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seriously somewhat serious

seriously somewhat serious

The Curious Incident of the Flying Marker

Bright and early every morning, we say goodbye to Truett and Kirsten as they head off to school for the next 6 hours, where they spend that time making friends and learning things in a structured environment, under the supervision of teachers, in whom we place a great deal of trust.

And everyday, when I pick them up from school, I’ll ask them the same question, “How was your day, guys?” Because 1) I’m interested to hear about their day and 2) If anything bad were to happen to them in those 6 hours where I’m not able to be physically present to watch out for them, I’d want to know immediately.

Most of the time, they’ll say “good” or “okay” or “boring”, which in view of point 2, is a good thing.


If you’ve been around the blog, you’d know that I don’t use this as a space to rant or to make a big deal of things, but there’s something that I’ve got to talk about and I’ve got to do it here.

My kids go to Gongshang Primary School. It’s a great school with great teachers. Truett has been blessed with really nice, caring teachers who go above and beyond their academic learning duties to ensure that the kids are nurtured and cared for. And Kirsten adores her form teacher, whom she describes as the funniest, kindest, best-in-the-universe teacher ever. From my interactions with her these past 6 months, I’m inclined to agree.

This is part of the post where things start to go very bad. I have a dear, dear friend whose kids also go to this school. Poh and Josephine are the sort of friends one is grateful to find in a lifetime and we’ve spent many fun hours babysitting their kids.

We’ve recently discovered that two of their kids have been unfortunate to be in classes where the teacher (same teacher for both kids) has been abusing the kids in her class both physically and emotionally for several months.

Abuse?? That’s serious.

Yes, it is.

The Incidents:

1. The one with the kneeling.

On 2 separate occasions, students who were difficult in her class were made to come to the front and kneel down next to her desk in full view of the entire class as punishment.

Kneel. Seriously, KNEEL??!!

Why is this an acceptable form of punishment for a child??? Even if the teacher considered herself to be the goddess deity of divine discipline, there is no reason why kids should be made to kneel before her in remorse. This is wrong on so many levels, I can’t even.

2. The one with the SUMPAH. 

Not as bad as kneeling, but one kid was made to put up 3 fingers and swear to the entire class that he would not be naughty ever again.


3. The one with the taunting and name calling.

One time, a kid who had myopia walked up to the front of the class to have a closer look at the board and got scolded for doing so. When he explained his poor eyesight, she said, “Too bad that you can’t see, go get new specs!

Another kid did the same thing and was told, “Go back to your seat! Go get new specs, you don’t have money to buy one?!”

Kids that forgot to bring their science books 2 days in a row were called “retarded monkeys“. Classy.

4. The one with the throwing of things. 

So far, she’s thrown a stapler, a water bottle, and many markers in the direction of kids whom she deemed was being naughty, with a marker actually hitting a child on the lip.

On this matter, upon investigation, her defence was that the marker slipped out of her hand and accidentally hit the child in the face. I’m no expert at throwing things, but in my entire life, whenever I’ve had things slip out of my hands accidentally, they’ve landed on myself or within 50cm of my body 100% of the time. 0% of the time has it flown across a room and hit someone else in the face. There was this one time when I flung a popcorn kernel at the husband and hit him in the face, but that time was completely on purpose.

Also, it doesn’t explain all the other times she threw things but missed. Surely objects can’t be accidentally flying out of her hand at students with such alarming frequency.

In fact, the students in the class all know that the teacher enjoys throwing things so they have to be alert and dodge when it happens, which is kind of like playing a terrible game of whack-a-mole where they have to be the mole.

5. The one with the humiliation. 

On several occasions, she publicly called out a student whom she knew was a Christian, told him that he was a disgrace to God and should be ashamed of himself.

This was painful to hear this because we all make mistakes in life and kids (or adults!) should not be told that they are a disgrace to God.

What’s even more heartbreaking is that this kid went home after hearing this, held his Bible, went to the store room alone and sobbed. This makes me so sad and so mad at the same time.

6. The one with the threatening.

These incidents have been going on over a period of several months, and different parents have flagged up isolated cases to the school. Upon discovering this, the teacher intimidated the kids and warned them against complaining to their parents, along the lines of “I KNOW SOMEBODY COMPLAINED ABOUT ME. I WILL NOT SAY YOUR NAME BUT I KNOW WHO IT IS…”


I’m a big believer in innocent until proven guilty and a proper investigation has to happen, but as it stands, these incidents have been witnessed by many students in the class (plus a teaching assistant) and corroborated by several parents so as far as credibility goes, it seems very very unlikely that all these students would lie so convincingly about this one teacher.

Okay, so what’s been done?

Complaints against this teacher has been flagged up as early as March this year, with the form teacher and Science HOD being alerted about different incidents.

On Monday morning of this week, my friends met with the school principal to stage an intervention, and so far, this is the situation. The school has agreed to remove this teacher from teaching core subjects in these affected classes, but she will be reassigned to teach non-core subjects to other new victims. According to the principal, this is as much as they can do.

While it’s good that the school has acted swiftly, this resolution poses 2 problems.

1. The teacher will still be physically present in the school, where she will be able to ambush the students who told on her to exact revenge. She has proven that she is vindictive enough to threaten the kids and will go to great lengths to make sure they suffer, so all she needs is one opportunity with one kid alone in an empty classroom or hallway to abuse them as she pleases.

Sure, maybe this won’t happen and the kids will be safe, but if I know that there’s a possibility of danger being posed to my child every single day, I can’t possibly continue to put him in harm’s way.

2. Shuffling her to other classes doesn’t stop the abuse, it just gives her new victims to abuse. Perhaps she may be smarter about this in future, but the next time a child misbehaves or infuriates her in class, she’s just going repeat the abuse. With the knowledge that she has a track record of behaving in this manner, it’s our responsibility to protect these kids too.

While the investigations are ongoing, they’ve asked the principal to suspend the teacher from all interactions with students and reshuffle her to a desk job at MOE, but according to the principal, this is not possible.

They’ve also contacted MOE regarding this issue, only to be told that the teacher cannot be reassigned out of the school.

What next?

I don’t know.

I’m not here to name and shame. But I do know that kids are being abused by a teacher who is supposed to educate and nurture them, not humiliate them and abuse them. This isn’t right. And now that this teacher is facing disciplinary action, it’s not right that she’s still physically present in the school to exact her revenge when the opportunity presents itself.

It’s really hard to be in a position where you’re helpless, having to send your kids into an environment where they’re in harm’s way for 6 hours a day every single day, not being able to protect them.

All I know is that the kids’ well-being is paramount and we need to do whatever it takes to make things right.

seriously somewhat serious


This past week has been surreal. Feels like we just lived through one of those big moments in our nation’s history. I don’t think I’ve felt more grateful and proud to be a Singaporean than I have over the last 7 days. Nor have I learnt so much about what it means to be Singaporean.

On some level, we might have gotten used to some of these labels that have been put on us, but I think we’ve come to show that we’re quite capable of defining who we are.

Apathetic? Hardly. Emotionless? I don’t think so. Soulless? Pffffft.

This Singapore that I know is so full of heart and kindness and generosity. In times of adversity, we put aside our differences, stand together and rise above.

We’re privileged to have all that we have thanks to the vision and leadership of a truly remarkable man and right now, it’s hard to imagine Singapore without Mr Lee Kuan Yew. But looking at how Singaporeans have responded this past week, I think that we’re going to be ok.

I’m just really glad that we get to call this place our home.

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seriously somewhat serious

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

seriously somewhat serious

Thank you, 2014.

This post has taken a long time to write because I wanted to do justice to the year that has been so incredibly good to us.

Twenty-fourteen has been a dream. I’ve been thinking a lot about the past couple of years and how grateful we are that God has brought us to the place we’re at after the journey we’ve had.

I think I rather enjoy being in my 30’s. I feel like most of my 20’s were spent in a grind, just struggling to make it through each day. We got married not long after graduation, had my first kid at 26, and then another the year after, all the while feeling like a kid myself. Those years, I also traded a job that paid me in actual money for one that paid in googly eyes and baby kisses. You know me, I love baby kisses more than the average person but these don’t pay no bills.

And the baby part was hard too. For several years, everything was so wonderfully difficult. Why are babies so demanding?? Watching 2 tiny screamy babies alone at home all day while the husband clocked extra hours at work to help us stay afloat? I think I had almost gotten used to feeling like I was drowning half the time.

That we even managed to survive those years is a mystery to me and looking back, I have no doubt at all that God has been good to us every single day of those crazy years.

2014 has been a year where I feel like I’ve grown up. A large part of that is knowing that in this menagerie, the good parts in life and the bad parts come together in a big jumbled up box and learning how to respond to both are equally important. It’s a big lesson to learn (the sort you can only learn by living it) and I suspect I’ll be learning it for many years to come.

I think the only way to wrap up a year like this is to remember some of the very best parts.

In 2014, I met and fell in love with this little guy. Such a dreamboat.

theo1 (1)


On that note, I’ve really enjoyed being a mom of four. When I used to dream of my family way back when I was little, I always imagined a huge one. Loud, boisterous, messy, chaotic, but also full of laughter and tiny happy faces. I used to take it for granted that my kids were safe and healthy but with more kids, I started becoming more aware of how blessed we are to have these four babies. Sure, it’s scary to have my heart beating in four little pieces outside my chest but I look at them at the end of every day and all I can think of is “so worth it.”

In 2014, Truett graduated from preschool. Today was his last day of school. He brought thank you gifts for his teachers, hugged all his friends really tight and bade them farewell. As he left and got into the car, he said, “this is the saddest day of my life.”

In 2 days, he will be off to Primary School like a big boy. I’m feeling the jitters like it’s my first day of school and I know he’s a little nervous too but this kid has got such a great attitude it just makes me proud. He looked at the mountain of textbooks we bought the other day and he’s actually excited to be learning new things in Primary 1.

Truett the baby was all kinds of cute but I’m really loving Truett the big kid. He’s got a wicked sense of humour and he’s turning out to be an incredible big brother. He’s not like the typical extroverted leader sort but he’s got a calm, quiet air of confidence that the other 3 kids respond so well to.


In 2014, we finally stopped having to swim furiously just to not drown, and we were able to enjoy the journey a little bit more. We visited some beautiful places, made some new friends, rode on a seaplane, sat by the edge of the Indian Ocean to watch the sunrise, hung out with the 12 apostles along the Great Ocean Road, tasted the best yakitori in my life, experienced a new disney park, held hands a lot and just watched our babies grow.

It’s been a year I’ll remember with much fondness but I’m also excited for a new year filled with new experiences. I hope yours will be amazing.

See you guys in the new year!

seriously somewhat serious

No more baby scrubs

Phew, Friday! It’s been quite a week and I’m glad to be reaching the end of it.

Started out with Finn catching a bug from school and you know how it is with multiple kids at home, germs multiply faster than a warm petri dish. I told Finn not to touch his little brother but he would forget and try to kiss him or pat him on the head with his drippy germy mucus fingers and I’d be like “NOOOOOOOOO” but then it’d be too late so sighhh, party on, germfest, I’ll bring the champagne.

On Tuesday evening, the inevitable happened. Theo started having a runny nose and phleghmy cough and a temperature so we brought him to the paediatrician for a consult. Turns out that whenever newborns have a fever above 38.1, it’s considered a case of neonatal pyrexia, which requires immediate medical attention. We were told to rush him to KKH to be warded. At the hospital, the doctors told us that they would watch him for 24 hours and if the temperature stays above 38, they would have to do a whole bunch of tests like a lumbar puncture (major ouch!), multiple blood tests, a drip, a chest something something…it all sounded really painful.

That first night in the hospital was miserable. Baby Theo cried and cried and cried and cried all night long. He was fluish, he couldn’t breathe, he struggled to drink, refused to sleep and when I finally managed to get him to doze off, the nurses would come in to take his temperature/bp and he’d wake up and cry all over again.

When the on call doctor came in at 4 in the morning, I was so high, I was seriously trippin. She was asking me all these questions that my brain couldn’t process. “Siblings…medical history…temperature…allergies…words…words…words…” I think she figured I was mentally challenged because I kept stoning out and I would stare at here in silence for extended periods before replying with “um…sorry, what?” In that state, I wouldn’t have been able to recognise my mother if she walked into the room. At one point, she said, “this is really important, we need this information to make a proper diagnosis” and I was all “yes ma’am!” Just give me a shot of coffee and a slap in the head, I’ll be fine. No, in fact, all I wanted to do was lie down and cry.

When you’re stretched beyond your physical and emotional and metal limits, sometimes you just want to wallow and feel sorry for yourself. At least I do. That felt like a perfect time to wallow.

But wallowing never did any good to anyone so instead, I held my sad baby and walked and prayed and forced myself to think about all the things to be grateful for.

1. His temperature was going down, which meant he didn’t have to do any of those scary. painful tests. Every temperature check that fell below 38 degrees was one step towards recovery. So each time they took his temperature and it recorded 37.8 or 37.6 or 37.5, I’d celebrate and give my baby a hi-5.

2. The baby next door had a code blue situation (there was an announcement, like “Attention all medical staff, code blue in room 12, I repeat, code blue in room 12…”) and I couldn’t imagine what it must have felt like for that baby’s momma, it’s heartbreaking. At that moment, I was just thankful that my baby was getting better.

3. The nurses took amazing care of Theo. They would carry him and talk to him and try to make him smile.

4. We had a really nice room at the hospital. It was full so they put us in a huge isolation room that felt homely and comfy. Ok, trivial, but definitely a huge boost for morale.

5. After 2 days, his temperature returned to normal and we were allowed to go home. For that, I was most grateful.

It’s good to be home.

no scrubs

seriously somewhat serious

The bag lady dress that wasn’t

Kirsten came home one day and asked “Mom, can you bring me to H&M? I’d like to get a butterfly dress. My friend has it and it’s very nice.”

“Sure, sweetheart.” It was a very specific request and she hardly ever does this so I was happy to oblige. I was also curious to see this special dress that caught her eye.

That weekend, we went down to H&M like I told her we would. The butterfly dress was out of stock but she found a pink strawberry dress in the same range that she immediately fell in love with. Frankly, it was kind of meh. It looked like strawberries exploded all over it and also, nothing should be this pink. There were a couple of other designs that were a lot nicer but she really wanted the strawberry one so in the spirit of compromise, I got her to try them all out to see how they looked.

She started beaming once she put on the unbelievably pink dress covered in strawberries.

I tried to be diplomatic, like “Mmm, not bad but it looks a bit like a bag lady dress.”

“What’s a bag lady?” she asked.

“Like an auntie. Who’s homeless.”

She considered for a moment but she did a little twirl and said, “I like this one. Can we get it please?”

Looking at her enthusiasm, it was hard to refuse so we walked out with the strawberry dress and another cooler parrot one. She brought it to school the next day so she could change into it after her shower and I could tell that she was really looking forward to wearing it.

When I picked her up from school, she was in her favourite dress but she looked sad.

“Everything ok, princess?”

“My friend said I look like an auntie,” she mumbled, her eyes welling up with tears.

I was outraged. “What??!! Should mommy have a word with her?”

“It’s ok. Anyway, you said I look like an auntie the other day too, remember?”

I did remember. And suddenly I felt really terrible. It was a careless, thoughtless remark that I thought didn’t bother her but clearly, it did. Possibly way more than when her friend said it.

I held her real tight for a moment before looking into her teary eyes. “I’m so sorry I called you a bag lady. It was super mean and I’ll never do it again. Will you forgive mommy?”

“Ok,” she said softly.

“And you look beautiful. Really, you do,” I told her. I’ve grown to like the strawberry dress. Maybe not as much as she does but it does sort of grow on you. Or maybe I’m learning to look at things through her eyes.

I’m gonna file this as one of those important life lessons I learn from this journey called motherhood. I realise that all these wisecracks that I make sometimes aren’t funny, especially when my kids take what I say seriously.

I should take my own advice and just stop it.

kirsten finn-2


seriously somewhat serious

Walking on the bright side

Ok, resolution time! I was thinking that this year, instead of spending time doing up a list of generic, loosely worded phrases disguised as resolutions I may or may not (mostly may not) actually keep, I’m going to change things up a bit and go with a theme for the upcoming year. An thought I’d like to keep close to my heart and remind myself of throughout the course of the year.

This year, I’m choosing to walk on the bright side.

We all want to be happy and we hope for the year to be smooth-sailing and filled with unicorns and all sorts of happy things but we know that rarely happens. 6 days into the new year and we wake up to a gloomy, rainy morning filled with sniffly kids, squelchy rain puddles and awful traffic. And then there’ll be reason after reason to bring on a sad face, an angry face, a miserable face, an annoyed face, a post natal depression face, a down in the dumps face, a why-is-my-life-such-a-crapstorm face. Ah yes, there’ll be lots of those reasons throughout the year.

For most of my life, I think I’ve tried to look at the bright side, to choose happiness and love and thankfulness. I know I’m not entitled to be happy, just like I’m not entitled to only have good things happen to me every minute of every day. I have to choose it and fight for it in the face of all the monkey wrenches thrown my way. I know that when bad things happen, I can’t let myself drown and forget to be happy. Yes, ok, I forget all the time because sometimes it’s far more cathartic to wallow and feel all slumpy but the important thing is to find a way to snap out of it, put on those boxing gloves and get right back into the ring.

Life is filled with things I can’t control and it used to get me, how helpless I felt when all my beautiful plans got all messed up and I want to rage and yell “THAT’S NOT HOW IT’S SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN! IT WAS ALL DIFFERENT WHEN I PLANNED IT IN MY HEAD!”

But then there’s stuff I can control – my heart and my spirit, and the steadfast knowledge that God is good to me, all the time, even when I can’t see it. No, actually I can. I just have to look at all the wonderful things I have in my life and not let them get overshadowed by the occasionally sucky ones.

So this year, I’m choosing not just to glance at the bright side once in a while, but to walk in it. I’ll be responsible for my own happiness level. I’m spending my time loving on my fine specimen of a husband, I’m getting in all the kisses I can on our almost 4 babies and I’m going to fight to fill this little house of ours with all the love and laughter it can possibly contain.

kel + kids