Thursday, 31 January 2008


By now I am sure all of you would have guessed that my maid has arrived.

Actually the Mrs and I, along with Isaac went to pick her on 13th of this month. I can still recall very well how nervous we were. The Mrs was already feeling uneasy the night before when she learned that our maid was in town and ready for our pick up.

As for me, I guess I'm a little slow with my emotions because I only felt the weird feeling sinking in while driving to the maid agency over at Bukit Timah. I was asking myself if we had made a mistake. Do we really need a maid? Can we not drop Baby off with some babysitter in our neighbourhood and then pick him up in the evening after work? What if the whole experience turns out to be a nightmare?

A quick check with the Mrs confirmed that it does make more sense to have a maid then to drop Isaac with a babysitter since the cost is probably about the same. But by having a maid, I do not have to do any housework anymore!! Woo Hoo!! Granted the trade off will be our freedom.

Even when we were at the agency it was rather awkward and it kind of reminded me of a bad date! One that had a number of the deafening silence moments. (The author, namely me would like to clarify that I am merely referring to the bad dates that all of us had watched in movies. I am strictly NOT speaking from personal experiences). Now that we got that clarified, back to the agency.

So we were there making final payments and completing the paperwork while she just stood there about two feet behind us. Just standing! The Mrs and I did not exactly grew up with butlers and maids waiting on us so naturally we're not used to such ceremony and we said to her "At Ease!!" No, of course not. We just smiled and asked her to sit.

Once we're done we headed home and we tried to make small talk. Introducing Isaac to her as well as preparing her to face Ah No (a 32kg dog). I guess it was a little better once we're away from the agency because what's worse than being on a bad date is to be on one with many pairs of eyes watching your every move. (Again from movies!)

Fast forward to today, Vera (her name is actually Verawati but she prefers for us to call her Vera instead of Wati), our maid is pretty much settled in and helping to take care of Dino and the housework. We're still handling Isaac very much on our own.

There are of course things that she did that we do not agree with but I understand that she needs a few more weeks to really understand how this household works. An example will be she likes to wash clothes and I have seriously never seen the bottom of my laundry basket for the longest time until now. Nothing wrong there except that she is using the washing machine on almost every alternate day and each time the load is less than half full. At this rate my water and electricity bills will be enough for me to employ another maid.

Having said that I have found clothes that I had forgotten I owned. At the same time I am finding it increasing hard to find things without asking her. I am still looking for my Prada belt and she is not going to be of much help since she does not know what it looked like.

She has very good initiative and she will look for her own work in the house. I am rather pleased with that since I do not have to crack my head to dedicate work and set up a timetable. The problem here is that things that we say "Do not touch! Let's wait and do it another day" she will work on it after a day or two without our consent. The latest incident was actually with our storeroom. We needed time and energy to figure out what to do with the items in there so we said let's put it on hold but after 2 days, every single item is out in my living room. Unfortunately I wasn't home so the Mrs had to work on it on her own while tending to Baby's feedings too.

The last thing that we're not too pleased about is her usage of the pacifier on Isaac. We are trying to use it only during emergency but she likes to stick it to Isaac whenever he is cranky and she is carrying him. We have demonstrated to her many times that Isaac does not need the pacifier to be coaxed back to sleep. All we had to do is hold him and walk or move about for a while. In any case it is not ideal to use the pacifier to coax him to sleep because once he falls asleep and drops the pacifier he will wake up cranky again and the cycle goes on.

Do not get me wrong, I am not saying she is a bad maid because she really isn't. She has initiative, understands English, Mandarin, Cantonese and Hokkien (guess we got more than we bargained for huh?! We cannot comment on her work in her presence unless we want her to know or we take up Japanese or French) and she can care for Isaac pretty well. She also claimed she can cook since she cooked for all 6 members of her pervious employer on a daily basis. We have yet to try it out.

We are just a little anxious that the Mrs is going back to work soon hence we have little time left to iron out the nitty gritty things that we want her to do or learn.

At the end of the day I have to say that overall this has not been a nightmare but certainly there are rooms for improvement.

Monday, 28 January 2008


Wow!! How time flies!!! Isaac has celebrated his 1st month and I am back in the office working full time now!

Many things have happened during this last month but I was so busy that I did not have the time to gather my thoughts and do a proper posting. All I did was to make mental notes to blog about this and that but just could quite get down to doing it!

First thing on my mind to blog about was naturally my experience and feeling as a 1st time dad!

I like to take pride in the fact that I am a hands-on dad. Meaning I would like to have bragging rights for bathing, cleaning my Baby as well as changing the diapers. This was also the reason why I was very enthusiastic about signing up for and attending the ante-natal classes. The only “regret” was I could not feed him since he was breastfed by the Mrs.

Anyway I took the refresher course when we were still in the hospital on how to bath Baby. Since my maid was not going to be able to come in time, this job landed on my lap. Not that I am complaining but I had to admit I was a little afraid at first but after about 3 days I would like to say I have mastered the art of bathing baby. During these few days of hands-on learning I believed I had experienced all there is to experience. For example, Isaac urinated at (I stress it’s ‘AT’ not ‘ON’) me (ah……, the joy of having a boy!!) while he was lying down on the changing table just when I was removing his diapers before bathing him. I also had Isaac pooped in the tub when I was bathing him. There were cases where I was not quick enough with the diaper after his bath and he soiled the blanket under him.

I have to say that when you see him in the water with his security blanket (Mrs Wong’s students will know what I’m referring to) and not crying, there is this sense of joy and achievement! Woo hoo!! The temperature is just right and maybe, just maybe he is comfortable and confident of my grip!!!

I was also the designated diaper changer as soon as we got home and I swear to you all that after 2 days of changing diapers, I was smelling his poop everywhere and almost every minute. I thought the constant exposure to the poop has permanently altered my sense of smell. I will lay in bed with the Mrs and out of the blue I will ask if she can smell Isaac’s poop. However I now learn that the constant exposure to his poop actually had the reverse effect on my nose. Instead of smelling it always and forever, I am now immune to it. I am no longer that sensitive to it. I can only truly smell it when I open up the diaper. Workman compensation from the Mrs perhaps?

Usually I am the one tasked with burping Baby after each feed with the exception of the graveyard shift. The Mrs is usually kind and nice enough to let me sleep through unless she is really tired or when Isaac is exceptionally cranky. So now I am able to tell from Isaac’s face whenever he is mediating to go for his number 2. I affectionately refer to it is as his “Pan Sai” (Hokkien) look. He looks as if he is concentrating really hard at trying to separate this particular air molecule from the millions in the air.

I think so far the largest joy that I can derive from caring Baby is when he falls asleep in my arms on my chest. Baby is usually most cranky between around midnight to about 3am. Since the Mrs had to wake up to feed him at least two more times in the early morning, I will normal ask her to turn in after the late night feed and I will try and coax him to sleep. For some reason he just will not sleep after the night feed and after having his diaper changed. The best part is he does not like me to sit down either when carrying him. I don’t have to walk about or sway or dance. Standing alone will do the trick but just when you thought that he is asleep you decided to sit on the bed, he will turn cranky again.

After about 2 weeks, I believed I have mastered the art of sitting down without him knowing. It’s either that or he must have figured he had had enough fun with his own man! Then came the problem of putting him down also. Whenever I transferred him to the cot or put him down on our bed, he will wake up cranky within 10 minutes too. So I had to literally hold him for a few hours. Since the TV programs in these early hours are usually repeats or not interesting, I got myself the perfect solution to keep me from falling asleep. You might want to share this with your husbands. It’s called Football Manager 2008 and the cost, a mere S$61.90. I installed in on my laptop and now I can hold him in one arm while the other can click away to try and dominate the virtual football world. Probably the best S$62 I will ever spend.

Anyway back to him sleeping on my chest. There are times when the Mrs is simply too tired so she will hand Isaac to me after the early morning feed and I will burp him and then coax him to sleep. Usually I am half gone too so as soon as he allows me to sit on my bed, I will slowly put him on my chest and see him bobbing up and down on my chest as I breathe. And very soon both of us will fall asleep till the time for the next feed.

See him there, defenseless and without a care in the world I can feel this urge building within me to protect him against whatever there is to come in the future. Maybe I have truly entered fatherhood after all.

Thursday, 10 January 2008


Disclaimer: Warning!! The below post that you are about to read contains unconventional, nontraditional and some might even call it unorthodox methods of doing confinement. So if you are very traditional and insist that confinement must be carried out in a certain manner, you are advised to skip this post and come back in a week or two.

I think the Mrs is really glad with her decision to do our own confinement instead of staying with either her mum or mine. She has all the freedom in the world to do whatever she likes.

Take showering for example. She took one after being injected with the Antibiotics and while waiting for Dr N to break the water bag. She took another one the next morning and since then once a day everyday.

Since the Mrs is already showering on a daily basis, naturally she has no excuse not to help with the dishes right?! No, I'm kidding. It was strictly on a volunteering basis. I try and do most of the washings but sometimes while I was busy with work, she will help do the dishes.

So much for not wetting yourself huh?!

I understand that most women on confinement really look forward to their next Gynae or Pediatrician visit. And their mothers or mothers-in-law will probably wonder why the doctors' visits seem to get more and more frequent and these visits also seem to get longer as well. In the beginning their daughters and daughters-in-law will only be gone for a quick hour or two. By the time the confinement is coming to an end, they will take the entire half a day or even longer.

This is not the case for the Mrs because for the last 15 days, we have been out for no less than 4 times and only twice were legitimate. That was our visit to Isaac's Pediatrician and a follow up blood test for Isaac's jaundice level. One of the other outings was to Ikea in Tampines to meet our friends for lunch. My sis had just collected her car so she took us out for a spin. Another trip was back to the Mrs's office. She had to return because during her absence, her capable colleague decided to quit. She wanted to meet her to try and retain her. Since we are without a maid and we cannot let our parents know, Isaac came along for the ride each time.

I remembered this friend that we met for lunch at Ikea was a little taken aback when we asked to meet for lunch. His reaction was the usual i.e. "On confinement right? Can come out meh?" My retort was during our second day at the hospital, Dr N knowing that the Mrs was a little bored, asked her to change and go to Paragon for coffee and shopping. I also added in that how is it different from going to see the Gynae or Pediatrician? Guess what his reply was? He said we are supposed to go out when necessary and to make it a quick one. He added that based on my thinking, we might as well go to Bali for our vacation during this confinement period. Not a bad idea if you ask me.

I am not saying that what we did was right or wrong and neither are we trying to be defiant. I guess we see ourselves as the younger generation and we compare ourselves to our European and American counterpart. They do not practice confinement and you can usually see them out with their newborn having a nice cuppa at Starbucks after a few days rest.

One of the reader of this blog also pointed out that these older generation always preach that women on confinement should do this and this and avoid doing that and that but how many of them are really living a life without backache or rheumatism at their old age now? I hope I do not come across as mean but seriously by sticking to these old wives tales, they are not exactly spared these old age problem also.

I think the only thing that we are doing "right" is on the food department. My sis was very nice in buying my mum a confinement cookbook and the Mrs had benefited greatly from it. For about 2 weeks now, my mum had yet to repeat any dishes for our lunch and dinner. I was truly amazed that confinement can have this many variety and can taste this good. If it is not due to the use of ginger and sesame oil for most of them, one can't really tell that these dishes are actually confinement food.

My mum and dad are kind and nice enough to prepare lunch and dinner for us on a daily basis. So all I had to do was to swing by their place and pick it up twice a day. Usually they will prepare a set of "normal" food for me and confinement food for her but I always end up eating both types. So much so that I feel heaty these days already. I seem to be having constant sore throat and I think it all started during the Mrs’s hospital stay where I ate both my share of the hospital food and her confinement food.

Yes, Mount Elizabeth serves confinement food for mummies now and no, I’m not a big eater. Its just that the food portion for husband is a little small.

Monday, 7 January 2008


After Isaac was born and the dust has settled, the first order of business was to pick a name for him.

Those of you who have been following this blog will know that the Mrs and I had always wanted to stick to a simple single syllable name. One that is not made up but an actual name with meaning.

Some of the names that we were considering were of course Kai; Kale; Rafe; Hugh; Joe; Josh; Matt; Scott and many many more.

Maybe due to most people guessing that Baby was going to be a girl, we did not really feel the urgency to decide on the boy's name.

I remembered very clearly that when Dr N got Baby out and handed him over to the Mrs, I was moving my head about to try and see the gender. Once I saw "it", I told the Mrs that we have a boy.

Baby's Godma and my sis were the first 2 visitors that we had the following morning and by then we still have not gotten any closer to picking out a name and that was when it hit me. Since we know that Godma is going to love him like her own and she has always wanted to name her boy Isaac, if she had one, I discussed with the Mrs if we should name Baby Isaac in her honour. I do like Isaac and if it was not because we wanted a single syllable name it would definitely have been on my list.

So there you have it. The reason why we name him Isaac was really because of his Godma.

The next thing on our agenda was also Baby's name but this time his dialect name and its spelling.

I don't think I ever mentioned this I'm actually Teochew but due my mum is a Cantonese and my sis and I were brought up speaking our mother tongue (Cantonese) I am embarrassed to say that I do not know any Teochew. I may be able to understand a little from listening but spoken wise, it might as well have been Hindi.

When we picked the Chinese name for Isaac, we were really looking at it from the Cantonese point of view. Did I mention that the Mrs is also Cantonese? So when Isaac was born suddenly we were thinking of the dialect name in order to register his birth.

We had to go around asking people who are Teochew or know others who are Teochew. It was a little embarrassing because they will give me the funny (if you are Teochew how come you have to ask me) look. After I explained that I can't speak Teochew they will then give me the (then go ask your father) look. Sad to say after spending years perfecting his Cantonese with my mum, my dad has "lost" most of his Teochew by now.

You will be surprised to learn that for the words 天赐 there are so many variations. From the different people that we asked, we came across at least 4 different pronunciations. A few of them even sound similar to Hokkien.

My BIL suggested that I go and patronise my favourite Teochew porridge store and then write the words down and ask the stall keeper its pronunciation. I was desperate enough to really thought of carrying it out.

Thankfully my dad reminded that my immediate neighbour is a Teochew and the old man speaks really fluent Teochew too. So one morning we approached him with Isaac's name and asked him for its pronunciation. I am glad to say that of all the different variations, we like his best. It sounded most like Teochew.

So I present to you, Isaac's dialect name: Tan Tiang Tze. I dare not say we got the spelling right but luckily for us in terms of dialect there is no such thing as right or wrong. We believe we got the spelling as close to the actual pronunciation as possible.

Next came the Hanyu Pinyin. You would think that this is easy enough right? We thought so too as we were pretty confident that it is Chen Tianci but when we went for the birth registration at Mt E, the lady searched her dictionary program, 赐 spell Si instead of Ci. Thinking that they must be right we left it as Si.

The Mrs and I although have already gotten the birth cert printed and laminated were still rather disturbed that others will call Isaac Tiansi in future, decided to check with Godma's MIL. She was a Chinese professor in NUS so she must know right?!

She checked for us and came back with the explanation that both Si (读 音) and Ci (语 音) are not wrong. She suspected that they who came up with the dictionary program must have decided to use only the (读 音) in their program.

After much discussion the Mrs decided to try her luck and change Isaac's name in the birth cert. Originally the lady at Mt E told us that it will cost S$60 to amend the name but we were pleasantly surprised when she called one day to inform the Mrs that she has spoken to ICA and they will allow us to amend for no cost at all.

So we went down to ICA on Tuesday to amend Isaac's Hanyu Pinyin to Chen Tianci.

There is one thing I would like to check with you parents out there. Is it true that when the kids sit for their examinations, they have to write or worse still shade their name in full? Meaning the English, dialect and Hanyu Pinyin name? We were told that apparently this is true for some school so poor Isaac may have to write his full name each time he sits for this examinations:

Isaac Tan Tiang Tze (Chen Tianci)

Quite a handful, don't you think?