Friday, December 27, 2013

Year in Review 2013: Top Five Significant Life Events

This is the second part in the series of blog posts to document how my life was spent in 2013.

Update on 29 Dec 13: Google, through its Auto-Awesome Photo App feature on my Android phone, did a nice collage for me.

5. Moving To A New Place

We moved into the new place just a week before Chinese New Year, with the renovations just completed on the very day we moved in – When the movers were shifting in all our stuffs on the day of moving in, the toilet bowl in the master bedroom wasn’t even fixed up yet! We were very thankful to our Interior Designer, my good friend Keith from Maternium, who took great effort to make sure that the house was designed and renovated nicely, as well as my previous domestic helper, who spent a considerable time to pack and document the boxes from the old place and subsequently unpack at the new place. Personally, I was very thankful to my wife who took care of the main bulk of coordination for the renovation and shifting.

Its been 10 months since we moved in and we have been enjoying the place every day since then - not only was our place very cosy and designed according to what we had wanted, the facilities within the condo as well as the surrounding amenities were a great blessing to us as well. Some of the decisions made during the renovations that was beneficial were

- Usage of mainly energy saving LED lights and inverter Air-con, though expensive upfront, has reaped its benefits – the average monthly electricity bill is about the same as my previous, smaller house, and a portion of this electricity goes to powering up the electric stove where in my previous house, we used a piped-gas stove.

- Installing of a timer switch for the water heater – especially useful for forgetful me.

- Installing of a digital lock – no more fumbling with keys.

- Removing of the master bathroom bathtub and relocating the shower (with a rain-shower) in its place – the extra space was useful

- Getting the electrician to pull a hidden network cable from the router at 2nd floor to the TV console at 1st floor – my media player, smart Blu-ray player and Xbox 360 are all connected to the network at high speeds.

- Installing of exhaust fans in the bathroom, as well as running an exhaust pipe with an exhaust fan from the kitchen hood to outside – no longer having to deal with steam up bathrooms and smoky kitchens.

Not all was smooth sailing though, we had a bout of termites attack in one of the rooms in July which rendered it unusable for a month and we had to engage a pest control to take care of the problem as well as to change out the entire build-in wardrobe, wooden skirting and door frame.

The details of our house hunting journey and the subsequent purchase of our current house can be found in this blog post.

The magnificent looking Ppool
Harrod's 2nd Birthday celebration at the new place, surronded by many neighbor Jie Jie
The source of the termite infestation - the termite nest found underneath an old wardrobe we
initially didn't want to change
All decked up for Christmas!

4. Dad Diagnosed With Cancer

What happened as a small case of blood in stool turned out to be a nightmare for the family as the doctors discovered a lump in my dad’s colon during a precautionary post incident scope check. The lab test later confirmed the lump to be cancerous and my dad had to undergo a surgery to cut out the cancerous segment and then reattached the colon. The huge blessing in disguise was that the cancer was diagnosed in a very early stage and had not spread further. Alas, things took a turn for the worst a few months after the surgery when Dad complained of severe abdominal pain one day and had to be sent to the accident and emergency department. The subsequent MRI scans revealed an enlarged intestine and the doctors had to perform an emergency surgery to find the root cause of the enlargement as well as to treat it. It was later learned during the surgery that the cause of the enlargement was that the openikng of reattached colon had closed up to be a very small (about 5mm) during the healing process and as such, he was unable to dispel the waste, resulting in it being accumulated at his large intestine. The surgery resulted in him having to have a stoma attached, with the eventual plan to have one to two more surgeries to fix up the problem. The stoma had been an inconvenience to him, with him having to clean it up about 3 times a day and a weekly hospital visit to change the stoma pouch. However, the great relief was that it would only be temporal and he would not have to live with it once the surgeries are done to fix up the intestine and colon. The other great relief was that he seemed to be recovering very well and able to live and eat normally, other than the inconvenience caused by the stoma.

Dad at Hannah's recent 1st month celebrations, visibly thinner but
looking much healthier than a few months ago

3. Birth Of Baby Hannah

One of the reasons for moving to a bigger place was that we wanted to have a second kid and a bigger place and extra room was definitely needed. Having a second kid, specifically, a girl was one of the three wishes I had wish for during the annual Thanksgiving Sunday church service where Pastor Prince would ask each of us to come with 3 wishes that we want fulfilled for the year and we would pray corporately for it to be fulfilled. Unlike the first kid, the pregnancy wasn’t deliberately planned and “acted” on. My wife wasn’t even aware that she was pregnant as she didn’t display any symptoms of pregnancy until a visit to the GP for a bout of flu when she was told that she was pregnant. On the subsequent visit to her Gynae, she was told that the foetus was very weak with a low chance of survival, and was asked for her decision whether to proceed with the pregnancy – if she choose to proceed, the Gynae would try her best to stabilise the foetus but could not provide a guarantee that it would be successful. My wife choose to proceed with the pregnancy, leaving the foetus to the hands of God and the Gynae. What followed on was a full month of going to the clinic every day, with each visit lasting half a day and her being put on a drip. During the second last visit, both her hands were so bruised from all the poking that the nurse had difficulty finding a vein to poke, thus, to play safe, the nurse decided to leave the drip needle attached so that it could be reused the next day.

During the initial visits to the Gynae, she predicted that the baby would be a boy. We knew that she had been fairly accurate in her predictions based on her experience and we were slightly disappointed. Nevertheless, we were still excited for the new addition to the family. Few months down the road when we were able to more clearly determine the sex of the baby, she told us that her prediction was inaccurate and we would be expecting a baby girl, we were overjoyed.

During the final stages of the pregnancy, we had another scare when the Gynae told us that the baby was very active in the womb and there may be a chance of umbilical cord entanglement. She suggested for the baby to be taken out as soon as she reaches full term (36 weeks). Earlier, we had made the decision to go for elective caesarean as the Gynae has said that natural delivery would be difficult and dangerous as the baby’s head was quite big. Although we had initially wanted to have her come out sometime in the mid of November 13, so that she would not have to spend the first few years of her birthday mugging over her exams, we decided to go ahead with her advice to deliver the baby on 1st November 13.

When Hannah was born, she was weighing about 2.6kg, much smaller than Harrod when he was born (3.1Kg) and her weight puts her at the 10th percentile of the national average. Fast forward one month and she has been drinking so well (and thanks to the good quality milk of the mother) that her weight has ballooned to about 5kg, which puts her at the 75th percentile of the national average.

Hannah at one day old - XS size of Harrod Low
Gor Gor and Mei Mei sharing a dream
Hannah at 1.5 months old. The brand of milk is good.

2. Brother Got Engaged

Between the two of us, my brother has always been labelled by family members as the rebellious one while I was the obedient one*. I didn’t really expect him to want to settle down at this stage and had expected him to stay single (but attached) for a while, thus it I was pleasantly surprised when he told me that he was planning for a surprise proposal to his girlfriend. The proposal was a success as his girlfriend (now fiancée) had initially thought that they were preparing the place for another friend for his proposal, I understand that they even had a fake proposal video prepared to make the whole set up more convincing.

*Sidenote: Though my brother is the rebellious one, I must say that he is much more family oriented than me – he has all the contacts of the aunties, uncles and cousins and he will always call the aunties and uncles to catch up with them and inform them if he is going overseas, something that I never bother to do.

Harrod on a special mission as the wing ring man!
On one knee! (Photo credit: Kaka)

1. One Year As A Civilian Employee

September 13 marks the first year of working as a civilian, after spending more than 13 years as a Military Officer. It was a very hard decision then whether or not to leave my comfort zone to venture into the unknown – firstly, I would be leaving a job that I was very comfortable in and secondly, I would be leaving a group of very close colleagues, many whom I have forge close relationships with and whom I could call upon in times of need, and thirdly, there would likely be a loss of income. I would say the main catalyst then was the amount of time I need to commit to the job, which means having to sacrifice time with my family. With Harrod growing up and the sudden demise of my mum a year ago, I came to realise then that I wanted to spend more time with the family. One year down the road and I have not come to the conclusion if the decision made then was correct, I do occasionally miss the times that I spend in the Army, whether managing a project or exercise and the sense of satisfaction and achievement when it came to fruition, or spending time with colleagues over a meal, coordinating unit activities or ‘gossiping’ and ‘bitching’ about everything. Two things I am sure of was firstly, I now do have more time to spend with the family, which I truly cherish. Secondly, a lot of things in life depends on the choices we made, when a choice or decision is made, do not regret it, stand by the choice and move on. 

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