Don’t You Just Love Them Womenfolk?

4 05 2009

Exciting weekend, wasn’t it?

With bated breath I waited for the AWARE EGM to happen, what with all the controversies and venue-changes and my dollhouse-punting feminist eldest sister circulating emails about what injustices had transpired. Then Saturday came and went. I sent Liza to Suntec in the evening for a drinking session with one of her old friends, conveniently forgetting THAT was where a couple thousand angry women were gathered (though I suspect some were there to try out some new red t-shirts they were given at church the weekend before, or they were aunties that saw a long queue and thought, “eh, got free gift?”).

The day after that, I woke up to the voice of a newscaster on the radio saying the new guard had been ousted and a new exco consisting of old guard members had been instated. While buying lunch, I decided to purchase a couple of newspapers detailing the events that unfolded. Can you imagine, The Sunday Times was already almost all sold out in the Jalan Kayu area? I only managed to get a copy because its headline page was torn and the provision shop owner, in a valiant yet half-hearted attempt to salvage the remains of that copy’s dignity, slapped on a large crumpled clear tape on the tear hoping no one would notice (and he still charged me full price for it, the bastard).

I won’t go further into it, since the entire island has talked the event to shreds over the last 48 hours. What I do wonder is, where will the news punters go from here? I am definitely curious about the fates and futures of certain individuals and organisations that were behind/involved in/indiscriminately pulled into the fracas.

Josie Lau: What’s gonna happen to her? The new now-ex President of AWARE should have known that first step into the AWARE ex-co was going to be fraught with problems when her full-time employers started publicly complaining about her unannounced extra-curricular activities. For those of you still wondering why DBS was being so harsh on this woman when other DBS board members were happily frolicking around with their side projects outside of the Bank, I beseech you to please wake up, put on your glasses and read between the lines behind DBS’s statement. Very likely DBS, knowing the full extent of Ms Lau’s character, took the first step in denouncing her actions so appropriate action could be taken should she fail in her endeavour at AWARE. We shall see (cue snide evil laughter here).

Dr Thio Su Mien: Boy, is she going to lose business. Here we have a legal practitioner unable to talk her way out of a situation she created herself (and she did admit to creating this whole thing herself, didn’t she?). “I am a … very charmed… feminist mentor… on page 73.” Aiyoh, auntie (sorry, should be Lokler Auntie). People give you accolade, you dun rub in people’s face mah. Very chao kuan you know. That aside, it would be very interesting to know what becomes of her, seeing as this little debacle may permanently discredit her standing as a high-standing member of society. “Lokler ah? So?”

The Thio family: To a large extent, the local blogdom, and the media both contributed in bringing in an entire family into the fray of this saga. It was weird enough that Josie Lau got to where she was in the AWARE ex-co, then bad enough that her auntie-in-law came forward admitting to having orchestrated the new ex-co’s coming together. Then happy happy the husband also kena as an “I’m so angry, I’m going to write a letter” homo-basher, then Dr Thio’s daughter NMP Thio Li-Ann also got involved, and there are not-so-discrete whispers in the background of how the family’s now-blown-wide-open agenda is linked to the that previous rainbow-love saga involving Section 377A of the Penal Code. This whole thing has just made their entire family look like fish bait for queer sharks (and I use the term “sharks” in the nicest possible way).

Section 377A: Might the family’s involvement in the AWARE saga bring about a relook at the treatment of our rather dormant section of that age-old Penal Code? Many parallels can be drawn from AWARE’s EGM no-confidence voting, compared and contrasted to the much larger, yet somewhat quieter fight for and against the keeping of the Section in our law books back in 2007. I’m not trying to stir up AWARE’s involvement in the gay rights issue again, but the Dr Thio’s introducing her anti-homosexuality into the agenda of the new ex-exco does bring back some fond memories, doesn’t it?

The Church of Our Saviour: Oooh, this one’s a very unfortunate victim, and another fine example of what getting religion tied up in secular activities, whether on purpose or by accident, will get you. I won’t go so far as to say they might get dissolved, though. I believe the faith of the Church’s members will very likely keep that from happening. But in the eyes of the public, the unforeseen errors of its members’ actions have reflected the underlying agendas that build the foundations of its pulpit. As much as this is a case of its people doing injustice to its cause, we ALL know the line between church-goers and the church itself is a very very fine blurry line indeed.

DBS: Oh yes, the people’s bank. A few weeks ago, a column on Today sought to question the motives of DBS as it openly rebuked Ms Lau for her seeking office as President of AWARE. While initially both my wife and I didn’t particularly appreciate the tone in which the article was written, editor-at-large Conrad Raj seems to have hit the nail right on the head when he ended his piece with the question, “Unless there are other factors at play here?” I have also mentioned earlier how they might have had the foresight to voice their opinion about this whole Josie Lau debacle before the whole debacle even began. The recent turn of events against Ms Lau’s favour may have created a ripple effect involving the fate of her career, but as of right now, even I haven’t a clue how her company is going to handle this. Ooh, a cliffhanger! Who’da thunk it?

The war against alternative lifestyles on an inadequate platform has now turned into a fight of survival in maintaining reputations after a flurry of mistakes by seemingly respectable individuals. I have to admit, though I understand the nobility of this fight of making AWARE aware, now that the old guard is back home, I am a lot more interested in the high entertainment value of what’s about to happen to the ones that have been caught and kicked outside with their skirts down and are now walking around outside, forgetting their skirts are still inside.


The Complexities of Life at 2 Months of Age

8 03 2009

It’s been quite a whirlwind experience, and it seems to be gaining speed. At only 2 months, Xander has outgrown most of his 0-3 months garb, and is fitting quite comfortably into stuff normally meant for 6-month-olds (of course being in the children’s fashion industry, I know perfectly well how inaccurate kids’ clothes sizings can be). But what really amazes me right now is his increasingly complex requirements.

What used to be a simple deciphering of diaper change/feeding time/painful cries (see what I learnt in Week 2) has now become an array of I-wants and I-feels and I-bloody-don’t-cares, including cries of shock, loneliness, discomfort in body position, fear, tiredness, wanting to stay awake despite tiredness, not wanting to stay awake because of tiredness but we’re being too noisy, and other assortments of weird and wonderful crankiness.

First-time parenthood is really a crash course into super-professional nannyhood, and what you learn really depends on how involved you are in your child’s development and upbringing. In the first 2 weeks, I thought deciphering baby cries was already quite a feat for me, but today, when the kid starts his trademark Volkswagen engine startup (“ng-uh-huh, ng-uh-huh, ng-uh-huh, ng-uh-huh, weeeeeaaaaaaaaah”), my wife and I find ourselves having to run through a much longer list of the X that’s irking the X-man. On the upside (I think), we’ve gotten so used to his cries that we are now able to identify his less urgent needs and subsequently “buy time” for ourselves to finish up whatever we were doing before attending to him. At one point when we were at my mother’s having dinner with my family (Xander’s getting daycare at my mum’s), his crying got my mum in a fluster and my sisters in a flurry, but my wife and I didn’t even look up from our plates.

Perhaps it was our trust in my mum to handle our child that was built up since Grandma Daycare started; perhaps we really did know why he was crying. But one thing is for certain, when it’s serious, we DO notice. And it almost always emotional more than anything else. Like when he gets scared, the cries are loud and immediate, and forcefully demanding of our attention. Or when he doesn’t like something, he gives this beautifully cute little pout that grows into a wonderfully written chorus of wails nobody can ignore, particularly when it’s actually being witnessed in real time.

It just goes to prove one of two things; that the evolution of humankind has written emotional responses at a higher priority of urgency than physical need, or that my son has inherited his grandmother’s penchant for melodramatics.

The Bane of Being An Insurance Salesman

2 03 2009

I grew up believing there are some careers you simply do not set foot into, if not for anything, then for not looking like an ass in front of your customers; real estate, car sales, large electronics store sales and insurance. The common trait between all these? They’re careers in sales, they’re driven on commission, and they hardsell like a baseball bat shoved up your you-know-where.

Subsequently I’ve gotten more mature in my beliefs and how they apply in the real world, and even met some salespeople in these industries that actually seemed honest. But there remains a sliver of doubt that has constantly kept me away from the salesman profession in general most of my life.

My sister has a friend in insurance whom I spoke to last year after my wife and I were i the midst of introducing number three into our world of two. For the first time in my life, I thought I found a insurance salesperson I could honestly call “honest”. He pulled no punches, seemed straightforward enough wiht what he was selling, and spoke genuinely and sincerely for his customers’ wellbeing. My sisters already have him as their regular guy, and quite a number of times they tossed me the idea of getting me an insurance policy via him. So we spoke, but for a small glitch in what was supposed to be a cut-and-dry life policy sale (higher premiums due to my health score), I had to turn down his efforts.

Since Xander came out though, he’s been keeping in touch, more so in the past few days, to the point where I am making a conscious effort not to turn him down in a rude fashion. At the turn of the year, after seeing things turning for the worse, what with the credit crisis in America affecting the whole world and a projected shrinking economy (-8%?!) in Singapore, I can understand how hard it’s going to be for someone in his profession. But hardsell tactics are the precise reason why I didn’t become a salesman in the first place, and hardsell tactics are the reason why I keep a mental blacklist of all the places to avoid when shopping for anything.

I was text-messaged 4 times over the last 3 days by said insurance guy to discuss a hospitalization plan for my son, which would involve no hard cash whatsoever, just an annual deduction of a small amount from my CPF account. If not for the fact that last year my wife had visited the hospital twice (once for a surgery and once for the birth of our son), coupled with how badly my own finances were stacking up against me, I would have met up. But money is tight for everyone everywhere, and even if it was something I didn’t have to buy with dispensable cash, I’m still being very conscious of what I sign up for.

I will admit that insurance is an important thing, but when you force the issue of selling some to me, I’m not inclined to entertain any of your schtick, nice guy or not. Especially when I’ve kindly given subtle enough hints, like “now’s not a good time” or “better if we talk when times get better”, take it that now’s not a good time and that it would be better if we talk when times get better.

I would like to say I know what these commissioned-based salespeople are going through; I’m working every day and making every dollar count to manage my own little credit crisis. But honestly, I opted out of the life of a commissioned-based salary because when times are hard, it really shows in your bank account when your daily work shows directly in your paycheck, and no matter how glib you are, no matter how soild your sales pitch is, some days people just don’t want to buy anything. Commissioned-based industries really do reflect the old adage (albeit through a different context), “When times are good, everybody’s a friend, but when times are bad…”. The big difference between applying that adage in an occupation and applying it in social context is that socially, there ais still room for acts of kindness, but in a ceteris paribus environment such as your job, the only thing that matters is dollars and sense.

It’s going to be a hard year, my policy-toting friend. Wishing you good luck, is, unfortunately, all I can afford.

The Celebrated Master of Baby Kung Fu

4 02 2009

Those who have watched Ip Man, the kung fu action flick starring Donnie Yen, will have either marvelled at the talent this underrated actor has, or if you’re of the feminine persuasion, fallen in lust with his dashing 46-year-old Asian good looks.

We watched Ip Man when Xander was still in my wife’s womb, but we could tell he was watching with us. As with our experience while watching Quantum of Solace, the sound of every gunshot, kick and punch would illicit a kick from our dear boy in my wife’s third trimester.

But where am I going with this? Third trimester is soooooo yesterday. Well, fans of Ip Man may be heartened to know that there will be a sequel…

Xander decided he will not be outdone by some old man with big hands and nice eyes.

Xander decided he will not be outdone by some old man with big hands and nice eyes.

Our kid’s even got a training video! (Click the link if video doesn’t show here)

How’s that for an early start?

Week 4: What a Month Can Do To You

29 01 2009

It’s been a whirlwind month, with no lack of drama (in the interests of self-censorship and sensitivities to our families’ privacy, I can only say hormonal changes and our mothers do not a peaceful confinement month make) and changing habits.

But more importantly, t’s funny how a 1-month-old person can take hold of your life; schedules change, sleep patterns change, daily rituals change, philosophies change, diapers change (Xander’s upgraded from Newborn size to S size)… things have changed so much, I might as well be on Obama’s staff too.

For the first time since I left school 3 1/2 years ago (I was a late bloomer), I found myself waking up at 6.30am today to get ready for work. That has to be the single most significant change I’m going through, since my wife and I are well-known for not being morning people. But of course, because it’s the holiday season, nobody thought to bring the office keys, so I ended up getting into the office at 10.30am anyway.

We’re also trying to catch Xander’s feeding patterns so we can feed him more adequately and be able to rest properly on a more predictable time belt. We saw the paediatrician yesterday, who taught us a formula to calculate how much to feed our kid, which goes something like this:

150ml x Baby’s weight = Amount per feed

No. of feeds over a 24-hour period

At 4.75kg, our kid’s feed works out to be 90ml every 3 hours. At night, we try to stretch it out little so we can cop an extra hour of sleep before his wonderfully lung-squeezing cries wake everyone in a 3-unit radius around our apartment.

But the real reason why we went to the paediatrician last night was because we thought our kid had acne.

Yes, zits. On his face. Like a teenager undergoing hormonal imbalance and wondering why everyone in school is avoiding him.

As it turns out though, he’s got a family heirloom passed down from generation to generation from my father’s side to me, and now, to him. My son has eczema. So now he’s sensitive to perspiration (no necessarily his own), tears (the rashes form quite nicely to show where his stream of tears run down when he’s cried) and possibly the baby formula he’s been so happily sucking up. All this time we thought it was normal and will go away in time (which the paediatrician also said it would), and now our kid looks like a miniature Chinese version of Seal.

Otherwise, things are slowly getting back on track. Despite the economic gloom, I’m hopeful for a good year.

Oh yeah, Xander’s got a corporate logo (or something like that, at least; my father-in-law asked for something he could silkscreen on a pillow case as a gift to Xander). And I got another video coming. And we’re planning GRAPHICS for Xander’s room soon!

Xander Tay - Drool Here

Xander Tay - Drool Here

Week 3: Watch a Good Movie Lately?

20 01 2009

As promised, videos. I only wonder what Xander’s going to say when he sees this once he turns 12.

Note: Do turn the volume all the way up to experience the videos to its fullest potential. You might also want to let the video load up fully first; the annotations on the first vid can be a bit buggy initially.

First up, here’s something we took on the second day at the in-laws. I do so love Youtube’s Annotations function.

This one was taken a couple of days ago. We’ve been trying to capture Xander’s crying for some time now, and so far this footage has yielded the best results for us. Xander’s infamous cry has been described in many different variations and analysed at length within my wife’s family household. Again, watch the annotations; they’re pretty good indications of what we think of his beautiful wails.

Nice change from the 2000-word essays I usually put out, isn’t it?The annotations might not work

Week 2: Blurry Days, Sleepless Nights

12 01 2009

At some point in a new father’s life, one might come to the conclusion that newborn babies are in fact a Samsonian test of strength. Who would think a 4kg bundle of flesh and cuteness could wreak such havoc with his parents’ biological clock to the point where one barely knows what day of the week it is (my wife has already given up keeping track).

It’s the end of Week 2, and Xander’s appetite has increased overnight. What used to be 60ml of milk a feed every 2 hours has shot up to 120ml of milk or more in 3 hours. And if you’re wondering where it all goes, last night I had the answer sitting in my hand after another sleepless night deciphering my baby son’s cries of complaint; at about 5am this morning, I had removed and disposed of what I believe to be the heaviest diaper load in the history of diaper changes. If I weren’t so sleepy, I’d have had it weighed and submitted into the Guinness Book of World Records. Instead all I can do now is open a can of Guinness and celebrate my victory of having learnt to change diapers properly without my son peeing all over himself and me. And I don’t even like Guinness.

You’d think I’d have gotten used to it by now, and I thought so too, but the sudden increase in appetite threw the entire house off-guard, even though I was pre-empted 3 days before the 2-week mark from the instructions printed on our (largely unused) can of S26 that from the second week onwards, baby feed will be increased from 60ml to 120ml, with slightly less frequent feeds per day. Slightly less frequent feeds? It feels like Day 1 after the hospital all over again, except this time, my mother-in-law had trusted me enough to run my own show for the night. Either that, or she was too bushed to wake up from my boy’s screaming.

My wife is also having a hard time keeping up with the total breastfeed program. She is now breastfeeding a lot more often, and pumping out reserves a lot less, because dear little Xander has seemingly inherited the Tay family appetite, and someone must have taught him not to waste a single morsel of food that’s served to him, so he’s sucking my wife dry every time. And when I take over to burp him after a feed, he tries to latch on to my boobs too (kudos to Xander for not discriminating). If he weren’t so darn cute, he’d be a fictional alien offspring with a voracious appetite for nipples in a B-grade bisexual softcore horror movie.

So, on Week 2, I have learned:

  • When newborns cry, it can only mean one of 3 things; either he’s hungry, or he’s soiled his diaper, or he’s in pain. If only adult life were so uncomplicated.
  • I am proficient enough with burping babies to be awarded with a certification. My big hands seem to scare the air out of my son the moment I sit him up and start swinging him around all Indian dance-like (video coming soon). nobody else in the house seems to know how to get him to burp, without lack of trying.
  • Diaper changes require quick thinking and pre-planning. Wet wipes, powder, nappy rash cream on a sterile cotton ball at the ready, and a fresh diaper positioned for optimum switching with soiled one. I haven’t timed it yet, but if I did, I might get a job swapping tires in the F1 pit with the Honda team.
  • Breastmilk poo is greenish-yellow, runny and has curds. I can no longer look at feta cheese the same way again.
  • When baby takes a shit, timing is essential. You got to wait for him to complete the transaction first (usually takes another push or three, and is usually punctuated at the end with a glorious fountain of pee if you’re not careful (a huge warning sign is if his pee-pee goes to 12 o’clock position, but by then it’ll be too late and you’re gonna need another shower).
  • Newborn baby farts are as dangerous, if not more, as fountains of pee.
  • Nappy rash hurts. Just ask Xander.
  • Hiccuping, though disturbing at times, needs to be accepted as a newborn’s routine, so there’s really nothing to worry about, and nothing much you can do. At first we tried everything from burping to feeding water, but now we just stand at his cot and laugh at how cute he is when he’s vibrating.
  • Just when you think you got the hang of it, your kid will pull out new surprises to keep your days a blur and your nights sleepless. Patience is key, and shift duties are essential for the sanity of any newborn’s household.
  • Being there to father your son and husband your wife is the best gift you can give to your family at this time, and especially to yourself. So don’t run away from those diapers and take it like a man. Your child will hiccup to thank you.