Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Ok Google

One of the best gifts Calder has ever received is the Google Home Mini that provides a constant stream of lovely music. Calder has learned to ask for them too:

"Ok Google, play peaceful guitar."
"Ok Google, play Richard Clayderman."
"Ok Google, play Keith Kristyn Getty."

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Hamster Bedding

Found a good helper to make hamster bedding.

1. Tear out 10 pieces of kitchen towel.
2. Layer them one on top of the other.
3. Cut into strips (about 3cm wide).
4. Turn each strip to cut into smaller strips (target: achieve shredded paper thinness).
5. Fluff the pieces (to avoid layer sticking).
6. Crinkle the pieces by squeezing.

> Homemade hamster bedding

Sibling Perspective

Ethel's WhatsApp answer to a research question (targeting siblings of special-needs persons):

Q: What is it like for children who have a sibling with special needs?

Ethel: It is... special. I can't speak for all people with siblings with special needs, but for me Calder is quite the emotional rollercoaster. His occasional mischief at home causes frustration and anger just like with having neurotypical siblings, though when it acts up in public in can be quite embarrassing, especially when people stare. Meltdowns are hard to deal with, but I've learnt how to calm him down over time. Meltdowns in public are quite a pain though; he tends to be quite loud during his meltdowns and his screaming attracts a lot of unwanted attention that makes the situation worse. The embarrassment and exasperation increases tenfold with all the attention which tends to be quite stressful. I admire how my mom deals with public meltdowns well instead of getting flustered. When Calder is happy, though, it really makes me happy too because his sincerity and  simplicity touches me. Every day is a surprise living with Calder. He is a really sweet soul, and in some ways, living with a special needs sibling isn't as bad as people make it seem to be, at least for me.

Friday, November 15, 2019


Yesterday, while he was playing game on handphone (probably Jelly Jump or bowling), I showed Calder the ulcer on my lower lip.

Me: Calder, look!
Calder: Ulcer.
Me: It's so painful. What should we do?
Calder: Go dentist.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Young Man

There's a peaceful pair of seniors in my block. The wife is warm in her soft ways and would enquire after my family when we meet. The husband, a Caucasian, is her silent companion, so quiet I don't think I've ever heard him speak, at least not loudly enough for me to decipher his words. Yesterday, I heard him clearly for the first time.

At the bus stop -

Wife: So, how's the young man? (Referring to Calder)
Me: He's very tall now.
Wife: Oh yes, he was towering the other day I saw him!
Husband: It's not so long ago that he was crashing around.

(I don't know about you, but I find this description very amusing, and not inaccurate - what with Calder and his loud movements.)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Gift of the Magi

Teaching two big classes of future software developers. Alongside our reading on the very good story Gift of the Magi, I got the students to present on the topic "The Best Gift". And decided to join in:


Supernatural power is found not only in computer games. I learned this keenly after giving birth to my son, who has autism. Autism means that my son cannot communicate easily. From young, he didn't seem to understand much of what we said. What's more disturbing is that he couldn't tell us what he thinks. Even now, at 14 years old, he sometimes breaks into tears and we never know why because he couldn't answer our questions. Is it because he couldn't find the words? Or because he didn't want to tell? It's a mystery among many other mysteries that we have to live with, because of his autism. Recently I wondered to myself - because my son could never tell us why, we were never able to help him solve whatever problem it was that was causing him such grief. Almost always, I could only console him by assuring him that Mommy loves him. But the root issue was never resolved. Is love enough, to carry him through all of life's problems? Other than speechless grief that breaks my heart to witness, the challenge of raising an autistic child is meltdown that can build up without warning, especially when outside the house. My son is very tall and strong. How do I get him home when he is upset and wants to stomp his feet, cry out loud, run away, outside the house? During these nerve-racking moments, I summon my supernatural power. I pray: God, help me! And wait for help to come. Therein lies my hope and my courage. It is what keeps me trying. Because I have long come to see that there're serious limits to what a human can do. Without supernatural help, caring for an autistic child is too long and too difficult a journey. If there is no God,  what hope have I that my best is good enough, and that my worst can be remedied? So I do what I can, and leave the rest to God whom I believe is much more able and who loves me and my child enough to intervene, and help. If you ask me what is the greatest gift, I will tell you - it is the gift of prayer.

Monday, November 11, 2019


Bought Calder a new pair of track shoes and wondered if once again, we have to change the matching shoelaces to some elastic strings. Why not teach him to tie shoelaces, I thought. And so we did. My mom, who babysits when I'm teaching,  starts the project. Then Ethel. Then me and the Dad. And in one week, he finally grasped how to tie a ribbon. In the process, I realised how intricate the process is, to be able to form a tight  and steady ribbon. Is it right over left or left over right,? Do you bring the end from outside in or from inside out? How big a bow should you make? How do you adjust if the ends get so long they touch the floor? How do you undo the shoelaces without making a dead knot? No wonder we were so quick to resort to shoelace alternative when he was young. Because it seemed impossible to teach when he didn't understand our words, when he wasn't looking, when he was easily upset. But he's 15 and has come a long way from that super-unstable kid. Next is the step of faith - to let him wear those shoelaces out, when we're not with him, praying that he wouldn't get stuck when they unravel, that people would help him if he couldn't figure a way out.