Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I don't write anymore

Not because it's out of vogue, or there's no time. I've been working on my photographs. It's been more than 5 years of obsessing, learning, practice, frustration and renewing my interest through just not touching the stuff for a while. I still don't think I'm there yet, but anyway, let's see how far I can go without any more lessons.

Also, with time, I've become a lot more taciturn. I used to wonder how a bunch of Chinese people (all related) could sit around at a table and eat over New Year's and not really say much to each other (are they really all related?) but now I know exactly how they do it. There's just a strange invisible force that keeps all the words in, like each word weighs a ton and a half and needs to be lifted out with a crane. I bet I could eat an entire chilli crab now at a table full of people and not say a word.

With CNY just around the corner, I'm sure I will be getting some practice.

New Year resolutions for 2011: Don't forget to register The Son for Primary 1 (my mom forgot to register me and had to go begging 1 month out of time), learn to drive (auto), tidy up my office once in a while, don't forget to take my gingko bilobar tablets every day and try to put all the stray photographs of The Daughter into an album. The Son has about 6 completed albums. The Daughter has a really beautiful, empty album that has been sitting around for about a year. I believe it may still be available when she's looking for someplace to keep her graduation pics.

In other news, I headed down to the Mapo Doufu place at the corner of Beach Road for lunch today with the Lunch Crew where we proceeded to order almost exactly the same thing we had ordered over the last 5 visits. Chilli, chilli, chilli, as far as the eye could see. Only it was strangely not so spicy. One of the Lunch Crew called the waitress over and said the words which would doom us all: "This spicy diced chicken with Sichuan peppercorns is not spicy at all. It's just fried chicken. We've eaten it. Can we please order a second one, but this time please make it spicy like it's supposed to be."

Uh oh.

When the 2nd order arrived at our table, everyone leaned back at the same time, like someone had just placed a bonfire on the table. I almost put my hand up in front of my face. The smell alone made my eyes water, as my nose prepared to run. I turned away slightly and saw.. the chef, standing just outside the kitchen, watching us. That's when I knew we were done for. He had even given us extra chicken ("Finish THIS, assholes!").

When we were done, everyone had finished an additional drink (I had 2 more, and was drinking up someone else's green tea) and we had also finished using 2 boxes of tissues. Boxes, not packets. In the words of one of us, "I think I have to lao sai soon". It took us almost 30 minutes to make it through that dish, with all the wheezing, tearing, sneezing and coughing. I'm sure the chef was laughing his ass off in the kitchen the whole time.

But we finished it. Representin', yo.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What's That, she said

So The Daughter is almost 14 months old now and only because she was preceded by The Son who, from as early as I can remember, could simply not stop talking, we are completely freaked out by her rather stoic silence.

Which is not to say that she doesn't understand what's going on. Based on all the pointing, her vocabulary seems fine and she's picking up new words (mostly nouns) at a fairly brisk pace, but unlike her big brother, she's really not interested in repeating anything after us. He would repeat and repeat and repeat as often and for as long as we could, but she just won't. And while he was, and still is, a walking talking stream of consciousness, she seems to be far more reticent to share what she's thinking. It's like she wants to tell me, hey, I think you're a nice lady and all that, but I don't see why I need to tell you everything.

So it was a like a sunburst out of the dark when, as I was packing for a trip this evening and writing up a list of Things To Do in my little paper notebook, she suddenly leaned over and said "What's that?" in reference to my fountain pen. I almost fainted from happiness. What's that, indeed. All that prolonged silence, and suddenly you want to know what's that. "That's a pen," I said, somewhat dazed by the sudden turn of events. "Pen" she repeats. And smiled at me, showing all 4 teeth. I was so delighted that I passed the pen to her immediately so of course my Things To Do list is now quite screwed up. I should just rename it "A few of the things I have to do".


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Pu Tien Restaurant - Marina Square. Food is Great. Service is, well, self-service would have been better.

The problem with having a law degree is that, should one's family have a bad experience in a restaurant, they would look no further than where I am sitting to decide who should write the letter of complaint. Because, as my mother puts it, "you should be good at writing letters what".

Frankly, as it is quite a busy period of the year for me and I was the one to pay the bill as well, I would have let this bad experience slide, but with my mother sitting on my neck, I have to get the complaint letter prepared and sent out quickly. Hence the time off from Photoshop this evening to put a few sentences together.

I have informed my mother in advance that, given the service levels we are now complaining about, I would generally have a low expectation of a favourable or any response in this case. Anyway, enough. To start.

Dear Owners of Pu Tien Restaurant (Marina Square),


My mother and I, together with my children, went to your restaurant on 8 August 2010. A copy of our receipt is attached for your ease of reference. By way of a time reference, we arrived at about 2.15pm, after dropping my son off at his gym class.

The food at your restaurant is generally very good, and we enjoyed it very much. Our experience on the whole would have been much better if it had not been for the following incidences:

1. Upon arrival, we were given a table in front of the restaurant. As we had a stroller and 2 young children with us, as well as a lot of baggage, we generally try to sit in a corner or at the side, so that we do not block or disturb other diners. Hence my mother asked the wait staff if we could sit at an empty table in the corner. She informed my mother (right away, and without checking any reservation book) that this table had already been reserved.

This explanation we found quite acceptable at the time, but it appeared much less acceptable when, 15 minutes later, we were informed by the same wait staff that last orders were being taken as the kitchen was closing. During the entire course of our meal, the table remained empty. My mother, who was seated facing this table, observed this. I do not know if your wait staff have been trained not to lie to customers like this, but I would suggest that a remedial training session is overdue.

Maybe it is possible that someone had indeed booked a table but not shown up. I would have been happy to explain this to my mother except for the fact that I had tried to reserve a table at your very same restaurant 2 days ago. I made the reservation in advance by telephone for 5 persons at 12.45pm on Friday, 6 August 2010. My party of 5 arrived at 12.44pm and informed your wait staff. We were asked to wait 20 minutes for our table. I asked why this was the case since I had called in advance to reserve a table. I was informed that all reservations made were subject to availability of tables when we arrived. The wait staff informed us that there were other people who had made earlier reservations, for example, at 12.30pm, who were still waiting for their table. So we went to eat at the restaurant next door instead, where we were seated immediately and without a reservation (the food was equally nice there, by the way).

2. We ordered a total of 6 dishes. Our food started arriving at 2.30pm onwards. Halfway through our meal, we were presented with the cheque, as not only the kitchen was closing but also the cash register. This I do not mind as I would save time later at the end of the meal. Other people I know mind very much receiving the cheque in the middle of their meal because it feels like they are being chased out. My family and I are not so sensitive. We did not feel like we were being chased out of the restaurant until:

(a) the lights were partially switched off 15 minutes later, while we were still eating;
(b) the wait staff gathered together less than one metre away for their very lively chatting session;
(c) a man in work boots and an apron started mopping the floor around us with industrial strength bleach; and finally
(d) after their long and loud chat, the staff sat down 2 tables away for their own meal.

I do understand that maybe we eat slow, but to put matters in perspective, our last dish arrived after the man started mopping the floor around us.

In future, I would suggest that patrons of your restaurant be informed in advance if they are ordering too much food, or if they have come at an inconvenient time, where they could interrupt your employees in their daily routine. I am sure the mopping with the industrial strength bleach could only have been done at 2.45pm in the afternoon on Sunday, no earlier and certainly no later. I hope we did not trouble your staff with our continued presence during their chatting session at the cashier's counter (where we indicated earlier we did not want to sit). And I understand the need to save electricity and to extinguish the lights even when your customers are still desperately trying to finish their meal with some dignity (forget about enjoyment).

Anyway, for what it's worth, the food was delicious! I notice that I only paid S$5.65 for the service - clearly this was not enough!

Best regards

Friday, August 13, 2010

Mini Reunion

So I had dinner this evening with my Primary One class of 1979! Oh man. I really should find a less aging way of phrasing that.

Actually it was even better than it sounds. Our PRIMARY ONE FORM TEACHER was there. Totally awesome! I don't think she remembered us particularly well, and probably me not at all. I was not noisy or quiet or hardworking or lazy. Just somewhere in the middle, just another face in a crowd of very small mostly Chinese faces. Most of my Malay and Indian classmates were grouped together in another class so that they could study Malay as a second language.

Only 11 out of 42 of us were there. But definitely enough to make a lot of noise (mostly giggling). A friend of mine said he would not go for such a gathering as he thought no one would really have much to say to each other, other than what are you doing now. But I disagree by experience. I did have a bunch of things to say to everyone else. We didn't really get down to the what are you doing now bits as there was so much past, so much context, to catch up on.

Remember that scene in Charlotte's Web when the baby spiders all flew away, scattered by the four winds, to find their destinies elsewhere? Tonight it felt like 11 baby spiders came back to catch up over dinner. And in a strange and totally unexpected way, I left feeling more complete and at peace. Strange because all we really did was catch up on a series of shared memories and experiences. But I feel grounded because there are at least 11 people out there with the same memories that I have, even if they may mean nothing to the casual listener. It makes the memories more solid, more real, even with the horrifyingly large number of years that have passed.

Perhaps it is the realisation that there were possibly 10 different and alternative careers and lifestyles that I could have tried, instead of my present ones. After all, none of us have similar jobs, some of us never married, some of us never had kids. Anyway. Whatever. Nostalgia makes me ramble.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Wow it's been a while

and I've been a little preoccupied.

It seems like just yesterday when we were bringing The Girl home from the maternity ward and she is now just turning One. Compared to her, The Son is an oasis of calm. The Girl, at the age of One, is already a night owl and learning to run and climb before she can even walk properly. She can scream and scold without learning to talk. She sleeps at midnight, almost every night, and I'm embarrassed to say I almost always fall asleep before she does.

This has led to many many good intentions to spend time on Photoshop which have not materialised. By now, I should be able to achieve a good BW conversion but I still can't. As at the current date, there are easily 10,000 photographs which require my Photoshop attention but which may never get it since I take new photographs all the time!!!!

Have been meaning to post her Milestones but have been putting it off for various reasons. Here it goes:

1. Flipped over early (3 months?), started crawling at 4 months, starting standing at 5.5 months (supported).

2. Started walking (with support) shortly after the 6-month mark, and began walking independently (albeit clumsily) 3.5 weeks before her 1st birthday.

3. Can say Mama, Baba and a few other words, has been able to for some time now, but refuses to attempt anything else. WILL NOT repeat after me, which I think is the root of the problem. The Son managed to learn many, many more words at this stage by being a little more compliant.

4. Can pick out and identify items and animals (Tiger, Horse, Camel, Elephant, Dinosaur, Giraffe, Dolly, Rabbit, ...) upon request. Sometimes she points with her finger, sometimes she points with a great fat foot. But usually she gets it right, to thunderous applause from the fans.

5. Looks like a WWF wrestler "Big Show" when she wears her sleeveless tank top Onesies.

6. Seems to be bigger and fatter than her brother was at her age. Also much more aggressive.

7. Really likes books. Messes up all the piles of books we set aside for her looking for her few favorites.

8. Teeth are taking their time to show up. Currently there are only 2 lower front teeth, and 1/4 of 2 upper front teeth.

9. Allergic to sea bass. Heavens to Betsy!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Bob Dog Turns 5!

It is with great pleasure that I announce the coming of age of the Little Bob Dog. He has, after much fevered anticipation and at least 1 handwritten notification to me, finally turned 5.

Now, according to him, he can do "HAF" of what he wants to do. Because he's almost a big boy.

In keeping with tradition, I took a day off (well, after one meeting and a quick trip to the office to check on work, half a day off) to spend it with the Bob Dog. We took a trip to Vivo City, watched "How To Train a Dragon" in 3D and had a long leisurely lunch at Shin Kushiya where I watched with triumph and great satisfaction as my son guzzled an entirely serving of chawanmushi and asked for more. We have been trying to get him to eat eggs now for ... almost 5 years and, up till now, he has rejected egg in all its forms and incarnations. To be specific, we have tried:

(a) boiled quail's eggs (previously thought to be unrejectable because of their amazing sweetness);
(b) half cooked chicken egg;
(c) chicken egg cooked in Maggi noodles (we were looking to the MSG to drown out any egg flavour)
(d) egg boiled into his rice porridge;
(e) scrambled eggs with ham
(f) egg whites only, boiled into his rice porridge;
(g) steamed egg custard with minced pork and vermicelli
(h) egg mixed into fried rice
(i) just the egg whites off a fried egg, chopped finely and hand-fed with some really good chicken satay.

Anyway, later in the evening, we also gave him a plain chocolate birthday cake and 2 bags of M&Ms and an Archaeopterix (pre-bird/ flying dinosaur) to decorate it with. He enjoyed many, many presents from Daddy and a couple of presents from me, so I think a good time was had by all.

I couldn't help remembering, at various times of the day, exactly what I had been doing at that same time on the day my boy was born. I even remember some of the songs I heard on the radio on the day he was born. Maybe I will do that for every one of his birthdays. Somehow, as I get older and motherer, I remember my children's birthdays so clearly and start to forget my own.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Diaper Company Tells Local Woman To Stop Using Diapers

You know it's a sign when even the diaper company gives you a signal that The Son needs to stop using diapers. While stuffing The Son into the first of his twice-nightly diapers at 2am today, it suddenly struck me that neither Drypers nor any other diaper company makes diapers larger than XXXL, which is exactly what The Son is now wearing, with some difficulty as he is getting a little too big for that size.

There is NO XXXXL or anything thereafter. What does it mean when the diaper companies don't make anything larger than XXXL? Does it mean I need to continue stuffing The Son into XXXL, or is it now time for him to transition from diaper-wearer to bed-wetter?

From here, the only larger-sized diapers available in the market are the adult diapers which, I notice, do not have any super fun happy cartoon pictures printed all over them, unlike the baby diapers. I need to table this for a family discussion. Maybe they will have big kid diapers available for sale in the United States, which we could arrange to bring into Singapore. Hmm...

In other news, The Daughter is standing up and cruising (walking while holding on to furniture) about 2 months early. Everyone is pleased except me because I realise the basis of all this early development is the fact that I ate a tonne of fish oil while I was expecting her, which I did not do for The Son. Which means that I will eternally blame myself should The Daughter turn out more intelligent than her big brother.

Just as a time reference to self, her bottom lower teeth are starting to peek out, she hasn't started speaking yet, but uses a variety of sounds to make known her intentions, feelings and desires. Mmmmmm for when the food tastes good, whiney noises for when she doesn't like the food and screaming and crying for when she falls over. She is using the pincer grip to pick up small objects so we can tick that off already. She has not yet discovered her hands, although I caught her looking at her left hand, front and back, yesterday evening. Finally, a bunch of hair has fallen off the back of her head, so there's a lot of hair in front, but very little at the back. We are doing combovers until it grows back.

She favours Western food (organic store-bought baby pureed foods) over Chinese food (home cooked rice porridge) at the moment.