mrbrown
  • Home for the Holidays

    mrbrown's two daughters, Faith and Joy, on their recent family holiday

    The family just came home from Semarang, Indonesia, from our family vacation. It was beautiful, not too warm, and the air was lovely, especially in the hills of Bandungan.

    I wish we had stayed longer.

    Yup, we came home to PSI 401 haze caused by Indonesian forest fires. The irony is not lost on me.

    We are making the best of things. I managed to find some N95 masks for everyone in the household after some searching. Those masks are the new Hello Kitty, as limited edition as they come. Nobody seems to have any stock.

    My wife took one look at the N95 mask I bought and said, "A bit ugly leh. Don't have the thinner one ah?"

    I glowered at her and said, "This was really hard to find, and they filter better than those paper ones. Besides, everyone will look silly soon, because everyone will be wearing one, so you won't feel awkward."

    The kids are taking it all in their stride, even Isaac, who is down with a fever and some respiratory problems. My mother is even more relaxed. When I asked her,

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  • Have Gift Will Travel

    mrbrown fights the crowds at an outlet mall

    I travel quite a bit for work and each time I do, I have to stress over what to buy home, for the kids, for the wife, for my mom who helps to look after the children (and sometimes the wife helps too, if she's not with me).

    It has become such a thing that the first thing my children say when they see me drag my weary, jet-lagged body home from the airport is not "Welcome home, O Head of Our Household! Allow us to massage your tired feet and prepare your milk bath."

    No, their first words are usually, "Papa! You are home! What did you buy for us this time?"

    I have since tried to manage expectations. I would say, "Papa may not be able to buy anything for this work trip because the trip is a busy one." Then guilt overcomes me at the airport and I frantically try to look for something, anything, for them.

    They are not demanding children, don't get me wrong. They don't cry or fuss if I am home empty-handed and I am thankful for that. But they do try their luck and ask. And I am one of those

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  • Random conversations on a Saturday night

    mrbrown and his daughter Joy"Papa," said Joy, my youngest one night, "Carry your granddaughter."

    "What?"

    "My doll," my seven-year-old said, putting the diaper-wearing baby doll wrapped in a small towel in my arms.

    "I have a granddaughter? Who is the mother?" I asked, almost afraid of the answer.

    "Me lah!" she said, laughing.

    "Then who is the father?" I know I am setting myself up.

    "Gor Gor lah!" she said, like it was the most logical answer in the world.

    "Your older brother cannot be the father!" I said with mock righteous indignation. "Besides, he is only nine!"

    "Pretend only lah!" she replied. "Just hold on to Beldray for a while."

    "Bel-who?" By now, I am getting as lost as my wife trying to figure out all the characters and family relationships in Game of Thrones (or as my wife calls it, Throne of Games).

    "Belfraaaaay. B-E-L-D-R-A-Y, Beldray. It's your granddaughter's name," said the mother of many dolls.

    "What kind of name is THAT?" I asked.

    "I chose it for her. I got it from a ladder," said Joy.

    "A ladder?"

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  • Little Lessons

    Two of mrbrown's children - Joy and Isaac

    The wife and I are in Bali as I write this, taking a little break from work. We do this once a year on average, without the kids. While we still take the kids to short holidays during their school holidays, we make the time to be with each other as husband and wife too.

    The wife has learned to let go of her children. She used to angst over our kid-less trips, and miss the kids a lot. But now, she is much better at enjoying herself without feeling guilty. And the kids have also learned to be totally cool without their parents for a few days, enjoying the company of our capable helper and my mom. Even their uncles, my brothers, chip in to take my kids out for a movie or a trip to the Science Centre, in our absence.

    I find children, and parents, rather clingy these days. Maybe in our affluence, we forget that it is totally fine to let kids develop some resilience.

    One neighbour, a psychologist whom we have never met, once approached my mother at the void deck and told her, "I have been

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  • Turning Twelve

    Faith Lee, mrbrown's oldest daughter

    A few days ago, my firstborn turned twelve.

    Twelve years old: One cycle of the Chinese zodiac. The number of years it takes to make a single malt whiskey. The year for Primary School Leaving Examination.

    Twelve years ago, my child was born. Sixteen years ago, my wife and I got married. And twenty-four years ago, my wife decided she would go steady with me.

    Little did we know where our journey as a couple would take us. Little did we know of the challenges, and the joys, ahead.

    But here we are. With three children. And the first one just turned twelve.

    It wasn't what we envisaged for our firstborn, to be honest.

    My wife looked forward to shopping for clothes with her. Maybe pick out some nice dresses together. Maybe argue over things like whether she is allowed to wear makeup or have her ears pierced.

    Or maybe fret over her exams. How she is doing well in English but just getting by with Maths. Or whether all those hours she spends on the phone with her best friend was affecting her

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  • The Best Toy Ever

    The Best Toy EverWhen I was a child, we couldn't afford many toys. My mother told me to suck it up and play with whatever toys she could get me from her friends. Not only did we have hand-me-down clothes, we also had hand-me-down toys.

    We didn't really mind, my two younger brothers and I. But we did sometimes wish we could have a Six Million Dollar Man action figure with Bionic Eye and Working Bionic Grip (or even his balding boss, Oscar Goldman) or a few more Star Wars figures (I had about five).

    When I grew up and made my own money, I went to town with the toy buying. It was like I was making up for my lost youth. Then when my own kids came along, I had to slow down because I was competing with my kids for toy space in the house.

    Even moving my entire Star Wars collection to the office didn't help. I had to stop the toy buying completely.

    At first, I would tell my son Isaac that he couldn't play with my figures in the display case. Then later, I realized how silly it was. Toys were meant to be played

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