Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

Life has been boring as of late. I do have some ideas finally. I’ll be working on them the next few days……I hope.

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Friends…and the PC Police

Colonel Lewis “Chesty” Puller once said “Tact and political correctness have made liars of us all”. Truer words have rarely been spoken. The dumbing down of thought and language in the interest of not offending anyone ever is a drain on society. It is even worse when the innocence of childhood must be breached in order to serve the PC Police. Take this recent conversation between our favorite protagonist, Emmet, and Mommy as an example.

 

“Hey buddy did you have fun on the playground?”

“Yeah I played Paw Patrol with my friends?”

“Which friends?”

“Matthew, and Chris, and Ananya, and Aruus, and my other brown friends?”

“You’re who”

“The other two brown boys”

 

In today’s society I was overjoyed that this conversation took place in the confines of our apartment and not say….on the train. That would have engendered at a minimum dirty looks from the rest of the MRT riding population. At home I can , unfortunately, just cringe a little. I say unfortunately because he is just being honest, not hateful in any way. He has also described white children as “pale friends” and the Chinese children as “tan friends”. The next night when I asked him to tell me who his brown friends were he pointed out two Indian boys on the playground. I said to him.

 

“You know your name right?”

“Emmet”

“Do those boys have names?”

“I don’t know”

“Why don’t you ask buddy”

 

Turns out they do have names, Yash and Suriya. Now when telling about his playmates they are included as Yash and Suriya. How do you explain to a three year old that some people are mean and use color as a way to be hateful? I chose not to. He sees them as friends. He describes them as best he can until he learns their names. I know at some point he will have to learn there are socially acceptable ways of depicting different people, but for now I think he can stay naive to how the world can be.

She Can Speak Malay….In Mandarin

She is the most interesting woman in the world. Or at least of my year so far. A small woman of I’d guess fifty-ish, but I am horrible at guessing ages and I know better than to ask. She barely reaches my breastbone, I’m a short man of only six foot one inch. Brightly wrapped in flowing skirt and long sleeves, headscarf always matching. Her smile and laughter are infectious, her scowls at rude patrons would do any grandmother proud in achieving “the look”. We all know which look, the one that says “I am a mother and grandmother and will not tolerate your crap”. I think its genetically instilled in women upon giving birth. She always has a kind word and smile for E, and the wife, and usually something good for me to try. She has been trying to teach me Malay one word at a time, mostly centered around food. Emmet, no surprise, is picking it up faster than me. Her tan face and hands are careworn but kind. And unless she is very busy is always happy to talk with me for a few minuted about food, Singapore, and family. She is simply and genuinely nice.

 

I mentioned in passing my “vegetable lady” in my post, https://daysthatendwithe.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/desmond-has-his-barrow-in-the-marketplace/, and she has become a mainstay of my visits to the market. Her selection is much smaller than some, as she is tucked away in a corner and doesn’t get the foot traffic to support a large stall. She has her niche though, as the only vendor with a coconut grinder. I make a point to visit her and buy something each time I am at the market, whether I “need” it or not. Her welcoming manner and tips on local cooking have been invaluable, she even gave me her own recipe for breadfruit fritters. Yesterday though her genuine kindness and openness was thrust to the forefront.

 

It was a one of the rare days that all three of us visited the market as a family, as always after breakfast the first stop was her stall. Emmet let go of my hand and ran to her for his hug, to his chagrin no candy today. I had decided to get some coconut today to attempt a soup. As we were discussing my plans for making dinner she asked and innocuous question, “How do you feel about spicy food?”. I told her I liked it and Wife said she didn’t mind as long as it wasn’t too spicy. Her next statement floored us both.

 

“Ramadan is coming and at the end of the month we have a feast, a holiday. I would like your family to come to my house for it.”

 

Of course we said yes and now must make plans and get details, what should we wear, should we bring something, where is her home? But,…Wow!! To be invited to someone’s home for a family holiday meal, is so unexpected, appreciated, and exciting. Again I maintain its mostly because E is adorable, but I’ll take it.

He Once Was Mine

Once, he was mine. My constant companion. We did everything together. Time passes though, and we grow, change. I’ve gotten taller, larger. He doesn’t fit the crook of my arm like he once did. My hands no longer the right size to hold his on a journey. My interests broadened and on a shelf he sat. He too has changed. Now sun faded and careworn. The only pockets he has left are mere suggestions of stitching. His eyes are still bright, his smile constant, and hey he’s still got his nose which is a wonder. I’m not sure when he came into my life, I’m sure my mother does and will tell me, at least once.

But he is no longer mine. To his present caretaker it is inconceivable that he ever was. When the fact is suggested I am meant with such a look of amazement it is comedic. The look that encompasses so many things from wonder, to incredulity, to horror at such a blasphemous thought. I know that I never mourned his loss, I simply moved on without him. My mother kept him safe all these years and when E was born it was as if he was just waiting for his revival.

“Emmet, you know Teddy used to be Daddy’s Sunny Bear”

“NO! Teddy is mine!”

I had always planned on passing him on. Just not so soon as he is not the robust companion he once was. Life and circumstances, however, dictated otherwise. So Emmet received this small inheritance after the age of two. Like me before him they are inseparable. Teddy has now been on an international flight, a subway and bus, has a few new stains, but still has a nose! He has found a voice again something he somehow lost when was seven or eight. I don’t recall when it happened but I know at some point he stopped talking to me. It is wonderful to see him talking again and having new adventures even if I’m only on the periphery of them. I sometimes am involved in the latest escapade, but I always feel as though its through a filter. I only get half the conversation, and there have definitely been some knowing looks and inside jokes that only Teddy and E are privy to.

There have been additions to his circle, the wife’s Curious George, and the new only his Boris the winter bear. Teddy’s denim is getting to be decidedly more gray then blue, his fur may not be as soft as it once was, but his smile is still ever present, and his capacity for unlocking the imagination of a small boy is still boundless. I have watched Teddy recently be a pirate, a cowboy, a race car driver, and his latest duty of all night sentinel against monsters (which is a VERY important job).

He would never fetch an amazing estimate on Antiques Roadshow, but for E, and myself there is no better family heirloom at the moment.SAM_0051

Stream of Conscious….Trickle?

In hopes of finding new topics to write, I have started a WordPress U writing challenge. Each day we are given prompts to write, I may or may not post them but part of the challenge today was to post this so I will. Twenty minutes of free writing whatever came across my brain. Scary.

 

It is almost one am. . Its been a long day. I’m exhausted. Emmet is sick, fever, chills, general yuck. It has been a long daddy day, especially making the cardinal mistake of googling. Google sucks, OK it doesn’t but it always leads to badness when illness is involved. I should know better. How many times did I get annoyed at work (when I worked) of owners self diagnosing their pets via Dr. Google? A lot that’s how many a lot. I convinced myself he had something bad. Wife was at work no phone till eight. I texted our neighbors. Thank heaven she is a local elementary school teacher. Flu going around. All the boxes check. Had Mommy pick up some baby Tylenol….he’s sleeping now. I’m waiting to give the one thirty dose. Have I mentioned I’m tired. Tomorrow will be no better for the tiredness…..not sending the little man to school even if he’s feeling better. He needs a recovery day.

 

Twenty minutes can be a very long time if you don’t usually pay attention to the clock. I haven’t payed the clock any mind for a month. Except for when the alarms for wake up, and go get the boy go off. But then I’m not paying the clock any attention I’m just waiting for it to call to me. Ding dong time to do something. Other than that being the stay at home dad the clock has little bearing on me. I am ruled by E’s stomach and temperament, sometimes it is very apparent I should have looked at the clock because we have severely missed nap time. And the importance of nap time cannot be overstated. I would like to formally apologize to nap time for any derogatory statements about you I may have made as a young boy. I take them all back and beg your forgiveness.

 

The little red lines are bothering me. I usually correct spelling mistakes as I go but it seems not in the spirit to do so. I must soldier on. And keep writing the thoughts that flutter through. I’m curious to see what this will read like when I’m done, coherent isn’t a requirement right? I hope not. Ahhh and there is the timer twenty minutes done.

 

No Soup For You

What is your favorite food? Mine is cheese. Cheese is versatile and varied. It can be anything from appetizer to dessert. And there are enough different kinds of cheese that you can find one to match any mood you are in. That is not the point here. The Better question would be what is your favorite dish category? Mine fits all the same criteria as my cheese addiction. It can be hot or cold, salty or sweeter, it can fit any mood since under its umbrella are everything from creamy bisques and chowders to crystal clear consomme. That’s right soup. The problem with soup is even though it can be cold (gazpacho anyone?) it still must be boiled, simmered, or stewed……a hot cooking method.

 

When I attended Jonson and Wales for Culinary Arts, my first class was also my favorite of the them all. Stocks, Sauces, and Soups, taught by an old French chef named Jean-Michel Vienne . It introduced us all to proper knife technique and taught the most important concept (in my opinion) in cooking: balance of flavor. On a plate you can get away with some flavors that don’t exactly mesh, but in a bowl of soup if something is out of place it can’t hide as a side dish. I love making soup, and eating it too. I am missing it. Every time I think “Hey I think I’ll make soup today”, I then walk Emmet to school and realize at eight in the morning it is already approaching ninety degrees.

 

My taste buds yearn for a thin acidic French Onion, or a thick creamy Clam Chowder, or even a visually busy Minestrone. But alas my internal water content says I cannot have the stove going all day and consume enough water to stay conscious at the same time. The other issue I’m running into is finding proper ingredients for soups I wish to make. Soup is an important part of Asian ( especially traditional Chinese) cooking as it is served with most every meal. All I can say is acclimation to a climate since birth must work wonders. But it is not the same soups I am used to. Bitter Gourd, or Old Cucumber soup or not the same as Italian Wedding soup or Pumpkin Bisque.

 

So therefore I must branch out and every now and then bite the financial bullet. Today my craving has overtaken me. The air conditioning is on, there is soup on the stove. A base of vegetable stock, carrots, and onions. Cubed pork shoulder, pan de-glazed with lime juice and simmered with the addition of lemongrass, coriander, and ginger. All flavors that should in theory go together. If it doesn’t the rice cooker is going as well so at least there will be that!

The Porcelain God Demands Sacrafice

Supplies are being gathered. The cupboard is stocked with snacks. There are new movies still in the plastic. Play-doh cups with new molds have been acquired. There is even a block of stone analog with a dinosaur trapped inside waiting to be chipped free. 4 bottles of juice are chilling in the fridge. Beer will be needed, on the “to purchase list”. Also on that list are more new toys, a large posterboard, and new exciting stickers. You may ask why? Is there a large storm coming? An imminent volcano eruption? A camping trip? The answer is better and worse than all of these.

 

We have decided that this weekend starting Friday after school is (cue ominous background music) “The Great Potty Weekend”.

 

I am ready to be completely done with diapers…..OK maybe not completely, I think overnight will still take some time. The potty stalemate in this house however must end. We have reached a tentative armistice with the little dictator, in which when prompted he will use the potty but only then. He will offer no indication that he must go, nor will information of prior goings be admitted to until said action becomes nasally apparent.

 

We have tried stickers, candy, all sorts of interesting toddler potty books, the wife even downloaded a game to her phone in which Emmet helps a teddy bear use the potty. He is unmoved by any of this. He is still content to fill his diaper. And honestly who can blame him? (Apart from the general grossness one feels when thinking of sitting in an undergarment full of urine, this seems to be an “adult” thought as the three year old finds nothing wrong with it) When wearing a diaper play doesn’t need to stop for something as inconvenient as using the toilet..

 

So we have been talking up this weekend to him for a few days. The excitement seems to be building. He does get excited to use the potty when you can get him on it. Hopefully we will be daytime potty free by Monday. Or I will have spent an entire weekend in the house, and have nothing to show for it but a stained couch……Maybe I should add a plastic tarp to the “to purchase list”

I Feel Like Bill Murray

Lately I have. In a horrible movie (sorry if you are a fan), a repetitive slog through the same day over and over. All I can think of sometimes is that one scene “Phil! Phil Connors! Its me Ned!”, hmmm I guess for a bad flick it kind of sticks with you.

 

I wake up every day to the same little feet, its a rare day I actually drag myself out of bed at my quarter to seven alarm, instead catching another fifteen minutes of almost sleep before he makes his way into our room. We get up and have breakfast, well he has breakfast I have the coffee that is requisite for any stay at home parent. More so than when I was working it seems. I bring the little man to school to commence the two hours each morning that help me retain sanity. I walk to the market and get breakfast. I’ve become a regular at the wonton noodle stand. They are absolutely delicious and for two fifty you can’t beat a big plate of noodles with fried wontons, pork, and veggies. I buy whatever we are going to have for dinner, then head home. I do the dishes and check facebook before going to pick up E. Then we have lunch and play, maybe go in the pool or go run some errands. Around five thirty we have dinner then go play outside with the other children. Seven is time to head upstairs have a little snack and get ready for bed. I putz around till I’m tired and go to bed. All to be repeated in a few hours.

 

When I was home and working we had a routine as well, but each day was different at work. There were friends with things happening in their lives to talk about. Dogs and cats are never quite sick in the same way. I never knew if today was going to be a fluffy kitten day, or an angry mastiff with bad ears day. Things changed. I had a network of friends to hang out with. I was busy. …….Now I feel like I’m in a rut. It’s my fault. There are many things to go do and see here. But I worry about breaking his routine, and there are days I dread packing everything we’ll need for a day out to carry along with us.

 

Days like today though, when the wife has the day off and takes Emmet out for some Mommy/Emmet time, I have the house to myself. I rejoice for the first hour or two. I clean without having it messed up as I go, I watch a show I want to watch, type my blog. But very soon after I find myself missing E. He’s always here. Its nice, but a little disconcerting as well. Also like a victim of inertia I haven’t gone anywhere or done anything with my free time. Sure I’ve accomplished a bit around the house but I could have gone to that nature preserve up north I’ve wanted to visit, I could have taken pictures at the chinese gardens without him complaining of the walk, I could have done a lot yet I didn’t

 

Sorry for the pity party. Hopefully like most of the times I’ve whined on my blog here once its out of me I feel better and can move on. Tomorrow is another day and Mommy is working all weekend so E and I will have to find an adventure to go on. I think it will be the bird zoo one day and a hike another. Hopefully forcing us into action will make me feel better!

How Heavy Is A Polar Bear?

It was once said around a poker table that the group of us were still friends because no one else would make friends with us at this point. We were in our mid twenties. There was beer involved. It was still a valid statement. It has, however, been proven false, at least in my case.

 

When we came here we came alone. Just Emmet, Mommy, and Daddy. Mommy had one friend from work that came as well, but being a single guy with no kids his social life and ours don’t exactly mesh. Mommy had work so she has met a few people and made a couple friends, but again mostly single or young without children. Enter E the social butterfly.

 

It follows a fairly standard formula.

“Emmet whose toy is that?”

“It belongs to….”, sometimes there is a name most times not.

Or “Emmet where is your ball?”

“…. has it”

Which invariably leads to meeting the other child, and therefore the parents. Which has about a fifty percent success rate as a lot of the children are outside with their nannies.

Smiles and toys in the pool at the serviced apartment we were in the first month let us meet Lily. Emmet’s little Irish friend has two wonderful parents who we have traded babysitting evenings with. Once when Lily’s aunt was visiting all four of us parents went out together. We get together with them once a week or so for play dates now that we are both out of the serviced apartments and in our own places we are about forty minutes apart by train.

 

There are Adam and Sybil whose child Ethan likes to steal soccer balls. Pretty handy since E loves to chase people who steal soccer balls. Raymond and Winny, daughter Amelia, who honestly believes she is a disney princess….on days she is not spiderman. Lita and Kevin with their progeny Kian and Reese, who both like to play pretend hockey with Emmet, well I they are Canadian so its kind of a gimme. Marcel and his son Christian the Dutch/Indonesian family who introduced E to the wonders of Nerf guns. Lastly Ali and his daughter Nila who possess the coolest remote control car in the whole complex.

 

Thanks to E we have been invited to play dates (which involve conversations with people who speak coherently in full sentences), birthday parties, and BBQ’s. We see these friends almost every night that it is not raining at the playground. All the kids are between three and six so dinner and bedtime line up. The children play, laugh, and cry together…..scraped knees and bruised feelings are part of the deal right? The parents chat and watch. I’ve gotten to discuss hockey, UFC, cooking, books, and beer. All conversations that are tricky at best when its just me and the little man.

 

I guess the conversation around the poker table still has merit. As we get older it may be tough to find new friends of our own, but lucky for me Emmet is big enough to break the ice.

Score One For The Sun

The community pool. The aromas of chlorine, sweat, and sunscreen. A drab rectangle with too many bodies and a lot of splashing. Cries of laughter punctuated by the shrill whistle of the orange trunked overly tan lifeguard. Not in Singapore….well mostly. The smells are the same just add chili and curry from the lunches people bring. Also add the pasta restaurant, KFC, and Pizza Hut on site. The sounds of laughter and whistles could be any pool, I’m guessing anywhere in the world. Children and water are a perfect match no matter where you are. Where it differs greatly is appearance. Yes that plain rectangle is there if laps or diving is your thing. But wait there’s more.

 

The Jurong East “community pool”, the one closest to us is one train stop down and a ten minute walk. Or a thirty minute walk with no train. We walked. Well I walked Emmet snoozed in the stroller since it was just after noon and we had just had lunch. It cost Emmet and I two dollars and eighty cents to get in. On a weekday it would have been half of that. It is like no community pool I’ve ever seen. There are two children’s splash pools. One is knee deep on E, its got starfish and crabs in the tiles. It was good for about ten minutes of playtime. Its cute but not interesting enough to hold the attention of my little fish. The second is up to his hips and has a bridge with sprinklers spouting of it like an aquatic porcupine. Lot’s of fun and we returned to it multiple times throughout the day.

 

We rented a large inner tube for three more dollars. It made the wave pool a lot of fun. Oh that’s right there’s is a wave pool, A Wave Pool! At the “community swim center. He thought the waves were great fun but the the times between wave times it was just a pool, and well we have one of those at home so it wasn’t very interesting. There are three large water slides as well., but unfortunately he doesn’t quite meet the height requirement. The last feature though, is the one where we spent the most time. The lazy river. Right? I think you are now as amazed as I was when I heard about this place let alone when I saw it! Apparently the Singaporean concept of community pool is far and away different from mine.

 

Back to the lazy river. It actually moves at a pretty good clip, so perhaps it should be called the moderately sedate river. He was a little too small to use the tube so we went without. He was just tall enough to have the tops of his shoulders out of the water. The smile on his little face as he bounced along through the tunnels and water sprayers throughout the river were awesome!

 

“Daddy look how fast I run!”

 

I could have done that all day. And we did do it often. So often in fact that by the time four rolled around daddy’s shoulders were more akin to a fire engine than flesh toned. Thankfully the little man has his swim shirt, or mommy would have been upset with me for letting his delicate skin crisp. So the sin scores, but I think the hat trick of attractions we had made it a win for me and E when all was done.