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Being from a typical Singaporean family, I was never very expressive in showing affection. Then Caleb came along and things changed. I’ve enveloped him with countless hugs and kisses ever since he was a baby and he demands them if I fall short of the count these days.

Although he is my Kung Fu fighting kick-ass little superhero, he’s likewise never fought shy of lavishing affection on me.

Masked Superhero

Masked Superhero

During his Taekwando class, when he was practising kick-ass high kicks and punches, he would run across the room to whisper “I love you Mummy” quite loudly. The first time he did that in class, I was in the middle of typing an email and was caught surprised. I looked up to see two mums nearby go “Awww….”

In recent weeks, my four-year old superhero incorporated an add-on to his “I love you Mummy” routine. He would blow me a flying kiss which I had to catch and in turn, I would have to blow a kiss back. He would then dive to catch my flying kiss, like a goalkeeper saving a goal, catch it dramatically in the air whilst mouthing “Got it!”

If we were in the bedroom, he would roll across the bed, slow motion Hollywood-movie style, clutching onto the kiss as if catching a baseball.

His well-timed actions over the past year have also surprised me on many occasions. Just before he turned three, he rummaged through my cupboard and found an old cassette tape. It was an old voice recording that I had kept as a record of how bad I had sounded when I was struggling with Spasmodic Dysphonia years back.

“Mummy, what’s this?” He had asked. Cassettes are like dinosaurs to today’s kids. He then proceeded to pull out the reel.

Initially, I reeled. “That’s my only record of my voice at one of its worse times.”

Then, it dawned on me quite quickly after. Why do I want to hold on to something like this as if it had any value? “It’s okay, you can pull it out.”

And he did, unraveling the tape with great relish for a good half hour till it was a huge pile of black tape.

Ninja Caleb

Ninja Caleb

Not long after, he  suddenly said to me, “Mummy, how come you have a nice voice?”

“Really?” I said. No one has ever told me that since I was afflicted with Spasmodic Dysphonia 15 years ago. All I ever heard was:
“Are you sick/are you having flu/asthma/laringithis?” Because of the breathy nature of an SD voice.
“Are you nervous?” Because of the shaky quality of an SD voice.

My preschooler, oblivious to my voice journey, was telling me how nice my voice was (and many more times since).

The symbolism of new life, ie my son, dislodging me from my “past” that I had stored in a cassette and finding beauty in my highly imperfect voice caught me right there. Quite speechless.

 

He quickly caught on, from my smile, that a few well-placed words could help turn a situation around.

So, on a few subsequent occasions when I was in the middle of scolding him, he suddenly said, “How come your voice is so nice?”
“You mean my voice is nice when I am angry?” I huffed.
“No, when you are happy,” he said, looking at me with big manga eyes. Then he added, “Are you happy?”
I paused, undecided whether to finish scolding him. “I’ll be happy if you listen,” I said.

“Mummy, be happy!” he chimed.

 

The plurality of the English language is a real bane when you are trying to inculcate grammar rules in young children. And being an author doesn’t help because I feel like I need to edit our conversations.

“If it is one, there is no “s”,” I always say. “1 bus, 2 buses.”
“I like buses and truckses,” he equipped.
“No,” I said. “Truck, trucks,” I corrected.
“Bus, buses. Truck, truckses,” he quipped back.
“Yes, the English language is inconsistent,” I moan.

When we were watching Cat in the Hat encounter cacti in the desert, a new problem surfaced.
“Look Mummy, so many cactuses,” Caleb said.
“It’s one cactus, two cacti,” I explained.
“No, it’s one cactu, and two cactuses,” he replied.
He was logically right.

“In this case, cactus is one, cacti is more than one,” I explained. “One cactus, two cacti, three cacti…”
“No, one cactu, two cactu-ses, three cactu-se-se-ses and four cactu-se-se-se-ses!” Caleb quipped.

(Editor note: I decided to google this language controversy as I typed this blog. As it turns out, in Latin, the plural of ‘cactus’ is ‘cacti’ and in English, it is ‘cactuses’. Well, the things you can learn from kids…)

And this morning, Caleb was upset with me over something or other.

“I am angry to you!” he said, frowning and his arms akimbo at his side, looking much like someone.

“I am angry with you,” I corrected, “not ‘I am angry to you.'”

“Then it means you are angry and I am angry,” he said.

“Okay, then use ‘I am angry at you’,” I  replied. “Then it sounds one-way.”

“You are wrong!” he said. “You said ‘with you’,” he said.

“You can use both,” I said, wondering who on earth set all these language rules.

“You dunno,” he said. “You have to go back to school.”

I was totally ‘with’ him on this.

—-

Since turning 4 years old, one of Caleb’s favourite phrases has been:
“Look at me, Mummy! I can…”

“…wear my underwear on my head like this!”
Urgh. Used underwear.

“…use my pen as a gun. Bang bang bang!”
“Very talented,” I deadpan.

“…touch my nose booger with my tongue!”
“Okay, very talented,” I deadpan again.

And a few weeks back, he displayed the ultimate combination of creative art and writing in his bedroom. He pulled some dried booger out of his nose, stuck it on the glass door and spread it out.

“Look at me, Mummy! I can write number 7 with my booger!”
“Seriously talented!” I said, almost fainting.

But I think he finally detected the irony in my voice over dinner sometime later.

“I want zero pork,” he said, as he navigated his tongue around his mouth to pick out a pork bit from his macaroni. “See Mummy, I spit out the pork!”

I squinted at the pork bit that looked the size of a full-stop. “It’s just a dot… very talented.”
“No, not talented,” he replied. “Very easy!”

I need a new line.

Emily Lim-Leh:

Desmond Kon, Poetry Editor of Kitaab, award-winning author, poet, multi-multi-hyphenate and very dear old friend, sits me down for a Lounge Chair Interview! Thanks Dez and KITAAB!

Originally posted on Kitaab:

By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

emily lim Emily Lim, at Singapore Writer’s Festival 2013 with Poetry Editor Desmond Kon & her munchkin (not the Poetry Editor)

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

I struggled with a rare voice disorder for over 10 years. In 2007, when I wrote my debut children’s book Prince Bear & Pauper Bear, I found my voice, both literally and literary-ly. I write because I believe it is what I am meant to do in this chapter in life.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

My latest picture book Tibby & Duckie is about uncovering one’s gifts and talents. Tibby, a bunny with tiger traits, helps Duckie, an ugly duckling of sorts, who is unable to swim like the other ducks. When Tibby helps Duckie to uncover what she is made to be…

View original 635 more words

Almost one year ago, I was pondering about whether there was a publishing project I could get involved in to make a small contribution to Singapore’s Jubilee Year. I wanted to do something different so I wasn’t looking to publish my own book.

At that time, St. James’ Church Kindergarten approached me. The SJCK Principal had a very clever idea for a book project. She wanted a compilation of children’s short stories created around four Little Red Dot characters, later named Didi Dot, Dishon Dot, Dana Dot and Danny Dot. Would I be able to help them publish it? Its target audience of preschoolers was right down my alley and it would be part of SJCK’s contribution to the SG50 celebrations. So I said yes.

One year has past since I started working on this project and I’m happy to now hold the newly published books in my hands, in  time for Singapore’s 50th birthday.

Little Red Dots (front cover)Little Red Dots is a compilation of 8 selected stories from the 29 entries submitted by SJCK children and their families. Based on four Little Red Dot characters Didi Dot, Dishon Dot, Dana Dot and Danny Dot,  the stories are inspired by our Singaporean culture, places and identity. The books have just been distributed to all 1,200 SJCK children and will also go to all kindergarten and childcare centres in Singapore.

Patrick Yee, bestselling creator of the Harry Lee Kuan Yew picture books, illustrated brilliantly for the stories, bringing them to life in whimsical black line drawings, dotted with red.

We managed to capture many Singapore scenes depicted in the stories.

Inside page1 (edited)

Inside page2 (edited)

And we also squeezed in iconic scenes not mentioned in the stories, like the famous Dragon playground.

Little Red Dots Inside Page1

 

All 29 submitted entries have also compiled into a second book Little Red Dots Story Collection, which has been given out to all 1,200 SJCK families as a keepsake.

Little Red Dots Collection (front cover)When I came to the back matter of the book, I thought it would be fun to depict Patrick and myself as Little Red Dots too. I asked Patrick if he could sketch us into Red Dots. Within minutes, he texted me his sketch.

Little Red Dots Emily and PatrickHappy 50th Birthday Singapore! May we stay united as one people, one nation, one Little Red Dot that shines brightly and honours one another.

Conversations with Caleb, now 4 years plus, has become increasingly entertaining and surprising. I keep telling myself that one day, he will make a great character for the book that I want to write. But until then…

Calvin & Hobbs comics

Calvin & Hobbs comics

A few weeks ago, Caleb had a day off pre-school so we decided to meet Ben for lunch at his workplace. After lunch, Ben walked us to the multi-storey carpark and waved us off at storey 6 where we were parked.

As I drove down to storey 5, we spotted Ben standing at the same spot (one floor down) waving goodbye again.

“Hey, look, there are two Papas!” I exclaimed. Being a children’s writer has made me a child again.

“No,” Caleb said, in a tone an adult would say to a child. “It’s the same Papa.”

As we circled down storey 4, Ben was there again, waving goodbye.

“Hey, look, there are three Papas!” I exclaimed.

I could see Caleb rolling his eyes. “It’s the same Papa.”

“But wouldn’t it be nice to have three Papas?” I said. “One Papa to play with you, one Papa to go out with me and one Papa to go to work?”

Caleb was silent for a moment as our car circled down to level 3.

“Hey, there are four Papas!” Caleb and I exclaimed together this time.

At storey 2 of the carpark, we were both disappointed to see that Ben wasn’t there anymore. I guess he got exhausted running down from floor to floor of the carpark to wave goodbye.

“That’s it,” I said. “Only four Papas.”

Caleb, who had been rather pensive at my earlier suggestion of having multiple Bens, said, “I think I want a million billion papas!”

“Huh? So many?” I said.

“One papa to play and play with me, one papa to fix my lego….” he prattled off.

 

After turning 4 this year, Caleb has become super-sticky to me again. He’s been regaling me with “I love you, Mummy”  throughout the day. Last week, he made up his “I love you, Mummy” song in the car. Literally.

“I love you, Mummy, in the car,” he sang.

“Only in the car?” I asked.

“I love you, Mummy, in the van, in the truck, in the bus, on the boat, and on two aeroplanes.”

He had his vehicles covered. I couldn’t argue with that.

 

When we reached our lunch place, he, quite unusually, decided that I should sit on the opposite side of the table from him.

“Why?” I asked. “I can’t reach you from across the table. How do I feed you?”

“I can feed myself,” he said.

Nonetheless, I scooted over to his side. “But I want to sit next to you.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Erm…because I love you,” I said.

“There’s no meaning in what you say!” he exclaimed, standing on the booth seat and waving his hands dramatically.

“Huh? How come?” I asked, amused by his philosophical outburst.

“You can still love me when you sit on the other side of the table,” he said.

“Oh,” I said. “Erm…I want to sit next to you so I can hug you.”

“You can hug me, then move over to the other side,” he quipped.

It was like being in a Calvin & Hobbs comic strip with my own tiger-bunny.

Calvin & Hobbes

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking to about 20 student librarians at Blangah Rise Primary School. With Singapore’s coming National Day, the school had decided to feature one local author whom the student librarians could meet and read about.

Watching Prince Bear & Pauper Bear animation

Watching Prince Bear & Pauper Bear animation

I spent two hours with the students, who ranged from Primary 2-5, sharing my writing journey and interacting with them. As part of my visit, the school had the 20 students read at least one of my books and fill up a worksheet on me and my writing.

“What’s your interests?” was one of the questions asked.

“Reading!” I said.

“That’s why she’s a writer,” one student said to another.

“What’s your other interests besides reading?”

I was stumped. I looked at the teacher and then said, “Er…reading!”

When the children found out that I wrote the Kai Kai and Jia Jia picture book series, they were thrilled.

One burning question that one boy had (and he asked me over 10 times) was “How do you tell the difference between Kai Kai and Jia Jia?”

Yes, the River Safari’s giant pandas are definitely Singapore’s most famous foreign talent.

“Patience, my boy,” I said. “Study the pictures and I will give you the answer during Quiz time.”

When he was finally about to burst from curiosity almost an hour later, I decided to put him out of his agony.

“Look at the shape of their heads,” I said. “Kai Kai has an onion-shaped head!”

I ended the 2-hour session on the process of how I published Bunny Finds The Right Stuff.

When I left the library, I was pleased to see that they had a whole wall display of books by local authors.

Thank you, Blangah Rise, for shining the spotlight on local writing!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

I was interviewed for the latest issue of Beanstalk, ECDA’s early childhood publication which goes to all parents with children in childcare centres and kindergartens as well as early childhood practitioners. Beanstalk has a circulation of about 200,000.

In it, I shared 5 tips for parents reading with their young ones.

Beanstalk (Jul-Sep 2015)

Beanstalk (Jul-Sep 2015)

The full article is available ECDA’s Grow@Beanstalk webpage here.

Also, check out 20 How to learn Chinese language tips over at Sakura Hakura’s parenting blog!

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