Oh you sneaky one!

April 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Earlier today, I heard my husband exclaiming loudly in the living room. He was sorting out the music CDs and discovered that many of them had the CDs missing. The missing CDs were all tucked away in Lucas‘ room amid his other children’s DVDs.

Lucas loves music of any kind.

He’d get into the car, buckle up, and ask for the radio to be turned on (if it wasn’t already).

Home from school, straight to room and the music player comes on.

When he watches TV, it’s perpetually tuned to MTV.

When Adam Lambert performed on American Idol (S8) and now James Durbin on Season 9, he’d run out from his room, clap and dance.

He can identify the song he wants to listen to (or not) by the first few notes, and he taught himself to play the first two bars of “Happy Birthday” on the keyboard by ear.

So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us that he would help himself to our music CDs. It’s how he does it.

Our CDs are kept in a drawer in the cabinet where the TV and other multimedia devices sit. There’s a portable fan that’s positioned in front of it. To open the drawer, you need to move the fan.

I first realised that Lucas was taking the CDs out when in the early mornings when he wakes up before we do, I could hear a slight squeak which is emitted when the fan is moved. Once I got out of bed to check, and Lucas was standing guiltily by the fan and pretending to turn on the TV! At first glance into the drawer, nothing appears missing. But I could tell when he has removed CDs by the different music he plays in his room, and also by the tell-tale signs of haphazard stacking of the covers. This doesn’t bother me; in fact I am rather pleased.

So, as my husband shook his head in resignation as he opened empty CD cover after empty CD cover (total of about 50), I couldn’t stop laughing!

Being sneaky is a high level functioning behaviour, I told him.

Anyway, we agreed to turn it into a learning task by having Lucas match CDs with their covers and returning them to the drawer. And he can do this every couple of months.

Categories: Autism, Family

My son’s upset with me & I’m happy about it!

April 10, 2011 Leave a comment

No, I’m not a mean person. I don’t relish in other people’s unhappiness.

But when you live with someone with autism, anything that deviates from the person’s ‘normal’ behaviour is a cause for examination, hope, and even, celebration. For sometimes, it means that there’s a form of breakthrough, and perhaps this is the one that would tip the scales in your/their favour from now on.

In general, Lucas is a happy boy, and he loves to travel. We are blessed as he’s very well behaved and it’s very easy for us to bring him overseas on vacation. He doesn’t complain about long plane rides or the waiting or the long queues (Mom is usually the one grumbling). He loves beach holidays and is happiest in the pool or walking on the sand along the beach.

He has come to associate certain things with holidays – luggages being the most obvious ‘clue’ to him. He would also watch us when we pack, to see what goes into the luggage. When I used to travel for work previously, Lucas would stay with his grandparents which he doesn’t mind.

Last week, my husband had to go on a short work trip, and I decided to accompany him. As Lucas had school, I decided not to bring him with us. So I explained to him earlier in the day that he would have to stay at his grandparents’ place for a couple of nights.

We took a cab to the departure centre, and enroute, dropped Lucas off at the grandparents’. Throughout the cab ride, Lucas sat staring out of the backseat window moodily. I knew he was upset as he was disinterested in the music playing in the background, and when I prodded him in the ribs (which usually cause him to chuckle), he merely ignored me. Not a smile could be seen.

When we reached my parents’ place, he reluctantly waved goodbye and walked off. I learned when I returned that he took a long time to settle down that evening for bed. Instead he kept pointing to pictures of me at home.

Fortunately, his moodiness didn’t last long and his teacher reported that he was his usual happy self the next day. And just as thankfully, when we returned two days later, he was thrilled to have us home and to be back in his own home.

Most parents out there would say that it’s usual for children to miss their parents when they are apart and that this is normal. And that is precisely why I’m pleased about it – because it is a normal. Previously, it would never have bothered Lucas when we travel without him. If he was bothered, he had never shown it.

Now I hope that one day soon, I’d have to actually call him each day that I’m away to tell him that ‘Mom is coming home soon’.

Categories: Autism

You’re a winner!

March 22, 2011 Leave a comment

I love taking part in contests. I remember being 5 and submitting my first entry to a colouring competition organized by a local newspaper and winning a set of colouring pencils. Never mind that I already had numerous sets and they cost my parents a lot more than the set I’d won. It was the thrill of winning that mattered.

As years went by, I became more selective in the kind of contests I participate in. If it’s a pure lucky draw I usually give it a miss. I like those in which I had to actually do something – usually solve a puzzle or tell the organizers why I deserved to win.

My winnings to-date includes a pair of air tickets to Paris, an all-expense paid vacation at a resort in Malaysia, a DVD player and other smaller forgettable ones.

As a strategic planner, I’d advised clients over the years on their own contest promotions. To me, these are important points to bear in mind whenever you’re planning a contest.

1) Excite

Give something that’s really desirable. This may seem like a given, but I have come across contests that are not worth the trouble of participation.

2) Engage

It’s a no-brainer to just fill in your personal particulars and drop an entry form off. But most people probably won’t even remember participating in the contest after a few days. What’s more, with all the spam out there, people are becoming more wary of such tactics for fear that it is merely a database building exercise. (OK – let’s be honest here, when you carry out any promotional activity that asks for consumers’ particulars and contact information, almost all the time it is to beef up your database. What’s important here is that you should give participants the chance to opt-in to (ideal) or opt-out of (acceptable) receiving future marketing communications from you.)

Their participation could well be a one-shot deal, so make the most of it. Make it a requirement that they answer a question or two in order to be eligible to win. What single most important information do you want the consumers to know? Is it the location of your new store? A new brand positioning? The latest feature in your product? Make that information the answer to the question and ensure the information is easily available (eg. in your website or in an accompanying literature.)

So, even if they opted out of receiving further communications from you (and you had better respect that choice), by their participation, you would have informed them of something new about your company or business.

3) Entertain

Make it fun for them to take part. There have been contests that involve puzzles, treasure hunts, jingle singing and endurance tests. The more the participants enjoy it, the more likely they’ll tell others about it – think viral. And hey, you’ll fulfill the engagement part of it too.

4) Easy to redeem the prize

What’s more disappointing than not winning? Finding out that the prize you’ve won comes with all kinds of ridiculous conditions.

Don’t give away a free meal which is only valid from Mondays to Wednesdays, between 2pm & 4pm, and only if it falls on an odd date! Oh and you’d need to redeem it within two weeks or it’ll no longer be valid!

Most would understand that they may be certain restrictions – just make them reasonable.

So, if you’re a running a restaurant, it’s generally OK to restrict redemption during days like Christmas, New Year & Valentine’s Day. If you are giving away a  spa treatment, you may request that an appointment is made at least a week in advance and is non-cancellable within 48 hours of treatment. Giving away a trip to Europe? It’s perfectly acceptable to have a designated travel agent handle all the travel arrangements, and to limit any changes to the itinerary.

Travel prizes are tricky. When I won the trip to a resort in Malaysia, it was a week’s vacation for 2. I wanted to bring my son along, and my husband and I couldn’t take a full week off work. The organizer was extremely accommodating. I paid for an extra plane ticket for my son, and since we were only staying for 4 days instead of the full week, they included full-board for my son for the entire 4 days, and upgraded us to a junior suite. We had a lovely time and since then, I’ve always recommended friends the resort when I hear that they are visiting the area.

Another good way to tackle travel prizes is to give away a travel voucher instead. I recently attended a prize-giving ceremony where the winner won S$3000 worth of travel to Japan*. This is probably one of the most flexible of travel prizes as it allowed the winner to plan the itinerary as desired. Of course, you can still set certain conditions like preferred cities, airlines & hotel chains. Oh, and please allow time for redemption. Not everyone can hop on a plane the following week.

* At the time of  publication, Japan was suffering from post-tsunami and the threat of radiation. I understand that the organizer had agreed for the winner to redeem the travel prize to another destination of the winner’s choice.

Have you organized a recent contest promotion that was highly successful? Or took part in one that you really enjoyed? I’d love to hear about them.

Categories: business, Communication Tags:

Shepherd’s Pie

February 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Fresh from the oven

Made the most delicious Shepherd’s Pie last week, so I thought I would share the recipe here. I cook very much based on what I think is enough so my measurements are not 100% accurate. Do feel free to add or reduce the amounts to suit your palate.


4 Russet Potatoes
300 gms ground beef (lean preferably)
1 cup/230 gms mixed vegetables
1 tin button mushrooms (diced into quarters)
1 yellow onion (chopped)
1 tbs chopped garlic
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs black pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tbs soya sauce
1 tbs ground chili pepper
1 tbs dried basil / oregano / thyme (or all of them!)
1 tsp dried parsley
shredded cheddar cheese (enough to cover the top layer)

1) Peel, cut in half and boil the potatoes for about 10 mins until a fork can pierce through easily. (You can leave the skin on but make sure they are washed properly).

2) When done, drizzle olive oil (about 1 tbs) and mash them. Put aside.

3) In a heated saucepan, drizzle olive oil (about 1 tbs), add garlic and onion. Stir fry till fragrant.

4) Add ground beef and stir fry till beef is cooked. (You can marinate the beef beforehand with a little bit of soya sauce, pepper and herbs, if you like.)

5) Add mixed vegetables and mushrooms.

6) Add soya sauce, pepper, salt, chili pepper and herbs according to taste. (I like it a little spicy, so I am quite generous with the peppers.) Mix well, and turn off heat when it begins to simmer.

7) In an oven-proof dish (approx 9″ round), spread half of the mashed potatoes on the bottom of the dish. Add the meat & vegetable, and cover with a top layer of mashed potatoes. Spread the chedder cheese on the top.

8) Place in a preheated oven (180 deg C) for about 20 mins.

Technically, all the food is already cooked even before it goes into the oven. But that extra 20mins would melt the cheese and form a tasty crust and seals all the juices within.


Categories: Everything Else, Food Tags:

It only happens during Chinese New Year!

February 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Without fail, several things will happen during and in the days leading up to Chinese New Year (CNY).

Annual food debate

All my relatives on my dad’s side of the family will meet at our family home in the morning of the first day of CNY. Every year, with the exception of 2009 & 2010*, we would serve up fried bee hoon (vermicelli), chicken curry, my mom’s fried turnip cake (on special request), and mixed soup**.

Every year, one of us would suggest that we try something new. So once Christmas of the prior year is over, we will begin discussions on what to cook for all the guests on the first day. We will toss out menu ideas, only to be shot down for various reasons.

Popiah – too messy for guests to make and it’s a dish best eaten DIY. Also, food preparation takes a lot of time.

Fried Hokkien Mee (instead of fried bee hoon) – doesn’t keep well as it gets soggy too fast. This means one of us (probably mom) would be in the kitchen throughout cooking batches.

Roast chicken/chicken wings – too western; we should have something Asian. Anyway, there’s already chicken curry.

Fried rice – too simple.

Various Chinese/Peranakan meat dishes with rice – too complicated.

… and so on. Invariably, we’d fall back on the fried bee hoon, curry chicken, turnip cake & soup, telling ourselves that we’ll do something different the NEXT year.

*In 2009, my maternal grandmother passed away shortly after X’mas, and according to Chinese customs we were not supposed to celebrate CNY that year. In 2010, my sister was too busy with her then-one-year-old, and so I made dry mee siam (Malay-style fried vermicelli) in place of the fried bee hoon which my sister traditionally makes. The mee siam was a hit but it was a lot of work too, hence only that one time.

** Mixed soup is a melting pot of all the leftover steamboat ingredients from the previous night’s reunion dinner.

Same old questions

I see many of my relatives only once a year – during CNY. Unless there’s a huge wedding or death, we rarely meet otherwise. (This is actually quite sad as we live in a small country. It doesn’t take anyone more than half-an-hour in decent traffic to drive from one corner to the other of the country.)

So, we would try and at least spend a few minutes with everyone. A typical conversation goes like this:

Them: How are you?

Me: Great, and you?

Them: Very good. Lucas is such a big boy now.

Me: Yes he is. Shot up a lot in the past year. How’s <name of child/parent/spouse>?

Them: <Name> is doing well. Are you still with Gosh?

Me: (Inwardly rolling my eyes) Oh no, I left the agency 5 years ago. (Which I’d told you every one of the last 5 times you asked me in the last 5 years.)

Them: Oh, what are you doing now?

Me: The same thing I was doing last year …

I swear I could have recorded and played back such conversations multiple times each CNY.

Ang Pow collection

No, I’m not referring to stuffing ang pows, deciding the amounts to give, nor calculating how much Lucas receives (which usually ends up almost equivalent to what I’ve doled out, so it’s almost as though the money is transfered from my bank account to his!)

I mean collecting ang pows – literally. My mom has a huge collection of different ang pow designs, amassed over decades. To help her collection, we would put aside all the unique designs we get and hand them over to add to her already impressive collection. We’d hustled with business partners, clients, suppliers and friends for those that their company produces as giveaways.

One year, I was at a mall which had a really pretty design and I’d asked the customer service person if I could have one. Unfortunately, because I didn’t spend enough money at the mall, I couldn’t get one! Damn! Very fortunately, a kind security officer overheard my conversation and took one of the ang pows which was used as a hanging decoration and gave it to me! Thank you Mr Security Officer, you had stopped me from ‘stealing’.

Playing “In Between

Funny how even though we get together as a family and with friends rather often, there’s no other better season like CNY for gambling fever to spike. We love this game as you can have as many players joining in as you’d like, bet as much or as little as you like, and get ready for a ‘heart attack’.

Without fail, everyone would throw caution to the winds when the pot gets higher. Somehow the odds between a Queen & 8 appears better than a 3 & 7 then.

I also love being seated as the next player after my dad. Amazingly, 90% of each time he gets dealt a good pair of cards, he would bet the entire pot and lose! Which means I get to possibly win the next hand BIG!

A really fun time filled with laughter, teasing, and good-natured taunts.

There are many other traditions that come with CNY, but none like these to make me look forward to the occasion. Do you have a favourite festive tradition? I’d love to hear of them!

Categories: Everything Else, Family

Love. Laugh. Listen. Three words to describe my parenting style.

February 8, 2011 Leave a comment

I first posted this on CooBabyTalk – a blog on my online store – www.coobabes.com – which I also write & edit. Thought I’d share this here as well.

February 4th, 2011

Love. Laugh. Listen.

In a recent tweet, I responded to a Parenting question to describe your parenting style in three words. My three words were: Love. Laugh. Listen.


This is almost a given. I mean, which parent, out of love, will not go out of his or her way to do what’s best, to provide the best, to make sure it’s the best for his/her child?

Recently, there was an article in the Straits Times in Singapore about how parents queued overnight to secure a place on the waiting list to enroll their pre-schoolers in a popular kindergarten. Apparently it also seems that one mother in a delivery suite even called the school to enquire about placing her about-to-be-born child on that said list.

In movies and books, we sometimes hear this phrase – a face that only a mother can love. Although meant usually to insult whoever ‘owns’ that face, it is true that to a mother, her child is the cutest, prettiest, most handsome and every other positive superlative you can imagine. Which reminds me of a Chinese proverb – “There is only one pretty child in the world, and every mother has it.”


We have to learn to enjoy parenthood and sometimes it means laughing off things that might otherwise upset you. You can’t fault a child for every mistake made.

Your son runs his dirty, sticky fingers through his hair? Hey, he’s just a little bloke. The dirt and grime comes off in the bath.

Your daughter raids your cosmetics and now has a clown-like face? Well, she’s just pretending to be like Mom and you know imitation is the greatest form of flattery. (It could also mean that Mom needs to touch up on her make-up application skills.)

Tearing pages off books? As long as it’s not a limited edition copy, give them unwanted magazines next time. And hey, it’s practice for scrapbooking in future.

When you laugh, your child will probably laugh with you, and who wouldn’t want a happy baby? At the end of the day, parenthood can be and is fun. How many times have your child done or said something that just made you laugh? Too many too count for most.


Communication is two-way, and that means listening to what your child is telling (or not telling) you. Even with infants, parents can tell from the way they cry whether they need food, a diaper change, or just a good cuddle.

As babies learn to talk, it can be tough to make out their babble. Many times it is guesswork but when you listen carefully and you get it right, what a wonderful reinforcer it is.

Listening also shows you are engaged and interested in your child. All children want attention, and listening to them is a great way to give it to them and just one of the many ways to show you care.

As a parent of a non-verbal autistic teenager, listening may seem difficult but I listen with my eyes – what Lucas is trying to tell me through his gestures, his expressions, his behaviour. It’s a more active form of listening, but you hear volumes.

How would YOU describe your parenting style? I’d love to know.

~ Sharon

Categories: Autism, Coo, Family Tags:

Mommy’s out here!

February 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Lucas and I go out together pretty often. At 14, he’s almost a head taller than me (which is quite easy to achieve since I’m only 5ft barefooted.)

When he was much younger and needed to go to the toilet, I would find a relatively isolated ladies’ toilet and hustle him in to conduct his business. It’s quite a common sight where we live whereby mothers would bring their young sons into the toilets with them and any other women in the toilet would usually be quite forgiving.

But as a teenager, it is no longer appropriate. I would try and find a handicapped toilet located outside the restrooms but some places don’t have them. At these places, I would have no choice but to let him go to the men’s room on his own if he needs to pee.

Given his innocence, and the fact that if he was harrassed in the toilet by unsavoury characters, he would not be able to tell me, I worry very often when we’re out by ourselves and he needs the toilet.

Lucas can pee independently. He knows to use the urinal, flush and wash his hands when he’s done. So, when he uses the men’s room on his own, to deter any would-be predators, I would stand by the entrance of the toilet, and very loudly call out to him from the time he enters till he comes out.

It goes like this:
“Mommy will wait for you out here.”
“Don’t forget to flush the toilet.”
“Remember to wash your hands.”
“Mommy is here.”
“Use the hand dryer.”
And so on, until he comes out, often hands still wet from the wash!

He still needs help when taking a dump, so that’s a different story altogether.

What do other mothers do if their sons need help with toileting in public?

Categories: Autism, Uncategorized Tags: ,