had dinner mainly at The Manor across the roads. It seems strange that we have to leave the glitter and noise of the city to find peace within ourselves in a place like that. Nature fills a void we crave in our normal lives at home. Three souls traveled through space and time to be here. I would choose no other companions, but I am happy that I am sharing this space (at another time) with you. Enjoy ! Kevin, Grace and Lian Seng, Dopey, The Mouses House, Springbrook, Gold Coast, Australia"


Adventure down under !

(2008-06-21 11:57)

Rainbow beach. We started early. On the map, there appears to be a shorter route at a fork that was marked "4WD only". We drove from our Noosa motel along a small road which finally lead us to the fork I saw earlier. In a moment of insanity, I decided to take the "shorter" route. 38

We had a Nissan X-Trail which was a 4 wheel drive, and I thought we could save some time. There are pivotal moments in our lives where we wished that we made different decisions. On that fateful day, that was it. We went through muddy pools, pot holes that drew us a foot off the ground, I was sure, and basically a very stressful drive the next 90 mins or so. There were times I was worried that we would get a flat or the car might break down and we would be stuck somewhere in the wilderness. We emerged from the trail finally onto a tar road, very shaken. The car was a mess. Mud was all over,on the windscreen even. I was wondering how can we return the rental without getting into big trouble ! Rainbow Beach turned out to be a place one shouldn’t go unless you were going to stay there. The much publicized "colored sands" was only assessible by 4-WD, and I wasn’t going on another adventure. We headed back to the hotel after 30 mins of driving around looking for something to do. After 1 min of driving, Grace noticed something on the map she was reading - a car wash ! I headed back, relieved that I could at least clean the car. We reached the hotel early in the afternoon and went walking along Noosa Heads beach. Something we could have done nearby instead of going on an adventure. Well, it all ended fine. We had a nice dinner and walked along the Hastings Street. Not bad. We were going home tommorrow, and at least we ended the holiday on a nice note.


Currumbin and Bryon Bay (2008-06-21 16:16)

The morning we left Mermaid Beach, I decided we go Currumbin where there was a zoo and a SuperBee honey outlet. The zoo was okay, the park with kangaroos running free reminds us of 39

what we have in Singapore zoo. We headed further south to the Crystal Castle, where we had considerably more fun looking large crystals. Then we headed to Bryon Bay to look at the lighthouse. With the GPS, this was the most relaxing holiday we ever had. That night we were to sleep at the Seaworld Resort.


Back to the outlets (2008-06-24 18:16)

The Sunshine Coast was pouring and had record rainfall while we were there ! I booked a nice service apartment "Sandcastles on the Beach" at Mooloolaba. The beach was 50m away and we can hear the waves crashing on the sands through the windows. The surfers seemed to be out at first light, and some wouldn’t even leave after the life guards went off-duty. After cooped up in the room playing Scrabble for a whole day (I actually managed to use all 7 tiles forming a word in one of the games), I decided the next day we go back to somewhere indoors. Harbor Town, way back in the Gold Coast, a 2 hour drive away seemed like a good proposition. We visited it our first day in Australia, and it was a good rainy day activity - shopping ! I always had this feeling that I should have Grace with me when I visit outlets (in the US even). There was something missing in being at an outlet where I probably wouldn’t find anything useful to do, and where I knew that Grace would have a whale of a time. We all deserved to be happy, and I was happy just to be there while she shopped. The 2 hour drive back to the hotel was a happy one. We had dinner at a nice diner opposite the hotel, and played more Scrabble that night. 40


Sea shells and Surfer’s Paradise (2008-06-28 12:04)

What’s a few land lubbers to do at Surfer’s Paradise ? It seems that the Nintendos and PSPs in the world have a monopoly on kids these days. I decided that it was time for some old fashion activities the morning we left the Seaworld Resort. We headed back to Surfer’s Paradise to get some breakfast, before the drive to Springbrook. After breakfast, we walked on the famed beaches of Surfer’s Paradise and I started picking little shells, and trying to convince Kevin that they were treasures to be had. The trip to Crystal Palace helped. Kevin was convinced that we were on to more secret powers with the shells. It turned out to be a very pleasant morning, running from breaking surfs, and finding colored shells. For that morning, Nintendo - 0, Nature -1. 41


Parrots and tree walk at O’Reilly’s (2008-06-28 22:49)

We made 1 side trip while we were at Springbrooks - to Natural Bridge, and then on the way to Tamborine Mountain, to O’Reilly’s.


Little_pock at (2008-06-29 15:53)

"Litte _Pock", that’s Kevin’s identity on the RPG game at MapleStory. He is a "warrior". A bald one at that. My fault. While creating the character, I went "next", "next" to complete the process. One of the "next" created the character with the default hair-style - namely bald. We fixed that problem later by buying a helmet. Now he goes around with an oversized helmet, killing snails, and chickens in the fantasy world. A walking helmet with an undersized body and feet. 42

2.6 2.6.1

July Glasses for Kevin (2008-07-24 16:41)

Last week, we received a note from the school. It looked ominous. We are required to bring Kevin to a consultant for an eye evaluation as he apparently didn’t do well in an eye screening examination in school. So last night, we went to West Mall, did the eye tests. Yes, our son is myopic. 75 diopter (or whatever the unit of measure is) for each eye. Of course, with Mommy going along, there was more ceremony with finding the nicest looking glasses than anything else. We went to 2 shops and finally decided on frames from Sesame Street. Then we did the eye tests. Our dear son doesn’t seem to take instructions very well. "Which is clearer ? 1? Or 2?", asked the nice tech at the shop. "A or ... B ?" This went on for 15 minutes or so,and then the tech turned to us and told us that Kevin was giving contradictory answers. Apparently, the tests were quite devious. He would switch the lens (or cylinders) and asked him again. Somehow, I am not sure if Kevin knew the "clearer" concept (how does one explain "clearer" ?) - especially when it came to looking at a bunch of dots on the far wall. But he seemed so sure. "A". "1". Kevin might be thinking that "1" or "A" is the "correct" answer. He had to go back and redo the tests for another 30 mins before the tech finally got something satisfactory. Stay tuned for more pictures of Kevin with glasses shots.


Cool at P2 !

(2008-07-25 10:45)

Ok, we collected the new glasses for Kevin last night. It was ready in 1 day ! Looks like he loves wearing the glasses. He wears it everywhere, even though we told him that he should wear it only when reading or in class. Apparently, quite a few kids in his class have to wear glasses, and even Shu Hui, his cousin has to go get hers done. Grace bought straps so that he can hang his glasses around his neck while he is not wearing them, but he refuses to use it. 43

"My friends will laugh at me". That was refreshing. It’s a long time since I, myself cared anything about what other people thought about my looks ! I hope he enjoys this part of life ! This morning, another new behavior. Right out of bed, he went to where his glasses were kept and put them on. Wearing glasses must be cool these days. I remembered that I resisted wearing glasses in primary school, because people get called "specky" or "4-eyes".


Sitting Upright (2008-07-30 17:26)

"Go outside and read your book", I told Kevin this morning. He dutifully picked up his book and went to sit on the bench on the porch. Interesting ! There is a chair outside as well, but I noticed that he always picks the bench to sit on. And I can only envy the way he sits - ram rod straight back, and legs closed together. And I noticed he always sits that way. I wonder when will he start to be a slouch. Is it normal for an 8 year old to sit upright ? Only time can tell.

2.7 2.7.1

August What’s an atom ?

(2008-08-07 16:03)

This morning as I was doing the usual mad rush to get to work, Kevin who was all ready was reading a book. "What is a carbon atom ?", he asked. This was one of those questions I could never figure out a good answers for. Even though it’s a noun, you can’t point to the answer. With other parts of speech, it’s even worse. How does one explain "time" ? As in "I am late for work". "Carbon is a kind of thing, and atoms is the smallest thing that things are made of", I offered. "Where can I find carbon ?". "Trick question !!!!!", my warning bells rang. I went over to see what was he reading. "Crystals". Library book. "I want to make diamonds. Diamonds are made of carbon", he read. "Diamonds very nice. I need to have some diamonds. Where do I find carbon ?". The innocence of children. On the other hand, where would we be without them. Meanwhile, I need to explain what a carbon atom is .... 44


Little joke (2008-08-10 10:17)

"Daddy, daddy....hurry, hurry, there is a program running away." "What the heck ?", I thought. Kevin points to the laptop’ screen, and on the welcome screen, it said, "1 program running" How does one explain that to a 7 year old ?


Zelda - Twilight Princess (2008-08-11 11:15)

This is, at the moment, THE family activity of the month. Every free time we have, we will be in front of the TV, swinging the Wii controller to slay ogres, frantically moving the the hero out of harm’s way. We even have Kian Ann and Shuyen (cousins of Kevin) joining us. "It’s not fair ..... you never let me play..", wails Kevin. "But the monsters will kill you." "No, I am very good! I can fight them." ——————What and who are you playing with now ? Never mind, just don’t forget how to play and have fun. Your turn will come. When it does, remember that the monster you are slaying may be as frightened as you are. Remember how the biggest and blackest monsters are actually killed easily if you know how ? Enjoy the quests you have in life, and trust me that the ruby at the end of the search might not be what you think it is .... Be happy and good! Daddy’s watching you. If you need a cheat in life, you know who to call.

2.8 2.8.1

September Pata pata pon (2008-09-06 18:14)

For some time now, Kevin will say "pata pata ...(something)", and I would say to myself, "Must be some childish gibberish that he learnt from somewhere". A few weeks ago, I finally found out what he was mumbling about.. Patapon was a video 45

game. Mummy has it on her PSP now, and was playing it. "Pata pata pon", I heard, but I didn’t listen. Maybe, that will remind me in future to listen a bit more. There are many things in life that are like that. That backache that turned out to be a kidney stone for me a few years back. That little voice that told me I shouldn’t ...... "Pata pata pon.."


"I want to be a chemist" (2008-09-20 21:54)

"I want to be a chemist", so declared Kevin in the car today. In fact, this is probably the second or third time he said that over the past week or so. For he last few weeks, he had developed a sudden interest in chemical formulas. H20, CO2 was just the start. He pestered me for more. So I taught him a few more - CO ("bad air that can kill you"), N2O (laughing gas), CH3COOH (vinegar), and he would diligently record each of these in his newly started "science notebook". He has never been so enthused over anything else - other than his pokemons. What started it all, I wondered. I suspect it was because he started talking about H2O being water in school and then one evening on the way back from school, he told me "Nathaniel said my chemistry very good !". So now everyday he would remind me that I need to teach him 3 science facts. On days, I missed, he would add up the difference and remind me, "12, you need to teach me 12 today". Maybe this seed of interest leave to an invention someday. Or the Nobel prize :)



Mid-autumn latern festival at BTPS (2008-09-20 23:24)

P2 at Bukit Timah Primary school, 2008. The school organized a little celebration at night for parents and students. I went to school that evening at about 6:30 to pick him up, only to find him not waiting at the school gate like he usually does. By the time all the students had gone, I was getting slightly worried, and I asked a teacher there. Mummy signed him up for the celebrations, and he was having dinner in school. I went home for dinner and then headed back to join him. I don’t remember ever doing this as a kid. Or maybe not, I vaguely remembered a "dragon" latern. At least Kevin will have some memories with the pictures.


Kevin and the Coke formula (2008-09-26 17:30)

Hmmm, this love affair with chemistry is lasting longer than I expected. I am feeling that I maybe can do a lot more. At least it is better than memorizing all the Pokemon names and their "evolution". Kevin is still asking everyday about chemical formulae. "What’s the formula for Coke ?" "I don’t know. Nobody knows. If they did they will be rich". Then he will run to turn on the computer - to "google" coke. "See it’s there", he pointed to a search result - for cocaine, and religiously started to copy the chemical formula. One day when he learns about trade secrets and intellectual property, he might remember what I told him. For now, I need to nurture this craze into something valuable.

2.9 2.9.1

October One step at a time (2008-10-20 11:42)

Last week, as I was worrying over a problem with a contractor that your "Er Shu" is facing, somebody said something to me that I heard many times before. "One step at a time". I make a living precisely not doing that. I had to make things happen in the future. Software had to get delivered on time and in good shape months, sometimes years down the road. So I can I stop planning and simulating all sorts of scenarios in my head ? But that phrase made me stop right in my tracks. There are things that are not within my control, and that was just the prescription I needed. I need to stop and marvel at how well 47

you are doing with your revisions for examinations, how you know can do so many maths problems that troubled you just a few months ago. How you want to learn all about science. I need to be in the "now", instead of some imagined future. I need to appreciate family, friends and everything I have, instead of looking for things I don’t. I must remember that you are "here" and "now".




The wisdom of children (2008-11-02 22:43)

2006 Japan. End of the day 1 in Disney Land. I won’t forget that evening probably for the rest of my life. We were waiting for Mommy on a bench outside the stores. I guess I must have shown some frustration. It was late - the fireworks come on at 9:30pm, and somebody was still shopping ! Then Kevin said, "Daddy, you know Mommy must be pretty pretty right ?". It wasn’t a question. But I never would have figured what would come next. "Do you like Mommy ?" "NO", I said spitefully. "You must wait for Mommy. Else Mommy won’t be pretty, right ?" "You know Mommy need time to dress nice nice." "Don’t be angry." And he curled up on the bench and went to sleep.


Kevin’s old nursery - Twinkle Childcare (2008-11-12 00:20)

I walked past Kevin’s old nursery a few nights ago. It was late. Dark shadows, litle rooms I see from outside. There was this room I remembered that was his class in K2. *** I remembered one day Kevin asked me to follow him when I went to pick him up. He led me to the room and showed me the "class tree". Apparently, they got points to get a star that goes higher and higher up the tree. He showed me his star. Second from the top. "Come, come. See my star. See - Tiffany is higher the me." **** I wondered what I had missed. I can imagine Kevin playing in the nursery. 4 years is a long time to spend in 1 place. Today, different challenges. Nathaniel is his new nemesis in school. 48

"My maths is better than Nathaniel." And I hope that he will always find new challenges in life !


Kevin joins the Boys’ Brigade (2008-11-12 07:15)

"You must sign the form", said Kevin as we walked back home. "What form". "The form for BB. All my friends are joining". "Is Darius joining ?" "Yes, we learn lots of things and can go many places". That evening, he actually brought out the "approval" form for me to sign. First time he did that for any forms. I wonder what motivated him It is one thing to tell him what to do, and another where he WANTED to do something. I guess that’s why I am not a teacher. But I liked the bit about "we can learn lots of things". Seeing things as a learning experience will go a long way in life. I should know. Last evening, I did an exam on "Nuclear Fusion" as part of my requirements for my MS.


K2 buddies reunion (2008-11-13 07:20)

Every day (well, it will be everyday, now that my evening classes are over), while we walked back home from the school, Kevin will "report" on things in school. Yesterday, he said, "Ling Yan and Ralph will be in ’Grace’ (P3 class name)". He was "promoted" from "Peace" to "Grace" class next year. At least that’s what he claims (I supposed "Peace" for "P" is supposed to be lower in rankings than "Grace" being further down the alphabet). "All the children who are good at Maths are in Grace", he explains. "If you are good at English, you go Charity", he theorizes. He got "Band" 1 for Maths and Chinese, but 2 for English. Ironic, he lives in an English speaking home, and his parents all speak above average English, and he messed up his English in school. Anyway, he is back with his pals from K2, Ling Yan and Ralph, who were always more matured than him. Both of them looked like they are 5kg heavier, and a few inches taller. Perhaps, he is a late bloomer, I hoped. 49


P3 science (2008-11-23 09:08)

It’s the school holidays, but Kevin is reading his text books for next year already. Well, not all, just the science one. He seems to be loving that. Classification of animals, characteristics of mammals, etc. seems to interest him more than comics, dragons, and other things that kids would be reading about. This morning, I asked him about invertebrates. "Jelly fish, insects" "Good ! Anything else ?" "Fillet", came the confident answer ! I guess we got more learning to do.


Kevin - the noble (2008-11-29 21:40)

This evening, while we were having dinner, Kevin again said that he wanted to be a chemist. Nothing new, I thought. Then, a surprise. "I need to discover the bad chemicals. And find the chemical so that people don’t die". "Grandpa is very old. I need to be very fast". "I will give my chemical to everybody, even the neighbors, and people I don’t know". After dinner, I brought him to the library, we started by looking at science books, but I found a 50

book of fairy tales. There was a story about the Monkey King who wanted to live forever, and he had to learn the secret of eternal life from buddhas, sages or immortals. "Sometimes you have to learn secrets from stories", I told him. and he was very interested. He should learn something beyond the materialistic view of science. I remembered my own childhood dreams to be a scientist. It was the cold war period, and communists were the evil in the world then. I had thought that if I could invent something that will make me invincible, I could go and kill all of them, and save the world. However, for me the demands of the real world left those dreams in the ravages of time. I hope that he will succeed better than I had. But I am proud of him either way.




Kevin’s edetic memory (2008-12-07 07:46)

Not exactly, photographic, but amazing enough! Last night, "Alien vs Predator" came on the TV. I am not proud, but, I asked Kevin to come and watch. Nearest thing to Pokemon, you know. After watching for a minute or so, Kevin said, "see before". "Watched before", I corrected. "Watched before", he repeated. "The alien is good and he will die". And then he proceeds to describe how the heroine will get marked on the forehead by the alien (actually Predator) before he dies, and will hence not get attacked by his companions. It came back to me. Yes, I remember now. But I am really amazed that he remembered that. He didn’t seemed to be paying attention most of the time. Maybe he is like me. Did I mention that he can name every Pokemon and their powers and "evolution" on sight? Recently, add DuelMasters creatures and spells to that list. I remember things that I don’t need effortlessly, but unfortunately that talent doesn’t work as well for schoolwork. Trivial Pursuit - no problem. If I read it, heard it, watched it, I might actually know. So, good memories are inherited. Certain kinds anyway. Something for the researchers. 51



(2008-12-22 21:05)

This evening, I took away the Nintendo DS from Kevin, and told him that he can’t play with it anymore because he is spending too much time on it. At least too much of his free time. He doesn’t watch TV, read, or even play with the computer. Just the DS. "Forever ?" He asked forlornly. "Till you learn to do something else besides playing with Pokemon", I said. Actually, I was cracking up inside. I wished that he has something else he would like. And I can’t help wondering if I could have helped. I wondered what is "forever" to a eight year old. 9 years ? 10 years ? In a few years time, I guess it might be "you can’t make me", instead of "forever ?". I hope that one day he would realized that "it was for his good", that Daddy took away the Nintendo.


Chapter 3 2009 3.1 3.1.1

January First wedding dinner (2009-01-02 08:42)

For posterity sake... Eileen’s wedding. It was held at a restaurant on the top of Mount Faber.


P3 - first day of school (2009-01-21 19:19)

2009, Primary Three. I was left all alone on the first day of school (Mommy is somewhere in Norway on a job assignment for a whole month!). It’s the morning session at that. The evening before I set the alarm - 6:30am. But that turned out to be unnecessary. We went to bed at 8:30pm, and Kevin was awake at 6:10am. "Wakee, wakee.." No that wasn’t me. He was actually anxious to get to school and got out of bed earlier than I did. The rush to school turned out to be more painless than I thought it would be. He took his breakfast quickly and Shu Hui came around at 5mins to 7, and they set of to school together. I remembered years ago when I first went to school. I got taken by a car full of kids, that my mother pays to take me to school. The first day, I didn’t know which car to take and I actually took the wrong car. The driver didn’t know anyway. He asked me where did I stay, I directed him and he dropped me off, as he did the other 6-7 kids in his car. I don’t remember that I carried a big bag of books like Kevin does. Life as a student was easier. But I am glad he likes going to school. 53

3.2 3.2.1

February Flowers blooming (2009-02-10 08:59)

Yesterday morning, as in so many other mornings, I watched Kevin and Shuhui walked to school from our kitchen window. Our house was at the edge of an embankment and looks down to the road they take to school. They looked very small. Holding hands, and then breaking off as Shuhui walked ahead while Kevin trudges along. My eyes must be playing tricks on me, but for a few seconds, I saw a bigger boy and girl in their places. The bags on their backs doesn’t seemed so big suddenly, and Kevin had longer legs and body. They seemed to walked straighter, and they were laughing. It must have been wishful thinking. Kids are like flowers, they bloom when they want to. How they bloom depends on how much effort you put into them.

This reminds me of the song "Seasons in the sun", "... little flowers everywhere, when you see them I’ll be there". I hope that Kevin will bloom like the air plants we have in the garden. And perhaps he will be a better photographer than his dad!


Kevin - still compassionate (2009-02-17 07:34)

"Let’s go back and give back uncle the fish," said Kevin. It was evening, and he was referring to several tiny make-do tanks that we housed 30-40 guppies we brought back from the fish farm. That morning, we went to Qian Hu, a local fish farm, to catch "lokang" fish. For $5 each, he and Shu Hui spent 30 minutes running up and down a few channels of water filled with guppies. Armed with a 3"x3" fish net and a small tank each, they were yelling to each other to good spots where the fish were. Shu Hui managed to catch quite a few, about 7. It was more difficult than I thought. Kevin caught a few - dying or dead ones that didn’t had the energy to escape him. I think hand-eye coordination and physical dexterity wasn’t going to be one of his strengths. However they had lots of fun. Midway, Kevin ran to the staff counter. I wondered what he wanted, and ask him. "Fish food", he said, already thinking of how he would bring his fish home. The staff were nice. At the end of the session, they gave them each a bag of fish to bring home. That evening, after a day out at Grandpa’s, we came back, and found half the fish dead. Kevin was rather distressed, when he suggested giving the fish back. I am proud of him. He said we should never keep fish again, because they die in tanks. Not bad for a 8 year old. The next day, 54

I brought the fish to Er-Shu’s big water pot where he had water plants and released the fish to join other guppies that were living in it.

3.3 3.3.1

March How to win at musical chairs (2009-03-28 18:44)

This afternoon, Kevin went to a Mcdonald’s Birthday party. It was his classmate, Justin’s birthday. As usual he didn’t show much interest in his friends, preferring to play with his Treasure Gaust (if you had to ask....). Then the party games began. All the chairs were moved to the center of the room, and the kids started to sit on them. At first, I thought Kevin was not going to play. He and another boy were playing with on the Gaust. Then finally, everybody was seated. The music began, and then I noticed something strange. Kevin was hopping. Some of the kids we walking round the chairs, laughing, looking around, but Kevin was hopping around the chairs. After a while I realized what he was doing. He was hopping from 1 chair position to another. He didn’t want to get caught in between chairs. If the position in front was not moving he stopped. Then he refined the strategy. Guess he got tired. He simply walked very big steps in between the chairs, and refusing to move if there was no space in front of the next chair. Well, one by one, the kids dropped out. I can see that his strategy was working ! Finally there were 2 kids - Kevin and another girl. The music started and he stood in front of the chair and refused to move !!! The girl shoved him, and they were on their way. The strategy doesn’t work as well with one chair, but he managed to rush to the chair and won. Well, looks like he got some of his Dad’s smarts. He was the shortest in the group, but I don’t think I am worried. "Your son ? he will do well," said the lady behind us. We smiled.

3.4 3.4.1

June Eat to live, live to eat (2009-06-06 23:46)

One of those rare Saturday evenings without Mummy. She’s gone to meet a friend for dinner, and we were left to fend for our own dinner. "Where do you want to eat ?", I asked. "Food center, or West Mall ?". Kevin for some reason refers to hawker centers as "food centers". "Food center", came back the quick answer. We seldom eat at the hawker centers, so I was more than glad that he has an opportunity to eat at the nearest hawker center. No air conditioning, crowded, and even slightly less hygienic, but a lot better tasting food ! Instead of the usual healthy fare, I decided that he should sample our local delicacies. "Cha kuay tiao ?". "Is it healthy ?". He might not remember, but he is a fanatic about getting enough vitamins. Must be something he learned in school, and he is very particular about eating healthy food. He, for one eats all the vegetables at dinner time. "Yes", I lied cheerfully. So we looked for an empty table, and I bought him "cha kuay tiao". "Carrot cake ?", I asked. I know he likes carrot cake, another local dish. "Yes", he said eagerly. Surprisingly, he finished the entire plate of "cha kuay tiao". I didn’t help him with the chop 55

sticks much, and he finished the plate without usual protests about "too much", or "I am not hungry". I finished my own bowl of noodles (I don’t think my body is as forgiving as his, so I eat healthily). And I asked, "Carrot cake ?". He loves that. We have it every time we come here. "I am full now". I am not surprised. He has always been able to stop eating the minute he has enough. No a bit of gluttony bone on his small skinny body. Although, sometimes I wished that he would eat more, I am happy. ÅÎãe xÎãú, the Chinese sages said (roughly translates to "what goes into your mouth can make you ill, and what come out of your mouth can cause you even more harm"). We are what we eat. Most of us eat beyond what we need to, to survive. I remembered a long time ago, when I was in primary school, there as a passage that I read in our reader. "Eat to live, not live to eat". Greed and gluttony. Our biggest failings, and causes of most of what ills the world today. At least, my son hopefully will not be contributing to that. If nothing else, I hope that when he reads this one day, he will remember those evenings we had in the food court. Having illicit fare, and enjoying ourselves.

3.5 3.5.1

July Farewell hamsters !

(2009-07-03 20:19)

When Kevin was 5, he got a pair of hamsters for his birthday. Mommy’s manager had some to give away. "They are both males." So we were told. They were small, about 1 month or so, I think.

Imagine our dismay when we found 2 baby hamsters a few months later in the cage. That soon became excitement as we learned how to deal with the babies. Lots of advice from many people. Everybody is an expert when it is not their problem. Kevin loves the babies of course. A year later, we were at 12 hamsters. And I was their only caretaker. Kevin will remind me. "Did you feed the hamsters ?" I will sometimes tease him by saying no. And he will insist on going back home to feed them, if we were outside. Some hamsters die, more were borned, and Kevin learned that hamsters live only about 2 years, and that animals die. He took it all rather well. Yesterday, we were at 6 hamsters. There was 1 small little one that is a few weeks old. His parents died one night. Not sure what happened. But Er Shu asked if we wanted the hamsters. He has a friend that wants them if we want to give them away. I hesitated, not sure how Kevin will feel. But I had enough of being a hamster sitter. "Ok, take them." 56

When I came back today, the 4 cages were gone. The corner where they were seemed so empty. The cute little one that was just crawling around was gone, with the rest. I hope they saw him, and do not put him with the rest, as they might attack him. To my surprise, Kevin shrugged when I told him. "Why ?". He asked. "They died!" I lied. I don’t think he cared anyway. Kids are less fragile than we think they are. I might be the only one that will miss them. Bye bye hamsters, where ever you are...

3.6 3.6.1

September Learning about yoyos (2009-09-28 13:43)

Kevin just turned 9. A very diminutive nine. Most of his classmates that came to his party were taller than him, and most speak better than he does.

I am not worried though, I was a runt till I hit my JC days, and after that nobody could recognize me because I just grew so much taller. Back to his birthday. He got a yoyo from one of his friends and immediately took to it. But he wasn’t very good at it. After a week of playing with it, one evening, he told me he wanted to show me the "rock a bye baby". "Ok", I said. He spun the yoyo, and then started to pull up the string so that he can make the cradle and have the yoyo in the middle. And then he stopped. "See, rock a bye baby." "You are supposed to do a sleeper and the yoyo is supposed to be spinning in the cradle," I laughed. "No, no need," That is the "sleeper". And then he proceeded to show me the UFO and flag. All with a dead yoyo. Somehow he doesn’t get it. Or he has friends who are not doing it correctly. Never mind, he had fun. These days, being a child is so difficult. He studies most of the time. And I think that is the least we can offer him for his childhood, whatever is left of it. Enjoy, son! 57

3.7 3.7.1

October Bliss (2009-10-15 17:57)

Last night, I went to the clinic with Kevin and mummy. Mummy was having a tummy ache. While waiting in the clinic, Kevin said he was cold and so we went outside the clinic. We leaned against the railings, and watch cars passed by. For me, it was a magical moment. I didn’t need or want anything else. I was with Kevin, and we were just watching the traffic and the people walking by. Then he suddenly asked me. "Is GP important ?". GP - gifted program, one of those education initiatives that the government laid on students. Students take a test to find out if they are "gifted" at nine years old, and get into a special program that was supposed to enrich them. Kevin took the test for that. A mistake, if you asked me now. He didn’t make the program. "No!" I said. "But XXX passed it, and I failed English, I think". He said solemnly. "You didn’t fail. It’s not even important" "Daddy, sure ?" "Yes." I said. And we continued to watch the traffic. How do you explain to a 9 year old that something is not important. Everything in life is as big as they come.


Exams week (2009-10-27 10:02)

This week is the week of the final Primary 3 school examinations. Yesterday, I took Kevin to the National Skin Center for a medical appointment to look at something that had been troubling us for the last few months. A patch of dried skin on his left sole refused to go away even after applying cream to stop fungal infection, and his nails have these dark patches on the sides. The timing was not ideal, but getting an appointment wasn’t easy, so I took the afternoon off from work to bring him to the specialist. The diagnosis was trachyonychia, which has no apparent causes and difficult treatment. It was also linked to eczema. And the big patch of dry scaly skin on his sole was not a fungal infection (they did a lab test), but might be linked to it. We spent about 3 hours at the center. Kevin brought down some homework to do, but spend most of the time doing nothing "productive". He knows that there is an English exam the next day, and he wants to do well, but he wasn’t worried, or doing additional revising. Frankly I envied his attitude. During an exams period, most students would be endlessly looking at notes that they have read hundreds of times already, and doing things that might not help even. But Kevin seems cool and confident. Ignorance is bliss ?

3.8 3.8.1

December Japan 2009 - the week before (2009-12-25 18:15)

Every year during Kevin’s school major school breaks, we flee the hot weather in Singapore like rats. This time it was Japan. We are taking a flight to Osaka - the only flight we can get on my mileage claim on short notice. My fault. But I paid for it by spending many nights after I got the flights confirm planning the itinerary, booking the accomodations, and so on. In fact, I am getting so good at it that maybe I should be a travel planner when I retire. 58

We will buy the JRAILS pass so that we can go outside of Osaka which didn’t look very exciting. Universal Studios seems to be the only thing that people know of. The biggest problem was getting reservations for the hotels. I decided that we will go "local", and stay in ryokans (Japanese styled rooms) at least part of the way. As usual, the initial itinerary was overly ambitious for the 13 nights we have in Japan. We start in Osaka, go south to Hiroshima, the up north to Kyoto, Takayama and Shiga Kogen before going back to Osaka. Shiga Kogen - snow monkeys. Takayama - Shirakawago, quaint village of old buildings that looked like a Thomas Kinkade painting of snow covered cottages in winter. But after going through the actual time on the road using the excellent JR scheduler online, I uncovered obvious physical limits. Going south and then north will cost us too much time on trains, not to mention the 1 hotel change too often. This is the final schedule. Date Tue 8 Wed 9 Thur 10 Fri 11 Sat 12 Sun 13 Mon 14 Tue 15 Wed 16 Thu 17 Fri 18 Sat 19 Sun 20

City Osaka Osaka Kyoto Kyoto Kyoto Takayama ((JR Pass)) Takayama Tokyo Yudanaka Onsen Shiga Kogen Shiga Kogen Osaka HOME

Lodgings Yamatoya Honten, Namba Dotombori, Osaka Universal Studios Nagomi-Ryokan Yuu

Minshuku Kuwataniya Day trip Shirakawago Hotel Pacific Tokyo, Asakusa and shopping Yorozuya Annex Yurakuan, snow monkeys HOTEL SUNROUTE SHIGA-KOGEN, ski resort Flexstay Shinsaibashi Inn

I finalized all hotels for the first week before the flight day, and will book the rest enroute. Bought and bringing a netbook on the trip. My whining companions will not know how much time I spent reviewing the destinations, reservations; sometimes deep into the nights. Maybe next year, we go with a packaged tour and save myself the agony! But this year, our adventure begin soon with the usual trepidation and excitement of a few days in a strange land, away from the comforts of home.


Kevin beats me at chess (2009-12-28 15:40)

Kevin enrolled in a Kid’s Club holiday chess class, and started playing again. We have chess installed in his PSP, DS Lite and computer, so that he can play against the computer when nobody wants to play with him. Since the class started, he actually got quite good. It’s amazing how kids pick up things like a sponge. He is now sprouting phrases like Scholar’s mate, Indian’s defense, and had learned all the techniques like pinning, forking, etc. The troublesome part becomes he needs an opponent to play with, and since he claims to beat Mummy "everytime", he wants to play with me only when he is home. Not that I was any good at it. He actually reminded me about "En Passant". 59

Before the Japan trip, we played a few times using the PSP. And I would beat him most of the time. Then it happened. On the Shinkansen ride from Kyoto to Nagoya, he beat me. I was reading a book at that time, but I didn’t play any less hard than usual. We played again, and I beat him the next 2 games. But after that, he would beat me easily if I didn’t concentrate on the game. I am quite happy that he is learning things fast. Chess, I think, is useful because it teaches him strategic thinking. Instead of reacting to an opponent, you learn to plot and plan several steps ahead. Not to mention all the standard chess repetoire you need to memorize to play well. He is lucky. I never had anybody to play with till I was in my secondary school. And I didn’t get to go to a chess class, or developed enough interest to read a chess book. The sad thing is that he only has the PSP to play with. Sometimes I wish that he has a sibling to play with. And when he asked about "getting" a brother, that would only make me feel more guilty. Perhaps....


Chapter 4 2010 4.1 4.1.1

January And they bowed ...

(2010-01-01 14:38)

Japanese trains - reliable, lots of helpful staff who will answer a mystified traveler’s questions about how, when and whatever you need to know to get on your desired train. They even will show you how to use the ticketing machines with Japanese characters all over them.


Winter wonderland - Shiga Kogen (2010-01-01 18:16)

It is winter in the northern hemisphere, so I thought that it would be nice if we saw some snow in our trip. I looked around for a ski resort to go to, and inadvertently came upon the snow monkeys park in Yudanaka, and decided that was a must do..

We left Tokyo on a Shinkansen for Nagoya - early - like 8am. The best laid plans were foiled by my reading of the train time tables. I had intentionally stayed in Shinagawa just to be next to a Shinkansen station, but it turned out that the train doesn’t stop there. We hurriedly made our way to the Tokyo train station with all our luggage, on the Yamamote line. It was peak hour and not the most pleasant train ride. When we reached Nagano, we had to take a local train to Yudanaka where we will stay a night 61

in the Yurojiya hotel. When we got out of the station, to my horror, the 10 min walk to the hotel, doesn’t looked to be 10 mins. We later figured out how to call the hotel to pick us up at the train station. My first time using a public phone in Japan. But for now we lugged our luggage up an up hill road. About 10 mins into the walk, I asked an elderly man getting out of his car where the hotel is. He pointed up the road, and then motioned for us to get into his car, and took us there ! Saved us at least another 15 minutes walk in the cold.

We had a excellent time in the hotel. Ono-san, who is one of the owners of the hotels showed us to our rooms which was a traditional Japanese room, with a nice view of the town and mountains in the background. He even showed us how to unpack the Japanese bedding. After checking in, we rushed to the Monkey Park (another story), and came back for dinner. We had a multi-course Japan dinner served by waitresses in kimono. We wore our yukatas at dinner, and even had sake, which was very good. Before dinner, we all went into a private onsen (hot spring bath). We felt like being on Japan Hour - the weekly Japanese show about interesting places in Japan.

The next morning when I woke up, I went to the window. There was a snow storm last night. Well, I am not sure what qualifies as a storm, but the whole place outside was covered with snow. This was turning out rather well, I thought. It was still snowing outside, and I woke everybody up to have a look. 62


Kevin in the snow (2010-01-24 04:56)

A holiday is about fun, exploration and new experiences. Well, our time in Shiga Kogen definitely fits all that. Kevin made his first snowball, snow man here ! [EMBED] On the second day of arrival at the Sunroute Hotel in Shiga Kogen, it was snowing heavily, but I decided I had to go snowboarding. Never tried it, but I wasn’t going to pay all this money to come to a snow resort to stay in the hotel. Mummy and Kevin were not going anywhere since it was snowing. Chickens ! Initially, we wanted to take ski lessons, but the instructor didn’t show up because of the snow, and we had to cancel. I met a hotel employee on the ski slopes and she gave me a few pointers, but I spent a lot of time on my backside. We had lunch at the hotel. Well, basically there wasn’t a lot of choices as far as food is concerned. At a snow resort, good food and eating is probably considered a waste of time. People wanted to catch as many runs on the slopes as possible. While I was fumbling in the snow, Kevin tried building a snow man outside the hotel. It was tougher than it looked with the nice fresh powdery snow. Besides, it was snowing almost the whole day, and we were not used to the cold. Having snow fall on you face wasn’t something we planned for. But I am guessing everybody had a lot of fun and new experiences. What is fun and new experiences if you are not sharing it with people you love ? I hope that we will all remember our first moment in time in the snow together. First time I got attacked by a screaming kid with a snowball! Maybe one day we will go back to Shiga Kogen and do some real winter sports. [EMBED] 63


Little trip in time (2010-01-24 08:03)

I was installing Picasa on my netbook. It asked to scan for all the pictures I have in the computer. I saw this picture of his 4th birthday, 5 years ago. He looked so chubby ! Some of his friends in Twinkle Childcare are with him in primary school.


Fooling around with Kevin (2010-01-28 21:06)

"Daddy, eat this, top 4 super fruit, peach" "Then you eat more" "Ok, then it’s not nice, eat, daddy" "Not nice you ask daddy to eat !" Some times I kill myself :) 64


The seasons of our lives (2010-01-30 13:22)

The seasons of our lives changing, Eternality in a moment under the colors of Kiyomizu We will return !




Do kids get to be kids any more ?


Paddington Bear ?

(2010-02-04 08:32)

(2010-02-06 17:06)


I don’t know why. But these pictures remind me of Paddington Bear (Michael Bond), whose books I used to love read about.



"Daddy feed my baby bald eagle ?" (2010-02-18 23:44)

Yes, that’s right. "Feed my baby bald eagle". But what he was referring to was a Facebook game called Zoo World he is playing, not a real bird. Since the end of last year, he started playing games on Facebook - because all his school friends are playing them. Most of them are harmless time consuming games. Most of them tickle the "collector" bug in him, the same one that made him collect Pokemon trading cards, Lego figurines and even erasers when he was younger. Now he collects animals in Zoo World and mice in Mouse Hunt. I even played the game so that I can help him with gifts and also carry out more meaningful conversations with him. Very very silly games. He doesn’t get online much of course. Only after school work and then even for a while only. On weekends he will get some computer time, but again not too much. Mommy doesn’t like 67

him playing computer games. Some times when I logged in and saw his mouse trap empty of bait, my heart went out to him. His baby eagle was starving and his traps were empty, and he keeps reminding me to help him. I wonder if he should have more time playing what he enjoys, instead of studying. I wonder if he has a sibling maybe he wouldn’t have to play these silly games. The good thing I see is that he learns how to do research on the internet. How to catch the next better mouse or get a cheat or two. All by himself. I even see him typing interesting comments on the Facebook ’wall’. Language I never knew he knows. Feelings I never knew he has for things. I hope his baby eagles survive the night because I found out there is no way I can feed them. Just like I hope he will be happy, well adjusted and maybe have real baby eagles to play with...




Kevin - the joker (2010-03-05 16:55)

I never thought he can be funny, or mean. Xavier is one of his class-mates. A worthless one, apparently ! For the uninitiated, in the game MouseHunt, you sound the horn and this message appears on the feed.

6:38pm I sounded the Hunter’s Horn. I was successful in my hunt! I caught a 4 oz. Brown mousefrom the Town of Gnawnia worth 112 points and 154 gold. 68


Kevin goes fishing (2010-03-25 20:07)

Last Saturday, the company held a fishing competition for the staff. Seemed like a good idea to go, except that, that morning, it started to rain. After the usual Chinese tuition at 10:30am, we rushed off to Parsi Ris Fishing Pond. We reached there after 11am. Everybody else seemed to be there already ! We took our rented rod and parked ourselves with Anthony (my boss). He was doing well, seemed to have a few catches already. They had an easier time earlier with the catches as the fish were released earlier. After learning from Anthony how to cast a line, we stood in the drizzle for 10mins, then 20mins. Nothing ! Kevin, was getting impatient and asked where were the fishes. I hooked another prawn onto the hook. He watched worried and asked, "Is it painful ?" I didn’t reply. He went to Anthony and asked, "You have a lot of fish, can I have one ?". Shyness was not in his vocabulary. "Yes, if you don’t catch one, I will give you one," Anthony offered. After a few rounds of eaten baits, Mrs Anthony got a bite, and reeled in a fish. She asked Kevin to "help" her, and they reeled in a big fish ! Kevin, immediately claimed ownership for the catch. "My fish". He went with Anthony to get the fish weighed. We had lunch and tried to catch a fish. The rain was not letting up and I finally called it a day at 1pm. Kevin went to Anthony. "Where is my fish ?" "Ok, you go select one" "The red one !". And that was how we got a fish on our first fishing trip !

4.4 4.4.1

May How to make money in school (2010-05-17 08:49)

"How much are the Mighty Beanz ?". A new craze in Kidz Club. Kevin was on a collecting spree again. He wants the "hamburger bean", and then it was the "strong bean" or something ? "1 dollar," I casually replied. I have no intention of buying any more for him. Mommy already seeded the collection with a few collector packs, but his desire for ALL the beans keeps him 69

motivated with the little chores or assessment papers he has to do. "That’s cheap ! I can make $1 everyday". "How ?" "Simple! Everyday, I go to the school drain and look. There are always coins in there !" "!!!!!!!" "Then I asked a teacher to lift up the cover by telling him it’s my money". "I can make $1, maximum $2, everyday". He is never short of pocket money, and in fact, he always has money in his wallet. He doesn’t spend all his pocket money. Now I am not so sure that’s the reason. Well, the collecting bug seems to apply to money too !


14000 km away from home in California (2010-05-25 15:35)

Here I am, late at night in California in my room at my hotel. One of my many business trips to Foster City, where the group I work with is. There was a time where travelling was a lot more fun even alone. Now it’s a bit of a drag. I seen everything I wanted in northern California, and although I don’t really miss home, there are many times where I wonder what the family was doing. Tonight in a big cold bed, I wonder if some time in the future Kevin would be doing the same. Working in some strange place, seeing new places, and experiencing new cultures, weather, ... The thrill of seeing tourist sights is no longer there for me. Looking at a photo of the sight is good enough for me. Maybe I haven’t seen anything that is that special.

4.5 4.5.1

June Kevin’s first email (2010-06-10 22:23)

I remember when I was trying to use the BIG word I just learnt. I remember the time I learnt how to swim. The first book I read. The first crush. Now I will remember the first email my son wrote..... Hello mummy 1 day ago Show details kevin loh to grace.chung

Happy Anniversary! Hi mummy! I had missed you a lot,hope you enjoy your trip to Germany.This is my inaugural time writing a message to you.I can’t wait for you to come back to Singapore.I also have a present for you. I a medley of things to tell you. I wonder whtether what is there in Germany and I am also wondering how delicious is the food in Germany. 70


Table tennis anyone ?

(2010-06-28 10:28)

It’s the school holidays. Kevin spends his days in Kidz Club. I am glad that he, at least, will find friends his own age to play with. The older boys apparently started playing table tennis on a makeshift table, and he started learning how to play. After a few days, he borrowed some bats and balls from his cousin and brought them to Kidz Club, and he also comes back wanting me to play with him. We played on the dining table. He likes winning, and more interestingly he thinks he is good. He will try and keep the scores and pretends he knows all the rules. "Your turn to serve, daddy". No, it’s not ! But I humored him and served. "Net ball, .. re-serve", he said when his return hits the "net". Again I humored him. "2-1. Ok, my serve". He gave himself a point although his return hit his side of the table first. I am a pretty good player - played for school, so I try and return the balls so that he can return them. Interesting, how he kept scores so that the game was always "even". "10 all, deuces". He then confidently proclaimed "advantage" to himself, after I pushed the ball out. A few moments later, he announced. "I beat daddy". He actually got pretty good over the last few weeks. It’s interesting how confident he was. Confidence and enthusiasm will get him a long way in life. I hope he keeps this up.


Be safe and healthy (2010-06-28 15:03)

Today is the first day of school - end of the holidays. I had the day off, but I came down to watch Kevin go off to school. This morning was different. "I don’t want Aunty Lena to fetch me. I will go myself." Another metamorphosis. I remember it didn’t seem so long ago when he came back from child care, and asked us to throw away his beloved pacifier. I watched him from the house. Our house is on a hill. He disappeared down the stairs, and appeared again on the road leading to the school. He was walking quickly, and when he was near the turnoff to the school, he ran for a while, as if there was something he remembered. And then he stopped and continued walking. Perhaps he was worried he’d be late, or maybe he felt like running. I remembered a few years back when I saw Er Shen standing at our kitchen window doing the same thing. Watching Shu Hui walk to school. I understand how she feels now. Parents will 71

be parents. Forever wanting to watch over their kids. Hoping they will be safe, healthy and strong. As he walked and turned round the corner to school, I thought, "He’d better look for cars turning into the school car park. That silly boy is just so careless he might just dash across the driveway." Well, for the next few minutes, the cars along the road just continue on and on. No screeching brakes, so I guess he made it safely to school after all.

4.6 4.6.1

July Wanting the best for our kids ( P ™) (2010-07-19 23:26)

Last night, we went to the local McDonald’s for a night snack. The weather was warm, and we were bored at home. "Take your story book and let’s go." Father and son bonding time. It was the first time we’ve been out so late, nearly 10 o’clock, and when we reached there, the place was surprisingly packed. Mainly teenagers. And it was noisy with laughter and young voices. A birthday song was sung, and there was a burst of clapping. We sat near a group of teenage boys and I got a "fish fillet" meal. As we ate, I was reading my book, and suddenly Kevin said, "Do you know that Artemis Fowl has an IQ of 200 ?" I was very surprised ! I have been trying to develop his reading habit. Not much success to speak of. He reads when he wants to, and he reads stuff he wants to read. It was very perplexing. I had seen the Artemis Fowl books in Borders, and had long thought that that was something he should read. A few unread books in the bookshelf were testimony to failed attempts to get him books he said he liked, so I don’t usually buy books for him till I was sure he would read them. "Where did you read the book ?" I asked. "At Kidz Club. My friend’s." Then he explained, "Everyday, after I finished my (home) work, I take it from my friend and read a bit". I think he was worried that he will be accused of not doing his homework. I felt slightly guilty about that. "It took me a week, but I finished it." And he started to explain the story. I looked at him as he went back to reading his book. Suddenly, I realized that it all doesn’t 72

matter. He was happy doing what he likes, and that’s all that does matter. I patted his head. "Good boy..." There will be other heroes he will meet after Artemis. Worlds that he will explore. I wish I could be there with him...... But at least that evening, I am glad I got to know him a little better at McDonald’s.

4.7 4.7.1

August "Daddy, daddy, come up to the bedroom ... Quick" (2010-08-21 12:15)

An image came up immediately to my mind. Mother and son fleeing the bedroom as if their lifes depended on it, small cockcroach on the floor, probably flown in through the window. Maybe the kid was off the ground, on a chair or bed, because he hasn’t figured out the power of roaches flight. "What is it?". I was not moving an inch. "Quick. Praying mantis, quick" "Some green insect, lah." The mother was skeptical. I was interested. Never actually caught a live one before. I went up and was shown a green insect on the window pane, outside, making retrieval a bit of a problem. I peered at it through the glass. Yes, there it was. Three cm, and the characteristic two front legs folded up beseechingly in prayer to some unknown god, the "tiger" of the insect world. I started to climb out the window. "Don’t, daddy. You will fall." It was actually quite safe. There was a 3m ledge outside, and after living in a house, one gets pretty handy with leaking plumbing, roof and the like. "Don’t worry. Your daddy knows what he is doing.". It’s interesting how kids have an exaggerated or perhaps heightened sense of danger they grow out of with age. Might it be that the world seems larger from where they are ? Or maybe after taking some risks, one gets a false sense of security. This change doesn’t apply to the fairer sex, from what I have seen. Especially where heights, rodents and insects are concerned. I managed to maneuver the small praying mantis into a plastic container. Not that I was worried about it nipping me, but more like me crushing it if I used my fingers. "I am not going to sell this!" said a delighted Kevin. And that is another story...

4.8 4.8.1

September Of a blooming "Xero" and a perfect CA (2010-09-04 11:43)


Two years ago, I bought a bunch of air plants. Eh... actually quite a few. One of those crazes that came and went. This Xerographica or "Xero" was amongst them. It was the size of a basketball.. It looked like this. For the past few days, I noticed a blush in the middle of the xero. Today, it looked like this. It is flowering. Wonderous, yet sad.

It did not seemed so long ago, when Kevin didn’t know how to count, how to tell time. I wasn’t worried, he has good genes, I’m sure. But after a few years of maths drills, tuition, yesterday, when I picked him up.

"Guess what I got for Maths for CA (continual assessment) ?" I teased him for a bit. "Zero ?" "No !" "99" "No." "What ?" "100 !," and he showed me the test script. In case he wants to show his kid later, here it is... So why is a flowering air plant sad ? For the uninitiated, flowering means the plant reached its peak, it will reproduce after that, and start to die gradually. The circle of life. I guess not sad, since that’s nature. ‘‘ To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to 74

reap that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. ’’

Ecclesiastes 3:1 Unlike the xero, Kevin still has a long journey, but now is the time to celebrate !


Back in Legoland (2010-09-16 19:55)

Happy birthday, son. Sorry I am going to miss your 10th birthday tommorrow. It was my birthday too, a few days ago. I am in a Sheraton hotel near Legoland, and in fact I can see it from the carpark. I remembered us going up this ride together where we had to pedal ourselves up a "rope", and the Bionicles. You played with the bricks in the show-room.... I don’t remember how I drove here the last time we were here, with you guys in the back and no GPS. But when I drove to the hotel from the airport, suddenly I felt lost and the journey seemed scary. Drove passed Seaworld Drive. Wished you guys were here. "The best things in life are free". I agree. And the best memories of places are with people you 75

were with, not the view, not the paintings, or the big buildings....... I hope that one day we will come back here and visit, together.... or perhaps, you might visit here with your kids, and will remember that Daddy and Mummy was in Legoland with you. Love, Daddy

4.9 4.9.1

October All things in good time - table tennis (2010-10-24 11:15)

For the last few months, we have been playing table tennis on the dining table. When we first started, Kevin was pretty good, but there were things he didn’t get. Fore-hand was very unnaturally for him, and he played exclusively using back-hand strokes. He also couldn’t coordinate smashes or top-spin drives. To amuse myself, I played with my left hand to even up the games. He was enjoying himself, and I didn’t want to spoil it with yet another thing he has to learn actively. He plays in Kidz Club (child care). How often, I don’t know. And there seemed to be a few older boys who are better players there. Last week, when we started playing again after a few weeks, I noticed a marked difference. He could do top-spin drives, smash, and plays with mainly with forehand strokes. He is actually very good now. What happened ?




Travelling alone (2010-12-12 22:55)

I am in the US again. Fourth time this year. The group I came with decided to go Palm Springs and I am riding, shotgun. A girl drove past our car, alone. A rather old car. She looks young, probably teenage. I began to wonder 10 years from now, what would Kevin be doing. As parents, we want our kids to be successful or comfortable in life. However the reality, is they will go where destiny takes them. Like the girl driving beside us now in the car. She looks like she’s happy in her old car, doing her own thing. What are her parents doing or thinking now? Their paths in life are probably moving apart. Like myself. My parents schooled me, and I think in their minds did was was best for us. They would never imagine years later I would be traveling down an interstate highway in California. It was a path that was built when they were raising me. That fierce independence and free spirit that would take me further than all the other kids in the family. The same spirit that maximized the opportunities that a middle-income family provided. I hope that we have provided the same opportunities at least to Kevin. Because he is the only child, I am beginning to see streaks of independence, doing his "research" on things he is interested in, playing his little finger games by himself. I think he will be fine. He may be in Mars in 10 years. We pulled away from the girl’s car. I said a silent goodbye. "Goodbye, kid. And good luck."


Chapter 5 2011 5.1 5.1.1

March (2011-03-07 10:05)

I bought a bicycle 4 months ago. My co-worker Stephen bought one before that and was egging me to buy one so that we can ride together. Shortly after that, we joined the annual cycling event OCBC Cycle. Last Saturday evening, I brought Kevin to watch the Kids event. Unfortunately, we were late and missed it, and we watched the "Professional" event instead. We stationed ourselves next to the start line fencing. The event started with a big blast on some air horns. When the rider pack came around, they were really fast ! You can feel a breeze and the hum of their wheels as they wheeze by. "Daddy, are you faster than them ?" "Of course not! Daddy is not even half their speed" "Can you not participate tomorrow ? It’s very dangerous". I had told him I was riding the next morning in the 40km ride. "Don’t worry, daddy’s race is very slow". I was touched that he cared. "Please don’t go, daddy. If you fall down, will you die ?" 77

5.2 5.2.1

June Kevin and an old friend of mine (2011-06-11 07:38)

It seemed like Soy Lek and I knew each other forever - 26 years to be more precise. He was the person whom interviewed me for my first job, my first manager, and my first friend who was actually older than me at that point in time. I left the job after 1 year (to the day) to work for a software company, but we kept in touch on and off over the years. A few weeks ago, Soy Lek called. He was in China for business and came back for the local elections. One thing led to another, and he ended up in our house. Kevin was having tuition while we talked about local politics, and when he was done, Soy Lek started talking to him. It was clear to me after a while Kevin liked him. Wonders what a little praise, encouragement can do to kids ! Soy Lek then offered to help him with his Maths, and they were off together in the living room table. And that happened the next Sunday, and the next...... I remembered my father. He always seemed to know a lot of things. He never tutored me or anything, but he would show and do things, especially when working with his hands. I remembered he will always write the Chinese characters on our Chinese exercise books. He had beautiful writing, and while I tried, my Chinese characters were always not very good. I remembered asking myself what happens to all the knowledge my father had, should he pass away. Strange, but that was how much admiration I had. With Kevin, I could never have the patience to help him with his school work. Now, a friend had done the same with him. I think I know the answer to my question. Knowledge, like all your material possessions, is only valuable and remembered if shared. I remembered my father, and I guess Kevin will remember Soy Lek.

5.3 5.3.1

July "Daddy, did you take your medicine?" (2011-07-07 20:43)

"Dashan’s father died," said Kevin solemnly one evening as I picked him up from the student care.

"He had an heart attack. Dashan was very angry with the doctor for not saving him." "Daddy, why his father has to die?". "Did he go to heaven ?" Questions I don’t have answers to. But little did I realize that the incident stayed in his mind. 78

A few weeks later, he said,"My teacher, Mr. Xxx, said that high cholesterol will cause heart attacks. Did you take your pills?" He learnt last year that I did a blood test and I had a high chlolesterol reading, and I had to take pills for that. From then on he took it upon himself to remind me incessantly to take "my medicine". He became a little nag. But I am glad that he learnt to think of others besides himself. That had to be one of my greater regrets in life. Could I have taken better care of my parents? I think Kevin won’t have to ask that question in future. Yes, you did well. And I am grateful, and will remember your thoughtfulness. I will never be a better son, but I will try to be a better father.

5.4 5.4.1

September Knowing that your child is happy (2011-09-09 09:22)

For the last few days, Shu Hui and Kevin had been huddling in the study room together. Holiday week ! Brings back memories. When I had holidays in primary school, I was constantly looking for somebody to play with. It turned out that I did a lot of reading because there wasn’t anybody near who had similar interests. Shu Hui has PSLE this year, and he has the annual P5 assessment (SA) coming up after the holidays. "We are studying", he said. Yeah, I believe that. The study room is a mess, and there will be giggles coming out of the room now and then. Like a jack-in-the-box, they will appear periodically with a question from the sample "assessment papers’ for me to solve. As long as your child is happy, right ?

5.5 5.5.1

December Kevin - the scholar (2011-12-07 20:43)


Being a kid is tough these days. When it comes to studies and Kevin, we are blessed. Not sure if the kid will agree, but he was put into the drill of doing assessments sheets, tuition, nagging about homework, and more.... All in the hope that a good education will set him up for the rest of his life. I take a much more


Chapter 6 2012 6.1 6.1.1

January Tokyo, Shinagawa for Christmas - 2011 (2012-01-03 15:04)

This year we went to Tokyo again. Well, given that we started thinking about going somewhere only a few weeks before, we didn’t have many options. Flights were full everywhere. For a change, all we did was get air tickets, and booked 10 days of hotel in Shinagawa. Nothing else. It will be more relaxing, I thought. We’ve seen everything we needed to in Tokyo anyway. This is the trip when I found out I will not need to go Disney Land anywhere again. At least with Kevin. He doesn’t like any rides that involves heights and fast speeds. So that was a big of a wash. Everywhere else we went, we looked for a bookstore to dodge into, while Mummy goes shopping.


Kevin the scholar (2012-01-26 23:17)


How about that ? First in class for P5. I had a missed call from the child care center that day. "What trouble is he in again ?", I thought, and called back. "Daddy, I am first in class" "Really ! Very good ! Did you tell Mummy ?" "Not yet." "Good boy, we go out and celebrate tonight ok ? What do you want ?" "I want to go Popular," he said tentatively. Strange, he could have anything in the world (well anything a kid might want), and he is asking to buy assessment books ! I really felt bad. What kind of childhood are we giving him ? In any case, I am proud of him...

6.2 6.2.1

February Remember a time when sea shells were treasures (2012-02-05 16:21)

Remember a time when sea shells were treasures

And sand castles were magical

And you and I were knights 82


Things that go bump in the night !

(2012-02-24 13:19)

"Come up with me daddy.. I need to take something from the room." Kevin stopped at the stairs leading up to his study room and waited. I got up from the sofa where I was reading a book. This happens regularly because he is afraid of going upstairs by himself. Although, I found it rather irritating, I went up with him anyway. I hope he will know why one day.....Of all the scant memories I have of my childhood, I remembered this clearly. I was sitting outside the house I used to live in. There is a stone seat that is just outside the gate of the house, just beside the driveway. It was night, and I was frightened. I remembered that earlier that evening, I had volunteered to stayed back in the house while the rest of the family went out. I can’t remember what for now, and what I was thinking about when I agreed. I might have been lazy and wanted to do my own stuff. I must have been around Kevin’s age now.

I wished that I had gone with the rest. There were noises coming from rooms in the house, and every little bump in the night was terrifying. I sat in the night outside where there were at least people walking by occasionally, and the street lights were 83

comforting. The occasional voices I heard from the neighbours were welcomed distractions. It seemed an eternity and finally, the family was back. Nobody knew about the harrowing experience I had. We all grow up and get over our childhood fears and worries. Are these feelings any less real that the ones we have when we become adults ? Kevin will get over his fear of the dark eventually. Till then, I don’t want him to have bad memories like mine that he will remember for a long time.




We are so lucky !

(2012-05-15 16:42)

I am not sure how this became so, but getting Kevin to study has never been a problem. Maybe it was because his mother nags at him, or maybe it was because his friends are studious and he likes competing with them. Or maybe because he likes learning new stuff. Every morning, he will wake up and peer over at the clock on the table to see if it was 6:40am, and get up if it was. Brush his teeth, and head down for breakfast and then school by himself. Having heard about kids who have to be dragged out of bed every morning, I marvelled at my luck ! Whatever the case, everyday when I come back from work, he would be sitting at his desk and he would be studying. His only "vice" is his Vanguard trading cards, which he would play with now and then. No TV, no computer games, not much else. Frankly I am sad... we can do better. 84




Vanguard mania (2012-07-12 17:17)


I wish....

(2012-07-23 10:56)

"Last night, da-gu-gu and I prayed for you. She was very worried. Da-gu-gu also taught me a prayer. Are you alright ?", Kevin gushed last Saturday morning. I learnt that Kevin cried "buckets of tears" to sleep. Well, it wasn’t typical Friday night. I had planned to go cycling, 85

but had gone to the GP as I was feeling slightly under the weather. "I want to go with you to the doctor", Kevin said worriedly. "Ok, let’s go". In the GP’s office, I could see that Kevin was getting stressed as he listened. "You have an irregular heartbeat. You better go get an ECG at the A &E. Otherwise ’pengsang’ also don’t know". The GP was close to me, and she started to write a referral letter for me for NUH. "I want to go to hospital with you". I could feel him breaking. "Better not, lots of germs there", said the GP. Anyway I drove home, and got my brother to drive me to the hospital. Got a battery of tests, x-rays. Zilch! All perfectly normal. "Quite a bit of the population has this condition," said the young guy, whom I suspect to be an intern. "Let me ask my boss, if you need to stay back for observation". As things turned out, I was back at home by 10:30pm that night. Kevin was asleep...... —————————-———— —————————- -——– If you had a real wish, what would you wish for ? That you were taller ? That Shu-En was your sister ? Or perhaps, that you will get into the secondary school you want ? That everybody will live forever ?

If I had a wish, it will be that you will always be happy and healthy. You will learn hopefully, sooner than later, that happy is not "more". Don’t wish for miracles, lest you get cynical. There are many things beyond our comprehension. But then maybe.... I wouldn’t wish for anything. I will love and support you in whatever you do, to grow to your maximum potential. You need to know that I will be there when you look back for help, or that I will stop if I am ahead to look for you. That, perhaps, is the greater gift I can give you...

6.5 6.5.1

August What goes around, Comes around. Almost...

(2012-08-01 13:42)

I started wearing glasses when I was in primary school. Probably P2 or P3. The day I wore glasses to school, I was very self conscious, and I remembered taking them off when ever I can. 86

That day, after school, I folded them and put them in the bag.

Bad idea ! I remember when I reached home and took them out, one of the lenses was cracked. As a child, I think I was freaking out, but I remembered nothing bad happened to me. My mother took me to the shop in the afternoon, and got the lens fixed.......

Yesterday, Kevin came to me with his phone. He looked distressed, and said that the glass on the phone cracked. He started explaining, but after a few minutes, I stopped him. After some suitable admonishment, "Ok, we will go get it fixed this Sunday. Next time, don’t put your phone in your bag, ok ?"

A wise friend once told me. "±/« i". Why would I cause more hurt to some one I love if the problem can be resolved with a bit of money ? My mother didn’t study much. She didn’t learnt that in school, but what she did stayed in my memories, and I am glad that afternoon, I made the best of a situation, and everybody involved came out happier. One day in the future, I think, there will be more than one happy kid who will benefit from her wisdom. If you need to see a picture of the cracked iPhone - google! 87


6 little words (2012-08-13 15:26)

I recently reminded somebody, in a smart alecky kind of way that "you can only miss things that you don’t have, appreciate what you have now". So what would I miss, or rather what should I appreciate now ? Every night, before going to bed, Kevin will say these words - ""Good night daddy, I love daddy". Sometimes he would be in bed, and I would be in the living room downstairs, and he would get up and come down the steps half way, and do it. I think that will be it. I never asked and received anyway. And may he hear the same words from a kid in future !


PSLE orals (2012-08-18 12:01)

Last two days were special. It was the PSLE oral exams. Kevin was obviously nervous, but seemed to know what was going on. "Tomorrow I have to be in school before 7am." "Sure about that? It seems a bit early" Then he showed me a slip of paper. Sure enough, pupils have to report by 7am. He went through the exams without much incident. "There was a picture of a guitar for the Chinese oral. I don’t know how to say guitar in Mandarin. So I said PhDaddy, can?" "It’s over. Don’t worry about it. We go West Mall, ok" In a month, PSLE will be over. I can’t wait. 88


Kevin - entrepreneur at large (2012-08-18 12:13)

"Do you want $7, daddy?". That was a few years ago. He sold a grasshopper I caught for him to a school mate. "Keep it for your lunch money". Last week. "Daddy, you want $50". The only difference this time was that the insect craze was over. His buddies are now into trading cards. The Vanguard collection was the flavor of the month. Personally, I can’t understand the fascination with the cards. A few years ago, during the insect craze we would peer into bushes to see if there was an insect to collect and some times he would want to go out to the parks to do that. Armed with collection bottles, we would scour the parks around us for new insects. Katydids, mantis, beetles became his wares.

Now, it’s the West Mall, where his favorite shop that sells the card is - Comics Connection. He would pretend that he wants to eat at the restaurant or food court there to get us there. After seeding his collection, he now buys bonus packs in hopes of getting a rare card. And he could rattle off the names of cards and the powers they have. A business man that knows his wares. Weeks ago he was still asking for $10 each time to buy 3 packs. Now after selling cards to his friends, he has money to buy more by himself, and even return excess profits to me. Not bad returns too. I think he will be ok, no? 89


(2012-08-31 16:37)

"Daddy, my iPhone can fix?". The words were said very calmly. His iPhone was cracked a few weeks ago, and he was happily using it since it still worked. Then I had bought a replacement screen and was hoping I could DIY. It doesn’t look very difficult on youtube. I managed to replace the screen, but the phone didn’t bootup! That evening after he came back and tried to use the phone, and found that I ruin it. "I’ll buy you a new iPhone 5 when it comes out, ok ?" "But I want this one." "Why?"

6.6 6.6.1

September I am glad (2012-09-14 07:01)

The world needs a bit of everything. The good, the bad and the ugly. And I am glad I have a lot of you.


PSLE blues (2012-09-28 06:52)

It’s the first day of the PSLE. Kevin seems confident. English composition and written papers. No pressure. I am sure he will do okay.

6.7 6.7.1

October The end of childhood?

(2012-10-03 07:08)

Today is the last day of the Primary School Leaving Examinations. The last paper is Higher Mother-tongue, an optional subject. Kevin had already started to wind down after months and months of preparations for the exams. Last night we went to the mall to pick up a ’booster box’ for his Vanguard trading card collections. No point studying more for a subject that is a language. He will be hanging out a a friend’s house after exams. I remember the feeling.... Freedom. Relief. And hints of days of fun and more fun. 90

For him, I think moving on to a secondary school means a stage of his young life is over... Girls and other unknowns lie ahead, I hope.

6.8 6.8.1

November A flaky iPhone (2012-11-05 05:53)

Kevin took over my old phone as I bought a new phone. A 2 year old one. It doesn’t work as well as it should. Now and then it would turn off by itself. The SMS thread in the picture happened as I was in the US. The phone kept going out on him. And he couldn’t text me. His prayers got answered apparently but I had to teach him a bit of realism. God doesn’t repair phones was the advice I gave. But his father can buy him a new phone!

6.9 6.9.1

December Of dreams and reality (2012-12-17 09:06)

PSLE is over. Kevin got so-so results. He will be able only to go to a "neighbourhood" school with his T-scores. 91

As parents, we have so many dreams for our children. We want him to go to the best schools, get the best jobs, marry the best girl, ..... However, we shouldn’t let our dreams take away from the work the child is doing. He has done his best, and I am proud of him. I know, because for months, when I get back from work, he will be sitting at his desk. Studying.. He will study weekends, and every waking moment. If he got marks for his trying, it will be a "Distinction". I am so proud of him.

He wants to go to a school that is slightly further - needs 2 buses to get there. We wanted a school that is nearer and he will only need to take a single bus there. The school he chose has table tennis as a sport, and he wanted to do that. We relented. He showed so much passion. Changed his What’sApp status to "training for table tennis", and started to play whenever we can find a table. His cousin’s house has one. He plays there but when they have laundry, he can’t. Mommy enrolled him at the community center with a coach for the holidays so that he can play there 2 nights a week. I can see that he likes it very much. Does research on youtube to learn new serves, and how to play right.

Like the PSLE, he will try his best. And we will support him, and that’s all that matters. Life is not about results. We want him to be happy.... 92


"I believe in the clouds" (2012-12-19 10:40)

He didn’t get the school he wanted. We were very sad for him but he showed his strength by explaining it. I am really proud of him. "Never mind I believe in the clouds.They never fail to have a silver lining,there is no need to be sad" I won’t be, my dear child, because I believe you will be ok.


Unconditional love (2012-12-21 06:46)

Last evening as we walked to the local food court to have dinner, we talked about his secondary school posting. He was still hopeful that his appeal will be granted. ’Without a school team, I still can play table tennis right?’ ’Yes’ ’You know I called my friend, he told me about his interview for the appeal. I must do well’ I got slightly irritated. I didn’t want him disappointed again, and I said curtly. ’You need to look forward. Maybe you might not get through. So just work hard in the new school’ ’Yes, daddy’ I was almost sorry the minute I said that. That night, I was feeling not too up, and I drank a glass of liquor. We were watching his fav 9pm Mandarin show. He could see that I was feeling terrible from the alcohol. ’Daddy, remember that your family will always be here. Are you ok?’ As he watched the reaction from the alcohol overwhelmed me, he got more and more worried. He was in tears. I was feeling bad. Can’t breathe, I swear. ’Are you ok?’ ’I need to sleep’ ’Ok let’s go upstairs’ ’But your show...’ ’Never mind I don’t want to watch any more’ We went up to brush our teeth and he was crying when he said, ’Are you ok? Can I call an ambulance ?’ ’No, I just need to sleep’ And we went to bed. A child’s love is unconditional. No matter how badly you treat him, he bounced back. I hope I will be better to him. And love him more to deserve that. 93

Merry Christmas Kevin. I hope your cloud with the silver lining comes for you soon.


Merry Christmas (2012-12-24 23:45)

To the best son in the world. Thank you for cheering me up when I was down. Checking on me when I was alone. And trying to teach me all the things you know. Thank you for showing me that innocence and goodness still is in abundance. Thank you for being you!



Kevin goes prawning (2012-12-31 00:00)

Mummy’s colleagues had something planned this Friday. Catching prawns. Kevin wants to stay at home. I dragged him there. He is not very adventurous about trying new things. "I stay at home and play with Shuhui, can?"

"No! You are coming with us" My first time doing this too. After learning how to put on the bait with rod we rented, we were on our way...... After a few minutes, Mummy got a bite and pulled out a prawn! Kevin got very interested after that. He took the rod and soon landed two prawns himself, and was grinning from ear to ear.

The afternoon passed rather pleasantly. We caught about 10 after 3 hours. The biggest discov95

ery was to use worms instead of the liver we originally started with. The prawns really started biting then. We BBQ’d some of the prawns and everybody had some. I hope that he would be more adventurous and do more with his life....unlike his dull boring dad who was an unadventurous computer geek.


Chapter 7 2013




2013 first day of secondary school (2013-01-02 14:44)

It was a tough 2 weeks for us. Kevin got his third choice of school. He didn’t get into Fu Hua which had a table tennis team. He was crazy about table tennis. We appealed and applied for another independent school. One by one the rejections came. Finally, on the first day of school, somebody from Fu Hua called. "There is a spot available, do you want it ?" In the morning, Kevin had already gone to the school he was posted to. We took the offer. And later that afternoon, he went to Fu Hua and bought the uniform and new books. He took the whole thing rather well. He was stoic and philosophical about not getting into the schools he wanted. At the end of it all, it was as he said. 97

There is a silver lining in the clouds. And the gods decided to smile at him. I believe there is goodness and fairness in the world, after all. I am so proud of the way he handled the situation. He will be fine.


Table tennis school team (2013-01-10 16:37)

Well he got into the school team. He went for the try outs this afternoon. Yeh!!!

7.2 7.2.1

May End of Vanguard cards craze ?

(2013-05-08 15:01)

Yesterday, Kevin gave me $170. "I sold my Vanguard collection to my friend. I want you to have the money." Pretty good return on investment, I must say. 98


Love is not possessing (2013-05-11 08:16)

"Daddy, are you happy cycling with you friends?" I nodded. "Then you must go. Go some exercise!" It was Wednesday night, I was in my cycling gear, and I know he was terrified of sleeping alone. "Ok, you sleep early ok?" He nods. That night, we were in Tuas heading back, Dave and Clifton had missed calls, and finally Clifton picked up the phone. "Sorry, I didn’t hear it, but your son called to ask where are you." 99

"It’s ok. Thanks!" I cycled home as fast as I could. No hanging out with the guys after the ride. When I got back, he was awake. 11pm. Way past the usual time he sleeps. He was pretending to be doing homework, and be nonchalant about it. "Hello daddy". "Hello Kevin".

I guess love is about wanting the person you love to be happy. Not about possessing him or her, to have them around you. To make yourself happy. Even if you are a frightened little boy.


BlogBook v0.4, LATEX 2Îľ & GNU/Linux. Edited: May 12, 2013

Kevin's Present  
Kevin's Present  

A blog for my son