Category Archives: Love & Marriage

Goodbye, 2015


2015 has been a number of pretty big things for us. We moved into our new home in late January after some mad packing and minor renovations done whilst I was heavily pregnant. I had a very smooth delivery and we welcomed little Ethan to our family a few months later. Over the year, we watched Faith grow into the sprightly young lady and loving big sister she is today. M advanced in his career and earned another qualification. I battled the dreadful postnatal blues, learnt to cope as a mother-of-two, and cooked and baked a lot more than what I thought was possible with two kids in tow. All four of us fell ill much too often, with me getting hooked up to a drip just a few days ago after the suay-est bout of suay-ness (suay = Hokkien for unlucky). So there we have it, pretty big things.

Through it all, there were plenty of tears shed, hurtful words both spoken and heard, and some very painful lessons learnt, but above all, I remember this. Our deep belly laughs. Trying to get out of the tangle of limbs (four sets, we have now!) as we collapsed in a pile of machine gun giggles. The quiet walks we took by the sea. The times when we were all covered in flour and sugar when Faith blasted the KitchenAid at the maximum speed despite repeated warnings. The smell of dark chocolate and sea salt melting moments wafting through our home when I was working hard for the bake sales. The nights when Ethan smiled at me like nothing or no one else could delight him more. The first time we took Faith out to ride the new bicycle which she finally grew into after receiving it on her second birthday. Those phenomenal steak nights at home with M. Us holding hands whilst we vegged out in front of the telly and tried to stay awake past 9.30pm. Putting up our very first Christmas tree as a family of four in our own home. Watching Ethan and Faith smile and coo at each other. When people told me they loved what I baked. Or when Faith slurped up everything that I cooked for dinner. Pretending that we don’t hear the kids stir on Sunday mornings so we could sleep in until 8am..even though we know we get headaches from sleeping in now (the irony). Stolen kisses. Stolen super-quick ice-cream jaunts after the kids have gone to bed. Stolen roller-coaster rides. The night when I was alone with Ethan in the hospital after giving birth. How my heart burst as Faith reassured me that I would be okay when I was bedridden. My papa and my mama giving their all to tide us over the toughest times. Those tear-jerking (in a good way) texts from my baby sister, who got me through the dark times. This New Year’s Eve during our nightly bedtime prayer, when Faith told God that Sleeping Beauty farted and we laughed and laughed, and in doing that, unknowingly thanked God for Joy. How faith and love brought us further than we could have ever imagined. 

It’s been a challenging 52 weeks, as I had expected it to be this time last year, peppered with lots of Ups and rather stormy Downs. I feel like I have aged quite a bit from roughing it out so much this year…and yet, I have come out stronger  and more mature with quite a bit of clarity having gone through all that and survived. Truth be told, I know it’s going to get harder, what with the uncertainties that we will be facing in 2016, and I don’t quite know what to feel about the year that will be dawning upon us in a few hours’ time. But the only way forward is to go through whatever Life hands us anyway, that I know, and I pray for wisdom, strength and guidance for me to make the best out of 2016. That, and more tales of Sleeping Beauty and her mysterious farts, please.

Here’s to joy, peace, good health and the heartiest laughs for all of us. Happy New Year, my friends. See you on the other side.


And Here We Are

Six years ago, I sat in my room with my sister, wondering how life would change once I flew the nest. That pensive moment was abruptly broken up by the ruckus going on outside the very room I had shared with my sister for the past decade.

He is here! I thought, on the cusp of being unable to contain the flurry of emotions that were washed ashore, and I struggled to hold back my tears.

This day would mark our union, but I knew that once the two-day festivities were over, we were still right on track of uncertainty. How long would we be in London? How long more till I see my family again? What happens once I graduate? Will I graduate? What does our future hold? Where will we end up? Will we be able to start a family?

Then, he walked into my room having been tortured by the bridal party, holding onto my bouquet with some sort of a death grip, perspiring ever so slightly and sporting a silly, uncomposed grin.


“The aluminium foil is still attached to the bouquet!!” I greeted my new husband with a tinge of OCD, momentarily ignorant of all the questions that have been buzzing in my head.

And he whisked me off to our new lives, with the aluminium foil still wrapped around the end of the bouquet.

Six years on, whilst our journey together has been fraught with uncertainty, we have held onto each other as tightly as we could. We have fought, laughed, cried and made two babies along the way; it hasn’t been a bed of roses but…

I’d rather go through bad times with him than live in good times with someone else.

Six years on, I think I love him more than ever before. No, scratch that, I know that I do.

Happy 6th anniversary, my best friend, my worst enemy, the rock that I don’t ever want to let go of. Here’s to more uncertainty to come. Oh, and don’t forget the kids’ laundry that needs to be hung, I am stuck in the room nursing Ethan right now. Nothing like slaving after our children to celebrate our anniversary, eh?


Enough, Sometimes

It’s been a rough couple of weeks, and I feel a little out of sorts, what with mummy’s guilt and a poor sense of day and night overwhelming me.

I am not going to lie and say that I am holding up perfectly. When there comes a moment to pause and reflect, I know I am very blessed to be part of this family of four and I smile at the thought of us. This love, one that evokes warmth and a sense that we are complete, however, sprouts stabbing pangs of guilt. Guilt of not being able to meet all the needs of the little people (and a certain big person) whom I love so very much. The sort of guilt that gnaws at me silently. The sort of guilt that reduces me to a watery mess when no one is looking. But, life has to go on, even if the guilt paralyses. My children need me to do what I have to do, to care for and nurture them, and I need to be strong for my husband. So, I wipe away my tears, hold my head up high and focus on getting through every good and bad moment that I have the privilege of sharing with them.

That said, there are moments of doubt that trail in the wake of guilt. When the going gets tough, it is not unusual for me to wonder if I have done anything right for my family. Should I have gone back to the workforce? Have I been too proud to ask for help? Or perhaps, I should step up and do more? I may have given birth to my children, but does it make me the best person to care for them? Why, oh why did I not rein in my temper? Do I have to be so hung up on the boundaries that I have set for my children? Could I have done things differently so I can attend to everyone whom I love when they need me simultaneously, without having to sacrifice one for the other? Do I have to be so stubborn on some of the things that I set out to do for my family?

These questions beg for answers, from when I was a new mother to when I became a mother of two, and it took me two children to learn that there is no right answer. With my firstborn, I subconsciously allowed these doubts to crush me one too many times. Now that I have two children, the challenges I have faced, even in such early days, have keenly illustrated just how crippling these questions can be if I choose to dwell on them. As I plough through these doubts that come a-knocking on a daily basis, I learn that I can only do my best for my family and hope that my best is good enough. An overly thorough dissection of those questions would only feed my obsession over getting things ‘right’ rather than encourage me to do the necessary; after all, parenting two very young children and being the main pillar of emotional support to my husband with limited help, energy, resources and sleep often mean that one has to delve deep and just do it

So, I learn. I learn to let my doubts keep me on my toes, just enough to help me make the best choice for my family in a given circumstance, but not too much to make me keel over. I learn to acknowledge the guilt and appreciate that it is born out of love, which is a good thing, really. I learn to roll with the punches because my loved ones need me to be there for them, regardless.

Most of all, I learn that there are good days and bad days. There will come a time when I feel that my family deserves a better Rachel. But, that is okay, because there surely will come a time when I know that my best is truly enough.

Write Me For Another Ten

We don’t celebrate anniversaries with much fanfare, but I guess being together for ten years today is good enough a reason to celebrate…with words, that is.

Throughout the decade together, we wrote to each other quite a fair bit, more so when we were living in different countries, and less when the daily grind got in the way. We may not be the best writers, but we find much solace in words, especially when they come from the other. I remember eagerly checking my mailbox after a harried day at work for a letter signed ‘With love from London’, doing a happy dance when there is word from the Mister, and saving the letter for a read at bedtime when I am all showered, relaxed and ready to devour his comforting words that evening.

This morning, as I roused from restless sleep, M handed me an envelope stuffed with letters that he had written over the past four months. He is due to work the night shift this evening, and wouldn’t be able to spend our tenth anniversary with me. Knowing that I would likely need encouragement as I would be putting the two kids to bed myself at the most trying time of the day, he asked me to save the letters for when the kids have gone to bed. 

I couldn’t wait. Of course, I couldn’t. I tore the envelope open and savoured every word penned in his doctor’s scribble after dropping F at school. 

He chided me on Whatsapp, “I took so long to write the letters and yet, you finished reading them so quickly! They were supposed to last you through the night.”

“I read your letters over and over again. They will last me a lifetime”, I argued. 

So, write me for another ten years, won’t you, darling? And if I have ten lifetimes, I’d want for nothing. 

Happy Tenth, my love. 

Married Life Blooper #5: When Your Husband Knows You Better Than You Do

With the second pregnancy, I have been getting Braxton Hicks contractions and those painful ones way earlier than when I was carrying Faith. Yesterday night, I was resting in bed, timing the contractions whilst the husband kept me company.

At one point, after about three hours of frequent contractions, the pain, intensity and frequency somewhat abated and baby resumed its movements. M noticed that I wasn’t as bothered as before, and asked if the contractions were still coming on.

“I think we are good for now, but who knows, being the sound sleeper that you are, you might suddenly get woken up by piercing cries of a newborn! OOOOH-YEEEEAK OOOOH-YEEEEAK!” I teased.


Well, true that. He knows he married a clean freak. *shrugs*


This Year, Our Year

2014 was a little bit of everything. It was a year when we worked hard and played hard. When the three of us grew up in our own ways and as a family. When we became acutely aware, more so than ever (if that’s even possible), that family comes first. When we started praying together as a family, every night before Faith goes to bed. The year zipped past, chock full of laughter and joy, with a little bit of drama and some heartbreaking tears from personal struggles, and it ended off on a quiet note, with Faith going to bed on New Year’s Eve, softly chiming, “Happy New Year, Mama. Happy New Year, Papa”, and with M and I solemnly reflecting on our lives at the stroke of midnight as we crossed into 2015.

The greatest changes were evident in the little powerhouse of ours. Faith started pre-school in March and grew up very quickly after that. She can now speak in full and rather long sentences, string and express her train of thoughts quite coherently, and insists on doing things on her own. “No Mama, Faith wear shoes herself”, she says whenever I forget that she is no longer a baby who needs Mama to tend to her every need. She continues to be a joyful girl who now loves to sing (like a rockstar) and dance (like a member of some indigenous tribe with two left feet) to anything that is remotely rhythmic. She is mostly an easygoing, chatty child with family, generally shy in the presence of others and extremely loving, one who is always quick to express genuine concern when somebody is in tears or yelps in pain. I will not forget how she has somehow learnt to hand me tissues, rub my back and ask, “You okay?” with furrowed brows whenever I cry. Her antics and conversations with us have M and I laughing until our bellies hurt. And she laughs like it truly matters, when we do. We often find ourselves staring at each other incredulously whenever she says or does something extraordinary, which is pretty darn often, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. There were the epic displays of tantrums, of course, but thankfully, they were far and few between; whilst we did feeling like gouging our own eyeballs out on certain occasions, there has been no casualties. 2014 was the year when we watched Faith’s personality come into being and we can’t wait to see how she blossoms next, even as I quietly lament at how she is no longer my squishy baby.

We also enjoyed more time as a family with holidays and a better work-life balance for M; this is in stark contrast to our topsy-turvy lives back in 2012 and 2013 when we barely saw M. We travelled to Bali and stayed in a villa with a large private pool, where Faith fell head over heels in love with what she thinks constitutes swimming (she can’t swim and hates going under the water, so….). We sat through the worst traffic congestions ever in Jakarta and lugged Faith along to the most kid-unfriendly activities such as vintage shopping in the extreme heat. Faith also gamely tucked into the dirtiest street foods with us (bún chả, anyone?) in Hanoi and we all survived. And we enjoyed the most beautiful spring in Sydney, where we spent lots of time running outdoors and soaking up the sun rays in the cool, dry weather. We giggled and cuddled lots during our family vacations, as if to make up for the time lost in the two years before. Most of all, we saw M on a more regular basis, at humane hours too, and we cannot be more thankful for the new working arrangement.

2014 was also a year when I watched M grow into his calling. This is the tenth year that we have been together and I’m not kidding when I say that we have spent the last ten years chasing his dream of being a doctor. From the trying days of medical school in London to the toughest training at work in Singapore, I am immensely proud to witness the huge differences he has made in people’s lives, not just medically but emotionally as well. I may be biased but to me, that’s the true mark of a great physician. It’s absolutely wonderful to see him progress in the right direction. If anything, I feel like I’m realising my own dream too. Hopefully, 2015 will bring him good tidings, and that he will continue to mature personally and professionally.

As for me, well, 2014 was a mixed bag of everything. I baked a little more in the first half of the year, and ran a very tiny venture (which is now closed owing to other commitments I have got going on). In the second half of the year, I started writing professionally and it’s nice to receive remuneration and recognition for my written works. These made me feel like I’m more than just a mother. I started driving at the end of March after overcoming one of the biggest fears in my life (yes, I was such a scaredy-cat, to only start driving 8 years after getting my license!), and am now a lot more confident behind the wheel. I attribute this newfound bravery to #thelengthsthatmummiesgotofortheirchildren. I have also grown to be a lot more vocal and do not hesitate when I need to stand up for myself, and I like that bullies are beginning to realise that I am no longer the pushover I once was. I have also learnt to let go of friendships that are no longer working out (sadly, they started to deteriorate after I became a stay-at-home-mother) and keeping those who really matter, understand and love me for who I am, close to my heart (thank you, to those who have stuck around. I don’t say very much but you mean a lot to me). Braver, and a lot less tolerant for pretence and bullshit, well..I guess Faith wasn’t the only one who grew up loads. Whilst it was generally a happier and much more fulfilling year than before, there were heartbreaks here and there too…but I’m glad that I’m still on track to a better sense of well-being. Fingers crossed for this year then, for me to make the best out of whatever life hands me. I pray that 2015 will be the year in which I grow stronger, live passionately, love freely and trust whole-heartedly.

This year…this will be a year of change for us. M is settling down into a new work routine, and I, into a more challenging role as a mother and hopefully, a better (and more professional?) writer/baker/whatchamacallit. Both of us hope to be better, not just at what we do, but as people, parents and a couple. Faith has started N1 in a new school recently, and is adjusting well, and we hope to help her blossom into a considerate, loving young lady. We are definitely looking forward to the many kick-ass interactions we will have with our funny little girl. We will also (finally!) be moving into a space of our own and are all set for a new lease of life in our new home. We aren’t certain how things will pan out but we know that we will get into and out of 2015 as a family, with a whole lot of excitement and a healthy dash of fear, and that’s really all that matters to us right now.

We hope to make this year OUR year and wish the same for you too. Say “Aye!” to a better life and a better you!

201412 Happy New Year

Married Life Blooper #4: When One Gets All Smart-Ass on the Other

*This conversation is best illustrated as we spoke it, in English, Mandarin and Singlish. I thought of doing a translation for international readers, but it’s not half as funny in Queen’s English! Sorry, guys!

We were taking an evening stroll through the ‘hood, when we came across a house where the owner had grown a thick canopy of climbers over a quaint sitting area in the garden.

M (referring to the canopy): Look at that!

Me: Why would anyone do that?! What if the 鸟生鸡蛋,or worse 送他一粒炸弹 while he is sitting underneath the canopy?

M: Please lah, 鸟 doesn’t 生鸡蛋.

Me (shooting M the eh-you-fail-your-science-ah look): 鸟 of course 生鸡蛋, it does not give birth to live young, OKKKAAAAYY?

M: 鸟生鸟蛋, lah, PLEASEEEEEEE! (proceeds to shoot me the you-then-fail-your-science look)

Me: … (turns lobster red and smacks M repeatedly on his arm, as I do when I realise I am completely and horribly wrong!)

You Are Always On My Mind

It’s 10.24pm on a Friday night.

Most people I know are spending time with their family and friends after a dreadful week of peak-hour commutes, school runs, deadlines and run-ins with their bosses, colleagues, clients or (gasp) children.

I, on the other hand, am alone; yet again lounging in bed and having some me-time online. And I know that after I finish penning my thoughts, I will curl up with a good book before turning in for the night. Such is the story of my life in recent months.

You see, M has signed up to work in one of the most intensive departments. He yearned to pick up whatever he can learn from this rotation, but in return, his hours are long, gruelling and intensive. He practically works the graveyard shifts now, and rarely gets to sleep partly due to a largely confused circadian rhythm, and partly because he tries to see Faith and me as much as possible during our waking hours. Our family of three has been thrown into the deep end once again with his work schedules. Well, it kinda feels like the times when F was still an infant…you know, the times when days and nights are not what they should be.

It’s very tiring, this solo-parenting-not-seeing-M-as-often-as-I-wish-thing. As is juggling between work, rest and family time for M. Even F is feeling the heat from the recent arrangements. She didn’t used to cry when Papa left her in the past, but ever since M started work in this department, she has taken to wailing whenever Papa ups and goes to work at different times of the day. It’s hard for us to stomach the separation, and harder for her to grasp the abruptness and irregularity of it all. I would be lying if I said this isn’t taking a toll on us. These days, I’m usually flat out by the end of the day and I can’t sleep because I worry about M. M would be shattered with exhaustion and torn with guilt on neglecting us and his buddies because of unyielding demands from work (I mean, you can’t just leave your patients and insist you want to knock off at the end of a stipulated shift). M doesn’t say it, but I know from the glances he throws at us, that he misses us terribly too.

But we are, strangely, stronger in parts and as one. And I am very thankful for that bond and love we have for one another. For the most transient father-daughter exchanges that I get to witness in that few seconds and beam at for the rest of my life. For the times when F goes, ”Papa?” and she quietly nods when I remind her gently that ‘Papa is at work.’ For the times when I stir as M reaches home in the wee hours of the morning, squeezes my hand and whispers, ‘Don’t worry, I am here.’ just before he falls into a deep slumber. For the bunch of the most beautiful blood-red roses that M (wouldn’t have usually bought because he doesn’t believe in buying flowers) surprised me with after a 10pm-8am shift, and the way he asked me to not forget that I am always on his mind even though I am mostly alone these days. For the times when I throw my arms around M and watch his favourite Hobbits series, just because I know he would like some company whilst trying to get himself accustomed to sleeping on demand, when all I really want to do is to catch some sleep.

Suddenly, every word spoken, every second spent together, every gesture is much more precious and memorable than before.

While our lives are currently fraught with unpredictability, exhaustion and our future, with uncertainty, I cannot remember a time when we were happier, more contented, and more comfortable with walking on a tight-rope. It’s almost as if we have truly grown as family, even with F at the tender age of (almost) two and we are somehow (surprisingly) letting the obstacles roll off our backs like they don’t matter. Children are creatures of habit but F seems to know how important it is to flit and float with us now that our circumstances have changed, and she has adapted well, save for the separation anxiety when Papa leaves for work. I cannot be more thankful for what we have going on here to cope with our new lives.

So, on this Friday night, as people around us snuggle up to their loved ones and recharge for the coming week, we fight together in spirit and take comfort that we shall see one another tomorrow morning, even if it’s for a few minutes.

Because…Faith, Papa thinks of you all the time, and M, you too, are always on my mind. And that is enough to keep us all going.

201408 Red Roses

There Is Always Time to Dance

Before M and I became parents, we were young (tsk tsk), carefree (tsk tsk) and did most things in the spur of the moment. Feel like getting fat on gelato and bistecca alla fiorentina? Off to Florence this weekend! Feel like taking in the rich history and sheer beauty that make Austria? Off to Vienna the next weekend! Never mind the odd hours of flying with budget airlines, the mere hour of sleep that we would get right after landing and before we hop (yes, we could still hop) to work. We were tired but we could harness that bit of energy left in the name of impulse and adventure, two words that make up so many of our memories together.

These days, we would grab any chance to sit still, glaze over and try to remember our first and last names for about thirty seconds before someone springs a timely reminder and goes ‘MAMA!’ or ‘PAPA!’ on us. We no longer ‘hop on the next flight’ just because we felt like it. We run our lives on a loose-tight-ish schedule, depending on whether it’s a school/workday, and mostly plan where we are going down to the o’clocks to accommodate nap times and mealtimes (for our toddler’s sake, not ours).

But I’m not complaining. There is comfort in this routine, contentment in the privilege of being parents to our little girl, and unbridled joy in any surprise.

Such as this. M is excellent at making memories out of the tiniest gestures, especially when I am much too caught up in the daily grind to appreciate the small things in life. Two nights ago, I was battling my old and cranky MacBook Pro, and hoping against hope that I hadn’t lost all the photos taken back in London as I tried to restore its contents. I was on the verge of crying, absolutely gutted that I might have erased those precious memories of London, when M picked me up from the floor, put on a song, 月亮代表我的心, on the phone and held me close as we danced in our pyjamas in the still of the night. And that was all it took to make a memory, one that wouldn’t be captured on photos, one that couldn’t be captured on photos.

In that three minutes and twenty-eight seconds, I am reminded that we could and should find the time to dance in the busy-ness that is parenthood and our lives, trying to complete this and achieve that. Because, in that 3:28, I found forever, something that I wouldn’t be able to get if I had spent the time getting all flustered.

So…yes, impulse and adventure may not make our memories now. Gelato and bistecca alla fiorentina may not rank tops in our priorities, not as much as sleep and rest anyway, but we dance, and I will take 3:28 over that any day.

201407 A Time to Dance

Us. Post-wedding, pre-baby in the winter of 2011. After a hike through Forest of Dean up to Symonds Yat Rock, taking in the beauty of Wye Valley.