A Lesson in Parenting – by 3 Furbies

I was at a breakfast meet-up with Catherine, the brand manager of HASBRO Singapore this morning. Amidst a very candid talk about new toys, good games and other very adult stuff, the topic of Furbies came up.

The wife being shown a demo of how the Furby craps.
The wife being given a demo of the new Furby Boom! app.

Now, you will remember what I wrote last year about the first generation of new Furbies?(one of the nicer memories I have from an unfortunately not-so-nice period). This year, the wife and I were invited to the launch event of the 2nd generation of Furbies, called Furby Boom!, and the little egg-shaped furballs have been upgraded – if you consider them upgrades – to crap stuff out into an iPad toilet bowl, and (gasp!) reproduce. I’ll leave it to Cheekiemonkies to provide you with a more detailed review of the Gen 2 Furbies here, but this morning, Catherine and I went on a rather different tangent regarding the socially capable robot toys.

I told Catherine that after we activated the new Furbies and gave them to Xander, he immediately brought out his by-now extremely frustrated, depressed and angry 1st gen Furby (which was understandably ?frustrated, depressed and angry because he was left in storage for about 9 months on account of he turned “evil”) and started playing with all three, feeding them with the Furby iPad app (yes, the Furby Boom! series will still respond to the 1st generation IOS/Android app). And because the Furby Boom! can also happily make friends with 1st gen Furbies, Xander’s orange 1st gen Furby cheered up within 2 minutes of meeting its 2 new friends.


Then, after the first night of very active playing, the wife and I would notice the boy very excitedly taking out all 3 Furbies every evening?for the next 4-5 consecutive nights, placing them in a circle in an empty corner of the living room so they can talk, and then leaving them there to entertain each other while he does other stuff – for the rest of the night.

furby-boom-3“Ya! My kids do that too!” remarked Catherine. “I have two 1st-gen Furbies at home, and when I brought a Furby Boom! home for them, my son would also put them in a circle and let them talk while he goes and does other things. I don’t get it. Why do kids do that?”

There was a pause, as we let sink in the idea that this might be a common phenomenon among kids. Then I said with a slight smile, “I think it’s because we do it to them.”

The pause that followed my answer was a bit longer as it started to dawn on us that this may be a sign of our parenting method.

While I can’t speak for Catherine, I do have the tendency to leave Xan to his own devices while I try to finish up my work. And for the most part, the boy is an angel, able to play with himself for an extended period of time with whatever he can pick up from around the house (the wife has also remarked that it is a dream bringing him to the office because he is able to play quietly by himself and not disturb anyone throughout the work day).

It dawned on me that Xan’s idea of care for his three robotic pets must have been gleaned off of how we operate as a family on a daily basis – I can imagine the conversation he has with the Furbies as he places them in their circle. “Okay, you kwai-kwai go one corner and play amongst yourselves okay? I go draw picture in front of the TV.”

To think that it took three Furbies to tell me what kind of a dad I’m teaching my kid to become.

The Furby Boom! is now available?at Toys ‘R’ Us, major department stores at Metro, OG and Takashimaya and selected electronic stores, and retails at S$119.90.?The Furby and Furby Boom apps are also available for download now on iTunes and Google Play.

The War Against Dengue Part II: A Child’s Tale

mozzie-biteThis is a picture of my son, taken a month before his first birthday.

We were at my sister’s place celebrating his cousin’s birthday. It was a landed property with a large outdoor garden, so a bouncing castle was ordered in for the party. As you can imagine, all the kids spent most of their time outdoors as a result.

For some reason, the mozzies decided to host their own birthday party on my son’s face; hence the swelling. It caused no end of concern from me, the wife, and even his grandmother, and shortly after, we set a family directive to never being my son to my sister’s house again.

If course, being the opportunist that I was, I decided to use my son’s post-mozzie attack image as the focus of his Boxing Day birthday invitation card.



Could what happened to my kid have been prevented? The NEA has been actively sending out messages saying you can. You have the 5-step Mozzie Wipeout PSAs playing on TV, printed on newspaper and magazine ads, disseminated in flyers and pamphlets… but does anyone take them seriously? Before Xander was born, I can honestly tell you, “Pffffft”.

But after looking at my son’s face marred like that, I now make it a point to, dengue or not.

The Anti-Dengue Army (Nee Soon Central Division)


Then at the dengue prevention volunteer training workshop I attended previously, I found out about the volunteers. The?Nee Soon Central Zone 6 Resident’s Committee (RC) sends out about 15 volunteers (consisting of both?senior citizens and RC members)?around the residential?estates to engage residents about dengue awareness and also help them identify possible Aedes breeding hotspots in their homes and in nearby communal areas.

RC-intervieweeIt’s a pretty effective exercise, too. A long-time volunteer said to us during a roundtable discussion, “Most of them know us. We will always identify ourselves as RC members, because we are not salesmen, you know.” So the residents are quite receptive to the information and advice the volunteers give out during house visits. And since this volunteer-driven dengue awareness programme began, there has been a marked decrease on breeding hotspot in communal areas.

Weapons Upgrade

You may have also noticed there’s been a lot less fogging being done in residential estates nowadays. As?NEA representative Sueanne Mocktar?explained, thermal?fogging may kill mosquitoes, but the loud sound and the blowing effect from the fogging machines also push and drive mosquitoes away, so the culling wasn’t as effective.

So while the NEA still conducts thermal fogging outdoors from time to time, they’ve been focusing their efforts on a method called ULV misting, using a much quieter, less forceful water-based misting spray that disperses smaller particles, and because it’s a more subtle method, ULV misting is applied indoors – in common mosquito hiding places such as dark corners, toilets, underneath furniture and behind curtains – mainly due to the same reason why the following, very recently concocted myth has been roundly debunked.

The Haze Kills Mosquitoes – You Think, I Thought, Who Confirm?

Despite what you’ve heard, the haze didn’t improve the dengue situation. As it turns out, rise in ambient temperature will speed up the Aedes egg incubation period. Also, because 70% of Aedes mosquitoes breed indoors, while we were protecting our homes from the haze by closing our windows, we may very well have been keeping the mosquitoes safe with us at the same time.


We count our blessings that my son’s mosquito attack stopped at his face. If mere mosquito bites could freak us out that much, imagine how we would have dealt with it if it turned out to be a dengue infection. And when you see members of the public taking an active role in fighting the spread of dengue in their communities, it just goes to show how much the dengue situation affects you, the people around you and the nation as a whole. Take the war seriously;?it’s already caused four deaths, don’t allow it to take any more.



[The PV Series] Canteen Duty During Ramadan

The past month, I’ve been hanging out at the primary school where I volunteer almost every evening. Parent volunteers and Parents Support Group (PSG) members (volunteers whose children were already enrolled in the school) were being called in to assist in caregiving during the Ramadan period, so the Muslim teachers in the afternoon session could leave earlier to break their fast. The classes they were in charge of during the last period of the day would all be seated in the canteen for about half an hour to the capable hands of the available 1 or 2 non-Muslim teachers, and us.


When we were first briefed in what the school called “canteen duty”, we were handed a list of standard operating procedures (SOPs) to follow, which went to the tune of the following:


SOP for doing Canteen Duty during Fasting Month

1) Do ensure that the pupils are doing their own work in the canteen.

2) Do ensure the safety of our pupils in the canteen.

3) Assist the pupils in their work (when needed).

4) Allow only 2 pupils to go to the restroom at each time for each class.

5) Assist in the dismissal of the pupils from canteen to the parade square at 6.30pm.

6) During wet weather, do assist in the dismissal of the pupils from canteen to the respective gates upon the instructions of the teacher-in-charge.


It seemed simple enough… until the pupils came in.

How Do The Teachers Do It?!

The most notable difference between full-fledged teachers and parent volunteers is the volume of their voice: parent volunteers will tend to speak gently to the oh-so-cute Primary 1 and 2 kids, making sure we attend to as much of their needs as possible within the stipulated guidelines. The teachers, however, have no qualms carrying their voices across the entire canteen area to make one simple point to the 5-6 classes – SILENCE, OR ELSE.

You can imagine whose heads the kids will tend to climb over.

About 4 sessions later of observing how the teachers skilfully navigate their way around the rowdiness, and I was barely getting the hang of controlling a crowd I never imagined I would have an audience of, though I was gaining a reputation among the other parent volunteers as “the one who will scold”.

As for the SOPs…

1) Do ensure that the pupils are doing their own work in the canteen.


It’s one thing to guide your preschooler through spelling 8 words on a Sunday night just before bed (though the wife and I will still attest to it being suitably stressful). But just try to ensure a class of 30 kids will complete their allotted schoolwork in the span of half an hour, and you will appreciate why it takes 1 year of training for university graduates to qualify as a primary school teacher.

2) Do ensure the safety of our pupils in the canteen.

We had very little problems with this one, because the kids were mostly able to look out for themselves. In fact, they were so adept at it, they would avoid certain tables because “Uncle/Teacher, here got bird poopoo! We cannot sit here!”, and subsequently ostracise the poor table and benches for the rest of the period.

3) Assist the pupils in their work (when needed).

Again, easier said than done. You know you shouldn’t be giving them straight answers; they come to school to learn, don’t they? But it takes brain cells to come up with a suitable roundabout way for the pupil to come up with the correct answer him- or herself.

Pupil: “Excuse me, uncle. what is the answer to this?”
Me: “Okay. 7 plus 6 equals… what?”
Pupil: “I dunno.”
Me: “Er, well, count with your fingers.”
Pupil: “6, 7, 8, 9… Uncle. I not enough fingers.”
Me: “Uh… borrow some more from your friend.”
Kid next to pupil: “I duwan.”

4) Allow only 2 pupils to go to the restroom at each time for each class.

There’s a trick to this that I did not understand until a few days later: most kids do not go to the toilet because they need to pee. They ask to go to the toilet because they want to be anywhere but where they should be.

I learnt this the hard way, when two girls came up to me the first day of my canteen duty and asked to go to the toilet about 5 minutes before it was time to leave the canteen for the flag-lowering ceremony. They did not return until after the national anthem was sung and everybody was carrying their bags, ready to bolt.

After a while, you learn to identify when someone seriously needs to go to the toilet and when someone is just trying to make a break for it. When a pupil comes up to you with a slightly worried look, legs pressed together and doing tiny hops from left to right, they need to go. But when a pupil comes up to you, with a cheeky smile and an inexplicable glint in his eye, you say NO.

5) Assist in the dismissal of the pupils from canteen to the parade square at 6.30pm.


This brought back memories for me. The off-sync, faster-than-what’s-being-played-on-the-PA-system singing, the class-by-class dismissals, the occasional teacher silently sneaking up behind an overtly fidgety pupil who only notices too late that he’s just gotten into trouble, and the crying boy who was made to stand right in front of everybody at assembly because he already got into trouble earlier on in the day.

I used to be that boy.

6) During wet weather, do assist in the dismissal of the pupils from canteen to the respective gates upon the instructions of the teacher-in-charge.

This happened only once. The parade square was still a little damp from the afternoon rain that day. I’ve never seen such a large group of kids disappear so quickly.

The more I do this, the more I can’t wait for my own kid to get into primary school.