My Niece Says the Funniest Things

My mother is in town.  All of a sudden, my humble home has turned into a family headquarter.  My sister visits my home often, with or without my presence, together with my buddy a.k.a. her husband and my niece a.k.a. Bethany.  Bethany and I converse in various modes . I often stick to my mother tongue Cantonese . I am not sure how much she can understand me.  At times I switch to English.  I don’t think she responds to me either.  But we have some friendly moments.  Like when she was dancing non-stop in my living room, in between songs, she would collapse and rest her head onto my laps for five seconds.  And then she would bounce back to her dancing mode, going round and round in circle, moving backward and forward, so totally absorbed in her own world.  Bethany would listen attentively to the first few bars of the song before launching into a unique dancing pattern choreographed specifically for that song.  For a 23 months old toddler, that is pretty amazing.

Bethany seems to enjoy listening to Roxette, Fleetwood Mac, Erasure, Tears for Fear, and Mariah Carey.  And she does not seem to like modern rock.  This saddens Cynthia a little bit.  As for me, I am happy that she likes some of my favorite records.

After a rather long dancing session, her parents were concern that Bethany getting too excited may affect her sleep later that evening.  So I switched to classical music, the same type of music that I played when she was still inside my sister’s tummy.  Bethany stopped dancing, took out her teddy bear, held it by its head, and dragged it across my living room.  If there was a level of affection between her and her teddy bear, I could not notice.  I know she has a habit of chewing it.  I now know that she likes to sweep my floor with it.  I found that amusing.  But my sister was not amused.  As my sister tried to lift the teddy bear from the ground, Bethany slammed it flat onto the floor, stepped on it with one foot, and dragged it across the room with one foot on my ceramic flooring, and another foot on the soft toy.

My sister gasped and said that classical music must have brought out Bethany’s darker side.  I laughed hard . Bethany has a unique character.  My sister tried to grab the teddy bear and Bethany took it back, slammed it onto the floor and stepped on it.  Not violently, but with passion.  The cycle repeated and my sister would mimic the teddy bear’s voice and say, “I don’t want! I don’t want!”  Bethany would stare at the teddy bear and reply in a firm, unhurried, and dominating voice, “No you want! No you want!”

I laughed so hard till my tears came out.  The first English sentence I heard from her is “No you want”.  My niece says the funniest things.  I love her.  I love her darker side just the same.

Bethany And I, At Botanic Gardens

I can now begin to understand why some single men like to borrow babies in order to chat up with girls.  When I walk alone, no one stops and looks at me.  But when I carried my niece Bethany, inside the Botanic Gardens one fine Saturday, all the women around me smiled at – collectively speaking – us.  Bethany is a chick magnet, I discover.  She must have ignited the maternal instinct to all whose around us.  And I have not received that much attention since the last time I have paraded myself by the swimming pool, in my condo, wearing my swimming gear, under broad daylight.  All those domestic helpers, they really should find some real works to do.

One fine day, my sister messaged me and asked if we should bring Bethany to the Botanic Gardens, now that Bethany can walk.  Jolly good idea.  It would have been fun had we been able to catch some morning sun.  But alas, it was a Saturday.  And Saturdays are full of morning rituals such as housecleaning, such as I waking up early and do my blogging, such as Cynthia trying very hard to get out of bed.

I finished my lunch first and hence I was tasked to take Bethany out for a walk, while my sister, Benny, and Cynthia continued to have a good chat over their fish and chips.  I had no idea how a baby would react if she is momentarily taken away from her parent.  I thought Bethany would scream, but she did not.  Nevertheless, I briefly took her out, feeling totally awkward, and returned to the restaurant only to be sent out by the gang of three.  OK.  Perhaps I should plan a longer walking route.  I carried Bethany, under a hot sun, from one end of the cafe to the first patch of green land that took less than 2 minutes of brisk walking.  I found a nice piece of relatively shaded flat land and I put Bethany onto the ground.  After a few minutes, I ran out of things to do.  So I lifted Bethany up and headed back to the cafe.  I suppose I have yet to discover how to spend time with a toddler.  After we regrouped, I continued carrying Bethany and the four of us were running around in the garden playing catch-me-if-you-can with Bethany.  Eventually, she felt asleep on my shoulder while I was soaked in sweat.  I couldn’t even open my eyes.  That reminds me.  Next time, I should wear a sport headband and carry a fresh towel.

Benny took the photo below inside the cafe, zoomed in through the glass window.  He love this photo and so do I.  Benny observed that one time I put her onto the ground, she came right back to me with open arms.  So we reckon Bethany and I are bonding, somehow.  Bethany and I were quite far away from the cafe.  When I waved at the trios, Bethany followed my cue too.  Later on, my sister asked, “Was she able to recognize us inside the cafe?”  I am not too sure.  Maybe I shall ask her once she can speak.

Bethany’s 100th Day Birthday

I am a strong believer that it is important to be efficient in my daily routines.  Imagine if on average, I save 10% of time doing the things I do, add that up to a lifetime worth of hours, how much time would I gain?  That does not necessarily make me an impatient man.  If I need to sit in front of the television to watch F1 live for two straight hours, I would.  If I need to spend 15 minutes every morning to iron my shirt, I would.  Having said that, I would prefer to time shift the F1 broadcast and skip the time wasting advertisement.  Or to perfect the process of ironing taking into consideration of the potential interruption when my ironing schedule clashes with Cynthia’s breakfast preparation process (note: we have a small kitchen where we cook, prepare breakfast, and iron, amongst other things we do inside this tiny space).

This evening, after Cynthia and I had our vegetarian dinner, as we walked to the Spanish school for our class, I looked at my watch and it said ten to seven.  I looked across the street and had an idea.  This morning a receptionist from my clinic called and reminded me of my vaccination schedule.  I had ten minutes to spare.  How about …

So I dashed across the street, leaving Cynthia with our textbooks, crashed into the clinic and greeted by a group of foreigners at the registration counter.  I quickly pulled out my pink IC, passed it to one of the receptionists with a strong sense of urgency and said, “I have a class at seven.  So if you could kindly …”

I supposed I could have relaxed once I got into the doctor’s room.  Instead, I blurted out loud, “I have a class at seven so if you could …”  The doctor replied, “No problem.  I will be very quick.  And this may hurt!”

Uh-oh.

Ouch!

OK.  It did hurt more than the last time.  Efficiency does come with a price at times, I suppose.  7-minute was all it took for registration, getting an injection, to have a short chat with the friendly doctor on his recent trip to UK, the places he had visited, and to pay S$90 with NETS, say goodbye to the foreigners at the waiting area. 

*     *     *     *     *

Back to the lovely photo above that inspires this blog entry, last weekend, we celebrated my niece Bethany’s 100th day birthday.  Yes, I can always trust my sister to spot the most unusual day of significance for us to celebrate.  I really love this picture.  Recently I have changed my Facebook profile using a picture of mine laughing out loud as Bethany was placed onto my embrace on her 1 month birthday.  Some friends of mine thought that the baby was mine and hence I looked so happy.  Well, deep inside this very macho looking man is – believe it or not – someone who has a very sentimental heart.  Now you know.

I have not seen Bethany for a while.  Below are some random observations to share.

  • Bethany and I connect when I switch to Cantonese.  She would smile, look at me, squeeze my fingers, when I speak Cantonese with her.  How strange!
  • Bethany smells different from the last time I held her close, in a good way.  I love her smell!
  • When Cynthia pinched me, Bethany would look unhappy.  What a good niece.  She should visit me more often.  Watch out Cynthia!
  • We still have that effect to each other.  When she looks at me, she falls asleep.  When I look at her, I fall asleep.
  • I still think that her eyes lit up whenever I mention “Let’s go shopping at Orchard!”.  Maybe I shall try again when she is older.

PS. Caption of the photo from left to right: Me, my niece Bethany, my sister Lora, and Cynthia.  Photo taken by my brother-in-law Benny using my Nikon D700.  Thanks Benny!  I really love this photo you took for us!

A Small Reunion Dinner

When asked what we do during Chinese New Year, I often begin the lengthy recount of our culture and tradition with a reunion dinner that happens during our Chinese New Year Eve period.  Family members get together in a dinning table (or a dinning hall depending how big one’s family is) to celebrate and to catch up, especially with the elders of the family.  How often do we get to meet our relatives?

A lot more often when we have a baby in the family.

Ever since my little niece Bethany landed on Earth, I see her mother – my sister – almost daily.  And her daddy – my good buddy – too.  Not only that, my mother has also decided to travel from Hong Kong and stay with Cynthia and I because of little Bethany.  She is a little magnet that pull this small family together.  I cannot remember when was the last time we have a reunion dinner together.  It would be nice if my dad could travel to Singapore too.  Perhaps when Bethany is old enough, we shall travel Hong Kong and celebrate our reunion in our birth town.

I often think that babies are sound polluting machines.  Little Bethany seems calm and well-mannered when she is in my home, or in my car.  Most of the time, she sleeps like a baby.  She is a baby!  This is her second long visit to where I live.  And I have to admit, the more often I see her, the deeper bonding I am developing with her.  Imagine parents who see and handle their babies every minute of their waking hours.  That bonding must be strong.  It is something that is hard to explain, best to experience.

Observing things that we do with Bethany, I ponder upon the necessity of daily routine act of affection with your loved ones.  Something that we may have overlooked, something that may have been overwritten by other daily routines.  As I was holding little Bethany in my arms, the first time after she was born, I could not help but to think …

… I reckon if she was to camp to my home for a few days, I could still play computer games while she is sleeping in my embrace.  Her daddy Benny doesn’t seem to be convinced.  I should do a live demo the next time they visit us.

She Is Bethany

I have finally realized what the phrase “sleep like a baby” means after spending much time watching my niece who does nothing but sleeps during my frequent visits.  Or I think I have realized.  She does nothing but sleep!  And I want to be just like her.  In fact, when I look at her not looking at me, that look of oh-happy-sleep, I too want to fall asleep.  She could well be my lullaby.  Benny – my sister’s husband a.k.a. the happy dad – shook his head and said, “You should see her cry at night, bro.”  Such is the beauty of playing with other people’s babies.  You don’t have to deal with the daily chores and yet, you get to adore the babies in their supreme cuteness.

*     *     I     *     *

Cynthia’s yoga teacher said that if we keep doing the same thing for 21 days, that will become a habit.  I can’t say that visiting my niece often has become a habit, for she is less than 21 days old.  But that concept is growing in me.  Every time when my mother and I stepped into Benny and my sister Lora’s home, I would head straight to the living room, where my niece sleeps.  And I would give her a little hug showering her with the words of adoration for a few good minutes.

Oops.  I have forgotten to greet the other permanent residents of the house.  How rude of me!

*     *     II     *     *

From an outsider point of view – which I once was – it is certainly strange for a group of grownups to gather together and comment on a newborn baby who is barely a few days’ old.  What is there to talk about?

It turns out that there are a lot of things we can talk about.  Below is a random list of topics.

  • Which baby’s feature or characteristic comes from which parent?  And this could drag into a lengthy discussion.  More often, grandparents have the final say.
  • Physical comparison against other babies in the family.  So-and-so’s baby is born with more / less hair than yours (?!).  So-and-so’s baby is born “taller” / “shorter” / lighter / heavier than yours (?!).  I wonder if there is a strong correlation between the day you were born and how you would grow up to be – physically speaking.
  • My favorite observation is that my niece seems to have long fingers.  So I reckon she could be a great pianist.  I fancy this idea.  My dream could come true to have someone in the family to play piano!  A grand piano for her 18th birthday has crossed my mind.  Benny and Lora, if you are reading this, you may need a bigger apartment to put that piano in the middle of your living room.

And of course if I could hear how she cries instead of seeing her sleeping all the time, perhaps I can assess if she has a potential to be a great singer too.

*     *     III     *     *

Little Bethany, if you are reading this in the future, I think I get to see your mother a lot more often than before.  And that is a very good thing, of course.

Dad, if you are reading this, here is a picture of little Bethany in the cradle of her grandmother.