Making Light of Things

November 2007 Archives


There’s something about the dead of night. It makes us ponder over the deepest questions. The last 2 nights, Anne cried briefly, asking us, “Can I go back to my house?”

We’d have granted that wish in a second if we could, dear girl. We’re sorry to have made you homesick at so tender an age. I can’t help but wonder if she inherited my tendency for routine and averseness to change. In a time where the world is global, the workforce mobile and friends easily made and lost, would I be crippling her if I shielded her from change?

Despite having entertained thoughts of living abroad, I’ve never done so. Yet despite my best efforts to keep everything in the same place we first begun, most of our close friends have moved. This trip to New Zealand to attend the wedding of a friend is one such instance. Even home - Singapore - isn’t the same.

Are Singaporeans conditioned to reject change? After all, our government tells us ever so often that should we elect a different administration the world would surely crumble and fall. So we stick to the same, thinking that it is the best. We fear the unknown, giving it more respect that it deserves. Even when all signs point to embracing change, Singaporeans hold back. Are we an insecure people, constantly needing affirmation by way of topping surveys, rankings and competitions?

Do I hold on to what I have because it is all I know, and therefore the known is better than the unknown? Have I allowed God the opportunity to speak, as He did to Abraham, and ask of me my future - the collective futures of my family? That all I’d trust is His hand. Not what I know, or hold, ot am familiar with.

A few moments ago Anne, half asleep, asked if I could sing. I sang a few repetitions of “Twinkle twinkle little star”. The dry air here really tears your throat apart.

Alone Time

The moment we landed Faith had to rush off for Tom and Dawn’s wedding. We decided to have Anne sit out the wedding as she wasn’t 100%. It was the considerate thing to do as there were other kids at the wedding who might contract whatever she was having.

It’s been forever since I’ve explored a new place with a companion in tow. When Min came to Tucson, I’ve had already been there a year. When I visited Min in New York earlier this year, she’d already been there a while. So here we were, Anne and I, discovering Auckland for ourselves.

Thank God she was amenable to the idea of sitting in her pram. Carrying her would have torn my arms off, especially now that she weighs a hefty 11kg. We set out twice that day - the room at the hotel was a little too boring and you could only watch so many re-runs of Barney, even for Anne.

We walked around downtown a bit, then found a pram-friendly way into Albert Park. Anne was asleep by now, but I was really enjoying the park. The foliage was a little more “raw” than Singapore’s Botanical Gardens. Trees were allowed to grow low-hanging branches which made for great climbing. It also helped that the weather was a lot cooler and less humid. The air was nice and crisp. The kiddo was asleep.

Oh yeah. It was here I realised why people buy those $400 prams - the ones that have inflatable tires, suspension systems and all that. The inclines in Auckland are crazy steep, the pathways not always baby-butt smooth. Anne’s Sungei-road pram held its own, but only because Anne was almost totally comatose.

Continue reading Alone Time »

Singapore to Auckland

Dear Singapore Airlines,

I’ve been a loyal customer for some time now, having flown the SIN-LAX route many times as a college student who left his sweetheart at home. I’ve always been impressed with the movie selections and airline food that actually tastes good. Yesterday was the first time I flown with my family in tow, and I find my expectations of excellence different from flying alone. I find my expectations simpler and more fundamental, but unmet.

Having a 2 year old means you have no time to catch the Transformers on the inflight entertainment. There’s no time to sit down for a full movie. Anne’s head was too small to use the headsets, so she had to make do with a Charlie Chaplinised version of Toy Story 2.

Being one of the multitude that isn’t able to afford business or first class, leg space is a premium. Flying alone I am able to tolerate small confined spaces for long periods of time - I just hole up and enjoy myself. Economy seats suit us fine - we aren’t tall or large, but the problem arises when the tray tables come down. We’re forced to sit upright and have a good 70% of the space in front of us occupied by a tray of food.

I’m still unsure about how airlines figure out when to feed you - we had dinner at 11pm Singapore time, which was 4am Auckland time. Anne was just getting settled and ready for bed. The air stewardess asks us which meal Anne’d like, explaining that children had smaller portions of the same meal as adults. I choose the Perch - some sort of fish. The meal arrives promptly. Fish fingers. Not sure if it’s “Perch”. Our meals come later and I’m sure we didn’t get fish fingers. No matter. Anne needs to sleep anyway.

The trays weren’t cleared for a long time, so we were unable to have Anne lie down, despite our best efforts. She kicked the table a few times, almost spilling half-drunk orange juice all over the place. Unable to stand it anymore, I requested for the trays to be removed. The steward was nice about it.

We had a couple of bookworms seated on the other side of the aisle from us. In what I can only describe as a crucial design flaw, their reading lights shone right down our entire row of seats. I spent a good portion of the flight trying to eclipse the reading light for Anne to get some shuteye. One of the bookworms even opened the window shade, illuminating the entire cabin.

I’m not a college student anymore. When I fly with my family, it is not my own needs that are the priority. Lovely as the amenities are, my family’s comfort is paramount, and I found SIA lacking.

Sick Birds

Tomorrow night we’ll be flying to New Zealand to attend Tom and Dawn’s Wedding. It’ll be Anne’s first time on a plane. There’s that little apprehension - like a roller coaster at the apex of its tracks - probably due to the fact we’re facing another new, unknown experience.

Thing is, Anne and I went down with the flu last night, and the prospect of flying ill is more scary than exciting.

Keep us in prayer, yah?

Slim Hope, Fat Chance

Thank you for all your concern. I took half a day off last Friday, and I feel better for it.

Having just turned 30, it was mandatory for me to update my identity card. The photo of my 12 year old self on the old one is highly embarrassing. Even more so when my own daughter - my flesh and blood! - always points to it and says “Aunty”. Testosterone kicked in later, thank God.

I also managed to catch Beowulf. Despite the use of cutting-edge motion-capture technology and a gadzillion rendering engines, technology on its own will never reproduce the semblance of life. In Beowulf there was a noticeable void in the eyes of its characters. Whenever eye contact was to be made, I could instinctively sense the emptiness of an inanimate, lifeless object. Similarly, Madame Tussauds’ can make something look lifelike, but not completely. It requires a certain effort on our part - our imaginations need to make up for the lack.

In other news, Faith went for a scan this morning. There’s an 80% chance that #2’s a boy. Hope just went out the window I guess.

I’ve never been very good at boy names. All my gadgets are named after women.

Be Laboured

There’s a chill you get when the air-conditioning’s too cold. It’s an unnatural chill. When it’s cold out, the cold feels liberating; everything is crisp and fresh. Not so with the cold that comes with refrigeration. It chills to the core, as if the inside of your bones were ice-cold.

It lasted for hours even after I left the office. It’s been like this for a while, and it drains me. Tracing back, I think it comes from exhaustion - I had an extremely tight deadline moved back 4 months. While the extra time was welcome, it felt like having a sprint turned into a marathon just before the finish line. There’s little left in the tank but a whole long way to go.

The ball game’s different when things are for the long haul. Where the other cogs I needed to get in place were once responsive, the time extension has put everything in a freeze. The sense of urgency is gone. The adrenaline rush has worn out. The river turns into a glacier.

Cold. I feel cold.


Practically everyone is predicting the coming baby to be a boy, simply because Faith’s pregnancy this time round brings about very different “symptoms”. “Oh it must be a boy…” goes the chime. Just because I’ve the rebellious streak in me, I’m going to say the baby’s a girl.

The scan isn’t until December, but I read somewhere that the father decides the gender of the baby. So here I am, deciding. Girl.

Faith and I were sitting around the other day thinking of baby names, as most expecting parents are wont to do. If you haven’t already guessed, we like short names, simple ones. Where many kids now sport frankensteined names like Shauntinice, we’d like to give our kids a head-start by having them be the first in class to know how to spell their name.

For almost all of Faith’s childhood, I remember adults coming up to her and asking “so where’s hope?”, an overused har-har on the clichéd Christian phrase “Faith, Hope and Love”. Faith’s sister happens to have the word “love” in her Chinese name, so all hope is lost.

If we named the next kiddo Hope, what of Anne?

“Faith Anne Hope”. Heh.


It’s extremely common for Singaporean families to hire domestic helpers from neighbouring countries like Indonesia or the Philippines. They keep homes spick and span, cook the meals, look after children or the elderly. It has come to a point most middle-class families can’t imagine life without one.

Many people have asked us if we were thinking of hiring help, especially now that we have number 2 on the way. An extra pair of hands is a tempting proposition. We spend a fair chunk of our weekend on housework , and our pad isn’t as organized as we’d like.

But there’s something to be said about doing it yourself. I tell myself that I’d like Anne the basic tenets of family living - that toys do not miraculously fly back to their shelves, or floors do not clean themselves. That keeping the home clean is the responsibility of the family.

We had a great time doing housework together this morning. After a few months of nausea, Faith finally felt well enough to tackle some cleaning. It was good to have by my side; her presence makes work feel light. It comforted me to see her on her feet - her nausea was a burden she has had to bear on her own.

So much to thank God for.


Anne's first public performanceAnne’s first public performance.

There she was, in her little red boots and carrying her little red umbrella. She looked shell-shocked that unlike previous rehearsals, a full-house sat before the small group of performers. At least 2 dozen image capturing devices were pointed at the kids.

The music came on and it took a while for the kids to realise that it was the cue to perform what they’ve practiced the last few weeks. A few get into the groove, the others see their more alert classmates and follow suit. Anne holds the umbrella firmly over her head, not swaying it like the rest, possibly because we’ve always told her to “hold it properly so no one would get wet”.

Just as she decides to get into gear, she catches sight of us and begins pointing. Forget the actions, Mummy and Daddy are here. She smiles radiantly, still pointing. She turns to the nearest classmate and begins to tell her, rather loudly, that Mummy and Daddy are here. Faith and I can barely hold our cameras still, half embarassed that our daughter, who stood stage centre, was destroying all efforts at putting up a synchronised performance. We were also immensely proud that she stood a distance from us, her very own person, acknowledging our presence.

And that our presence made her smile.

This is the first time I’ve ever been to Anne’s school. Even as I type this I’m apalled at my lack of involvement in such a critical area of her life. I can name her friends - only because we have her class photo and Anne waxes lyrical about each and every one of them. Whether they cried today; or who didn’t want to share his or her toys.

Have I spent too much time at work?

Will I have time for her when #2 comes around? It becomes clear to me that there’s a lot less sand in the hourglass, and I do not have to wait till she’s 21 to lose my little girl.

It’s an odd feeling watching her grow and come into her own, and suddenly realising she’s growing up too quickly.

How independent is she? Faith and I discovered that one of her toenails was almost pulled off in those little red boots. And she kept smiling through it all.

And pointing.


Faith told me that when I left the house last night to play ball, Anne went to the front door, crestfallen that I had left without her. She then started to cry silently. When she went to bed she broke into sobbing “I want Daddy”.

I came home late, oblivious to what had transpired when I was away.

Anne seemed to be having problems sleeping, endlessly tossing and turning. When I finally got to bed at two, the little girl sat straight up, looked in my direction and said “Daddy come home”. Besides the obvious need to teach her proper grammar, I realized how needed I was in her life, and although we sometimes think the kiddos are distracted enough for us to slink away to our own activities, being a parent is a full-time, all-the-time commitment. I’m not saying that I’ll never play ball again, but I felt that I should have stayed.

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