Peaceful Saturdays, with no drama, are the best things ever. Mom cooked dinner with the help of my two younger brothers. My wife had time to work on her hobby in the afternoon. My youngest subjected me to endless YouTube videos of K-Pop boyband NCT acting cute.
Faith went for a walk with my mom just before dinner and her little cousins played in the playground. In the kitchen, as I scooped out the soup into the big bowl, I felt the absence of Sey Yi and felt a sharp pain in my heart. We will miss you dearly forever.
After dinner, we had some birthday cake, and the adults had a sip of Yuzu wine and Nikka 12. Followed by our favorite Chinese dating show where we all give our loud brutal assessments of the contestants. My youngest brother, my sister-in-law, Joy and I lingered a little longer to keep my mom company for the night.
As Joy and I walked home, talking about Instagram stuff, we saw the ice-cream man. Joy was very excited and we bought enough for the entire family. We were his last customers for the evening. It was a good day.
You know they tell you 30 the new 20? And 40 is the new 30?
50 is not the new 40. It’s all lies. It’s just 50.
But I spent it with my wife, who took the day off to be with me all day. After a visit to an Icebreaker merino wool store in Capitol, she treated me to a Japanese lunch at Hoshino, and even accompanied me to Funan, where I checked out gadgets and folding bicycles. She knows the things I like. With the restraint of a 50-year-old, I bought nothing. Just look look see see only.
And then later we had a last-minute invite to drinks and dinner with some old friends, talking about our kids because we are all already parents.
And we got home at 12.30am. Which may as well be 6am. Because you know, lao liao.
It was a heady day. I started the morning cranky. As a 50-year-old should be. But ended it sleepy. As a 50-year-old should be too.
I don’t have abs of steel. My face has some 老人斑. My Old Flower Eyes (presbyopia) are getting worse. Some of my hair is even white at the sides now, and due to be dyed. And my right shoulder hurts like heck. I’ll have to have that looked at.
But I have the love of a good woman. I have lovely children. I have a big circle of great friends. My mother still nags me and scolds me but remembers my birthday. My brothers are merciless in their teasing. And I have the support of a great extended family.
I cannot think of a better way to enter the second half of the century of my life.
This is us walking past the hotel where we had our wedding dinner more than 22 years ago. I thought it was a fitting reminder of our union and my blessed life.
Soon after this, we were knee-deep in conversation and Shochu with good friends. That’s how life should be, yeah? 50 and loving it.
Thanks be to God and thanks to all of my loved ones who have made my life a wonderful ride so far.
The Wife and I took a 13-day road trip from the south of Spain to the north, and back again. I reflected on my relationship with my soulmate on this trip.
(Read the full post and see more photographs at brown.exposure.co or view the embedded version below.)
Recently a friend shared a 2016 article from the papers entitled, "Price of wedding tables hits new high", talking about the rising costs of a wedding.
There was a chart in the article that said: "How much should you put in your red packet?".
This kind of thing only perpetuates the rise in hotel wedding prices.
The piece was a 2016 ST article. I suspect the prices have gone up even more since then.
Like my mom likes to say, "Give what you can afford. Why should friends and relatives finance their fancy wedding? Don't tell me if they have a wedding that is $10,000 a table, I also have to give $1,000 meh?"
If guests and couples keep playing this one-upmanship game, hotels and restaurants can continue the price gouging. It's like an arms race, for the sake of face. And for the sake of the Instagram. Don't do it for the 'Gram.
It is an important Big Day, that is true. But it is only the first day of the rest of your lives together. You will face many more challenges ahead, especially financially, and you shouldn't start your union with a big fat wedding bill.
You know what is more important than the wedding? The marriage.
Save the dinner money. Go on a nice honeymoon. Start your marriage properly, without the crippling debt.
Photo above is the from our wedding more than 20 years ago. My bride looked so pretty in that 裙褂 (or Kwàhn Kwáa, in Cantonese). My wife looks better and better every day.
Best Comments on this topic:
Ryan Ong: "We’re hosting a wedding, not a hospitality industry business grant."
Mezame: "Aiyah no need to get married lah. Just update FB relationship status can liao. Free some more."
Victor Seah: "Hold your wedding at a hotel you can afford, and not MARRY TO A HOTEL."
Alyssa Chee: "Elope!"
Stef: "I've told my son I will give him S$10,000 to elope."
I am rather surprised and happy my old but pristine Panasonic SL-CT800 Discman still works. This very slim portable CD player was the bee’s knees back in the day, circa 2003. Even the remote still works. I powered the Panasonic with an old Sony Discman 4.5V power supply I found in another box.
I connected the SL-CT800 to the pair of Sonos Play:5 Gen 2 speakers in my living room via a 3.5mm line cable and boom, music in the home.
The reason I dug this old tech out of the drawer was because I had this CD by The College Fund Street Band, made up of the Fong siblings. I bought their CD after watching them perform at San Francisco Ferry Building some years ago. And I wanted to listen to it.
I know. Who still uses CD players anymore, right? But I have CDs that don’t exist in Apple Music or Spotify (I know, that’s hard to imagine), so this Discman will be nice to have around.
Here are some CDs I dug out of the box to try. I have to say, CDs and their uncompressed songs still sound better than streaming tracks.
Since everyone is sharing old versus new photos on Facebook, comparing their profile photos from ten years ago and their current ones, here are some of my photos.
The photos above are Mommy with Faith, 2006 vs 2018. My wife doesn't seem to age.
These photos above are Mommy with Joy, 2005 vs 2018.
And that's me with Isaac and Joy, 2007 vs 2018. Seeing Joy's laughter as a toddler, cracks me up.
How time flies. One moment they are babies, the next they are teens.
Seeing some of these photos brings a lump to my throat. I had forgotten I took those photos of Faith in hospital, her first of two major hospital stays.
That year, Faith was five years and eight months, and she had a throat infection and refused to eat and drink, because she didn’t understand why she had the pain. And we had to hospitalize her to put her on a drip. We took turns staying with her, and I pulled the night shifts.
That canvas folding bed that cracked when you unfold it was my bed for days. But somehow you forget the discomfort because you are more worried about your autistic firstborn and her ordeal sleeping in an alien environment.
We are thankful for all the help we get from our families, especially mom, and my brothers Meng and Wai. It really does take a village.
We are very blessed to have these three kids in our lives. They have given us much love, laughter and joy, and taught us how to have faith, and be better versions of ourselves. We thank God for them every day.
When three families travel together, things can get somewhat topsy-turvy.
I share these photos, partly to share the silliness and fun that usually accompany my family vacations, but also to share the tiny miracles that happen on these trips.
This is Family Trip Tiny Miracle #2 (for Miracle #1, I will share that another time). Note Faith posing for the photographs.
She hardly ever does this. We can’t even get her to look at the camera most times. This time, she not only posed when we told her to, she held her poses for quite a long time. She looked like she really enjoyed the Upside Down Museum. You can see a silly smile on her face.
Travel brings all kinds of surprises. Some good. Some bad. But many are good and life-changing.
It’s a small thing to others, maybe. But a 17-year-old young lady with autism who pretended she was holding on to a chair for a photograph: that was like seeing one of the Seven Wonders of the World to us.
So, I thought I’d share our little precious moment with you, as we give thanks to God for this tiny miracle.
Isaac came home from church on Christmas Eve, after his Ah Pek Innkeeper role in the church presentation, and said, “Let’s do a song together, as a family.”
I said that we haven’t even rehearsed or arranged this song before. But Isaac insisted.
He said, “I just want us to sing together. It doesn’t have to be perfect.”
So he grabbed his guitar, I grabbed a Sennheiser Memory Mic, and we recorded this in the bedroom, in our pajamas. We managed to record this, flaws and all, in just a few minutes.
I hope it blesses you all as much as it blessed us to sing this as a family.
Have a blessed Christmas, everyone. And may you feel the warmth of home and the embrace of His love this Christmas Day.
Vimeo Link: https://vimeo.com/308270550
It has been a while since I posted about Faith, so I thought it would be good to share some recent photos. She is all of 17 years old now, and not the little girl that many of you may remember her.
Since it was Deepavali, and a public holiday yesterday, and we decided to take Faith out to town for a little outing. Her younger brother and younger sister all had their own teenage programmes, so it was just me, mommy, Auntie Marian and Faith.
It doesn’t take very much to make her happy. An MRT ride to Dhoby Ghaut, a little window shopping, a snack at Mos Burger, and then another train ride home.
Her autism didn't cause her to act up in the train or the mall, which was good. She did, however, have a very strong desire to enter stores with loud music playing (she would stand near the speakers for a bit, listening), and she would drag us to places where there were holes and repeat patterns on the wall.
She enjoyed squeezing the squeeze toys in a shop, so mommy let her play with those for a while.
She was all smiles today. And that made us smile too.
Inspired by the trending hashtag #BadStockPhotosOfMyJob, I decided to share some of my own. For example, I frequently take photos this way with my film camera even though it does not have a rear screen. All of us hipster bloggers do.
I make YouTube videos of myself sticking my butt up this way all the time.
When I read nasty comments on my blog and social media platforms, I can feel the stress coming out of my man bun.
Whenever I get 100 Likes, I hug my monitor, which isn't connected to anything. Not a computer, not a keyboard, not a mouse, not even a power cable. I do my best work on this monitor.
The wife sent me a photo of this drawing by my youngest daughter recently. I think Joy captured my wife and me perfectly.
Obviously, I am a tough cookie that melts in contact with milk of my wife's love. Gosh, that sounded really mushy.
Our kids often make us laugh, make us cry, and make us lose our collective minds.
But once in a while, they make us feel warm and fuzzy inside.
I am humbled my 12-year-old looks at the relationship that my wife and I have, and sees this kind of love. We must be doing something right.
Faith was walking around the house on the heels of her feet for part of the day, before we realized she found our marble floor too cold.
So Auntie Marian gave her a pair of socks to wear. She walked happily after that.
Even teenagers with autism can feel the cold of this rare 21°C Singapore winter. Faith even pointed at the hairdryer, asking for her wet hair to be blown dry after her morning shower. She never does that. It is usually something we do for her without her asking. We were very amused.
I just returned from Japan where it is snowing, and when I got off the plane in Singapore, I did not need to take off my jacket. For a moment, I thought I had entered a Mirror Universe. What happened to my Singapore? Where was the sticky heat and humidity? Where was the smell of sweat on the trains?
Here are ten signs that we are having a Singapore Winter:
1. This is your OOTD 👆 (For the curious, that is an Icebreaker Legion 3Q Trench Coat, a windproof, water-resistant soft shell with odor-resistant merino wool lining inside.)
2. 23°C at noon.
3. Aircon in bus is warmer than the air outside.
4. Everyone is dressed in Uniqlo.
5. Your son borrowed one of your cardigans.
6. You drink Teh C Kosong instead of Teh C Kosong Peng.
7. You are using heat packs in your pants.
8. Your table has a miniature heater.
9. You are wearing a wool beanie and no one laughs at you or calls you a Douchebag.
10. Kim Huat is not sleeveless.
11. You showered at your wife's water heater setting.
Today, many parents went to register their children for Secondary School. Yesterday, the results were sent out, and the fate of our children’s placement arrived in the form of an SMS.
For some parents and children, there will be joy, as they get into school of their choice.
For others, it may be an SMS of sadness, because the school assigned is not what was aimed for or expected.
Isn’t it strange how powerful an automated SMS can be?
For some, there will be tears of disappointment, especially if the parents and the child expected to stay within the school they spent six years of primary school in. The sense of loyalty, school spirit, friendships made, all seemingly lost in a flash. All because of the way the chips fell. All because of exam results. All because of one exam point or eleven.
They call it a Cut-Off Point. For some of us, that can literally be the case. It can feel like “cannot make it”, or “did not make the grade”, or “cut off from your friends and school”.
Cut. Off. Point.
But as we accompany our kids to their schools today, we parents must be strong and positive.
In private, we may be lamenting the loss and dwelling on the disappointment. Mothers, in particular, feel this most keenly, I think.
In front our kids though, we must be pillars, cheerful pillars, even, for our children’s sakes.
Whatever our own fears and hangups, what the child should see must be our love and support. Especially for those of us whose kids may have ended up in a school that was not a first choice. Do not let them feel like they have been rejected by their old school or feel like they are being tossed into a “bad” school.
Do not let them feel ashamed of who they are or where they are going.
See the good in every school.
See the good in the principals and the teachers who are going to spend the next four to five years molding and teaching our children.
See the good in our own children, that they can achieve, no matter what society may define as “success”.
Hold our children close. Keep their self-esteem intact. Shield them from the politics of policy, and the slings and arrows of an imperfect system. And make them feel confident and able to overcome and to excel. Our strength and optimism is THEIR strength and optimism.
And as we fork out our hard-earned money for what feels like an endless chain of expenses, for new uniforms, new books, new levels of allowance, let us remind ourselves that the most important thing is that the child is happy in the new school environment. A happy child will thrive. A sad child will constantly second-guess himself or herself.
Then after the school registration process today is over, start worrying about more important things, like whether your kid taking bus-train-LRT is better, or bus-bus is better. Personally, I prefer the bus-train-LRT route. More predictable (unless you are on the NS and EW line), and less likely to be affected by morning traffic jams.
It is a new beginning for our children. With new friends to make, new mountains to conquer, and new bus routes to figure out. May our journey ahead be a fruitful and blessed one.
I sold my car many years ago, when I first started my business, to save money. After years of car ownership, we said goodbye to my Opel Astra and my family adjusted to public transport fairly quickly.
Once in a while, we would still borrow Mom’s trusty Daihatsu Sirion to run errands or take the entire family out.
So it is with a lump in the throat that we say goodbye to this fella too.
Ten years has gone by and as stipulated by the gods of car life in Singapore, it is time for the Great Big Scrap Heap in the Sky. Your life will soon go up in a PARF of smoke.
Goodbye, faithful little car! Your vomit green colour could be seen from far away but you were super-reliable.
The reliability of the engine may have something to do with the fact that the 1.5L Daihatsu Sirion was made in Japan.
And thanks, Mom, always being generous with sharing the car with us.
It was a real pleasure to be in London to meet the cast of Justice League. Ben Affleck (Batman), Jason Momoa (Aquaman), Ezra Miller (the Flash), Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), and Ray Fisher (Cyborg) were all very warm and friendly.
It made the 14 hours to fly to London (and another two hours to clear immigration and get from Heathrow to town) all worthwhile.
It is very rare to get all the cast together in one room like this, and even more precious to be able to meet them. I told Gal that Joy, my youngest, was a fan, and that she watched the Wonder Woman movie more than once. And also thanked Gal for being a strong role model for girls.
Ben Affleck was amused at how my blue hair and clothes all matched.
Thanks to Warner Brothers for inviting me to be at this special fan event.
[Photo by @daviddettmannphotography]
Since the Maths paper is over today, I thought I would share this.
A few more days to go before the last PSLE paper for our household…
Update: Some of the answers I received on Twitter and Facebook:
Andre: 5 balloons.
Ian: Xiao Ming's sister is now on an MRT train with an unknown speed.
Dr Ashley Tan: The correct answer is durians. Pink and purple polka-dotted durians.
Hankster: Plot twist: Xiao Ming doesn’t have a sister.
嘉荣: Xiao Ming sister is 5, one year older than xiao ming.
Working: A 5YO hand can hold 5 marbles, while 4YO can hold 4, but if he has a sixth finger then can hold 5.
And we also found out that xiao ming has a sixth finger.
Trong Tan: It's a trick question. Xiao Ming's parents can't afford to have another child living in their HDB flat.
Others suggested new questions:
Chan Kiat: Train A leaves the station at 10am, travelling at 90km/h. Train B leaves the station at 10.30am traveling at 90km/h. Find out where the trains are going.
Isabel: Along came bus 81 which travel at 80km/hr and it started from Tampines bus interchange at 6.50am, what time is usually news broadcast on Channel 5?
Hock Seng: What is the colour of the 21st marble?