Going that extra mile

Yesterday, I experienced not one but two incidents where a local store went the extra mile. We are usually quick to criticise when we experience bad service but slow to commend good ones so I told myself that I need to detail down both incidents. This is NOT a sponsored post.

Incident 1

When Elliott was born, we were still living with our parents and our room was plagued by mosquitoes. The boy headed out and bought a mosquito zapper from the hardware shop but it did nothing so that was money down the drain. Yann then recommended the Automated KONK flying insect killer. I like that it is also baby and pet-friendly.

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Long story short, we recently had a mosquito situation in our bedroom where poor Elliott was bitten in his sleep. I also had 5 bites all over me (URGH). I took the KONK out again but it wasn’t working. It was meant to be spray at intervals but nothing happened.

I contacted Su Lin at Our Lifestyle Shop (the distributors) and she asked that I take it down to her office so that she can get it checked out. After doing several checks, she exchanged my faulty unit with a brand new one after getting the technician to check that it was in working order. Before we left, she apologised once again and asked that I let her know again if I am still facing any difficulty in getting the new unit to work.

I did not notice this until today that all dispensers come with a 2 year warranty but I was most impressed that I did not have to jump through hoops to make the exchange. Many a times, post-purchase service is a total letdown but I am glad to know that this local company takes pride in their work and products.

Thanks Su Lin!

Incident 2

Last May, Elliott won a pair of so-cute-can-die sandals from ChubbyChubby. I became friends with the owner, Nix, and have gone to her to customise new baby shower gifts for my friends. I ordered another one recently for a friend who just popped and when it arrived at my home, the onesie that was packed nicely fell out of its clips.

It wasn’t a biggie to me but I sent a quick Whatsapp message to Nix to let her know so that she is aware. I told her that I’d leave it as it is because I am terrible at tying a nice bow and don’t want to mess up the gift further.

What she suggested next surprised me: She offered to drive over to my home to fix up the gift box properly. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing (I kept insisting that it’s ok!), she came by the very same evening and got down to work quickly to ensure that the gift box to my friend looks presentable and ‘gift-worthy’. She also brought along a box of cupcakes to apologise (!).

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Nix and Elliott at a pop-up store at the National Museum a couple of months back.

Again, this level of post-sales service is out of this world. I was completely ok with the situation but Nix took pride in her work and insisted that she set it right. She is a young entrepreneur and this incident just further affirms that if you have passion in your work, you will succeed.

Thanks so much for coming by, Nix! I can’t wait to meet my friend to pass her the gift. So as not to spoil the surprise, I will only post the picture of the gift box (the before and after) once she receives it.

So there you go. Two separate incidents where the local store owners went the extra mile to ensure that their customer is satisfied. They may not be huge gestures, and some may argue that “it is their business what. Of course they’d care” but think about it: How many times have you given your money to certain businesses only to regret it? Best of all, both are Singapore-based companies so yeay to that!

The final goodbye

So yesterday, the sister and I decided that we want to pay our respects to Mr Lee Kuan Yew at The Parliament House. I am not one who is particularly sentimental, let alone towards someone I have never met in my life. I am also the sort to flip past the politics section in the papers. Which is why, to be honest, I was surprised that I felt this unspeakable need to head down to The Parliament House.. I am guessing it is the same for the sister.

We grabbed some white orchids (the national flower of Singapore, how apt) and some drinks, before following the heaving crowds outside City Hall MRT. There was an air of urgency and purpose. Everyone, mostly dressed in sombre colours, were almost marching towards the start of the queue. We blindly followed the crowd because that should be where it is right?

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PS. That red mark on his left cheek is a mosquito bite.

There was a huge crowd around the Cenotaph. As we struggled with our stroller amongst the crowd, one kind lady pointed out to me: “There’s a priority queue for those with babies. You may want to head there.”

It has been a while since I experienced such kindness from strangers and it made my heart warm. I thanked her and told her that we are aware but were having difficulty finding where it was as there were no signages.

The sister spoke with a policeman and he informed us that the priority queue was over at the Old Supreme Court building, so we made our way there. With us was another lady and her mother who quipped to me that she forgot to pack milk for her baby. I smiled an understanding smile back.

I spotted another young couple. The lady was baby-wearing a child of no more than 6 months old. I asked if they were going to pay their respects and they said yes. Told them to follow us as we were headed the same way. One good deed begets another, right? We looked quite a sight – like an odd bunch of merrymen thrown together for a common cause with our bulging diaper bags, strollers and babies.

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Fought through the crowds and when we got to the barricades, the policemen waved us in. I glanced across at the Padang and snapped this quick picture. Huge crowds, long queues. But there were lots of personnel standing around to direct lost sheep.

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We joined the large group of people in the priority queue. A mummy blogger shared that she took 50 minutes and I was hoping it would be the same for us. We were thankfully shielded from the merciless heat with tents but it also meant that it was stuffy when it got crowded.

This is the scene in front of us…

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…and behind us…

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I was thankful that Elliott was pretty happy to stay in his stroller. I looked around me and there were people from all walks of life. Just in front of us were a Korean mother and her 2 boys. Beside her was a mother and child from China. I gathered these from their spoken language/accents.

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There were many aunties and uncles in the queue too. Elliott – when he was still chirpy – made them smile when he pointed at their bunches of flowers and uttered “fow-er” (flower) repeatedly. He was also smiling and waving at random ladies in the queue.

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About half hour in, I glanced around and told the sister that we still have the entire length of the Old Supreme Court to cover. Elliott was starting to fuss. He wanted to be let out of his stroller so I had to carry him. Poor little guy was getting sweaty and uncomfortable despite the portable fan on his stroller. Check out the face:

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Originally, I put him in a more comfortable sleeveless onesie (taking into consideration the heat) but decided to change him into this collared onesie so as to be respectful. One must not dress sloppily when paying respect.

As you can see in the above picture, we were barely halfway across the Old Supreme Court. At this point, I was (almost) ready to leave because my poor kid was uncomfortable and honestly, my right arm was sore from carrying him.

Thankfully, the queue kept moving forward every couple of minutes and kind strangers around us helped to entertain Elliott. One mummy (with 2 kids in the stroller with iPads to entertain them) played “Peekaboo!” with him. Another aunty “chatted” with him and told him to be patient. Another young lady smiled kindly at him and did “high-fives”. I was thankful that my fellow Singaporeans (I assume) were kind and were trying to help in their own ways.

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A kind elderly aunty also offered 2 packets of biscuits to a mother and her 2 kids. The lady thanked her and told her that one packet is enough as they can share but the aunty insisted, pushing the second packet into her hands. It was really heartwarming to witness these random acts of kindness amongst strangers.

Finally, we spotted these white tentage with security checkpoints. Ah, we must be near, I thought. By this time, Elliott was not happy. He was not happy being carried. He was not happy being in the carrier. He was not happy drinking water. I fed him some cereal and took him to the sides where it was less stuffy.

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See how deep the crowds were? It still took us about 20 minutes to get to the checkpoints. We had a stroller with us and were told to get to “number 1″. I walked through carrying Elliott and the system beeped. I got ready to be patted down by the smiling security lady but instead of me, Elliott got patted down instead. In fact, when the youngish policewoman patted him down lightly, he opened up his arms, indicating that he wants her to carry him.

It made all of us smile despite the heat.

I have to add that throughout the queue, everyone on official duty were kind to us. One helped us to lift the stroller up the pavement. Another got us to stand at a spot where it was cooler. I also noted that so many of these men were sunburnt in their crisp white shirts and dark pants. Even when shouting out instructions (“please keep left, thank you!“), they minded their Ps and Qs.

I asked one of the policeman (while we were stationary) how long more we had to go after we crossed the checkpoint. He said maybe about “one and a half hours“. It was like that “the day before“, he added.

My heart sank.

Elliott was about to enter full meltdown mode. We were -this- close to getting in. I knew that he was overtired and needed to nap. Pronto. I was in a bind. To leave now so that my baby will be comfortable? Or to persevere since we have gotten this far? I (stupidly) did not have my baby carrier me (URGH!) and we had to leave our stroller right by the door before entering The Parliament House.

Remember our bunch of white orchids? We were not allowed to bring it in, so it was left at a table just before we entered.

I have no more pictures from this point onwards because we were in the building and my hands were, literally, full. He would cry out in frustration and I could feel pairs of eyes boring down on us. Thankfully, the sister quickly whipped out her phone and turned on some random nursery rhymes on YouTube (on silent mode). That kept him occupied long enough for us to get to the main hall.

We saw the familiar scene that kept appearing on TV. The flag-drapped coffin with the guards keeping vigil. Elliott was fascinated with the natural skylight that was shining down from the top of the building (it was beautiful) and was, thankfully, distracted.

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When we got to the centre where most people were crowding to pay their respects, the sister and I stood side by side, and we bowed. One quick but deep bow.

Clutching Elliott tightly to my chest, I uttered: “Thank you. Rest well”.

And we were done.

On hindsight, perhaps I should not have taken Elliott. But I was very glad to have made that trip to say our final goodbye to the man who was instrumental in creating the Singapore that we know today.

C is for Croup

What started as a seemingly mild cough developed into full-on hacking last Saturday. It worsened on Saturday night and I could see that the poor baby was having difficulty trying to breathe properly. Naturally, all 3 of us had a night of fitful sleep. I was consumed by fear that he would stop breathing in the middle of the night and kept jolting awake to check on him. Thanks to Yi Lin’s entry on croup, I had strong suspicions that Elliott may have croup too. This was because he did not have a runny nose, nor a fever – just a very wet and phlegm-y cough that worsened.

We headed to KKH’s children’s emergency department after a quick lunch and it was a short wait before it was our turn at the triage. When the nurse listened to his chest, she informed us that she can hear wheezing and told us to head to “Door 11″.

I carried him while the boy headed to register and to pay consultation fees (I think it was $110).

The secondary waiting area (after triage) was akin to a war zone. There were babies crying, children being wheeled about in wheelchairs, kids looking sad and forlorn, parents looking worried. You get the picture. As I was looking for Door 11, I heard Elliott’s full name being announced over the din.

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I am guessing that Door 11 are for more urgent cases, i.e. breathing difficulties, etc. We barely had to wait before it was our turn.

The kind nurse came by and told us that she will be administering steroids to ‘open up his airways’ and to help him breathe better. And this is his reaction to that piece of information:

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Yes, trying to administer medication down the throat of this boy takes nerves of steel and many many hands. One to carry him, one to hold down his hands (who will be busy swatting away the syringe) and the other to give the medicine. I must have made a face when I heard the word ‘steroid’ because the nurse assured us that it is a crushed pill that has been mixed with syrup so it’s not one full syringe filled with steroids. Okaaay.

We saw the doctor who diagnosed “mild croup”. MUMMY WAS RIGHT! *fist pump* I realise that many parents have never heard of the term ‘croup‘ so I am blogging about it for awareness!

Simply put, croup is “inflammation of the larynx and trachea in children, associated with infection and causing breathing difficulties.” We got attended to so quickly because croup in young children, i.e. below 3 years old, can be life-threatening. Another sign is the “barking cough” or hoarseness. At night (where the coughing/hacking gets worst), Elliott was making a “wheezing” noise at the end of each cough and I could also hear him taking big and loud breaths. Another indication of croup.

I was glad that I had the baby carrier with me. Being sick means that Elliott was being clingy and fussy, and I don’t blame the poor kid. Everytime he goes into a coughing fit, he’d cry and whine. My poor baby.

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We were to stay at KKH for 2 hours so that the nurses can monitor Elliott’s situation after each hour. Medication was given at 12pm so we headed back at 1 pm and 2 pm.

It was time for lunch and we headed to Macs for a quick one. Elliott fell promptly asleep in the carrier (hooray) and thankfully, after both checks, we were given the all clear to head home.

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We collected some paracetamol, liquid Zrytec (to help clear the nose/throat of phlegm) and a nose drip at the pharmacy (also like a warzone) and paid…70 cents (hooray to subsidized medication).

As with most illnesses, the important thing to do is frequent hand washing with soap and water (and not simply splashing your hands with water for 5 seconds). Easier said than done, really, when you have a squirmy baby who much prefer to fling water onto your face and everywhere else, than to have his hands washed (personal experience, yes).

Most importantly, please keep your child away from anyone who has a respiratory infection. Again, this is easier said than done because when you are at a crowded public place, or at a playground, it is hard to tell. This is why all parents/caregivers need to be responsible and keep sick children at home!

Also, if you are sick, please take a rain check on a visit to a friend’s home, especially if he/she has young children. The saying that parents are the most tired when a child is sick holds true. Keep your germs to yourself please, thankyouverymuch.

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Right. End of public service announcement, thank you for reading :) I am also pleased to add that Elliott is on the mend and is back to his happy smiley climb-everywhere self again.

Thank you for modern Singapore

I woke up on Monday and saw that a friend shared this image within our Whatsapp group:

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I did not quite get it and it took me a while in my sleepy stupor to realise the significance of this picture.

While most of us were asleep, Lee Kuan Yew, founder of modern Singapore, passed on in the early hours of 23 March 2015.

Here’s a little background story:

My grandpa (or Kong Kong to me) owned a beautiful large piece of land at Jalan Teck Kee where a single-storey property housed 3 generations under one roof. Kong Kong and Lee Kuan Yew were also both, coincidentally, born in the same year – 1923.

I remember days of running amok in the garden, chasing after Conrad and Lassie, two guard dogs that my grandpa kept, or watching my grandma slaughter a live chicken before my eyes.

I also remember having to use a bucket-style toilet where the night soil collector would come by every night to collect our waste from a bucket. I was always cautious about not falling into it (oh the horrors). My late grandma used to scare me by saying that if I don’t study hard, I’d end up as one when I grow up.

I was a child of the late 1970s and my childhood was part-kampong, part-HDB flat. This is a memory I treasure very much. My younger sister, on the other hand, was born “into a HDB flat”, so to speak.

In the early 1980s, this piece of land was acquired by the government and even as a child, I remember clearly how distraught Kong Kong was when bulldozers razed his beautiful home to the ground. It is on this premise that I grew up hearing that LKY was “no good” because he took away people’s land and property.

Then I grew up.

I may not have lived through the turbulent times of the early days but I fully appreciate the fact that I can speak, read and write in English and Mandarin. Of course, growing up, learning Mandarin in school was painful. It didn’t help that I came from an all-girls school and speaking Mandarin then was deemed as “uncool”.

I also do not take for granted the peace and safety that we enjoy in Singapore. When we were in Paris, I was constantly looking over my shoulder because I have heard so much about pickpockets. In fact, after a visit to the Eiffel Tower, I had my packet of gummi bears snatched from my hands at the subway by two teenage delinquents. It happened so quickly but it left me a little shaken.

A similar incident happened in JB where my bag was almost snatched by two crooks on a motorcycle. It is true that I have renewed appreciation for our efficient little red dot whenever I return from my travels.

I also thank you for the foresight in making Singapore a garden city. I realise that having tree-lined roads are not the norm in many countries. Trees provide shade from our unrelenting tropical sun. I remember feeling uncomfortably hot when we were in Bali. The merciless sun beat down on my back and despite a giant hat, I was whining to the boy that it is “soooo hot!” So yes, thank you for the trees.

Of course, things are not perfect. Far from it. But in the general scheme of things, we have lots to be thankful for. I can go on and list a whole host of things that annoy me/can be improved but we sometimes forget that we are only 50 years old.

We are but a relatively young country.

To go from kampongs with low levels of sanitation and hygiene to what we have today is no fluke.

So I choose to count my blessings. My parents used to comment that “we are very lucky to be born in Singapore”. And how right they are. I can also see why LKY was called “no good” by my grandparents then because their land was taken away. Of course they’d be upset. Who wouldn’t be?

On hindsight, this seizure of land was necessary for town/country planning. Was it a nice thing to do? Of course not. Was it necessary then for progress as a nation? Probably.

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Rest well and goodbye for now, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. We may not have always agreed with your party policies but the fact that you had foresight and brought Singapore to where it is today is something I appreciate and am thankful for. It makes me proud to call myself a Singaporean, and even prouder to hold that red passport that allows me access to most parts of the world.

Oh and if you see my Kong Kong, you can tell him that you won in the who-lived-longer game (you won by 3 years!). I also believe that he would have forgiven you for taking away his land then because his future generations (us) can enjoy the beautiful country that we now call home.

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The beautiful moments

Note: Photo-heavy entry!

We received the CD from Josh at The Beautiful Moment Photography and I was soooo excited to rip open the package. We received more than 100 pictures from the celebration and once again, I was really glad that we had a hired photographer! The afternoon zoomed by so quickly that I barely had time to take it all in.

He captured many beautiful moments and these photos will be memories that I’d treasure very much. There were too many favourites so here’s some:

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