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Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Someone's Summer Break

The Someone is home for summer break and came by for a visit. Whilst every one enjoys the company of The Someone, Little Boy is his most enthousiastic fan. They bonded over a discussion about rugby. The Someone played rugby and was describing the sport in its finer and somewhat violent details to me. Little Boy sat by listening, and as the description filled out and the violent details turned to broken bones and bloodied noses, Little Boy's eyes began to shine... and the 2 boys bonded right there and then. Sigh... I guess it takes all sorts to make up the world.

The Daughter is somewhat in awe of The Someone, who excels in studies, in sports and possesses a combination human qualities that are rare in every generation - gentleness, patience, a sense of stubborn strength (that quietly communicates that he will do what he believes is right no matter what others might say or do), and most rare of all... humility. It is my fault too for holding up The Someone as a role model for her. So, whilst she has found other role models in the senior girls at her school, she too, shyly enjoys his company.

The Husband and I enjoy the energy of youth that simply exudes from The Someone. That quality of curiosity and hope which all young people carry with them, who look forward to the future and enjoy the present. The Someone looks at the world with new eyes. He sees new patterns and new shapes which older folks like us are blind to. We are locked into habits and opinions that we believe to be true, and we judge badly those that don't fit in with our manner of conceiving the world. The Someone is far less judgmental and a lot more open to all that is new and dynamic in this world of ours. There is a sense that he is ready to move and quick to change and fast to cope... that he is at the ready to surf with the next big wave... and make it to the top of the crest in a journey fraught with excitement.

The Husband and I cannot surf like that anymore but it is nice to stand by as spectators watching The Someone who still can.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Green Curtains

A 2-storey tall expanse of window is both a problem and a joy. For the longest time, I wondered what I should do to temper the intensity of The Sun's fierce adoration for my apartment. I completely ruled out curtains because they would never get washed. One doesn't wash curtains that no ladder is tall enough to reach for taking down. Unwashed curtains are a health hazard in a family where one has asthma and another has sinus problems.

I observed that others had installed mechanized roller blinds that could be wound down and up at the press of a button, but the frugal housewife in me balked at the $5000/= price tag. And then I watched the movie Sky High, where one superhero was able to command plants to grow in seconds from seed to monstrous. It was a stunning scene with a wide expanse window and creepers crawling over the panes and finally bursting through the glass to curl themselves around the super villains.

It was inspiring.

So, one year ago, I planted 6 seeds in 2 largish troughs. Not possessing super hero abilities, I waited patiently for the skinny seedlings to rise up against the window panes. They spent so long looking straggly and The Husband so often complained that they looked untidy and Little Boy commented that it blocked the view... that I often wondered at the wisdom of my endeavour.

Well... as always... Mother (meaning me) is right. The seedlings have risen up against the window panes and created a lovely living curtain that lets in dappled sunlight and absorbs heat. All by themselves, they've twined about in pleasing patterns, and sculpted themselves into works of natural art.

I love 'em!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Students

I saw The Students for the last time yesterday night. I suppose I will see some of them again as they move through the years, for I may teach them in other modules. But I ended last night's lesson with a sense of regret... almost like a little bit of loss.

After all these years spent teaching people in one capacity or another, a teacher gets used to telling herself that it's a thankless job. Whatever intensity of care and concern you feel goes out of you and becomes diluted amongst the numerous students you have to care for. Therefore, each student feels only a little bit cared for. Very often, that little bit of my care that each student feels is not enough to stimulate care, concern and warmth on the part of students for me. And this thankless job is worse with students who believe in their own cleverness. After all, these clever ones tend to reason that it's my job... I am paid to do it.... and I am never clever enough for them.

The thing about The Students is that they don't know how smart they actually are. Maybe that is what makes them adorable... for they are not so arrogant that they judge me harshly when I make a fool of myself in class. It gives me so much satisfaction to reveal to them their potential and communicate to them my hope. And it gives me even more satisfaction when their work flowers under my care.

After 18 years, you tell yourself that you must care even if you know nothing will return to you. That the little improvements they make are rewarding ENOUGH for you to continue caring. After all, students will flow past the classes as names and faces whose lives you touch momentarily but on whom you must leave a mark of some sort... without hoping that they will reach out and touch you back.

What is therefore surprising about The Students was that each found some way to communicate to me that they too cared for how I felt... and that they made an effort to be kind to me. Some made apologies about missing class so that I wouldn't feel badly about their absence. Others gently explained why they wanted to leave class early so that I would not be hurt by their rejection. Yet others leave sweet messages on my Facebook account, banter with me and make my mornings sweet as I sit facing the computer alone in my study room. And did I mention the one who provided a free crash course on pet training techniques?

I feel honoured in more ways than one.

So, the lessons have ended and this class, with its individual character... and individual characters has been dissolved. I am left with the very sweetest thank-you card and a soft sense of wonderment that I actually got something warm and fuzzy back this time, for me to keep.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Dog Stress

The children want a dog. I promised them ever since they were eggs growing into embryos that we would get us a dog if we ever moved into a house. Since I had not had the intention to ever move into a house, it seemed like a promise I would never have to keep. Nonetheless, the children remember this promise and hold on to the hope of this promise from the time they were foetuses. I cannot... I cannot... I cannot... NOT get a dog.

The Daughter is already 16... but her eyes still shine brightly at the thought of a family dog. Little Boy has already gone to the library and borrowed picture books that pontificate knowledgeably on how one should choose a dog. Every other day, he passes by my work table and drops one nugget of advice. Today, he said "Mom, when you bring a puppy home for the first time, drive carefully. Puppies may not be used to bumpy car rides."

Then, when I log onto Blur Ting's blog for what I expected would be a relaxing series of more photos of France and Italy, I come face to face with a dog lover (maniac?) intent on taking Rusty on a Rusti Run. Whoa! What's with the world? Going to the dogs?

But I have this sense of deep apprehension. It is more than likely that the dog will end up getting attached to ME... and I will have yet another little one following my every move and clamouring for my attention. Worse, I have no idea how to bring up dogs. How to teach it what I want? What's reasonable behavior to expect of a dog?

So many unknowns. I share these fears with my son and he determinedly brings back yet more dog books for my reference. Clearly, it wouldn't do to change our plans to suit me, I will need to change me to suit our plans.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


The Husband has a somewhat adventurous streak that does not quite agree with me. He it was, who dragged me off the paths in the Pyrenee mountains to explore what he called "the unknown". I was frightened half to death because the Pyrenees are home to the brown bear, who despite looking ever so cute from afar, can up close, decapitate a man with one swipe of its paw. So maybe... for a little wisp of a thing like me, decapitation could be had for half a paw swipe?

Oh well... The Husband's adventurous streak struck again this weekend. He had somehow gotten into his head that we had never tried swaveboarding and so it would be good that we all try swaveboarding because it's new and exciting. Such silliness, you don't think? What's wrong with the old and familiar? I like the old and familiar. The Husband is old and familiar and I like him the better for it.

Anyway, off we went swaveboarding. As you can see if you click here, a swaveboard is a thingy with 2 flat and broad ends joined in the middle by a metal pole, and mounted on 2 small wheels. The difference between a skateboard and a swaveboard is that the first has 4 wheels and the 2nd has but 2. You're supposed to jump on it and gyrate your hips (at least that is how it looked to me!!) and bend your knees, ankles and thighs in a co-ordinated series of fluid motion.

We rented 2 swaveboards and took turns. People walked past and smiled broadly, looking at us trying very hard to gyrate our hips alluringly... with not much success. You see, it's not easy to looking alluring when every 10 seconds you fall off and land on your butt or your face.

But it's great fun! And man... we is gonna do it until we get it!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Finally - Our House!

Somewhere in the ulu regions of Singapore a house was built in 1972. In it, a family prospered and grew up. The children bought new and beautiful homes of their own, and are now raising their own children away from the old house.

We bought their house.

It is a terribly old house but sits on a large-ish plot of land at the end of a quiet street. Yet, it is a mere 3 minutes walk away from a bustling square of shops, and a new mall. When we first saw it, the house was bathed in a glow of late afternoon sunshine. Well-kept and neat, the green grass on the lawn beckoned to me cheerfully. The wide and long drive way quelled all my claustrophobic fears and I felt decidedly positive about the property.

Inside, the furnishings had a dated charm with tiles from the 1980s and ventilation holes in the walls that must have been from the 1970s, before air-con became ubiquitious. The rooms had high ceilings and were cool, but too dark. Already, my mind was racing to take down walls, install glass panels and sliding doors. I had mentally grown creepers up trellises, constructed wooden decks, see-through roofs and bought rattan garden furniture. I redesigned the outdoor kitchen and built an al fresco dining area with a frangipani tree at one corner ... a mass of bamboo in another.

"What do you think?" asked The Husband in his quiet voice and neutral expression. The Husband always speaks in a flat voice, and his expressions always look neutral to strangers anyway. Me... I had to watch myself because my expressions are lively and my voice betrays every emotion in my heart. I refused to look at The Husband for I knew that if our eyes met, my eyes would blaze with excitement and betray how much... oh how much I desired the house.

Quietly, I said, "J'adore!".

We told the property agent nonchalantly that we would think about it and it was all I could do to stop my heart from twisting painfully in my chest when she said "Someone else has made an offer..." But well... The Husband had sternly reminded me to keep my expressivity to myself. So, I said nothing and walked to the car.

I could not sleep that night, praying all night long that the house would be mine. We made an offer the next day, and as luck would have it, the other offer came from a c0-broking agent. The property agent preferred our offer because in a main broking deal, she does not need to share her commission with another agent. So, to help herself, she helped us.

So we bought the house. It'll be months before I'll get around to renovating it... but meanwhile, it feels good to know that it's mine.

The Plant Spa

Fragrant soft-leaved herbs such as marjoram and thyme are attractive to white fly and mealybugs. Fragrant hard-leaved herbs such as rosemary and sage are the beloved of spider mites. Discovering any of these pesky pests on my Mediterranean herbs has always cast a pall over my day. But no longer.

I have discovered a simple and effective way to counter these pests that requires no insecticide, no spraying and no fuss. Just soap and a pair of gentle hands. I give them a foam bath. It's just like bathing toddlers - gentle rubbie dub dubs and warm water to rinse. About 5 foam baths given 3 days apart seems to get rid of every trace of infestation... and the happy plants explode into a growth of new leaves, and stop dropping the old.

Whenever I take out all the plant bathing paraphernalia - basin, shower creme and a little cup, my plants go "Yippee!". Then, wet and refreshed, they look at me gratefully as they sit drying in bright shade. They look like Little Boy used to look after a bath all wrapped up in a thick towel leaving only the eyes to peer happily at me.