Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Hot water bottle of a 'beauty queen'

These are hot water bottles. It's nice to cuddle one when you need to get up in the middle of the night to use the toilet. These are not useful if you live in the the tropical climes, unless you put cold water in it. These are also good to warm up the bed (or your feet) if you don't like the excessiveness of electric blankets. However, you are not obliged to be a 'cheeky monkey' or a 'beauty queen'. There are other designs. These are only bought by my husband to annoy me, maybe because he didn't believe me when I told him I had my cheek bones chiseled when I was 18 to become a beauty queen. 'Chiseled cheek bones? Hammered, more like', he said.

Sunday, 26 October 2008


The last few nights, in between watching BBCiplayer or Channel 5 Demand, I revisited Bill Bryson's travel books. I read his Notes from a Small Island while I was still in the Philippines and when my idea of England was limited to the Tudors, Shakespeare and the unfathomable accent of Dickens. And of course Princess Diana. Now that I have experienced England first hand, and having been reintroduced to George Orwell and Jane Austen, I thought that maybe I could finally 'get' Bryson's humour.

Halfway through the book, my husband wondered why I didn't laugh. Of course it was funny, but the effect on me was not the snorty sort of laugh. I smiled through all the funny bits but a part of me was purely taken aback. I kept on trying to remember how I felt when I read this book while in the Philippines. Was I impressed? Carried away? Did it make me feel like I 'know' Britain? Did it make me understand Scottish accent? What did I do when I encountered the word 'counterpane'? Did I also think that it was part of a window? What was the picture in my head when he talked about 'hot water bottles'? Did I imagine a wine bottle with very hot water in it? Did I understand what MOD was? Did I think it was a fashion magazine?

I told my husband that it just made me think instead, knowing how little my capacity for doing such a thing. And I asked him if he knows what a 'counterpane' is. He doesn't. I also asked my mother-in-law if she knows what it is. She's not sure.
See? That's one good thing about rereading a book. It makes you think!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

The baby

This is my 2-year-old who likes to argue about his clothes for the day. He only likes to wear blue cap. Wooly hats disgust him. But because he is still our 'baby', we give in and just laugh at his fussy-ness. He always charms his way to an overdose of evening milk. He loves his bath even if he always declares that he hates it. For him, everything is about his daddy. He sees a tractor and he says 'Das daddy's tracor.' I take him to a supermarket and he says, 'Daddy's supemakit'' ad infinitum. If he sees something not right, he will say, 'Daddy fix it', or if we all say we're hungy, he will say, 'Daddy mix food.' His daddy is his be-all and end-all.

We go out for the day and 'Daddy drive?' is the most important question to consider. 'Daddy's juice' is what he drinks and 'Daddy's sandwiches' are what he eats. Of course, 'Daddy is funny' as well, all the time. He always knows where Daddy is. Kitchen? Toilet? Work? Grandad's? Library? Bed? He has an instinctive tracer of his daddy's whereabouts.
Yesterday morning, his daddy cut his hair. When he looked at the mirror, he was upset that there was nothing in his head to brush. He started looking for his hair on the floor. 'Daddy cut hair!' he exclaimed, as if I didn't realise that. Seemingly, he got disappointed with his father's haircutting skills. Then he started pointing at himself saying, 'Mummy's baby!' 'I'm mummy's baby!' So now, it seems like I become his favourite parent. I still can't get over it. :)

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Night sweat

She looked at her dettol-ravaged hands and her shoulders started to shake. Tears fell down the glistening white bathroom tiles, along the mop and the disinfectant. This was her life, confined in a long seven-day stretch of looking after a poorly child and keeping up her home clean and tidy. This was the life she inhabited, in a city devoid of warmth and humour, only breathing through night lights that twinkle so sadly. Outside her window were cars parked so silently, coldly, and the rain that glistened on the UPVC glass only managed to compound her solitude.

She put aside all her commitments with the outside world. She even managed to forget the only social engagement she had in her calendar that month. She focused on her child and her home, and in between, she buried herself in books she had forgotten all these years, books that have gathered dust in her shelves. Some of these books were only read once, or twice, and then forgotten, her thumbprints embedded in between pages to play with the ghosts among the pages.

She is a seasonal reader, one who doesn't stick to one genre. She spent one whole night on Jodi Picoult and then jumped onto Anche Min's Empress Orchid. Trying to digest these two stories in less than 48 hours is exhausting, but when she plodded on to the classic Wuthering Heights, all the passion and anger and vindictiveness seemed to leap from the pages and drained her, turning her into a useless heap on the bathroom floor, tearing her eyes out, pleading to be freed from her domestic prison, longing for fresh air to hit her in the face, even just for once.

When she opened her eyes, the digital clock screamed 4.00am. Gingerly, she opened her sore eyes and wiped her swollen nose. Then she heard a soothing voice that could only come from one person, her husband: 'You just have a very bad cold. Go back to sleep.'

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

If you like to expose your 5-year-old to photography, give him more than a 5megapixel

K is invited by a photographic society to do a big lecture in a few days. He organised hundreds of photographs and since he only has two hours to talk, he tried to time his projection show by practising in front of us in our bedroom.

After discussing landscape photography and droning on about medium format cameras, 6x7s, 6x6s, macros, digital, etc, the boys started to fidget. Ten minutes into the 'lecture', my 5-year-old Zak started 'interacting' with K.

K: 'This is the original shot... as you can see in the conversion...'
Zak: 'Rubbish!'

K: 'By changing the depth of field and by adjusting the angle...'
Zak: 'Borrrringgg!'

K: 'This example of documentary photography shows not only the 'feel' of the scene...'
Zak: 'Pure rubbish!'

Patiently, K kept on while I listened attentively. He didn't succumb to Zak's rude distractions because he was concentrating on the timing of each slide. At the end of each segment, he would pretend to ask us if we have questions. Expectedly, Zak would raise his hand, not to ask, mind, but to comment. 'Daddy, I have something very, very important to tell you.' K, aware that it's another senseless ruse, said, 'Tell me later, ok?'

And then K kept on showing us all the photos and after an excruciating 90 minutes, he said to us, 'That was it. Hmmm. One hour and a half! I'll show you the travel ones...'

But Zak had had enough. He moaned and muttered under his breath, 'stupid photography!'

Monday, 6 October 2008

How to impress yourself, your mother-in-law, and your wallet

With the credit crunch and all that, I try to tighten up my belt when it comes to usage of energy at home. Take for instance the use of shower. All four of us take a shower twice a day. Now, that's a lot of water and electricity used. When the bill comes, I always prepare for what could be a heart attack. To avoid the embarassment of paramedics seeing my twitchy face, my overused and overwashed robe, and my sky-high bill, I have to think of some good old money-saving 'tricks'.

Lewis still has his baby bath. It's still big enough for him and Zak to sit on so it is still being used since over two years ago. I bought it from a sale for £5 so it's money well-spent. Before bedtime, I fill it up with warm water. I bath Lewis in it, and Zak afterwards in the same water. Obviously, their nappy areas have to be clean before they both go in it. Afterwards, I use the bath water to clean the bathroom and flush our two toilets, without the boys in it, of course.

When K and I have a shower, we stand on the baby bath to catch the water to flush the toilets! And K is only allowed to have a hot bath once a month, or when we're both feeling sore. Baths use a lot of water. Last year, I heard that it costs 25pence (roughly $.50) to flush a toilet, which means it could be double by now. By reusing water, I saved a few pennies, even pounds, and it's not even hard work!

This morning, I took K to the kitchen and lectured him about the use of teabags. We consume about 24 teabags during weekends, when we're both at home, so I showed him how to save. Whenever I make a cup of tea, I don't throw the used teabag in the bin. Instead, I transfer it to another clean cup for the next cup of tea. Or, I use a teapot and just refill it with hot water everytime.

The heating is always the cause of our arguments. I have adjusted fairly well to the British weather and so I don't always like to have a very well-heated home. I put on more clothes and the boys always have two or three layers of clothing instead of me turning up the heating system. Our bedroom should only be 16c or less because the longer you stay in bed, the warmer you become. And what are pyjamas for anyway?

I also used to have my nails pedicured by a lady who does home service. This is one luxury that seems silly to me now. I realise that my lifestyle doesn't revolve around walking the red carpets or twirling in open-toed stilletos. I push a buggy whenever I go out and when I am at work, my feet are not seen anyway, so what's the point of paying good money to clean the nails only for it to be hidden away?

And so, I DIY. Sometimes, I get an unwelcome help from my 2-year-old but it doesn't matter. Even if the paint goes everywhere except the nails, I have pampered myself anyhow - for free, come to think of it!

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