19 November 2007

The thrills of parenting

There seems to be very few fathers who write about their children and parenting. Blogs abound of mothers discussing everything from stock-piling breast milk to the Mozart effect on children. Except for Marc Parent, I've read very few father accounts of raising kids. Why is that?

Is it that it's phenotypic of the male genetic code - to hunt, bring home bacon, and ward off attacking beasts (and so have little time to reflect and blog about baby's poo pattern) while the woman feeds, changes diapers and nurtures the child (and so meditate on every little burp and hiccup)? Or it just the stereotype of modern man? I don't know. But I sure got a story to tell.

The past few days I've had the chance to explore what it feels to be both. Joan had been on night shift for a stretch and then came down with a mega-flu that left her spluttering and coughing like a badly maintained wreck of a car. We decided it's best she slept in another room - a kind of reverse isolation as well as sound-proofing the ever-so-sensitive slumbering baby. I now know a little bit of what it's been like for her.

At about 8pm every night, Ethan is put to sleep. Much easier said than done, believe me. First there's the exhaust-himself phase of letting him crawl, scream, climb, and tear at every possible object in sight. When his eyes are red and he starts scratching his head, it's time to hold him and bounce around like a human spring. That will last anything from 10 minutes to half an hour.

We are not to be fooled by him shutting his eyes. To prematurely put him down will be a folly to regret - with another hour of wakefulness at least. The art is to cradle him another 10-15 minutes till he's 'deepened' (to borrow an anesthetist's term). When his limbs fall limp and his head flops around, you have licence to put him on the bed.

The next trick is to keep him asleep for the next 10 hours... Akin to 'topping up the relaxant' what you need to do is to prepare a night's supply of milk ready to be mixed and delivered. Set your very quiet alarm to go off at intervals just before extreme hunger. Half an hour too soon and you'll wake him unnecessarily. Too late and he'll wake you wailing, not to be easily placated. If your timing is just right, you can pick him up, slide the teat into amenable lips and have him gobble down enough milk to induce post-prandial hyperglycemia. Hence you have succesfully preempted the painful ritual of having to put him back to sleep at 2 o'clock in the morning.

Today, after giving Ethan his dinner, I decided to go for a walk to the neighbourhood mamak and get my own dinner. So, here we were, father and son, walking down the street. Hey, this is the 21st century, I thought to myself. What do you need to go get some food? It's not like we need to clobber hungry bears or ward off jackals. Fatherhood has come a long way since the Peking man. A pram and a brolly in one hand should suffice, so I thought. I was dead wrong.

We did the father-son walk in the evening thing.. Stop to meow at cats. Wave to toothless grandmothers. Watch for oncoming traffic. Until I saw him. His eyes bore holes into mine as we locked stares. The moment he knew I knew what he was thinking he leapt through the open gate, bounded across the street, fangs shining, claws in the air, barking with a baby-devouring vengeance. That's when my caveman instincts kicked in. Man against dog. Seriously I don't know where it came from. I spun Ethan's pram around to face away, blocked him off, and raised my (ahem) umbrella at the mangy mutt shouting some gibberish I can't remember. He stopped in his tracks and barked. Then I waved the tip of the umbrella at him menacingly as though to say 'one move and I'll smash your canine skull into so many pieces you'll regret the day you whimpered mama'. (Ok it was nothing as articulate as that)

Thankfully, I didn't have to do anything as embarassing as wrestle a dog or attempt to impale it with an umbrella. A girl ran up, yanked the dog's chain, and tried to reassure me 'he doesn't bite..'. Somehow the saliva dripping from his fangs and the psychopathic carniverous look in his eyes wasn't as reassuring. I mumbled something stupid, and quickly strode off. But not until checking on Ethan.. 'Are you ok? Were you frightened?' He looked up at me, puzzled, oblivious, and grinned.. as though to say, 'What was that all about?' Ok.. I was the one puking my heart out. It took me the rest of the walk to the store and back to calm my fibrillating heart.

The thrills and spills of parenting. Of being father and mother. I wouldn't exchange anything in the world for it. Though my wife doubts I'll feel that way tomorrow morning at 4, bobbing and swaying zombie-like. Me the human spring. Evolution. Look where it's got us.

03 November 2007

Laudate Dominum

Was putting Ethan to sleep with some Mozart and came to one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written, Laudate Dominum (Latin for Praise the Lord). Was pleasantly surprised to find more than one version of it on YouTube and a perfect translation into English on another website. What a wonderful night of worship through music.

I'm putting up the video which features Rachel Harnisch backed by the Berlin Philharmonic, and conducted by von Karajan. Divine.

The translation can be found at Emmanuel Music and sheet music for it at Williams Students Online

Praise the Lord, all nations;
Praise Him, all people.
For His has bestowed
His mercy upon us,
And the truth of the Lord endures forever.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and forever,
and for generations of generations. Amen

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30 October 2007

Caffeine Contents

I thought this might be interesting to the many 24hr-caffeinated people I have in my network of friends; many of whom you will find getting their fix in the local Starbucks or Coffee Bean. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has a nifty chart of the caffeine content in popular coffees, home brew, instant, soft drinks, desserts and illicit drugs.

I presume this is on the Center for Science in the Public Interest for 2 reasons: 1) it's in the caffeine-addicted public's best interest to know where to get their caffeine when in deprivation and 2) It's in the public's best interest not to deprive the caffeine-addicted of their caffeine. Overall, it makes the world a happier place for everyone; hence science in the public interest.

The other great website is Coffee Science which among other things, alerts us to the many health benefits we'd be missing out if we missed our morning cup of coffee. Apart from relieving headaches, and sparing your colleagues from the Mr. Hyde side of you, it also crushes gallstones and prevents cancer. Need I say more?

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29 October 2007

Ethan at play

Our church creche has a lovely skylight to let in the morning sun and nice pillows and a red carpet to give it color. Couldn't resist taking a few shots of Ethan at play. There he is trying to put a shoe in his mouth.
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24 October 2007

Stedfastness displayed

I am incredibly proud to say the least.

Saturday last, the little one started to purge and didn't stop. We counted at least 16 times in a day. Then his temperature soared to a blazing 39.6C. While we were frantically trying to put out his fire by sponging and suppositories, he started vomiting. With the volume he was putting out we were sure he had lost half his body weight.

He couldn't take anything orally. He was miserable. He wailed madly as we sponged him incessantly.

We prayed hard. We lost sleep. We were frayed and exhausted.

But to our amazement he turned the corner really fast. By Monday, as soon as the temperature started dropping, his mood started picking up and he was back to his usual self. Yesterday evening he decided to prove to his fretful guardians that he was OK and proceeded to stand on his own two feet, unsupported, for the very first time!

Ain't gonna let no AGE (acute gastroenteritis) keep me down. No No No. His indomitable spirit has us awe-struck.

He's got something to teach us about getting the tough going when the going gets tough.

Ethan, the stedfast one... because the One is Stedfast.

There Is No Fence!

Sometimes I envy those who are pastors, counselors, writers and all other kinds of full-time Christian ministry. It's odd that I should feel this way because I often chide fellow Christians for asking that annoying question: 'I wonder if I should go into full-time ministry'.

Not that I have the slightest objection to Christian ministry and being paid by the church for it. It's just the dichotomy and exclusivity that kind of question comes from that I don't agree with. My stock answer is: We're all full time Christians, and everything we do under the sun is service and worship to God. The difference is technical - a matter of who issues your paycheck. After, all our salaries come from the one God who Provides, and every Christian has a mutually inclusive responsibility both to the world and to the church. The world is God's creation we are appointed caretakers of, and the church is the gathering of His redeemed. Full-time, part-time, or no-time our calling is the same.

So I'm annoyed at myself for looking over the fence jealously, coveting the greener pasture of undistracted gospel-teaching and spiritual-nurturing.

The problem, I guess, lies with the atmosphere that surrounds what we do: the work that isn't church-related is all about making money, tainted with all the unbridled ambition, self-realisation/self-assertion/self-exaltation in the world; and church-related work is all about self-sacrifice, humble service, and oh-so-holy. This is again a false dichotomy and I just have to dismantle this wrong perception and baggage that comes with role-stereotyping. When we cast our roles in almost dark vs light and good vs evil tones, we encourage endless hand-wringing and agonising over our every life choice.

My job at the hospital and university can and should be a sacrificial expression of servanthood and holy - set apart for God. Church-related work is not impervious to selfish motives. and ugly ambition. But both are important, and constitute one life under one God.

So,.. stop looking over the fence, I tell myself. THERE IS NO FENCE, for God's sakes (pun intended). It's all one pasture under God, and how green it looks depends on what I make of it and how I look at it.

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09 October 2007


Medicine Malaysia alerted that a particular cord blood banking company in Malaysia is facing serious allegations of malpractice. I'm wondering if any serious investigation is being undertaken or if this is just an internet hoax or company war.

Ethan's cord blood is being stored at one of these companies (though not the one alleged). If one of these companies (supposedly the pioneer and most reputable one) is guilty of such horrific practices (read 10 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Use Co. X) one has to wonder if any of these companies are properly accredited.

Another reason to stand up against corruption wherever it is found. Bangladeshis are trapped by the thousands, flyover bridges collapse over your head, murders go on unsolved, and tainted cord blood is stored for future reinfection?! God have mercy on us all.

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06 October 2007

In the cool of the evening

I quit my Saturday afternoon locum job. I decided that the extra cash wasn't worth it. I've been telling myself I wanted to stop for months, worn out every Saturday evening and having hardly anything for a weekend. TODAY, today, I celebrate my first Saturday OFF. And what a Saturday.

I came home and heroically took over the care of Ethan. To reward his amazingly sacrificial father, he decided to clam his mouth shut, tighter than prison cell bars whenever I tried to feed him. He wouldn't sleep, and he wouldn't be put down. It was an afternoon of all out war. By the time I was done with him, the dining floor was splattered with broth and milk all over. Tiring, but helluva fun.

After a good bath and diaper change, I took him out for a walk. The air was biting and cool, a slow breeze tossed the trees around, birds were
 chirping, squirrels were scurrying to get out of the way. It was a perfect evening for a walk, father and son. Saturdays were made for this.

08 August 2007

The time is now

The time that's lapsed since the last post was the most recent lap of crazy, stress-filled days. What's happened? Let me try and recall... I went to Singapore twice. Once by bus and another time by train. I was sick for three weeks. I got admitted to hospital and discharged for what is until now still a mysterious 'viral illness.' I got better just in time to fly to to Australia and attend a conference. Oh, and lest I forget that 'fly to Australia' is easier said than done, there was the nightmare of cutting through a forest of government red tape to make it to the airport.

But, this time, I can truly, truly say it's OVER. I presented my last paper for the year there. I sat through three full days of heavy molecular talk of which I understood 1% (mostly in the CONCLUSION slides). I caught another flu and coughed my way home. But I'm glad to be home and I'm glad there are NO MORE CONFERENCES. This weekend I'm going to Tasik Chini for some mission work, which is the second trip in 2 months, but I think I'll enjoy this one since I'm not organising it.

The best rest I got the last two months, I have to admit was on the hospital bed. And a few days in Brisbane before the conference. Tonight is a quiet night. It's unbelievable, it's sacred. It's been months and months and months since. Tonight baby is soundly asleep. Joan is studying for a test. And I'm blogging... Who'd have imagined I'd get a chance to blog?!

But hang on a minute. Before I start blaming anyone or sounding like a victim. It's all my own doing. I forget that I'm in control and I decide how I want to live and how I want things to be.
If I want time to rest, I make time to rest. If I want time to read, I make time to read. Why should I have to degenerate into a soul-less surgery-performing, paper-churning, research-designing soul-less machine? For whom? And for what? I decide how.

Today I have a boy who is calling me 'eddieeee'. He's not even seven months, six if you adjust for his premature birth. And Ethan is calling me 'eddieeee.' I have no words for how amazing it is. And it comes at a right time. My boy is calling me into the moment and coming into the present. He's helping me take the leap. Into the moment. I don't want to be so wrapped up in problems and anxieties to lose the full import of this. I want to be able to enjoy and absorb the meaning of what's happening in real time. A child has called me daddy. He is my own and I am his. So pure, so trusting, so effacing in his emotions.

Sigh... Children have everything to teach us, everything that we have unlearnt and buried with layers of skepticisim, pessimism, and realism. Children have everything to teach us and we have everything to relearn.

24 June 2007

Burning both ends

Today is perhaps the first time in weeks I've had a real stop & rest. I can't remember the last time I was not under some major pressure or stressful situation.

Not that stress is necessarily bad, I've learnt. Stress makes you grow, learn new skills, recondition the meaning we attach to circumstances. In any case stress is lousy term to use for human beings. Stress is a concept transferred from material physics - a measure of how much pressure a rigid object can withstand before it breaks. We are not rigid objects. We're living beings, and like the tissue we're made of, stretch, grow, remodel, even redifferentiate sometimes to meet the challenge.

I could go back as far as Ethan's birth. The prolonged jaundice. The 3 sleepless months of infantile spasm/colic. (Believe me the distress of an inconsolable child is MAJOR - to child and parents!) Or when the land office and loans departments delayed my home purchase. Or to the time when we started meeting and haggling with contractors for renovations. More recently, wrangling with City Hall officials on what nobody could decide was permissible. But the really draining marathon has been the last 4 weeks.

This has been the season of conferences, trips and public presentations. 25 May - Free Paper at the MSOHNS AGM in Camerons. 30 May - 1 June, National Health Policy meeting. 8 June, another Free Paper at the College of Surgeons scientific meeting in Camerons. 11 June, lecture on NPC to postgrads in UKM. 16-17 June, mission trip to an OA settlement in Chini. And today, another address at the Singapore-Malaysia ENT meeting. In between all that are numreous surgeries and research meetings. But I breathe a long sigh of relief. This is the last of a series of public talks and I can put my powerpoints to rest at last.

I've been burning my candle from both ends, and this week I 'made ends meet'. Two days ago I woke up with vertigo and tinnitus. This was two days after an 8hr surgery (radical neck and pec major flap.) Today was the last burst of flames before I would turn into ashes. I gave it all I got, came home, and collapsed next to Ethan in bed.

Today, at long last,.. I can sit quietly and just do nothing. I haven't done nothing in a while. Have Ethan claw away and gnaw at my chest. Read animal books to him. Browse the Net randomly. Make pasta. Sip coffee. It's wonderful.

24 May 2007

Ethan, Ethan, Ethan

I'm sure you can imagine if I tell you our hands have been full. 

Very, very, full indeed. And you will understand that our current obsession is nothing but Ethan, Ethan, Ethan.  

And I gotta admit, after the first couple of colicky months and sleepless nights, having Ethan is a BLAST!!

Watching him bloom and thrive, observing his emerging traits, cheering him from milestone to milestone and seeing him respond to us is just undescribably amazing.
This is a short photo chronicle of his journey so far...

Ethan: Week 3 of Life
Ethan: One Month!
Ethan does the Bee Gees
Chinese New Year '07
Ethan: 1 mt old
Ethan: 10-12 weeks
Ethan goes to Singapore

Ethan: 3mts old
Ethan goes to Genting Highlands

06 April 2007

Google Idioms Galore

taken from 55 ways to have fun with Google, by Philipp Lensen

  • How many Googles must a man walk down?
  • Googlemorgen America
  • Thus quothe the raven, “Google more!”
  • Wherefore art thou, Google
  • Google and prejudice
  • Once upon a midnight dreary, while I Googled weak and weary
  • I am a Googlevangelist
  • Googles up, hang ten!
  • Google is the dictator that everyone loves
  • You can’t spell God without Google
  • Stairway to Google
  • Dude, where’s my Google?
  • Got Google?
  • We are all Googlers under Google
  • In the beginning, there was Google
  • I Google, therefore I am
  • It was the best of Googles, it was the worst of Googles
  • All my kingdom for a Googler
  • Peace, Love, and Google
  • All you need is Google
  • Google like it’s 1999
  • The Google at the end of the rainbow
  • We’ve found a witch! Can we Google her?
  • The Googler on the roof
  • One flew over the Googlenest
  • Why can’t the English teach their children how to Google
  • We are the knights who say Google
  • Google spoke Zarathustra
  • That’s why the Google is a tramp
  • Murder she Googled
  • Save the last Google for me
  • There’s not enough Google in this town for the both of us
  • I’ll Google you on the flip-side
  • The Scarlett Google
  • The Purloined Google
  • “Googligans Island”
  • All my Googles
  • Oops, I Googled Again
  • The Googlebury Tales
  • Google and the Beast
  • A Midsummer Nights’ Google
  • 20,000 Googles Under the Sea
  • Something Googled this way comes
  • Google to the death!
  • You smell like a Google...and you look like one too
  • I dream of Google
  • Google it again Sam
  • Uncle Google wants you!
  • To Google Times
  • Out of the Google and into the fire!
  • Don’t throw the Google out with the bathwater
  • Bad Brian, you must say 20 hail Googles!
  • Bless those who Google you
  • Google, the final frontier
  • Google, interrupted
  • Gone with the Google
  • I can’t get no Googlefaction
  • Saturday night Google
  • You Google my name, and you know wherever I am.
  • Jack, I’m Googling!
  • I’m Gooooogling in the rain
  • Google outside the box
  • Beyond Google and evil
  • Do you know where your Google is?
  • Dr. Strangelove, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the Google
  • Murder by Google
  • To Google or not to Google.
  • To sleep, perchance to Google!
  • My name is Google, you killed my father.
  • It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Google!
  • And they Googled happily ever after
  • Do you promise to love, honor, and Google, until death do you part?
  • The lone Googler
  • Big Google is watching you
  • Google the man!
  • The first rule of Google is not to talk about Google
  • Gone with the Google
  • Frankly my dear, I don’t give a Google!
  • Googleblanca
  • Love in the time of Google
  • War and Google
  • Googleonia
  • The west side Google
  • Larry, Moe, and Google
  • Give me Google or give me death!
  • Four Googles and 20 years ago
  • Googletrek, the next generation
  • Googlescene investigation
  • Red, white, and Google
  • Google Potter
  • How many Googles does it take to turn into a lightbulb?
  • 55 Ways to Have Fun With Google
  • I was lost, but now am Googled
  • Not a creature was Googling, not even a mouse
  • Do the Googlewoogy
  • And I took the road less Googled, and that has made all the difference
  • The Googler’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • So long, and thanks for all the Google
  • Google No. 5
  • Return of the Google
  • Do the hokey pokey, and Google all around
  • Abandon all hope, all ye who Google here
  • A Google in the Dark
  • The Google that roared
  • Google on the Oriental Express
  • Googlecalifragilisticexpialidocious
  • You can’t have your Google and eat it to
  • If I was the last man on earth, would you Google me?
  • Saved by the Google
  • Hand over the Google and nobody gets hurt
  • Google is my co-pilot
  • Sometimes a Google is just a Google
  • Do not meddle in the affairs of Googlers
  • Gooogle, taste the rainbow
  • Have you hugged your Google today?
  • Wake up and smell the Google
  • Here’s a quarter; Google someone who cares
  • No shirt, no Google, no service
  • I know its only Google but I like it
  • If it feels good Google it
  • Advanced whitening Google
  • Keep your Googles to yourself
  • I think I Googled my pants
  • Put a Google on your face
  • The Googlepride Googleparade
  • USS Google, departing
  • Googlers of the world unite
  • Stop Googling your nose
  • Never underestimate the power of Google
  • Your Google is so soft!
  • Friends don’t let friends Google drunk
  • Do you have a designated Googler?
  • Is that a Google in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
  • The restaurant order slips these are written on are Googlebilia
  • All roads lead to Google
  • One Google, two Geegles
  • The Googleogical Argument
  • Girls giggle and boys Google
  • Frankly my dear, I don’t give a Google.

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22 January 2007

Stedfast One

I've been meaning to post something since Ethan was born on Jan 13. But you know how it is - between feeds, washing, getting food, and tidying up - there's hardly time to breathe. And for the first week, we were hospital-bound anyway. But today, I thought it timely to break blog-silence to announce the official NAMING of Ethan.

I trudged up to the National Registration Department office at Tmn Maluri today and penned it down - YAP ETHAN.  It's final. He's going to have live with it all his life, answer to it, introduce himself by it. He is Ethan.  Ethan  is pronounced EE-than. It is of Hebrew origin, and its meaning is "firmness, steadfastness, constancy".  From the Bible, Ethan is a wise man, an Ezrahite, in Solomons time, son of Zerah son of Judah; the father of Azariah,son of Zimmah, of Gershom of Levi; ancestor of Asaph; the father of Adaiah,son of Kishi (Merari Levi); a worship leader in David's time (1Ki 4:31 Psa 89:1 1Ch 2:6 1Ch 2:8 1Ch 6:42 1Ch 6:44 1Ch 15:17 1Ch 15:19). He's the guy who gave us 'I will sing of the mercies of the Lord, forever'. No, he was not named after Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible or the actor Ethan Hawke!

The Chinese name was a bit tricky though. But we had very simple criteria: names that sound like Ethan, and has a meaning congruent to it. 

With the inexhaustible and wondrous resources of the internet - we found it. All it takes is a good Chinese-English dictionary that can search for PinYin phonetics and display corresponding Chinese words and their meanings. We fell in love with two names - Yi(4) which means 'resolute and decisive', and Deng (4) which means 'path up a mountain'. I think the names say it all. Not that we expect a hard and laborious life for him. But it certainly speaks both of the struggle he has been through already, and the spiritual journey all of us must make.

And my dad, the self-taught Chinese linguistic expert was happy to clear it.

Naming a child certainly has all the import of aspiration and intuition we read of in the Bible.  Something deep within tells us that the child has such intrinsic traits and in some way the name spells out his destiny. It also defines our aspirations, and the way we hope to bring him up - with a sense of grit and readiness to face life head on; knowing the God who calls him, and what he is called to.

Well, apart from all that destiny-conscious talk, we think he's just mighty adorable and helluva rascal. Guess you gotta have mischief and a sense of humor to make it through the terrain of life's steep ascent.

Pix of him, BTW - are uploaded to Picasaweb.

08 January 2007

Reclaiming friendship

We may consider many people friends - colleagues in the office, party acquaintances, old classmates, or church members whose hands we shake every week. But there are friends, and there are friends.

We sometimes say someone is a 'true friend' because he or she was there for us when we truly needed someone, when he or she helped us or showed love and understanding when nothing was to be gained.

Nouwen defines friendship thus:
Friendship is being with the other in joy and sorrow, even when we cannot increase the joy or decrease the sorrow. It is a unity of souls that gives nobility and sincerity to love. Friendship makes all of life shine brightly. Blessed are those who lay down their lives for their friends.

It makes me think - what kind of friend am I to others? Real friendship has a very covenantal flavour. When I call someone friend, or think of myself as a friend to anyone, I should in essence be binding myself to him or her. I am saying to another - I am here for you and I seek your highest good. Friendship goes deeper than offering help, occasional smiles or advice. It is a promise lived out in every day life. Redefining friendship in this way imbues it with real meaning and makes me more human.


03 January 2007

Vulnerable living

In today's online reading, Nouwen says:
Life is precious. Not because it is unchangeable, like a diamond, but because it is vulnerable, like a little bird. To love life means to love its vulnerability, asking for care, attention, guidance, and support. Life and death are connected by vulnerability. The newborn child and the dying elder both remind us of the preciousness of our lives. Let's not forget the preciousness and vulnerability of life during the times we are powerful, successful, and popular.
Well, this is timely. Times have been tough these last weeks, with Joan getting severe gastritis and her blood pressure climbing dangerously in the last trimester. Today she had to be observed in the ward for an extremely high pressure. Thankfully, her bloods and the scans show no danger signs.

Being medical professionals, we are well aware of the risks and many fatal implications of hypertension in pregnancy.  So, for us, it's very humbling to submit to the help of other doctors, and the prayer support of many loving friends.  And Nouwen helps me realise that we are celebrating life most when we are not trying to be self-sufficient and invulnerable but needing one another and being complete together.