Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goodbye, 2008!

2008 has been a good year. It's been a special, memorable year.

You saw me reach my third decade and enter my fourth. In some ways, turning 30 feels a lot like starting life afresh, all over again. I'm a mere infant again, leaving behind everything I thought I knew to discover a whole different world.

In a few more days, I'll be 1 year old.

Now, I can say I know what it is like to fly over 30 hours and end up somewhere else, all alone and eking out a graduate degree - staying into the wee hours of the morning typing out pages and pages of academia all the while aching so much for home and hearth.

You saw me through the hours thanking God for technology and allowing this little family to stay connected with Skype. And getting to know new friends, some of whom, though godless, made me want to pray earnestly for them and for their happiness.

In the second half, you witnessed a happy reunion, and me embarking on life as fulltime mommy in yet a different country, figuring out how to stock the pantry and filling up tummies instead of stocking up on good research and filling up the gaps in my own knowledge.

You've taught me how to rejoice, seeing my husband truly working hard in something he believes in and excelling at it. For the first time, I sense a deep contentment and peace, even when it meant that he had to stay up late in his study working till 4 in the morning.

The hours passed seeing little D at playgroup, at swimming lessons, and climbing up and down playground equipment have taught me that he's quickly growing into a boy and that I can't baby him for much longer. And even though the screaming and tantrums are truly terrible, making me wish I could really slap some sense and good behavior into him, I've learnt that reacting violently always makes me regret later.

So now, it's time to say goodbye, and look forward to getting through another year.

Of new endeavors, pursuits, and always, invariably, the regrets over words exchanged, or circumstances mismanaged.

May the lessons you've brought me stay, and help me not count the days ahead but make each one count.

Monday, December 29, 2008

In Retrospect

For this post and maybe the next ones, as the new year dawns on this little family, I'm going to indulge in a little retrospection.

A year ago, the joy of watching our firstborn turn a full year was tampered with the sadness of having to leave him behind while both of us pursued our personal academic and career goals. This year finds both parents spending 24/7 with him, this Mommy now on a no-pay leave and the father taking a 2 month break from med school after passing his first year with flying colours.

What a vast difference a year makes!

See the difference?
This year:
Last year:
happy birthday!

In retrospect, if only I had a little more faith and was less fraught with the emotional burdens of a mother leaving her child behind, I'd have spent more time enjoying this little boy, and less time feeling guilty.

But looking ahead, I'm not sure if I can say for certain that I'll have the wherewithal meet the challenges next year brings, or at least be any more confident about it.

Just have to keep telling ourselves, baby steps, baby steps.

A birthday to remember

Finally found some time to catch up on the birthday boy's adventures.

Early on boxing day, while the rest of Melbourne queued outside major department stores for dibs on crazy stock-take sales, the Koh tribe got up and made our way to the Mornington Peninsula to pick cherries. Once again, the Daddy has beat me to breaking the story first, so get the sweet and juicy details from his blog entry.

Little D put on his cheekiest grins for us that morning, while munching on cherries he handpicked for himself!

With all the traveling the past few weeks, we've been rather naughty with his afternoon naps recently, so I really wanted our freshly 2-year-old toddler to get his fill of sleep that day. After cherry-picking, though, the little one nodded off in the car in the 1.5 hour ride back to Point Cook, I guess just enough to recharge his batteries. Still not the best way to reclaim his sleep routine, but it'll have to do!

Back at Uncle K's, we blew up a few balloons to the delight of our birthday boy, and then slipped in his birthday present, which in this picture looks about as big as he is!


Watching him unwrap the present, and then react to what he sees, was precious beyond words can express!

"Look at my smashing new train set... still in the box!"
(Mommy's hoping that I won't literally smash my pressy in 5 minutes!)

"Quick, Daddy - quickly set it up for me!"

"Finally, my turn on my new toy!"

Evening came, and here we are, after dinner. Time for the big reveal - a PIXAR "Cars" themed chocolate cake from The Cheesecake Shop!



With the whole Koh/Toh gang

I'm so proud of our son, whom at age 2, is capable of blowing his own birthday candle out. =) Check it out!

Unlike last year, I haven't gotten a chance to compile a second year musical montage starring D M Koh. Hopefully, will get to do one soon and will put it up here. Watch this space.

Finally - a few words from little boy to his Aunties and Uncles back in Singapore -

"Dear Aunty M, thank you for the lovely red remote control car, and for the cool e-card! I still can't figure the remote control yet, but I love pushing the car around!"

"Dear Aunty J and Uncle SY, wow, I just received your present today - love my new set of toy cars!!! Thank You!!!"

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy birthday, little one!

First, a very blessed Christmas to everyone, and a happy new year!
We've been spending the last couple of days here in Melbourne with E's cousin, so access to Internet is more limited.

To keep things short, here's a very happy birthday to our little monkey, D. Will post more pictures and stories in future posts shortly.

At 2 years, little D is now 12.62kg and standing tall at 85cm!

What an exciting year this has been for you, son! First, you got to spend 4 months being taken care of by Grandma and Grandpa while mommy finished up grad school in Boston and Daddy embarked on his med school. Then, in June, you joined Mommy in moving to a little country town called Churchill in Gippsland, Victoria, in the land down under.

You've learned so much this year, and in the process taught this Mommy quite a lot too.

For one thing, Mommy's learned not to stress over your eating. Even though you still go on the occasional food strike and don't appear to eat as much as I'd like you too during mealtimes, you do eat when you're hungry, and will not say no to yoghurt, grapes (up till recently), strawberries, raisin bread with butter and jam, and potato chips!

Even nurse Allison from the local maternal and child health centre says you're growing up to be a very healthy little boy, so no worries!

At 2, you've learned to sit in the Naughty Corner for the full 2 minutes whenever you do something naughty and drive Mommy and Daddy up the wall, and there are those precious moments when you look beseechingly in my eyes and say "Mommy, Sowee!". I live for those moments...

You can climb up and down the stairs without holding on to the rails, all the while saying "Care-foo, care-foo" to yourself. At the bottom step, you count "1 - 2 - 3" before cheekily jumping off and landing on both feet.

Although you are pretty fearless in the playground on the swing and see-saw, going down the slide is still a challenge... Mommy often spies you sitting atop the slide looking down from great height, and overthinking it, and then retreating to find another way down. =)

It's such a joy to see you grow and speak more and more each day. Can't wait for when you're old enough to have heart to heart talks with Mommy!

We love you, son, and thank God for you each and every day. =)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Days 7, 8 & 9 - Homeward Bound

Tonight, Dylan saw fireworks for the very first time at the finale of the Carols by Candlelight event near here. What a treat!

He was a little bit frightened by the crack and sizzle of the loud pyrotechnics - he clung on to me while I covered his ears - but it wasn't enough to keep him from being fully entranced the whole 3 minutes during the show. On the way home, he kept using the malapropism "firetruck, firetruck.... Bom bom bom!". More details on Daddy's much more faithfully updated blog on the day's events.


Back to our Sydney trip - I felt a little crestfallen on our final day in Sydney, so charmed I was with this bright and vibrant city. But it was time to get comfy in our car again after 4 days, and travel the remaining 1,100km from Sydney back to Churchill, Victoria.

First stop was Batemans Bay, some 280km south on the NSW coast. We had reserved ourselves a cosy little self-contained chalet right next to the bay for an overnight stay. Here, after a long 5 hours of driving, is little D enjoying the view overlooking the sea and sand from the living room:

Coachhouse Marina Resort

Warm toasty brekky outside our chalet the morning after:
Outside our seaside chalet

And time for a little play before setting off again:
Row row row your boat!

Taking the coastal route back to Gippsland meant driving through fishing towns known for the freshest catch, including oysters. We found ourselves turning the pages of our Lonely Planet to decide on a place for lunch, and ended up in a little restaurant right at the wharf of a little town called Narooma.

DVD player saves the day, again

A quaint little restaurant, with a pretty view to boot:
Narooma, view from restaurant

Super yummy lunch, though our son was more engrossed in his Hi-5 DVD...
Enjoying the meal

From Batemans Bay, we drive across the NSW-VIC border back into Victoria, and chalked up a total of 4 hours, or 280km, of driving time on Day 8 to get into another pretty coastal town, Mallacoota.

This trusty stroller certainly has gone to places, along with its passenger!

Day 9 marked the final day of our epic road trip. It was also one of the longest - we had to drive about 370km, a 5-hour or so journey, back home to Churchill.

Strangely, though at the end of the holiday I felt the same keen sense loss anyone would feel at the conclusion of a great experience, there was also a mix of glad relief too. It's nice to be home again, albeit in this (Churchill) home away from (Singapore) home.

Total distance covered: 2,300km on the car trip odometer

Total travel time: 30 hours on the road

Totally awesome.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Days 5 & 6 - A Walk on the Wild Side

Sticking to the theme of walking.

Taronga Zoo, situated on a slope on the north side of the bay, offers some spectacular views of the city centre and harbourfront. Following recommendations from some of the tourist review sites I found while researching kids' places of interests in Sydney, that was where we found ourselves on Monday.

Dylan's expressive vocabulary has been growing exponentially in the last month, but this trip particularly we found ourselves amused and so proud to see our son starting to use so many real words to refer to animals, things and places! Here, you can see Sydney in the backdrop of this giraffe enclosure. What you don't see is Dyl pointing and saying "Gee-Rapp, gee-rapp".

Sydney Opera House is "SeeBee How-sh" and Barney is "Bar-Ee".

Giraffe at Taronga Zoo

I reckon that the sheer exposure children get on holiday trips to new sights and sounds stimulate and open up the parts of the brain that associate these sensory inputs with the labels that represent them - in the form of words and names. One mother from church shared with me that when she takes her family on trips, the kids at the end of the trips are different from the kids they start out with ... nicely put.

Here we are watching the seals show:
Watching Seals on Show

The star of the show takes a bow:
Hello Seal

And then promptly impresses us with a magnificent leap:
Jumping Seal!

How shiny your coat of fur is, Mr Tiger. Hmm, been taking multi-vites?

Waiting for the birds of flight show, and enjoying the view of the Harbour Bridge and the opera house. If you look carefully, the aussie flags at the top of the arc are at half-mast here because the architect behind the design of the Sydney Opera House had passed away the night before:

View of Sydney from T Zoo

At the children's petting zoo, we saw some interesting farmyard animals of the edible kind, can anyone tell me if the white-feathered fowl is our tonic Chinese black chicken?

Water play naturally drew our son on a hot, sweltering afternoon:
Water Play 2

Oh, what the heck - just strip him down to his diapers and dunk him in!
Water Play

One fun-filled day follows another. Next day, we took the ferry once again, this time to Darling Harbour, home to the Sydney Aquarium. Standing outside, father and son pose before boats docked to the harbour:
Darling Harbour

That's an octopus, mommy!
See Octopus!

"Is it me or is that leopard shark heading straight for me?"
Leopard Shark

On the ferry back to Circular Quay:
With Daddy

The Koh family:
On DH-Circular Quay Ferry

We wanted to maximise our day in Sydney, so with the whole afternoon ahead of us, we headed via another ferry to Manly beach in North Sydney. Here, we're tucking into a meal of crepes at this neat little joint off the ferry station:

Manly Beach Crepes Lunch

So Day 6 draws to an end with fun at the beach!
Manly Beach

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Day 4 - Sydney at last!

Sydney Opera House
Sunday saw us spending our first morning in Sydney, a first for me and Dylan in this vibrant city. It was also the first day in three days of driving that we didn't take the car around at all, opting instead to take the train into Circular Quay and explore by foot.

Stepping out of the train station into the promenade between the many wharfs, we were met with the iconic sight of the clothes hanger Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. Even though it was my first, I felt an unexplainable, familiar connection to this place. Must be all that subliminal exposure to scenes from Finding Nemo!

Be warned: lots and lots of trigger happy touristy shots coming up. =P

Circular Quay
In front of the promenade towards the weekend market at the historic Rocks.

Harbour Bridge and Ship
Dylan was immediately drawn to the ships and ferries of many shapes and sizes trawling the waters of the harbour-front.

Daddy and SOH
The daddy's asking, "Son, does this building look familiar to you? Remember Nemo!"

Daddy and Bridge
"See those little people climbing up the steep arc of the harbour bridge, son? Fancy a climb?"

The Rocks Market
Hmm... what intricate trinklet will attract mommy's attention at The Rocks?

Shopping really isn't the cheeky fella's cup of tea, though. He had far more fun running up and down the steps of the Opera House.
Running up steps of SOH

I like how this photo provides perspective on how tiny daddy and son are in relation to this iconic building:
Up the steps!

Tired? Sit down with Daddy for a breather!
With Daddy on the steps of SOH

Ok, back to running around again:
So much space to run around!

Another view of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, this time from the Botanic Gardens. By then, D's all but zapped up his store of energy, and fell sound asleep in his comfy stroller.
View of SOH and Harbour Bridge, Sydney

E and I were starting to feel it in our feet, too, after all the walking. But persisting on, we carried our sleeping prince in his chariot up the many steps of the Harbour Bridge pylon, and strolled across the bridge towards North Shore. What a lot of walking we did that Sunday! But so so worth it.
Crossing SHB

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Day 3 - Huskisson, Jervis Bay, NSW

The drive between the Snowy Mountains and Jervis Bay was long, taking us north through the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) towards Canberra before turning off to an undulating highway winding back east, to the coast.

It didn't help that the day was gloomy, the sky heavy with storm clouds and intermittent rain making visibility low. Great for the passengers, not so great for the driver! Going down steep inclines and making 180 degree turns with the trusty manual-gear 1.8l Lantra kept me wide awake (with all kinds of fearful scenarios playing out in my head if an accident were to happen then), while the two boys dozed off in the backseat.

Between E and I, we chalked up 6 hours of driving, and boy were we exhausted by the time we checked into the Jervis Bay Motel at 8pm!

Which meant that after a good night's rest, we owed ourselves a hearty breakfast the morning after. Here you see us about to tuck into a good ol' fashioned fry-up complete with bacon, sausages, eggs, mushrooms and toast. Dylan is enjoying a plate of delicious banana bread with passionfruit butter. In a word - SCRUMPTIOUS.

Brekky @ Jervis Bay

The bay at Huskisson was frequented by many a gaming fishing boat, so it was no surprise that the playground beside the RSL clubhouse also had a nautical theme. I asked little Dylan who is seen here at the wheel, "What are you driving up there?"

Steering the boat
And his reply: "Drive... boat!"

PG at Jervis Bay

Thankfully, the sky cleared up on Day 3, so we whipped out Dylan's brand new sand bucket, scoop and spade, and hit the nearest beach we could find! Boy did he enjoy himself getting all soaked in sand, sun, and sea!


Jervis Bay - Shark's End

Scooping up the water



Careful - slippery rocks!

playing with sand

Cheeky Smile

Eventually, we had to change the boy into dry clothes, hop back into the car, and off we went into Sydney proper. Not before the cheeky fella shed a few tears, so prematurely separated from his fun, though.