Your Grands- The Awesomes

April 2013 @ RWS Sea Aquarium

April 2013 @ RWS Sea Aquarium

Dear Boys,

You have awesome grand parents. Period.

For your dad, he never knew his grand parents, both maternal and paternal. They died before I knew about them. You mum knew her grand parents and when I had the both of you, I knew I want the both of you to have wonderful memories about your ‘Grands’.

I can’t say the same for my parents side, as my parents and my history with them is mired in a messy controversy. Well, story of my life, at least that was until I got married and the 2 of you came along. You mum’s parents, The Grands, as we fondly refer them as, are the Awesomes.

At Bird Park with Ian 2007

At Bird Park with Ian 2007

Your Gong Gong is awesome and so is your Ah Ma, they both doted on you like their own, even though in the strictest Chinese sense, you both are the ‘Lims’ grand children and carry my lineage. They have none of that, and loved you both tremendously, without conditions.

They would buy the best toys for you both for your birthdays and Christmas (although we do not celebrate it on a religious sense, but it was still an opportunity to get together for fun, joy and laughter.) Whatever you want, they will get for you, so much so that we were concerned about them spoiling you both.

There is always tensions in the way we want to bring you up and the way the Grands think we should bring you up. But that is what The Grands does, which many times run into conflict with The Parents. When I was a younger dad with a penchant to use the ‘rod’, I got into a rather heated argument with your Gong Gong. When I wanted to discipline you your Gong Gong physically carried you away from harm, me. Your Ah Ma cried, from the traumatic intensity of the quarrel. From then on I never want to discipline you both in their presence. We’ve all learned our limits and our boundaries from that incident.

Feb 2013, on a ferry to Kusu Island

Feb 2013, on a ferry to Kusu Island

It is important that you boys get to hang out with the Grands as often as possible, because I feel that their inputs into your lives are important in your building blocks to become responsible adults. You boys need to handle old folks, and the Grands are your hands on training. When you grow up, never get angry or impatient with old folks. When you are in your thirties, a busy executive, in a hurry to run errands, please don’t run over older folks that happen to road hog your way, think of them as your Grands. They are not in your way, without, you will not even have a way.

SONY DSC

June 2013 @ River Safari

Your Grands are the ultimate liberals, in their abode you boys can pretty much do whatever you want and rule with impunity. There is no curfew, you boys sleep as early as 2am. You boys watched TV, ate all sorts of sweets and chocolates. Ice cream was a regular affair. Even when the Grands brought you boys out, you two had it good, ate at restaurants, Swensen’s is a common affair.

Tell your children stories and tales you had with your Grands, and when my time comes, I will have my share of legacy with you children.

Wayne with Ah gong

Wayne with Ah gong

You boys need to love your Grands as much as possible. Display affection, hug them, kiss them, and hold their hands. Let them know you appreciate them, let them know that you both, while taking them for granted, do reciprocate. They have pretty much seen it through their life, they do not need much now, they do not need to strive for a good job, they do not need to please their boss, climb the corporate ladder, all they need to to have their lives filled with the din both of you made, do things that makes them worry, mess things up so that they can clean it up after you. Let them feed you boys with yummy junks.

Ah Ma with Ian, handling microscopes

So go ahead, have fun with your Grands fill their lives with all your nonsense. do things with them that you cannot do with your parents. Let them have wonderful memories of you both, and please grow up with wonderful reminiscence of them. Tell your children stories and tales you had with your Grands, and when my time comes, I will have my share of legacy with you children.

Wayne’s little insecurity

Wayne trying to cycle

Wayne trying to cycle

Dear Wayne,

Watching you develop as our youngest family member can be very endearing and frustrating at the same time. You have a very light frame, very much like you dad. Small and punch size, you naturally have to fight harder for your fair share of existence.

Of late, I noticed that you have a certain disdain for bicycling. We went for a night supper a couple of weeks back, and we all agreed that, mum and dad will jog, you and your big brother will cycle. You refused to, using all sorts of excuse. Saying that you will be slow and you’ll be left behind. We constantly assured you that we will not, to no avail, you refused to budge from your stand.

I know how you feel, son, you have your smallish kiddy bike, with training wheels on, you don’t look very cool when your big brother’s bike is bigger and he is already riding on 2 wheels. You look inferior compared to him. Riding bike has somehow become your weakness, and you didn’t want the world to know.

Your weakness is not a weakness to us.

You see, son, there is no weakness to show in this family. We are one, your brother loves you and so does your dad and mum. We will not leave you behind no matter what. Your weakness is not a weakness to us.

Wayne on his bike

Wayne on his bike

This will something that you have to deal with when you grow older, handling your insecurity, your weakness. Always bear in mind, you have a family, we are family. We will help you, and even if you are struggling and stubbornly decline help, we will still help you. We will help you even if you don’t ask for our help, because that is what family is all about. You don’t have to fight your insecurities alone.

We tried to teach you to ride on 2 wheels some time back but it was tough, you made it tougher for us to teach you as you constantly self sabotage yourself, by purposely falling, pretending that it is harder than it really is. We didn’t push it, but I think the hardship has been etched already, you associate bicycle as your weakness.

You are a kid that cannot be rushed. you will do it, and you will do it well, when you want to. So I am not pushing you to learn to ride a bicycle on 2 wheels. You take your time, there are people who goes through life not knowing how to ride a bike, which is fine, so I’m not going to rush you.

your bicycles

You and your brother’s bicycles

More importantly, please don’t make your challenges your weakness. I hope by the time you are old enough to read this, you can find enough in you to face your obstacles and overcome them. We are humans, and we are born to overcome challenges. You possesses enough will and tenacity, we have seen it in you, but you’ve choose to use these values as inertia instead of a source of motivation. We need to correct this in time to come.

Angry Bird Park-An Adventure awaits!

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Angry Birds Activity Park

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Angry Birds Activity Park

Dear Boys,

What an adventurous Sunday we had! We decided to head to Johore Bahru to check out Angry Bird Activity Park, with your grand parents tagging along!

Angry Bird Brouchure

Angry Birds’ price list

We decided to take a bus from Yishun Interchange which runs AC7 into Kota Raya 2 bus terminal in JB. We left Yishun for JB at about 11.50am, with Ian running out of patience! The bus journey is pretty nice, uneventful, and the bus driver was a seasoned one, as he must have traveled that route everyday. he seems to know how to beat the long queue, only to be beaten by a car, which broke down in front of us!

Since it was father’s day, me, being your dad gets to go in for free, and if you ‘like’ and upload your picture into their Facebook, the other family members gets a 25% off! Not a bad deal. And the grandparents gets to go in for free, as they we senior citizens. Cool!

By the time we settle our lunch and let the both of you loose, it was already 4pm, the both of you played until 5pm, when the place close for an hour. The evening session starts from 6pm and ends at 10pm. (And no, we are determined not to let you play till 10pm!)

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Pay for mummy, Ian and Wayne!

The park was fun, you boys went crazy and ballistics with the trampoline, the Air Parkour Park, Piggy Shooting Gallery, and other fun stuff, there are go-kart for you boys to paddle, we joined in the fun as well, go-karting round and round. I went crazy on the trampoline too, it was great fun for everyone. You mum joined in doing her tarzan swing, but she refused to let go of the rope and fall into the foam pit. Knowing her, she will find the pit too dirty for her to come into contact with. Well, for the sake of fun why not???

We left about 8pm for dinner, as we are determined to leave JB as soon as we can, but we know our efforts were futile. we will probably reach home past 1am.

AC7-Our Saviour, our Bane

After dinner, at a lackluster Kenny Rogers outlet at JB City Square, we headed home. I didn’t really have a plan to get us back to Singapore, the idea is to get past customs, take whichever bus that comes along, we can land at either Woodlands MRT, or take AC7 to land back at Yishun, which is the best case, or the trusty 170, which runs to Bugis.

Problem is, after we cleared the customs, we couldn’t figure out the queue line for AC7, so we ended up queuing at 950 to bring us to Woodlands MRT. But a pleasant surprise awaits us! AC7 turned up at  the berth next to 950’s and we gleefully hope on it. It was our best case scenario! In the melee, I paid RM$1.50 for the 5 of us (弟 rides free), which in actual fact takes us to Woodlands and not Yishun. A full fare to Yishun would be RM$3, which I realized from the receipt.

We knew when we reach Woodlands checkpoint, we have to clear the customs quickly as the AC7 bus will not wait for everyone, the bus will leave when it is reasonably full, whoever missed can wait for the next AC7, which might be more than 30 minutes away. By the time we clear the customs we are already pushing towards 11pm.

But we were late! I think I caught a glimpse of the AC7’s familiar purple colour bus drove away from the bus bay. And as usual, there is no signage telling us where to wait for the AC7. Tired and frustrated, we took the next best option, 170 service which ends at Kranji MRT, if we can get there we can get home by MRT.

Phone MIA- leave no phones behind

When we alight from 170 at Kranji MRT, Ah Ma announced our next adventure, Ah Gong has left his phone in the Xray machine tray, he took his black bag, but he didn’t take his phone. Your Mum and I sprang into action. I call Starhub to get the line suspended, your Mum called the ICA to see if there is a remote chance of recovering the phone.

The scenario was bleak. There are hundreds of people passing through that check point using the same tray, if the Customs Officer didn’t pick up the phone before anyone does, then the reunification of the phone with Ah Gong will really depends on a Good Samaritan. We were never that optimistic.

I got the phone line suspended, and your mum, managed to get to ICA, Woodlands checkpoint, and to our surprise, the officer says he will check and call us back. Which we don’t think he would. The clock is pushing for 11.15pm, and it looks like we have to take a cab home instead.

Your mum’s phone rang and much to all of our surprise, the ICA officer called back and said the ‘black LG phone’ is with him! Your mum, Ah Gong and Ah Ma immediately hailed a cab from Kranji back to the Woodlands customs to get the precious phone back, while we hang around at Kranji for them to come back. It was a tiring wait, Wayne is already on the verge of sleeping. Ian, too tired to be restless.

They came back, close to midnight, your Ah Gong, a happy trooper, to have recovered his phone. It was a simple phone that wouldn’t have cost much even if you sold it, but it is the photos of his precious grandchildren in it that he will lose. This upsets him more than anything else. And getting is back made him the happiest grandpa in Woodlands.

By the time we hailed a cab, and reach him, it was close to 12.30 in the morning. you boys, dead tired, slept till mid day the next day, Your dad, has to crawl out of bed to work as it is a Monday. But what an adventurous Sunday we had!

Useful links:

https://singaporebuspage.wordpress.com/bus-services-singapore-to-jb-johor-bahru/

http://angrybirdsactivitypark.my/

http://www.komtarjbcc.com.my/

Collective Idiocy-Army story

bus buttons

picture sourced from google

Dear Boys,

I want to share a story about ‘collective idiocy’ that involved your father.

When I was an Army recruit, my training camp was back in Pulau Tekong and when it was time for us to book in, we have to find our own way back to Commando Jetty. So when it was time for us to book in, it is no surprise that you will see many botak (bald-headed) recruits on the same bus, since we are all booking in at the same time.

So this fateful night, we were on the bus, and heading towards a common destination, we all have to alight at the same bus-stop and of course we need to press the bell so that the bus driver will know there are passengers who were alighting.

What happened was a matter of group-think towards collective stupidity.

We all, the recruits in the bus, knew we are all alighting at the same stop, and we all waited for one of us to press the bell, and anyone of us can, but no one did!

So we looked wide eyed as the bus zipped past our stop and everyone started pressing the bell in frantic. Too late, the bus driver simply ignored us, and take it that the bell we pressed was for the next stop.

So the bus alighted at the next stop and the whole group of us has to dumb,  dumb walk back to the earlier bus stop and towards Commando Jetty. No one said a thing about the incident, we didn’t have to, we all made a fool out of ourselves, and now thinking back more than 21 years later, the whole incident seems petty hilarious.

Yesterday is always better/worse

Your future and my past is very different

Dear Boys,

In your lifetime, you will certainly hear this from other people, and it usually goes something like:

“Back in those days…” or “In my time, things were a lot tougher! easier! better! worse!” Or “compare to our times…”You youngsters had it easy!”

Well, your dad, will probably pull the same script on you from time to time and I have been told umpteenth times by folks from all walks of life, young and old, the same thing.

People will always try to compare things. And when they compare, there will only be 2 outcomes that will influence their decision making;

1- things were better in the past, so if currently things are worse off I’d better do something.

2- if things were worse in the past, and we have it better now, we’d better do something.

We all have to do something, irrespective of how well or bad things were in the past. You job, as the future, is to make things the best you can, with your resources at your given specific time and space. Sure people like to reminiscence things, tell you things of their good ‘ol days, don’t be fooled into thinking that you had it better, you will not. Neither did you had it worse, you didn’t.

‘In my days’, when I was in national service, I wore helmets dating back to the Vietnam War, Kevlar helmets was considered a luxury, and our instructors used that as a motivation for us to do well in our obstacle course, saying we get to wear ‘Air-con’ helmets, owing to its more cooling design. Nowadays, all helmets in the Armed forces are Kevlar, and the newer ones are even better than the ones I had. I’m telling you boys this, is not to tell you that you are going to have it better. Well that is a given, but the task at hand is still very much a challenging one. It never has been any better.

So the point is, don’t envy, if someone had it better in their heydays, don’t gloat if someone’s worse off than you. That was that, this is now. Your future and my past is very different, I will tell you boys stories, my experiences, do some of these “in my days things’ but please understand it from your context, not mine. Use my experiences as lessons, understand that problems then were different, solutions to those problems are different too. You will have your own set of problems and requires the solutions that is only appropriate at your time. Take away one thing though, the spirit, attitude to problem solving is the same, you must apply the same tenacity, dedication and focus to solving them, the problems you have now and the problems you will have in future. And when you tell you children and the newer generation your ‘In my days’ story, please remember, that was in your days, not theirs! So give them a break!

A Nation’s Loss- TKPS

nice words "gone too soon"

Dear boys,

A tragedy has happened this June holidays. Students and teachers from Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) went to scale Mount Kinabalu and fell victim to an aberration of an earthquake. You see, that place is almost never had an earthquake. 18 people were killed, 10 were from TKPS, seven kids, 2 teachers and 1 adventure guide, all Singaporeans

The news arrested the nation in grief and sorrow, and unwittingly marred the current limelight event of our nation, the SEA games. As the nation comes to terms with the tragedy, TKPS set up a tribute site, so that the concerned public can come and pay their respects, write a few words of condolences and encouragement for the bereaved.

Your dad found his way to the Tribute Centre at TKPS, honestly, I didn’t have a logical reason to go, I’ve no affiliation to the school. Nor do I know any of the bereaved. But I went, because something in me told me it was a sensible thing to do.

The mood wasn’t as somber, although there was an air of serious silence. My heavy heart was greeted by the sweet smell from the countless of bouquets and wreaths sent by well wishers and concerned organizations. I can see that the tribute site was rather hastily set up at the school tuckshop. There were many wheeled partition boards improvised for people to write their thoughts on a small card, and paste on them. I told myself on my way out, the tuckshop of TKPS will never, ever be the same anymore.candle light virgil

There were many ‘creative’ ones which wrote on a larger vanguard sheets and took up more space. Most of them wrote of shock, sadness, and grief. Many more wrote in support of the school, in support of the teachers and in support of the Omega program. Some of them, wrote with handwriting like yours, Wayne, and others drew like you.

Some Kiddo's drawings

The words on the cards had choked me, but I didn’t cry. My stoicism got a better of me but the overwhelming sense of loss made me felt really, really sad.

You see, boys, we are a small country, with a small population. When I heard about the fatalities, I remembered a story I read about the commander of Sayeret Matkal, an Israeli Counter Terrorist Force. He said that when their soldiers goes to war and die, the dead soldier’s neighborhood and community will feel the loss, just as much as the soldier’s family and friends. This is because Israel is such a small country with such a small number of them, every death is felt throughout the fabric of the society.

Somehow, that part of the story came back, when the news of the earthquake broke and we have people there hurt and dead. I knew, this time, tragedy had struck… much closer to home.

True to my ominous feeling. I learned that one of the girls who died, used to attend the same nursery as your mother’s friend’s son. So your mum’s friend, knew her and her family, not close, but they knew each other. Another boy from TKPS who died, was a soccer kaki with our 2nd floor neighbour. My friend from Facebook, knew the form teacher where 5 of the students died.

I think I have to go because I’m a parent, a dad and a Singaporean. And unlike an earlier tragedy this year; Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s death (I’ll blog about that some other time), this affected me differently. My Lee has lived to a ripe old age of 91, we knew with his poor health, it was a matter of time. These kids and their young teachers, died, as one of the tribute card puts it ‘gone too soon’. The student are 12 years old, and they are no longer here. I can feel for their parents, as their hopes and aspirations were dashed before there was a chance of fruition. Their hard work and growth has been ruthlessly robbed from them by this unfortunate event. I think I went because I want to represent this part of Singapore that is still growing, growing and sharing their anguish. sharing their story, sharing their aspirations, sharing how brave their teachers were.

“Unfortunately, in the daily humdrum of our busy lives, they only hear us pushing them to be their best, rarely do our kids hear that we are doing it because we love them.”

We are known for a nation with a somewhat psychotic obsession over our childrens’ grades, the newspapers are always filled advertisements clamoring about enrichment classes, music lessons, abacus, and other things we parents are suckers for, so that our kids can become somebody when they grow up. We do all this because we want our best for them and we want the best for them because we love them. Unfortunately, in the daily humdrum of our busy lives, they only hear us pushing them to be their best, rarely do our kids hear that we are doing it because we love them. This tragedy, I think made us think of our kids as not just grade churning organisms but they are our kids, and if we don’t tell them we love them, we may be robbed of a chance to.

So I wrote, with my terrible handwriting with a blue marker, which was used by countless before me to share their grief:

To the fallen Angels and their Guardians,

Your bodies may have expired

but your spirit and story will be remembered.

from, a parent, a dad, a Singaporean

To the fallen Angels and their guardians, Your bodies may have expired but your spirit and story will be remembered. from, A parent, a dad, a Singaporean

To the fallen Angels and their guardians,
Your bodies may have expired but your spirit and story will be remembered.
from, A parent, a dad, a Singaporean

I’m sure that TKPS will grow from strength to strength. I can see a long and proud history with many, many trophies from achieving their goals. This is a dark moment for TKPS and they will emerge stronger, more resilient. And if they can hear one calling, my calling, is that never stop going back to Mount Kinabalu, your Omega project cannot stop, not because of this tragedy. I’ve seen at the tribute site, many former Omega participants who wrote glowing testimonies that the trip was the highlights of their lives. This is what character building is all about, the challenges on that moutnatin gave our kids, and students to TKPS a sense of purpose, a life’s milestone. Don’t use this as an excuse for the project to be discontinued. Every year, this time an day, someone from TKPS, please ascend Mount Kinabalu to pay homeage, to those who came and died. and continue to lead those young aspirants up to the summit, and see how beautiful the world is.

Profanities

Dear Boys,

We will have to deal with this sooner than later. Perhaps a couple of years down the road, when you both are matured enough, the use of profanities will eventually enter your vernacular. Until then…profanity 2

Of late, Ian, you’ve told me that you have a classmate who uses the ‘F’ word in a liberal manner in school and even in the presence of a teacher. And you think that he is a brave kid in doing so. Let me tell you what I told you that evening, it is not a brave thing, neither is it a cool thing.

Sure, you hear about it in the movies, in TV shows and perhaps even me using it. We cannot avoid it, I do use it, and more liberally when I am in Army fatigues. I have a linguistic degree and for that fact, I am minimally qualified to tell you that, in any language, cursing and swearing is very normal. It helps us, to a certain degree, manage our emotions, it serves as a kind of outlet for our negativity. Sometimes it is useful, sometimes it is counterproductive.

But don’t you dare utter this, kids, as personallprofanity 1y, for me, it is a big no, no. I cannot stop you boys from hearing it, but I sure as hell (that’s cussing too!) do not want to hear you boys using it, not at this age.

Ian, your classmates used it, that is his problem, like I said, he has a dirty mouth, it is his parents’ responsibilities to clean it. If his parents doesn’t clean his dirty mouth, chances are, someone, a member of society will take matters into their own hands and do some cleaning themselves.

Personally, I do not use it, as linguistically, I have far more useful words in my repertoire to serve my anger in a message without the use of profanity.  As mentioned earlier, my usage only increased when I am in military service.

There is something about the military that is closely linked to the use of profanities and other derogatory words. Its the culture, and when I used it in the military, it serves a functional purpose, not for an angry outburst, not to piss other people off. to me profanities is not ‘angry’ words for the use in an outburst of anger. it allows me to enmesh into a particular culture, a specific conformity. And yes, I do as the Romans do, when it comes to military service.

So when will be a good time for you boys to cuss? That is a judgement call, there is no specific date, time, turn of the century, we all have to see if you boys knows and are mature enough to understand why you want to say what you said. Right now, it is not a brave thing to say it, it is not a cool thing to say it. You boys are not matured enough to know the purpose and function of profanities. It is a ‘play by the ear’ scenario.

I glad that so far, you 2 have a strong repulsion from such words. That is good. There is no need for its use at your age, and we shall have this discussion again from time to time, and see if we are ready to hear the 2 of your cuss like men, or boys.