Tag Archives: birthday

Gifts that Last a Lifetime

My daughter is currently in a state of expectancy and excitement. She says she can’t wait for May to come. We all know why – because it’s her birthday. At 5 years old turning 6, she’s someone who knows what she wants. She wants a birthday party, she knows who she wants to invite, and what she wants for presents – hamsters from mum and dad. Every few days, she’ll ask us if it’s the month of May already. We’re currently cracking our heads on what to do for her birthday party but the goal is that it should be fun for her and inexpensive for us.

Like many Singaporean parents, my husband and I also want to give the best to our children. When my children were born, I thought about what I could pass down to them as a “family heirloom.” Maybe my wedding dress, I thought; but then again it could be out of fashion by my daughter’s time.

I currently have three things that I want to pass down to my daughter. The first is a little lamb soft toy. This was given to me by my husband when we were dating. The Latin form of my name means ‘lamb’ and the Greek meaning is ‘pure’. I put the toy in her cot when she was a baby, and a few years ago, gave it to her and explained that she is like my little lamb. The second is a music box that my parents gave to me when I was in my late teens. It’s a wooden music box they bought when they were in Switzerland. I kept my favorite trinkets in there. I hope that it is something she can use in the future that will also remind her of her grandparents. The third thing I plan to give to my daughter and son is a collection of my blog. Ever since they were born, I have been keeping a blog to chronicle the different stages of their growing up, successes they have, falls they make and hopefully learn from, conversations we have. They may not remember the early years of their life when they grow up and so I hope my blog will give them something to remember.

But more than material gifts, how many of us actually think about and consciously pass down gifts that last a lifetime? Have we considered the values, beliefs and faith we want to pass down to our children?

When I was growing up, my parents where strict disciplinarians – especially dad. We were constantly in conflict, particularly the rough teenage years; where like my daughter; I too knew what I wanted and wanted it my way. Little did I know that,

  • When I got reprimanded for being last minute or late, dad was teaching me the value of time and punctuality;
  • When I got a 10pm curfew put in place because I came home very late one night without telling my parents my whereabouts, they were teaching me about consequences and responsibility;
  • When I had to learn how to cook and spend Saturdays doing household chores, they were teaching me how to take care of my family.

We need to intentionally remind ourselves and be purposeful in passing down and giving our children “treasures” that will not decay, be destroyed or be stolen. But rather, “treasures” that will last a lifetime and for generations to come, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

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My Father, My Hero!

Just a couple of days ago, we celebrated my father’s 50th birthday. This year, instead of just having our usual family dinner, we added something extra special!

We wanted to include as many people as possible without having to throw a huge party for a rather private person. So for a surprise, my mother and I collected messages from people from various parts of my father’s life – church, family, childhood and work. And to keep it all a secret, all communication and preparation had to be done on my laptop instead of the family computer (My mum got something out of all this preparation too. She learnt how to use a Mac!).

It was fun trying to keep everything a secret, with some of my father’s friends getting somewhat overly excited. It definitely wasn’t easy dealing with people coming up to my mom or me asking how the celebration went or is coming along when my father was standing right there! And some even wished him a “happy birthday” a little too early because they misunderstood my email! But overall, my father enjoyed getting so many wishes over the course of the past few weeks, even though most of the wishes came on the wrong day.

The messages were a way of appreciating him. It was also to honor my father – by showing him that he has indeed been a blessing not just to us, his family but many others as well.

As I looked back on the preparation leading up to D-Day, the influence that my father has had on the people around him is obvious.

In my father’s long…no, short lifetime so far (OK Papa, you’re still very young), he has been a positive influence although he did ruffle some people here and there. Here are some notes that people have written about him,

 “A source of inspiration, support and kindness to all who know him”

A joy to have around”, “Such a joker”

A COURAGEOUS Leader, Teacher and a Good Father”

A very lovable and genuine guy”

Observing his response (huge smiles and positive comments) as he read each message on the PowerPoint slides, I’m glad that we collated these messages for him. Even big and strong fathers can do with encouragement from time to time.

Have you appreciated your loved one lately? If not, all it takes is a word or two to put a smile on that person’s face

October 25, 2011

This was a long awaited day for my son.

It was his 5th birthday and he had all his birthday celebration plans lined up. I was to report at his kindergarten during break time with the birthday cake, candles and utensils, plus goody bags for his classmates. He had even picked out his party clothes to wear to school, after briefing me that all birthday boys and girls get to attend school on their birthday in their own clothes instead of the school uniform. He’d gone to bed the night before full of excited anticipation.

The same morning, I awoke to the news that a gifted young adult who had previously worked with us at Focus on the Family Singapore had just passed away. She had been battling a brain infection that was later found to be caused by antibodies released by her own body. She fell into unconsciousness a month ago. Only a day earlier, she was reported to have been taken off the respirator and doing well enough to move her from ICU into a high dependency ward while easing her off sedation. We had expected her to return to consciousness, but alas…

I’ve experienced life and death in the same day before, but this paradox of events hit me only seconds apart with extreme emotions – joy and excitement on the one hand, shock and grief on the other. I spent the rest of the day amused by childish revelry while brooding over the loss of a precious life. My spirits were lifted just by imagining the adrenalin that must have been rushing through my 5-year-old boy, but at the same time, I felt numbed by a sense of incredibility at hearing the unfortunate news.

Later that day, I decided to share with my son that Joanne who we’d been praying for had gone home to be with the Lord. He stopped in the midst of his playing to ascertain that she was in heaven. Then he asked if God could put a broken heart together, as if sensing too the sorrow that Uncle James and Aunty Sarah must be feeling. When I affirmed that God does indeed heal the broken-hearted, he took a second pause, as if registering the fact, then gave a slight nod and resumed his playing.

Phew! I breathed a sigh relief. That seemed to have gone down considerably well. Just a couple of weeks ago at bedtime after the lights were out, he’d asked, “Mama, where do you go to buy a wedding dress?”

I told him that if he was referring to the wedding gown, it would likely be a bridal shop. Curious that he’d ask such a question, I broached the subject further by asking if he was intending to get it for his future wife, then assured him that he’d have lots of time to prepare for that day. The conversation developed unexpectedly into one about how I’d grow old and become a grandmother, and eventually die. He’d started crying; he was sad about missing me when I was gone.

We now miss our friend, Joanne, though I can hardly imagine the greater grief her parents must be experiencing. Losing your child is particularly hard because you don’t expect them to go before you do.

Joanne seemed to have somehow sensed that something was amiss. Before she’d been taken to the hospital, she reminded her mum not to worry because God is in control. Upon clearing out her apartment in Bangkok where she was doing further studies after a humanitarian stint, her parents found notes that she’d left for each of her immediate family members – to be read if something happened to her.

Joanne has always been known as a “toughie”, in all aspects of the word. Having been brought up in a strong Christian family, she had a strong commonsensical faith about her. She was confidently independent and was never afraid to challenge the status quo or take the road less travelled. She was also a smart cookie – she worked methodically and fast. I constantly marvelled at her clever resourcefulness while appreciating her diligence in analysis. She had been the one mainly responsible for ploughing through all the research and materials to help rewrite our No Apologies curriculum for Focus on the Family’s global use. She helped get Focus on the Family Singapore started on social media, including setting up my personal Facebook account and creating this very blog that you’re reading! In her own unassuming way, she exercised leadership and commanded respect.

Joanne sure exuded great promise. Yet, at her last farewell that I attended at Mandai Crematorium, instead of feeling it a great pity that she’s now gone, it struck me how proud we should be of one who had fully lived out her 25 years of life. As her dad said in his parting words to her, “We’re so proud of you, Joanne.”

And so I will always remember Oct 25, 2011 – a day of celebrating and of commemorating a life.

Am I Pragmatic or Romantic?

 I have often been asked if my husband is romantic. The answer can be left for another time. I posed the same question of myself and discovered to my surprise that I was a lot more pragmatic than romantic. In fact, too pragmatic for my own liking, I think.  

It was my husband’s birthday earlier this month. The day was drawing near and still, I had no idea what to do, what gift to buy or where to take him to for his birthday dinner. Thanks to my telecommunications provider, I received a SMS alerting its subscribers of a 1-for-1 dinner promotion in a refurbished hotel. My husband and I thought it’ll make a good venue for his birthday dinner. So we proceeded to make a dinner reservation for our family of four.

It didn’t take me too long before I started entertaining the thought of having the birthday dinner during the school holiday week instead. Why? Our twins are not done at school till 6.30 pm on Thursdays and they will still be clad in their uniforms. Travelling to town for dinner will take quite a while in peak hour traffic. By the time dinner is over and we get home, it will be late and we will likely go to bed later than usual. That is not very inviting considering that we need to start early every weekday morning. 

I went as far as to discuss my proposal with my husband and he readily understood and agreed to postpone his birthday dinner for two weeks till the holidays when there will be no rush and we will all be more relaxed. 

Just when I thought we were going ahead with my new proposed plan, this question beckoned, “Should I be pragmatic about the birthday plan or can I just be a little more romantic?” It dawned on me right at that very moment that I was becoming too pragmatic. My proposed plan made sense but it would have had a subtle negating effect on the value of our loved ones; in that to celebrate their special day was perhaps not as important as the upkeep of some routine. 

 I was glad that we went for the birthday dinner as originally planned. We were caught in rush hour traffic, the twins ate while clad in their school uniform, we got home late and the entire family did with less sleep that night. But we conveyed one simple message into each other’s heart: “You are a VIP in our lives and you deserve to be celebrated (especially on your birthday) in a less pragmatic manner.” A little romance will do well here actually! I was that close to falling into the trap of sheer pragmatism which can gradually rob you of deeper emotional connectedness, timely celebrations and intimacy with your loved ones.