Monday, December 28, 2009

A Look Back on 2009

We've reached the close of another year. And what a year 2009 has been.

To echo how another friend had described his year, this year has been a game of two halves. One half was played in a little town 160km east of Melbourne city, Australia. And the other half played out here at home, in Singapore.

I think it's worthwhile to look back on the things we've achieved, reflect on the events that have shaped this family, and give thanks for the rich blessings we've received that testify to the Lord's goodness in our lives.

10th January
After spending a month with us in Australia, little D's paternal grandparents were treated to a nice dinner at Dorbo's, a Malaysian-Chinese restaurant near Uncle K's place, before returning to Singapore. At dinner, we announced to Grandpa and Grandma that the trouble is about to double. ("Trouble" is the nickname we affectionately give to our little tyke. Heh.)

They did a double-take, and laughed and told little D to prepare to be a good big brother.

7 February

This was a day that we won't soon forget. We were warned well ahead to expect scorching weather with temperatures rising to 46 degrees Celsius, and woke to news that bushfires had started raging close to home.

The severity and the casualty from those fires made international headlines, and put Gippsland on the map for many people who didn't know where it was before.

I remember how the morning blue sky soon turned to a dusky orangey night when the Gippsland fires became so widespread it covered the sky in its smog. We learnt later that our friends the Hardings lost their home in South Traralgon, and we grieved with them.

Through the ordeal, they thanked God for keeping their lives intact and are now well on their way to having their beautiful home rebuilt. We're ever so inspired by their faith.

May 2009

My year on no-pay leave winds to an end, and we spend many happy hours saying our teary farewells to new-found friends in Australia. Even now, D will look at the pictures we took at Wilsons' Prom, in Sydney, at playgroup, with friends and tell me what a good time he had in Australia.

I miss my friends Audrey, Mei, Suryani, and Melissa just to name a few. And little D misses Moncidel, Ayla and other little ones at Gymbaroo, swimming class, and playgroup.

I'm thankful for the chance to be a stay-home mom, learning to cook dinner every day, and thinking up ingenious ways to keep very lively toddler engaged - including making a card-board dump truck for his playgroup's dress-up day, and making home-made playdough of both the edible and inedible varieties.

We pack up, and depart for Singapore. Little G is 24 weeks inside my ever expanding tummy.

Little D goes through a turbulent two months back in Singapore, adjusting to having mommy return to the workplace, daddy not being around, and mommy's ever expanding tummy.

30 August

Woke up at 5a.m. with strong and frequent contractions. Made it to the hospital in time - just 2cm dilated - and asked for epidural immediately.

Little G S Koh arrived at 10.50am, a big bundle of joy at 52cm and 3.5kg. We are so thankful to God for entrusting us to be parents of another little boy.

I begin my maternity leave utterly grateful that I delivered not just a healthy baby, but also 90 days of active service during which I completed a draft report on infusing literacy in Primary 3 Science lessons. =)

30 October

E and I are five years old as husband and wife. What a ride! I am so thankful that God's given me a husband who knows when to indulge me and pamper me, at the same time who knows when not to take my nonsense because he expects better of me.

Even though we are apart and I miss him so, it just makes him coming home and spending time with me ever so precious. We thank God for news that he received a year-long hospital placement in JB next year. It means Daddy gets to be home every weekend!

19, 24, 25 Decemeber

Probably my best decision during maternity leave is to serve in the church's christmas outreach performance aptly titled "The Great Big Christmas Giveaway".

Even though it meant night after night of tireless rehearsals, and fighting off the flu bug to sing, the experience of ministering to pre-believers through song is unparalleled.

After one of our performances, the four of us (C, Joy, Jill & I) stood outside, just praying and thanking God. When suddenly, we were awash in His presence, an ineffably sweet, sweet presence that left us all speechless.

I suddenly understood that the mystery behind Christmas is, truly, the BIGGEST, and the GREATEST GIVEAWAY of all. Note the pun on the word Giveaway. The same gift to mankind - a little babe lying in a manger - also reveals the greatest secret of all: that through this spotless lamb we can have eternal life, for he was born to pay to price for all our sins.

26 December

Our eldest turns three.

In a year, little D has learnt to swim with floats on, say all kinds of precocious and unexpected things like "The husky took it! Naughty husky!".

He is also starting to learn to sing in tune, and loves to sing himself to sleep at night. He has gained quite a repertoire of children's hits too. His favorites include:
- Incy Wincy Spider
- Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
- Do- A Deer A Female Deer
- Steve Green's Do Not Be Overcome By Evil
- When I am Afraid I will Trust in Him
- "And BINGO was his name O!"
- Meatball Song
- Somewhere Over the Rainbow
- Spongebob Squarepants Theme Song
- The Best Day Ever by SpongeBob Squarepants
- From the Rising of the Sun
- Bob the Builder Theme Song
- Polly Put the Kettle On

Here's to more adventures next year!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy 3rd Birthday!

Hard to believe that three years ago today I was lying in my Class A ward in KK, dazed and amazed that I was now a mother of a little baby boy.

That little Boxing Day baby is now THREE years old, and quite capable of singing himself his birthday song, and telling everyone around him what a big boy Dylan is now.

As usual, the Daddy beat me to posting about it, so no point in me re-inventing the wheel. Pictures and the story of D's 3rd birthday are found in his blog, in a post titled "The Best Day Ever".

Monday, November 30, 2009

Other November Highlights

Today, little G officially turns 3 months old. Brought him to KK for a hearing check, and everything is A-OK. I couldn't resist asking the nurse to take his measurements. Little G is growing well -
at 7.5kg and 62cm long.

At the close of November, as Americans tuck into their thanksgiving turkey, here in Singapore I'm finding so many things to be thankful for.

Chiefly, dearest Med Student Hubby completed his 2nd year exams, and is back at home for a month for a breather before third year commences.

Looking back on the things we accomplished this month, I'm just very grateful for having time to spend with the boys, even if for a period D was ill and gave me a hard time.

Act3 performed two Saturdays ago at area B in East Coast Park, a short skit entitled Little Kite. The weather held, a motley group of parents and little ones gathered on the open grass patch, and little D watched his first play ever. Of course he did a bit of beach-walking and tree climbing first:

Tree Climber
Watching Little Kite

The Performer and the Spectator - which is which?
Performer and Spectator

Little D is learning - very slowly learning - that playing is more fun with friends. Here he is with friend E from Aida Street:


And with cousins:

Jacob Ballas Children's Garden

This maternity leave, I'm overjoyed to discover that places to go and things to do for little tots are aplenty in Singapore. In fact, some of the best places are free of charge.

Jacob Ballas Children's Garden - so named after a Jewish-Singaporean stockbroker and philanthropist - is a veritable garden paradise for little ones, tucked away at one corner of the Botanic Gardens.

It has designated areas for water and sand play, a tree-house structure with slides, a garden maze, a hanging bridge, and lots of thingamajigs that arouse wonder and curiosity about nature in children.

I loved how, in spite of its tropical setting, each area and walkway in the garden is framed by shady arbors - tall trees with spreading leafy branches that allow the morning sun to filter through, and channel a cooling breeze throughout.

I brought the two boys for the first time last weekend, and we couldn't resist making a second trip again when we saw how fine the weather was on Saturday.

Here are the scenes from the 2 weekends.

"A-Hiking We Will Go!"
A Hiking we will go!

Up the ladder and down the big orange slides at the tree-house:

Tree House Play


Love the glee on his face!

Walking across the swinging bridge... whoa!

By turning the crank, the light comes on...

The Light Comes On

"Phew - this is back-breaking work!"
Thingamajig@Jacob Ballas'

And guess who couldn't resist stripping down to just his pants and getting wet and wild!
Water Play @ Jacob Ballas'
Water Play @ Jacob Ballas' 2

Finally, time for a break before heading back home... little brother is already fast asleep in his stroller!

Tired & Thirsty

Friday, November 27, 2009

First Trip to the Dentist

A month to go before D turns 3, I decided a visit to the dentist's was long overdue.

Naturally, I was worried that he'd flip out, but it helped that while we waited to go in there were a couple of children's illustrated books beautifully explaining what goes on when you sit on a dentist's chair.

I read it aloud to him, pointing out to him all the quirky and exciting things he'd find in the dentist's office, like the special chair he will be sitting on, the sink like the one in Finding Nemo in which Nemo escaped back into the sea...

So when his turn to go in came, little D was quite the eager beaver, and hopped on the chair like he was getting ready to blast off in his special space shuttle seat.

Our little trooper was also very cooperative - quite unlike his usual self! - and did as he was told. I'm proud of my little trooper. =)

Here he is donning batman shades and checking out the Doctor Dentist's many gadgets and gizmos.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Love Never Fails?

I subscribe to a weekly e-newsletter called "Upwords with Max Lucado" - an established christian author whose reflections on biblical concepts are refreshing and easy to read.

Today's article was on 1 Corinthian's 13: 8 - "Love Never Fails." In a nutshell, Lucado reflects on the truth that unfailing love is only accomplished by God alone.

It made me think about the quality of my love as a mother. People like to generalize and say that parents' love for their children is unconditional.

In some ways, yes - loving one's own flesh and blood is probably the closest approximation of this thing we call unconditional love.

But is it really unconditional?

Then explain to me how it is that when I see my child reject his dinner and abjectly refuse to behave in the way I want to him to, an anger wells up inside of me that I never thought I was capable of feeling?

And when I receive his end-of-year progress report book from his nursery teacher, why I should allow an inexplicable sense of disappointment to creep in at the column marked "Needs Improvement" for "Child is able to share toys" or "Knows his shapes/ numbers".

The truth is, in my fallen state, I am not able to love unconditionally, as Christ does.

It's easier to love my child when he is lovable - obedient, well-mannered, clever, articulate.

When he is acting in an unlovable manner... it gets admittedly more challenging. It's as though he's broken the unwritten covenant between mother and child, tearing down the natural authority I have in his life, breaking the deep-seated expectations that I never even realized were there.

In times like these I realize in the same way, I have utterly and abjectly disappointed God in the many sinful thoughts and prideful choices I've made in my life, and wonder how it is possible that His love is so great to see past it.

It disturbs me that in extreme situations and circumstances, my love for my children can indeed fail. I am disconsolate, and filled with dismay about my limits.

Yet, I'm still going to strive for a perfect love in this life. If my child is to see in me the quality of God's unfailing love in our lives, I desparately need to grow closer and closer in my walk with Him, and understand Him more and more.

There is a powerful lesson in rearing children for parents, I think.

When God gazes down on each and everyone of us, what he sees is a perfect creation, his own handiwork, a lovable soul with whom he wants to share eternity with. This is possible only because of what Christ has accomplished on the cross!

In Love's gaze, we are washed whiter than snow, and made perfect even in our broken, damaged state.

When I gaze on these two lovely forms before me, may I see them as God sees them too - imperfect, but unfailingly loved by God.

May my life demonstrate the gratitude of this truth.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

You Will Never Walk Alone

One other thing occupying some of my maternity leave is preparing for our church's upcoming christmas presentation. Check out this website to find out more about THE GREAT BIG CHRISTMAS GIVE-AWAY... book your tickets early to avoid disappointment. =)

Here you see 6 of us singing Point of Grace's song, You Will Never Walk Alone, recorded during our rehearsal for last Sunday's preview at church. It's about the assurance that in this life, while we may face long and difficult roads, we will always have our Lord walking beside us all the way.

Fun @ Kids Amaze, Safra Toa Payoh

People wonder what moms do during their maternity leave - now that the government's upped it to 16 weeks.

I'm loving the lazy mornings, enjoying a slow breakfast with the little one, reading the papers. I'm loving the afternoon naps, and the free time I use to catch up on reading or the latest episode of House on

What I love most is having daylight hours to bring D to places where I know he can stretch his little toddler legs, running, jumping, and performing all kinds of stunts that tots are intrinsically experts at.

Over the weekend, we did just that. I had intended to bring D to the indoor play area at Downtown East, but after checking out the website I was pretty turned off by the exorbitant admission fees.

"What?! Even the adults have to pay to go in?!"

So a good friend recommended Kids Amaze at Toa Payoh, SAFRA instead. Good value at $7 per entry, a third of the price I'd have to pay at Downtown East.

It's not a big area, but the indoor two-storey play structure was big enough for my 3-year-old to work up a sweat within minutes.

Unlike Fidgets where adults could also enter the play areas, parents and caregivers were not allowed inside the enclosure, which meant that D had to muster enough courage by himself to exploit the structure.

Which he did, to my delight! Without instruction or encouragement, he discovered how to slide down the fireman's pole - that's my boy. =)



"Ta-Da Mommy!"

Little G is still too little to enjoy the facilities of course, so while gor gor exploited every nook and cranny the baby slept in his stroller.


He also attracted the attention of a group of older girls - aged around 5 or 6 - who started chasing him all around the play area. One girl was so riveted by him she could hardly keep her hands off his face!



I look at my boy, and suddenly realized how big he is becoming, just over month shy of turning three...

Now that he's a bit more used to having baby brother around, the two have started becoming more buddy-buddy. They even match each others' moods - just check these out!

The cheeky face:

The more serious face:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

5 years, 2 kids and a few kilos later...

Here's a belated post on what it feels like to be married for five years and being mom to not one but two boys.

I've come to believe that when God blesses a couple with children, He does so with a chuckle in His throat and a glint in His eyes.

Surely, nothing tests a marriage and one's character like becoming parents! It's been a funny and often heart-rending journey for us two jokers.

I don't think any pre-marital counseling course could have prepared us adequately for what we've been through particularly in the past 3 years.

Truly, marriage is so much more than finding one's soulmate, or enjoying a life-long companion, someone you don't mind spending happily ever after with.

In 5 years, I've learnt that marriage is just as much about:

Coping with the dismay of having yet another romantic notion about our other half dismantled.

At the same time, finding ourselves endeared to new qualities and virtues that we never saw, or would never have imagined ourselves being so utterly attracted to before - like skilfully managing the family budget, for one thing. Ha!

Realizing that when God gives us children, he thinks we need to learn patience. A lot a lot of patience.

And love our parents THAT MUCH MORE because now we know how hard it must have been for them to put up with our nonsense!

Acquiring a new father and mother, and learning to love them for raising a son to be the man he is for me to love so dearly, even if their ways are different from what I grew up with.

After each painful conflict...Marriage is about being on bended knees, and asking God, each other, and our children, for forgiveness, for the many many words uttered in a rush of anger and hurt.

And learning from each mistake how to be a better mom and dad, and hoping that no lasting harm has been done, that God's restorative love redeems and heals the brokenness.

It's being surprised and delighted at how we're capable of loving SO very much, beyond each other and our firstborn!

It's about learning to laugh at both the wonderful and terrible things that happen to us - the joy of having two beautiful children and the grief that accompanies each stressful episode with them.

5 years, 2 kids and a fair number of kilos later, this mommy believes that the one thing that holds this marriage together - is our total and utter dependence on God to provide, to comfort, to teach and correct, to restore and reconcile.

To my wonderful husband - thank you for putting up with me on this journey. And yes, I hang on bated breath to see what adventures God brings us in our next five years together!

More pictures!

D waits for Daddy to arrive at T3 Arrival Hall
At Airport
T3 Arrival Hall

And our 10-week old G
Bumbu Chair Baby
G @ 10 weeks

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My son is me, and I am my mother

Went through some old family photos, and saw my son in me and myself in my mom.

Do you?

Childhood photo 2_0001.jpg
The mommy is in the red dress, the other kid is her cousin

Childhood photo 2.jpg

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Busy Weekend

One evening was taking D out for a walk in the neighborhood when we stopped for a chat with R who lives down the road with his wife and four kids.

Seeing the little active tyke, he suggested getting D a helmet when he cycles out on the road. Seeing sense in his advice, I did just that this weekend.

Here he is taking out his new rocket-and-alien ship themed sports helmet for a test ride:
Looking smart in my helmet!

On Sunday, we headed down to Fidgets again, this time at the invitation of his cousins for their joint birthday party.

Fidgets is an indoor playground for young toddlers to go crazy in. It also caters to parents who want to just find a place where they can order a coffee, sit down and read the papers or the magazine, and just chill while their kids run amok. It's very much like Puff's Magical Playhouse in Traralgon, just smaller and a lot more expensive - at $15 per entry.

I had actually brought D and my helper E there a week before to "recce" the place, so the photos below are from both visits:

At Fidgets with cousinsWith cousins at fidgets (2)The birthday girlsPhoto0153.jpgPhoto0148.jpgPhoto0147.jpg

Here he is trying to blow the candles off his cousin's birthday cake!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Watching them grow

A friend messaged me today and asked in passing if Dylan was enjoying school.

It's now almost three months to his third birthday. He's barely 3!

In some societies it can seem perverse to subject such little ones to a life of regiment, albeit for only three hours a day.

He's in his uniform at 1110hrs sharp, gets in the car by 1115hr and the minute I arrive at the school's main gate and stop the car at around 1120hr, troops of pre-school teachers promptly open the car door and briskly whisk him out and off into the premises.

Within seconds, they flag me to drive off hastily, forcing me to disregard his screaming and crying in the process. (There's one teacher who has a real "evil eye" - in one look she makes me feel like I'm guilty of the heinous crime of holding up traffic!)

The only teachers he will acquiesce to escorting him inside is Mrs C and Mrs H. I feel so sorry for him sometimes!

Still, in spite of his protests I can see him growing socially and verbally because of school, and I trust that at some level he enjoys having friends and teachers to interact with.

I guess what makes it hard is realizing how fast he is growing and how much of it I've been missing out on.

Here's the difference between the infant-toddler years and the schooling years: in my child's first two years (especially if you are a stay-home mom), I can see growth on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis.

Suddenly, when the early educators step in and I outsource the nurturing, or when I re-enter the workforce, our child comes home saying new things, behaving differently, and I find myself asking - when did this happen?

Soon, my little boy will be introduced to the rigors of mainstream schooling, well before I'm ready for him to.

I guess this only makes the time I have with G these remaining two-plus months all the more precious.

In his 7th week, baby G is learning to smile genuinely, sleep for longer periods through the night, and thank God his jaundice has cleared.

He also has enough head support to be propped up against the sofa, so he has a better view of the world, which by the looks of it, he seems fascinated by:

Here's a term I picked up watching American's Next Top Model - "Smizing". It means smiling with your eyes. G's mastered that already, hey!

Ok, this one's a little harder to interpret. Is he contemplating the deep mysteries of the universe?


Or maybe he's just drifting off to slumber land...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

No teeth?

Dylan, spying his baby brother's toothless grin, turns to me and says:

"Gareth's teeth fell out!"

Six Weeks Old

Baby G is 6 weeks old today.

He's growing fast, and though still a little jaundiced, he is looking every bit the cutie to this mommy that he is.

Like the laundry my helper E. puts out every morning, she lays him out in the morning sun too. Now that he's a bit more aware and responds to stimuli, you can see him eyeing me (and the camera) with some interest:


A little closer:

And closer up still:

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Time with the Eldest

I've forgotten how much I enjoy gazing at my newborn while cradling him in my arms.

At 5+ weeks, he's acquired quite a repertoire of noises. Other than the "I'm hungry, feed me!", or "carry me" pitchy cries, this little cutie is full of grunts, snorts, coohs and aahs - amazing noises that emit from him sometimes even with his mouth closed, or when he's at the breast.

Each noise is accompanied by a different facial expression. He winks his eyes open one at a time - for example - and I love his scowling, smiling, wrinkling his little nose up. It's these little things that the Daddy has been missing, sadly.

Still, we make do the best we can.

The funny thing about being mom to number 2 is that - something apparently all parents experience - we're still more concerned with number 1: how is he taking to the baby, his feelings, his well-being, his growth, his development. Was just sharing with friends yesterday that D's cries will still raise my blood pressure a whole lot more than G's cries, and it's not just because he's a lot louder!

I guess it's also because now that D has lost his monopoly over the mommy, the time we get to spend together has become a more precious commodity. So I'm making it a point to make sure D still spends quality time with me.

Some highlights from last week include another trip to Vivocity, and D's first foray (and hopefully the last!) into cross-dressing:

Observe how water falls!

Fill 'er up! Photo0121.jpg

Checking out the bling

What happens when you let loose your nieces on your son