Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Here are some pictures of Sean with his new glasses. He's taken to them like a duck to water. The moment he wakes up, he looks for his glasses and wears them, and only takes them off right before he sleeps (and during bath-time of course). I guess the world has suddenly become a clearer place and he doesn't want to go back to his old blurry world again.
1 March 2007 update
In an email from my old hostel roomy-woomy Jen (who's one of the few people in this world who reads this blog regularly, erhm, actually who reads this blog at all), she said this, "Read about Sean's eye sight, felt quite bad, but at the same time, with all the new medical advancements, I think it might not be too much a problem. relax lah."
I then realised I had only blogged about Sean's visit to the ophthalmologist who diagnosed his degree as 250 (R) and 100 (L). When I brought Sean a few days later to the optometrist to get his glasses, the diagnosis was much worse. You see, because Sean's irises are very black, the muscle relaxant eyedrops need a much longer time to work, about 45 minutes compared to the usual 20 minutes. When his muscles were fully relaxed and could no longer help him to see the eyechart, his degree was found to be 350 (R) and 175 (L). How to relax lah Jen!!! For a first pair of glasses, 350! Pengsan, that's as high as my degree.
In UK, they pinpoint the cause to genetics, that's it. Sean has big eyeballs! They don't believe in environmental factors at all, eg reading habits, diet, lack of outdoor activity/sun. They said he's just born like that, big eyeballs, as such, will be short-sighted, no two ways about it.
Sean is only 4.5 years old, I think Brian started wearing spectacles when he was 6. I still think it's reading small words that caused this. Cos Sean has access to books that Brian didn't have when he was 4 years old. He's reading comics that Brian only had when he was 6, eg Tintin (tiny words! Main culprit I believe), Garfield and Calvin&Hobbes and even the Horrible Science series, two particular ones on Outer Space.
For now, however, I've decided to go with what the UK fellas advice. Do not hinder him, let him read what he wants, breaks, no breaks, bad light, good light, read with/without glasses, doesn't matter. Cos all the intervention was stressing everyone up (and they never worked with Brian anyway). In 3 months, Sean's gonna have his eyes checked. If it's stable, then the UK doctors are right, and all the myopia glasses, eye-relax machines, atropine therapy methods advocated in Singapore are just plain money-churning tactics aimed at scaring us poor petrified parents. We'll see.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Went over to Katherine's place for a lesson on making Mee Hoon Kueh. I have always, always, loved this Hokkien dish, more so if it's home-made, but never got round to learning how to make it. Kat's mee hoon kueh is just like how my mum makes it, authentic. Very yummy. Ate so much, with cilipadi and soy sauce of course. Best. (Best?! Best?!...Wilson must be cursing under his breath that I made his precious about-to-pop wife work so hard in the kitchen).
I'm not sure if it's a West Malaysian dish, but Eddie who's from East Malaysia won't eat it. And when I first went to Singapore (back in 1989), not many people seem to have heard of Mee Hoon Kueh either. Only some years later did Meehoonkueh/Banmian shops start sprouting all over the island.
Oh, my eat-potato-peranakan Form 6 buddy and childhood friend Lily had us in stitches years ago when she refered to this dish as "pull-pull" mee. Needless to say, she married an angmoh.
Monday, February 26, 2007
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Brian chose Saturn for his half-term holiday project on the Solar System. His powerpoint presentation (photo above shows title slide) is due next week and he has been doing quite a bit of research on the internet for materials. Sean enjoys watching his brother work on the powerpoint slides; Brian often entertains himself and Sean by making silly sound and animation effects on the slides.
Sean's perspective of the internet world is interesting. He's at this age where he asks never-ending questions. Because he sees us using Google a lot, if I brush his questions off with an "I don't know", he would insist that I look up the answer by typing his exact question on my google toolbar (I really hope he doesn't think Google is some kind of omnipotent power that has the answers to all of life's deepest mysteries, but I have a feeling he does). Of late, he's also been asking that I take photos of his toy/drawing/something and blog about them, even telling me what the title of the blog entry should be. One day, I will do just that : )
Anyway, this evening, while I was making dinner, I heard this conversation. Sean was on one side of the living room reading his books while Brian was at the Mac.
Suddenly, Sean asks across the room,"Koko, how do you know Saturn has 56 moons?"
Brian, very much preoccupied with the computer, answered, "I found it on a website."
Sean asks, "Which website? ", pauses to think for a second, then continued, "Which spider?"
Brian, "??? Huh..."
I smile when I realise where Sean was coming from, "Spider Brian, WEBsite."
Brian gets it, goes "Oh..." and smiles too.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Delicious tiramisu from M&S, as good if not better than the one we had at La Bettola a few nights ago. The big tummy there isn't mine, though mine's definitely grown nearly as big from all the pigging out over Chinese New Year. It belongs to Katherine, who's ready to pop anytime now (I just took a peek at my tummy as I was typing this, gosh, it's HUUUUGE, diet needs to start NOW!).
The winning numbers were 01 06 26 34 39 42 and bonus was 25. See series B in picture, we got 3 numbers, so we won £10! Two lucky buggers won about £4 million each. Hey, £10 better than nothing, recoup our investment. I've never won anything, so touching Katherine's tummy must have worked, baby Valerie is a good girl.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Verdict: Below average. If you pretend that the mee pok is actually wantan mee, then it's actually not too bad, but I didn't order wantan mee, did I? The chicken rice had no fragrance, the chilli sauce tasted weird, and the chicken was tough. Brian's sambal cod fish was the best of an average lot. The good thing is Eddie admitted my home-cooked Prima chicken rice was tonnes better. Hey, it's not easy getting that small concession from him.
Back to Covent Garden, the setting for one of my most-beloved shows, My Fair Lady. Remember the hilarious scene where Audrey Hepburn's Eliza Doolittle tried to sell flowers to Rex Harrison's Professor Higgins? That was Covent Garden lah.
The boys' were thrilled to visit The Tintin Shop. Everything in the shop is Tintin-related, and as you would expect, quite expensive.
Sean and Brian getting queasy while trying to tip a street artist playing statue.
When it started getting cold, we thought it'd be a good idea to get a cuppa to warm us up. We got our cuppa for free, yay, courtesy of Starbucks, which was celebrating "Good Coffee Day" today, and giving away free cups of Café Estima Blend Fairtrade certified coffee to every customer between 2pm and 4pm.
We drank our coffee, ate chocolate chip cookies and blueberry muffins while watching a pretty lame street artist performance, then headed down Long Acre Road to Chinatown for some shopping before catching the tube back to Kew Gardens.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Third day of Chinese New Year and we bai nian at the Yongs, the only visiting we'll be doing this Chinese New Year. Katherine is really very "on" about Chinese New Year; decorated her walls with angpows, prepared so many goodies for us and the boys, such as chocolates, strawberry-longan jelly, cookies including love letters, keropok, lots of mandarin oranges and even fried nian gaos (very yummy). Besides that, she also made fresh chee cheong fun; fed us sooo much. And get this, she's due to deliver her first baby in a couple of weeks! Really puts me to shame. Even the angpow she gave to the boys (photo above) is so cute. She really lives up to her name Auntie Kitty Kat!
After filling our stomachs at the Yongs, we headed home and watched a dvd we had bought just yesterday, Munich, then napped for a bit. We met the Yongs again for dinner. Eddie and Alvin had raved about this Italian restaurant near the airport called La Bettola which they frequent for lunch. I went with high hopes for a superb dinner.
Aside from the Funghi Trifolati cup mushrooms in garlic and chilli sauce (photo above), our other orders did not really live up to expectations. Brian, who never fails to clean up a plate of spaghetti no matter how horrible it is, actually couldn't finish his spaghetti bolognese; he found it too salty.
This is what we ordered:
Shared - Calamari Fritti deep fried squid
Wilson - Costolette Di Agnello Al Rosmarino lamb cutlets in rosemary sauce
Katherine - Saltinbocca Alla Romana veal in white wine and sage sauce topped with parma ham
Eddie - Risotto Ai Frutti Di Mare mixed seafood Risotto
Me - Linguine Alle Vongole flat spaghetti with fresh baby clams and white wine sauce topped with fresh copped tomato
Brian - Spaghetti Bolognese
Shared - 3 different types of Italian desserts
The bill came up to a lot more than expected, so overall, it wasn't a great dinner. I won't be going there again, that's for sure. My pound will go a lot further in any restaurant at Bayswater.
As we were about to leave, the old friendly Italian restauranteaur came to Katherine and placing his hand on her huge tummy, said, "It's a girl." more stating than asking. Kat thinks it was a lucky guess. He said it was good luck to touch a pregnant woman's tummy. And Brian quickly hurried over to place his hands on Kat's tummy too, as did I, while Sean kissed it.
Baby Valerie, Auntie Lilian will buy Lotto this week, make sure you let me strike the £8 mil okay? If not beat backside.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
For this year's Chinese New Year, I had intended to decorate the house with the brightest, reddest, tackiest and kitschiest decorations I could afford. I even thought of hanging up red curtains at the front door. But with no plans to have guests over for a makan session, these intentions remained just that - intentions. Ended up with these few items to bring a bit of Chinese New Year feel into the house; lucky bamboo spirals, mandarin oranges, pink piggies and nian gaos. When can we start eating the nian gaos, that's what I want to know.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Our day in pictures.
Start of parade at Shaftesbury Avenue. Great dragon dance by the Chinese troupes.
The angmohs do dragon dance, he he, some of them could barely keep their poles up, they looked absolutely exhausted. Not as easy as it looks eh?...But E for Effort, after all, it's Chinese New Year, will be generous, else it would have been F for eFfort.
Hottest toy in town.
People, people, everywhere, clockwise from top left, Leicester Square, National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, Chinatown; the crowd was much much worse after the fireworks display as everyone started leaving.
Clockwise from top left, Haagen Dazs break while waiting for fireworks display, fireworks at Leicester Square, Not the best view from where we were (firecracker noise was great though), and Sean takes a much needed nap.
Early dinner at New Fortune Cookie: bamboo clams, scallops, peking duck (which I had missed on New Year's day), pork ribs, seafood japanese tofu and fortune cookie.
From top, Eddie's, mine, Brian's and Sean's.
Have a blessed and prosperous piggy year everybody!
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Reunion dinner was fun. Of course funlah, I didn't need to cook. We attended a Singapore-UK-Association (SUKA) organised CNY function at Oriental City, Colindale and were seated on one of the two tables sponsored by SQ. The restaurant was crampy, decor was gaudy, people were noisy; very Chinese, I like!
Entertainment throughout the night was provided by Singapore drama diva Ivan Heng and he was quite a riot; dressed up as a Hougang housewife Tiger-Beer lady (see picture above), a Singapore Girl, another persona which I can't remember, and a getai singer I think, judging by the gaudy red flowy outfit he/she wore. Lots of risque jokes, drama-mama gestures and Singlish phrases; definitely contributed to the atmosphere; but we did wonder if the large number of angmohs there got the jokes though.
The two boys in the picture, who were part of the lion-dance troupe, were clueless about what the event was, I think they don't even know it's Chinese New Year tomorrow. The one of the right asked in heavy Brit accent, "Is this a birthday party? What's going on?".
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Friday, February 16, 2007
Our visit to the optometrist yesterday brought worse news. Sean's degree is worse than earlier diagnosed. 350 on right and 175 on left. He's been living in a blurry world - poor kid.
Anyway, have accepted it. He won't be going to school till he gets his glasses. I cooked Beef shogayaki, egg and brocolli on rice with miso soup for lunch, and Sean and I shared the meal. If it were me alone, I'll usually just have pate and toast. The beef shogayaki (stir-fry ginger beef) was really easy to prepare and cook, and very very yummy.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Well, thanks to Katherine's recommendation of a hair salon in Chinatown which charges £40 for wash, blow, cut AND treatment, I got my first London haircut today, in time to welcome the Year of the Piggy.
I had intended to go to the city by myself but was a bit late in getting Sean ready for school. Ended up taking him along with me. He, in turn, ended up getting a smart haircut too, for £6 only.
Here he is at a popular London photo backdrop, Eros, at Picaddilly Circus.
Oh, the 2nd-floor salon, called Elegant (37 Gerrard Street), was spacious and well-decorated but looked deceptively dodgy at street level. The hairstylist Katherine recommended, Jia Wei (same spelling as Brian's chinese name), is a Malaysian from Ipoh!
And here we are, heads much lighter with the hair snipped off; and I was good, cos if I had succumbed to Jia Wei's gentle prodding to do a much better treatment which would render my hair so soft and silky (believe me, I was tempted) my pocket would have been lighter by an extra £40. Oh, the price of vanity.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
This was taken last week outside Harrods; fur protestors shouting loud slogans and largely ignored by everyone. There was a queue forming at a side-door and I found out it was for those who had bought Kylie Minogue's new Darling fragrance, and she was inside signing the bottles. Kylie's really loved here in London; in fact, the Victoria & Albert Museum is holding an exhibition called Kylie right now, focussing on her red-carpet and performance outfits.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Last year, I bought a 2-wheeled skate scooter from Woolworth for Brian. Sean became more masterful at riding it though it's actually too high for him. I then started noticing little kids Sean's age riding this 3-wheeled scooter, zipping in and out effortlessly. But when I found out the price, at £40+, wow, it was 4 times what I paid for the 2-wheeled one; now you realise why I call it the Rolls-royce of skate scooters.
More than half a year later, I finally bought it, the Micro Mini Skate Scooter. Eddie couldn't believe how much I or rather, he, paid for it. I hadn't told him the price when I asked him to drop me at the shop while he waited in the car with the boys.
But there's no regrets. No more whinings from Sean, "I can't walk anymore, I'm too tired, carry me..." School runs are so much more pleasant. Well, I have one regret, wish I had bought it the first time I saw it, Sean would have gotten much more mileage out of his Rolls Royce. Being frugal doesn't always pay off.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
...right where we live. It's called Makura...hee...erhm, in case you don't get it, that's a play on the name Sakura (Jap restaurant that we go to every Sunday), Ma for Mummy, geddit?
The dishes I cooked, clockwise from top left, dried shrimps soft tofu, grilled pork ribs, teriyaki salmon and Shogayaki (stir-fried pork ginger). Served with green tea. Only thing missing was miso soup.
Brian orders Shogayaki without fail every time we patronise Sakura. When I went to Chinatown with Hsien this week, I found Mirin (Japanese sake for cooking), fresh ginger, and thinly-sliced pork loin. Easy-peasy henceforth. Recipes will be updated another time, lazy lah.
So this week we're skipping Sakura. What do we need Sakura for now that we have Makura? Reservations advised : )
Saturday, February 10, 2007
From the moment Sean was born, we have marvelled often about how different two brothers sharing the same genes can be. Sean was very active, headstrong and didn't care if you liked him or not; while Brian was the opposite. Sean's motor skills may be average compared to other kids, but is way more advanced than Brian's was. For example, the picture above of a tortoise which Sean coloured and cut so neatly; Brian could never have done at 4.5 years old; in fact, Brian couldn't even hold a scissors properly at Primary 1; honest! His colouring was also all over the place.
Which brings me to the question of personality: Nature or nurture? As Sean grows older, he is losing more of his strong-willed characteristics, and becoming a lot easier to handle. He has lots of quiet time by himself, and no longer needs my constant attention. He still climbs on furniture sometimes (Brian never did) but would stop when reminded to. He loves books like Brian does. He does not hanker after the outdoors as you would expect from an active child. I wonder if the passivity of the rest of the family has rubbed off on him.
One more trait that Sean will soon join the rest of his family in having is myopia. I first wrote about my concern that Sean was straining to see things in mid-Jan. Today, I brought him to see an ophthalmologist, Dr Paul Kinnear of Cromwell Hospital. While I was relieved that there is no squint nor lazy eye, the doctor's diagnosis was worse than I thought; short-sightedness of 250 deg on the right eye, and 100 on the left.
Dr Kinnear said his myopia is probably hereditary since both parents are short-sighted. Sigh...but I only started wearing glasses at 19. So it's definitely from Eddie's side of the family. I always tell people myopia is the price to pay when your child reads early. But Dr Kinnear says myopia has nothing to do with reading and that there is no need to change Sean's reading habits or to stop him from reading. Very puzzling, I'm confused and kek sim, very kek sim.
ps: Sean says the tortoise's name is Ceres and she's the sister of Bonkadinka.
Friday, February 09, 2007
Snowball fight begins!
I got Koko!
Revenge of the Giant Snowball
Thursday, February 08, 2007
We had a late dinner cos I was busy surfing. Schedule's haywire today. Gave Brian the evening off to relax, no homework, no Chinese, no math practice, nothing, as a reward for having such a good attitude about taking the UK Math Challenge Finals paper today. He said he enjoyed the test (?!). He found it tough though.
Anyway, Sean was fretting towards the end of dinner and did not want to eat the rest of his meal. Yet he wanted oranges or bananas for afterwards. I said NO, finish your dinner. I can't, he whined. Okay, you don't have to finish your dinner, BUT don't ask for anything later. But I'm hungry. Then finish your dinner. This went on a few times, me at the computer, him at the dining table, talking across the living room. When he knew he wasn't gonna get his banana/orange without finishing dinner, he started bawling pitifully. Stop crying! But I want bananaaaaaa....continued bawling. STOP! He stopped. I continued surfing. Next thing I know, it was all quiet. Then Brian shouted, Mummy, Sean's asleep! zzzzzzzz
Oh, we're expecting 4-7 inches of snow tomorrow so may keep the boys in. All of London expecting chaos, should be fun!
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
This is Mary, Sean's soft-toy tortoise. Mary is actually Brian's oldest toy, an airline giveaway from Malaysia Airlines on the KL-SIN sector of our KL-SIN-ROM flight when Brian was just 7 months old. We had always assumed the tortoise was a boy until Sean christened it Mary, so now it's a she I suppose.
Anyway, Mary had a close shave today. Sean had been in his room for more than half an hour, and had been very quiet. I was on my Mac (what's new huh?) and was about to check to make sure he wasn't reading small-word books again. He suddenly walked into the living room and headed towards his desk.
Me: Sean, were you reading?
Sean: No. I'm going to give Mary an eye-cut. (In his hand was a petrified Mary)
Sean: An eye-cut. I want to give Mary an eye-cut because this eye looks like a tadpole.
Me: Noooooo, stop!!
I thought I heard Mary heave a sigh of relief. Mary's photo is taken on the side where the supposedly tadpole-looking eye is.
The next two photos show Brian in our Rome apartment with Mary, back in May 1998. Brian's very skinny here after having terrible diarrhoea for ten days. Rome, nice to visit, not so nice to live in.
Monday, February 05, 2007
99% of the math Brian knows he learnt not from schools or textbooks, but from Kjartan Poskitt. Poskitt is mastermind of the Murderous Math series, which Brian has loved and devoured since 2004.
In November 2006, Brian took part in a UK math challenge. The test is actually for Years 5 and 6 (Brian's in Year 4), but his teacher took him out of his class to take the test too. We weren't told about this and he had not prepared for the test.
He topped the test in his school and was given a gold award certificate. We found out last week that he's the only one in his school to qualify for the finals. Out of about 100,000 children in UK who took part, 1.5% made it to the finals, so Brian really has to thank Kjartan Poskitt for getting through. Wish him luck, the finals will be held this Wednesday.
From the photo, the first two books Murderous Maths and More Murderous Maths cover general topics. The last 3 books are Sudoku, Kakuro (Christmas present from his form teacher) and a math mindbenders book.
The rest are arranged in order of difficulty (easy to difficult), according to Brian's assessment:
1. The Essential Arithmetricks - Order of operations, multiplication and long division, squares, cubes, decimal system.
2. Desperate Measures - Units of measurement, perimeter, area, volume.
3. Numbers: The key to the Universe - Fibonacci series, triangular, square, tetrahedral, hexagonal numbers, pi, imaginary number, e, prime numbers, rational/irrational numbers.
4. Do you feel lucky? - Probability, Pascal's triangle, factorials.
5. Mean and Vulgar Bits - Improper and proper fractions, adding/subtracting/multiplying/dividing fractions; Averages, mean, mode, median.
6. Vicious Circles and Other Savage Shapes - All about triangles, polygons and circles.
7. The Perfect Sausage and other Fundamental Formulas - Understanding formulas eg using formulas to find the nth triangle number.
8. The Phantom X - Algebra, simultaneous equations, linear equations, quadratic equations (he hasn't mastered quadratic equations).
9. The Fiendish Angletron - Geometry (measuring angles, drawing triangles) and Trigonometry (he learnt some basic sine, cosine, tangent stuff here).
Some concepts in the last few books are harder to grasp. But there's no harm exposing the child to these, cos when the time comes for the topic to be taught in school, he won't find the terms entirely alien. Brian's all-time favourite is Numbers: The Key to the Universe. Actually, he also likes Do you feel lucky? a lot.
The best part about these books is that Brian doesn't even realise he's learning mathematical concepts; he's too busy laughing at the ridiculous comics inside. Poskitt's a genius!
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Limescale is a fact of life in London and getting rid of it is a real pain. There are lots of products in the market that help and I particularly like a Mr Muscle spray that attacks limescale. But sprays can't work on water-filled toilet bowls. That's where Kaboom comes in. Kaboom is a powder which you pour into the toilet bowl, and that's when the fun begins. The powder turns into foam, lots of foam, it's quite amazing to watch. Nothing else to do but sit back for 15 minutes. Then flush away the grime and stains, that's it, easy-peasy. Well, a little scrub may be required for the more stubborn stains, still, Kaboom's really effective, leaving toilet bowls shiny and white, nice.....
Saturday, February 03, 2007
Friday, February 02, 2007
This blog has disproportionately more Sean posts than Brian ones, and someone isn't too happy about that. I mean, he hasn't explicitly said it, but every time he sees a post labelled Sean, he'll scroll down to see how many posts have been labelled Sean and how many Brian. For the record, it's 25-18 as at end-Jan 2007 (and that's not including 5 labelled Seanism).
So today's post will be labelled Brian although it's more London Life. I bought Cranium Cadoo, a game that's been favourably reviewed everywhere, at WH Smith today. This is the kid's version, there's Cranium too, for teenagers and adults, which I'm waiting to buy once the price drops. I'm sure we'll be playing lots of Cadoo for our FFT (Family Fun Time lah, what did you think it was?).
Brian's handwriting has improved a lot this school-year, so I told him the Cranium Cadoo was his reward, and that's how this post will go under the Brian category. Happy now Brian?
We just had our first game of Cranium Cadoo, the boys just LOVED it! The box says the game's for 7-year olds and above, but Sean's 4 and he was happily playing too. He drew a volcano and Brian correctly guessed what it was, he answered a quiz question correctly and pushed an object across the floor with his nose...all part of the game, and it only took us half an hour to complete one game. We could easily have gone on for much longer, but bedtime beckoned...and the boys let out a huge groannnn...
Thursday, February 01, 2007
In the evenings, while I cook, Brian would be in his room completing his school-work while Sean plays with his toys. This evening, when I went to check on them, I was expecting Sean to be playing with his blocks as usual. Well, Brian was doing his work; but I found that Sean had arranged his many soft-toy friends on the bed and was reading them a bedtime story. He must be a good bedtime storyteller, for Barney had already dozed off and Sean was only at the start of his book.
The story went like this, in Italic is what Sean added in his toy voice:
In the beginning, God spoke in the darkness, and there was light.
God made the blue sky and he created the land and the water.
Mm? Are you sure...? It's like the...oh yes,
He made the golden sun and the silver moon,
In the waters, God created colourful fish,
And look what he put in the sky -- birds,
In the land, God made all the animals...