Time to restructure the civil service grading system?

I seldom write about policy matters, this being a parenting blog after all. However, a recent article on Bloomberg got me thinking. 

A comment on Facebook suggested that the government should take the lead in abolishing civil servant ranking according to educational qualification but rather establishing tests and interviews for entrance to jobs, and promotions based on performance. There are some merits to this argument, for if the government continues to “discriminate against” non graduates then people will continue to seek to be graduates. however, this solution actually seeks to push non graduates up to graduate positions rather than resolve the issue of there being not enough people filling the non graduate positions. The solution to that problem is to somehow make people realize that the non graduate positions are desirable and honorable. This author does not profess to have a quick solution to this problem.

However, the comment led to me thinking of a related issue with the civil service grading system, i.e. that concerning scholars. One may argue there is a place for scholarships, so that the government can identify those with potential and groom them. No problems. There isn’t even a problem with placing scholars on a higher starting scale than non scholars although arguably this is already unfair when you consider the non scholar with equal credentials but had merely declined to take up a scholarship perhaps due to the bond. Be that as it may, any advantage should surely end there and thereafter it is surely to the civil service’s advantage to promote according to performance rather than maintain the separate tracks for non-scholars and scholars. The only thing the separate tracks lead to is the reluctance of capable persons who did not take up a scholarship, either by choice or because they were late bloomers, to be reluctant to join the civil service and hence result in a net loss of talent. Therefore the entire scholarship scheme needs to be rebooked. And by way of tribute to my math background notwithstanding the totally unscientific discussion, QED.

Best of both worlds

I read a nice story today about a professor being accommodating of a mother bringing her baby to class. I feel this should be extended to all respects of a mother’s life. Ever since my second child is born, I have been telling everyone who would listen that we would greatly increase productivity of our society and improve baby well-being if we have a culture of accepting parents bringing their children along with them to work or other activities.

I would gladly trade 4 months of maternity leave for 2 months leave plus another 4 months of working with baby brought into office. But there is no such choice and so I took no pay leave to make up the 6 months which I feel is the minimum amount of time my baby deserves with me caring for her. I am lucky to have the ability to make such a choice. Some parents do not have such luxury and as a result children’s health suffer (difficult to breastfeed while working), family relationships suffer (less time for bonding) and potentially child development suffers (mothers arguably provide the best care).
So far I have been on a one man crusade with few audience / allies. I have brought Sandra to conferences, seminars, to meetings, to office when I am asked for discrete pieces of work that is hard for someone else to take over, and to my volunteer activities such as ushering during Mr LKY’s mourning period. People have generally viewed me as an oddity rather than with support. I regularly get told that babies are not allowed in certain meetings / events even though I am confident of controlling my baby such that she will not be disruptive (benefit of breastfeeding is its very easy to sloth a baby). I sure hope that my actions are chipping away at old mindsets.

I do hope that one day our society becomes more open and supportive of mothers in ways that do not entail taking their babies away from them (infant care, foreign domestic helpers etc) but in a way that encourages mother-child bonding (ie accept mother+child as a competent package capable of performing most tasks that mother alone can perform). I truly believe that I can handle my baby and do other things at the same time with perhaps 80% efficiency (to claim 100% is unrealistic), but once people see me with baby they write me off as almost invalid. Why? Can I please have the chance to be both a mother and everything else I want to be?

Avocado milkshake recipe

Huh? Do we really need a recipe for milkshake? Isn’t it milk+fruit+sugar +ice? Yes and no. Because of avocado milkshake’s touted breastmilk enhancing effects, I have tried many versions and found many to be too sweet, too watery or simply lacking flavour. My favourite is from a store on the ground floor of China Square Central, which really has kick, like a good Chendol. I found out that it was because they use gula melaka. I tried asking them to reduce the sugar to a quarter of the normal amount and it is still delicious, and that is what I get when I am lazy. 

However, homemade is still much better as the avocado will be freshly cut with minimum time for oxidationand I use organic full cream milk which we always keep for Sophia’s daily consumption rather than the non organic, sometimes even UHT milk used outside. I’m too lazy to prepare gula melaka so I substitute with virgin coconut oil plus brown sugar. It was a stroke of genius if I may say so myself. The taste was quite similar, with the fragrance of coconut and a slight sweetness, and even healthier because of the cold pressed oil supposed to be full of goodness (and milk boosting). Here’s the recipe:


  • 1 small or 1/2 large avocado
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sprouted flaxseed meal (optional)
  • Ice (optional)


  1. If not using ice, ensure avocado and milk are cold.
  2. Add everything in blender and blend well.
  3. Serve immediately.

Hopitty hop

After each presentation by Joyful Voices (the kids choir at our church), the leaders organise a games day. Here I was minding my own business in crèche with baby while Sophia was going about her games day activities when I realized that the games have moved to the fellowship hall outside crèche. Well, I’ve simply got to sneak a look then. 

The children were split into 2 groups with the 2 oldest girls as leaders. The game consists of hopping over to a chair at the far end of the hall, turning 3 rounds around the chair and then picking up a ball and aiming it at a basket. All the children were going about it rather proficiently and I was looking forward to Sophia and when it was her turn, off she goes…. hopping… virtually on the spot! I literally laughed so hard I bent over. Good thing I was really far away. The Joyful Voices leaders had much more tact than me of course and one of them just went over matter-of-factly, holding her hand and pulling her forward while she hopped awkwardly. This is why it’s always great to be among loving Christian company.

On a related note, my church is very accepting of special needs children and after observing a couple of special needs youths being baptized over the Easter weekend, my heart was warmed today when I observed one of the youths gently and kindly bringing one of them along with him for ministry. There was another special needs girl who suffers from some chronic condition, of which I’m not clear about the details. I can only see that she is deeply loved by her family and those in the church who know the family. She is wheelchair bound and, today, when her mother is carrying her into crèche, Sophia said “so big girl still want carry”. I suppose it may be because she has been denied carrying privileges recently because she is getting big. Anyway, there was nothing appropriate I could think of to say there and then save for hurrying Sophia away and hoping the statement was not heard. Later in the day we had a chat about the girl suffering from a condition and needing to be kind to her. Thank God we recently read a book called “fighting diseases” which helped made the concepts much easier to explain as it also talked about chronic conditions. I can’t help but wonder if God has been leading us towards this discussion all along and if he was, whether I did a decent job of it. In all likelihood I probably fell sorely short. Sigh…

Sophia rules

after hearing from a friend that his 5 year old loves monopoly, I was suddenly inspired by the possibility that maybe Sophia is ready to comprehend the complexity that is an evergreen board game (notwithstanding that she cannot grasp tic tac toe yet). Good thing they came up with monopoly junior in Frozen theme, which was what we ended up getting. The game is similar to monopoly but is simplified so much that there is no skill involved, i.e. It becomes a pure game of luck. Unfortunately, as luck goes, Sophia has got some pretty rotten ones. And so she loses all the time when we play by the rules.

Her solution? Make up new rules including ditching the dice and moving as many steps as she feels like, giving herself a huge wad of cash, and making it possible for Elsa (which she plays)’s beloved sister, Anna (which I play) pay bail for Elsa to be released from prison. I call this game “Sophia Rules” (like Aussie Rules, you know).

The dad was happy for me to be subject to Sophia Rules, even praising her for creativity but soon realized how futile the game is since it is virtually impossible for anyone other than the bank to get bankrupt. When he insists on playing by Monopoly Junior rules, though, Sophia protests and poor mum here has to arbitrate. 

Sigh. And I was even fantasizing about being able to play Risk or 三国杀 as a family soon. Looks like “soon” may be something like… A decade, without exaggeration.

Anti-separation anxiety

Here I am reading all about Daphne’s separation anxious baby (wrong grammar I know, but his is my blog and I am in the mood for reinventing the English language) and feeling extremely envious indeed.

I am a creature of habit and if there is a discernible pattern, I’m happy. I know how to deal with it. So if my baby doesn’t want anyone but me to carry her, that’s tiring but manageable. MY baby, however, is completely random. Mum and grandpa can carry her but Dad and Grandpa cannot. Ergo she likes females, right? Wrong! Grandaunt who visits every alternate day is not on the acceptable list but random males who are mummies friends but whom she has met for the first time are ok. The same uncle is not acceptable one week, her best friend the next, and a scary monster again the following week. Completely random! Can some pattern please emerge?

Aside from the complete randomness in the selection of adult friends, she also refuses to fall asleep in my arms. Grandma can carry her to sleep, so can auntie Joyce whom she had met for the first time in church, but not mummy. Ok maybe I’m not comfortable. Sandra is rather long and I can’t seem to fit her head to buttocks length comfortably on one arm and against my body. Even nursing to sleep doesn’t work these days as she pulls away when she doesn’t want more milk. It’s therefore easier for me to lie her down and sing + pat her to sleep (since I don’t believe in pacifiers). Some may say I’m lucky, but I really really miss the smooshing of baby face against body. Is that too much to ask froma 4 month old??

Glorious curls

I finally fished out Sophia’s old headband with that curly hair attachment which was all the rage when Sophia was born but I haven’t seen around much these days (for the better I must say). I seriously doubt Sandra will be going out in it but doesn’t stop all of us from having a good laugh.