Thursday, January 22, 2015

Poems by a Hands-on Dad

Poems by a Hands-on Dad
(Who's read one too many children's books)

There was one
Now there's two
Our house has become a zoo
Full of screams and pee and poo
I love it, you should too


Did you ever think
How on earth to catch a wink
Or go out with friends for a drink
All day long you're on the brink
Like your ship's gonna sink
And your head's turning pink
If you still can't get a link
Then you should have some kids, I think


"Daddy, I can hear you snore!"
I only just slept and you want more?
Sleeping has become a chore
On the bed, sofa or the floor
On the floor?
Yes! Near the toilet door
Just have a kid or four
You don't get to sleep no more


Inspired by Dr Seuss and his classic "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish"

Sunday, January 18, 2015

[Putting Food on the Table] Like Grandpa, Like Husband

There is this theory that women tend to marry men who are like their dads. I think I married one who is like my late grandpa and I am a very lucky girl indeed. I have never mentioned this to DH even though I have had this thought since we got hitched 5 years ago.

When DH revealed that he wanted to ask me to write a post for his linky 'Putting Food on the Table', the first person I thought of was my grandma who was the masterchef of the house cooking for up to 12 people daily. Then I quickly recalled that the subject needs to be related to a male figure in my life. One person whom I hold dear to my heart is my grandpa as my grandparents were the main caregivers for me and my sister when we were kids.

Here are some of my memories of my grandpa who contributed to putting food on the table in many ways.

  • Grocery Shopping

    Grandma wouldn't have been able to dish out those wholesome meals daily without Grandpa's efforts. Almost every morning, rain or shine, he would walk to the nearby market to buy the fresh ingredients in his immaculate short-sleeve shirt and trousers. He did this even into his late eighties before he had problems with his eyesight.

    Once in a while he would take the bus by himself to markets that are slightly further away. My uncle and dad would tag along to help when he needed to make purchases in bulk. Even though it was hard work, he always appeared happy and greeted us with a smile when he saw us. He did all this out of love for the extended family with no complaint.

  • Tea and Afternoon Snacks

    I grew up drinking tea made by Grandpa. I could drink tea for breakfast, afternoon tea, supper and even in the middle of night when I wake up hungry. Grandpa always prepared the tea meticulously with heart. The cups needed to be warmed before putting in the tea bag with hot water. The balance of sugar and evaporated milk had to be just right. He even counted the number of teaspoons of evaporated milk as he added it to the tea. There were times I secretly wished Grandpa operated a coffeeshop so that I could drink all the tea and eat all the snacks I want.

    Aside of the morning trips to the market, he would also take a walk in the afternoon to buy food such cakes, buns and dim sum for our afternoon snacks and breakfast the next morning.

  • Cooking

    Grandpa didn't have to get his hands dirty in the kitchen when Grandma was wielding the wok, except once. I have forgotten the actual circumstances, but Grandma was not available to prepare our lunch. So ,Grandpa took on the reins and pan-fried some pork chops that were coated with crushed soda crackers, a dish that we often had for our meals. They turned out a tad burnt and I eyed them suspicously, skeptical that it would taste as good as Grandma's version. But I was wrong. The slight burnt gave an extra boost to the taste and fragrance of the pork chops. I enjoyed my meal very much that day and yearned for more such meals whipped up by Grandpa.

    Despite Grandpa's lack of involvement in the kitchen, I believed he was equipped with decent culinary skills. Grandma told me before that Grandpa used to cook boiled chicken and other dishes by himself for the staff at his tailor shop on Chinese New Year's Eve. Impressive.

DH is like my grandpa in the above aspects. He buys the fresh food and groceries, and sinful snacks that contribute to my growing waistline. He makes delicious and rich Thai milk tea for me. He cooks yummy food for our meals.

However, DH and Grandpa are not only alike in the above-mentioned ways. DH is also a kind and caring man, who works hard and provides the best for his family.

I don't intend to make this post one that brings tears in remembrance of my grandpa. Instead, let's celebrate his love and the love of our closed ones!

Eddie, this is my belated Father's day* present to you.

*In Thailand, Father's day is on 5 December.

This guest post is contributed by the Stranger in Bangkok's wifey dearest.

Stranger in Bangkok

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Thailand Winter Getaway Series 2014: Ancient City Ayuthaya

It's that time of the year again, when temperatures in Bangkok drop to unbelievable lows. Even though it's not as cold this year, it's still reasonably cool, so I shall continue my ever popular winter getaway series to give all of you more ideas while planning your trips in Thailand.

Our situation this year is very different from the last, because not only do we have a toddler, we also have a 3-month old baby in tow, so we had to be extra careful while choosing our destination. We finally chose to go to Ayuthaya, a former capital of Thailand littered with ancient temple ruins caused by decades of warfare, firstly, because it's a close 1.5 hours drive away, and more importantly because we have never been there before even though we've lived here for more than 4 years. It will also be nice to soak ourselves amongst a piece of famous Siamese history without being torched by the otherwise-scorching sun (during other times of the year).

By the pool

Dragging a baby along, we knew that we would be spending a good portion of our time in the resort, so it was important for me to choose a nice one, and our accomodation turned out to be a really great one right by the Chao Phraya River. In fact, Noah kept wanting to stay in the room and protested whenever we left.

Li Li: "Now where's my son?"

"I'm figuring out how this water thingie works."

However, it was our first time holiday-ing in Ayuthaya in nearly 5 years! We had to visit a temple right? After a discussion with the receptionist, we were eventually directed to Wat Maha That, which turned out to be the place to visit for tourists who only had time for 1 destination.

You go to Ayuthaya to see this 

Weather was on our side. It was the first cool day in Ayuthaya when we embarked on our temple visit, and by that, I mean really cool. The entire city felt like an air-conditioned room if you didn't stand directly under the sun. It certainly made the trip much more bearable, even with a toddler and baby with us. We were not in the condition to read much into the story behind Wat Maha That, but both Li Li and I were very satisfied to have taken the trouble to visit, as this piece of history and ambience is really not something that many other places in Thailand can offer.

You go to Wat Maha That to take this picture

Noah wasn't too cooperative during the temple visit
One of my absolute most favourite family pictures

Before you go "wow" after seeing this pictures and make up your mind to visit Ayuthaya, let me emphasize again that at any other time of the year, these ruins will either be soaking wet with rain our immensely hot. Especially if you have little kids who might get cranky, please be prepared, or wait till mid December to early January to visit, as it's likely to be the only window where the weather in Ayuthaya will be bearable. 

Don't say the Stranger in Bangkok did not warn you!

Daddy, where are we going next? 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Remembering Grandma on Christmas Day

On this slightly chilly Christmas morning in Bangkok, I can't help but think of my Grandma, who passed away somewhat suddenly more than a week ago. Christmas is a season of thanksgiving, and a day for us to remember the birth of Jesus Christ. I would like to use this opportunity to give my tribute to my Grandma, who also happens to be my kin who is the closest to her faith in the Lord, and how she has left a lasting impression not only by the way she lived, but also by the way she left.

With the blessing of my wife, I left her alone in Bangkok with the 2 kids to do my part as a grandson, to participate in my Grandma's funeral proceedings, and I am glad I did so, because through the process, looking at how much she was respected by her brothers and sisters in church, and through various speeches done in memory of her, I am now prouder than ever to say that I am her grandson.

During the weekend in Sibu, 2 things struck me the most, and these are valuable lessons that I am going to share with my readers here, in hope that it might give you a different perspective of life as well.

Firstly, it is the fact that my Grandma did not sit back in her elder years. While many might choose to take the backseat due to various reasons, she pushed on. During my Uncle's speech in memory of her, he helped my Grandma share some milestones that she herself wanted everyone to know (written in her will):

"回想上帝呼召摩西当年也是年达80 岁,赴埃及带领以色列人出埃及,经过40 年旷野生活,最后还是完成使命,让以色列人进入迦南流乳与蜜之地,完成了他名垂永世的功绩。

Just like Moses in the book of Exodus, my Grandma was called by the Lord to become the leader of her Church's senior fellowship at the ripe old age of 80. While many might see that age as the twilight of one's life, she grew stronger than ever. She drove around and led her fellowship to various activities locally and abroad, just like Moses, who successfully led his people out of Egypt. She billed this as an amazingly satisfying highlight in her life, to be able to expand the Lord's empire in her final years.

So can we also make ourselves useful and fight beautiful battles right till the day we die?

This picture taken in October is now a priceless treasure in my photo collection

Secondly, she left a lasting impact on all her descendants even if she left without a word. Throughout my 3 days there, I made it a point to ask many relatives whether she had a proper closure, or said what she said before her last breath, the answer was, yes and no, that she did not manage to speak before she left, but it's even more likely that she had nothing left to say.

She wrote her one and only wish in her will, and that is the hope that all her family from top to bottom will go to church together.

When I heard that, I was stunned, because it was so simple, yet so impactful. It told me one thing, that even when we die (if circumstances permit), we have a choice to go quietly, or go out with a bang. It's an opportunity to use this as a finale to leave a positive influence to the ones who continue to live.

Grandma certainly went with one big bang, because now, every single one of us will live everyday with her final wish engraved in our hearts.

Grandma, when I went back with Noah in October it was really to say hello. You were obviously on the up when we left, so I really did not expect it to turn out as a last goodbye.

You left in a hurry, but I hope in some way, I had made you proud to have me as a grandson, and that you were comforted when your eldest great grandson held your hand multiple times during our visit.

This Christmas, you are no longer with us.

But you are with the Lord now, the Lord for whom you fought and won various handsome battles for.

And you are with Grandpa again, after more than 40 years.

I am sure you have never had a merrier one.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Learning Thai with Namewee's "Thai Sad Song" and me!

As much as I continue to be impressed by Namewee's endless creativity and talents, I did not expect him to come up with a Thai Love Song Part 2 aka Thai Sad Song.

To be very honest, I found this song a little underwhelming and MV much less tasteful than the first one, but there were a couple of parts of the song which made me break out in laughter, and the new Thai words he used can bring your knowledge of the language up a notch.

So after my first Thai lesson with his previous viral song, here's my second lesson with his follow-up, focusing on some new but extremely useful Thai words (he did repeat some words from the first song, but I will not waste your time on them again).

  1. Dtrong Bpai:
    Do take note of how I spelt these words. Dt would mean you need to pronounce it in between D and T, Bp would mean you pronounce it in between B and P, understand? LOL

    Anyway, Dtrong Pai means move straight, or go forwards.

  2. Tii Nai:
    Depicts location, like "where" in English, and most commonly used with "Yuu" in front.

    For example:

    "Toilet Yuu Ti Nai?" means "Where is the toilet?"

  3. Liao Kwaa:
    Turn right.

  4. Liao Sai:
    Turn left. Combined with words 1 to 3, you are now invincible while talking to Thai cabbies!

  5. Jep Mak Mak/ Jep Jing Jing:
    "Jep" means hurt or painful.
    "Mak" means very and "Jing" means real.

    So the phrases mean "Very Very Painful" and "Really Really Painful" respectively.
    Note that "Mak Mak" and "Jing Jing" can be used frequently with a huge array of words to emphasise your point.

  6. Laew Jer Gan:
    I was about to give up on the song until the appearance of this phrase before the final chorus, which put me into hysterical laughter, especially after seeing how they translated these words in Chinese.

    Actually, Namewee might have made a (purposeful) mistake. If he was meaning to say "goodbye" or "see you again", he should not have used "Rao Jer Gan", as it literally translates to "We meet together".

    Instead, the correct and informal way of saying "See you again" is actually "Laew Jer Gan".

Ok, so now that all of us have leveled up in our command of simple conversational Thai, let's enjoy this pretty hilarious song, hope my lesson has at least helped you understand the entire song!

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Stranger in Bangkok's Father's Day Greeting 2014

3 December 2014

It's past noon.

I waved goodbye to my colleagues and left for home in a hurry, even though some documents I had been asking for would be complete in a few minutes' time. It's Noah's first ever parent-teacher meeting. We should not be late.


We were back home and I was preparing myself to leave the house to run some errands at the banks nearby. Ellie needed to be fed, and Noah, without his nap (becoming a norm this past week), started his cranky behavior, so, the errands had to wait again. The best part of the next hour was spent at his disposal, navigating a phonics DVD he wanted to watch.

Messages, emails (and a couple of calls) were piling in,  from different countries no less, all knocking me for immediate replies. Reasonable. It was still within working hours and I would have expected no less from them.

Noah then threw a tantrum because he wanted Mummy to throw his chocolate wrapper for him and not me.

Why my dear boy? Why because of this? Why now?

Daddy needs to fully take care of 2 companies in a foreign country. Do you not know that it is already a small miracle that Daddy can be navigating your phonics DVD for you at home at this hour?

Ok, you are not even 3, I cannot expect you to understand all this. I really hope one day you will.

I think of my wife, feeding Ellie in the room. She has spent all her days and hours making sure the kids are well taken care of. And I am here in the living room, powerless in preventing hell from breaking loose.

And then there's my mum, visiting for 2 weeks only, but tirelessly going to the market and cooking everyday for us to make things easier. I can't even, as a son, give her a break and bring her out for a good day of shopping and relaxation.

Why is it, that the more I try to become a better husband, father, son, boss, colleague, employee and friend, the more I suck at everything?

Instead, I have become:

A careless husband.

An angry father,

An invisible son.

A part-time boss.

An undependable colleague.

A skiving employee.

And a friend who's always not available.

I am not finding the balance well. No, not at all.

Luckily, my family, employers, colleagues and friends still love me and support me while I find my way.

Anyway, it's the King's 87th Birthday today, may all Dads reading this have a wonderful day with your family.

Happy Father's Day.

Friday, November 28, 2014

What to look for in a Confinement Lady - from a Dad's perspective

It's been known to many we flew a confinement lady (otherwise referred to as the CL) in from Malaysia to take care of Li Li and Ellie for a couple of months. Many friends, from Singapore, Malaysia and even Hong Kong have tried her cooking, with varying amounts of praise. My wife has also posted pictures of her everyday meals on her page for reference, which have impressed many as well.

So how good was she?

Spread for Ellie's first month party, prepared single-handedly by the CL (Confinement Lady)

I might not be the best person to judge, as I am out of the house half the time on weekdays, but I can only say that she was not perfect. So let's start with the cons.
  • She talks too much, too loudly.
  • She doesn't help you much when you go shopping with her, aside of telling you what to buy, so it's better to leave the shopping completely to her.
  • Aside of her designated chores, she doesn't do much else in the house to help out unless she's asked to (it gets tiring to ask again and again).
  • She is an online game master (really picky employers can stop this by not giving WiFi password).
  • Her food is usually overseasoned, and she cooks a little too much all the time.
Ok, before you think that I am bad-mouthing my CL, please hold your horses, besides, many friends have already individually contacted me to ask me about her, so I might as well put this on my blog to answer all FAQs.

Now, to the main point. 

In spite of all the above, I feel that she is a GOOD CL.

  1. She keeps to her main role well, that is to nurture both mother and baby to good health during her stint. She cooked balanced meals, made special tonics for my wife and ensured that she did not have to wake to tend to the baby in the night.

    She also loves babies. There was not an instant that I felt she really lost patience with Ellie, which is commendable  as she was here for 2 months, and babies can be infuriating at times. As long as she did this part properly, all the cons mentioned above are really secondary.
  2. She cooks well. Even though she often over-seasons and cooks a little excess, I think I prefer food to be generally tasty and sufficient, rather than bland or not filling. Within our limitations of a tiny open kitchen with just 2 heating points on our electric stove, she did well.        
  3. She knows her place. And that is to just be the CL. Those who had experience with your parents playing this role, you should understand when I say that your mum will always be your mum, even if she can perform the roles of a CL well.

    Our one knew when to stop when things were not looking right, and when to disappear when she needed to, and that, I feel, is the X-factor that differentiates a good CL from the rest. I do not think it is acceptable if the CL should become the cause of any form of negative energy in the house. It certainly did not happen for us. However, this X-factor can only be known through the form of recommendations from friends, if you found your CL from an agent, this part will surely be a hit-and-miss.

So, there you have it. My very honest assessment of my CL, and a few pointers when you choose your own.

At the end of the day, both Li Li and Ellie were at their most vulnerable when she came, and emerged strong and well when she left. Nothing else matters.