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Friday, May 29, 2015

Promising Writer. Wow!

This is a really good week! There are so many warm and loving emails. The children, the parents and I worked very hard from January to April. This is what we have to show for it!! It is a nice way to end the semester until the hard work starts again in July!!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Thrilled to Bits

Educating a child is not just about academics. Some children have tremendous difficulties in social interactions. In Dr Pet's classes, we are particular about harmonious and civilised social interactions. So, when I received an email from a Mommy, I was thrilled to bits!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Uniquely Formed

I received a Whatsapp message that jolted me. The sender had sent it with every good intention, and out of love. However, the moment I read it, something in me said very firmly, "No, that is not right." The message was, "Christians enjoy God's approval and blessings when they do His work His way."

Underlying this message are 2 ideas that I reject:
(1) That I have to earn God's approval and blessings by my goodness in doing His work His way.
(2) That I can, by my own strength, do His work His way

Walking With God Is Not Stressful
This is the exact kind of message that discourages The Husband from embracing my religion. I married a good man. He carries himself with more goodness than some Christian men I have encountered, for it is said that church is not a hotel for saints but a hospital for sinners.

Try as I may, The Husband refuses to embrace Christianity. One day, I realised why. Life is stressful enough. Why would you put yourself under the stress of having to earn Another's approval and blessings? And if Christians in church are apt to attribute another person's "lack of blessings" because they "do not do His work His way," then there is the added stress of earning these people's approval too. At work, 6 days a week, one has to earn the approval of colleagues and bosses. Why put oneself through that on Sundays too?

My experience of God lately, has not been thus.

I experience God in the same way my kids experience me. They do not need to earn my approval. My approval is given to them from Day 1. From Day 1, I look at my babies and I already love them. From Day 1, I want to bless them. From Day 1, I see my likeness (or my husband's likeness in them). From Day 1, I am biased for them. From Day 1, I saw them as beautiful.

God Seeks To Form Us To His Image
Along the way, I give my children experiences to form them further to my values and my ways. Some of these experiences may be arduous. Perhaps I might remove a Chinese tutor so that Smelly Boy learns to be an independent learner. Perhaps I might arrange for them to touch a hot hard-boiled egg so that they learn the meaning of "hot" - to protect them in the kitchen. Perhaps I might insist that Smelly Boy make an effort to ring on the neighbours' doorbells to ask for donations. These are uncomfortable experiences but they grow character.

As long as my children yield to me, I can mould them further to my likeness... to believe in what I believe in... to value what I value. And when they believe and value as I do, they will do as I would without having to try... without falling short. The process of sanctification is like that. You cannot do it on your own. You cannot become like a God by yourself. You can yield and let God craft you. God has to craft you... mould you with experiences consistent with His purpose for you.

Similarly, I think God tries to mould me to His likeness. The painful things in my life do not indicate his lack of approval. Trials are not meant to punish me for my waywardness. Pain is not because God disapproves and refuses to bless.

God merely gives me experiences that form me to His likeness. Every single searing pain or debilitating illness is God's love, not his punishment... not his disapproval.

Imprisoned in Silence
In the past 5 years, I have pretty much lead a hermit's life. I avoid most social gatherings. Days go by where I talk to no one in the day. I had to learn to deal with silence and solitude, forced on me by circumstances of ill health. In the beginning, that silence was loud with the voice of my own unhappiness. When my unhappiness stopped talking, I could hear God in my silence.

I began to realise that though I work as no part of a church nor overt ministry, I did God's work with every composition/worksheet I marked and every child that I snatched away from Satan's claws. God is not at church. God is at home. With me. If you truly seek God's face, God will come to you even on an empty island, or a solitary confinement cell.

Uniquely Formed in the Womb and in My Experiences
I soon realised that my PhD was but a sorry excuse for competence, and that sometimes, I already intuitively knew (God breathed wisdom?) what was wrong with the parent-child dynamics... and then I backtracked to the research to be able to explain to layman and non-Christian mommies. I realised that parents could choose to go where I guided them and if they did not so choose, it was not my fault.

I learnt to step away with no regrets, when I knew I could not help.

God would work on them. My job was to speak and advise only. God gave these parents a choice too. If God respects their choices, so then must I. If God wanted to have a whole world full of zombie followers, He would have made the world like that. I learnt to tell God that I needed Him to do my daily work. I learnt to trust God more than I trusted my PhD or research papers. Alone at home, I was never lonely.

I finally began to make sense even of my own childhood. As a child, I was made to eat vomit as punishment for bad behaviour. I was beaten till blood appeared in crimson streaks on my lower calves. Really? That kind of childhood abuse was because God somehow disapproved of me and therefore refused to bless me because I did not do His work as He wanted?

In the past 5 years, I learnt to be truly, from the bottom of my heart, grateful for all that childhood abuse because it equipped me and only me uniquely for the work I do today. Find me someone else in Singapore (with a PhD in Human Motivation scoring in the 98th percentile of the GMAT Verbal Test) and ALSO attuned to children's pain... STILL in touch with the way a child thinks and feels. Even Smelly Boy (at 15 years) has forgotten how to think like a child. We used to have so much fun laughing at things that he no longer laughs at now.

30 Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— 32 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 33 to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts.
- Exodus 35 -

So you see, God has a purpose for everyone and I am blessed in that His purpose for me is clear. You see, I craft children, and I think I am uniquely formed by searing pain and debilitating illness, to do this work.

5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you;
- Jeremiah 1 -

Yes... yes... yes... to the non-Christian, I probably sound like a nutcase. To the Christian, I probably sound arrogant... like I am set apart and special. But then, dear Christian friend, YOU are uniquely formed too. Also, I am formed for a very small purpose. I am no leader nor evangelist. I am no politician nor CEO nor school principal. I am no mover, no shaker, no captain of industry.

All I do, is teach a few children... but still, uniquely formed I am.

In conclusion, I disagree with "Christians enjoy God's approval and blessings WHEN they do His work His way." What I believe is that if God has formed you for His work, you cannot help but do it His way. There is no need to put in effort nor seek his approval. The skills are given to you by grace of God, and He already approves. You simply yield to Him and miracles will happen even if all you do is breathe.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Misunderstanding the Teen


The Separation-Individuation Stage in a teen's development is very important. It is at this stage that they develop adult judgment and learn to be their own people. If you successfully stunt them at this stage, the child grows up into an adult always dependent on an authority figure. This said, this adolescent urge to separate-individuate is very strong. It is hard to stunt. Instead, teens will fight to the death to separate-individuate. If you try to stunt this stage, your teen may run away from home.

I first wrote about the Separation-Individuation Stage of teen hood HERE. I think the hardest part of the Separation-Individuation stage for me is the incessant Questioning and Challenging. With Smelly Boy, this takes the form of Judgment and Criticism.

Here is a sampling of what Smelly Boy says to me nowadays...
- Why do you like Pasarbella? It is too expensive.
- Why can't you behave your age?
- Why do you need to go out and have fun? Let's stay home and have fun.
- Why do you always want to watch movies? Let's just talk.
- Why are you glued to your phone? It is bad for you. Someone should confiscate your phone.
- Why do you need to be woken up? You're 50. You should be able to wake yourself up in the mornings!
- You are wearing that?!
- What is so nice about eating out? Homecooked food is best.

I know it sounds a bit odd but these really are what Smelly Boy says to ME! Then, he went one step further! He dictated what I should eat! We were at ToastBox, mulling over the menu. I was staring interestedly at a new dish (steamed chicken set) when Smelly Boy said, "Just order 2 laksas." I turned around and eyeballed him, "What makes you think I want to eat laksa? Are you deciding what I should eat now?"

Smelly Boy: **grinning** We always order laksas.

Me: Always doesn't mean forever. People change you know.

Smelly Boy: Why must you be so unpredictable?

Me: Why must you be so boring? Besides, why do you always tell me what to do?

Smelly Boy: I don't tell you what to do. I suggest wise courses of action. You can don't take my suggestion.

Me: Grandma tells you what to do all the time. Are those suggestions?

Smelly Boy: Yes. Because I don't do what she says if I don't feel like it.

Me: Well then suggested courses of action EQUALS telling me what to do.

Smelly Boy: **Grin**

The thing about the teens is this. If the parent is responsible, conscientious, studious, predictable... the teen wants to psychologically explore the opposite. So, Petunia is smart! Inasmuch as I had been the paragon of virtue (frugal, responsible, thorough, dependable), I have gone completely dissolute in some areas these days. Smelly Boy needs to wake me if he wants to be driven to school. I drag him off to places like Pasarbella and turn him pale with my "excesses". I walk around in blue jean rompers, which he believes Moms should not wear. I try new stuff like pig's ear salad and try to stuff some pig's ears into his mouth.

Provided that below the age of 12, I had modelled all the virtues I wished him to imbibe, at teenhood, I can judiciously (that means selectively) try to be some things I don't want my son to be. It has to be judiciously done because I am not about to myself become a drug addict just so my son will not be one.

In the throes of his Separation-Individuation stage, he will differentiate himself from some of my little misbehaviours. Now, why didn't I do that with The Daughter? It would have saved me quite a few fights. Besides, it is great fun to be irresponsible, spendthrift and unpredictable, and get scolded by the Holier Than Thou Smelly Boy. Very enjoyable! I get a kick out of annoying my Smelly Boy.

So you see, don't misunderstand your teen.
(1) He ain't being disrespectful. He is just making up his mind on what kind of person he should be.
(2) He isn't challenging your values. He is just deciding for himself what values he wants for himself.


Remember how as young parents we wondered why the toddlers slept so little? They woke up early and wished to play. If allowed to, they tore around the house deep into the night. Patting them into afternoon naps was a nightmare.

Teens sleep all the time. Smelly Boy falls asleep 5 minutes into the car ride. The Daughter did the same. Smelly Boy can sleep till noon on days when he has no school and no work to catch up on. He really sleeps a lot. Some parents think their teens are lazy.

Inasmuch as the little ones are hyper and always on the move, the teens can be phlegmatic. They slouch all over the place and look bored. They aren't really bored. Their energy is spent GROWING. A lot needs to happen in a teen's body.

So, when I see Smelly Boy sleep the sleep of the blissful, I let him sleep. I tiptoe around. I shush everyone up. It is already bad enough that he has a full schedule during the school year that he adheres to with a will of steel. During the holidays, I leave him to his Sleep Fest. It is not laziness. Teens need to sleep more to grow properly in physical ways.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Le Chasseur

This place is right smack in the middle of an industrial estate. The hawker centre is humongous and Le Chasseur takes up 3 stalls worth of space. It has cordoned off for itself a charming area and dressed it up with interesting water features. A lush garden has been planted just outside, with even a lily pond!

One really has to respect such resourcefulness, creativity and pure passion, not to mention stubbornness in maintaining high standards amidst low rent facilities. Diners benefit from low prices and a definite respect for quality in every area of the dining experience.

Hats off to the characters running this place!

Green veggies with beef tenderloin. I did not like the tenderised beef slices.

Pigs' Trotters in Black Vinegar (this was why I went there... not many places sell this dish)

Stir Fried Beansprouts

Crispy Pork Knuckle (Smelly Boy and The Husband were in 7th heaven)

Lily Pond


DIY Sprinkler System

Plants are growing well!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Kaiho Sushi

Now, this place, I would go back. I really like their chirashi don. There is an incredible variety of fish laid atop seasoned Japanese rice... all for $35. The fish is very fresh. The meal comes with black sesame or green tea ice cream, soup and a chawanmushi like none I have ever had!

I did not bring Smelly Boy, so there was no one to give me an earful for spending too much... and eating at  Koufu's economy rice stall was absolutely delicious enough at a fraction of the price.


Catalunya does Spanish food. They have tapas, though not the homely and hearty sort. They have ummm... "innovative tapas" of the fine dining sort... with foam bubbles. Smelly Boy did not approve. He pointed at the white chocolate ice-cream on a stick and said, "Look! That is a mini Magnum! We have those in the fridge and they don't cost so much!"

They have a nice view too.

They have a festive spirit, with dance and song ... fish set on fire, plates used to chunk-cut a suckling pig into small portions. If you are lucky there is a professional flamenco dancer that will set your heart beat racing and make grown men go weak in the knees. She is not always there but if she is, that's a treat.

Now, about the food.

I loved the hors d'oeuvres. From smoked salmon in mustard sauce to crunchy asparagus spikes right through to sardines swimming in olive oil, and beef carpaccio, I thoroughly enjoyed every hors d'oeuvres dish. The mains were disappointing. The fish dish can be dry. The beef short ribs were dropped from the menu. The paella did not quite appeal. The suckling pig had a porky smell that was slightly off-putting. The suckling pig and paella at Pasarbella tasted quite a bit better.

However, Smelly Boy also disapproves of Pasarbella. He says it is a high class hawker centre and very overpriced and "Mom! They give you paper boxes and plastic spoons for the amount you are spending!" The last time we went to Pasarbella, I told my son, "If you have nothing nice to say about this lunch, don't say anything." Obediently, he said NOTHING AT ALL right through the meal. 

I don't care. I like Pasarbella's suckling pig and paella. And that is that! Smelly Boy disapproves of everything I do these days anyway, so there is no pleasing him. I sometimes wonder if I am the parent or he is. He is entirely too sensible to be any fun. I am getting on in years and might die any day so if I feel like frittering my savings away on paella served in paper boxes, I shall!

If you want to go, do Sunday brunch. The music, dance, fanfare and fireworks are all at Sunday brunch. I think it is a good experience once in a lifetime (for Mother's Day), but I will probably not go back again. It is very expensive ($100/person) and the mains did not quite appeal.


Smoked salmon with caviar


Sardines with eggplant

Anchovies with olives

More sardines

Raw fish (looks like hamachi or Japanese Amberjack)


Roast beef

Beef tartare (it's raw)

Beef carpaccio (it's raw too)


Selection of sausages

Iberico ham

Avocado salad

Some salad


Egg, tomato and potato tapas... this is what tapas normally looks like

A deconstructed omelette

Salt-baked fish

Suckling pig

Thursday, May 21, 2015

From One Woman to Another

The Daughter grew up with a Mom obsessed with and proud of being good. Sure! I understand that I am not all good, and I know that in many ways I fall/fell short. Nonetheless, it did not stop me from trying very hard to be good... and for feeling too much pride when I was good. At the same time, there was always that self-recrimination of knowing that I just ain't ever good enough.

So when I fell ill, my sense of self-worth also disintegrated into dust because I went from feeling that I ain't ever good enough, to feeling completely worthless. In almost every way, I was only 1/10 what I used to be. I could only work 1/10 as hard, and 1/10 as fast. Entire days slipped by whilst I languished in bed, incapacitated and incapable. It felt also as if my brain worked at 1/10 its previous capacity. The Daughter saw my sense of self-worth collapse and my entire world turn dark. Despite all the light and love that surrounded me, my world was like night and all seemed evil to me.

The Daughter saw me through all that.

As Mother's Day followed Mother's Day, her gifts to me have always been from CHILD to MOTHER. This year, 2015, is the first time she has given me a gift from one WOMAN to another. My gift this year was a gentle message in the form of a book containing the Gospel of Grace, not the Gospel of Goodness.

I received a book that reminded me that even at my peak, I was never GOOD ENOUGH for God, and that God wants me to enjoy his GRACE more than my own GOODNESS. It is infinitely less tiring to live by the gospel of GRACE. Just sit back like Mary and enjoy the Lord.

And emmmmm... let poor Martha do all the work... Heh! Heh! Heh!

And God's grace will take care of all the rest.

Amazingly, despite the 1/10 capacity I am at... despite the determination to keep my work to a manageable minimum... despite not working as HARD as I was capable of in the past... God's grace has really come through during 2015 SA1 because the children's results are very good indeed.

It really is much easier to rely on Him, than on me!!

Knocknock Reclaimed Teak Furniture

When we renovated the big room, it seemed costly to do built-in furniture made of low quality materials such as plywood and laminate, knowing that such furniture would be worthless in future. I decided that the money was better spent on smaller pieces of furniture that would hold its value over time. I decided that I would buy less furniture but focus on quality instead.

Usually, such pieces are antique pieces. However, there is something creepy about unknown antiques. Unlike antiques that are handed down through generations, whose history you know, you don't know what kind of stories lie behind an antique of unknown provenance.

Perhaps the piece was witness to family tragedies of deep betrayal and violent hate. Perhaps the previous family that owned it was torn apart by strife and thought nothing of hurting each other. I did not want such spiritual taint in my home. You never know, you see.

So, when we came across these pieces of reclaimed teak at Knocknock in Tan Boon Liat Towers, we (The Husband and I) were both thrilled. The wood was old. It had been taken from old kampong houses made of teak. When they took apart the house, the wood was recycled. You can see how well weathered the wood is and how well bleached by the sun it is. The wood is very dry, having lost its moisture through years of standing out in the sun. These pieces will last more than a lifetime, which is more than can be said of furniture these days (made of compressed wood and plywood).

These pieces will gain value in time, as they further age from their emmmm... current agedness. In time to come, there will be no more old teak houses or ships to recycle into furniture. Then, they will be antiques that I give my own children. The simple design is also timeless and appeals to our taste for  a No Frills and No Clutter Look.

Anyway, after that (even with a decent discount from Knocknock), we ran out of budget and so we got a sofa from Ikea to sit on!! Hee!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

More 2015 SA1 Results

My GEP topped his GEP class.

Another P6: Top 3 in level.

A P4 at the top. Usually, P4 is too early to see results with my method of teaching. However, in cases where the child is gifted or very bright (and works hard), I will accelerate him appropriately. Results can then be seen in mid P4.

For a centre that is positively TINY (with less than 40 students at any one time), we are seeing more than our fair share of top in LEVEL (not just class). We do not practise ability testing at entry. However, lazy parent-child pairs are asked to withdraw.

Another top in level.

Previous 2015 SA1 Results are reported HERE.
Previous year's results are HERE.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

2015 SA1 Results

The exam results are trickling in. There is reason to rejoice so we thank God for His blessings.

Top 3 in Level: Primary 6 2015 SA1

Primary 6 2015 SA1

Primary 5 2015 SA1

Top Mark in Top Class, Primary 5 2015 SA1

See more results HERE.