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Thursday, January 30, 2020

The Defining Failure

Of all the failures that educated The Son, the one that really moulded him into the man he is now, was failing to get into ACS(I) IB. He missed the cut off by a single point.

The beauty of the system in ACS((I) is that the bulk of the IB places are offered in Yr 3 and in Yr 5. Such a system allows the following:
- a tension between what is (a place in Express) and what can be (a place in IB)
- a highly attractive goal for Express boys to work for
- the school to assess character before awarding a place in IB

The thing is, PSLE results tend to reflect parent drive. A family with money and 1 stay-at-home parent, who will push the child, can actually push up PSLE scores considerably. So, awarding places in IB or IP, based on PSLE results muddies the pool of IB candidates with children who got there because their parents made it happen. A single numerical score does not reflect the true calibre of the individual child, especially in a society where parents hothouse their children.

So, the ACS(I) way of allocating the bulk of the places for IB is more intelligent. The teaching corps within ACS(I) can get to know every boy that applies for an IB place in Yr 3. Each boy is now more than just a numerical cut off. The full person is judged for...
- integrity
- drive to learn
- academic excellence
- leadership
- sports
- social skills

The eventual decision to allocate a place to a deserving child is a decision that more accurately reflects the whole calibre of the child. No doubt, this system has its detractors. Since the decisions are complex and qualititative, instead of being distilled into a simple numerical score, many people accuse it of "unfairness." It is also more demanding on the children.

I am grateful to ACS(I) for making the entrance into its IB programme so demanding for The Son. When he entered ACS(I) Express, The Son was still a child. When he made it into IB, in Yr 3, The Son had become a man. I remember telling myself that year, that I could die in peace, knowing that The Son would still be able to thrive.

It was Yr 1 and Yr 2 that honed his mettle. He WANTED to get into IB. To deserve the place he had to grow in stature, in wisdom and in favour with God and man. In these 2 years, The Son either chose to not go to Europe with us OR, he made us stay home with him. To make time for his many CCAs and leadership commitments, he spent all of December holidays studying ahead and doing homework in advance. When the school year started, he tore out one pre-done worksheet every week, and handed it up. During the school year, he rushed from debate, to shooting, to giving disadvantaged kids tuition, to drone flying... and goodness knows what else.

He did all this just to earn that IB place.

It was impossible for me to keep track of his schedule. I hardly saw him even though we lived in the same house. He spent all of the year on edge, always needing to get things done. He was short-tempered and rude to me because he was always on edge. I learnt to stay out of his way. Don't ask. Don't know. Don't care.

Some 14 year old boys in top schools still need to report their whereabouts every hour, to their Moms, via text. Some mothers of 16 year old boys are still calling into school to fight for 2 marks in an exam.

Alexander the Great fought his first battle at age 14. By age 18, he was leading men into battle. By age 20, he was king. Charlie Soong (the father of the famous Soong Ching Ling, Soong Ai Ling and Soong May Ling) was 14 years old when he started work as a cabin boy on a ship going from China to USA. By the time he was in his late 20s, he had become Shanghai's most indispensable comprador (an agent facilitating contact between Chinese and Caucasians). By his late 30s, he was one of Shanghai's richest men. The boss of Chuan Kee braised duck started work as a hawker stall assistant at 15. By 23 yrs, he owned his own stall. He is now in his 40s, with a Michelin mention under his belt.

These men were ready to take on life, at 14.

I am truly grateful to God, and to ACS(I), for 2 defining years. Coming out of those years, at 14, The Son was mature enough to take on life. I remember telling myself that a war could come and my son would find a way to survive. I remember telling myself that if our family lost everything, my son would find a way to keep us and provide for us.

Thanks to God arranging for him to flunk out of IB by 1 point, AND the blessed ACS(I) system of holistic assessment before awarding the bulk of IB places, The son was ready to take on life at 14 yrs.

It was precisely this maturity that ensured that The Son did better at IB than many who scored much higher PSLE t-scores. So, if you are a mother of a child below P3, have the wisdom to develop soft skills, maturity and leadership before your child gets to secondary school. Then, use Sec 1 and Sec 2 as crucibles of fire to give your child mettle enough to take on life by age 15. If you want to know how, and your child is in P3 or P4, get in touch with me HERE. If your child is already in secondary school, it is too late.

A high PSLE score means nothing if your child peaks at PSLE.

This post continues from HERE.

Other Posts on Walking the Precipice Between Failure and Success
(1) The Ultimate Love Gift: Permission to Fail - Click HERE.
(2) Cambridge University - Click HERE.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020


When The Son was applying to universities, friends recommended to me the services of various consultants who would help...

- train The Son for the interviews
- draft the Personal Statements
- oversee and strategise the university application process.

It would cost all of $6000. If a family is willing to pay the fees to Oxbridge and the Ivies, it is unlikely to bat an eyelid at $6000 to get the child in.

I thought about it. I was sorely tempted. I decided not to. My rationale was as follows.

If The Son got into Cambridge without my help, he would know that he did it all on his own. In terms of attitude, The Son can have reason to believe that without his parents at his back, he could still make things happen. This sort of attitude guarantees that The Son would have rock solid confidence in himself to not just survive but to thrive.

The story goes that one day In 1939, George Bernard Dantzig, a PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley, was late for a graduate-level statistics class. On arrival, he saw two problems written on the board. He did not know that they were examples of “as yet unsolved” statistics problems. Dantzig thought them part of a homework assignment. He noted them down, Then, he solved them. Had Dantzig arrived early for class, he would have learnt that these problems were beyond his ability to solve. Since he arrived late, his attitude was not burdened by such thoughts. Unburdened by such negative thoughts, he promptly went ahead and solved statistics problems that generations of university professors before him, had failed to solve.

A child become man (or woman) who wins a whole string of accolades with parental help does not learn to trust himself. I did not want, for my children, only the outward trappings of success (top university, top school, awards, wins etc...) Invariably, such children grow into adulthood never fulfilling the promise of their youth.

You see, they do not get a chance to develop that internal fibre to support achievement in adulthood. So, at every point when my peers and I were comparing sons, I chose to hunker down and accept possible ignominy, just to give my children the chance to really overcome an obstacle on their own.

Sony Toy Competition
It did not matter to me if he won or lost. So, I did not help. So, he lost. There, he learnt that failing at something did not kill him. He also learnt that he enjoyed the process so much that he did not kind failing.

Primary School Studies
As The Son grew up, people inevitably would compare children. Especially at Chinese New Year or X'mas parties. Don't underestimate the pressure I was under. I am Dr. Pet after all. BOTH The Husband and I were academically excellent in our time. People expected so much of our children and if theirs did better than mine did, they were justifiably proud. One friend, whose son was 1 year older than mine, called me when her son received his PSLE results.

She said, forgetting that her son was a year older, "My son scored 267 for PSLE! What did yours get?"

I thank God that my son is a year younger because if I had had to reply her very rude point blank question, the year after, I think I would have cried tears of shame and frustration because The Son scored far far below 267. That day, I was sorely tempted to swear to myself, "I am going to make very sure that my son's PSLE score next year is higher than yours!"

I did not.

Instead, I hunkered down and told myself...
- must have time to play
- must enjoy learning
- must largely be his own effort
- RE: PSLE score, ENOUGH to get into a reasonably good school

What I did do, was to procure very high quality study materials for my son to study. The schools were not teaching what they were testing and I could not expect The Son to learn from thin air. I scoured internationally for resources for The Son to self-study. His Chinese materials came from Beijing. His English materials came from Australia, UK and USA. His Science materials came from my university's e-library. His Math materials were sourced locally because our local Math pedagogy is seriously good.

The Son had the best learning materials. I owed him that much. However, he still had to study them, on his own because there was no tutor available to explain anything. Instead, he only had a Stupid Mother HE had to teach.

So, when The Son got into ACS(I) Express, he really did it on his own. My roles were motivation and procurement of study resources.

Any boy who gets into ACS(I) Express holds the hope of transiting into the IB programme in Yr 3. The Son was determined to make that switch. He had not made the ACS(I) IB cut off by 1 point. To hop over to IB in Yr 3 was a lot more difficult. ACS(I) looked for evidence of...
- leadership
- integrity
- drive to learn
- academic excellence
- sports

I saw in The Son's eyes a steely determination. So, I left it to him. I did nothing to help. He was the one who collared the seniors and got them to share their experiences of making it into IB from Express. He was the one who strategised and hustled for opportunities to get leadership, integrity, drive to learn and sports into his portfolio. At that time, he was only 13 years old. He still had his baby fat. Yet, he was strategising like 诸葛亮.

At that moment, seeing how The Son was moving decisively to get what he wanted without my help, I thanked God for having given me both the wisdom and the emotional strength to have had the courage from P4 to P6, to be true to the following...
- must have time to play
- must enjoy learning
- must largely be his own effort
- RE: PSLE score, ENOUGH to get into a reasonably good school

To get into IB from Express, he scoured Singapore for competitions of all sorts to pad up his portfolio. He took part in science research competitions, plane construction competitions, hackathons. business competitions, rifle and pistol competitions, drone flying competitions. The momentum that he gained from trying to make it into IB, snowballed into bigger and more prestigious competitions in Yr 3 and Yr 4. His peers noticed him and offered him opportunities on their teams because they knew he could contribute. By Yr 4, he was competing internationally.

I did not help in ANYTHING at all.

Cambridge University
So, when it came time to apply to universities, I mentioned to him that the services of a consultant could be had. By that time, The Son was already used to the idea that whatever he wanted to achieve, he would do it on his own, even if it meant losing out.

He pooh poohed the idea of me paying someone to help him get into Cambridge. On my end, friends kept asking me, "Where is your son going to university?"

My response was always, "He already has an offer from NUS Engineering. I am already happy with that."

Character Forming
Succeeding on one's own pours steel into a person's character. The Son did succeed to get into Cambridge. Going forwards, he knows that without his parents' strength, he has it in him to achieve his own goals.

Failing, whilst knowing that one is still loved, also pours steel into a person's character. The Daughter failed to get into Cambridge despite 8 A level distinctions. When she graduated from NUS, she had honed the steel it takes to succeed in a highly competitive work environment. Her competition at work hail from Cornell and Stanford, amongst others. They are men too! Yet, The Daughter became the first woman to join an all male ASEAN team.

The only thing though, I had to be prepared to accept that neither of my children would get into Oxbridge nor the Ivies.

The Long Game
I know that hindsight is 20/20. I am not sure what gave me the resilience to live down shame at every turn, at every Chinese New Year and at every Xmas because I tell you, my children embarrassed me all the time, and people expected so much of them just because I am Dr. Pet.

Maybe being autistic helps. I am relatively less sensitive to peer pressure. So, when I had to choose between bragging rights and ...
- must have time to play
- must enjoy learning
- must largely be his own effort
- RE: PSLE score, ENOUGH to get into a reasonably good school
... it was easier to choose the last 4 over bragging rights.

Don't mistake me. I like my bragging rights. It is just that when it came to choose on a daily basis, I invariably made the choice to prioritise the last 4. Perhaps, being autistic isn't so bad after all. I am relatively immune to peer pressure. Most people don't like me anyway so it is no point trying to impress them and make my kids unhappy.

This post continues HERE.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Chinese New Year 2020

This is the first year that out Chinese New Year festivities involved our children's partners. By Day 3, everyone is sick of the traditional abalone, fish, hotpot etc... So, we picked a burger joint amidst green trees for our little family gathering.

I feel blessed that we have 2 new almost additions to our family. This phase of our lives is important to get right. It will set the tone for family relationships in the next 50 years. I have no room for error in managing the integration of my children's partners into the family. Bad blood sown now will fester into toxic relationships later. So, we want to be careful to let these partners know that we welcome them warmly, and that we will treat them with respect and consideration.

I will not make the same mistakes that my mother-in-law made with me. 

It helps also that both my children have chosen well.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Hula Poop

When I first started hula hooping, it was to strengthen my core enough to support my spine. This took pressure off my slipped disc. I soon discovered that hula hooping was a wonderful way get the bowels moving too. 

Our family goes through a lot of fruits because I make fruit smoothies at every meal. This was the only way to make The Son eat enough fruits. 

In 1 meal, I can use up 4 apples and 4 pears to feed 4 people. Still, it depends on what type of apples. If we are using Korean apples, then only 2 apples suffice. This said, Korean apples are wasted in smoothies. We eat them sliced instead because they taste so good.

When I first started making fruit smoothies, everyone's digestion sped up. Everyone was pleased at the quality of poop.

You can check the quality of your poop by googling the Bristol Stool Chart. Please don't get grossed out. Poop is serious business. Poop quality is indicative of good health and ever since my kids were small, I would examine the quality of their poop and adjust their diet accordingly. When I got celiac disease, my health became stronger even as the quality of poop got better. Poop is important.

The extra fibre kept everyone regular for a while. Then, inexplicably, everyone's digestion slowed again. So, enter the hula hoop. Now, I make The Husband hula hoop for 30 minutes a day too.

Enough fruits for 7 days.

Normal apple vs Korean apple

Natural laxative

Friday, January 24, 2020

Gluten Free and Eggless Tiramisu

Life without gluten is not quite so bad anymore. I have learnt how to make gluten free and eggless tiramisu. I am not allergic to eggs but the original recipe uses raw eggs. That gives me the heebie jeebies. I have made this recipe 5 times already and it is a keeper. So, I had better blog it up. Else, The Son won't get to eat this when I die.

10 gluten free savoiardi biscuits
1/4 cup of icing sugar
4 capsules of nespresso coffee
250g of mascarpone cheese
300ml of thickened cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
1 teaspoon gelatin powder
4 teaspoons water

(1) Put the food processor bowl and whipping cream paddle into the freezer for 15 mins.
(2) Make and cool 400ml of strong coffee. Leave aside.
(3) Stir 1 teaspoon of gelatin into 4 teaspoons of water. Microwave for 1/2 minute. Stir. Microwave for 1/2 minute again. Stir. Repeat till the gelatin is dissolved. Leave aside to cool.
(4) Sift the icing sugar.
(5) Mix whipping cream with vanilla essence and icing sugar. Whip till soft peaks form
(6) Add the dissolved gelatin into the cream teaspoon by teaspoon, as the food processor whips the cream. Do NOT add all at once.
(7) Whip into stiff peaks.
(8) Add mascarpone cheese (do NOT take the cheese out of the fridge till the last moment) and whip till smooth.
(9) Soak the savoiardi biscuits in the strong coffee and fill the bottom of the pan. Do not soak too long because the biscuits will fall apart.
(10) Spread half the cream mixture on top of the coffee soaked biscuits.
(11) Assemble a 2nd layer of coffee soaked savoiardi biscuits on top of the layer of cream.
(12) Spread the 2nd half of the cream mixture on top of the 2nd layer of coffee soaked biscuits.
(13) Dust the top with cocoa powder.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Hula Hoop

Hula hooping has done wonders for my waistline. I have lost about 1 inch off my waist and hips, respectively. Unfortunately, I did not lose any kgs. Hula hooping is a great exercise to strengthen the core muscles. I have a very weak core and doing leg lifts and leg raises do not engage as many different types of muscles as hula hooping. To keep the hoop up, every muscle in the core needs to work. In the beginning, it was a challenge to keep the hoop up. Now, I can walk around and hoop.

This hoop can be dismantled and kept in a box. It is a 0.9 kg hoop from Decathlon, and costs no more than $25. I highly recommend. Don't buy the wrong weight of hoop though. The heavier ones can hurt you, and does not add to the workout in anyway. In fact, the lighter your hoop, the more energy it takes to keep it up, because there is less momentum.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Pistachio, My Maltipoo

I got me a maltipoo. That is a cross between a poodle and a maltese. I was careful to get one with the temperament of a maltese (happy to fall asleep on my lap as I work on my reports), and the coat of a poodle (a nice pistachio brown with curls).

This is a good dog for me.

Firstly, it is contented to sit there and say nothing. The problem with people is that you have to talk to them. People think me odd or unfriendly, if I sit near them and keep quiet. Oft times, that is exactly what an autistic person just wants to do with the people we like. I always mess up on new friendships because of the pressure to have to make small talk. It stresses me so much that I sometimes panic and move away. Till today, The Husband and I can spend hours together, just being near each other, without saying anything. I don't understand why neurotypical people must make so much conversation and why they are uncomfortable with simply sitting near each other.

The reason why the braised pork boys are so dear to me is that they seem to read what I mean, and need, without me saying anything at all (especially the tall, dark and skinny one... at least, he used to be able to till lately). It's called telepathic customer service, ya know.

Secondly, Pistachio smells nice. Smell is my trigger. I can smell things other people cannot smell. If I don't like the way the dog smells, it would be an impossible relationship.

Thirdly, Pistachio is quiet. I have had him for half a day. I have not heard him say anything.

Fourthly, Pistachio loves cuddles. I am super cuddly with people I love.

Fifthly, Pistachio is intelligent. In half a day, he has learnt where it should go pee. I cannot wait to teach him tricks. The reason why Milo and I have never hit it off is because Milo is incredibly stupid. Intelligence matters so much to me.


I have to admit. Life is starting to get lonely. The Husband has always worked very long hours. On a few occasions, he worked through the night and did not sleep for 36 hours. Regularly, he leaves house at 9 pm and comes home at 4 am. The Daughter is not often in Singapore. Her work takes her to all sorts of different countries. Even when she is home, she works late and often has dinner parties to attend.

For years, I have always had Little Boy to keep me company. Now, Little Boy is all grown up and I begin to feel lonely.

I need a dog.

No, I don't mean a large, loud, smelly and vulgar dog like Milo. Even though I dress Milo up in nice t-shirts and frilly dresses, he is still a large, loud and smelly dog.

I need a pretty little girlie dog like the one below.

Monday, January 20, 2020

The Seletar Country Club: Part 2

I realised that despite The Seletar Country Club being such a big part of our lives (when our kids were small), I have never recommended it to readers. We joined the club when The Daughter was 2.5 yrs old and I started blogging only when The Daughter was 15 yrs old. It never did occur to me to blog about it, somehow.

I have not really used the facilities for many years but walking through the club today, sweet memories flooded back. Singapore is a place that is ever changing. Orchard Rd looks different from 1 year to another. The Seletar Country Club does not change. For 20+ years it has looked the same.

I highly recommend this as a practical solution to families with children who have a lot of energy to expend, and parents with no energy to spare. Little Boy had so much energy. If I did not give him an outlet, life at home would be unbearable. Instead of giving him device games, I gave him space to run around in. The Seletar Country Club has different types of membership types to suit all budgets. See HERE.

It really is not one of the prestigious clubs but it served a mother's practical needs. If you live in HDB or landed, and need a place to let kids run about or entertain relatives, this is really a Godsend.

Later on, The Son brought his girlfriend there to spend the day too. It really is a suitable place to court a young lady, and expand Petunia's little family.

Here is where I would curl up with a book (or work on my laptop) whilst my children ran amok in the spacious grounds. It is relatively MUCH safer than leaving your kids to run around freely in a public pool. I really loved entertaining large groups here during X'mas or Chinese New Year. It was safe for my guests' children. For the same price as a catered party in my home, I had access to service staff who would circulate to ensure my guests had enough food and drinks. This freed me up to make conversation and eye contact.

I know. I know. I know. I am a wimp. Being autistic, eye contact and small talk takes EFFORT. I just could not cope. The first year I entertained at home, I was so overwhelmed that I was exhausted for 2 weeks after that. Parties are not my thing.

Here is the gym where The Husband and I used to workout whilst the children went swimming. There was an amusing incident in the gym when the man on my right asked me out for a coffee, whilst another man (my husband) looked on.

The pool is strangely shaped. I did not like it because it isn't properly shaped for swimming laps but the children loved it.

This is my favourite part of the pool, a small jacuzzi at the top of the mini waterfall. It affords a fair bit of privacy and my kids loved playing with the bubbles.

I still remember this walk to the club restaurant, holding the hand of my 2 year old Little Boy, and slowing my steps.

The club restaurant overlooks one of the nicest golf courses in Singapore. I used to sit out there in the morning sun to eat my roti prata (before the onset of my celiac disease). I realise that I cannot eat breakfast there anymore because all their breakfast dishes have gluten.

The gardens have always looked lush and inviting. I learnt a lot about plants by simply walking the grounds.

There is even a live band from 8.30 pm. It is a nice place to chill out with a beer.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Seletar Country Club

When the children were small, we lived in an HDB flat. We had no access to a condominium pool. I liked my flat (it had 2000 sq ft) and I did not want to move into a condo. However, I needed a place to bring my children on weekends to let them run around. Singapore is crowded everywhere. Yet, children need space to run, swim and play in relative safety.

We joined up 2 country clubs and when the children were in primary school, we went every weekend to either one or the other. Back then, for us, it was an extravagance which I found necessary as a mother of young children. Compared to condo management fees, the monthly club fees seemed very reasonable. Since I had no intention of ever moving out of my HDB flat, the extravagance seemed reasonable enough.

Later on, the country clubs became convenient places for my teens to host teenage gatherings. I gathered a bunch of teens, dropped them off, and they found things to do from swimming, table tennis, bowling, foosball, snooker and tennis. At that age, they wanted privacy away from me. I could leave them to themselves knowing they would not get into trouble. Else, they would have to hang out at the public snooker halls and bowling alleys. I wasn't sure who else hung out at public snooker halls and bowling alleys.

Now that the kids are grown, we rarely go to the country clubs at all. So, we got rid of one. The remaining one sent us a letter stating that unless we spent $45 every quarter at the restaurant, they would bill us $45 every quarter for NOT spending enough. So, The Husband and I went for dinner this night.

We had forgotten how nice it is to sit and eat in spacious surroundings. Believe it or not, there are some places with nice scenery, even in Singapore. When the kids were little, I thought this a necessity. Which parent does not want to provide their kids, the best? For The Husband and I alone, it seems a needless luxury.

We are happy to hang out in Chong Pang.

2019 was the year Petunia discovered Chong Pang Market. For what it is worth, Chong Pang Market offers unbeatable value. Yummy food and interesting goods are so cheap there. There was also my ethnographic curiosity and a desire to train myself to tolerate crowds, smells and noise. I think I have come a long way since Jan 2019. These days, I can spend 1 hr at Chong Pang Market without feeling overwhelmed.

I have proven myself an autistic Chong Pang survivor!

Still, it won't do to leave this Seletar Country Club sitting there without using it. When the grandchildren come, we will need to use it again. It may be time now, to go back to the rhythm of a morning swim at the country club, followed by breakfast. It does feel so good to eat in a place where the tables are clean, where there are no crowds, and where birds aren't waiting to steal your food.

Flowers Galore

I avoided Chong Pang Market for 7 years and my life was the poorer for it. The 春节 Market at Chong Pang has taken on the feel of a Parisian sidewalk in spring with a profusion of flowers. Except, in Chong Pang, they are all fake flowers.

Still, why complain? They look real enough, don't need water and will never fade. The worst that can happen to them is that they get dusty. I spend a pretty penny on fake flowers every now and then. I think I usually pay between $4.50 to $7.50 for each cluster. This time, I paid $2.50 at most for 1 cluster and some clusters cost me only $1. So now, I have replaced all the fake flowers at home and added one bouquet to our master bathroom.

If only I had not been so scared of the smells and noise at Chong Pang Market. I could have saved myself so much money over the years!!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Cambridge University

The Son, aka Smelly Boy, aka Little Boy, has been accepted into Cambridge University. I am not sure I dare to believe it. Sometimes, journeys are best taken one step at a time. If you had told me that The Son would one day be accepted into the university that Lee Kuan Yew attended, I think I would have laughed at you.

This was the boy who made his Mama cry in Pri 3 because he had done badly in school and was explaining to me, "Mama, I am not like Jiejie (姐姐). I am not one of the smart ones. I will never do as well as Jiejie (姐姐)."

I cried not because I was upset that he was almost at the bottom of the class. I cried because he actually believed himself to be stupid. My heart broke when he told me that he was dumb. 

This was the boy who put his CCA Form into the school General Office's suggestion box. See HERE.

This was the boy who shot rubber bands at girl classmates' backsides. See HERE.

This was the boy whose sister, I threw away. See HERE.

This was the boy whose Teacher called him a liar. See HERE.

This was the boy who wailed the night before exams. See HERE.

This was the boy stupid enough to climb over the fence into a garden with a dog twice his size. See HERE.

Throughout the years, when the going got tough, I just said, "Let's not worry about everything else. Let us just take this step and do it well." One step and then another step. Every step you take already puts you in a better place than the step before.

After a billion small steps, you stop and realise, "Hey, I got someplace quite exciting!"

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Aging: Rebuilding and Maintaining Muscle Mass

My personal trainer, Tracy, taught me that many old age ailments come from a loss in muscle mass. Hip problems, knee problems etc... are all preceded by weakened muscles around those joints. Tracy was very good at designing exercises for me that work specific muscle groups. With her help, we were able to help The Husband build the muscles around his ruptured disc, which was causing him back pain. Thanks to Tracy, I no longer feel pain when I walk up and down the stairs.

I am quite amazed at how far I have come with Tracy's help. About 8 years of gluten poisoning had destroyed my gut to such extent that I was absorbing very little nourishment from the food I was eating. I lost so much muscle mass that I had aches and pains everywhere. I looked in the mirror and saw that I was aging before my time. Everything was sagging. My underarms behaved like curtains. My thighs looked like tree trunks. My ankles were so weak that I kept spraining them. I could not stand stably on one foot.

I started with Tracy from a very low base. I could barely do one push up. Just walking upstairs made me pant heavily. Today, I can easily clock 4 hrs of cycling at 28km/hr. That makes 112km of cycling at one stretch. I really cannot tell you how hard it was to get here. My entire body was falling apart. My thyroid was not working properly. My adrenal glands were weak. If I pushed myself too hard, I would collapse and be unable to get out of bed at all. Sometimes, I crashed for 2 weeks before I could start exercising again.

If, in 2017,  I was so often crashed out on the bed that if you had given me the goal of cycling 4 hrs a day 4 times a week, I think I would have given up exercising altogether. You know, just give up and die right there.

It was like taking 2 steps forward and then 3 steps back. It was like walking in a blizzard. You can't see anything and you feel like cold winds are pushing you back with every step forward. I suppose that I must thank The Husband for my determination. He said I was not pretty. So, I was desperate to prove him wrong. To be fair to The Husband, he baulked at no expense to help me regain my figure. For a financially prudent man, his willingness to spend money on this signalled to me that how I looked MATTERED to him, even though he always said, "I love you for your brains, and for the fact that you are mother of my children."

Like real hor... Anyway, he is my husband and I know what he did not say.

Petunia's PhD thesis was about how to motivate people to achieve impossible goals. This, to me, was an impossible goal. The very first strategy was to focus on taking one step at a time. I refused to look at the final goal. I had none. I simply wanted to be just a bit better, be just a bit stronger, be just a bit fitter. I knew that if I did a bit a day, I would be able to tolerate more in time to come. So, I focused on the bit a day that was right in front of me.

In 2019, I only crashed out once. That was the first time I pushed myself to cycle for 4 hours. When I did it again, I did not crash. I just kept pushing and pushing.

Then, in 2019, I read this horror story about a woman my age, saddled with diabetes and with knees so weak that she could not kneel. Her husband had died, and this fat wheelchair bound lady could not look after herself. It was not just physically unable. This lady was forgetful and feared even doing basic financial transactions. Her deficit was also in her brain.

This story freaked me out because this lady was my age. Oh good gracious! That woman could be me!

On that day, I realised that looking good was really beside the point. Looking good is a bonus. It makes The Husband happy. What I really want is to be strong and to be able to look after myself until the day I die.

Muscles and brain are the same. You use it or you lose it. Now, with stronger ankle muscles, I can stand on one foot and do the following pose. No problem!

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

No More Tauhuey For Us!

With the advent of menopause, I began to develop dry eyes and flaky dry skin on the upper lip. Dry skin is manageable with creams. Dry eyes can be managed with some eye drops. However, if skin and eyes are drying out, arteries and veins will also harden. I could not apply cream to my arteries and veins.

I found that a bowl of tauhuey (without sugar) a day kept everything moist and supple. So, when The Husband developed an itchy, dry patch on his forehead, I made him eat 1 bowl of tauhuey a day too, to protect his arteries. The itchy, dry patch went away.

However, The Husband complained that he kept putting on weight despite eating only air. I, too, noticed weight gain despite exercising like an Olympic athlete. Soy beans are high in phyto-oestrogens. Excess oestrogens cause weight gain.

So, I had to search for an alternative. No more tauhuey... at least, not every day.

Apparently, omega 3 fatty acids are good for dry eyes, dry skin and hardening arteries. Let's hope it works and does not also cause weight gain!

Friday, January 10, 2020

Headstart On Soft Skills and Maturity

The normal pattern I notice in many families is as follows. From P1 to P6, parents focus on helping their children do well at PSLE, in order to get into a good school. A lot of time is spent on academic enrichment. The richest parents and the smartest students get the highest scores and win the most CCA medals. They get into good schools.

The moment their children hit Sec 1, the process of individuation began. Parents were so used to telling their children what to do that they knew of no other way to interact with their children. They had problems letting go.

There were also parents who did let go. However, their children suddenly had no one telling them what to do. Hence, they had no idea how to spend their time productively. They frittered away their time with their newfound freedom. Sec 1 passed by in a blur of parent-child conflicts.

A lot of time and energy was spent fighting. These parent-child conflicts continued into well Sec 3. In some families, these fights continued into JC1 and JC2, distracting the child from performing in school, not just academically, but in extra-curricular portfolio activities as well.

Since everyone else was busy fighting with their parents, it was easy for both my son and my daughter to pull ahead of their peers from Sec 1 to Sec 3. By the end of Sec 3, both my kids had achieved so much (without tuition) that both could maintain their lead, finishing as top students at the end of JC2. The Daughter scored 8 A level distinctions, was a medalled gymnast, published research papers at international conferences. Amongst other achievements, the Son represented SUTD (whilst only 16 yrs) at a university level robotics competition where other participants were 3rd year students from MIT, Tokyo Tech, Tsinghua etc... He scored 44 points at IB.

I paid $0 to help them achieve in secondary school. I completely stopped monitoring their school activities. If they said to sign a form, I signed. Once, The Son dragged me to the only PTM that I ever attended when he was in secondary school with instructions as follows: "Mom, you are not going there to find out how I am doing in school. You are going there to talk me up in front of Mrs. Lee so that she will write me a glowing testimonial."

Given complete freedom, my children filled their days with a whole smorgasbord of exciting opportunities. They were mature enough to know what to do with freedom.

One December, I got upset with The Son because he had lined up 5 CCAs' worth of commitment in the coming year, and he needed all of December holidays to pre-do his Math HW for the next 6 months. When the school year started, he just pulled out a pre-done worksheet every week and submitted it. I was very upset because I wanted to go on holiday and he would not!

Best of all, both my children became leaders by Sec 1. They enacted true leadership ability because I spent time daily with both coaching them on people skills. In secondary school, peers elect leaders. My children were always elected because they had true influence.

Most parents think that being a prefect in primary school is good leadership development. I did not think so. Guarding staircase entrances and giving orders by the formal authority vested in a prefect, was NOT true leadership skill. I wanted my children to be able to influence and lead even when they were not given FORMAL authority. So, from P4 to P6, I made time to teach them people skills.

By the time they entered Sec 1, I was already briefing them on how to talent spot and how to recruit talent into their  project teams (because in IP, marks are allocated to project work).

Other People's Children
Since I had completely let go of my own children, I had free time to start my enrichment centre. Over the past 8 years, I have been training the maturity and leadership ability of other people's children. See below the testimonials.

The above child was not even one of my strongest students. She ended up in
a neighbourhood secondary school where she emerged as a strong leader.

This was a very academically strong student. She scored 260+ at PSLE.

Hindsight is 20/20
On hindsight, it seems like I am some super woman mother endowed with rare wisdom. In reality, what I did was God-driven. For 20 years, my guiding light was this verse from the bible...

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8-9)

It felt to me that the chase for the ever higher t-score at PSLE looked a lot like lusting after all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. Something inside me wanted no part of it. I wanted to mould my children into godly people who were not blinded by prestige nor the trappings of wealth. I did not want them to work hard so that they would one day be rich and powerful. I did not want them to get into an elite school so that they would one day own and control the world.

Instead, I wanted them to be like Jesus, to grow in stature and in favour with God and man (Luke 2:52).

To that end, giving them a headstart on soft skills and maturity was not negotiable. I willingly and consciously took time away from academic work to accomplish this. I did this in obedience to God's word. It was only much later that I realised that God has blessed my children with "all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor", anyway.

The Daughter received an excellent job offer 6 months before graduation when many of her peers in the NUS Psychology programme had to wait 6 months to a year before getting a job. I cannot go into details but thanks to her people skills, The Daughter is doing very well at work. The Son received a prestigious offer of scholarship.

On hindsight, I look so very wise, but it really wasn't me.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Cheeky Chong Pang Market Toilet Sign

The Chong Pang Market toilet sign is the one above. I think this sign encapsulates the cheekiness the folks there have about emmmm... you know... such things. Frankly, as long as I am personally not the target of their cheekiness, I find it super cute! Hahahahahaha!

My little 9 yr old boys dissolve into giggles at this type of cheekiness. There is nothing I can do other than smile and roll my eyes. Sigh!

That, dear folks, is my favourite Chong Pang Market.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Delusions of Royalty At the Sembawang Hot Springs

NParks did a beautiful job with The Sembawang Hot Springs. It is beautiful. Unfortunately, I think Singaporeans do not have the necessary refinement required to properly use the facilities. It is a 15 minute walk from my house but I am not in a hurry to go back. Some of what I saw was nauseating.

Maid Washing Employer's Feet
The pope washes his cardinals' feet as an act of ultimate self debasement, as a way to show humility.  Since the act is largely symbolic, I am pretty sure that the cardinals would have ensured that their feet were already clean before the washing ceremony.

Mary Magdalene the prostitute washed Jesus' feet as an act of ultimate respect, to show her gratitude for divine grace. Jesus is God.

I was at first gobsmacked to see a young lady washing 2 people's feet, in turn. Then, I was nauseated. She fetched water. She bent down and splashed water over her employers' feet and calves. Those people did not look handicapped. They probably have delusions of royalty. Actually, I think true modern royalty would have too much class to ask another human being to wash their feet in public. These domestic workers are citizens of a neighbouring country. Simply because we pay them does not give us the license to disrespect them to this extent. 

At times like this, I am so ashamed of being Singaporean. 

Communal Dirty Feet Dipping
There was a communal pool where people were soaking their feet. Rightfully, there should be an etiquette of washing the feet thoroughly with soap before dipping. No one did that. If the temperature of the water was comfortable for feet, then it surely is comfortable for fungal growth. There is no way I will put my feet into that pool for fear of catching a fungal infection. Remember, there is no chlorine nor other disinfectant in that water.

Eggs and Feet
I had brought 2 eggs to cook. I had to throw the eggs away because another old man emptied his pail of feet soaking water INTO my pail of eggs. It did not occur to him to throw his dirty water into the drain. He HAD to go back to the water source to throw his water.

Communal Wooden Pails
I also was not too sure about the communal wooden pails. Wood has pores where fungal spores and bacteria can hide. Since the place is new, the pails look pristine. Give it about 1 month and I think there will be mould. I could not bring myself to use the communal pails.

Lovely Place But Ugly People
It was a seriously lovely place. It just had a lot of people clueless about how their actions affect others.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Chocolate Melangeur

The Daughter's hobby is chocolate making. She makes chocolate from actual cacao nibs. When she was a little girl, she would spend hours with the home blender trying to blend cacao nibs into creamy chocolate. She would make chocolate candies for friends at X'mas. Her creations were grainy and acidic. Yuck!

Now, she has the money to buy a chocolate mélangeur, AND premium cacao nibs of the criollo sort. The resulting creamy unctuous liquid that comes from grinding cacao nibs for 72 hrs non stop is NOTHING like what I have eaten. There is not yet sugar added. So, it is not sweet. It is an explosion of flavours that leaves no cloying sweetness behind.

The mouthful starts creamy until the flavours explode into bitterness (like XO durian) and then into red wine, leaving behind a hint of blackberry and finishing with an aftertaste of bitter pu erh tea. It tastes surprising, especially since the same mouthful releases each flavour in sequence. You literally taste a different thing the longer you hold it in your mouth.

You know how on National Day, fireworks shoot into the sky and different patterns/colours explode one after another? That was how the tastes revealed themselves one after another in my mouth.

Best chocolate ever! Even if not sweet!

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Reusable Straws and Tapau Cups

My New Year's Resolution for 2020 is to use less disposable plastic. To that end, I bought reusable straws and cups for use at the hawker centre. I will also be bringing along a reusable bag so that I can tapau buns and youtiao for my family without taking plastic bags at every turn. Next year, I will collect mooncake boxes for use in tapau-ing things so that I can minimise the use of plastic.

Full sized collapsible vinyl cup for hot and cold hawker centre drinks.

Same cup collapsed to half sized.

Fully collapsed and with its leak proof cover + reusable straw that opens up for easy washing.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Cures For Dandruff

When children grow into teenagers and their sebaceous glands start to work overtime, dandruff becomes an issue. There are actually many herbal cures that work on dandruff. Each person in the family has his/her own favourite choice, simply because our skins are all different.

Dandruff is caused by a type of fungi that feeds off sebum (the oil produced by our skin). Herbal cures for dandruff are merely good anti-fungal herbs.

We use anti-fungals even before we get dandruff. When your scalp starts to itch, then dandruff is soon to come.

Rosemary Essential Oil
Place 5 drops of rosemary essential oil into 1 squirt of shampoo. Rub well into the scalp (twice a week) keeps dandruff away very well. This, though, is an expensive method because it has to be homeopathic grade essential oil. We get ours in pharmacies when we travel to Europe. We have rosemary plants in the garden. I also make a rosemary tea and store it in a spray bottle in the fridge. Spray scalp thoroughly 30 minutes before washing hair. 

Ceylon Cinnamon
It has to be Ceylon Cinnamon. The other type of cinnamon is not an anti-fungal herb. I get bags of Ceylon Cinnamon tea off Redmart. I make cinnamon tea and store it in the fridge. Spray scalp thoroughly 30 minutes before washing hair.

Sulphur Soap
Sulphur soap is very drying but it is very effective. This is also a very cheap solution because each bar costs only $0.50 (from ValueDollar), and one bar lasts a long time. Lather your hands well with the soap. Rub the lather well into the scalp. Make sure that you do NOT lather the ends of your hair because sulphur soap is really good at removing skin oils and is very drying for the ends of hair. Sulphur soap does 2 things. It kills the malassezia yeast AND removes its food source. I have an extremely oily scalp at certain times of the month. So, this method is very good for me, then.

Guava Leaf Tea Soap and Cinnamon Tea Soap
Ah Leo is one of the itinerant hawkers in Chong Pang. He goes to different markets in Singapore. You can call him and ask when he will be at a market near you. He sells all sorts of soap. The Husband loves the Guava Leaf Tea soap that Ah Leo sold him. It keeps his scalp from itching without drying it.

This is Ah Leo. 

I was a bit upset with Ah Leo because he grabbed my arm and dragged an exfoliating net over my skin to show me how to use his products. It hurt. Then, he used the same exfoliating net on his own face. After which, he demonstrated on The Husband's face. Same exfoliating net! I was super grossed out and tried to pull The Husband away from that dirty exfoliating net.

Ah Leo sells good products, but the next time I buy from him, I will stay far far out of the reach of his hands!