“If it won’t matter in 5 years, it doesn’t matter.”
I decided I would stay in bed 5 minutes longer to cuddle this little face. She loves to come into the room, bright and early, clamber onto bed and cuddle. I usually just get up and stumble all over the room to try and get ready for work. But I’m glad I have constant reminders to hug my baby as much as I can before she gets to a stage where she says “Ok enough!” to me when I hug her. (Yes, Allegra does that to me now!).
I also finished my first New York Times Crossword Puzzle, with dismal results. But because I did finish it, albeit with quite a lot of help, I realised some tips to keep in mind when attempting this confounding exercise:
The answer can be more than one word; and
Even though the New York Times Crossword Puzzle has this reputation for being super difficult, sometimes the answer is really simple. So simple, that you would roll your eyes and kick yourself for not guessing right away.
Also, I learned about a Chinese philosopher named Zhuang Zi because of a colleague who studied Philosophy in University. He is her favourite philosopher because his writings are in beautiful story form.
There’s a whole lot my kids have taught me, and it’s not just about being more patient, or not yelling or learning to put them first, by sacrificing the last bite of cheesecake (and a gazillion hours of sleep). I’ve found that if I pay enough attention, the lessons I learned are highly applicable to my professional life too.
Tip #1: Accept & Embrace The Mess
As a working mother, I work my life around my family and try my best to do that sometimes insane juggling act that seriously, sets even the best of us up for failure. And what’s more, I have tried to keep my professional life separate from my family life and try to kinda live my life in separate blocks. This big yellow one is for work. The red one is for my husband. Blue one is for my son. Pink one for daughter #1 and purple one for daughter #2. And none of them touch.
While that works to a certain extent, it doesn’t account for the spillover effect. The Spillover Effect. Yeah, because Life Is Messy and the gods of all that is chaotic tend to like to conspire to make life more interesting.
So instead of just getting frustrated that my day is not going according to schedule and getting upset that the kids are taking too long to [insert task here], I have decided to accept and embrace the mess instead of fighting it.
My son loves his blue sneakers (in the photo above) and always wants to wear them. But he takes a really long time (by adult standards) to put them on, well, because he’s 5. Instead of telling him to hurry up and scolding him for his choice of footwear because he is making everyone late, and in the process upsetting him and myself and giving everyone an unpleasant start to the day, I have suggested that he start putting on his shoes 5 minutes before everyone else does.
Because it is in accepting and embracing the situation as is, that I can figure my way out with much better outcomes, with a less stressed out Mummy and a happier kid (because Mummy is not yelling in frustration).
I have found that whether at my job or any venture that I might explore, it is pointless to wish something were a certain way when it is not. Try as I might, I can’t change people, nor can I change some situations. The sooner I accept and embrace the reality, the easier it would be to make a plan and meander through it with the best results possible.
Tip #2: Lego Blocks Should Be Part of Every Job Interview
If you want to find out the type of person you are hiring, get them to build something out of Lego blocks. The idea is not really in what they end up building, but to observe their thought processes and questions they ask.
When my kids and I play with Lego, it’s always intriguing to me at how they express themselves with this platform. My son, the fixer, step-by-step doer and perfectionist, would look at the pictures on the Lego box or in the booklet (if there is one) to replicate what he so desires. He is to-the-point and systematic. If he doesn’t know how to fix it, he tries to troubleshoot but gives up sometimes too soon because the perfectionist in him does not like to attempt tasks he thinks he is not good at. He doesn’t like to ask for help.
Daughter #1 on the other hand, is the imaginative and creative one who colours within and outside the lines, sees what she wants to build in her mind and just starts building (because who cares about instructions?!). Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes she screams in frustration because something is not going her way or a Lego block won’t clutch the way she wants it to. But she asks for help and figures it out in the end.
Of course, what and how the interviewee builds may not be an all-conclusive measure of how this person may be a great fit or useful for a particular role in an organisation, but I think it would be a good overview.
Tip #3: Savour the Highs and Use Them To Power Through the Lows
Life can be Tough. So can parenting, and work.
I love my kids to the moon and back, and being their Mum has brought me through Super Highs and Super Lows. When I watched my babies learn to roll over, or walk, or when they first said “Mama”, or when my two year old does her Happy Dance. It’s like sunshine on my face and warm soup in my tummy. It is heartwarming and nourishing.
Then there’s the yucky part of parenting, when I’m surviving on 2 hours of sleep because someone got sick, or the babies had to be fed in the middle of the night, or all the kids decide to start fighting and yelling when you’re trying to do something. Those are the times when parenting feels like another job that I have to take care of and it feels like absolute drudgery.
I used to think that when good things happen, I shouldn’t celebrate too much, because when bad things happen, then the fall will be so much harder. But I’ve realised that the good and bad are just part of Life, like they are part of work and business.
The best way isn’t to not celebrate the highs, or to wish the lows away. But to celebrate these highs and remember them as much as possible, to build up a bank of confidence in my own abilities and a positive mindset so that I will be able to take on the lows with decisive action, drive and tenacity.
I was clearing out my supplies and found all this expired flour that I couldn’t bring myself to just throw away.
So I decided to make play dough with it with the kids. Just add water and salt and mix through to the right consistency. The salt is just there to make the dough stretchy so don’t go adding too much. 2 tablespoons to 1kg of flour is more than enough.
My mum used to make this play dough at home when I was a kid and I always wondered why we didn’t add any food colouring. Well now I do! Getting the colour to mix through the dough to get a consistent shade throughout is really tiring work. But I suppose great catharsis if you want to destress.
I call the patchy blue one cookie monster cookie dough – but now I realise it sounds like I’ve made cookie dough out of cookie monster
So baby girl no. 1 and I got the chance to try out Banyan Tree’s new hotel, Cassia in Bintan, Indonesia.
It was a chance to relax and bond with each other. I mean, it really isn’t often that I get to spend 3 days with her alone. And she doesn’t get mama all to herself for that long either.
We took the ferry across and luckily she didn’t get seasick. She already got car sick in the taxi on the way to the Tanah Merah ferry terminal and threw up all over herself 😦 I had to wash her in the ladies room at the ferry terminal and was appalled that there was no soap in the soap dispensers. The place was also quite dirty by Singapore standards. (Don’t we usually have better service at checkpoints such as these so we give tourists a good impression? Or we want to force people to buy soap from the overpriced shops just outside the restrooms? A discussion for another post!)
She enjoyed munching on snacks and took a nap. It’s nice to be rocked to sleep sometimes 😀
I didn’t really know what to expect at Cassia. At the time when we went, there wasn’t too much info online about it since it was a new hotel. Its concept is pretty cool and targeted at a younger audience. It’s tempting to say “Milennials” but that’s not entirely true either. I would say 25-45, young adults and young families, plus the young at heart. Its apartment hotel concept gives it a casual vibe, but true to Banyan Tree standards, it is still immaculately styled to envelope guests a level of luxury that is relatable, welcoming and exciting.
We were greeted by enthusiastic staff who tried to get us to dance our way into the lobby. (Singaporeans are not very excitable. Not without alcohol at least hurhur). When we got there, we were greeted with bright colours, Latin chill music, the view of the infinity pool inhabited by unicorn, flamingo and swan floats and of course, the beach.
Cassia is built right next to the other Banyan Tree hotels. Right next to Cassia is Angsana, which is right next to Banyan Tree so these other properties are just a walk or a buggy ride away. Guests at Cassia are welcomed at Angsana and Banyan Tree too.
We went to Angsana’s Lotus Cafe for lunch and they served delicious Indonesian food. We loved that we’re served kerupuk (deep fried crackers) before each meal!
We were put in a one-bedroom apartment on the 5th floor. It had a lot of light, and was quite comfortable.
The great thing about Cassia is that there’s an equipped kitchen for you to make your own meals.
This was essentially how we spent our holiday – at the beach, building sand castles, watching the waves, dipping in the water. Bliss.
Well, until I tried to get Allegra to sit with me in the water. She dropped her sunglasses into the waves and I had to look for it, and in the mean time, she ran all the way back onto the dry sand by herself because she was scared of the waves! Luckily, the water was clear so it didn’t take me long to locate her sunglasses whilst keeping an eye on her as she ran away from the water.
For some reason, I thought building sandcastles was going to be easy but I was so very wrong. Too much water, and you get a sticky mess. Too little water, nothing stays up. The balance of wet and dry sand has to be perfect.
The entrepreneur in me can’t ignore the lesson here. In a lot of things in business, nobody has the answers. You just have to come up with what seems like the most logical and balanced strategy and try it out. If it doesn’t work, tweak and try again. If I had the luxury of time and money to keep a business going while it is still not self-sustaining, then there would be many chances to try until I got it right. But very often, time and money are scarce resources and there are limited chances.
The next day, we went to visit Banyan Tree’s Tree Tops Restaurant and there was a pool there too. The little girl insisted on swimming in this pool once she saw it. Seriously, do you remember the commotion about Marina Bay Sands’ infinity pool when it opened? That’s nothing compared to this ocean view. The OCEAN. This pool might be a lot smaller, but I prefer it. It’s surrounded by the ocean and trees and this combination makes it a lot easier to relax.
Also, the food at Tree Tops Restaurant will make you fall in love with Indonesian food. If the food at Lotus Cafe was delicious, the food at Tree Tops knocked it out of the park!
2 types of kerupuk and 6 different sambals for appetizers. Then, satay, nasi goreng, beef ribs, and kueh kueh for dessert. I tried their tasting menu too and it was all. so. good. So good that I had to bring some home for the husband!
Baby Sea Turtle Send Off
So this was the highlight of our trip: the turtle send off! As part of Banyan Tree’s conservation efforts, they collect sea turtle eggs to prevent predators (including humans) from eating them up. These baby turtles are hatched in their hatchery and released at 3 months old back into the sea to give them a better chance at survival.
We were very lucky to be there when Claire was there. After the turtle send off, we had cocktails on the roof of the lobby building, and then went for a barbecue dinner with some of my new entrepreneur friends!
My dear Allegra,
I don’t know if you’ll remember this trip, but I do hope you remember some of it at least. We had so much fun and I’m glad I got to know you more. You’re so funny, charming, thoughtful and loving. You love to chat, learn, play and you’re so creative. A natural out-of-the-box thinker.
I hope you’ll always be confident in who you are, even when you don’t exactly fit the mould, especially when it comes to traditional learning methods in school. I already know that the Singapore school system will be tough for you, not because you’re not smart, but because the system is set up in a way that will not bring the best out in someone like you.
But don’t fret, Mummy and Daddy will always be here for you. We will support you when it is tough and celebrate with you in your triumphs. We will fight to create a better future for you.
I hope you’ll always feel safe with Mummy and Daddy and that even when we have our epic battles in the future, you can always count on us to be there for you.
I hope I will be a good example for you, as a woman, daughter, wife and mother. And most of all, I hope that by being and believing in who I am, you will also find the courage to be who you are.
I don’t know when we’ll have a chance to holiday alone like this in the future, but I’m looking forward to it anyway!
Perhaps if we are lucky enough, both the husband and I will get a chance to holiday with each kid alone at different times in their lives.
You’ve just turned 5 and you have no idea how proud Mummy and Daddy are of you.
You have grown slowly but surely into this thoughtful, inquisitive, cheeky and kind little boy.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the pre-term labour scare at 35 weeks of pregnancy, and then finally the 26 hours of labour at 38 weeks to bring you into this world.
Everyone says your first child is special.
As middle children, Daddy and I always scoffed at that statement because, well, what do you mean? We’re less special because we’re not the first or the youngest?
But when we had you, we finally understood this. (Although, we also came to the conclusion at that time (having no other children than you) that the first one will be special, the last one will be the baby, hence special, and the middle ones are *sigh* least loved! But I digress.)
And it’s not because we love your sisters any less. (Yes, everyone gets equal share when Mummy and Daddy kick the bucket).
It’s because with you, there were and will be so many “firsts”:
The first time we became “Mummy” and “Daddy”.
The first time I had to figure out breastfeeding and cursing at how painful it was at the beginning. (What do you mean I am supposed to do this for at least 6 months?! And why isn’t there some kind of epidural for engorgements??) In spite of all the pain and suffering, I did it for you.
The first time my heart broke when I had to leave you in the hospital when you were only 3 days old because of jaundice. I felt like I was leaving a precious part of me there. And it’s true, isn’t it? You are part of me because you were formed inside me, flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone.
The first time I left you at school and forced myself to walk away even though I could hear you screaming for me.
The first time you called me “Mama”.
Even though we were given this giant responsibility of shaping your life, you have no idea how much you have already shaped ours (and turned it upside down!).
You have taught me that gentle kisses from your baby are far more precious than anything that can be bought.
You have taught me the true meaning of sacrifice. Yes, I worked as a lawyer before you were born, and late nights at 1 or 2am were not uncommon. I thought then, that that was sacrifice, for my career. But, seriously, what did I know then? I was only responsible for myself and I could still be selfish. Nobody else needed me for their survival, but you did. And that meant I had to put you first.
I remember once I was holding you in the middle of the night trying to soothe you whilst I was crying because I was so exhausted. But I did it anyway because you needed me.
You have also taught your Father what it means to be his son’s hero.
I will always be thankful for your cheeky smile,
Your gentleness with your sisters,
And every time you look at me and say, ”Mama, I love you”, even when we’re in the middle of something. It’s almost like the Universe telling me to STOPBEINGBUSY and pay attention to what matters. Because there will never be a second chance at watching you grow up.
Oh and you know what? It is because of you that we understood, so deeply and assuredly, just how much our own parents love us. Other assumptions, parental mistakes and definitions aside (because I am a lawyer and I gotta catch’em all), it is that self-sacrificial, tender, unconditional, enduring love that will always be there. It is the kind of love that will catch you when you fall, continually and tirelessly look for you when you’re lost, and will be there when you finally want to talk, even if it is to yell expletives.
It is the kind of love that will choose to let you have the last bit of my Cornetto cone with all the yummy chocolate in it even though I really wanted it for myself. Not because I don’t love myself. But because giving it to you and watching you scrumptiously enjoy it made me so much happier.
It is the kind of love that will fight fiercely for you. To. The. Bloody. Death.
Daddy and I are so fortunate to experience these lessons of love with you, first.
In this crazy and uncertain world we live in, of this you can be sure:
Your sisters will always annoy you,
Mummy and Daddy will always love you,
And Mummy will always be the one who introduced you to chewing gum 😉
She walks with a spring in her step. She sings, dances, skips and hops all at once.
When she smiles (and it is usually a cheeky smile), her big round eyes light up with eager anticipation.
Even though she is confident and extroverted, don’t mistake this for an impenetrable shield. Her heart is fragile even though it loves those she deems worthy, fiercely and completely.
This daughter of mine has such a creative personality – case in point these photos – she’s the girl who will choose to wear her cousin’s Adidas running shoes with her frilly girly socks, jewellery and party outfit. That’s how she rocks her outfits.
I love my children all the same. But she reminds me most of, well, me.
I hope I live my life in a way that will be a great example for her to follow – as a girl, as a woman, and if she wants, as a wife and mother.
Most of all I hope I show her that she doesn’t have to be anyone else but her most authentic and amazing self.
The great thing about having kids this small (4 and 2), is that they are easily excitable and anything can become a great adventure. And, they love Kung Fu Panda (who doesn’t!).
We walked, took the train, set up a little picnic with pizza and popcorn, the kids ran around a little and watched pandas roll around the screen under the stars.
Of course the biggest worry was getting bitten by mosquitos, but this was easily fixed by a 3 step defence: 1) mosquito patches, 2) citronella spray and 3) citronella diffuser/circulator gadget which does the same thing those citronella tiki-torches – skadoosh!
This was NPark’s first time organising a movie screening like this and they are planning to do it for a year. I thought it was really great and I plan to be back every month, if the weather permits.
What would bring it over the top though would maybe if there were snack food vendors (like at Films At The Fort) so that people can have the option of buying food, and maybe fun little keepsakes from the event (e.g. bubbles for the kids to blow, light sticks etc), so that they’ll be reminded of such events and/or Botanic Gardens. Though I realise that there are additional costs involved, I’m sure NParks will be able to find vendors and sponsors who want to reach out to an audience made up of mostly families with young kids.
I don’t think I’ve ever been to this part of the Botanic Gardens so this was interesting for me too. Loved this!
Seemed like ages ago and I’m glad we had the chance to take this photo.
I actually cancelled this shoot because I had been in the hospital 2 days before for a second pre-term labour scare. We thought the baby was arriving and I was kicking myself for not planning this shoot earlier in my pregnancy.
And since we decided that this would be our last baby, I wasn’t going to get anymore chances to take photos like this!
But it’s a good thing the contractions tapered off and I was allowed to go home the day before the shoot. That was a Friday. I managed to reinstate our appointment.
On Saturday, we took the photos.
And on Sunday night, I was back in the hospital again.
Alexa was born in the early hours of Monday morning.
I don’t have time to cook as much as I would like these days but when I do I try to involve the kids so we have something to do together. Making food is one of my favourite weekend indulgences. It’s relaxing, and I’m always amazed at how many good business ideas I come up with while bustling around in the kitchen.
The kids always want to help and the great thing about pizza is it’s easy for them to do so. Also, it’s a good trick to get your kids to try something they otherwise wouldn’t eat. My kids love to eat what they have helped to make.
One weekend when I saw figs on sale at the supermarket (rare sighting in Singapore!) I knew I had to try making Lorraine Pascal’s Fig, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Pizza. It might sound a little huh?? at first, but I guarantee the combination is absolutely yummy! Salty prosciutto, contrasted with the sweetness of the figs. The creaminess of the buffalo mozzarella is cut by the slightly tart tomato sauce base. Top that with fresh basil leaves and you get an unbelievably aromatic experience.
It’s lovely to eat on its own but if you want to kick it up a notch, I like to pair this with a fruity Sauvignon Blanc. The fruitiness matches the figs and the crispness contrasts with the creaminess of the cheese.
It’s the ultimate lunchtime indulgence.
This recipe is super easy to follow and it has 2 parts. 1) Make the pizza dough 2) Top the pizza and cook.
Part 1) Making The Pizza Dough
For the basic dough
250g/9oz strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for oiling and drizzling
Mix the flour, salt and yeast together in a large bowl and make a well in the middle. In a jug, mix the water and oil together, then pour the liquid into the well of the flour mixture and mix to make a soft but not sticky dough.
Knead for 10 minutes by hand on a lightly floured work surface or for five minutes in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Bring the dough together to a smooth flat ball and place on a large, lightly floured baking tray.
Cover the pizza dough loosely with oiled clingfilm, making sure it is airtight. Leave in a warm but not hot place for 30–40 minutes.
TIP: If you have a mixer that has the hook attachment, I recommend that you use it to knead the dough. This is way less tiring and you can do other things whilst the mixer is kneading for you. But if you’re in need of some catharsis, kneading the dough by hand will do the trick.
Part 2) Topping The Pizza
This is the part where it’s easy for the kids to help out with minimum mess.
Remove the clingfilm from the dough and roll out to a 30cm/12in circle to knock some air out, then prick holes all over the dough with a fork. Spread over the tomato purée, leaving a 2.5cm/1in border, followed by the mozzarella, prosciutto and half of the figs.
Drizzle with oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake in the oven for 15–20 minutes, or until the bread is crisp and golden-brown and the cheese has melted. Scatter basil over the top and arrange the remaining figs on the pizza. Drizzle with oil.
Serve at the centre of the table so everyone can rip off their piece of Italian gold.
TIP: Be sure to use buffalo mozzarella or mozzarella balls. Don’t use regular grated mozzarella because it will be too salty and not at all creamy.
“Mummy…”, Allegra calls as she runs into my office after pushing the ashwood framed glass doors open with a bang.
She looks around at everything and nothing in particular. And then she looks up at me with her big, brown eyes as she pushes her curls away from her face with her hand.
“Yes..?” I answer, mildly irritated as I try desperately to finish off my tasks at the computer.
When will this girl learn to stop bursting into my office and interrupting me while I’m mid-thought?!
She is just tall enough to peer over the table and reach for whatever strikes her fancy, which she constantly does when she gets tired of waiting for me to pay attention to her.
More often than not, these office visits are not very welcomed because I when I’m working, I’m really working. I also want to teach her that there is a time for everything and she cannot just interrupt me whenever she feels like it.
(And yes when I’m working I sometimes forget she’s (at the time) only 1+ year old who needs her mother.)
Most of the time I would turn to her, pinch her cheeks, give her a hug and kiss and motion for my helper to bring her away. Which would usually end with Allegra screaming at the top of her lungs,”Mummy!!!!! I WANT MUMMMMMYYYY!!!!!”
Believe me. My heart breaks a little every time. But I shrug it off and force myself to focus on the work at hand.
I cannot believe my baby is 2 years old already. (Also because I’m not sure the ‘terrible twos’ is something I have energy for at the moment!).
Before I know it, she won’t be interrupting me in my office with her girlish charms and dimpled smile because she just wants to be around me.
It is easy to get caught up in the intensity that is required to drive a business towards your vision and goals, and it is very necessary to be focused. It’s not just the transactional or transformational work itself. But it is also the work you need to do with your mind and body to be in top shape for peak performance. All this requires immense focus and discipline.
For me, the thing about empire building and raising a family is this – the empire means nothing without my family.
There is no point in getting my huge dream house with fully equipped spacious kitchens (wet and dry, yeah) if there is nobody to make pizza with, make breakfast for, laugh with and make a mess with in them.
So aren’t I lucky to get constant reminders in the form of my spunky daughter’s office visits about why I’m doing all that I do?