day 726 | August 9, 2015 | SG50 Stories

“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” - Shannon L. Alder

We remember stories. The stories we believe and tell have the power to make us, as individuals, as families, as a society, and as part of humanity. This year, with the death of one man, many stories were unearthed, retold, and reinterpreted. Some may be true, and perhaps some are not. After all, there are many, and stories have a life of their own. All of them hold magic, even those that masquerade as truth. They can inspire and build; they can tarnish and destroy. As readers and listeners, we have the power to choose, what to believe, what to remember. We align to what resonates us, and I hope that the stories that we choose are the ones that can help us continue to build a good way forward.

Beyond the impressive fighter jet aerial display, the bright lights, and the choreographed shows, I hope the kids will remember taking that long walk to pay respect to a man named Lee Kuan Yew. What made him remarkable? His single-minded dedication to an ideal vision, his persevering discipline, his forethought, his curiosity, the way he loved his wife, among other things. Roo insisted on bringing her Mandarin review materials for the long wait, because she thought LKY would be pleased with that. They will remember the story of a heartbroken Singapore, beautiful and united, as she mourned her father. "Everyone is so nice!" both Roo and Red exclaimed as we persevered through the queue, escorted by warm empathic smiles. This man was not perfect, and yet he is mourned not just in his home, but by other nations around the world. These are the stories we choose to tell, because it will help our little ones move forward, to stand on the shoulder of a giant, and drive better things for themselves.

I hope the kids will remember that year after year, we hear sirens wailing throughout Singapore at 9:00am every National Day. That at that moment, and during the parade, we stood among family and friends, reciting the pledge and singing Majulah Singapura, as a promise to ourselves and to each other. And I hope that as we do this, and in every thing they do, they understand their part in that bigger story.

On a more playful note, the kids will remember how tickled their mother is of a multi-faceted Prime Minister, with a childlike curiosity and learning attitude worth emulating. He leads a country, codes, speaks at least three languages with native proficiency, and shares his unique eye through instagram, all in a day's work.
“Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell Gregory a story. Make some light.” - Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux

day 725 | July 17, 2015 | Reconnecting in Kuala Lumpur

KL City View from our hotel room
It has started -- Roo and Red are now actively curating what I post online. Got the sense for this particular trip, Roo specifically wanted to remember. Was nagged more than a dozen times with reminders to blog, along with follow-ups after the trip on whether the images were ready for posting. I pre-selected the images, then they reviewed it for approval (Something's wrong with this process!). Soon, the words flowing on these pages will be theirs too.

They shared snippets of what they enjoyed about the trip, and I was their insight-hungry journal keeper. Things that topped the list were (1) hydrotherapy swimming pool at Maya Hotel, which was perfect for Roo's height and featured jacuzzi jets in every corner, (2) Japanese meals at an old favorite Ozeki, ranked 5 stars for the lovely service and fat fishes, and Yuzu, unremarkable at 3 stars, (3) Choosing books at Kinokuniya, and (4) Chilling out during the bus ride, with movie, music and games on the console, green view from the window, and ready snacks on their laps. I'd like to think another thing on their list is being together as a family -- their mother, their father, each other.

Remember the good days, learn from the bad, and choose to remain open and vulnerable despite it all. This was important to me, and while the little ones probably don't understand yet the significance of this trip during the time we planned it, perhaps when they grow older, they will understand our intention. They are loved so so much, and I want them to grow up in a doubtless awareness of that.
Snuggle hugs. Intricately intertwined.

day 723 | June 4, 2015 | Bintan

Cannonballs! :)
Exclusive mommy-time with my little ones in a nearby island escape. Roo's calendar has been busier than mine (a mean feat!), and these were the only three days I could steal her away without missing any of her commitments. I've been tied up with so many things, and the girls have been so good, that I haven't really given them due attention. This trip was partly payback, but primarily a recalibration -- to remind them that I'm always just here for them, as well as to remind myself to be mindfully present.

The young travellers impressed. They created our joint packing list, and were partners throughout the trip.

We loved exclusivity at Bintan SpaVilla. Because we were there on weekdays, we were one of four groups in a resort that had about 20+ villas. Mostly cannonballs in the pool, giggles in the jacuzzi, lounging at the bar/resto, picnics in the balcony, watching the tides come and go, and sipping on giant coconuts. I felt for that couple who couldn't properly make out al fresco because my kids were all over the pool and the jacuzzi. The little ones did give me permission to scoot off for an hour at the spa (bliss!), and I managed to convince them to go to the Mangrove Forest and Fishing Village for a sunset tour.

Always been fascinated with mangroves -- biologically complex ecosystem, a crossroad where ocean, freshwater, and land meet. It is earth's nursery ground for fishes, and houses an assortment of things that include crabs that can climb trees, and sea apples that are not quite edible to humans.

Our tour guide was Aidil, a storyteller at heart. He spoke of the hard life of fisherfolk, of $3 a day living, unless you can get an education. A way of life, where the men fish, and the women do everything else -- including gather drinking water by paddling their boats, jars and buckets in hand, to a freshwater well. He shared his fondness for 'kelongs,' and I loved the tidbit about how the best catch is always on moonless nights. Local freedivers can hold their breath for more than 3 minutes and come up with fish in hand. They are virtually humanoid fish themselves.

Beyond the privileged lifestyle of resort holidays, I hope some of the stories from that afternoon resonated with my little companions. The stories are not new, and are quite similar to those of my birthplace. They serve as a reminder of how fortunate we are, as well as a call to action. While I'm happy with the time to connect, I kept on thinking I should sign us up for a child-friendly volunteer trip soon.
Gosh. Life's tough for a 4 year old...

day 724 | May 24, 2015 | Langkawi

A pure escape trip with two beautiful souls, equal parts strong and confident, soft and vulnerable. My first girly trip in a long long while -- and it was really brought on by fabulous chemistry with my companions. Feel blessed having met them when I did, and continually fortunate to get to know them on a daily basis.

The Danna was gorgeous. A view of the docked boats (which don't seem to be moving) at the Marina, lush greens in the backdrop, regular call to prayer from the nearby mosque, cows moo-ing whenever they felt like it. We drafted plans a few days before the trip, alpha-females unite. Yoga mornings, rainforest after dark, cable car, jungle trek, mangrove cruise, and of course, massages. 

Arrived at the Danna, welcomed with a shoulder massage, and at that first contact, the activity plan went downhill. Still did a lot of things, just not what we originally thought we would do -- a three-day intensive conversation which were punctuated by nibbles and cocktails, ice cream service by the beach, enviously watching couples make out by the water, long walks looking for a reggae bar we never got to, massages, taking our sweet time enjoying really good Lebanese food while enjoying the equally good view, bedtime music swapping, beers by/in the pool, and learning to float and let go. 

Good energy, recharge and leaning back on good advice, every time I think of Langkawi. And in this case, the company defined the destination. Thank you, ladies!

"this is the first thing that comes to mind when you asked for something good. my most simplest of days. here are some other things: that feeling you get when you're with your favorite people -- it feels a lot like belonging, like you're understood, like for a moment nothing is or could go wrong. how, for some reason, you can never hide happiness. this song. crossed fingers of hope. when you get to see and touch the person you've been missing; how your heart bursts with colour.

my love, no matter how long it takes, you're always going to make your way back to the found. sometimes it might just take the compass you have in your heart a bit longer to find its way again. remember the love; remember the light; remember the warmth. take care of yourself."
- Anthea Yang, Constellations from Home

day 722 | March 19, 2015 | Imaginarium

Imaginarium has become one of our favorite spots whenever we're in the general area of the Singapore Art Museum. Worth a stop for this year's Children's Season, if you haven't gone to explore yet. There are also tandem swing sets, stuff from my youth, parked in front of the 8Q entrance. Snaps from when my younger brother was in town. Combined with my Roo and Red, they were a trio of trouble. :)

The doodles throughout the 8Q staircase set the playful tone to the exhibits. A mix of happy and bizarre, like stepping into a 6 year old's dream.

My personal favorite is an interactive called Green Room, Interstellar Overdrive by Vincent Twardzik Ching -- It allowed us to pedal on stationary bikes. From our efforts, came stars, music, or words on a lightbox. Intent is to inspire thought on how alternative energy sources might change our lives. Had to explain a little bit of how human kinetic energy translates into electric energy. I must have simply been white noise to the kids, as they were focused on expending said energy perched on the bikes.

The trio enjoyed Kumkum Fernando's magical storytelling, particularly the puzzle pieces to complete the Saari fish of Manik, as well as spent a chunk of time weaving bracelets and creating pompoms at Izziyana Suhaimi's Let's Make Studio.

A particularly thought-provoking piece is Trees by Takashi Kuribayashi. Parts of a tree were neatly arranged into glass boxes. Roo and Red were both concerned about the brutality of the piece -- "What did the tree ever do wrong for it to be chopped down?" I tried to reassure them that perhaps the artist took an already felled tree. The intent for the piece is transformation. "His work reminds us how nature often exists in very controlled environments in cities such as Singapore. Over time, the sections of the tree trunk will decay, and in the process give life to new organisms and ecosystems, so that each glass box will hold a tiny new world of its own." The question then is, whether or not we like what we transform into?

Will continue to go back to SAM to revisit Imaginarium, which will run until 19th July. Need to do more googling, and be open to meaningful conversations with the little ones. In these kinds of exhibits, we're all growing and learning after all.

day 728 | February 8, 2015 | Art Fair Philippines

Details on one of John Paul Antido's work
Fortunate to have been in Manila on the weekend of Contemporary Art Fair this year. It was founded in 2013 as a platform for exhibiting and selling the best in modern and contemporary Philippine visual art. The fair managed to round up an impressive number of galleries. Heard good things about it from a friend, so decided to give it a go.

Hosted in a dressed up parking lot, the fair had a mix of understated, bold, whimsy, and satire. Took snaps of what disturbed, intrigued, fascinated, and those that remind me of things I want to remember. Personally curated, and sharing with credits to the artists. Revisiting my selection confirms that I am drawn to dark things, despite the sunburst tone I prefer in my own art. Censored a few pieces here which were a bit too dark -- I would hesitate to show those to my little ones.

Highly recommend flying over to Manila and checking out the vibrant art scene yourself! Will go and hunt down more of Marc Aran Reyes' work, which I've strangely not taken a photo of. Next year, Art Fest is going to be from February 18 - February 21, and fingers crossed, I might be in town again.
This piece haunted my dreams for a few nights. Artist to be identified.
Virgilio Aviado

day 721 | January 31, 2015 | Litmus Test

Get unstuck, Ask the right questions. 
Break down intimidating problems into bite-sized puzzles.
One thing at a time.
Learning as play. 
Encourage her to drive herself.

This happened quite a while back -- and I continue to struggle with keeping to the spirit of my parenting aspirations. Every time I struggle with patience and empathy, I think back to this, and feel the anger sucked away. Hope this helps other parents who have made the commitment not to yell at and hit their children as well...

day 718 | December 28, 2014 | Penang Roadtrip

The great thing about having a long-time group of amazing friends you and your kids click with, is that even the craziest ideas can easily morph into bizarre reality. I've driven from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur before -- and taken a bus from Kuala Lumpur to Penang. But never did I imagine that we would do the whole stretch in one go.

6-7 hours, the boys said. They were driving, so figured, they would know what they're talking about. Each way ended up being 12-13 hours. Thankfully, the little ones were some of the easiest kids to travel with. Non-stop rain on the day we arrived, but blessed with a couple of days of lovely sunshine. 5 giddily happy kids, who sang an endless stream of Taylor Swift. Yummy sinful food galore. Uncountable calories which translated to at least 2 kgs of weight gain. (Spot the belly!) Any regrets? None at all. Okay, maybe that I should have gobbled more! Oh, and next time, we're gonna fly!

What the little ones enjoyed:
Pillow fight in the hotel room
G Hotel swimming pool
Bouncing on top of beds and couches
Adventure Zone Indoor Playground (Escape Eco-Adventure Park, if it wasn't raining)
Sing-alongs to Taylor Swift's top hits! Here's a cover/mash-up I actually don't mind.

For the grown-ups:
Gurney Drive Hawker Food (better as take-away and dine picnic-style in room)
Hunting down good food
Penang Heritage Trail
Cheong Fatt Sze (Blue Mansion) Guided Tour
Beach massage

What we're going back for:
Malihom Retreat
Durian Season at a Durian farm!

Driving through clouds...
Ipoh stop-over
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