On the drive home after a looooong day in the city today:

Me (pensively): Skyler said “chocolate” today.

Lokes (dazed): Huh?

Me: She said “chocolate” when I gave her chocolate. Usually she says “shlocklate”, remember?

Lokes: Oh…

Me: And the other day she said “watermelon.”

Lokes nods, smiling a little sadly.

Me: Right? She used to say “waterlemon”.

Lokes: Yea…

Me: Sigh…

(Pregnant pause)

Lokes: No, we’re not having another kid so you can hear “shlocklate” again.

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I read this post at my old friend’s blog and could not believe the comments.

FYI, Shireen and I go back a long way (we were in kindergarten together and her mother was one of my primary school teachers).

Obviously, we have grown up to be very different people.

I have had two maids in the past (in Malaysia – not something I like mentioning for what will become obvious reasons) and their mistreatment has caused me to come to blows with some of my family members. Suffice to say, I no longer have maids (and not only because I am here in the US – Lokes and I made the decision to stop at our second maid and I’d stay home with the kids long before we decided to come here).

Now I am not calling myself a humanitarian-wannabe because I’m not.

Question: Do foreign labour agents literally have it in their TOP THREE TIPS TO CONTROL YOUR MAID these little nuggets of advice?

  1. They are NOT your friends. 
  2. They are NOT here to have a life, only to make a living.
  3. Be a-holes or they will not take you seriously.

Honestly, because this seems to be exactly how most employers of foreign maids treat the help.

How can one not have a problem with people who don’t bother hiding their disdain for maids, the only crime of the latter being that they were born in the wrong place at the wrong time with a government that has forced half the nation into voluntary indentured servitude, be it out of fear or ignorance, or both?

In my friend’s post, one of the commenters said that it was not her job to teach the maid English, but it is, for some  bizarre reason, the maid’s job (aside from having to clean house and watch the kids) to teach her children Malay.

I know it may be seem too benevolent all of a sudden to bestow upon a mere servant the delicate instruction of the language arts and make like Professor Higgins but surely there is the invaluable benefit of teaching your children the values of kindness and respect even for those who wash our toilets and for some, our backsides? People with far fewer opportunities than to get married and pregnant at 15 and be shipped off to a faraway place to slave for people who treat them worse than their pets? Surely they too deserve some measure of respect, for having summoned the courage and spirit to go to a place where they can hardly speak the language or stomach the food without having to endure day after day of verbal and sometimes even physical abuse by people who know nothing about them and won’t even bother to find out, just to feed their families?

Surely that is far more essential than protecting your kids from the dangers of broken English?

It disturbs me to realise that there may be thousands, or tens of thousands of women – mothers, no less – in Malaysia who may be subjecting their children to a household of harsh words to the help (fear the alliteration!), believing that they owe these strangers no more kindness than the stray dog that guards their house because it is fed scraps and has a gate outside of which to sleep.

Where is all the religion and education and upbringing we’ve used to set ourselves apart from these people, some of whom are little more than children?

Six years ago, when my agent brought my first maid to our house, a slight slip of a woman in her mid 30s (very old for a maid – I’d specifically asked for someone much older) named Turi, she came and sat beside me at the dinner table.

The agent, Susan, entered the house a little later and all of a sudden, barked something. Walking briskly to the table, Susan firmly put an arm on Turi and led her to the floor beside us. 

“Don’t ever let her sit with you at the dinner table,” she said to us chidingly, before muttering to Turi something about being taught better. Turi, who was grinning apologetically, kneeled on the floor next to my chair, like an obedient pet.

I reacted.

“No, no she can sit with us please, this is not necessary,” I’d protested, more alarmed than anything else.

“No, you mustn’t. This is to teach them their proper place,” she’d answered simply, before opening her files.

“No, I insist please. This is making me uncomfortable,” I’d added, taking Turi’s hand and helping her up to sit next to me at the table, where she perched for the next half an hour nervously at the edge of a chair, as though about to take off at the slightest sign of trouble.

Susan eyed me and said to me in Cantonese, “You need to be more strict if you want to keep her in control, Mrs Tan.”

With that, she gave Turi a curt glance, before putting on a bright smile and handed me Turi’s contract. 

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This month, I celebrate five years blogging, on and off (of which the three of you are fully aware).

I’m not sure if I’ve ever been any good but I do know that most of you are my friends or friends of friends or just people who’ve made some cheeky Googles and have accidentally landed on my blog (sorry!) but here’s the thing: I just can’t turn a profit with this blog thing (without PPProstituting, begging your pardon, dear friends on the take). 

Should I post more pictures of me and my fake white teeth? Perhaps a little more cleavage? What?

I dunno. I read Dooce and I just don’t see people flocking to read my daily forays into (failed) potty-training or to catch more cute kidspeak (they are adorable but have no literary quality whatsoever) and I’m certainly not getting a couple of dogs (I just cleaned the bathrooms today – there’s already enough hair without pets).

I mean, that’s 400+ comments right there, about dog hair, if it were Dooce’s dogs’. I guess when you’re the pioneer of an American revolution, you deserve 400+ comments even if it’s only dog hair. Makes me wish I had a job just so I can get laid off for blogging too.

Plus I just checked out Blogher’s directory of Mommy blogs. I am four pages deep under “T”. Why do I even try?

So, more naked pictures then?

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Summer hols are here!

Where I come from, people hide in coffee shops and air-conditioned malls in the day, making snide remarks about crazy Gwailos lying in the nude on rooftops and front yards in the sweltering heat, searing their skins thin to a leathery texture.

Two years in Seattle is enough to turn even the most UV-phobic Malaysian into the most ardent of sunscreen-slathering, fancy eyeware-wearing sun worshippers (which not even seven days in 95F Florida could re-scare into a closet). 

We’re ready, Summer. Come out and play!

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Two pages out of Raeven’s kindergarten memory book:

“I want 100 toys.”
“I want 100 boys.”
“I want 100 Barbies.”
“I don’t want 100 moms or crazy dads.”

“Raeven is worried
(picture of something resembling a green sand-person in the middle of swampy muddy crayon scribbles underneath).”
“Sometimes, I get worried when Mommy scolds me.”

I’m not sure what concerns me more; the damage I’ve irreparably done with my (occasional) screaming or the fact that she wants 100 boys.

Raeven graduates to 1st Grade!

There she is, my six-year old going on sixteen. Congratulations, baby doll!

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I have started blogging for Seattle Mom Blogs in my very own column, called Tea Leaf Journals: A Little Asian in Seattle, the irony being tea in Starbucks land and me being as close to “little” as game shows are to insane in Japan, so the only straight bit about that is the “Asian”, which I may have trouble holding on to but for reminders like this column. But what can I say? I’m thrilled.

Please, all three of you, go visit me there and let me humour you with my extant Asianness. 

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I’ve been so busy with my school work and photography that I almost forgot tomorrow is Rae’s graduation from kindergarten to first grade.

I remember my kindy graduation:

Jenn, kindy graduation

Have not graduated from anything since then.

I swear the cute outfit jinxed it.

This is what I do with my free time:


No, not pose naked in front of the camera.

Altering reality, like this:


Agenda: I now possess the skills to teach my children the trickery of advertising.

Another SPC entry.

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