I truly love December. It’s like the equivalent of the year’s weekend — everyone seems more relaxed. This year we put up a small tree, even if we’re flying back to the Philippines for Christmas. BB was taken by it the first few days it was up. He referred to it as “Mommy’s plant.”
I also find myself looking back on the past twelve months this time of the year. If January feels like a fresh start (“Let’s draw up a list of New Year resolutions that look suspiciously similar to last year’s list!”), December is more for reflection.
2017 was, for me, a year of the same, a year of difference, and a year of in between. I am grateful — to reach the (almost) year-end with a growing, talkative and rowdy toddler, a roof over my head, Hubby next to me maximizing our new-ish Netflix subscription, and the prospect of lechon and our traditional baked chicken in a week’s time,shared with family, intact.
What have I done this year? How have I moved forward, how have I changed? What will I remember most about 2017? Drop me a note in the comments!
Here’s the thing: you might be a victim of abuse without knowing it.
No, I’m not talking about physical violence, but something a little less obvious, more insidious — and just as worse.
Have you ever heard of the term financial abuse?
(While I’ve not experienced it myself, it’s a topic that’s close to my heart not only because I work in the finance industry, but because I’ve seen so many women victimised by it, either knowingly or unknowingly. If this post helps at least one woman out there recognize her situation for what it is, then I would’ve achieved what I set out to write.)
What is financial abuse?
First things first. What do I mean by “financial abuse”? WomensLaw.org, a US website launched to provide legal information and resources for survivors of domestic violence, defines it like this:
Making or attempting to make a person financially dependent, e.g., maintaining total control over financial resources and withholding access to money, are some forms of financial abuse (also called economic abuse).
Purple Purse, a US national campaign focused on ending domestic violence through financial empowerment services for survivors, has the following definition:
Financial abuse prevents victims from acquiring, using or maintaining financial resources. Financial abuse is just as effective in controlling a victim as a lock and key. Abusers employ isolating tactics such as preventing their spouse or partner from working or accessing a bank, credit card or transportation. They might tightly monitor and restrict their partner’s spending. Victims of financial abuse live a controlled life where they have been purposely put into a position of dependence, making it hard for the victim to break free.
The message is consistent: if you’re in a relationship where you’re feeling manipulated or controlled through financial means or when you feel your partner may be limiting your financial independence,you may be a victim of financial abuse.
What are the signs of financial abuse?
According to refuge.org.uk, the following may be signs you’re experiencing financial abuse:
Does/did your partner:
Prevent you from working, or stop you from going to work?
Prevent you from going to college or university?
Ask you to account for every peso you spend?
Check your receipts or bank statements so they can monitor how much you are spending?
Keep the log-in details, bank cards or PIN numbers for your joint account so that you cannot access the account?
Spend money allocated to bills for other things?
Steal, damage or destroy your possessions?
Spend whatever they want, but belittle you for spending any money?
Insist on control of all financial matters?
Insist that all the bills and loans are in your name (but does not contribute to them)?
Make you ask permission before making any purchase, no matter how small?
Make significant financial decisions without you (e.g. buying a new home, car)?
Place debts in your name?
Steal money from you, or use your bank card without permission?
If any of these situations feel familiar, you may be experiencing financial abuse.
Okay, so I might be a victim of financial abuse. What do I do?
I know it’s very difficult, especially if you’re a stay-at-home mom counting on your spouse’s income, to be truly financially independent. I have read personal stories of women feeling absolutely crippled by being given less money for basic necessities by their partner if they complain about their situation. Your partner may even threaten to leave you, which especially if you have kids, can be devastating.
But — and here’s my attempt at a glimmer of hope — there are some things you can do.
Start working on your financial literacy.I know (trust me, I know) finance is not the most exciting subject in the world. However, it pays to know at least the basics — how to take stock of your finances, how to make a simple budget, the best ways to save whatever you can, how to prioritize your expenses — for you to be able to properly assess your specific situation. There are plenty of free resources online. The Commission on Filipinos Overseas launched Peso Sense, a nationwide Financial Literacy campaign “designed to encourage improving productive expenditure, improve the capacity for saving and promote entrepreneurship among Filipino beneficiaries of international or domestic remittances.” The Peso Sense website, http://pesosense.com/, contains free e-Learning modules with topics like Basic Finance, Managing Your Money, and a primer on the stock market.
Ensure you know your own ATM PIN codes, online banking passwords, and similar login information. You can always change them if you feel they have been compromised.
Have copies of important financial documents such as your bank statements, credit card information, etc. Know which assets are in your / your spouse’s name (bank accounts, credit cards, land titles, etc.).
Save whatever you can — as Tesco used to put it, “Every Little Helps.” Put away the cash in a location only you know.
Look for a part-time job or sideline, if possible. If you blog, look for a way to monetize it. Maybe you can start a small online Facebook shop selling on consignment, or set up a makeshift sari-sari store at home.
Up-skill for free. There are plenty of free resources online if you wish to take courses to improve your skills: think Coursera, edX, or Open2Study, among others.
Reach out to trusted friends, family, or even your local church. Especially if you feel you’re a victim of abuse, as they may be able to help you and your family get back on your feet.
I think it’s fun to act like tourists in our home city once in a while. It helps me avoid taking in the city’s beauty for granted.
Hubby and I passed by Marina Square the other week and saw a Duck Tour bus drive by. Why not take BB on a little tour of the Singapore sights? we thought. In case you don’t know what a Duck Tour bus is, it’s like any other tour bus except for the vehicle itself — the bus can drive on land and float on water (hence the name “duck”). Apparently these amphibious buses originated in World War II. According to The Atlantic: “The name DUKW derived from military equipment coding: D stood for the year of production (1942); U denoted its amphibious quality; K indicated front-wheel drive capability; W rear-wheel drive. Unsurprisingly, they just became known as ‘ducks.'”
We booked our Captain Explorer DUKW tour online through City Tours. Toddlers are charged S$2 (paid in person when you collect your tickets). The collection and meet-up point is at Marina Square Shopping Mall, with some conveniently placed kiddie rides opposite in case your little bub gets bored waiting to board.
The week leading up to our tour, BB couldn’t stop talking about it. “Sakay duck toi” (“Ride duck tour”) he declared at every opportunity — which made it ironic that as soon as we got on the bus, he started agitating to get off. 😅 I thought I had to forgo our S$28/person ticket fee, but he thankfully relaxed when the bus started moving (and the sights started to get interesting).
While the noise of the engine revving up may have had something to do with his initial fear, I think the tour guide’s crappy sound system (the constant microphone feedback was painful to hear!) and insistence on playing the PPAP song on loop was much, much worse. We had to endure her most of the ride. 😒
Thankfully — the sights more than made up for the sounds.
We had seen these landmarks before, but it was ours and BB’s first time to see them from a boat in the bay. (Hubby and I had taken a river cruise on a bum boat a few years ago, but only got as far as the Merlion.)
I had never seen the underside of the Helix Bridge before…
BB also got to see my office from afar…
He was delightfully engaged for most of the ride, pointing out the buildings, the Ferris wheel, the dragon boats, and even the taxis we spotted when we were still a little close to land. He loved the big wet splash the bus made when we entered the water.
We saw the following landmarks on the tour:
1. Marina Bay
2. Marina Barrage
3. Marina Bay Sands
4. Gardens on the Bay
6. Helix Bridge
7. Floating Stadium
8. Marina Bay Financial Centre
9. Singapore Flyer
10. Fullerton Hotel
I suppose a positive for travelers taking the bus alone is that the noisy tour guide is more than happy to take photos. She also does the tour in both English and Chinese.
Before going back to Marina Square the DUKW tour bus also drove by The National Museum, St. Andrew’s Cathedral, and The Cenotaph, a war memorial honoring the WWI and WWII dead.
While it was an experience riding a DUKW tour bus I’ll probably recommend the Singapore River Cruise bum boats as a better option for cruising with toddlers — it’s quieter too!
That said, we got off at Marina Square hungry for some Wee Nam Kee chicken rice, fully satisfied with the little slice of Singapore we got to see that day.
Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist most famous for her distinctive art made up of intricate dots, nets and pumpkin motifs. She’s also known for her dazzling room-sized installations, unique performances, and sparkling mirrored infinity rooms. This was the first time her art would be exhibited in Southeast Asia so it was definitely a must-see, in my view.
I thought it would be cool to bring BB along for his first art exhibit. Instill a sense of culture and love of all things creative, and all that. O, how naive I was. 😂
I first got a sense I wouldn’t be lingering around admiring the art when we entered the Narcissus Garden room. BB immediately wanted to be put down. He was eyeing the stainless steel balls and I could sense he was itching to touch/kick/lick one. The gallery attendant was shooting evil looks at our little group, and we (i.e. me, Hubby, and Yaya C) passed BB around in a joint effort to keep his little arms and legs from touching the whole thing.
Lesson #1: my son has a pretty solid kick.
The next hall housed the installation The Spirits of the Pumpkins Descended Into the Heavens, in Kusama’s distinctive yellow-and-black spotted theme. This was a slightly easier hall to navigate, but we still had a heck of a time keeping BB away from the hanging frames.
BB loved the room where the pumpkin installation was. “Circles!” he said, and proceeded to sing a few lines from that Blippi tootbrushing song we play to him every night to encourage him to brush. (♫ “Circles, circles, on the sides of your teeth…” ♫)
We definitely failed our Let’s-Keep-BB’s-Hands-Off-the-Artwork challenge in The Tulip Room. He loved the colorful dotted tulips — I have several shots of him leaning against the giant flower pots with a “Do Not Touch” sign clearly seen from the back. *sigh*
The longest queue was for the immersive infinity room experience, Gleaming Lights of the Souls. While the mirrored room was meant to “invite contemplation in an infinitely repeating, expanding space”, because of the crowds each group was only allowed around 12 seconds to “contemplate.” Still worth the queue, I think.
Finally, we visited The Obliteration Room, a room and its furniture painted white. The room was filled with thousands of colorful round stickers. Visitors could donate S$2 to the gallery which comes with a sheet of stickers — go wild and stick it anywhere, everywhere.
According to The National Gallery, the inspiration for the room comes from when Kusama was a little girl. “She started seeing the world through a screen of tiny dots. They covered everything she saw—the walls, ceilings, and even her own body. For 40 years she has made paintings, sculptures and photographs using dots to cover surfaces and fill rooms. Kusama calls this process ‘obliteration,’ which means the complete destruction of every trace of something.”
As it was a space meant to be fully immersive, BB definitely loved it. He had a blast pretend-drinking out of the cups scattered in the area, climbing some shelves, and checking out a bicycle. (I think I spotted a few Ikea pieces in there.)
Kusama’s art is truly a treat to see in person. But my key takeaway from this day is you haven’t truly lived life on the edge until you bring a rowdy toddler within hair’s breadth of artwork worth millions of dollars. Bow.
In the middle of moving house (again!), nonstop work stuff, your mama trying to study for a certification exam, and just general busy-ness one can’t seem to get rid off, you’re growing big, our little one. Not so Squishy anymore. So I’m hereby christening you BB, a.k.a. Big Boy.
Over the past month you’ve somehow developed the ability to string together short phrases: “Ayoko ‘yan ayoko ‘yan” (“I don’t like I don’t like”, reacting to your chicken lugaw), “BB sakay car!” (“BB ride car” — thereafter proceeding to declare you want to ride all modes of transportation and then some. Your list includes random ones like “trailer truck,” “street sweeper,” and “cement mixer” thanks to your Usborne ‘Things That Go’ book), “Hi FRIENDS!!!” (to the kids / “BATA” who’re swimming in the baby pool at the condo — who promptly ignore your sweet face haha), making “MmMMmm” yum-yum sounds whenever you see pictures of food or see ones that you like (a short list that has Jollibee sweet spaghetti at the top), and so on. Your daddy and I honestly cannot keep track of New Things BB Does anymore.
I am floored by all the words you manage to remember. You parrot everything we say when you’re in the mood, and you sometimes say random lines from your favorite books at spot-on times (“OH YES” you once said to me after I asked you if you wanted to go out, while nodding — it cracked me up).
You now recognize some cartoon characters — we’ve relaxed the TV rule a little a bit so you’ve seen part of the first Cars movie (“Mc-KEEN!” “MATER!”) and the Minions. You get bored of the TV after a while though. (Yay.)
But boy, do you love your JAMS. You have a funny little dance when we put your favorite YouTube music videos on the speaker (belly thrust forward and back, jiggle shoulders up and down). Wheels on the Bus is still your #1 song, but you’re starting to branch out to the Hokey Pokey and Head Shoulders Knees & Toes. You know all the words to Johnny Johnny Yes Papa (down to your breathy HA HA HA at the end), Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and have your own version of Bahay Kubo and Ako Ay May Lobo (thanks to yaya Aca).
Your mama and daddy try to keep your days (at least the weekends!) and your heart full, BB. We took you to the Palawan Pirate Ship down in Sentosa one weekend and you loved the free sprinklers — though you fell victim to a cold right after. 😦
You had your third-ever boat ride to attend your Ninang‘s wedding in Bohol. You had the chance to play with your “BUCKET!” and get sand all over your bum. You met your “TITO BAYAN!” and now promptly remember him every time you see someone dark (LOL).
I’m sorry our little playgroup experiment didn’t work out, BB. Mama now knows that she shouldn’t rush you into being a big boy, that all she has to do is to fill your days with hugs and kisses and silly dances and joy — that the rest will happen in its own good time.
Squishy started bawling the second he sensed we were about to give him a haircut at EC House Kids. His hair had been bothering me for weeks — it was growing past his ears, getting in his eyes. With him starting playgroup soon we thought it best to bite the bullet and get the haircut over with.
Squishy hates haircuts. He hates the buzz of the hair clippers. The last time he had it cut, it was in the Philippines, in Cuts 4 Tots at Glorietta. He was so stressed out he sweated buckets — they didn’t need to spritz his hair with water. He also cried his little heart out. It was agonizing to watch.
So we backed out of EC House, calmed him down with a few rounds of singing “Wheels on the Bus” and headed home. The Hubby thought we could do it ourselves with the help of YouTube instructional videos. (To be fair, the Hubby did learn to swim breast stroke via YouTube, and this kid learned how to drive. For Hubby, it was good enough to get him a beginner’s diving license!)
I watched a few “how to cut your toddler’s hair” videos and marveled at all the kids who looked chill at the sight and sound of clippers/scissors. I found one video that looked promising and, duly inspired, I set off to find the sharpest scissors at home and the baby comb.
(As an aside, you may be wondering why Squishy’s always in an undershirt a.k.a. sando. I promise you, if you too were dressing a genetically sweaty toddler in hot and humid Singapore, this would be your at-home outfit of choice.)
Taking a cue from YouTube we played a Disney Cars 3 trailer on loop to keep him occupied. I combed his hair down following what I thought/hoped was his natural part.
Squishy is so sensitive to haircuts he kept swatting my hand away and moving side to side. I ended up just trying to trim the longish bits but generally following the shape of his previous cut. It was effing challenging to cut a straight line AND not snip a chunk out of my kid’s ear.
I intend to fix it while he’s sleeping and he kind of looks like Moe from The Three Stooges but at least, AT LEAST, the hair is out of his eyes.
I remember my mom, for a brief time in our childhood, did our haircuts herself by putting a mangkok (bowl) on our head and cutting a straight fringe along the rim of the bowl. So you know, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
As I was looking for photos for this post I realize I haven’t been taking them lately. What I have are mostly videos — of Squishy playing with his shape sorter, “reading” his books, loving his “colors” (what he calls his crayons).
He’s grown active these past few months and, when it comes to capturing memories, taking photos didn’t seem to cut it anymore. All I have are random shots of things whenever I remembered to bring my camera. Here’s one of him attempting to climb up Cinderella’s dress at Toys R’ Us because he thought it was a slide:
At this age, toddlers understand way more than they can say. Squishy amazes me by how much he can absorb like a big-ass sponge. Out of the blue the other day he said “internet” when he saw me showing Hubby a Facebook page and none of us were sure where he heard the word, much less what it meant.
He has a more nuanced sense of his favorite books now — these days he demands The Paper Bag Princess (“Pin-sess!”), Love You Forever, and Cool Cars (…which I bought for a dollar in the atrium of Lucky Plaza. Now I know where to get his books — and our Mang Tomas fix — next!).
Squishy can communicate in short phrases: “Hugas” (Wash, in Filipino) after he poops, “Hugas! Punas!” (Wash! Wipe!) when he knows we’re about to start his pre-bedtime ritual, “Pess, baba” (Press, go down) when he’s had enough of food, and he wants us to release him from his high chair’s seatbelt and carry him. Here, he’s giving us his “Stinky” face like one of the babies in his Baby Faces book.
I looked at a folder in my drive labeled “Squishy – 3rd month onwards” where I’ve dumped all our photos since early 2016. It’s a mess — I keep telling myself to get my shit together and organize it one weekend, but I haven’t gotten around to doing that yet. It has everything — Squishy’s weekly and monthly celebrations, trips we made last year, we-did-nothing quiet weekend moments, first birthday and baptism photos. Thousands of photos. In one folder. Eep! I will add it to the list “Things I’ll Organize/Do One Weekend…Someday” together with Squishy’s blank baby book.
Anyway, it’s amazing to compare my grubby little toddler in the present to the chub-tub baby he was this time last year. It’s a worn cliché but yes Virginia, they do grow up fast.
Squishy will be attending a formal playgroup soon. All his afternoon mates at the condo playground are gone, plucked off one by one as they all attend playgroup / childcare sessions of their own. It’ll be good for his social skills, he’ll get to interact with other kids his age, we think. (Probably the same thing all the other parents in the condo are thinking, which is kind of ironic in a way.)
I imagine if Squishy were in the Philippines he’d have fellow grubby little toddlers to play with outdoors. Maybe.