Thursday, December 24, 2009

Have Yourselves a Very Happy Christmas!

Heads, shoulders, knees and toes in Mama Maree's garden

Here's wishing everyone reading this a very Merry Christmas!

We've been in New Zealand a week and already it feels as though we've always lived here! Jordy is loving the weather, the ant-less grass, the many seagulls to chase, and of course, his Kiwi whanau. Pity that his molars decided to choose the last two days to slowly emerge. We've had amazing days, but extremely unsettled nights. Let's hope he doesn't scare Santa away tonight with his screaming!

Jordy and his favourite pram observe the clouds

Anyway, will update soon about our fun times so far! In the meantime, Ho Ho Ho! May 2010 be filled with love and laughter :)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Around the World in 80 Blogs: Singapore

Right. So I just remembered this minute that I signed up for a great globalisation-bloggy idea mooted by one of my favourite bloggers Everyday Stranger. I stumbled onto her blog about half a year ago and have since spent many a Jordy nap time going through her archives. Time extremely well-spent, in my opinion!

As part of Around the World in 80 Blogs, I'm meant to write a short something about Singapore. A little glimpse into life here I guess.

So the good news is I'm going to write a short blog about Singapore, and why it's a cool place to live. The bad news is I haven't had time to take many photos so am unfortunately going to rehash a few images.

So here is The Camel Diaries' List of Miscellany About Why Singapore is an OK Place to Live (despite the sweltering heat, more than occasional dodgy hygiene practiced by many of its residents, crazy pace of life, and oh yes, the death penalty.)

1. It's cool because though most people live in public housing apartments that look like this...

2. You can walk out of your door, get into the lift, turn round the corner, and walk into a nature reserve that will bring you closer to something like this...

3. Singapore doesn't suffer too much from urban housing woes that may plague other dense urban areas. Yes, you do get some graffiti in the lifts, the occasional puddle of dog pee (or worse!), some petty crime (but we don't have guns, so chances of getting maimed rather low), but all in all, most people wouldn't think twice about walking home alone from the bus stop or car park at 2am.

4. I think the reason for this is that a) the majority of people live in public housing so there's a bit of a village feel happening (no secrets and many eyes in a block of flats); b) there are lots of gardens, parks, and trees in the housing estates (just look at the picture below of a garden right next to a boring multi-storey carpark! And yes, that's the Singapore flag flapping away in the foreground); c) most places in Singapore are incredibly well-lit; d) the government has a stringent housing policy based on racial quotas (x% Chinese, y% Malay, z% Indian and Others) to ensure no ethnic ghettos develop; e) we're relatively prosperous as a nation (although the rich-poor divide is widening).

5. We're an island, so though the whole country is one big city (think more than 4 million people living in a land mass smaller than New Zealand's Lake Taupo), you're never really far away from the beach...

6. Which means lots of fun if you are a toddler...

7. And when living in a tiny dot of a nation gives you cabin fever (or island fever may be more appropriate), you can catch a one hour ferry to Indonesia and hang out on relatively pristine beaches! Like so...

It's weird typing this knowing that we are leaving for our Christmas holiday to New Zealand in two days (11 hours on an airplane with an active toddler, Lord help us!). I really wonder what Jordy will make of his identity in the end - he being half Singaporean, and half Kiwi. The two countries couldn't be more different geographically, and culturally. He's spent the first 16 months of his life in a 100sq metre apartment in the sky - the sound of traffic wafting in from one window, the jungle cicadas and crickets droning in from the other - and his other hometown consists of acres and acres of green pasture dotted with sheep, with nights so quiet you could hear an owl call, and where the sky is just one big panorama of stars that defy belief.

Well, it'll be interesting to witness his sense of self developing, that's for sure. If one thing bodes well, it's that Jordy chose, from out of at least ten furry options, his Sheepie to be his best friend. Surely that must be his innate Self speaking? Wonder what he'll make of the real thing when he sees them in a few days! Will post pics for sure!

Righty-ho, will stop here as I can hear Jordy rousing from his nap. Thanks again to Everyday Stranger for this brilliant idea. Look forward to reading the other 79 blogs, and feeling just a bit more connected to the rest of the world!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Happy 16th Month Birthday, Jordy!

Dear Jordy,

Happy 16th month birthday to the best boy in our lives! Mum's been a bit remiss with the phototaking so will just let the words do the talking. Today has been a bit of a milestone, not just in terms of the amazing journey that is your life, but also in terms of Mum's own future. I won't go too much into detail since this is a public blog, and (it's best to learn this lesson now, Jordy) public blogs need boundaries. So I will update everyone of any developments in a little while - but suffice to say, it concerns the very real, very commonplace-yet-heartbreaking issue of mums and work.

Ah. So.

No matter what happens in the coming months, I am so happy that I got to spend the last 16 months hanging out with you. The first couple of months were tougher, but now, it's getting to be pretty good fun!

I was inspired by what Aunty Adora blogged about one time about her daily routine with your friend Poppy. It made me see the little wonders in our daily routine, simple and quiet as it may be. So I thought I'd just pen a little something about how our day normally goes right this moment. Just for posterity's sake.



You wake every morning on the dot at 7.00am, or a few minutes earlier. Dad always hears you first, and he makes your milk and cereal every morning. Dad gives you your milk while I have my shower, and it usually takes two of us to change your diaper in the morning! Yes, it's that err, bulky, and you are usually too eager to start running around the place to lie down on the changing table!

Then you have your cereal in the kitchen while Mum and Dad putter about. Your favourite high chair toy right now is an orange. You pick it up and say "Ay-yay!" Everytime. Then you brush your own teeth, while I wipe your face. Dad normally leaves while you are having breakfast or just after.

When I let you out of the high chair, you immediately zoom off! Sheepie in one hand, and the other hand reaching for your favourite toys. Right now, it's your hammer and peg set, the shape sorter, stacking rings, and the IKEA farm animal set! Oh and your plane and tractor. Then you flip through your books while I have my breakfast and read my book or catch up on blogs on my beloved iPod Touch. Heh heh.

By this time, it's around 8ish in the morning and we usually set off for a walk at this time. Sometimes we go to the playground, then NTUC for groceries, and other times we walk to HortPark, where you love to point out all the flowers to me.

By the time we get back home it's usually almost 10am and we read some books, then it's Baby Einstein time while I prepare your lunch!

You eat an early lunch around 11 - and in characteristic Jordy-speed, you are done within 10 minutes! Thank goodness I'm a fast eater too so I'm always done when you are! Then you like to zoom around with your toys while I wash up and prepare your bath. You LOVE bathtime, especially trying to splash me with water. And pointing out the flowers and fish and frogs in your bathbook.

I love the time after your bath, 'cos I get to cuddle and tickle you in your room, and we read a few books, Roadwork, That's Not My Truck and of course, Goodnight Moon, before you go to your cot and do your acrobatics. You're always asleep by 12.20.

While you dream the heat of the day away, I'm either baking, on the internet, reading, or listening to BBC podcasts on the iPod. This quiet time is one of my favourite times of day too! :)

And then it's 2ish and you're up! And you have your milk, and then some raisin and peanut butter toast and then we're off on our afternoon outing! On lazy days we go for walks around the neighbourhood, to the playground, or the park. On more exciting days, I take you for a car ride and we go to West Coast Park, or to the Botanic Gardens, or to Labrador Park, or Keppel Marina, sometimes we go to indoor playgrounds (though you tend to get a bit germy after that so maybe not that often!). Some days it's just us, other days we hang out with friends.

Then by the time we get home, it's usually 5ish and I make your dinner while you hang out in the kitchen playing with anything that rolls, opens and closes, or makes a lot of noise! And then before I know it, you're done with dinner (literally, it's always 10 minutes or less!) and then you're off playing again while I clean up and then we usually have some reading time before your bath.

And more often that not, sometime during your bath, the doorbell rings, your face lights up, and it's Dad! Home at around 6.45. Then you go pull on his trouser leg, and then he carries you and swings you around for a few minutes. You love this time of day very much.

And then it's Baby Einstein time again while Mum and Dad have dinner! Sometimes, when you like what you see on the screen, you look at us and laugh, inviting us to join you in your moment. It's very cute. Then Mum has her shower while Dad prepares your milk, and water, and PJs and toothbrush.

And the funniest thing happens. As soon as Baby Einstein time is over, you scoot from your high chair immediately to your bedroom door. You love this time most of all I think. Hanging out in the cool air-conditioned room, hearing mum and dad sing songs and reading your favourite books all over again. Then we have evening gymnastics on the mattress, before you go in the cot. And you always fall asleep to the sound of mum and dad talking about our day. And most of the time, you're asleep by 8.20pm.

And then mum and dad creep out of your room, wash up your things, read the net for a bit. Then sit down and watch The West Wing (or a stressful few weeks with True Blood) or sometimes MASH, with fruit, and cookies or chocolate!

It's a simple life Jordy. But rather charmed. Magically real, or really magic.

So I'll end this spontaneous blogpost right now before I ramble on anymore.

See you in the morning!

Your Mum

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Jordy Book Club (Or, Milestones in Reading)

Alright people, we achieved a major milestone in literacy today, yo! It was so exciting. I was reading one of Jordy's favourite books, the Usborne (Look and Say) Town book, and asked Jordy the same questions I always ask him when we read together, "Where's the dog? Where's the car? Where's the fish?" And so on... and normally he just looks at me and says, "Kah!" or "Tuh!" or "Ba!" or more recently "Kiwawa!". But anyway, today, drumroll... he actually looked at me, then looked at the page, and started pointing at the pictures!

YAY! Now this may not seem like much, but to a stay-at-home-mum (but not for much longer!) who does this several times a day, EVERYDAY, it is a wonderful change! Whee! Yeah so from recollection, he pointed out:

car, bus, bicycle, plane, flower, bear, dog, cat, fish, nose, eyes, ears, hair, mouth, toes, baby, egg, balloon, orange, pen, apple, ball, rattle, drum, tricyle, boat, dump truck, concrete mixer, err... there are a few more but I say, isn't it just wonderful?!

Anyway, this prompted me to think about what Jordy's Book Club List would look like if he hosted his own daytime chat show. You know, the books with the Jordy seal of approval. They do change from time to time, but here are a few perennial favourites. Which are (in no particular order, save for the last book):

Moo, Baa, La La La
Definitely up there with the best of social satire. Note how all the animals say what is required of them, save the pigs, who sing and dance.

My Car
D and I like this book. The sentences are short. They are grammatical. They make sense. And the pictures are colourful. Jordy just likes the red car.

Things That Go
I have learnt much from this tome, as has Jordy. Whoever knew there was such a thing as a recumbent tricycle? My growing knowledge of all things vehicular continues to astound me.

A Jordy daily must-read. At least several times. Excellent use of onomatopoeia. One of the best books to read out loud. As much fun for reader as it is for listener! Entire book is now held together by scotchtape.

That's not my truck
Whoever knew a radiator could be holey? An early Jordy favourite, which he still brings out at least once a day.

Diggers and Dumpers
This is the best money I have spent on Jordy hands down. Cost me $4.99 at discount book store. LOVES it. Literally squeals with excitement when you take it out of shelf and place in front of him. His favourite page is "Tractor", as he will scamper off and bring you his real tractor looking all pleased with himself.

Ten Frogs
Recent addition to the favourites list. Cool Quentin Blake artwork (he of Roald Dahl fame), and who can beat a hundred wasps all buzzing at the end?

Teaching Bears to Count
A quintessentially Kiwi book, this one has five chocolate fish and six pikelets! Another one that is more sticky tape than book. He's thumbed through it so many times I've lost count!

He loves spotting the different things about the town. Of great delight are the little mini Schnauzer dog and the black cat hiding in the busy street scene. Oh and not forgetting the bricklayers and concrete mixer. Another $5 cheapie I got that turned out to be a gem!

And of course, the favourite of all favourites. The Quieter or Tantrums, The Silencer of Screams, The Queller of Cries... Goodnight Moon. All you have to do is start reciting the first few lines and Jordy will calm down. It's a literary dose of valium! Highly recommended to all first time parents! Do not be turned off by the psychadelic colours used or the slightly freakish figure of the "quiet old lady whispering hush"! This book is a tiny miracle!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Water, Water Everywhere

Jordy does his best impersonation of Moses parting the Red Sea. Granted Moses would never have held a GNC Calcium Tablet Bottle in his right hand, but this is a post-modern take.

Waterparks are the new black. In the Turnip household at least.

Jordy's gone from being a little tentative and sceptical about the delights of fountains and jet sprays, to being a full on convert. His favourite water park is the one at Marina Barrage.

Jordy tries yet again to control nature, while an amused young woman looks on. She took lots of photos of him (after asking our permission of course), but probably found it tough as she kept stopping to laugh!

Wherever he wanders, he usually has my old GNC vitamin bottle in one hand. The other hand, palm splayed open, trying to hold onto the streams of water. It's a peculiar, yet wonderful, sight.

Jordy and I caught out by the geyser erupting from under us!

And this last photo here kinda sums up my thoughts about how quickly Jordy is growing. This was him at good mate Ned's first birthday party a week ago. Most of the children were between 11 and 18 months of age. Look at all of them sitting down to have afternoon tea together! It was so civilised and well-mannered (aside from when Jordy tried to grab three Vegemite sandwiches at one go, prompting a slightly embarassed D to gingerly put them back on the plate).

"Hey, look Mum! It's like the welcome dinner at Hogwarts!"

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Thai Fish Cakes Recipe

Ok, this post is for Adora!

Here's my version of Thai Fish Cakes (an amalgamation of several recipes I found online). These taste GREAT and are very low in saturated fat.

(serves four)

2 fillets of firm fish (300g)
2 large (or 3 small) potatoes
1/2 cup canola oil for frying
1 cup flour or 1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
Thai sweet chilli sauce for dipping

2 tbsps fish sauce
2 or 3 red or green chilis
3 kaffir lime leaves, snipped into small pieces, discard stem
1/3 cup coriander leaves, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced

1. Place potatoes in pot of water over high heat. Boil.
2. Mince and stir paste ingredients together.
3. Steam fish and debone. Flake.
4. Once potatoes are cooked, mash with skins on.
5. Add mashed potatoes to paste and mix in flaked fish.
6. Using hands, shape into cakes.
7. Dip cakes into egg, then turn over in flour or breadcrumbs to coat.
8. Heat 1 inch oil in pan. Fry until golden brown, approx 2 to 3 minutes.
9. Serve with dipping sauce.

(I find that plain steamed broccoli is a lovely accompaniment to these very flavourful cakes.)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Our First Fashion Shoot: Neighbourhood Style!

Jordy and I had a fun photo shoot at our neighbourhood playground yesterday morning for Aunty Melissa's style blog! Aunty Melissa lives a few floors above us, and has two very cute pooches.

We were featured in a section about stylish mums. I think Melissa is extremely generous to include me in her style blog, heh heh, as most of the time, my regular go-to-the-supermarket outfits consist of tank tops and shorts! But since my recent cholesterol scare I have been much more conscious about my own health and wellbeing, and I think a happy outcome of that is I look and feel pretty decent most days!

On a related note, I watched the most inspiring Michelle Obama interview yesterday during Jordy's ultra-long nap. I loved how she said she takes her cue from her male role-models in putting herself first (or rather, a very very close second after her two daughters) in terms of wellbeing and seizing opportunities. I fully agree. A happy, confident mum = happy, confident kids I reckon.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Current Youtube Obsession

I just can't get over how talented Sam Tsui and his music partner Kurt Schneider are. I just can't stop watching these two clips!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Joy Luck Club Goes to Bangkok!

This picture pretty much captures the essence of the holiday! Four mums sans bubs, three massages, 2.5 days. Bliss

OK this is rather overdue but I have to record my first trip away from Jordy for posterity's sake!

A few months ago, the lovely Adora mooted the idea of the four mums going away for a long weekend to Bangkok sans bubs. Yes, you heard right! But first, we had to get our wonderful husbands on board with the idea. Amazingly, all four Joy Luck Club men were pretty open to the idea, everyone pencilled the dates down in their calendars, and off we went to book our tickets.

Being the Type A mom that I am, I started planning for the trip a few weeks ahead. And was rather excited to type up an Excel spreadsheet (lame I know, but there you go!) for D as a resource for his solo-parent weekend with Jordy. I present to you an excerpt from the three-page long document. I put in as much detail as I could think of, and am thankful I did, as the handover was rather seamless!
7.00am Breakfast Milk: 180ml (3 scoops) before breakfast.
Weetbix x 1, milk, prune juice, mashed banana
Give 5ml of Multivitamins (in fridge) after breakfast. Spoon is in container next to fridge. Brush teeth. Take out fish nuggets from freezer to defrost on counter.
9.00am Morning tea Assortment of crackers, Gerber star puffs, Cheerios, raisins, rice crackers (depending on where you take him) Spare crackers and Gerber puffs can be found in food cupboard above dish drying rack.
11.15-11.30am Lunch - Homemade Fish Nuggets 1. Fish nuggets: Heat up on gentle heat in frying pan.
2. Wholemeal bread (1 slice): Spread very lightly with Vegemite and cut into squares.
3. Grapes (10+), cut into quarters.
Wash or wipe his hands before lunch.

So, with admin matters wrapped up, it remained for me to pack my very few belongings and head to the airport! Of course these few belongings now include, courtesy of my wonderful husband, the latest model of the iPod Touch. It is beautiful, sexy, sleek and I am a little too obsessed with it for my own good. I actually got a little thrill when I whipped it out in Chathuchak market to refer back to my Christmas shopping list.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

I won't go into a blow-by-blow account of where we went and what we ate, but suffice to say that we stayed in the truly marvellous Legacy Suites in Sukhumvit, grazed continually throughout the day on the gastronomic delights that only Bangkok can offer, squeezed in three massages in two and a half days, and talked and talked and talked.

I'm not sure which I cherished more, the "me" time that was so mentally and spiritually liberating, or the shared confidences with other women -who-happen-to -be-mums who share so many similar values to me. If one thing the last 15 months have taught me, it's the irony of motherhood being both the great leveller, but also the great divider.

Meet any stranger on the street, and if they are a parent, there is usually enough fodder to sustain a good 10-minute conversation. But sometimes, very quickly into the 10 minutes, you discover a thing or two that either unites you, or causes you to take a few steps back and walk in the opposite direction!

Example: a mum at my local playground asked me rather aggressively how I could even think about sending my child to a non-airconditioned childcare centre. "It will be too hot for them!" she exclaimed. I then told her that it was precisely because it was non-airconditioned that I wanted to send Jordy there. She looked at me with great dismay and didn't say anything to me after that. Hmm.

I don't mean that there is one correct style of parenting, of course not - I say amen to different strokes for different folks - but there are just some issues, sometimes even really superficial ones, that just make me want to run away screaming from the person I am talking to! Maybe this comes from one too many strange conversations with all types of caregivers at my local NTUC.

Alas, I digress yet again. It was just so lovely to be away from the routine of life with a toddler, and to not have to think about cooking the next meal or hauling a bag crammed full of Jordy-stuff for an outing. It also made me really treasure what I have, and miss my two boys in a Norman Rockwell painting kinda way.

Now, how to broach the subject of an annual Joy Luck Club holiday with D? Heh heh...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happy 15th Month Birthday, Jordy!

Classic Jordy shot at 15 months. Gleefully chasing bubbles with wild abandon.

Dear Jordy,

Happy 15th Month Birthday! Mum is going to keep this short because she's got a ton of things to do today, in preparation for... her trip to Bangkok this weekend with her girlfriends!

Now Jordy, this will be the biggest milestone for the both of us yet. Right up to this moment, the longest I've ever spent away from you is around half a day! So I'm not sure how I'm going to handle my first weekend away from you. The good thing is that I'll be with other mums, so if anything, I'm sure we'll all be going through a rainbow of emotions together.

I'm sure you're going to have a blast with your Dad though, doing all sorts of boy things together! As usual, your very anal-retentive mother has typed up an Excel spreadsheet with as many details as she can think of to help your Dad along. Not that he'll need it much I'm sure, but better just to be safe :)

Another classic Jordy shot: Running along drain grates at the park!

One thing I've noticed Jordy, is that the days seem to fly by now. Now that you take only one nap a day, it's given us more time in the mornings and afternoons to do fun stuff, like go to the park or playground - which we very often do twice a day!

Then next month we'll be off to New Zealand for Christmas and New Year's, and then January you start at Carpe Diem Kidz! I still can't quite believe how quickly you are growing.

You are one animated fellow now, especially at bed time, when you engage in long conversations with your Dad, both of usually ending up in big bellyfuls of laughter. You love your books, especially the Roadworks book from Mama Maree, and the Things That Go book that Dad bought. That pretty much sums you up actually, you love anything to do with the road (especially dashing towards it when you think we aren't looking), and anything vehicular that moves! Mum has had a few heart stopping moments so far, and I'm sure there are many more to come.

Well, to my little heart-stopper, Happy Birthday! Be good for your Dad this weekend ok?

Love lots,

Your mum

Monday, November 09, 2009

Helmet Heads Part Two

Portrait of the Blogger as a Helmet Head

We went cycling again on Sunday, this time with Jordy's pal, Olive. The three of us donned our helmets, mine with its sad history of being the helmet on the highest shelf. Jordy had a lovely time I think, judging from the fact that he a) stayed awake, b) smiled for a bit, and c) had afternoon tea half way. The skies looked vaguely threatening when we had our water break, but the gusty winds blew the grey clouds away and it was back to blue skies again.

The Island Hippies looking sharp.

Is it me though, or are there many more cyclists at ECP these days? Or maybe it is just a Sunday afternoon thing. But man, cycling back to the kiosk felt a bit like weaving through traffic in Hanoi!

After cycling, we headed to dinner at gong gong and mama's - where Jordy got quite cranky as he was just really tired. We still managed to stay long enough to help blow out the candles on his cousin Young's birthday cake! Went back home, and D and I both fell into deep sleeps in the middle of putting Jordy to bed. We got up around 930pm, groggily wondering where we were!

What can I say, our hectic two-parks-a-day weekend schedule may be taking their toll! Heh heh.

Jordy at West Coast park the same morning. Notice the carpet burn on his nose, from where he fell over while riding on his car.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Five Steps to Better Heart Health (Or, How I Lowered My Cholesterol Levels By More Than a 100 Points in Two Months!)

I've been meaning to post about my recent health scare for some time. But didn't want to commit pen to paper (or rather finger to keyboard) until some kind of milestone in my battle to lower my cholesterol levels had been reached.

It all started at the end of August this year. I went for a routine medical check-up, given free, as part of my women's health insurance package. I didn't expect anything unusual as medical tests have always been routine for me. At least, up until a couple of months ago. Did the usual battery of tests, or so I thought.

It wasn't until I received the medical report several days later that I discovered a) I'd never had my cholesterol levels tested before, and b) they were hideously high. Like fat-Texan-smoker-businessman-John Goodman-type levels of high. (I apologise from the outset if you are a corpulent person born in Southern USA. I mean you no insult. It's just the immediate image that comes to my mind.)

Before my check-up, I never even understood nor cared about cholesterol numbers. But when I saw that the Pathologist had written on my medical report in bright red ink "your LDL cholesterol is very high and needs management from your regular doctor. Please see you doctor for advice", I experienced a huge jolt.

My numbers read thus:

Total cholesterol = 319 (very high)
HDL Cholesterol = 61 (optimal)
LDL Cholesterol = 234 (very high)
Cholesterol ratio = 5.2 (very high)
Triglycerides = 122 (desirable)

An immediate Google search confirmed my fears that my numbers weren't just post-rich meal kind of high, but really way out into the stratosphere type high. More research (while Jordy thankfully napped) flooded my brain with a kaleidescope of information. Still reeling, I headed straight to my GP that evening, and was advised to change my diet to a low-fat one and exercise regularly. I was to return in three months for another blood test and if my numbers were still high, the GP suggested cholesterol-lowering medications.

Shaken, I resolved to develop a plan of action and stick to it, and return in three months as advised. I was also determined not to take any cholesterol-lowering meds if possible. That night, I wrote down my five step plan:

1. Limit intake of bad fats, i.e. saturated and trans-fats.

2. Increase intake of good fats, i.e. fat found in fish, olive oil, nuts, canola oil etc.

3. Increase intake of fibre, especially rolled oats, a "super food" for the heart.

4. Exercise five times a week.

5. Keep a meticulous food diary.

I knew that 2, 3, and 5 would be no problem. Number 1 would be particularly difficult for me, as I really did love my deep fried chicken, chocolate cake, cream biscuits and "bah kwa" (for those unfamiliar, that's the yummiest roast pork delicacy we eat during Chinese New Year). And Number 4, try asking most stay-at-home-mums (with no helper or grandparents living at home) if they even have time to wash their face in the day, and most will give you a derisive snort! So I wasn't that confident I'd be able to make the five times a week target for exercise.

I decided to go easy on myself regarding the exercise, and try to fit in short bursts of any kind of activity with Jordy. I would count walks to the parks and supermarket, and even short sprints when I chase after him anywhere.

I also decided that in order to maintain the plan, a whole overhaul regarding what I bought in the store, and chose to put in my mouth would have to take place! So I started reading labels. And researching low-fat recipes that hopefully wouldn't compromise on taste (so very important!). And I came up with about five or six staple recipes for dinners and lunches, which would be easy to modify and adapt based on what ingredients I had.

A sample day's menu would look like this:

Rolled oats (cooked in water)

Fruit salad

Thai fish cakes
Steamed broccoli

Wholemeal cajun chicken pizza, with mushrooms and peppers (sardines or anchovies and peppers also go nicely on this pizza base)

Olive oil chocolate chip cookies

I also took the GNC Cholesterol fish oil and plant sterol supplement, as well as garlic supplements daily.

I pretty much cooked my own food for 90% of meals, eating out only during the weekends.

I'll post more about my recipes in a while, but just wanted to share with everyone that I just got my latest blood test back and in two and a half months, my cholesterol readings have now reduced to:

Total cholesterol = 214 (borderline high)
HDL Cholesterol = 44 (desirable)
LDL Cholesterol = 143 (borderline high)
Cholesterol ratio = 4.9 (high)
Triglycerides = 137 (desirable)

I am beyond happy and am very inspired by my own body! Am going to persevere with my new low-fat diet and try to maintain as active a lifestyle as I can. My next blood test will be in another three months. I hope to get my cholesterol levels to the desirable range of 100+. Woo hoo!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Back in Blogland! And This Time, With Helmets!

"The Helmet Heads"

Sorry for the long hiatus from the blog. The weeks have flown by in a blur of trips to the park, dealing with toddler tantrums, applauding Jordy's latest antics, hanging out with friends and me working on my CV. Yes thought it was time to update the old resume and my goodness, it was rather surreal trying to find the words again. Have sent it in to my work so they can hopefully see where I can fit in again when I return in February!

Anyway, will upload the bulk of photos to Facebook. But exclusive to the blog are details of Jordy's first ever bicycle ride! We bought him a helmet a week ago and have been hankering to finally put it in action. So yesterday morning, we all left bright and early for East Coast Park, rented our bikes and off we went.

D and I were expecting Jordy to at least kick up a fuss over the helmet and try to remove it, but no, we had none of that. In all honesty, it all went rather seamlessly. We strapped him in the bike seat, put the helmet on, and off we went. Jordy was his usual serious, unflappable self and appeared to enjoy the wind in his face, and seeing all sorts of amazing things that go - from other bicycles, to inline skaters, to scooters, airplanes, ships, and his favourite, the wakeboarders and waterskiiers at the lagoon.

Unflappable, as always.

We cycled for quite a while, then stopped by a bench for a spot of morning tea. Jordy had a wee run around, then back in the seat he went. We cycled back to the rental kiosk, and as I turned around to give father and son a wave, what a sight greeted me. Jordy, eyes closed, head bobbing, just about falling asleep! Haha. No wonder he had such a serious, spacey expression.

Mother and son at morning tea

Thank goodness, we got him out of the bike before he had well and truly started napping, got him in the car, drove home to loud nursery rhyme music, fed and bathed him before he had his long nap.

(Oh and an aside on nursery rhymes, so far D and I have exposed Jordy to all kinds of music. The ipod is usually on when he's awake at home, playing anything from Chet Baker to U2, Crowded House to the Police, Neil Young to Jack Johnson. In the car, it's either BBC, classical music or Flight of the Conchords. But one thing we haven't done is play music targeted at young children, sung by young children. It's the latter that usually gets to me, the precocious voices never fail to cause me goosebumps, not in a good way mind you, more in a fingernails on blackboard kinda way. However, we have made one concession. We bought the CD of nursery rhymes produced by the childcare he is enrolling in in January. All orignal tunes sung in English and Mandarin by the Carpe Diem kids themselves. Apart from some hideous diction, there are one or two tolerable tracks. The Mandarin songs are much better than the English ones. And Jordy seems to enjoy them. Ah well!)

So anyway back to our helmety day. After inaugural family cycling trip, D and Jordy hung out while I met up with J (although we didn't end up meeting till after the event) to go listen to Neil Gaiman talk about Graphic Novels and Fantasy and Lots of Other Amusing Anecdotes. Aside from the crazy queues, I am so happy this event was free (thank you Singapore Writers' Festival) and I have new found respect and admiration (is that possible?) for Mr Gaiman after seeing him interact with fans so graciously and good naturedly. He stayed for well over three hours after the event just to sign autographs! I know this because J and I met up with Jordy and father for afternoon tea at One Fullerton (where Jordy fell on his face while chasing a bird. Another story for another time, but the bruise is still there...) after Neil Gaiman talk, and when we went back to car park after hanging out for ages, he was STILL SITTING IN EXACTLY THE SAME POSITION! Poor, wonderful man.

Then we dropped J off, said our farewells (she's flying back to Kyoto this week. Sob.) and headed to gong gong and mamas house. Where Jordy played in the backyard in nothing but a diaper and his Hussain Bolt-esque Nike running shoes, and had a very retro bath!

All right, off to mum's group in a minute. More updates to come!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Happy 14th Month Birthday, Jordy!

Jordy at 14 months, in his ubiquitous aircon singlet

Dear Jordy

It's time once again for my monthly missive to your royal jordiness.

It's been a month of real highs (much walking and general adventuring, new signs, increased understanding, lots of laughter) and lows (falling sick with your first bad cold which turned into a cough and neccesitated a visit to the doctor, then I caught the cold from you, blagh), and boy am I feeling the slings and arrows of time flying by.

We started off the day with a morning trip to the park, and the cafe (ahem, a McCafe no less) ensconced within. Dad and I decided that, what the heck, you are now all of 14 months old and positive grown up and soon will be buying yourself aftershave and leather briefcases and other grown up things, so a McDonald's happy meal wouldn't kill you. Yes, you heard right. This mother, who had thus far, been rather responsible in her stewardship of what-goes-into-you, decided to let you, for one blissful morning tea, CROSS OVER TO THE DARK SIDE.

And you just loved it. Alas, how could you not?!

You had hotcakes (but we stopped short at giving you any syrup or suspicious looking "whipped margarine"), practically finishing up one on your own. And sipping about half of the fresh milk that came with it. You even played with the Happy Meal toy! God forbid! An odd-looking Green Lantern plastic toy containing trading cards. You liked the cards better than the plastic toy though. Phew.

Hotcake heaven

After said journey to the dark side, we emerged into the light of the park, and you walked up and down and all around, crossing over mini hills and vales, in search of your favourite swings at the Ang Mo Kio park only to find them UTTERLY GONE. What was once a regular sandpit with swings, was now just a lousy old sandpit! No signs explaining sudden dissapearance. I asked a lady who was there with her children if she knew what happened, and in typical Singaporean fashion, she wouldn't look me in the eye and mumbled some half-response like "No more" or something similar. Honestly, is the art of conversation dead to my countrymen? Why are people completely unaware of how to trade pleasantries in a social context? I'm digressing, but it's like my neighbours across the way from me, everytime I wish them good morning, they look down and DO NOT RESPOND! Their children too! I don't understand...

Anyway, missing swings aside, we had a nice time and you walked around in your onesie. Which brings me to this - I suspect today will be the last time you will go out in public in a onesie. I mean, just look at that thigh exposure! Your modesty is at stake here!

Stepping out in style

After our morning jaunt, we headed to mama and gong gong's, who were eager to babysit you while Dad and I went to IKEA to shop for a new couch. You ate some of the lunch that mama so lovingly prepared for you (she went so far as to make you a back-up dish in case you didn't like choice number one, you lucky thing! And sure enough, you made faces when we tried to give you the bee chai mak with fishball soup, so had to go for option two, which was brown rice with soup, which you thankfully ate, hmph!) then we settled you down for a nap before scooting off.

When Dad and I returned a few hours later, having had a successful couch-procuring mission, plus prata at Jalan Kayu, we found you still asleep, but in mama's arms!!! You lucky thing (again!)... Apparently you woke up after an hour or so, then mama gave you milk, then carried on holding you and you just slept and slept. When you woke up, you were extremely cheerful and got into many shenanigans, like so:

Jordy attempting the downward dog asana

You listened rapt, while gong gong played the ukelele, but wriggled like a caterpillar when I tried to take a photo of you and him. Still, we managed to get a few cute shots, like this one:

We are the linesmen for the counteeee

At 14 months, you are adjusting to a new routine, moving from two naps a day, to only one (Aside from me: HELP! How to occupy active child for the whole day?!). This is day five of your new one-nap-a-day routine and you're still prone to feeling tired and cranky some of the time. Like yesterday, when we met up with Mano and Carrie and cutey Baz at Bukit Batok Nature Reserve. Poor you just felt a little out of sorts, but you tried to make the best of thing in any case! Boy has Baz grown though! And I was reminded of you when you were his age, three months, and how you used to love the jumperoo too, and all the folds of flesh that suddenly appeared as if overnight.

Babes in the park

Well, it's almost 8.30pm now and you are still not settling to sleep. I can you hear you in your room with your poor Dad! I wonder whether it's the adjustment to this one nap a day business that is mucking up your body clock. Or it could just be the sweltering night. Oh well, I better go check in on your Dad and see if you're both ok. If you have a sleep now, you'll have a much better day tomorrow, trust me. Guess you can look forward to more sagely words of wisdom in the years to come. Apologies in advance, heh!

Love you lots,

Your Mum

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

Let me preface this review by saying that I usually hate it when critics label a book as "important". Important? To whom? Can you let me be the judge of what is important in my world please? Things get compounded when when another VIP says the book is the "most important environmental book" you'll ever read.

So it was with a little scepticism that I turned to the first page of The Road.

And was proven wrong almost immediately.

The Road is important. It is essential. It is the most original, hit-you-in-vital-organs-you-never-knew-you-had powerful piece of anything I have read this year. Or any year for that matter.

Defying categorisation, The Road tells of a journey taken by a father and a son. They are nameless, and the landscape they travel through is cauterised, bleak and dead. There are no lengthy explanations of what happened to cause such complete and final destruction to Earth, just tantalising hints. The man and boy are travelling south, to what they hope is warmer weather, and life.

Cormac McCarthy paints the despair and hopelessness of their situation in language at once spare, and heartbreaking. Here is a storyteller with a true gift of poetry; he creates a lexicon for this post-apocalyptic world that, as one reviewer so rightly put it, is Biblical in scope. In an ironic juxtaposition, McCarthy unleashes his potent vocabulary in his descriptions of a world slowly bleeding away its nouns, adjectives, verbs, and interestingly, punctuation, as it becomes more grey and moribund by the season.

The reader is assailed by wave after wave of unavoidable imagery: the greyness "like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world"; where "(t)he ashes of the late world carried on the bleak and temporal winds to and fro in the void." The countless dead they pass along their journey are conjured up in their full horror: "The flesh cloven along the bones, the ligaments dried to tug and taut as wires. Shriveled and drawn like latterday bogfolk."

The whole situation may seem hopeless to the reader, but really, what can the father and son do? They are "each the other's world entire", and McCarthy reveals the man's thoughts: "He knew only that the child was his warrant. He said: If he is not the word of God God never spoke." So with those words, their journey becomes a quest, the Fisher King roaming the waste land to make it fecund again. (Aside: Sorry, this is the literature student who studied one too many T.S. Eliot poems talking. But I did feel a strong connection between this book and Eliot's The Waste Land.)

To me, reading The Road was like being in a dream, where I'm attending a wake (yes, bring on The Sandman allusions here too). But this is no ordinary wake, I'm sitting there listening to a disembodied voice read out the eulogy for the Earth.

Academic Richard Katula says "that a classic eulogy contains two parts: praise for the dead and advice for the living". In that case, The Road is a post-modern, post-recycling, post-sustainability eulogy then. The dead are not praised. They are forgotten; mummified in their moment of terror and regret. But it is in the living - and I shan't give away any spoilers here - that McCarthy eventually concentrates his message on. I finished the book in a half-daze. knowing that I would tell as many people as I could to read it.

For me, I came away so thankful for what I have, and ashamed at what could be: "Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it."

Friday, September 25, 2009

Godpa James Pays a Visit!

Taken just before Godpa tried to give Diet Coke to godson. Harumph.

Godpa James came to visit over the long weekend just passed. We had a lovely time (and hope James did too! heh heh) in spite of Jordy being crankier than usual due to the emergence of his eighth tooth!

Jordy's mama very kindly Jordysat on Saturday evening so the three of us went for a rather spectacular dinner at the new NUS Guildhouse at the Cluny Road campus. We each had a four-course meal, and I think I did rather well choosing a cholesterol-friendly option. From recollection I had

- Salmon carpaccio with mesculun salad
- Lobster and lemongrass broth
- Steamed sea bass on this yummy cabbage thingy with some kind of mashed sweet potato (the menu made it sound much nicer than my attempt here)
- Chocolate cake with morello cherries and vanilla gelato (my one major LDL splurge for the evening)

Healthy (but yummy) main course

The men both had ultra fatty-looking lamb shanks, yeeesh! I'm thankful I went with the sea bass! It was also an exceptionally cool night, so much so that we turned off the outdoor air-conditioner pointed right at us. Was also very nostalgic dining in a campus. I think we all wanted to go off somewhere to do another degree. The short walk back to the car made me realise how much I miss academic life! Though I could do without the rich kids (law students most likely) parading around in their strange clothes and sports cars. God, I sound so old just typing that! Ah well.

Like old times

We returned home to find mama finishing up the Keira Knightley-version of Pride and Prejudice, so sat down and watched the last 10 minutes (the best part in my opinion) with her. Despite the teething crankiness, Jordy slept through but woke up bright and early on Sunday.

Before heading out to town.

We braved town on a weekend and went to ION, had a pretty great lunch at Marmalade Pantry (except the coffee sucked according to the men). Then Jordy threw his first humungous mall tantrum (after I repeatedly refused to let him go near the escalator, which we wanted to touch and walk on) - he arched his back, then curled himself up when I tried to pick him up. In the end, I scooped him up somehow and walked as quickly as I could into nearest store with distractions, which serendipitously turned out to be a cuckoo clock shop of all things! Of course he loved it, and started smiling again. This episode made me freak out a little at this new phase of Jordiness, especially since he is NOT A SMALL CHILD and is a challenge to contain. Will take each day as it comes and say OM repeatedly.

(Aside: After talking to Sandy yesterday, we agree that our kids at least, are not mall kids. They'd much rather hang out in the park, walking around and looking at leaves, than sitting in a stroller looking at purchasable items and people milling around. I don't blame them, shopping doesn't become much fun until you have the means to buy whatever you want!)

The next morning we left bright and early for Sentosa, where D took Jordy for a swim in the sea, I got completely soaked trying to take a picture of them (idiotic splashy tourist next to me) and James had a kaya waffle. Haha! We then went for a l-o-n-g walk (Palawan to Tanjong Beach and back, about an hour) in the hopes of settling Jordy for his morning nap. He went to sleep only 55minutes in the walk, but that left us with some time to get drinks from Coffee Bean after.

Couple of Baywatch extras

We zoomed home after Sentosa to change and meet Dean for lunch at Samy's curry. Delicious, I threw cholesterol caution to the wind and tucked into briyani rice, chicken tikka, bagadil, fried fish, pappadoms, dhal, and veges. I figure the occasional anomaly in my new low-bad-fat/high-good-fat diet is only human, and humane.

Jordy had his lunch too, then wanted to walk repeatedly up and down the garden path. No metaphorical puns intended. That's literally all he wanted to do. Oh, and to squat down and scrutinise the occasional leaf or cigarette butt. One thing this new phase is teaching me is patience. Patience, and to put myself into Jordy's (small) shoes and realise that every day is a new discovery. Even the metal grates that cover drains are of interest to him, along with tiny caterpillars on leaves, and to my squeamishness today, a not-that-well-concealed grasshopper!

After such a lunch, it was a unanimous decision to head somewhere for a chilled dessert. Sped round the corner to Island Creamery, where I had a scoop of their excellent Blackforest and Jordy tried to take over Dean's nutella ice cream. This was only his second ice cream experience, the first being on the day of his birthday. He experienced a full-body shiver, and was the dictionary definition of happy. He even delighted in biting on the disposable ice cream spatula. Then it was back home to see Godpa James off!

Not great lighting, but hey, at least we're all facing the same way!

Well, hope Godpa James comes back to visit soon! In anycase, will be seeing him in November when I take off on my first Jordy-less weekend ever, with the three other yummy mummies, for a weekend of everything and anything in Bangkok. Thanks to our amazing husbands for affording us this opportunity, and of course to our wonderful bubs who teach us each day what is important in life (e.g. an all-mum weekend away to recharge, heh heh!).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Walk This Way (Talk This Way)

I think it's quite official. Jordy's walking!

And by walking, I mean he's gone from shuffling one or two steps unassisted, to today's whopper of an effort walking from the ipod to the piano. For those of you who have never been to our apartment, that's about 15 Jordy steps!

Most times, he still prefers to hold on to one of our hands, and, like so, can walk around rather confidently for a good 10 minutes.

To honour his new found feet, I brought him to Clarks for his first proper shoe fitting. He is a 5G. I got him a sturdy pair of cruising shoes, which looked breathable enough for Singapore weather as well as our year-end trip to New Zealand.

It really is lots of fun walking around with him. Think this ushers in a WHOLE new era Jordy-wise, not to mention metabolism-wise!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Happy 13th Month Birthday, Jordy!

Extremely tickled by bubbles

Dear Jordy,

Happy, Happy 13th Month Birthday! We had a lovely day today despite the crazy heat. Had a relatively quiet morning playing with your toys at home, then going for a walk around the neighbourhood before lunch. After your second nap, we met up with BFF Olive, who just got back from the UK! We were so happy to see that she is back to her perky self and you two had a low-key afternoon hanging out at West Coast Park.

Mum holds the dinkiest automatic "xiao ding dang" bubble blowing machine while you chuckle in glee

The past month has really zoomed by, and I suspect this will be the way of things moving forward. Here's a tiny snapshot of you at 13 months:

* You love waving at everyone, and clapping your hands when you are happy.

* Your favourite body part at the moment is your bellybutton, which you can point to when we ask you "Where's Jordy's bellybutton?". You come over to me and pull my top up and poke at my navel when I ask "Where's mummy's bellybutton?" You can also point out mummy's hair, nose and ears when asked, as well as your own toes!

* You love putting on shoes, as well as matching shoes together on the shoe rack.

* You can now semi-read along to one of your favourite books "Moo, Baa, La La La". At certain pages, you will make the matching sound, like "Bow wow wow" for dog and you're especially cute when you try to say the title.

* You walked holding on only to my right hand, for almost 10 minutes in the park today. You have taken six independent steps so far!

* Just today, you started doing the Red Indian (sorry I know this is a horrible term, but Native American just seemed too patronising) war cry motion like on the cartoons of old, covering your mouth with your hand going "wa wa wa". Quite cute really.

* I can't think of anything else at the moment, but I will just end off this sundry list by saying that you are very surprising company right now. We never know what new "skill" you will acquire when, and it's all so exciting, watching your individuality unfold.

With BFF Olive at McCafe. Don't worry, Jordy had organic crunchy snacky things, Olive ate half a corn cob, and only the mums had evil things. And even then, I only had a lemon tea because of recent high cholesterol scare. Sigh.

Can't wait for you to toddle alongside Daddy in the weekend. I must admit that's s the image I had in my mind when I first learnt you were going to be a Jordan and not an, err, Jane. My two men walking on the water's edge.

Well, Dad's just emerged from your bedroom, and given me the thumbs-up sign, which must mean you are in dreamland. Have wonderful Birthday dreams Jordy. We love you very much.

Your Mum