Thank you, sir.

One time several years ago, I was flying back home alone from Orlando while the husband had to get on a later flight. It was a 16-hour leg to Narita airport and I was looking forward to a nice quiet loner flight where I could binge on movies till my eyes hurt. I had on my earphones and my most sullen do-not-disturb face.

Sitting next to me was a middle aged white man who didn’t notice either. When he caught my gaze, he tried to make conversation.

“Hi, where are you from? Your English is very good.” He must have heard me when I told the flight attendant, “Apple juice, please.”

I wanted very much to pretend I didn’t hear him so that I could go back to watching Chris Hemsworth in Thor, but I am a polite asian girl so I said, “Oh, I’m from Singapore.” I figured he’d think it’s some rural province in China and proceed to leave me alone but as it turns out, he had just read Hard Truths by Lee Kuan Yew and was incidentally a superfan.

“Singapore! Lee Kuan Yew is such a brilliant leader. What he’s done for Singapore is incredible!” he raved in his southern drawl.

I certainly wasn’t expecting that response. I was both intrigued and a little bit torn. On the one hand, Chris Hemsworth’s hard muscles! but on the other, a conversation about Lee Kuan Yew’s hard truths with a middle aged white guy from Texas. I went with Texan Superfan. It was too interesting a conversation for me to pass up on.

It turned out to be a very pleasant flight where we talked about American politics (he was republican), Chinese food (greasy but delicious), personal liberties (important but sometimes overrated), but mostly, the genius of Lee Kuan Yew (most awesome genius!).

I remember leaving the plane thinking “Lee Kuan Yew – what a man.

I’m no superfan but like most Singaporeans, I’ve been spending my day reading articles on our founding Prime Minister and watching some of his captivating old speeches. Listening to him speak, it’s hard to not be awed by his charisma and intellect.

It is a sad day for Singapore, to lose a great man who’s given his life to get us to where we are.

Today Kirsten came home and asked, “Mom, who is Lee Kuan Yew? My friends told me that he died yesterday.”

“He’s Singapore’s first Prime Minister. When grandma was born, Singapore was a little fishing village with crummy houses and no jobs but because of Lee Kuan Yew, we get to live in a beautiful country with the best of everything,” I told her.

“You mean he built all these houses and roads and fun swimming pools all by himself?”

“Not literally but I guess you could say that he is the man who made it all possible.”

“Wow,” she said, looking visibly impressed.

There are those who will want to talk about how not all his policies were beneficial or popular. Perhaps some will say that he’s not the nicest guy on the block and all this fawning is obsequious. Maybe it is time for a change and change is good. But I think these conversations will have to wait for another time.

Today, we just lost a great man and on this day, we take the time to remember all the good he’s done for this country.

Today, we remember greatness.

lee kuan yew

p/c: Singapore Press Holdings

Eight and looking great

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It’s our anniversary today and I meant to write something about being married for 8 years. Except that it’s already 11:37 at night and I only just managed to sit down with my laptop. And you know what I’m thinking? I don’t have a secret sauce recipe for this. There’s no magic formula to dealing with all the curve balls that life sends our way.

I don’t know, I think marriage is like a dance and we’ve been making up the moves as we go. Sometimes we’re in sync and it’s beautiful. Sometimes I step on his toes and sometimes he steps on mine. Sometimes he attempts to throw me up in the air and I fall spectacularly on my ass. But then we just get right back up and keep on dancing.

This morning, the husband kissed me before leaving for work like he usually does and from the time he got back, we’ve been on autopilot, hustling to get the kids settled and ready for bed. It’s an elaborate system. He hosts game time while I nurse Theo, then he takes the baby and the big kids while I get Finn into bed, then he settles Tru and Kirsten while I nurse the baby some more. This goes on for a while until all the kids are down for the night and we finally exchange an exhausted hi-5.

We did manage to carve out some time for a super special anniversary edition supper – seaweed chicken and leftover ngoh hiang that I popped into the air fryer.

I don’t have any marriage advice to give but here’s what I think about being married for 8 years.

1. Boring is ok.

Before we got married, we were nerds who read self-help books about relationships so we were prepared for the big things like in-laws, raising babies and money management. But there was one thing that we weren’t prepared for: how truly mundane marriage can be.

Being married is basically having to do the same things with the same person every day for the rest of your life. That’s the epitome of boring.

Do the same chores, put kids to bed, run errands, stress about work, clear laundry, more chores, run after babies. Urgh, bo-ring.

We had one off-night a few weeks ago when all the kids had a sleepover at my mom’s place and guess what we spent our night of freedom doing? Buying groceries at Giant till 1 in the morning. I know, right? What is happening to my street cred? But I liked it though. I like that we can be boring together and still have a good time.

2. But not too boring. 

I’m going with the 80/20 rule here. 80% boring responsible adult: 20% silly and spontaneous. Sometimes we operate at 90/10, maybe even 95/5 but never 100/0.

Just the other day, we snuck out for a late night bubble tea run at the airport and as we walked past NTUC on the way back, there was an auntie closing the shutters for the outlet. The husband pretended to duck under the shutters just for kicks and the little old lady almost lunged towards him with a flying tackle. When she realised he was just fooling around, she feigned disapproval and said “会心脏病的, 老兄”. I laughed till I had tears.

3. Laugh often. 

Marriage is hard. It really is. In the past 8 years, we’ve gone though some tough times and it helps to be able to laugh during those moments.

We like to send each other funny youtube videos, we laugh at our own lame inside jokes, we laugh at all the ridiculous things the kids get up to, we laugh at ourselves, we laugh at each other and we even laugh at how bad things are when they can’t possibly get any worse. It’s true, laughter is the best medicine.

4. Let it go.

In the wise melodious words of Queen Elsa of Arendelle, let. it. go. It took me a long time to learn this because I do not believe in letting things go. I am what some might call an expert dead-horse-flogger. If I see a horse that’s decapitated and dead for three days, I’ll be all like “I think I see it twitching. 40 more lashes!!”

When we used to disagree on matters, I would literally not rest until it was resolved in a satisfactory manner, with satisfactory being a full and total surrender on his part. We absolutely had to talk it out some more, even though it was 3 in the morning and we’ve already been talking it out for 5 hours straight.

I’m still working on it but these days when we’re at an impasse, after we’ve talked about it sufficiently, we’ll stop talking and just take a break for some perspective. Then we have to figure out a way to agree to disagree.

But we’re not dealing with the issue! We need to talk about it some more,” my head screams.

Sometimes, we do not. It’s not a big deal. Just let it go.

5. Take the wins.

In marriage, there are a lot of downs, so when the ups come around, no matter how small, we take the wins. A disagreement almost went nuclear but phew, crisis averted, that’s a win. We made it through a rough week, that’s a win. Kids went to bed early without any drama, that’s a win.

And we try to make it to the next win. And the next. And the next.

***

Happy anniversary, baby. I love you and I like you.

The best part about school is…

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After having spent an entire semester pursuing a formal education, I asked Truett what’s the best part about Primary School and he practically yelled “SCHOOL HOLIDAYS!!”

Nice. His favourite part about school is not being in it.

Was I really expecting a different answer though? Because I’m not even going to pretend like it wasn’t also my favourite part about school when I was a kid. But I thought maybe I should play my responsible mom card and try to inject some level of enthusiasm into the other parts of his school-going experience, particularly the parts where he’s actually in it. So I went with a leading question and asked him about his favourite subjects. Hopefully there are some that he actually enjoys.

“PE! I get to play with my friends during PE, you know? PE is the best.”

“Good choice. Yeah PE is really fun. Um, how about your next favourite?”

He thought for a while. Either he had too many favourites or none at all. Probably the second one.

“English is also quite fun.” he said, after a considerable pause.

“English! Phew! That’s my favourite too! Why do you like English?”

“I always get 10/10 for my spelling and my teacher will give me a smiley face sticker.”

This wasn’t always the case. The first couple of times he had spelling, he came home with 4/10. Then it got worse. 3/10. I’d try to teach him the words and he would tell me about how much his head hurt, or he was so bored, or that he needed to poop. Practising spelling or 听写 always magically made him want to poop. On the bright side, he didn’t have to worry about constipation during those first few weeks of school.

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Then one spelling day, he came home with 10/10. From that point on, it seemed like everything changed. He started getting full marks every week and he would rush home to show Kirsten his happy emoticon sticker.

Spelling practice didn’t make him want to poop anymore. He actually WANTED to learn! He would spend his afternoons writing the words over and over again in his little practice book and even when I had to take a timeout to feed Theo, he’d get Kirsten to test him on the words until he nailed every single one of them. Suddenly, he wasn’t tripping over bark or tea like he used to. He was spelling fire-engine and vintage car like a pro.

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“Helicopter? So easy.” were his exact words. Now can be so hao lian.

What changed? I’m not really sure. I’m guessing it’s both confidence and the satisfaction that comes from knowing that he’s good at something. When he was convinced that he couldn’t do it, spelling practice seemed as painful as eating glass shards. But once he started getting good at it, spelling became like a super fun piece of cake.

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“Hey Tru, how about Chinese? 听写 can be quite fun too, right?” I asked, perhaps a little too enthusiastically.

“Hahahahahahahha good one, mom. Chinese is not even a little bit fun. Chinese is zero fun.”

Well, that was worth a shot.

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