Tag Archives: food for thoughts

When the haze hit

We spent so much time outdoors with the boys that the haze set us back quite a bit. We were at a loss on what to do.

So it was movies, home movies and more TV programs.

It was books, enrichment books and more practice work.

It was toys, Lego, cars and opening more new gadgets.

Cabin fever was getting to us. 

The haze was such a dampener and so many activities had to be cancelled, like swimming, tennis and more.

The boys had been putting up a good fight but after 2 weeks’ of air pollution, X was showing symptoms of running nose. No amount of Manuka honey and Chinese herbs could ride us through if this persisted.

On one hand, it was sucky to have such poor quality of air and to worry about long term effects to our bodies. I recalled how a visiting counterpart asked if we ever saw blue sky in this part of the world. On the other hand, it heightened the awareness of caring for our environment. It also made us wonder how people who constantly had to live in such environments survive. 

Leveling the playing field

There was much hooha over the RI principal who talked about elitism and the RI Old Boy who stood by elitism.

I always thought the best thing the government could do was to regulate preschool education. If I might put it, there was nothing wrong with RI being a prestigious school. However, it was not the lack of diversity that created its prestige. Brilliant students had hailed from the school, creating the level of prestige.

The true cause of diversity had started many steps ahead when there were preschools with varying school fees catering to a vast segment of families. The pricing of school fees created social classes which then led to further distinction at primary school levels, not to mention the alumni, the associations and the proximity. The diversity of primary schools was lacking too.

Back to talking about preschool education, better preschools inevitably attracted better teachers who nurtured students differently from the mainstream. They were able to inspire and motivate a love for learning, not simply just creating lots of homework for preschoolers to do. Of course, it wasn’t to say there there were no good teachers at the mainstream schools. Given the economics of demand and supply, prized talents would be drawn to better paying schools, won’t they? Unless they regard teaching as social work.

While it was great that they were creating MOE kindergarten, the progress was a slow and tedious one. The results, successful or not, would only be known at a later stage.

I wondered if I would see much improvements to this preschool system in X’s time. 

What would I say some day

Life was unpredictable. 

We wouldn’t live forever and we wouldn’t know when we would be gone. Maybe I was a naturally pessimistic person or as the dialect went, I was rather kiasi. Even when I was pregnant with Z & X, I always prepped myself with a million “what ifs”. 

When I read news of wars, bombs, terrorist attacks, missing flights and natural disasters, I always worried. I wished I could be with my family for as long as I could. 

If that day ever came, I wanted my family to know that I had led a good life because of their love. I wished I could say goodbye in person.

Memories were forged on the times we laughed our hearts out, when we explored foreign cities, when you told me how much you loved my cooking, when you tucked me into bed, when I held my babies for the first time, when the tiny ones grinned, when we held their tiny hands, when they sang, when we simply spent all the time we could together, when we loved each other and our family, when we shared the same heartbeat, when we embraced every morning together, when we grew old, when we lived our dreams, when our days were written for keepsake.

Love. Contentment.

Hugs. Happiness.

Blessed. Cherished.

We lived our days as though it was our last. We always looked forward, we chose how we spent our moments and loved the ones around us.

Aftermath of the Jubilee weekend

It was nearly a week long of celebration for us. Thinking back, every weekend was a mini celebration in our own way because we always made an effort to bring the kids to the parks, places of interest and seasonal exhibitions. We did not wait till the jubilee weekend to go to places such as Gardens By the Bay, Botanic Gardens, Sentosa Cable Car or the Zoo. They were regular features in our lives. It was a poignant reminder to appreciate the peace, the beauty and the experiences our country gave us. It was also reflective that the jubilee celebrations did not cease with the end of the jubilee weekend but we could continue to enjoy the joys of the city-state country even after the parties were over.

Having travelled with the frequently with the kids and always scheduling visits to their parks and playgrounds made me realize that Singapore boasted of equally exciting and fun areas of interest. It had struck me that we always took what we had in our “backyard” for granted. 

We had brought Z to Sea Aquariums in Bangkok & Melbourne but never brought him to the ones on Sentosa.

We had brought Z to Disneyland a few times in Paris and Hongkong, Legoland in Windsor and Johor, Thomasland in UK but only took him to Universal Studio Singapore once.

We brought Z to Hyde Park in the middle of a hectic traveling schedule but seldom visited Botanic Gardens.

Someone told me that we had world class floral display at Gardens by the Bay but we had never been there.

Since this realization hit eons ago, I grew to appreciate what we had in Singapore and we had created many beautiful memories with our children at these places. 

This jubilee was a milestone in Singapore’s history and would forever be part of our past. The jubilee celebrations had been a grand dame of celebrations. There were beautiful reminisces of the past, there were free entry to many attractions, there were many parties, carnivals and exhibitions. 

Today’s Singapore, at its 50th, was an awesome place to live in. We might be small but we had nearly everything at our fingertips. All these were made possible because of our forefathers. 

Every beautiful facade was a result of someone’s hard work. 

Looking at the outstanding jubilee celebrations, we had many unsung heroes to thank for making everything run like clockwork. These were people with family and friends who had hoped for them to spend the National Day celebrations with. Yet, they spent the 4 days working tirelessly and faced tens or hundreds of thousands of people. 

We had what we could have because some people had to sacrifice to perfect the occasion. I felt very touched by the generosity of time and effort contributed by these unsung heroes. 

We had much to appreciate around us, to thank, to feel blessed about and hoped that Singaporeans would become happier, more gracious, contented & selfless with time to come. We would not take our blessings, peace and prosperity for granted, and to continue to work hard for Singapore to become a more prosperous and harmonious country.

In 50 years’ time, I hoped our children would be able to witness and celebrate SG100. Maybe Mr H and I would live to see too. 

Consumerism and the guilt

While packing Z’s drawers and toys, I realized that the primary school going boy had more than 10 new pencil cases, a handful of rulers, the swankiest colour pens, tons of brand new pencils and notebooks.

The truth was I had only bought him a customized pencil box. The rest were gifts or party favors. I would not need to buy any stationery for the boy when he started school. 

Such excessiveness. 

It made me think very hard about teaching the value of cherishing and taking care of what one have. It also made me feel very guilty and most of us probably were this guilty.

Did all the factories in the world produce too many goods for consumption? Or was it simply unequal distribution? 

My thoughts 

I probably should not be commenting on the GE on this space. It might draw flak, haters and anyone who opposed my view.

While we saw less of flaming for this GE, we could still see angsty comments, heated arguments and even mud slinging for politicians. It was a far cry from the nice Singapore we saw in March where everyone was tolerant and kind. 

Some parties offered carrots such as minimum wage. I wondered if they had done a global study, weighed the pros and cons of this policy. 

Some offered monthly monetary reimbursements of $500 to an elderly and $300 to a child. Where would the money come from? It would be $6000 and $3600 annually. I didn’t even need to pay so much income tax after enjoying the working women relief (of having 2 kids) and the parenthood tax. When I was doing my Postgraduate course, I also enjoyed education relief. Would I want to pay more taxes to fund that policy when I was already spending on my 2 kids and giving allowance to my parents? 

Some offered to focus on hiring Singaporeans because foreigners would take jobs away. Let’s take the unfair job discrimination cases aside. Let’s address Singaporeans’ working attitudes, capabilities and commitment. The unfair employment practices were caused by human beings who were probably Singaporeans most of the time. We had so many Singaporeans working together, why did no one voice out the unfair practices and stand up for fellow Singaporeans? In the companies I had worked, they had always been pro-Singaporean. Even the lack of worklife balance was an issue caused by fellow Singaporeans. The government had always been promoting worklife balance but whether companies took it up was another thing. 

Taking away foreigners would affect rentals, F&B, retail consumption and drive up operating costs of companies. We had so many MNCs based here. If they had to pay so much overheads from high office rentals and high labour costs, what was stopping them from uprooting and returning home to create jobs for their own countrymen? Our unemployment statistics might be low but how many companies had we heard of going through retrenchment exercises? Are we not taking today for granted? We assumed those jobs would always be there. 

Abolishing PSLE was also suggested. While some children were late bloomers, Singapore offered sufficient opportunities for late bloomers. No one has been denied of a bright career or future because of their PSLE score. How many hiring managers look at the PSLE certificate? However, an examination was required to identify the really smart kids. We still needed our innovators, our bright sparks to inspire the rest. Not every child can be in the top 10% and most parents could not accept the harsh and brutal fact. What had gone very wrong was the kiasu parents’ mentality that inflated the importance of PSLE. It was a social issue and hadn’t the government try to lead the path by harmonizing treatment of civil servants with different qualifications? Hadn’t the government spoken against over-tuition?

I did not doubt the intentions of these political parties but I thought with 4.5 years of preparation time, they would have conducted sufficient research and develop more wholesome proposals instead of building the castles in their microscopic dreams. It was true that we were talking about managing a nation, not a corporation in this context. 

However, being a human capital-based nation and a tiny country in a global stage, how could we not be highly adaptable, open, knowledgeable and sensitive? Besides, it was important to know macro economics. Wasn’t it? Shouldn’t the political parties have sufficient knowledge and not lead us with rose-tinted glasses? Domestic issues were important, but we were such a small country that international issues were just as important. Perhaps studies were done, could they explain the mechanics so that we would not need to worry for the future? Their policies might not affect our short term future but what about my children’s future? Would Singapore become a place without jobs, would my sons have to pay more taxes for a “welfare state” or would they have to go overseas to seek jobs? 

The government could be more caring but we could not deny some of the policies which worked for and against us. It was impossible to satisfy everyone’s demands. Perhaps it was to look to ourselves and ask how we could make Singapore more pleasant for each other. Not everything should be legislated.

We could be kinder coworkers.

We could fret less over results.

We could take care of our own parents and children.

We could plan our retirement and make sure our finances were in order. We should be clear minded and not be swindled when we had lump sums of cash. 

We should take care of personal issues and not expect a nation to solve them for us.

There were many more things we ought to do on our own. 

Think of what we could do, before asking what the country could do for us.

Mummy, rainbow!

One evening, the kids were playing when they turned around and shouted excitedly, “Rainbow!! Rainbow!!”

Their infectious joy and excitement sweetened the day. The not-so-little X basked in the excitement. While he was slow to gesture, he was adamant about shouting till he got my attention. The older boys had moved on to other toys but X was still enjoying the moment.

The sparkle in his eyes, the wide smile and the earnest expectation of my attention, I felt flattered. I felt like the most important person in his life. I was his most important person. That was the magical moment of parenthood.

The magical rainbow

Their adventure night  

The simple spellbinding top

It struck me that the simplicity and beauty of innocence was one that they had to shed to grow up. I would miss this, just as how the rainbow, pretty and pure, would only exist for that moment. The fun of the growing up years could only be immortalised in memory and photos.