Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Put to the test

We've arrived at yet another end of an academic year. Doesn't it feel as if the years fly by quicker and quicker? Especially when stores are chasing the Christmas dollar earlier each time. I was at Daiso the other day and was confronted by rows of $2 tinsel and baubles. In the middle of October? Let me catch my breath, won't ya?

The past couple of months have been especially hectic. For Lesley-Anne, it involved swotting for her prelims, frantically finishing up last minute papers set by equally panicky teachers, and now preparing for the 'A' levels which start next week. In the midst of all that, she also applied to several universities which meant the writing of personal statements. Oh, and throw in a few Danger Dan school talks. Phew!

With this, she has officially graduated from JC. I thought it was pretty momentous but for her, it was a non-event. She even forbade me from going to her graduation ceremony in school ("it's just 1,000 people going on stage to collect their certs! Very boring! Don't go!") Bah. All she did was watsapp me a photo she took during the ceremony.

Since I didn't get to go, I'm giving myself a parental pass to post an embarrassing photo! Photo on the right was taken on Lesley-Anne's very first day of primary school. See how far she has come! Aww...

Meanwhile, in the same household, I was going through a completely different type of stress with Andre. He was also preparing for his end-of-year exams but unlike his sister who was planning her time down to the practically the revision of each phrase and going at it with dogged determination, Andre's idea of revision was "I roughly know what topics will be covered."

His easy-going attitude and eternal optimism gave me sleepless nights. "Can you just make sure you're promoted to sec 4?" I begged. "I don't need you to score As. Just promote." I even roped Lesley-Anne in as tuition teacher for a last minute geography crash course. The very conscientious sister acquiesced, even though she was busy as heck.

I'm very happy to say that the exams are over and yes, he did promote to sec 4! In fact, in an inexplicable and baffling turn of events, his results were the best he'd ever achieved in secondary school. God really does answer prayers of desperation. In case you think it's just me having unrealistic expectations or underestimating him, this is the boy who told me, "I got 25/100 for A Maths! Woohoo!" When I looked at him aghast and asked, "How on earth is that a woohoo??" he replied, "Only 37 students in the whole cohort passed so 25/100 is average."

So Andre has officially concluded sec 3. Next year is the dreaded 'O' level year but that's in the future. Will worry about it later. For now, it's time for some chill time before Lesley-Anne gets down to business with the 'A' levels. Andre is cheering his sister on and I've always been thankful that my kids get along so well even though they're as different as sun and giraffe. Exams come and go but sibling ♥ is here to stay.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Glamming it up for Women's Weekly

Lesley-Anne and I featured in November's issue of Women's Weekly! I thought it was a lovely photo shoot and interview.

Getting us both to look so "natural" is of course, a lot of work! Here are some behind-the-scenes shots. First, there's makeup:

Then hair styling. This guy Ashley is a genius. He managed to tame Lesley-Anne's unruly frizzes! Funny story: he was styling both our hair and he said in his experience, the stubbornness of a person's hair tends to correlated with the stubbornness of the person. Then he paused and said, "Both your hair very stubborn." Lol!

Then they give us outfits pre-picked for us. I have to commend the Women's Weekly team - they chose outfits that not only fitted us well but suited our personal styles. Kudos to them!

Test shoots:

With an ever-ready hair stylist! What would I give for one of those...

Here's a different pose that we were shot in but was not used in the end.

That was a fun experience and in the meantime, here are some exciting updates on Danger Dan - the first print run of Secrets of Singapore has sold out and is going for a second print run! Not bad considering the book was only released a few months ago. Woohoo!

And here are a couple of new reviews of Danger Dan and Secrets of Singapore: Our Baby of Love  and Priscilla and Her Books. So glad to hear of more kids and adults loving Danger Dan.

Finally, an event announcement: I will be a participant in this year's Singapore Writers' Festival. While Lesley-Anne is busy sitting for her 'A' levels, I will be part of a panel in the event, "Help, My Son Doesn't Read".

Date: Sun, 1 November, 4-5pm
Venue: Asian Civilisations Museum, River Room.

Admission is free so if you have nothing else on, why not come and hear what the panelists have to say about the topic?

See you there!

Monday, October 12, 2015

What's in a name?

Growing up, I was intrigued by names. As a teenager, I had a Baby Names book (even though having a baby was the furthest thing from my mind). The vast variety of names with their corresponding meanings fascinated me. Hilary means "cheerful"! Nigel means "champion"! Cilla means "blind"? Oh dear.

Some names I instantly liked (Heather), some I disliked (Cybil). Some grew on me (Sophie). I didn't mind my own name but back then, if I had to pick one out of the sea of names, Monica probably wouldn't have made the top ten list.

Piece of trivia: My parents named me after the room I was born in at Mount Alvernia hospital - St Monica. When I first heard that my name was decided on in such a cavalier fashion, I shuddered. Imagine if I were born in the St Bernadette room! I'm so not a Bernadette.

So when I was expecting Lesley-Anne, one of the first things I did after discovering it was a girl, was mull over the name. It was definitely more fun than and a distraction from the heartburn, morning sickness and prospect of a crying infant.

I didn't want too common a name (I've lost count of how many Rachels and Ryans there have been in my kids' classes) but at the same time, I was careful not to choose anything too outlandish because I know how much anguish it can cause kids in school when teachers and students butcher any name remotely exotic. The romantically Irish moniker Siobhan (pronounced "Sher-von) in Andre's kindy class was reduced to a terribly unglamorous "Sio-bahn".

In primary school, my best friend was a girl prone to daydreams called Angele (pronounced "On-jel"). She was called anything from Angela to Angel to An-jelly by confused teachers (till today, her Sunday School kids call her Aunty Jelly). She was so traumatised that when she eventually had kids of her own, she named them no-nonsense John and James.

The problem is that in Singapore, the bar for "exotic" can be set pretty low, especially when it comes to Chinese educated teachers or those more accustomed to local names. Even the innocuous Sean (pronouned "Shawn") can cause problems. A friend with a son Sean laments that he has been called "Sian". Lesley-Anne has two Maths classmates named Sean and her teacher persisted in calling both of them "Seah". They quickly figured that she wouldn't remember even if they corrected her so they ended up answering to Seah Heng and Seah Koh. For a long time, Lesley-Anne actually thought those were their names! Until she heard them called outside of class. ROFL!

So back to my child: I'd decided on Lesley very early on in my pregnancy. In my fickle and ever-changing world of favourite names, it was the name that stuck. In fact, Lesley was often the starring protagonist in my school compositions. But as I shared the name with curious friends and family members, I encountered so many "Lesley? Isn't that a boy's name?" A female colleague of mine back told me that growing up with a name that everyone thought was male (her name was San) was a pain. So in an effort to spare my would-be daughter the ambiguity, I added "Anne" to Lesley.

Little did I know that it would create other problems. Lesley-Anne is constantly being asked, "So is your surname Anne?" which then leads to the next question, "Are you Chinese?"

When it came to Andre, the decision was harder. There were so few boys' names I liked compared to girls'. A couple of names that were tossed around were Elliot and Timothy. In fact, Andre was Timothy (which I was never too convinced was right) up to the eighth month in my pregnancy. Then one night, I dreamed that I had a son named Andre and the next morning, I declared, "this boy shall be called Andre!" I don't think Kenneth and my in-laws were too keen because they had already gotten used to an impending Timothy, but by then, I was extremely grouchy and bloated (from too many McDonald's chocolate milkshakes) and they knew they would be protesting at their own peril. So Andre it was.

The first Andre I ever met was actually my friend Angele's older brother and I'd loved the name from the day I heard it. Till today, I still love the name and I'm so glad I chose it. I don't think it's too unusual a name but Andre tells me his teachers have a tendency to call him "An-dree" (it should be "On-drey") or Andrew or change his gender to Andrea. One even called him Audrey. Needless to say, not his favourite teacher.

Pronunciation is a pain but with exotic names, spelling is also an issue. For some reason, people can't seem to spell Lesley-Anne's name correctly. I've seen Leslie-Ann, Leslie-Anne, Lesley-Ann, Lesly-Anne and so on. I can understand why if you've only heard the name but sometimes, people writing her name next to where it is clearly featured IN BOLD (like on her book) can still get it wrong! Even extended family members persist in spelling her name incorrectly. Maybe they think we're the ones who've gotten it wrong. Grrrr.

And finally, even if your name is easy to pronounce or spell, you can still get lots of unwanted attention. I read a Facebook post where a girl named Vanna said she's constantly being asked, "Can I buy a vowel?" and another called Isis who's tired of being asked why she's associated with a terrorist group.

Choosing a name has consequences. So choose wisely!

If you have a unique name, you will totally identify with this buzzfeed post. I would check it out for the hilarious gifs but if you're too lazy to click on it, here's the text:

16 Things Only People With Unique Names Will Understand
  1. You have a mild panic attack when a restaurant hostess asks for your name. 
  2. You immediately raise your hand as soon as there is a pause in roll call. 
  3. You still get birthday cards from your extended family with your name spelled wrong. 
  4. People on Facebook continuously spell your name wrong even when it is listed mere inches from the comment box. 
  5. People actually ask you if you are a foreigner. 
  6. When giving your name, you just automatically spell it out of habit. 
  7. You repeatedly get asked why your parents gave you “that name.” 
  8. Literally 95% of your mail is spelled wrong. 
  9. You’ve had to redo, reapply or resubmit official documents because your name is spelled wrong. 
  10. You take extra care to spell people’s names right and take it personally when others do not. 
  11. It actually makes your day when a stranger pronounces your name correctly. 
  12. People actually question if you have misspelled your own name. 
  13. Name tags give you nightmares. 
  14. When wearing said nametag people still call you “hey you!” 
  15. You have given up correcting people, but you keep a running list and misspell their name at the next opportunity. 
  16. You will never name your children, dogs, fish or stuffed animals anything weird.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Day in the life of a newly minted 15-year-old

Andre turned 15 last Friday! Because the SA2 is still currently ongoing, we couldn't plan an elaborate celebration. Not that we would have anyway because Andre is a simple boy with simple needs.

Morning: Went to school and sat for his Principles of Accounts exam. Was very happy when he came home, he found the paper doable which was a nice change from all the other "impossible" exam papers he had been moaning about. A very good start to his birthday.

Afternoon: For his birthday lunch, we bought him a Subway roast beef sandwich. You might think this sounds terribly run-of-the-mill but the background to this is: Andre loves Subway sandwiches and usually, he shares a foot-long with his sister. So a week before his birthday when asked what he wanted to eat on his special day, he declared, "I want a foot-long all to myself!" Told you he has simple needs. So Subway it was. He devoured the sandwich in the time I whipped out my phone to take a photo. Too late. Hence the photo of a Subway outlet instead.

Evening: Because we're not such mean parents, we did bring Andre out for a slightly-more-upmarket-than-Subway dinner, even though he didn't ask for it. Ended up at Tony Roma's to satisfy his meat passion. We hadn't been here in years and the food was still pretty good.

Half onion loaf
Pulled pork sliders
Grilled spinach chicken stack (another huge piece of chicken breast not shown)
Original baby back ribs
One very happy boy.
After dark: What's a birthday without cake? One of Andre's favourites - strawberry shortcake from Four Leaves. A simple sponge with cream and strawberries but very light and delectable.

This was his second helping! We grabbed our share when we still had the chance.

And then presents. Beautifully wrapped by the thoughtful sister.

This is from us - a carrom board! It's such an old-school game that even the seller was surprised when he learned that it was our Millennial son who requested for it.

A wholesome family game that totally reinforced gender stereotypes (ie the females in our home cannot aim to save their lives).

My char siew bao is, incredibly, now 15. Even as I marvel how fast the years zip by, I'm always cognisant of how fortunate I am. He will still happily kiss and hug me every day, and let me do needy-mum things in public, like linking arms with him or taking wefies. How many 15-year-old boys would let their mums get away with that? Not many, I reckon.
A very happy birthday to you, dear boy. May your sweet nature continue to be a blessing to many others all through to adulthood.

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