Strangers and the Gift of Fear

It was 9 PM.  Trapeze class had just ended and I was waiting for the bus home.  It was dark.  To make the wait shorter, I was on the phone to Boobook.

He walked up to me and stood there, waiting.  A fellow bus passenger, I guessed.  I was still chatting with Boobook when he started talking.  At first I wasn’t sure who he was talking to, but then I realised that he was talking to me.

He was a complete stranger.  I didn’t know him at all, but I was polite.  I’m the friendly sort and I like making friends with new people, even people I don’t even know.  Still, something about his demeanor was off, especially since he had started a conversation with me when I was clearly on the phone with someone.  I told Boobook to hold on for a second while I addressed the stranger.

He asked me where I was going and which bus I was waiting for.

“Home.” I told him, “Any of the buses on this stop will take me there.”

He said it was dangerous for a woman to be at the bus stop at night alone.  I said I didn’t mind as the buses were fairly regular and I didn’t have to wait very long.

Then, he offered me a ride home.  He didn’t ask where I lived, he merely said that he would drive me home.  He dangled his keys in my face and shook them, disorienting me so that I could not get a good look at his face.  I remember the keys.  They were on a Mazda keyring.  I remember the folder he was carrying, it was plastic.  Blue with green stripes.  I remember his strange bobcut, which framed his face.

I cannot remember his face.  I was too distracted by the keyring and the folder.

I realised at that point that he wasn’t a fellow bus passenger, but a very creepy person.  I was certain that he did not have my best interests at heart even though he remained polite and friendly.

I told him that I was fine, that I would make it home on my own and that the bus would come soon.

He continued to jangle the keys in my face and repeat his offer, now more agitated.  I stood up, put the phone to my ear and began walking towards the nearby pub.

He followed me.

He followed me.  For two blocks until I saw the bus.  I ran alongside the bus and waved at them, frantic.  If it did not stop, I would run to the pub and stay there.  The bus driver wasn’t going very fast.  He saw my distress and stopped for me.  Boobook was afraid too, ready to call the police should I scream, or stop talking.  He did not stop talking to me until my heart had stopped beating so fast.

When I called the police the next morning, they asked me all sorts of questions about the man, but I couldn’t remember his face.  I couldn’t remember the clothes he was wearing or anything pertinent.  All I could tell them was the name of the pub, the area where the bus stop was and the man’s hair and keyring.  Everything else was a blur.

The police said that they couldn’t do anything about it unless a few more women complained about the same person.

I told this to a friend of mine, and she related a story in which the details were similar.  A man had approached her and offered her a lift home in his car.  She told him that she was fine but he kept following her, getting more and more insistent that she come with him, almost to the point of violence.  Eventually, she managed to run all the way home and lock the doors.  He stayed outside her house for a while, then went away.

The first body appeared a week after.  The next body appeared a week after that.

By the time she’d figured out that the man she saw that day had been killing these girls, it was too late.  She couldn’t remember a thing about him anymore. He managed to kill another few women before he was caught.

Looking back on the situation, I realised I shouldn’t have been so polite to the man.  I should have been rude.  I should have made a scene.  Thing is, weird creepy strangers who approach lone women often take advantage of societies expectations and social niceties to catch people off guard and to make women (and men) agree to do things that they wouldn’t normally agree to do.  For example, Jill Meagher was taken while walking home by herself and the only footage they could find was of her speaking politely to a man in a blue hoodie.  That blue hooded man raped and killed her, burying her in a shallow grave.

I’ve recently read a book called The Gift of Fear, which I highly recommend.  While a little bit victim blamey in some parts[1], the book does give some very good advice for women when being approached by strangers.  But here’s my take on the situation:

  • If a creepy guy approaches you anywhere and is all weird about it, give yourself permission to be rude and ignore him.
  • If he persists, give yourself permission to make a fuss, shout, scream, yell or bellow “GO AWAY!”, when he approaches you.
  • Get yourself to safety, whether it be at a brightly lit train station, a pub or even simply into the nearest shop.
  • Tell people that you’re being followed by this person.  It’s better to be wrong about people than to be dead.
  • And please, please report it to the police.  Not the day after, but immediately after the incident, while his face is still fresh in your mind.

You might stop someone else from getting hurt later.

The New South Wales police do not take kindly to stalkers or creepy guys harrassing women in general.  The police assistance hotline is 131 444, but the police also have a good resource about protecting yourself from stalkers on their webpage here.

Singapore also has an anti harrassment bill that makes stalking a criminal offence.  You can also contact the police at their hotline on 1800 225 0000 or contact the nearest neighbourhood police centre.


[1] The author of this book apparently grew up in a pretty abusive household, so while most of his advice is sound, some of his personal experiences trickle through. This is most notable in the parts where he sort of says that “It’s your fault if you stay.”. We at Owls Well do not believe that it’s the victim’s fault that they’re in a terrible situation and do not condone this way of thinking.

Tips for choosing Kids Sunglasses: Polaroid Eyewear review (and giveaway!)

unisex-girls-boys-sun-protection

Looking cool in Polaroids

So the school holidays have arrived and there’s now plenty of time for the Owlets to be out and about! It’s all about sunlight and fresh air!

With all the outdoor time, we try our best to make sure the Owlets receive adequate sun protection with sunscreen, hats and of course, sunglasses! It’s important to protect the eyes from the effects of UV-radiation, so a good pair of well-fitting sunglasses is absolutely key. Retinal exposure to UV-radiation is associated with cataract formation and macular-degeneration, both leading causes of visual impairment. Since UV-damage builds up over time, the earlier that kids get into the habit of protecting their eyes, the lower their risk will be of developing eye problems in the future.

Mummy tip #1: When choosing sunglasses for kiddies, make sure that the lenses are certified to block out 100% of UVA and UVB rays at the very least.

Not long ago, the good people from Safilo were kind enough to give both J and Little E a pair of Polaroid sunglasses, which are now our ‘go-to’ sunglasses whenever we leave the house. The kids were given the opportunity to choose their own sunnies – this took them ages cos there were a ton of styles and colours to choose from. After much deliberation, J went for a very cool pair of black frames with bright yellow accents, and Little E chose a sunny pair of orange frames with black accents.

A comfortable and snug fit for little faces!

A comfortable and snug fit for little faces!

Polaroid Eyewear makes supercool polarised sunglasses which are great for sensitive little eyes as they block out glare and provide 100% UV 400 protection (blocking out UVA, UVB and UVC rays), and the scratch-resistant lenses are made from injected polyamide, so that they are lightweight and impact-resistant, which make them ideal for active little ones who are likely to bang the sunglasses around during playtime.

Mummy tip #2: Look for playground-proof lenses that won’t pop out of their frames or shatter!

I particularly like the wide, wraparound design which provides all-round coverage as well as the incredible flexibility of the frames which can be bent almost backwards without becoming deformed! This means that the sunglasses hug the face comfortably without leaving marks…and I don’t have to worry about the kids spoiling or breaking their sunnies through rough handling. Hurray!

Mummy tip #3: Make sure that the sunglasses cover as much of the eye as possible – try to choose large, wraparound lenses.

What’s more, the kids look great in them – and they know it – so I don’t get any fuss from them when I remind them to put their sunnies on!

We love our sunnies!

We love our sunnies!

A Special Something for Owls Well Readers: The fine folk at Safilo are kindly sponsoring ONE pair of Polaroid Eyewear kids sunglasses (the same black-and-yellow pair that J is wearing in the pictures above, worth SGD$60) to one lucky Owls Well Reader! Woohoo! 

To take part in this awesome giveaway, all you have to do is:

1. Be a fan of the Owl Well Facebook Page

2. Share or reblog this giveaway and then leave a comment below with the link – and tell me one thing that you are planning to do with your little ones this school holidays. Don’t forget to include your email address! (If you would like to send me the email address privately, leave a comment for the other answers, then email me at 4owlswell [at] gmail [dot] com)

(Giveaway is open to readers in Singapore and will end at midnight on 28rd Nov 2014. Winners will be picked via Random.org – just make sure you complete all 2 easy steps!)

Gardening Update: Strawberries and Punkin

It’s been a while since I last wrote about my garden, so I thought I’d give you all an update!  It’s been going more than reasonably well and growing in a manner reminscent of a cartoon or video game.

Herb Pots: Coriander, Chilli and Garlic Chives

Herb Pots: Coriander, Chilli and Garlic Chives

After many weeks of only putting out deep green leaves, the strawberry plant finally started getting serious about the whole making fruit thing and popped into about five flowers.  That was this morning.  The following photograph was taken at about 5 PM today.  Only three of the five flowers remain, the other two have turned into large green fruit.  It’s like Minecraft!  I can’t wait for the fruit to ripen!

Fruitsplosion!

Fruitsplosion!

Meanwhile, the cheap tumbling compost bin that I purchased finally gave up the ghost.  The plastic on the bin wasn’t properly treated for Australian weather and started to degrade under the ultraviolet light.  The bolts on it couldn’t handle the stress of being tumbled daily.  It started to split two weeks ago and it wouldn’t be long before the whole bin broke and poured compost all over my balcony.  Plus, the Herculean effort needed to spin the bin each day was starting to make my back hurt from the strain.

At the same time, the pumpkin plant was starting to get root bound from being in the tiny pot I had originally put it in.  Pumpkins need a lot of space to grow and plenty of water and sun.  Heck, most gardening guides recommend that you just build a huge mound of dirt and let the pumpkin just grow all over it.  Since I didn’t have the luxury of building a “huge mound of dirt”, I decided to kill two birds with one stone.

First, I bought a brand new compost bin, a fancy UV-protected, glass-reinforced bin with a crank on the side!  No more backaches for me!

After moving some of the compost from the old bin into the new one, I cut the old compost bin in half and turned it into a mega-pot for the pumpkin!  It’s been thriving ever since.

It got a little tall, so I've put a tomato cage in to keep it growing straight

It got a little tall, so I’ve put a tomato cage in to keep it growing straight

There’s a lot of little pumpkin flowers at the base too, and the soil’s very rich, perfect for growing.  I’m really looking forward to the fruits of my labour.

Boobook has promised me a veggie patch when we move into our new home together.  I’m looking forward to being able to plant vegetables without the constraints of pots.

Disney’s Big Hero 6 (2014) – A Spoiler Free Movie Review

There’s nothing like a Baymax Hug!

So, a few days ago, the kids and I were invited to the sneak preview of Disney’s latest animated feature film, BIG HERO 6, which is very (very) loosely based on a little-known Marvel comic book of the same name.

AND. IT. IS. SO. AWESOME.

The movie revolves around 14 year old robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada, and Baymax, an inflatable vinyl healthcare robot created by his college-aged older brother, Tadashi. When disaster strikes the city of San Fransokyo, it’s up to Hiro and his friends to save the day. As you can tell, the main story arc itself is a straightforward superhero origin story complete with Big Scary-yet-tragic Masked Villian, Colour Coded Superhero Team Members and a Musical Training Montage! YEAH!

Mummy Warning: The action is brilliant, fun and well-paced, although some parts may be a little bit intense for preschoolers, particularly if your preschooler is sensitive. My own 3 year old Little E did need a little reassuring cuddle during the battle scenes, but there’s nothing gory or gruesome to worry about. If you are concerned about how your child is going to react, try showing your kids the trailer first!

In terms of animation, the look of the film is a beautifully rendered mash-up of East-West culture, with the story taking place in the city of San Fransokyo, which looks absolutely gorgeous from its rolling Californian hills (so great for car chases!) to the Golden (Torii) Gate Bridge. The attention to detail is absolutely incredible, and I am not surprised to discover that Disney had to assemble a dedicated supercomputing cluster in order to handle the digital processing demands.

Hiro and Baymax fly over the Golden Gate (Torii) Bridge

Hiro and Baymax fly over the Golden (Torii) Gate Bridge

I have to say that I am very excited to see some main characters that are not only of Asian descent, but who also look and behave, well, like regular people. Not once during this film did I hear the phrase, “You have dishonour your fambry!”, nor did I see any wispy bearded old person wearing a silk robe and dispensing sage advice. None of that! We are making big steps here, people, big steps!

The movie was also a great launching point for many discussions with the owlets on the nature of science and ethics as well as the capacity for people to make helpful or harmful choices. My 6 year old, J, was particularly thoughtful after the film, commenting that creativity can be channelled in both constructive and destructive ways, and it is up to each person to decide how they want their actions to impact the world.

We watched the film in Incredible 3-D, which I felt did very little to enhance the overall experience of the film, so here’s a tip: save your pennies and watch Big Hero 6 twice instead! Don’t forget to stay to the end of the credits for the obligatory Marvel-related cameo.

(By the way, the movie is preceded by ‘Feast’, a lovely new animated short about love as seen through the eyes of Winston the dog and is revealed through the meals that he shares with his master, which had me all teary-eyed even before the film started. Disney, you really know how to tug on those heartstrings!)

Debs G rates Big Hero 6: An exploding fist bump followed by an acrobatic fire-breathing dragon!

Big Hero 6 premieres today (13 Nov 2014) at cinemas across Singapore. Go watch it!

Slowing Down

Hi Readers,

It’s been a while since I last had to do a reader announcement but as both Debs and I are currently overbusy, we will be taking a short hiatus on the blog, then moving to a new Tuesday-Thursday posting schedule.

In the meantime, however, Debs is super busy with the kids and school and I have currently retreated into the study caves where nothing is done except the study of statistics and the eating of food.

Owls Well should return shortly, but you should feel free to check out the many lovely links that we have on the sidebar for you to enjoy!

Thanks Bunches,

A Becky Lee

Pure and simple – Four Cow Farm skincare (a review and giveaway)

Eczema and sensitive skin runs in this Owl family – A Becky Lee suffering from it to a greater degree than I ever did. This is why it came as no surprise to me that both Little E and J suffer from a mild form of eczema and I am always on the lookout for new products that are gentle and kind to their skin.

This is why when the kind folk behind the handcrafted skincare range, Four Cow Farm, offered to send us some goodies to try out, I was very excited! You see, I had already heard about the wonders of Four Cow Farm – one of my tiny little nephews suffers terribly from facial eczema which has been really difficult to shift and their creams and body wash have actually cleared it up a real treat.

Four Cow Farm is a real hobby farm in Queensland, and the Four Cow Farm range was created by a midwife who was looking for skincare products to help her grandkids that suffered from eczema and sensitive skin. She eventually developed a range of baby creams and balms which she handcrafted herself using pure, natural and 100% organic ingredients, with no synthetic preservatives. In fact, all the products made by Four Cow Farm are made from food-grade ingredients (which is why they recommend that if you can, you should store them in the fridge!).

It turns out that one of the family married a lovely Singaporean lady who is now helping to spread the word about Four Cow Farm in Singapore! Woohoo!

Now, we were sent the Four Cow Farm All-In-One Starter Kit to try out, as well as their Pohnpei sponge and the Bath Soaks, we really like them! Here is a quick run through our favourite products from the Four Cow Farm range.

CR100_WB_SQ_low_small1. Four Cow Farm Calendula Remedy: This is a wonderful balm that is particularly good for calming down dry, itchy, irritated skin and is particularly good for hives, inflamed eczematous areas and nappy rashes. The calendula helps to soothe redness and inflammation within minutes whilst the rich emollient balm keeps skin soft. I like to dab this on heat rashes for instant relief and I occasionally apply it to little red noses that are sore from being wiped again and again!

TT50100_grass_1_small2. Four Cow Farm Tea Tree Remedy: Both J and Little E love this one so much because it is just so effective, especially with mosquito bites! Every time they have an itchy insect bite or a scraped knew, they come begging me to dab a little of the Tea Tree Remedy on it. The Tea Tree (or Melaleuca) essential oil has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, and the cold-pressed castor-oil has a nice anti-inflammatory effect which seems to help with itchiness too.

BATHSOAKS_WB_SQ_low_1024x10243. Organic Calendula, Oat and Chickweed Bath Soaks: These Bath Soaks are so luxurious and absolutely wonderful! I brought them with me on a recent trip to the UK and they were a real treat. J and Little E get very dry skin when they travel which can very quickly turn into hideous red rashes and in the past, I used to lug huge tubs of moisturising lotion with me and add almost half a bottle of lotion into their baths each day in order to keep their skin clean, soft and well-moisturised. These bath soaks do exactly the same thing, except that it isn’t a messy, greasy affair and the calendula, oat and chickweed really help to soothe irritated skin.

Now, although the Four Cow Farm skincare range worked wonderfully well for my kids (and my little nephew), if you are trying it out for the first time on highly sensitive skin, we here at Owls Well recommend that you test each product out on a small patch of skin first before applying it liberally onto already inflamed skin. This is because skin prone to allergic reactions and rashes is well, sensitive, and although Four Cow Farm has been tried and tested with good effect, doesn’t always mean it works for everyone! (And it didn’t work for A Becky Lee, although she tried several times to make it work!)

However, Four Cow Farm worked so wonderfully for J and Little E, I cannot wait to share it!

A Special For Owls Well Readers:  Four Cow Farm is generously sponsoring a giveaway of Four Cow Farm’s All-in-one Starter Kit to THREE lucky Owls Well Readers! Woohoo!

To take part in this awesome giveaway, all you have to do is:

1. Be a fan of the Owl Well Facebook Page

2. Head over to the  Four Cow Farm Singapore website and then leave a comment below telling me about one product you particularly like and why you think this will be helpful to you. Don’t forget to include your email address! (If you would like to send me the email address privately, leave a comment for the other answers, then email me at 4owlswell [at] gmail [dot] com)

(Giveaway is open to readers in Singapore and will end at midnight on 23rd Oct 2014. Winners will be picked via Random.org – just make sure you complete all 2 easy steps!)

Update: This giveaway is now closed and the 3 winners have been emailed. Thanks for playing!

Controlled Crying: An Australian Play

If you’re in Sydney in November (or if you live in Sydney) and are looking to experience Australia’s rich theatrical culture, you might want to check out Controlled Crying at the Beecroft Community Centre from the 7th to the 9th of November.

107180_Flyer_CompressControlled Crying is the product of Australian playwright, Ron Elisha, and tells the story of Libby and Oscar as they spend 27 years raising their daughter together.  It’s a deep and realistic exploration of the roles, rules, joys and sorrows of parenting a child in the computer age.

This play is 100% Australian directed and produced by my good friend and wedding coordinator, Tracey Okebey, whose directorial style (as experienced during the many appointments I’ve had regarding the upcoming nuptials) I can only describe as authoritative, but open to suggestion.

The actors she’s picked for the project are pretty skilled too!  Elizabeth Chambers, who is playing LIbby, is a veteran of community theatre.  A childcare worker by day, astronomer and accountant student by night and performer whenever she’s free, Elizabeth is a bit of a star in the Beecroft community with roles such as The Cat in the Hat in Seussical the Musical and The Witch in Into the Woods.  Plus, she’s also a director herself, having directed and written several pantomimes to date!

David Roberts, the mysterious man playing Oscar, is a prolific Facebook poster and semi-employed teacher who moonlights as a man with a laptop and serious purpose.

Tracey herself is no slouch either.  A veteran of the acting community, she’s directs a large number of plays per year.  According to the status reports I’ve had from her, the performance is in its final stages and coming together well.  She’s working hard to get her actors to delve deep into Libby and Oscar’s unspoken lives to get the strong intensity of emotion that the play requires.  Under her direction, Controlled Crying promises to be an emotionally intense experience.

Controlled Crying will be staged at the Beecroft Community Centre on 111 Beecroft Road in Beecroft on Friday 7th November to Sunday 9th November.  Tickets cost $15 – $20 and can be purchased at here.

Don’t miss it!