Happy 5th birthday Byestelladotcom!

I know. I know. The stories have become fewer and much further apart. There’s a good reason for this: not only do I have a finger in every pie, it would appear in every piece of confectionary coming out of my local bakery. I kid you not.

Now that the house is 95% complete, I have thrice the cleaning. For awhile, to get on top of household chores (after a day spent doing HRH’s paperwork and catering to the kiddos) my after-dinner “entertainment” consisted of either washing bathrooms, cleaning floors, wiping the glass balustrade or dusting the several kilometres of skirting boards in the house.

It’s a great house to be sure and I’m proud to have come this far, but it’s the sort of house typically maintained by a barrage of maids instead of one frazzled mother. Would I do it again? Definitely. I enjoyed the creative process and learnt a lot from my builder, John Hardy, and his men.

Just a month ago I had a neighbour stop to congratulate me on adding value to our area and for choosing a builder who took care to keep noise to a minimum. In his words, “It went up like magic.”

I love that my eyes can feast on all that green while cooking.

You won’t believe this is the inner city!

Amanda now has friends come over weekly for study sessions and to complete assignments. I’m pleased to report that after the hell of grade 6 (teacher failed to see her need for acceleration and she sought to escape boredom by zoning out) she’s kicking ass in grade 7. Not only is she in the gifted and talented programme at the top semi-selective state school (number 2 State-wide after Boy’s Grammar) where a minimum of B is expected across ALL subjects, she scored 5As out of a possible 6 last term.

See how cheeky she is?

Ethan horsing around IKEA.

Amanda the clown.

Ethan wearing Amanda’s clown wig.

Ethan is a typical toddler; he’s wilful, stubborn and inquisitive. I somehow manage to get work done with his Gangnam Style blaring away. We’ve hauled him to the cinema for a late-night movie a couple of times. He usually winds up asleep on my lap even before the opening scenes and leaves thinking that the stream of advertisements beforehand is what we came to see!

I hope this post finds you well. I’ll see you again some time in July. Hopefully…

  • Hanging out with Erlin at GOMA.

    With Geetha at home.

    A wefie with Amanda.

So long 2016! Hello 2017!

OMG! Where does time go? We are at the end of 2016 and – I don’t know about you – but it feels like there’s still so much left to do.

About this time you are probably taking stock of the year: the highs, the lows, the saggy middle. I’ve been neck-deep into my house-building project since November 2015, and busy getting approvals and finance for a good 6 months before that so 2016 has been about seeing this project come to fruition.

Although challenging at times, largely due to my inexperience, the whole process has been extremely rewarding. Here are a few pics of the completed addition before we moved in.

1 of 3 kitchen bar stools.

This is the beating heart of my home. It’s where I spend the most time. I have plans to upgrade all the plugs in the kitchen into those flat recessed ones but for now, we’ll just leave them as they are.

Now the space is cluttered with furniture from the old wing, parked wherever we can find the odd spot (think walkways, on top of stairs) so that the old girl can be, let’s just say, “rejuvenated.” The old Queenslander, having gone up in November 2015, already sports a new bathroom, a new wet bar in what will eventually be the children’s wing of the house.

I imagine Amanda’s friends will soon be coming over to work on school projects and together they will be mugging for exams – ah, the typical psycho Asian tiger parent’s dream. She has already asked, “Can we have pizza if they come over to study?”

Me, “Definitely. Anything so long as you are studying.”

Notwithstanding the difficult year we’ve had trying to make Amanda to focus in school, she has been accepted into the Aspire Program for Brisbane State High School. It’s a program with a differentiated, targeted and extended curriculum for kids who are (cough, cough) “gifted and talented.” According to Amanda, this means we cannot keep calling her “dumb ass” like the loving Asian parents that HRH and I are. She googled Asian parent memes and reported that ALL of them sound exactly like me!

At Amanda’s graduation from primary school. With her new bestie.



Basement of State Library, Brisbane.


Ethan is now 3 years old. I’d like to upload a video of him naming the countries of the world, but unfortunately the file is too large for WordPress. So you’re just going to have to take my word for it, unless we are friends on Facebook, in which case you’ve probably already seen it.

He can name and find all 196 countries of the world and locate them on the globe HRH bought for his 3rd birthday. This is going to sound like a brag, but he taught himself to read at 2 years and 3 months. He can read planets, names of shapes, colours, vehicles, animals, baby animals, days of the week, months of the year and of course, countries of the world.

Ethan playing in the State Library, Brisbane.

I allowed him to dictate his own learning as I was too busy with the house project, doing HRH’s paperwork and tackling Amanda’s tendency to unplug mentally in class. Like I said, it’s been a difficult year. Arduous really.

Ethan doesn’t look like he talks but when he does, he says things like: what TYPE of fruit is that?

Frankly, I’ve never thought about categorising fruit but I suppose now that he’s asked, I will have to look into it. He’s already enrolled for kinder in 2018 but on the wait-list for 2017; they give priority to those born in the first half of 2013, whereas he’s a December 2013 baby.

Enough about me. How has your year been? Have you achieved everything you set out to do at the start? What are you resolutions for the new year?

Renovating a Queenslander (Part 3)

Can you believe we’re already in September? How time flies when you are juggling a massive home renovation, work and family! Phew! I don’t know about you, but some mornings I feel like we are only a month away from Christmas and New Year! Maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part but my favourite white-y pal, F, shares my longing for the year-end break.

Here, work stops for roughly a month over Christmas and New Year, but that’s fine by us as we’ll hopefully be in our revamped Queenslander by then.

Friends have pointed out that what I’m doing – while technically a renovation – is actually a new build; in that, I’ve put the equivalent of a 4-bedroom house behind a 3-bedroom cottage (Queenslander) and joined the two via an internal walkway to form a single dwelling.

People have asked me why I need such a huge dwelling and all I can say is I have a high need for personal space. Well, I do spend a lot of time indoors. I even work from home, so each to their own, yeah?

John Hardy, my trusty builder, has been true to his word – “no shortcuts.” I like that about Aussies; you get exactly what you pay for. I told him this house has to last me until I have grandchildren, until I go into the ground and become worm-feed, so every decision he’s guided me to make for the build has been based on longevity. Function before form. Durability and ease of maintenance above all else.

We’re now at the end of phase 2, which is the internal fit out of the new build. The bathrooms are plumbed and tiled and have been fitted out. All that is missing are shower screens. Pics to follow when that’s in and John has given the rooms a clean.

The kitchen is going in mid-September, the benchtops a week or two after that; the cupboards will be 2-pac in Vivid White, satin finish, hand-less, mostly drawers, the benchtops Caesarstone in Bianco Drift. I’ll show you pics in my next post so keep a look out for that!

Since my last post, all the windows have (obviously) gone in. Mine were custom-made by the good people at Energy Efficient Windows. They are double -glazed and tinted to reduce glare, which translates into lower heating and cooling bills, less outside noise, and significantly reduced glare, especially in the afternoons when the sun is at its strongest.

My lust-worthy Big Ass fans go in soon. I’m salivating just thinking about that. They do add that special touch to an otherwise plain, white, ceiling. Did I mention they come with a lifetime warranty and they cost only $10 a year to run? The fitted LED lights supposedly last 20 years!

Last week John started on my car park, phase 3 of my renovation project. First he was digging to China and scooping out buckets of water (we had an uncharacteristic late-winter downpour), then putting in the form work for the concrete pour. Now I have a mountain of reactive soil to be trucked out before 60 tonnes of appropriate soil is brought in.

Meanwhile, John is adding architraves to the windows and skirts to the floating floor. I went with 14mm, natural-coloured, strand-woven bamboo, low VOC, on a noise-dampening underlay, because it looks good and is tough enough to stand up to the rigours of day-to-day family living.

Okay, why don’t I stop yapping and just show you the pictures I’ve take so far. Do enjoy!

HRH inspecting the view from our new kitchen/dining.

HRH inspecting the view from our new kitchen/dining.

Internal walkway linking cottage with house.

Internal walkway linking cottage with house.

A day at Bunnings Warehouse

A day at Bunnings Warehouse

Big Ass fan mid-installation

Big Ass fan mid-installation

Laying of the floor in the family room.

Laying of the floor in the family room.

The stairwell with one framed window.

The stairwell with one framed window.

Earthworks for car parking.

Earthworks for car parking.

Pumping concrete into the formwork. Blockwork to follow.

Pumping concrete into the formwork. Blockwork to follow.

Concrete pad for blockwork to follow. Window looks out onto my future Japanese garden.

Concrete pad for blockwork to follow. Window looks out onto my future Japanese garden.


Happy 4th birthday ByEstellaDotCom!

Hello! Hello!

It’s that time of the year again. Byestelladotcom is now officially 4! Thank you for being here to help the blog blow out its virtual birthday candles on the imaginary birthday cake.

How have you been? As you may have gathered from my last post (I know, it’s getting further and further between posts and I feel a tad guilty about that), I’ve embarked on the mother of all renovations; I did the math the other day and it turns out my Queenslander may be closer to 100 than 90.

Right now, you wouldn’t envy her; she has a half-formed infant’s body and the face of a hag! But never fear – she will have her full Megan Fox-esque facelift once I locate a couple of gold bars somewhere. In the meantime, John Hardy, my trusty builder, and his men have been slaving away on her body. She’s shaping up to be a stunner, if I may say so myself.

As of this week, we have finished the foundation of galvanised steel and Hebel, built at a height determined by Hydraulic Engineer Anthony Lenehan of Lenecon to withstand flooding, framed to roof trusses, protected her from the skies above with a welded and painted Colorbond roof, had some of the custom-made double-glazed and tinted windows put in, and three quarters of the external Hebel skin put on. Members for the frame were specified by my wonderful Structural Engineer Steve Hackworth, and built by John Hardy to both their exacting standards. Here I wish to thank Michael Nguyen of Fresh Design & Drafting for his countless updates and changes to the original plans.

In the interim, I’ve been reviewing fixtures, fittings and tiles for the 2 en-suite bathrooms, deciding on balustrades for the stairs (HRH has his heart set on glass), pendant lights to hang over the stairs (with a nod to Queensland, I’ve picked 3 plywood pineapples – pretty groovy), put a down payment on kitchen stuff at Winning Appliances after Janaki so graciously ferried me to and fro, and babysat the boy while I swan about the showroom, trying to picture how each appliance would jive with the interior scheme of my future kitchen. I gave more consideration to function over form. Still I went with a Schweigen black glass cassette rangehood as it not only looks hot (hello, black glass!) but has a mean suction of 3200 rpm. It’s silent to boot, thanks to twin motors, installed on the roof of the house.

I was meaning to leave it to the final reveal, but I also must thank Kirby Hood of Big Ass Fans for assisting me in my purchase of 5 absolutely efficient (I am a stickler for utility), bespoke, utterly drool-worthy ceiling fans that will keep the building cool in summer and warm in winter. As I’ve told HRH, the house is a modest-gal but she will have a touch of sparkle here and there; probably not apparent to most except dedicated readers of Inside Out and House & Garden like myself. I’ve also drawn heaps of inspiration from all the articles and pictures on Houzz – my style album is yours to flick through should you wish.

Even though its size (350m2 inside) obscures the fact, it is a GREEN build: the ancient front (98m2) has been kept in entirety, the new build (252m2) is of quality material which is fire-rated, insulating and sound-retardant. Hebel also boasts green credentials, in that it is recyclable – although I chose it for its other attributes and longevity.

On the non-house-related front, my hours pedalling away in the sweatshop of HRH’s admin office have increased in tandem to his burgeoning private practise. We are a family enterprise so all (including the kids, who frequently roam hospital lounges) must put in their time. Just this evening, HRH was harassing me  to get his Business Activity Statement done, chase payments and type what he says are two weeks worth of patient letters. Oh brother!

I’m still routinely prodding my brain for inspiration to complete my next manuscript; Amanda likes it better than the one I was writing when I gave you my last update, so its yippee-ki-ay-aye for me. Picture me doing a happy jig in my jammies.

I’ll leave you now with pictures of my Queenslanders journeying to the 22nd century. Do Enjoy!

Holes for foundation.

Holes for foundation.

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Looking from under the old house.

Looking from under the old house.

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Side profile of my house taken from my neighbor’s place. Trees obscure part of the length. Total building is 43% of my block size.



Renovating a Queenslander!

Hello again!

Happy 2016! How was your Christmas? I took a blink-and-you-will-miss-it break from the business of renovating my resident wooden geriatric, my 90 y.o. Brisbane-City-Plan-protected Queenslander and joined HRH in country NSW where he locumed over Christmas.
Between drives around the countryside, we binged on Pringles and veg-ed out in front of the telly as all shops were closed, save for service stations. Which is just as well because breathing new life into a 90 y.o., stumps-all-gone, termites-chewed-on-your-walls Queenslander is certainly not a cheap affair!

With the guidance of my trusty French builder, John Hardy, recommended by a friend he’s done work for, it took me close to 9 months to get all the necessary surveys, plans and permits for building work to go ahead. I won’t bore you with the number of hurdles I’ve had to jump, or the tricks I’ve had to perform standing on my head but in getting to this stage I’ve had to engage a town planner, building designer, hydraulic engineer, structural engineer, building estimator, building certifier (who not only granted permits on behalf of the city council but also organised for my new home’s energy efficiency to be assessed), John the builder…There were consultations with HRH’s accountant, then our personal banker, the highly efficient Chris White of Commonwealth Bank, as I first put our apartment up for sale, the our Melbourne home. In the end we decided to sell neither. Instead I worked with our managing agents to upgrade our investment properties so as to make them solidly tenantable. They are all well located so it was only a question of doing the necessary works, fixing and refurbishing, to make them as competitive as similar properties in the area. I didn’t have to do much to our Melbourne home as 7 groups came to view the first Saturday it was listed for rent. By the following Monday morning I had a tenant who offered me 2 months rent (excluding the standard 1 month bond) upfront.

As for my old gal, her Cinderella-moment started on November 30 when after 4 more weeks of to-ing and fro-ing with the builder and the banker, we were given the green light to go ahead. Yes, finally! I slept like a baby that night. Well, a good baby, not my now 2-year-old son who still treats me like a 24/7 booby bar – not that I mind. I adore my children.

Even as John started demolishing my old bathroom and front stairs and cleared away what I had underneath the house, I had to liaise with Energex and Origin and APA to disconnect utilities. It took 2 months and 4 requests to Origin to get them to disconnect my electricity. I had to beg APA to disconnect gas in time for the old gal to go up. After 1 neighbour backed out of lending power for the house raise (despite being offered compensation), John approached my other neighbour who thankfully agreed. To see me would have been to belie my mental state which was alternating between excitement (yay! It’s finally happening!) and anxiety (oh no! Please don’t throw a spanner in the works).

Since she is a cottage we have elected to build back instead of under. If she had been a grand Queenslander with wraparound verandahs, building down would have been the preferred course of action as the bigger footprint would have justified the cost of working with an old building and factoring additional cost to get the project through council. At the end of this, we essentially have a house that is 3/4 new (excluding car parking as that will bring the proportion up further) that is built to exceed an energy rating of 6 stars (most built of similar material have a rating of 8 stars) fire and sound-proof (due to the natural qualities of the material and windows chosen), designed and engineered to withstand flood waters and local wind speeds, every footing, beam and pole engineered to ensure safety of her occupants.

We are only halfway through phase 1 of a 3 phase project. Here is a visual timeline of the renovation so far.

My belongings covered in plastic to protect them from construction dust.

My belongings covered in plastic to protect them from construction dust.

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Why 10 children cannot care for 1 mother

Among the many gems I’ve gleaned from countless hours of listening to my mother is this: a mother can care for 10 children but 10 children cannot care for 1 mother.

Over the years I’ve pondered the validity of this statement, like I do my mother’s many other gems and in that time, have heard of many family situations that support this. 10 children cannot possibly care for 1 mother, even though 9 out of 10 will declare some desire to. Every one will “chip in” some time or money but ultimately the heavy lifting will come down to 1 very brave (or stupid, depending on how you see it) child.

Here’s why:

1) Mother will require a lot of support; from running errands to ferrying to doctor visits. While they are fit and healthy they can lead very independent lives but you don’t have to read Atul Gawand’s “Being Mortal” like I have (and I highly recommend the book) to know that at the end of our time on earth, we all go back to being as helpless as babies – except no where near as uplifting or endearing. Mother needs someone who can commit to this reverse babysitting.

2) Everyone Mother is linked to – siblings, cousins, total strangers – will have an opinion on how well you are caring for her. They won’t hear of the many hours you play therapist for many of her unresolved issues from 5 or more decades ago or the many ways you advocate and protect her interests. Instead, they will know all about how Mother disapproves of your parenting/friends…you fill in the blank. It’s okay if they keep their opinions to themselves but as is the nature of humans, they will feel compelled to give you a critique about how you are doing.

3) Mother meddles. She is proud of how she raised you but won’t trust you to make decisions for yourself. I once had a friend from school tell me WITH TEARS IN HER EYES how her wheel-chair-bound mother was ripping her marriage apart (because she disliked her husband), guilt-tripping her with stories about filial piety in Asian culture (even though she was already catering to her mother full-time), saying the most cutting things daily (because they are supposedly pearls of wisdom) and alienating her from her children (with the many demands on her time)… Meanwhile her brother was the “family darling” for doing absolutely nothing. How typical!

Understand this: I grew up writing many essays about why the West are degenerates for putting their old in nursing homes. You scored extra points if you wrote about how you are duty-bound to change their adult diapers because they once changed yours. You were criticised if you pointed out that adult poo smells a lot worse than baby poo and that adults need pulleys to lift them whereas the average baby weighs less than a sack of rice.

But this isn’t about the challenge of changing adult diapers or old parents vs cute babies. It’s about why those who put their hands up to caring for their old (as opposed to being bullied into it by kith and kin) deserve awards. It’s so easy to say one is busy. FYI with moving from West Coast to East Coast of Australia, home buying remotely, renovating a 90 year old building, refurbishing an apartment in an increasingly competitive market, attending to the prolonged vacancy in another (after refurbishment), working for HRH (I handle his admin and bills), caring for 2 children 24/7, 365 days a year, I can honestly claim to be bogged down with work. After all, I have no nanny, no Yati or Maria (insert your favourite maid names) to do my housework, no family around to give me a day off. I wake up several times a night to nurse my 20 months old son because it protects him and me from cancer.

This is about why 10 children cannot care for 1 mother. Only 1 (at this point I’m leaning towards “stupid”) child can. This is about enduring gems like “The young are only waiting for the old to pop off so they can get their inheritance”, in Cantonese, “the old are stopping the axis of young’s world from turning”, “they don’t want the mother now that they’ve USED her”, even though you have neither demolished your mother’s house nor attempted to shove her onto your brother after she has raised your kids (these people are both still “hero children” btw) and getting up to do it again and again. You get gang-bashed by family for simply standing up for yourself because everyone expects you to roll over and play dead. They want you to shut up about your hurt and your anger and your right to that hurt and anger. Gee, and you wonder why more people are studying psychology! There is an obvious societal need for it!

So what’s your take: can or can’t 10 children care for 1 mother?
















What we can all learn from Jennifer Pan, woman sentenced to 25 years prison for murdering her mother.

Scanning my facebook feed yesterday, I came across the story of Jennifer Pan, a one-time high-achieving student sentenced to 25 years prison with no parole for ordering a hit on her parents, which resulted in the death of her mother. It is a story that resonates with the offspring of many Asian migrants to the West and with good reason: many have been brought up with the same weighty parental expectations and strictures imposed upon her.

However, unlike Jennifer Pan, so few of us have actually murdered a parent to break free of the perceived shackles of being tiger parented that the only other case that comes to mind is that of Sef Gonzales, currently serving 3 concurrent sentences for the murders of his parents and sister.

There are plenty of parallels between Jennifer Pan and Sef Gonzales – both were raised by strict Asian-migrant Catholic parents with high hopes for their respective futures, both wanted to inherit the family purse, both were in relationships disapproved of by their families and given ultimatums to end them, both were pathological liars… Like I said, Jennifer Pan and Sef Gonzales are such rare cases that to say tiger parenting should be discarded in favour of Western-style laissez-faire parenting because it produces murderous children is to say we should ditch all forms of transport because someone, somewhere, a decade ago, got into a car accident.

With any method of parenting there will always be success stories and stories such as Jennifer Pan and Sef Gonzales. They are the extreme. What you will find in most cases though is a happy, occasionally angst-ridden, murder-less middle. Which brings me back to Jennifer Pan. What can we learn from her?

Parents need, nay must, have reasonable expectations of their children. I know you’re reading this thinking, “She’s one to talk, wanting Amanda to do medicine.” Ha. But you’ve forgotten that HRH is a surgeon. It’s not such a stretch.

It’s like what my bosom buddy T says, “We’ve got 8 degrees between P (her husband) and me. It’s a given that our children are going to university.”

To be sure, there are Einsteins and Mozarts whose parents are illiterate and tone-deaf. But those too are rare. Remember the word: rare. Even Einstein himself was a pedigree of high intelligence, as was Mozart of musical ability. Meaning, such fabulous traits, while can be enhanced through sheer hard work, which is what Asian parents emphasize on, are rarely (there’s that word again) random. The good news, and which you’d have realised by now, is that no one needs to be Einstein or Mozart (or take your favourite celebrity) in order to be perfectly happy with life. You can be perfectly happy with being perfectly mediocre, even if mediocrity is not something any parent, especially a tiger one (God-forbid) strives for. The thing to ask yourself is: what can I reasonably expect of my child?

The next thing to learn from Jennifer Pan is the importance of parent-child-dialogue. That way the missing high school diploma when your child is supposed to be graduating from University won’t spring itself on you unannounced. And by dialogue, I mean allowing your child the chance to explain him or herself without fear of recrimination. Hear them out, even if you disagree with what they have to say, even if they disappoint you with what they have to say. Over and over, the question to ask yourself is: what can I reasonably expect of my child?

Most children want their parents to be proud of them. My Amanda constantly asks, “Are you NOT proud of me? Why did you NOT say you’re proud of me?”

To which I answer, “I’m always proud of you but you don’t need me to congratulate you when you win a race against toddlers.”

She will say, “It’s not my fault there are only toddlers to race against.”

I will say, “For now there are only toddlers but when you go to high school, that won’t be the case. The kids who get in on scholarship will give you a run for your money. Some of your current classmates may also surprise you. ”

What I’ve noticed is that even the most well behaved child will have issues once the hormones kick in. Amanda doesn’t believe me. She says, “All the other kids wonder why I only listen to my mother. I tell them I love my mother. They all say Eeewww.”

Even then, in true tiger parent style, I make it a point of getting to know all her friends – not just the ones I approve of. I ask them about their families, school, hobbies… in fact, the more time they spend with my child, the more time I spend with them.

When it comes to boys, I give Amanda the unvarnished truth: the cute ones will all be bald and pouchy by the time they’re in their mid 30s. The nerds will be 100 times more attractive than they are now because they’ll be going places career-wise. So why look at any of them right now? You’re just wasting your time.

The last and perhaps most important thing to learn from Jennifer Pan is for parents to live their own lives. Have your own goals, interests and friends. Have dreams that do not involve your children. By all means have expectations of your children but be the vehicle for your own desires. Freeing them of your hurts, fears and unrealised dreams while preparing them for a life without your incessant input is the greatest gift you can give them and you.


What God Knows About Me.

This was January 2014. I had just given birth to Ethan and my parents were helping out with Amanda. Being very religious folk, the 3 of them had been having nightly Bible studies. I have no objection to religious education of any sort so long as no one tries to convert me. Well, to each their own.

Anyway, one morning my mother showed me this, written by Amanda.

What God Knows About Me by Amanda O.

What God Knows About Me by Amanda O.

In case you can’t read her just-turned-9-year-old scrawl, the product of an immature pencil grasp, it reads:

What God Knows About Me by Amanda O.

1. I love chocolate.

2. I don’t like running.

3. I don’t like bullies.

4. I love plum candy.

5. I love new things at school.

6. I hate work my mum writes.

7. I love A on my report card.

8. I have many habits.

9. I have a bad temper (from my mum).

10. I am usually cross because my mum doesn’t have time for me.

11. How many times I’ve been bullied.

12. I now cry every night.

13. I have panda rings.

14. I am slow at most things.

15. I don’t like Maths.

16. My least favourite part of the day is bedtime.

17. I don’t think my brother loves me.

Now, I’ve been meaning to respond to this list, but as you can see from item number 10, finding the time hasn’t been easy. I’ve got so many balls in the air, I have considered joining Cirque Du Soleil or whichever circus will have me. Nevertheless, this is long overdue. So without further ado, here is my response in order of items:

1. You left out candy canes, keropok, jello, anything vaguely desert-like actually.

2. You take after me. God knows we live in a city and don’t need to out-run any wild beasts so you’ll be just fine.

3. Neither do I so give me their names and I’ll take care of them. Refer to post on death threats in the playground.

4. Refer to number 1.

5. You love new things, not just at school. You must learn to love the old things too.

6. Since Kumon, I haven’t written you anymore Maths or English questions.

7. Me too.

8. I know all about them. Trust me.

9. You could be right. But I make a real effort to rein my bad temper in.

10. Now that baby is older, we have time to talk and do stuff like we did before. Obviously no one wants to be in close proximity to a squalling infant so we have to work around baby’s nap times.

11. You were bullied 17 times in 2014. Dealing with the bullies, you came to to the correct conclusion that bullies bully because they feel inadequate next to you.

12.  I’m very sure you’ve stopped crying every night. In fact, I think you’ve been secretly breaking the “NO TV on weekdays” rule before bedtime because I often find my computer with Safari open and Masterchef on it.

13. You have panda eye rings because of all that secret computer/TV usage.

14. What you lack in speed you make up with endurance and persistence. I know this from watching you run 15 rounds around the school field, long after everyone else had stopped.

15. This is pre-Kumon. Post-Kumon, your favourite subject is Maths, as I knew it would be when I first enrolled you.

16. This hasn’t changed.

17. You and your father, both. What does a baby have to do to prove that he loves you?


Multigenerational living: can old and young live under the same roof?

For my sake, I hope the answer is yes. But the common consensus of those around me, some of whom are already housing their old, is that it’s not something they would embark on if given half a choice. Those who do house their old do so out of a combination of obligation and necessity, which it should be noted, bring a fair deal of resentment. When I have conversations about the trials and travails of multigenerational living, no coaxing is needed for either young or old to open up to me about what the difficulties are: a loss of privacy and independence, clashes of opinion due to differing generational views, both parties unable to reconcile themselves with the parent-child role reversal.

Call me crazy but I still want to live with my kids when I grow old. That’s why HRH and I are “old-age proofing” our home; planning a single-level floor  with corridors  and a bathroom wide enough for walkers, wheelchairs and the like.  The kids, in 30 years time adults, will have free reign of the other parts.

“It’s well and good to want to live with your kids,” I hear you say, “But what about living with your parents?”

Mother and I may have only spoken once in the last 6 months (we had a tiff over some of her “life choices”) but if she showed up at my door tomorrow, I’d have no hesitation taking her in. That’s not because I’ve some martyr-complex or latent masochistic tendencies but because when all is said and done, she’s my mother and I couldn’t let her be old and homeless (even if I deeply disapprove of her “life choices”) any more than HRH allow his father go hungry just because the latter is a die-hard gambler.

Regardless of whether one is care-giver or care-recipient, independent and able-bodied or decrepit and enfeebled, co-existence  will always call for compromise. For example, my mother would like to be housed in a separate dwelling, built to her standard (read: concrete with attached bathrooms and air conditioning) but I can only provide a 90 year old semi-inhabitable (my friend SJ says it sounds like I live in the Viet refugee camp in Kuala Lumpur) wooden box. Obviously I see merit in my choice – it’s inner city location and zoning to the best public high school in Brisbane are lost on someone who lives in Malaysia, for whom wood is synonymous with primitive housing for the not-necessarily backward but impoverished, whereas in my suburb, it’s the result of the city council’s decision to maintain the historic look and feel of the area.

What’s important, you will glean from this is the need for both parties to be as flexible and negotiable in their approach to living together as is possible. While I  would like to accomodate  Mother in the dwelling of her choice, my duty as a parent to provide the best educational opportunity I can for my children MUST trump this.

On a day-to-day basis, young and old should not take the other for granted; old parents don’t want to be unpaid maids to a place the size of Alcatraz or full-time babysitters to a brigade of brats any more than the young want to change their parents’ adult-diapers and babysit them 24/7 once infirmity sets in but life is such that there’s a time to reap and a time to sow.

My time to sow is now. So that it comes as no surprise to the kids, I’ve been telling them daily of my intention for us, the parents, to live with them, the kids. Amanda says it’s all she’s ever wanted and I believe her – she still tries to sneak into my bed every night. In the now-immortal words of my whitey mate F, I should “just get a huge one bedroom apartment” since the 4 of us enjoy being within arm’s length of each other.

“But marriage calls for compromise Amanda,” advises HRH. “Your husband might not like living with your parents.”

” Then I’ll dump him,” she says.

” You’ve got to tell him that we’re a package deal.”

Perhaps, it will be my house he’s living in. In the future, a house in my location will be wildly expensive. It’s already beyond the reach of many young double-income households. Which is not the point. I live for my kids. I’m amenable to most things except being separated from them. I sleep with them, bathe with them, toilet with them, share the food in my bowl with them. I don’t trust others to care for them as well as I do.

But I understand that they have a need for company other than mine and thus maintain an open-door-policy with their friends: as long as their friends are respectful of me and are law-abiding, responsible persons, they will always be welcome in our house. It matters  not whether they are LGBT, agnostic, atheist, purple unicorns or bridge-dwelling trolls. Lest it be said that I am overly-accepting, it is my kids and their judgement that I trust, not that of outsiders. If I can’t trust their judgement, which may some day be called upon to decide whether I live or die, then I must  surely have failed my parental duty in some way. If that is the case then I am better off in a nursing home somewhere.






Hello from Brisbane!

Hello everyone!

I hope 2015 has been going swimmingly well for you so far. My awesome foursome has been back in Brisbane for almost 2 months now. Not much has changed, in that I’m still busy tending to hearth and home while HRH goes hunting for the bacon, but we now make it a point to spend more time at home because “the boy” (that’s what we call him apart from “the baby”) will not allow us to go anywhere without chasing after him. Literally.

Amanda, who has always relished her role as “big sister”, keeps asking if she can bring him to school for “show and tell” – reasoning that if other kids can bring in their dogs to do what she calls “show off”, then she should be able to bring in her brother – except that in Year 5, they no longer have such a thing. I know! How can they NOT have show and tell??? It’s like Mcdees not selling burgers and fries!

Anyhow, I’m happy to report that Amanda is excelling at school. Her class teacher, Ms Carolyn, inspires  her to do her best and believes in her (almost) more than I do! Using various online resources, Ms C has been able to provide Amanda with the extension she needs in all areas. Looking back, I can see that her constant daydreaming in class was a symptom of boredom, which in turn led to underachievement.

That’s not to say we didn’t have great teachers at Nedlands Primary. We had Mrs Bray who advised that Amanda was off with the fairies every time she dished out work and was worried she’d get lost in a class of 35, and we had Mrs Sahai who taught Amanda to believe in herself and her abilities and kept at bay the bullies who picked on my little girl 17 times last year. Yes, 17 times! One particularly dimwitted creature who shall remain nameless, tried to drown Amanda at the end of Year 3. Bullying is rife at Rosalie Primary, number 1 primary school in Perth, too from what I hear.

Thank God for Ms Amy of the Dalkeith Kumon Centre who used to tear up Amanda’s work when it was subpar! I’m sure she hears it all the time but Kumon transformed Amanda’s life. I’ve now passed the mantle of Kumon instruction on to Ms Jasmin of the Annerley Kumon Centre, who shares Amanda’s aspiration to be a Kumon completer. What does this mean? Finishing high school maths by next year. Ms Jasmin of the Annerley Kumon Centre tells me that after completing high school maths, Amanda can even continue with University-level Maths through Kumon.

This might read like a paid advertisement for Kumon but I assure you it isn’t. Just 2 years ago you wouldn’t have picked Amanda for a top student. Last week Amanda was 1 of 200 kids from around Brisbane chosen for the Brisbane City Cluster High Achievers Program, which extends and accelerates Year 5 & 6 kids in one of the following areas: Maths, Science, English, Information Technology, Visual Art and Business. Kids are nominated by their teachers based on their results on a PAT-M test and demonstrable literary and numeracy proficiency and selected for the program of their choice based on merit. I’m pleased as punch, prancing about like a peacock out to woo peahens to announce that Amanda was given her first choice of Mathematics through which she will be building a robot, programming the “intelligence” for said robot, culminating in a test to get the robot to perform a set task.

Here’s a picture of Amanda with the offer letter from the Brisbane City Cluster Academic Alliance:

A picture of Amanda with her offer letter.

A picture of Amanda with her offer letter.

Other than that, I’ve been busy scheming, plotting and planning for what can only be likened to a brain transplant for a geriatric; saving up for a total overhaul of this 90 y.o. wooden box I call home. I hope to give the old gal a new lease on life but due to her advanced age, this transplant won’t come cheap. Hence my frequent visits to the utterly informative home owners forum that is whirlpool. A lot of the info may be years old but there’s much to learn from there. It is my fervent wish that, regardless of whether I know you in person or not, have a close relationship with you or otherwise, that you  take away something from reading my many posts. Maybe it might help you resolve to actively parent your child (as opposed to allowing the media and society to do that for you), may be it might inspire you to investigate other ways of living or simply being. Keeping this blog, apart from enabling me to engage in meaningful continuous discourse (that fits around my life), has allowed me to reflect not just on the people and events that populate my life but those that shape it. Thank you for continuing this journey into wonderment with me.