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It’s been ages since I went on a holiday. Last week I took leave and the four of us including my two boys went to Melaka (known as Malacca in the olden days during colonial times). Melaka has been listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Cities.

First, the Portuguese conquered Malacca, then the Dutch and later the British Empire. That is why there are a lot of rich cultural remmants of the glorious past. It was our first trip to this part of Malaysia. Apart from getting lost during the drive and moving around in circles, it was a marvellous holiday. No one lost their temper which is an achievement itself. We had a grand time.

We checked into a hotel that was in the heart of historical sites and shopping malls. This saved us from driving. I could not wait to explore the famous Jonker’s Street and I was not disappointed. The buildings are beautifully restored and the elaborate carvings on the walls and pillars are a sight to behold. The streets are full of shops selling souveniers, antiques, clothes and food unique to this state. Such rich baba-nyonya heritage.

The Maritime Museum
We entered ‘Flora De La Mar’, the Portuguese ship that sank off the Coast of Malacca now in the form of Maritime Museum. There is choc full of histories of the Portuguese, Dutch and British era. However I was too busy taking photos of my sons to really appreciate the historical impact. I was not much of a history buff during my school days. I do love to read historical romance but that is besides the point here.

We search in vain in our car for the Portuguese settlement and finally had to concede defeat. We walked to the replica of the Melaka Sultanate Palace and to our dismay it was closed. Sigh! I had wanted to walk along the corridors and imagine myself as a Malay princess of the golden era.

I definitely had to visit St. Paul’s Church which had been turned into burial ground for the dead by the Dutch. The huge tombstones with incriptions were all around the walls. Superstition aside, I took photos again. I’m such a shutterbug. Do not ask me anything technical as I take just for the love of capturing the moments for memories sake. The Stadthuys was also on our walking trail.

We went on a Melaka River Cruise and bought tickets which enabled us to leave the boat anywhere and anytime. When we are satisfied with seeing the destination, we just wait at the jetty and hitch a ride to the next destination for free.


I had to explore on my own and found some lovely temples. Melaka is famous for their Satay Celup, Chicken Ball Rice, kuih-muih and Nyonya food. I bought back some for family back home to have a taste.

It was time to leave. Reality was waiting for me. With reluctance, we bid farewell to lovely and quaint Melaka.It was a marvellous holiday. I hope one day my boys will look back and remember the wonderful memories spent there. Cheers.

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He is eleven years old and is adamant not to go camping. I understand his feelings and fears. He is pretty much like me when I was a child. Insecure, painfully shy, timid. You get the picture. I wanted to get him out of his shell and learn to be more confident of himself and his abilities. At home with his family he is playful and likes to engage me in his football conversation. Oh yes, he is absolutely crazy over dogs and most kind with them. With other people, he like a tortoise in its shell, save for a few handful of his school friends.

How am I going to instill confidence in him? Opportunity came in the form of a camping trip held in his school compound. Perfect for a first time experience. This should be safe. At least it is not in some remote  jungle or near a flowing river. Still I was apprehensive. He is completely clueless. I am his mother but I know his shortcomings. I went shopping to buy the camping necessities.

The day came with him still protesting. ‘You don’t love me’, ‘you hate me’, ‘you just want to get rid of me’ were just some of the accusations thrown at me. Like the doting mother that I am, I smile lovingly and reassured myself. Of course, he does not mean a word that was uttered. Surely he will thank me for it later after successfully going through the ‘ordeal’.

My son wore his camping attire reluctantly and slung his bag over his drooping shoulder. He acted like I was sending him to the gallows. I walked with him to the meeting place. Not even one familiar face. This added to his nervousness and mine. More than a hundred students attended. Surely there was a familiar face somewhere. Reluctantly I left him. Doubts crossed my heart. Will he survive by himself? Will I? Will my younger son stopped grinning since we left his elder brother at the camp?

It was a very long night. At the crack of dawn, I got up. I had to subdue my impulse to rush to school to check on him. I told myself strictly to let go and consoled myself that he will be fine. I conjured a rosy picture of him chatting with his friends and having a midnight adventure. But it was no use. I had to go to school to sneak a peek.

Amid the numerous tents, I scoured the many sleeping bodies plus just as many early owls looking for my son. Panic hit me. He was just simply not there. I went to the field hoping to see him playing football even though I know he was not the sporty type.  As expected, he was not there. Wait a minute, there was a Talent Competition about to start. Maybe he has gone to support his friends who were taking part. Just in time to see his friend singing a One Direction son. By then, I was barely coherent. Where was he? Visions of him huddling in a corner and crying to himself came to my mind. He must have hated it and was desperate to escape!

I combed the school compound and finally found him in the Multimedia Room listening intently with other students to a leadership talk. My dear boy taking down notes and having that familiar frown in the middle of his forehead when he was concentrating.  I caught his eye and waved happily to him. Boy, was I relieved! He was adjusting to his new life! I hope he savoured his new-found independence. I went home. My mission accomplished. He survived the first night! And so did I!

The second night came. Oh dear, will he able to sleep? Will I? Will my younger son stopped acting so happy without his elder brother around? This time I resolved not to rush over to school and proud to declare that I kept my composure the whole day.

Finally after what seemed like an eternity, the day came when it was time to fetch him home. There he was, looking none the worse, patiently waiting for me. My heart soared when I saw him. He started telling me one by one his friends left because they could not stand the rigours of the camp. But he did not call me to fetch him before the camp ended because he was very sure I would not entertain such a request. Yes, absolutely. Whatever we started we have to see it through despite the hardship. We reap what we sow. He even had to perform in front of an audience and my heart burst with pride. Despite his paralysing fear of an audience, he managed to pull it off. He has learnt teamwork, persistance, courage, patience and found his inner strength. I was absolutely so proud of him.

You did it! I told my son. Will you go to another camping trip the next time your school organize one? His answer : Absolutely – only in my dreams, mum!

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Let’s see, I am happy because I have my job, family, health, basic needs satisfy (wish I could afford that Coach handbag though!), friends…My sons bring me much joy and meaning in my life. Every day being around with them is a blessing for which I am thankful. My mom, well in my younger days, I just did not get along that well with her. My dad who has departed for quite a number of years is the one I looked up to and still missed terribly. I absolutely think he is the greatest. Now that my grey strands are showing, I have started to appreciate and understand my mom. Yes, I am happy but…

My younger son who has Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis for more than 2 years is still under medication. I cannot bear to look at his wrist. Why is it still swollen despite consuming medication and having injections for so long? How long must he go on like this? I cannot imagine children with Polyarticular JIA. (five or more than 5 joints affected). My son has Oligoarticular JIA which means 4 or fewer joints affected. I should be thankful he can still play and run like others but when it comes to specific movements, he has limitations and he will feel the difference with other children when he is older. Or perhaps he already is feeling now…

Also because looking around I am aware there are tons of people elsewhere suffering, countries in political turmoil, families torn apart by earthquakes, floods and other catastrophe..There are people scavenging for food, their basic needs like shelter, meals, medical aid denied. Then, there are those women and children suffering in silence the physical and emotional abuses in the confine of their house. Why is all this happening? Thankfully my country is at peace and hopefully in the future too.

We have become immune to all this in our daily grind. We see these happenings in the newspaper, TV and other media but we just don’t feel the shock anymore. Perhaps for a bried moment, our mind emphasize with that deplorable incident. And then, we move on to other things that need our immediate attention.

So, there you are. I am feeling happy and sad at the same time.

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Finally the day came when we packed our bags into two cars and shoot off to the Pearl Of  The Orient (Penang). I was exceptionally nervous because this is the first time I am driving long distance and five lives depended on me ie my mom-in-law, dad-in-law, my two sons and of course my own life! I had to follow my bro-in-law’s car since I have no clue as to the directions. Some people are just born without radars!

Thanks to my Penang bro-in-law we had good reason to drive down. Meeting for the first time and dinner with his future in-laws. Oh yes, he’s ending his bachelor days in September soon. We can hardly wait for the church wedding to see the dashing groom and his blushing bride. I am such a romantic softie at heart.

The journey there went smoothly. We had our lunch and I very wisely ordered Fried Kuay Teow (after all, this is one of the dish Penang is famous for!). My dish was up to my expectations but the rest of them were let down by the Kuay Teow soup (tsk! tsk! this is what Ipoh is famous for, not Penang!). Our stomachs filled and off we went to Kek Lok Si Temple. It’s been years since I went. Previous I walked up but this time with the gang, we drove up. Knowing my driving limitations, luckily I asked my bro-in-law to drive as the ride up was steep and narrow.

Oh! The view was breathtaking. Even the slight drizzle did not dampen our enthusiasm. My camera had a life of its own. What a terrific time we had taking photos! There were so many tourists around. The scenery was lovely with its statues in the garden. We took photo at the pavillion. Upon reaching the bottom of the hill, we decided to take the famous Penang laksa and boy, did it lived up to its name! Even though it was by the roadside, the tables were full. We went across the road and the service was quick. Aah, I was satisfied after having my bowl of steaming hot laksa. What would the trip be without eating the laksa! Pointless at least for me..

We reached my bro-in-law’s condominum and unpacked. I brought along my boys’ pillows to make them feel at home. Before we knew it, time for dinner with his in-laws. I have never seen his girlfriend and I could hardly wait. It seem like such a long ride to the Chinese restaurant. Parking is horrendous in Penang. They were already there waiting for us. A slim, simple and beautiful girl was my first impression and brainy too from her profession. The dishes were generous in size. Luckily my dad-in-law’s talent for small talk came in handy. He can talked on any topic and to any stranger. The rest of us were slow to break the ice. My niece and nephew who came along, played with my boys while the adults chit-chat. An enjoyable meal all in all and ended with smiles everywhere. Whew! I was afraid the children misbehave but luckily my nightmare did not come true.

The next day searched for the island famous biscuits. I managed to buy for my mum who loves the biscuit. My mission accomplished. Breakfast was Prawn Hokkien noodles which was mouth-watering. The beach beckoned next. Travelling round the island took a lot of our time. My sons could hardly contained their excitement as our hometown do not have any beaches. The children had a grand splashing time. We worked up a good appetite for lunch and it was good old solid rice with dishes.  We decided to go back to the condomium so that the designated drivers (me and my bro-in-law) have a quick snooze. It was a pretty tiring but enjoyable day.

My boys were reluctant to leave but in the end, we bid farewells and the journey to home begun. The holiday rejuvenated my sagging spirits and I felt revitalised even though physically tired because I am the type who have trouble sleeping elsewhere. A five-star hotel room would have been wasted on me because I just need my own bed to sleep! Everyone should have a break now and then with their loved ones because only then we can have lovely memories and feelings to cherish!

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It began with an unexplained pain in his right knee one day. I scrutinised for sign of bruises and cuts. Having found none, I interrogated my younger boy as to what happened and whether he fell down. All he could gave me was a puzzled look. Well, he’s only six after all.

Thus began our trips to the doctors, specialists, and so forth. A bone specialist said it is growing pains that afflicted some children. Whereas a doctor specialising in eastern medicine said he had child arthritis. We could not believe our ears. Arthritis at his age! After countless medicine and trips back to his paedrician who confirmed after numerous blood tests and X-Rays that he did have arthritis.

Since our state does not have an expert on child rheumatism, we had to go to a hospital in another state. The good doctor explained that he had Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) or Juvenile Idiopahtic Arthritis (JIA). The causes are not known but research indicated that it is an autoimmune disease. In short, this means that the white blood cells lose the ability to differentiate the body’s own healthy cells and harmful invaders. Thus instead of protecting the body, it releases harmful chemicals that can damage harmful tissues and cause inflammation.

And now my little boy has inflammation in his right knee and left wrist. He has Oligoarticular JIA which meant four or fewer joints affected. Since oral medication proved futile, he had medication injected directed into his joints by the outstation Consultant Paedrician Rheumatologist. So, far it has been five days since the injections. He had to be sedated before undergoing the treatment. He did not cry even once but just asked in a shaky voice with a huge tear squeezing out from his eye whether it will end soon. My own will nearly gave way upon seeing him lying so fragile on the hospital bed and asking me with such a trusting voice.

I know people always say God works in mysterious ways but I wonder why some children have to go through so much pain. There is a reason probably but so far I have not found it yet…

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11th Sep. 2009, Friday was another day for a follow-up visit to the doctor to assess my younger son’s joint inflamation condition. After countless medication and trips, his joints are still swollen. Finally the good doctor recommended a Consultant Paedrician Rheumatoid in another state. It is not a common childhood disease and there is no such specialist in my state. She managed to get an appointment fast and I really appreciated it because that Consultant is attached to a Government Hospital. Normal people like us who used the normal channel will probably be lucky if we can get an appointment few months later. Luckily my son’s appointment is next week.

This is actually a slow and crippling disease whereby his quality of life will be compromised should his condition continued. Due to pain, he is not moving much the affected joints. This will cause the muscle to shrink and to waste away. Furthermore nutrients that he consumed will be absorbed by other parts of the body and not the affected joints. As he is at a tender age now, the effects looked not serious but as he grows, his mobility will be restricted. That is why others who saw my son might not viewed it as a serious condition because he can still play like other boys but only I can see the difference. I just had to take some action so that he will be spared of the pain later on. He will start to wonder why other children will be able to handle physical exercises so effortlessly whereas he is unable too.

My boy has to be sedated and admitted to the hospital because of his young age. The medicine will be injected into both of his affected joints. I am naturally apprehensive and extremely worried. I can barely sleep at night. The days and nights are stretched so long ahead of me. I just feel mentally and emotionally exhausted. I wish everything is over fast and that all goes well.

I pray that my son will be well after this treatment.

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Well, actually, the title is a wee bit misleading because my son was actually looking forward to me coming back from office to pick him to the doctor. That was because in the next moment, he was hopefully asking me whether we will be going to other outings after the hospital trip. Who would have thought that a simple follow-up visit to the doctor would end up with us spending three hours there!

For the benefit of all, my son has inflammation in his joints. He seemed like any other young boy playing and running about when he is not inflicted by the pain. Praise God that usually he is fine. Occasionally he suffered in the morning when he have difficulty getting out from the pain. I have to carry him to the toilet and then give him his medication and then rub ointment on the affected joints. There were days he had to skipped school. Worst, before it was just one leg and now it is one hand which meant two afflicted joints.

This follow-up visit was actually one of the many visited. Unexpectedly the doctor ordered an X-Ray and it showed demineralization of bones which means there was some indication of thinning. I really do not understand how a young child can have such a medical condition. And he has a long journey to go through life.

Hopefully with the change of medication he will showed some improvement. Anyway, next week again another follow-up visit to the doctor. We have already spent a lot of time waiting from seeing the doctor to getting the lab results and medication. I shudder to think have to go through this again next week. But in my quest for my son to get well, I really do not have any choice. Nobody said being a mom was easy…

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