Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The things we do...

On my way home from work today, I have to go forage for food to keep YK's caterpillar alive. His caterpillar is about to pupate in a day or two but until then, it needs to feed on fresh leaves. It has been rejecting the wilted ones picked over the weekend.
Apparently we have plenty of saga trees in our neighbourhood but the leaves are beyond my reach. With him away in camp, I have to deal with this mini crisis. When he returns this weekend, he wants to shoot, oh I mean photograph, the specimen and release it back to the jungle. If you're interested in what he does, you can check his album.
Now that I only see YK during the weekends, I try to spend more time together. This can only mean two things - hiking and eating. Thanks to him, I've practically visited all the nature reserves and parks in Singapore. A typical weekend would involve driving from one end of Singapore (eg Changi Coast) to the other (Jurong), stopping only for lunch. Sometimes we even take the bumboat to Pulau Ubin.
It's a good thing I enjoy being outdoors and find the forest fascinating. Last weekend, we came across an off-trail flanked by large tree ferns. With the morning light filtering through the tree canopy, it looked like a scene out of Jurassic Park or Lord of the Rings.
I've resheduled my household chores like sweeping and mopping to Fridays so that I can enjoy my weekends. When he's shooting bugs (which can take hours), I read a book under the shade or simply sit back and enjoy nature.
One of his favourite haunts is the mangrove area around Pasir Ris Beach (below). It's funny now that I think about it. This park used to be their playground when they were little. It still is after all these years.
I treat the boys to a good lunch every weekend. Since YK is the one who is deprived, I try to satisfy his cravings. Lately we've been eating at Japanese restaurants. He always orders grilled saba (mackerel) which I think is so easy to cook at home. Now I buy fresh ones from the market and grill them myself.
One place that we all like is Skinny Pizza. The paper thin crust makes eating pizza a guilt-free exercise. I particularly like the generous serving of salad greens while the kids like the crispy texture of the pizza base. The squid ink pizza is their favourite.
We always order the smoked turkey swiss pizza which comes with heaps of turkey ham, swiss cheese, rocket and lashings of sweet blueberry jam.
 The fries that come with the fish and chips can be very addictive though I can't say the same about the halibut chunks which are just too bland and  meaty for my liking.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Learning styles

Yesterday I read a 1000-word essay done by YK which caused my jaw to drop. Over the weekend, the recruits were given an assignment to write about their experience in the army. YK wanted me to remind him after dinner in case he forgets. He said he should be able to complete it in 15 minutes.

I woke up the next morning to find the 2-page essay on the table and read it out of curiosity. Till now, I've never had a chance to read my son's work even though he contributes to some websites. What he had churned out in 15 minutes was really impressive. Even though he is a science student,  I'm now convinced that he can even pursue a career in writing if he wishes.

Unlike many children I know, YK has never liked reading even though he grew up with access to a big library of books. He has never read a novel in his life and cannot understand my love for reading. During his O Level exams, he surprised me by scoring a distinction in literature though he confessed that he did not even read the text book. In fact, I found it lying around the house and ended up reading it instead.

As his mom, I know that he is a fast learner and he speaks well but I've always wanted him to broaden his general knowledge. My attempts to make him read the newspapers have proven to be futile.  While he is getting news updates through his smart phone, I think it is inadequate. He only  reads reference books and prefers to glean knowledge through other mediums. He swears by Wikipedia and spends hours watching documentaries and videos on Youtube.

I probably worry too much. He has proven time and again that you don't have to be a bookworm to acquire knowledge. While I've always known about his audio/visual learning style, I'm finally able to embrace it after 20 years.

So parents out there, identify your children's learning style and instead of trying to change them, help them to flourish from there.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Marital problems

There have been so many cases of extramarital affairs in the news lately that I don't think they are scandalous anymore. This is not a new phenomenon, it's just that we're reading more about them because of the media.

Recently I also learned that some of my friends are having marital problems. One had divorced his wife only to remarry her again for the sake of the children. His son, now a teenager who had witnessed the tumultous relationship from young, even asked his father how long this marriage is going to last.

Another friend, a very respectable man and one of the nicest person I know is also in the midst of ending his marriage. The couple have been living apart for a number of years and the distance between them have reached a point of no return. While he has been a great father and provider, the kids are closer to the stay-at-home-mom. He's feeling so guilt-ridden that he intends to sign off all his assets to the wife and leave the business to the kids. Having built his business for years, he might end up with almost nothing. As his friends, we worry for him because he's getting on in his years and will need a nest egg for his old age.

One young friend I know is so tired of living under the same roof with his bickering parents. He gets so exasperated whenever they use him as a go-between, he wonders why they won't get divorced so everyone can be happier.

In a  recent survey, one in two married people in Singapore considered divorce at some point in their marriage. I am still surprised at the findings because I do know of many happily married couples too.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

A smart nation?

When we were staying at Fairview Guesthouse in Kuching two months ago, I struck up a friendship with Annie who runs the guesthouse because she's so friendly and nice. She told me she'll look me up when she visits her daughter here in December, and hopes that I could bring her to my parent's orchid farm.

While I was looking forward to seeing her again, I wasn't quite sure if she meant what she said. To my surprise, she contacted me when she arrived and we had a great time yesterday. She brought along her husband, brother and sis-in-law.

I notice something about Malaysians that I find quite lacking in Singaporeans. It is something intangible yet quite visible when you're in their company. I've met many people in my life but when I'm with my Malaysian friends, I feel extremely comfortable and at ease. They exude warmth and sincerity and still have that Kampong spirit in them.

Spending an entire morning with them at the farm was so enjoyable. They weren't afraid of getting their shoes muddy nor were they bothered by mozzies and the heat. Our conversations revolved around plants, fruits and the good old kampong life instead of achievements, exam scores and possessions . Their knowledge and humility impressed me even more when I realised what high fliers they are when we've said our goodbyes.

In the course of our conversation, I lamented about the stressful environment the kids in Singapore grow up in and what they said was quite enlightening even though it shouldn't come as a surprise. "Singaporean kids are famous for scoring well in exams."

How true! It's front page news today:
Singapore students shine in international benchmarking tests - Singapore students remain world beaters in mathematics, science and reading, according to the results of two international benchmarking studies released on Tuesday with youngsters across the academic streams chalking up higher scores than their predecessors.

I don't know how to react to this. We are a nation of smart people but what about our EQ? Do we leave behind a favourable impression when we meet our foreign friends or are we smart but competitive and maybe even quite complacent?

Monday, 10 December 2012

The doggies

Harry was recently hospitalised for an injury in his back. We're not sure how he got himself injured at the farm (we suspect he got into a fight with the other farm dogs) but he's recovering well after treatment. After a close shave (pun intended), he looks nothing like a Japanese spitz.
 Rusty used to get into all kinds of mischief and skirmishes while living at the farm. Now that he's dwelling in the apartment, we have to keep him occupied.

Honing his survival skills.

Walking in the rain.

Chewing carrot.

Monday, 3 December 2012

A friend indeed

I am usually in bed by 10pm but last night, I was up chatting with a friend. She was fuming because someone she knows is constantly being beaten up by the husband.

My friend wants to help badly, so she sought my advice. I'm not one to advocate divorce but in a situation like this, it is obvious that this victim should leave asap.

If she has kids, it is even more important for her to remove the kids from the abusive environment. Kids are very sensitive. You can't hide the simmering tensions at home from them. And they remember more than you think they do.

While it is clear to us that she needs help, the victim is often in denial. Many women end up suffering in silence, thinking they're destined to live a life like that. According to my friend who has an understanding of the victimised psyche, there is a degree of learned helplessness that needs to be reversed. It's like the abused animal that is afraid of leaving the cage.

I agree with her because I've been there before. Amidst all the abuse, threats and harrassment, it actually took a lot of courage for me to walk out the door. What if the threats were real, what would happen to the kids?  Will we be safe? Will I be able to walk in the streets with my head held high? So many questions and fears kept clouding my mind.

Seeing that I needed help, a friend dragged me to her lawyer to start the divorce proceedings. I almost hated her for it but now I think it was the best thing she had done. She saved me and the kids from a life of misery and despair. Her one act gave me my life back.

Even then, I was reluctant to proceed. The paperwork was ready but I was not. I told my friend and  lawyer to hold on. They shook their heads in disbelief. I was mentally weak. I felt sorry for the one who was making my life a living hell. When the abuse got from bad to worse, I bit the bullet and gave the lawyer the green light. Finally I was on the right track.

That was just the beginning. The ex wouldn't let go. He put up a big fight. Several times, I almost lost my mind and gave up fighting for custody of the kids. Thankfully I had strong support from friends and family. Without them, my life would be in a mess.

All this is behind me now and I don't like to bring it up but I must because there are women out there who need help and support. It was hard for my friend to believe that I lacked courage. To her, I'm a brave, outspoken and capable woman who can handle anything that comes my way. Yes, I only flourished when I came out of that cage.

When you are in an abusive relationship, whether physical, mental or emotional, you lose your sense of identity. You live in fear. You're treading on eggshells because you never know what will trigger your partner off. You envy your friends and you grief in private.

Even dynamic and successful women at work could return home to abusive spouses. Not all marriages work and if it fails, there is no shame in ending it. Everyone deserves a better life.

And yes, there is life after divorce and you have to believe in it. Divorce is a process that will take you through  phases of grief, loss, pain and then stability. You don't have to look very far to see how many divorced women are thriving with a renewed sense of purpose and enjoyment.

I warned my friend to be prepared to face resistance and hostility. She's expecting that but she's willing to risk getting bitten first. I'm sure she will be appreciated later. What a true friend to have.