Decide on Acceptance

Acceptance. We all need it. And yet we still take it for granted.

Most have probably heard or read this prayer before:

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
Courage to change the things I can,
And Wisdom to know the difference.

It is a prayer that is both familiar and distant at the same time. Maybe because I have heard it so many times but have not actually looked deep enough to use it in my life. Sure, maybe once or twice I decided to take up this prayer and have lived with that decision for a time. But I doubt that I have ever really gone to lengths to embrace it.

Why now?
After the rude awakening on Father’s Day, I decided to look at myself in the mirror and figure a few things out.

Matthew had always been a good person. We raised him to be nice to people, to be respectful, to be kind, to be generous, to be humble. And he had been, for the most part of his life. And deep inside, he still is.

But why isn’t all that good coming out? Why is it being suppressed at a subconscious level? What happened?

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More and more questions actually pop up than I find answers to. But I think it is for the best. In order to make sense of my world as it is now, I need to understand more of what is happening around me, rather than just what is happening with me. And this is where the serenity prayer comes in. By looking and learning, I hope to see the things that when changed, will make me a better person. I hope to find out what it is that will bring Matthew back to his natural, kind, fun-loving, positive-thinking, generous, and all-loving self again. And for better or worse, I would need to accept the reality that will come out of this.

I guess have my work cut out for me.

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My Last Day

I was looking through tons of archives on my computer and I found a blog entry that I did not get to publish. And it struck a chord in me once again. Here is a blog entry from 2017.


It was not one of those nights. Somehow, something was amiss. And it wasn’t something as simple as forgetting to brush your teeth or drinking a glass of milk. It was the fear of dying.

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Even before Steve Jobs delivered his Harvard speech, I have already asked myself the question he asked himself. “If today was my last day, would I do what I would be doing now?”. It wasn’t his metaphor, it was a reality. The fact that one realizes that is the catalyst for change. But sometimes, some people just don’t care.

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That night, I prayed that I am given one more day to give to Matthew, to Judy and anybody else who might need me. And this morning, I gave Him thanks for giving me this one more day. Tonight, and every night hereafter, this would be my prayer. Until such time that nobody needs me anymore.

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For some reason though, Matthew was holding my hand as he fell asleep. He had his hand wrapped around mine. He’s never done that in a long while. I used to hold his hand when he was younger and he couldn’t fall asleep. But this time he held mine. He is special (we have always believed that he is), I may never know to what extent, but he is special. And I will be forever grateful for being blessed with very special people (there are too many to mention, but I promise, I will make a list).

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Until my last day then. Express your love to the people you care about. Make amends to the people you’ve hurt and those who have hurt you. Seize the day, make it yours, make it worth the time.

A Day Out With Lola (Grandma)

Lola came to visit us in Singapore. While we are shuffling around the days that we are free from school and work, we managed to stroll all the way down to Gardens By The Bay and see the pretty flowers.

Tulipmania is the main attraction at the Flower Dome and this runs from the 12th of April through the 20th of May 2019. We did not get to see it last year, so we brought Lola along to see the Flower Dome play host to the Netherlands. The Flower Dome itself had been home to different varieties of flora from the start. With Tulipmania, it was obvious which flora was at center stage. This year’s Tulipmania brings us to the Dutch countryside with rows upon rows of tulips. We were told that there were about 35 varieties of tulips across the display including the new “Singapura”, a red and white variant to commemorate Singapore’s founding some 200 years ago. The look was definitely ideal with Dutch cottages, a watermill, a windmill and dozens of wooden clogs scattered across the tulip zone. The tulips, of course, are amazing to look at spread far and wide like they were. Having the different varieties under one roof makes you appreciate it’s beauty even more. And if you get hungry, there’s a European Fair happening in the Flower Dome as well. This is where you get stuffed with sausages and pastries from a variety of local European food stalls. It would also be just in time for you to rest your feet by the time you get to the hall so it’s all well and good that the food is good.

After having a snack in the Flower Dome, we decided to use all our available time wisely and headed for the Cloud Dome next. Luckily, we were with a senior citizen and managed to get priority at the lift taking us up to the top of the Cloud Dome. As usual, we went about enjoying the colorful greenery. It also helped that the mist had just started and the Cloud Dome has transformed into this foggy, misty, wonderland. We took our time getting from place to place and reached the foot of the dome just as night time is taking over. It had been a fun and slightly wet day at the Gardens, but we’re glad that Lola enjoyed it. Because we did too.

Growing Up

Matthew turned thirteen last November 2018. The key word there is “teen”. There are lots of different stories from parents about raising their teens. There are good stories and bad stories. Some of the stories may have been exaggerated and some may have been toned down but the fact of the matter is that the teenage years can be the most troublesome years for parents and their children. I know my parents had their own stories to tell about my teenage years and I have my own stories as well. It is time to get a helmet because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Thirteen
Thirteen

Honestly, this is not going to be pretty. I don’t think there is a way of sugarcoating raising a teenager. As parents, we need to understand that our children have their own minds and their own free will. We could guide them as best as we could but in the end, the choice is theirs to make. We have already been butting heads since his anxiety started acting up. It has not been easy and we even looked to professional medical advice at one point. And now here we are entering a new era in our parenting journey.

Matthew had already shown a different side of him since he turned twelve. This proved that he is growing more mature and that he is starting to experiment and change his experiences with us first. He would now normally keep to himself by staying in his room. He even locks the door now. An act that we had to take action and compromise on. I installed a chain lock on his door so that he would only use that instead of fully locking the door. We recently also just let him go to his friend’s house and spend the afternoon there with his friends. We are still new at this but he seemed to be happy with his experience. We had already laid down ground rules for him to follow when going to other people’s houses and we can only trust him to follow them. He also had his best friend come over during the holidays and they spent the afternoon goofing off in the house. We do believe that part of growing up properly means having to expose him to socialization. I am just hoping that we are going in the right direction with this.

Trouble brewing
Trouble brewing

As much as we would like to believe that he is growing up, the pace that he is growing seems to be irrational. A few of the things that we had hoped he would have changed for the better for are still the same after all these years. His room is still a mess despite having been told to clean up every day. He still takes more than an hour to finish his meal because he reads while he eats. We also still need to call him three or more times before he actually comes around to do what he is asked to do. And even then, the tasks he does are incomplete. He is still indecisive to the point where we have to decide for him because if we don’t, he is going to miss the opportunities that are sitting in front of him. And then there is this thing that he seems to have suddenly turned into the shyest person in the galaxy. He would hide behind me when someone talks to him and he would rather not drink anymore if you ask him to buy his own drink from the store. These traits were totally not him five years ago.

Like I said. It is time to get a helmet and prepare for an even bumpier ride. This is not going to be pretty.

Let’s Go to Tokorozawa

When we were on our way to Totoro’s Forest, we happened to pass by Tokorozawa. Looking into it, we found that there is a small aviation museum tucked away in the area. So we decided to take one day to go out and visit the Tokorozawa Aviation Museum.

At the Tokorozawa Aviation Museum
At the Tokorozawa Aviation Museum

The Tokorozawa Aviation Museum is based in Saitama and was the center of Japanese aviation in the early 1900’s. Now it is a museum dedicated to the history of aviation in Japan. It is not a big museum with the displays cramped together in the main hall. But it is a well thought out place. A majority in Japanese, it is a good thing that most of the staff are quite versed in English. The aircraft on display include small planes and helicopters, both civilian and military. You can even hop in on some of these crafts and fiddle around with the controls. You can close your eyes and pretend that you can actually fly one of these, but there is more to it than just imagination.

Let's fly
Let’s fly

There are interactive installations further inside the museum that illustrates fundamentals of flight and aerodynamics. Matthew, being in a secondary school now that prides itself in aviation, had found a place that he can explore to his heart’s content. There are also informative videos and historical dioramas showcasing Tokorozawa and the evolution of aviation in Japan. They were in Japanese and that made it a bit difficult for us to fully immerse ourselves in it. But visually, it tells a lot. There are also flight simulators where you can “fly” a small plane and land it safely on a runway. There is also a gravity simulator that makes you feel the differences in gravitational pull on other planets (and the moon). Up on deck, an air traffic control facility is also present. And while you don’t get to send planes up in the air, the feel of it is really cool. Maybe technology has evolved that most of the equipment shown at the museum is already obsolete, but it is a reminder that we wouldn’t be where we are now if we didn’t start out with simpler things.

Aircraft galore!
Aircraft galore!

Of course, no trip to a museum would be complete without a visit to the museum shop. And the museum shop in Tokorozawa is unique in that it really focuses on aviation stuff. We managed to get a propeller plane powered by a rubber band and a flapping contraption also powered by a rubber band. The flapping contraption flew quite well and we really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I had misinterpreted the salesperson and thought that she gave us a built one for free and that we had bought an un-built one as well. It wasn’t the case and we ended up giving away the only flapping contraption to some school kids who were on a trip. At least it went to a good cause.

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The Tokorozawa Aviation Museum is a nice place to visit because it is small, out of the way and far from the hustle and bustle of the city. You can relax and quietly stare at the aircraft or outside in the field with the trees and wide grassy field. It is definitely a place to visit with or without kids.

Father’s Day

First, let’s get it out: “Happy Father’s Day!” to all fathers out there!

I’m sure there are a lot of adjectives to describe our dads. And since we all know those by heart, I don’t really need to lay it all out for everybody else. No matter what we think about our own dad, the fact cannot be changed and regardless of the circumstances, to me at least, a dad is a dad.

Officially, my fatherhood title began sometime in June of 2005. That was when my wife told me that she was pregnant. For those who don’t know, my son was given the month of February 2006 to come out. But for some reason, he couldn’t be bothered with dates and he decided to come out in November 2005. He spent about a month in the ICU when he was born a preemie and he will be going into his teen years soon. Every now and then I get that knock on the head about how time has gone by and I have to entertain a thought…

“What the heck have I gotten myself into?”

Of course being a dad is great and all. In fact, I had been looking forward to it even before I got married. Now that I am one, everything has become one big adventure after another. And it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. It’s like living a reality TV show. Sometimes there’s comedy, other times there’s drama, there’s even suspense and mystery lurking about in a season or two. Make no mistake, I am having the time of my life. But all that depends on your perspective. In recent years, it has become increasingly challenging tackling school work with my son. Everything else is good. The only rough patches are when it comes to almost anything that has to do with school.

Putting that into perspective, I sat down and tried to look back at everything that I was aware of that had happened. I could probably paint a picture, but I can’t help but wonder if there are bits and pieces that I don’t have because I was not able to see them. So the picture isn’t complete. But it is clear that there is something that I need to work on in order to see better days. The next chapters may see a change in the tone of how our stories are written, but I will do my best to keep it light. After all, happiness is a choice. And I will choose happiness for my family every chance that we get. And that is how perspective works.

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My dad is a great dad. I learned practically all my life skills from him. We don’t always see eye to eye and we used to argue about things that didn’t really matter (after thinking about it for a long time). I love my dad. I wouldn’t be half the man I am today if not for him. But his generation is different from mine and is going to be different from Matthew’s generation. While there are the basics of fatherhood, it is clear that time is moving faster than ever and fathers need to evolve. I swore to myself that I would be as great a dad as my dad. But deep inside I also have a desire to be even better. I don’t want to have any regrets of looking back at the things I was not able to do with my son while there is time. I generally still have the same outlook as I had when I began this journey. That there will be changes, that there will be emotional outbursts, that there will be misunderstandings, but there will always be love. So we continue moving forward. One step at a time.

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Image copyright: Pixar.

A Merry kind of Christmas and a Happy kind of New Year

Hello 2018! (from Matthew)
Hello 2018!

When I was younger, my memories of Christmas was a day that had always been celebrated with family. And we had a big enough family back when everyone was more or less younger. We would go to Christmas mass either on the eve of the 25th or early morning on Christmas day. Us kids would then go around to our grandparents houses where Christmas parties would be celebrated (it was a time to get re-acquainted with our cousins and aunties and uncles). There would be party games such as “bring me” and “make the longest line”. There are times that we would have programs as well (but that was very rare). And of course, Christmas parties would not be complete without exchanging presents. Throughout the years, people grew older and traditions started to disappear. I’m just glad that I could recall those memories because life was simpler back then and happiness could be served with just a smile.

We tried offering the same memories with Matthew now onboard. And with life away from “home”, we felt like we had never had a real tradition that we followed. We were more like “go with the flow” kind of people. And there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it makes our lives a lot easier to control when we don’t have to trouble ourselves too much with things that people say need to be for feeling Christmas. And so we make our own rules. Sometimes we are in the Philippines with family, and sometimes our family are with us here in Singapore. As long as there is love, it is pretty much Christmas to us.

This year is no different. We would wing it, like usual.

We didn’t have Christmas Noche Buena this year (for those who do not celebrate as such, it is having a celebratory dining at midnight). We were planning on having Christmas ham and assorted cheese board and maybe some drinks. Instead, we had an early Christmas dinner with healthy servings of meat, bacon and eggs at Wild Honey. We had a feast and only the Christmas songs in the background gave a hint of the season. We didn’t watch the animated Rudolph or Santa Claus movies that were Christmas favorites on the eve (for children anyway). Instead, we were watching Star Trek. In fact, we were so hooked watching that we didn’t even see Santa come in and drop off his gifts. We opened our presents after the movie and had a good sharing of hugs and laughs and love. And then we hit the sack like potatoes. Yup, we were dead weight by the time Christmas had come.

We do hope that everyone had a very Merry Christmas. Happy birthday, Jesus!

Unlike our Christmas, our New Year didn’t quite pan out. Maybe it was because we were all tired (my sister and her family were here for a visit), or maybe we weren’t really that hyped up about new year celebrations anymore. Whichever the case may be, we had our dinner between early and late, keeping it somewhere between evening and midnight. Matthew had initially complained since he seemed to have wanted to welcome the new year. Still, our dinner was warm and cozy. An assortment of cheese and ham and just the right amount of sparkling drink to cap off 2017.

There were no firecrackers or loud noises. There were no door knocking and greeting your neighbours a happy new year (it was another old tradition with the family). There were no sparklers or poppers. It was a quiet and seemingly uneventful evening. It was just us and the rainy welcome of 2018.

On that note, there are things to do and a lot of improvement has to be made (both personally and in the world). I’m hoping to get the momentum going early on so that it picks up speed and eventually run us off the ground for take off.

Happy New Year to everyone. May 2018 bring about realities to our wishes and dreams!

Twelve

November 24. Matthew’s birthday. As always, it’s a wee bit more special than any other day.

Twelve
Twelve

The days leading to his birthday was actually quiet and uneventful. I’m not sure if there was something brewing on the back of his head that he just wasn’t telling me or if I was just being paranoid. But it was nice to get to his birthday without worrying about a party or a day trip. And as it turned out, I was just being paranoid and Matthew did not secretly plan on taking over the world. Instead of cake (that we would probably not finish), we bought some cupcakes and candles to celebrate his birthday. We handed him his presents and that was it. The rest of the day played out like a normal day. Except maybe for that trip that we had to make to the school. Because his birthday also happened to be the day that the PSLE results came out.

 

PSLE stands for primary school leaving exam. I have my opinions and views of the PSLE like every parent with their kid/s taking the test. I will, however, keep my opinion to myself as this isn’t really about the PSLE, but Matthew’s day.

Thankfully, the school that Matthew was coming from had a 100% passing rate for PSLE this year. We just considered it as a birthday present for him. On the back of the results, we had a deal with him. The deal we made was agreed on the week before the tests. His results would give him the chance to ask for something that he really, really wanted and there would be no questions asked. I still had to bring his wishes down to more manageable levels before we made the pact of course (seriously, he doesn’t need both a PS4 and a Switch). And once all parties were happy, we spat on our hands and shook on it. Okay, so we didn’t spit on our hands because that’s kind of a bit gross. But we did have an agreement and we were going to honor the deal on that day. So by the end of his birthday day, he was an even happier kid with a brand new handheld console (sorry bud, you didn’t get the top prize. but it was never about the prizes, it was all about giving your best).

We continued the celebration the next day by going out more and eating out more. Sometimes, just spending time with the people you love is enough to make it a celebration. And that’s what we did. We walked. We ate. We laughed. We joked. We irritated each other. We made fun of each other. We had a good time. Yes, some of our jokes hit below the belt. And maybe you wouldn’t understand that it’s just a joke if you don’t know us, but believe us, we can be annoying and irritating and still end up laughing and loving each other more.

Matthew, your journey has just begun.

Saturday. At the STGCC.

This year’s STGCC is Matthew’s first proper “convention”.

So, what is the STGCC? It stands for the Singapore Toy Game and Comic Convention and 2017 is their tenth year running. So obviously, we were expecting toys, games and comics to be at the convention. And they pretty much were. Now, the world is filled with all sorts of toys, games and comics and it can be quite a daunting task figuring out what it is that you want to see. The variety at the STGCC was quite big, and although it tried to cater to pretty much everyone, there was still quite a big hole to fill. As for being Matthew’s first convention, it did its job.

First up, the toys. Toys R Us being what most kids have come to picture what a toy store look like, this convention will throw that notion out the window. We are not going to be looking at Barbie and G.I. Joes here (not the mass market versions anyway). We are looking at Tamashii Nation, Hot Toys, Robot Spirit, S.H.Figuarts, Nendoroids and the occasional Funko Pops. Hobby shops like Action City, Simply Toys, Mighty Jaxx and The Falcon’s Hangar were there selling STGCC exclusives. I was never really into buying expensive stuff but I was familiar with them and so was Matthew. Seeing them in their actual sculpted glory was something entirely different though. Even though they caught our attention, we never really dug deep into our pockets for every eye candy that we saw. Yes, we liked the Pacific Rim action figures and the Star Wars light sabers but they weren’t really our kinds of toys (yet). So we dug deep enough to satisfy our current hobbies. Gunpla and X-Wings miniatures.

They actually already belonged to another section of the convention which was the space for games. In this case, games meant collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering, Vanguard, Yu-Gi-Oh and the like. It was also the space for table-top games like X-Wing Miniatures and Warhammer to name a few. In fact, a tournament was happening during the convention. It was when we were walking around that we were asked to sit down for a demo of The Walking Dead: All Out War. It was a game literally straight out of the TV show and comic books with the characters and scenarios that you can play out. The rules though, were a bit too complicated for novices such as Matthew and myself. When we moved on to the next table however, the Tanks game was pretty much spot on. It played similarly to the X-Wings Miniatures game and so we were able to get the hang of it pretty quickly. Not to mention the guys at Blitz and Peaces were very accommodating. We even had a German officer (in full military drab) building his tank with us at the booth. The conversation, to say the least, was lively and very informative. I wouldn’t have thought of getting a WW II history lesson while helping Matthew build a plastic tank!

The E-sports section was just nearby but we didn’t pay much attention to it. It is still not in the range of what interests Matthew at the moment. And thankfully so, as building a gaming rig (fun as it was during the time that I was into it) can be quite an expensive hobby. And that was just the rig without the games. I’m already obsessed with gaming keyboards and mice, not because I’m a gamer, but because I like the feel of these gaming peripherals. We did catch glimpses of some of the games, but they really didn’t pique Matthew’s curiosity at that moment.

I thought that the Akiba Zone was where we would actually see more anime related stuff, but it was for people that are more of an otaku than we were. Sadly, Matthew and I are just hobbyists in the anime world and not full blown geeks (yet). That may change depending on how the anime and manga industry grows around Matthew. And perhaps that will depend on his friends as well, but that remains to be seen.

Backtracking to the Star Wars world, we get reminded of this year’s STGCC theme. There were lots of Star Wars stuff. Including Rey’s speeder and the deck of the Millenium Falcon built to scale. Matthew being Matthew though, we didn’t have the heart to queue up for any souvenir photos for that Instagram post. Those duel-ready light sabres were very interesting though. As much as we would have liked to whack each other with those sabres though, we opted to forego them as well.

We walked around the convention hall a bit more to look at the weird and wonderful stuff that were on sale. Products that we have never heard of were there, Indie artists selling their ware, and weird things that you would never find in retail shops (ball sack pistols anyone?). There were handmade sculptures, handmade posters, handmade toys and comic books by independent artists. The place was nearly free-for-all and we had a good time.

By the end of the day, we had to pick something up to make the trip even more worth it than the experience we already had. So we picked out some toys to put in our toy box and we left the place happy. We didn’t get to make new friends yet, but the acquaintances that we managed to experience was a good step forward in the right direction. Maybe in the next convention, we wouldn’t be too shy.