Finding Peace

After receiving calls about Emmett’s biting for the past two days, I was bracing myself to hear how his next victim got attacked when it turned out to be another teacher instead. “Hello Elise’s mummy, Elise’s contact lens fell out, could you come down to put it back in? We don’t know how to put it back. Please come down now.”

Elise has been using her prosthetic eye for about 2.5 years now.

She is unable to see through that eye and it is to make her appear as if she has two eyes like everyone else. It isn’t immediately noticeable, but as the prosthetic eye is merely a cover, the pupil does not move when her natural eye does. It does not need to be removed daily, but it can be taken out for cleaning. Sometimes, when she rubs on her eye too hard, it may fall out, which is what happened today.

It brought my mind back to the first time it happened when I was alone with her. One moment, she was playing around, and the other moment, she was staring at me with an empty socket. I freaked out and immediately called the prosthetic doctor while alerting my closer friends on WhatsApp “OMG ELISE’S EYE JUST DROPPED OUT WHAT DO I DO”. I was ready to bring her to the hospital so that the doctor could insert it back for her (and me). The doctor encouraged me to try it myself first, instructing me over the phone.

Back then, she was much younger and she would not stay still because she was traumatised by her experience of being held down forcibly for tests, eye dressing changes and her wound was possibly tender and healing. It was like pinning down a squealing piglet destined for slaughter. My feelings were a mish-mash of guilt, fear, shock and pity. Eventually, I slot it in without going to the hospital.

Emotionally, it was saddening for us to come to terms with the fact. Up till now, I don’t think my husband has seen her eye socket yet.

Back to today. The same situation occurred and I saw how shocked her teachers were. They managed to cover Elise’s eye and move her to the office before other children took notice. Her form teacher told me that she couldn’t bear to look. It’s completely natural for them to have that response and I don’t blame them. After all, it’s not something they encounter often and most people can’t deal with seeing something like that. If you’re curious, her eye socket has healed and it is neither bloody or has dangling veins. It appears as pink hollow flesh.

I washed it under running water before popping it back in. Over the years, both of us has gotten used to it. Elise has observed her appearance in the mirror without her prosthetic eye (I advised her not to, she insisted) and her reaction was not one of fear or disgust. It seems that she understands and is living without noticeable problems. She can run, kick a ball and balance on beams.  However, at 3 going on 4 years old, people around her are less likely to make snark remarks about appearance. We will cross that bridge when we get to it.

My Korean Mart Purchases

There is a Korean mart that I frequent that’s located at Basement 1 of Northpoint City, aptly named K-Market. I’ve found the items to be reasonably priced compared to other marts with a wider variety. They have a little slip of paper where you get a stamp for every $20 spent and with every 10 stamps, you get $5 off. I’m such a regular that I’ve redeemed at least $15.

Shopping there feels therapeutic and the store manager is so friendly. He resembles Yoo Min Sang, a Korean gagman and I’ve never seen him without a smile. He’s Korean so he can’t speak Chinese.

Every single time I visit, he passes us some items that are nearing expiry for free. It’s similar to the relationship between aunties at the wet market and their favourite fishmonger. We never fail to get Seolleim ice cream when we’re there. It’s this frozen ice cream in a pouch and tastes like heaven.

My purchases are more or less the same and most items are bought to alleviate my husband’s cravings for Korean food.

#1 Convenience Food

Rice Bowls
The two rice bowls were on 1+1 sale and seem to be a healthier alternative to ramyeon. They work the same way – pour boiling water to a level and pour the seasoning packets in.

Cold Noodles/Naengmyeon
The packet on the side is cold noodles/naengmyeon which come with buckwheat noodles, sauce packets and oil. This is nowhere near instant, but cuts out a huge amount of time compared to if you boiled the broth yourself. The noodles have to be boiled, rinsed a few times with running water, dunked in ice water while you mix in the sauce with ice or blended ice. You have to add in the ingredients like meat slices, cucumber and egg yourself.

Togi Spicy Beef Soup
Total cop-out frozen soup from Togi restaurant that I boil straight from frozen. Yes, I’m that lazy, I don’t even defrost it. This has all the ingredients necessary. This costs $12 each. There are other flavours too. The link is to Harinmart, which is a reliable online mart for Korean foodstuff and not under the same company as K-Market.

#2 Frozen Food

These three items were not purchased from K-Market, but are what I usually buy.

Busan Fishcake Slices
Vastly different from the type of fishcakes found in our local fishball noodles, these fishcakes are the type that are used in Korean fishcake soup, tteokbokki and side dishes. We just had some panfried and cut into strips for dinner. This is processed so it’s best not to gorge on it.

Rolled Seaweed Fritters
Kimmari are battered seaweed fritters with noodles inside. It sounds icky, but pop these into an air fryer and dip them in sauce or use them as a tteokbokki ingredient.

Dumplings
These go everywhere – in ramyeon, panfried, steamed… I make a quick sauce using soy sauce, chilli oil and vinegar to dip the fried dumplings in.

#3 Anchovies & Kelp

Now that you know my secret, I’ll have to silence you. This is one of the most commonly used broth bases in Korean cooking. Using broth instead of plain water gives your dishes more flavour.

The other seasoning that many Korean restaurants use is Dashida, or bouillon seasoning. The beef flavour is most commonly used but it’s not easily found locally. There’s clam, anchovy, seafood, mushroom but no beef.

#4 Mixes

Black Bean Powder
Jjajang base. Fry up some meat and chopped vegetables before adding this powder and water to form a sauce that can be poured over noodles or rice.

Frying Mix
I mainly use this to make kimchi or potato pancakes.

#5 Beverages

“Morning Rice” drink/Achimhaetsal
A rice milk drink made from three types of rice – black, white and brown. It tastes like almond milk.

Fruit Vinegars/Hongcho
I ever watched a Korean documentary programme which featured this old man who had fruit vinegar the first thing in the morning as a secret to his longevity. I am… not following his strategy, but I do like the taste of it mixed with iced water. It’s tangy and zingy. There’s a dispenser at K-Market for you to try it out before buying.

Barley Tea, Corn Tea
My husband doesn’t like the taste of plain water. In our household, we drink this in place of water. We boil a huge pot with one teabag which fills three 1L pitchers, an airpot and more. Each week, we boil about three pots or more. The taste is mild and not sweet with a light fragrance.

#6 Snacks

Freebies are called service. Yep. These were given free on my most recent trip where I hauled about 10kg of groceries back with two kids. Loved the macaron cookies. It’s a shame they were individually packed though. So much waste.

Next time, I’ll see if I can show the usual recipes I create at home with these.

My First baby is Three

My baby turned three. She was once a three week old embryo, then a three month old foetus, a three week old newborn and three month old infant. She is now a three year old preschooler. There’s no stopping time, huh. We first knew of her existence through a blood test which caught my pregnancy at 4 weeks, the earliest that a pregnancy can be detected. Elise is quite a strong little girl. At nine weeks pregnant, I suffered from food poisoning which could potentially cause a miscarriage. During my delivery when my water bag was punctured by the gynaecologist, green fluid flowed out, a sign that she had pooped in the womb. When foetuses pass out meconium, it is a sign of foetal distress and can lead to respiratory issues if aspirated. Her heartbeat remained stable and I managed to push her out in time. My first comment upon seeing her was, “Wow, she has a dimple!” 

As my firstborn, she had the misfortune of being my guinea pig for everything. When she was four days old, I wore her out in a ring sling, swaddled. It wasn’t until I posted in a babywearing group that I became aware that babies in ring slings were not supposed to be swaddled. I was a post-natal, sleep deprived first time mom, but we made it through. I powered her fully on breast milk, pumping when I was away at work and latching when back home.

In her first year, she was a chubby and bubbly baby learning how to flip, sit, crawl and stand. Towards the end of her first year, we discovered a tumour in her right eye and it was a huge blow to us as the only way to save her life was to remove her eye. You can read more about this here if you haven’t already and are curious. I got pregnant with Didi after her prosthetic eye was fitted. Year Two involved her starting playgroup, going on play dates, playing soccer barefooted along the corridor and becoming a big sister without a choice.

In Year Three, her vocabulary exploded and she… sort of behaves like a mini-adult who voices out her preferences, likes and dislikes, requires alone time, tells her mama to “엄마, please go away”. She is All About Dinosaurs and loves making up her own stories to illustrations in books she has yet to read. She is generally polite and readily says “Thank you”, “Excuse me” and “Sorry” when the situation calls for it, yet resorts to hitting and biting as a sign of expressing her frustration.

No amount of coaxing, coercion or rewards can make her let us tie up her hair. Her favourite person in the world is her grandfather and she prefers to stay home (don’t we all?).

Her first and second birthdays were celebrated with friends and family. This year, she decided she would have none of it.

“Elise, do you want us to sing Happy Birthday? How about a cake where you can blow out the candles?”

“NOOOO OOOOO OOOOO!”

She is so over the fanciness and fuss of parties and celebrations. At three years old. What have I bred? Does she have a soul of a granny?! Her most commonly uttered phrase when Didi cries is, “Don’t cry Didi, Elise is here”.

We brought her out to Northpoint City, where we frequently go to stock up groceries at the Korean mart (super duper friendly until cannot Korean store manager).

At Kiddy Palace, we tried enticing her with COOL EXPENSIVE MADE IN CHINA TOYS like Super Wings, Tayo and Fireman Sam, to which she replied “No, not now. Next time.”

She had been pestering us for Lion King, which we were clueless as to what it meant. Eventually, she picked out a set of plastic safari animal figurines with rocks, fences and shrubs. Total price? S$9.90. 👍

We already have a set of plastic animal figurines. And Dino figurines. 🙄 What am I complaining about. Rather S$9.90 than S$109.90 right?

Let’s see what the future has.