Tuesday 7 October 2014

Daddy Daughter Date - Overnight!

You A few weeks ago I suddenly realized that Talia has not yet had an overnight date with her dad. Determined to rectify this, I planned a one night hotel stay at Thistle JB. Later, I remembered this was the site of Ethan's first overnight stay with me too! At that time he was just 3 years old. Talia kept saying she was so excited leading up to the trip, and Ethan kept saying he was going to miss Daddy so much!

We decided to take the bus instead of driving so hopped onto the TS8 from Outram MRT at 10.10am. Talia has picked out nice dresses to wear with Daddy so I made sure I had a nice shirt too!

Crossing into Malaysia, the immigration officials stamped Talia's passport and asked, "First time?" Well not quite since Talia has crossed via the KTM a few times but this was her first time via the road route. 

We found a nice restaurant to eat in City Square that served ramen. They had a cute kids tray and Talia loved it. 

I told her that it may not be as good as the ramen we usually go to at home, but it was quite passable and Talia certainly enjoyed it. "You said it may not be good Dad, but it was good!" She beamed. 

After buying an Auntie Anne's pretzel we took a taxi to Thistle, arriving at about 12.30pm so our room wasn't ready yet. We went straight to the pool where we Had a great time swimming. 

Soon it got a little cold so we dried off and cuddles together on the deck chairs with the thick fluffy towels as blankets. The breeze caressed us and I hugged my daughter. It was turning out to be a fantastic daddy daughter date. 

After while we went to shower and change, and discovered a large hot jacuzzi bubbling in the change area. "What's that Daddy?" Knowing she was familiar wih Japan I replied, "It's an onsen, sweetie!" And she put her swimming costume back in gingerly tried it out. She discovered that putting her feet in the cold water first helped her get into the hot water. Soo. She was seimming around the 35 deg water. "This is so nice Daddy!" She kept saying. 

We got our room keys, had a shower then had a long nap. The travel, swim and hot bath really sapped Talia's energy cos she slept 3 hours until 6pm!

We got changed and walked out to dinner. Talia was wearing her colourful halter neck dress which she had kept aside months earlier for a date with daddy. 

Spending time alone with your daughter is quite different than with your son! Talia likes pretty things and appreciates nice surroundings. Ethan likes creature comforts too, but activities like cycling, exploring on trains and the outdoors are really his thing. 

Talia really enjoyed the dinner. She ordered fish and chips, but when my chicken cordon bleu arrived, she ate almost all of mine. The fish and chips was excellent, so I also ordered calamari which was similarly superb. We topped it off with a lava cake that was really yummy. "I'm so full Daddy!" 

We washed up and Talia commented, "This restaurant is old but nice Daddy." She has just discovered rustic!

We were so satiated and tired that we flopped into bed and cuddled each other sleep without the bedtime story! We had a good long sleep, rising before 8am and headed down to breakfast. We were quite the romantic pair! 

Breakfast looked nice, but as is in most Malaysian hotels the breads, pancakes and coffees were all not up to par. 

Talia appreciated the nice layout though and I did find some ham and hash browns which she enjoyed. The Malay noodles and curries were much better!

After her breakfast I thought Talia would want to swi, but she said she was tired again! So much like her mummy! Since it was a holiday, I said we could do whatever she wanted so we crawled back into pajamas and bed and read our Chicken Little book!

Soon she was ready to hit the pool so she donned her date dress again and we were off!

The Thistle pool is great for Talia. The only thing that could be better was if the slide area was opened up again. Looks like it's cordoned off permanently though. 

Talia is such a good swimmer it is really easy to be with her and keep her safe poolside. No floaties, no coughs and yells! She sucks and dives and swims around like a fish!

Once again, we curled up in the warm sun after the cool dip. This was one my favourite parts of the whole trip!

Words cannot describe it! Daddy-daughter outings are quite different than father-son outings. I think Talia will learn what feeling safe and healthy love from a guy is like from her dad. 

Soon it was time to go upstairs and bathe before checkout. I drew a nice warm bubble bath for Talia and she loved it!

However when she got out Talia said she wasn't feeling very well and cried, "I want mummy!" This plea did not cause panic in me, unlike with Ethan five years ago! Must be my gargantuan experience racking up! Talia had cool water, cool aircon, chocolate cake and felt better. I think she overheated in the bath and also used up all her sugars as it was nearing lunch time!

We checked out and took the hotel shuttle to JB City Square where we had lunch and caught the bus back to Singapore. Talia slept on the way, and as promised, Daddy kept her safe!

We were home at around 4pm (could have been shorter but we missed the 2pm TS8 as this was the first time i used it in the return journey). Ethan squealed in delight that we were home. I got a huge bear hug from him am while Mummy got an equally long and passionate hug from Talia!

Later I took them downstairs scootering. Talia zipped up to me while o was writing this blog entry. "Daddy can I tell you something?" I put the iPhone down. "I really love you so much," she said. We hugged and I told her I was so glad that we had this date. She chuckled, "The bed was so comfy!" Next time we will bring Ethan and Mummy along with us!

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Money Not Enough

A pile of four $2 bills stared up at me from the dining table. They far exceeded Ethan's daily pocket money, so how did a 7 year old boy come by this windfall? We asked him the following day, and were thankful that Ethan immediately confessed to taking $10 from Mummy's purse. He offered full restitution, paying it all back from his savings, because he knew that taking the money without asking was wrong.*

After dinner, I told him that I was proud that he was honest, but I also wanted to understand more. "Ethan, why did you take the money?" His answer surprised me: "All my friends get more money than I do. I only get $1.50,” he said softly. “Brian gets $2, James gets $2.50 and Mark says he gets $4,” he exclaimed. “It’s true. He showed us and he really had $4!” Ethan got increasingly animated as the amounts escalated. For a moment, I was stunned as this was the first time Ethan had ever expressed such comparisons and I was not expecting this conversation so early in life. You see, Ethan attends ACS Primary, so I knew these economic comparisons would be a part of life. 

While I rummaged through my mind to figure out what to say, I attempted the explanation that there are many children in the world who have less than us. Ethan saw through this lack of relevance immediately: “But Dad, that’s not what is happening in my class!” No wool can be pulled over these 7 year old eyes, so I took a deep breath and gave more of the truth. “Son, you know Daddy’s a pastor right? God gives us more than enough for our needs, but the fathers of most of the boys in your school earn more money than I do. When Daddy decided to become as pastor, I knew that I would earn less money. But that’s okay because I wanted to obey God, and He will give us all we need.”

The left side of Ethan’s face contorted into the cutest expression as he assimilated this new information - so much so that I had to stop myself from laughing! We talked a little more. I explained that I wanted him to learn than $1.50 was enough and that he needed to accept that his friends have more money. Suddenly he exclaimed, “I know, I know…it’s like the bible story of the rich man who gave $10 and the poor woman gave only 10 cents, but Jesus was happy because she gave all she had!” Now I thought this application of values (Mark 21:41-44) was pretty good for my young son, even though some details of the parable were creatively modified, the original context did not match our situation exactly, and I wasn’t sure whether my son thought I was a poor widow! 

In God’s economy, we have no shame earning less than others around us, being a poor widow, or having a smaller allowance. In fact, this spiritual truth applies to not only money but whatever resource we have. It matters not how much we have, and it matters even less how this compares to others. What matters in God’s economy is how much we entrust to Him.

Ethan learned a few things this week about not comparing his $1.50 to others and the financial realities of Dad being a pastor. A few days later, to further drive home the truth that money is not everything, I packed him a special home-made lunch that no amount of money can buy from the school canteen. “What’s that!?” his friends inquired, seeing the unusual meaty sauce accompanying the pasta. “Oxtail stew!” Ethan replied, “Have you eaten an ox before?”

* Ethan gave his permission for me to write his article. Though he did wrong, he was honest about it and I am very proud of him.

Wednesday 13 August 2014

Bike Packing

We did it! It's our very first time bike-packing! We have been talking about thhis for some time and Daddy surprised Ethan today, who was so excited about this special outing. 

Daddy has been researching for some time and tomorrow Ethan has no school, so Daddy came home early and after a snack we left home at about 6.30pm. 

The fact that we biked with all our stuff made it all the more exciting! I squeezed a 2 man tent, bedding, clothes and food onto my Brompton. I am so pleased that my huge saddlebag is getting good use too! All the learning and research is paying off!

Our first stop was to put some food into Ethan cos it was kinda late already. So we ate on the park bench at Gardens by the Bay East. "Take a picture Daddy!" requested Ethan. 

Not bad for cycling from home eh? We finished half our pasta and then pressed on toward East Coast Park. By this time it was quite dark and we were moving on mostly sidewalks, so we were slow and careful. Ethan handled his bike very well. We reached East Coast and cycled into Area D where we pitched our tent. fortunately we had a super bright Li-Ion flashlight which even allowed me to take this photo of our seaside haven. 

Of course, it's grainy but our setting really is beautiful. Ethan is having a grand time. We finished our dinner, showered, brushed teeth and bedded down for night. Lots of cuddles and chats and looking forward to Burger King breakfast in the morning!

Ethan is sleeping soundly as I write this. I can hear waves rolling onto the beach. An occasional toot of a ship marks the night. There is only one other tent in sight and the three girls there are quiet. The weather is a cool 27 deg with a chance of rain in the early morning hours. It is fantastic, peaceful, and very comfortable! Why is it so comfortable? Must be that queen sized air mattress with bedsheet that I managed to fit into my Brompton touring bag! :)

It's been great so far. We will definitely do this again. I need a lighter sleeping pad, an alcohol stove to cook on site, and coins for that vending machine nearby! Notes for next time: BYO toilet paper, garbage bag to cover Brompton for security and rain protection, better organize clothes, slightly warmer top, blanket or a sleeping of some kind for Ethan. Temp was a very cool 27 deg. 

Saturday 2 August 2014

Saturday Morning Cycling

Daddy hasn't been cycling with the kids for quite a few weeks, so it's a great outing today! Talia remembers how she cycling all the way home from MBS by herself, so she wanted to ride "by herself" today. 

Here we are coming up Shenton Way. Ethan was an excellent sweeper and they know my signs for stop, slow, and 2 up quite well! 

At the Marina Barrage bridge we stopped to see a Police boat being hoisted over the bridge into Marina Bay for the NDP coming this weekend. Quite a sight to see even a small boat being lifted over the bridge. "This bridge doesn't go up," remarked Ethan. "The boats go over."

Eventually, Talia got tired and I pulled her along. Those hubs and coaster brakes on her Specialized Hotrock 16 sure have some friction in them! I expended a fair amount of energy pulling her at 20 kph with Ethan keeping pace. Ethan can now handle 40km over half a day, so when Talia graduates to Ethan's bike, I think we can do 50km/day bike holidays with me pulling Talia on Ethan's Fuji 20. 

Talia's energy ran out very quickly. We would definitely need a carrier or seat of some sorts for her to be on a family tour. Her mood immediately perked up when we got to our cafe stop however. Ethan requested a green tea frappucino, an expensive indulgence Daddy doesn't mind once in a while, as all of us share and enjoy it very much! :)

Brain freeze and loving it!! Even better, the kids become very amenable to doing homework in a nice cafe. Look at these studious little ones enjoying learning amidst bayside views at One Fullerton, Starbucks.... Cost = $8 for all 3 of us!

Daddy tutored in fractions (which Ethan seems to have a good handle on) and gives good marks too! :)

All that was left was lunch at Lau Pa Sat and a short ride home. In 32 days, Mummy and Daddy leave for Paris to ride the Veloscenic to Mont St Michel. I am already thinking of making a second trip there with the kids, enabling them to ride the same 400km route. 

Monday 7 July 2014

The Gift of Fatherhood

It’s almost unfair how much influence I wield as a father to my young children. My wife spends more time with them, sacrifices more for them, yet the moment I step through the door I am greeted with, “Daddy’s home!” and am showered with adulation. All the love I invested in them as babies and toddlers are now being returned a hundredfold! They love me wholeheartedly with every fibre of their being. I can scold them fiercely until they are in tears, then not 10 minutes later explain that Daddy disciplines because I love them -- they collapse in my arms, restored and relieved. I know this kind of relationship is for this precious season, so I am unhurriedly savouring it.

I am convinced that this adoring early season of fathering is God’s gift, because I am immensely enjoying guiding my son and daughter. Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prv 22:6). In this season of childhood, if I am willing to invest time, it easy to love, embrace, bond, and thus guide and train my children. I need to dig my foundations deep now, because I know the environment of fathering will get more difficult in coming years. When my son finds his wings, I want him to depart from my arms and my home, yet not depart from the ways of God and the Scripture I am teaching him now.

MoneySmart and Asian Parent recently estimated the cost of raising one child in Singapore until completing secondary school at $280,000-$340,000. While pragmatists wonder whether parenting is worth it, I am encouraged by the new generation of fathers I see. We have heeded the research about the importance of fathers, we know love is spelled T.I.M.E., and we have bathed, fed, told stories, and played with our children. We know that materialism is fleeting, and we are listening to the advice of involved fathers and spiritual leaders we respect. We are not doing this with gritted teeth, because we have already tasted the joys of fatherhood. The wisdom of Scripture and godly advice is already blessing me as I obey.

What is my reflection on the price of children this Father's Day$340,000 is a bargain for the return I am getting. I'll take two please.


Wednesday 30 April 2014

Plating and Prettiness

Ethan loves his Ipoh hor fun chicken noodles that Mum cooks at home. He painstakingly plated it and wanted to take this picture! 

Talia is not so particular about her food arrangement, preferring to doll up the photo with her own prettiness!