Father Sez

From and to parents - parental advice to our children on personal financial management and life.
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Our children – just when should we let go?

Friday, November 14th, 2008

I got this picture from a great article on helicopter parents and the feeling of “kidsickness”. Though my elder two girls are certainly not kids anymore, I loved the article and this picture.

My wife and I have 5 children. 4 girls and a boy.

The first two are girls 22 and 21, and have completed their university degrees, whilst the younger three are still in school. 

Lately I have been wondering quite a bit of just where and when parental handholding stop and the children should be allowed to make their own footprints in the sands of their lives.  My wife and I have brought up our kids with the best of what we could afford. Naturally this has been far better than what my wife and I personally went through.

Though the two elder girls are adults now, we just can’t help seeing them as the little girls they were not that long ago. So there is a fair amount of interference in their lives from me. 

I did a little inventory of the plus points the girls had.     

-         The girls have finished their tertiary education without any study loans hanging over their heads. 

-         They already have an emergency fund built up. 

-         They do not have to support us or their younger siblings for the time being. 

-         They have already been given some basic knowledge of the need for their own personal financial planning, as well as goal setting. 

-         They are sensible, stable and responsible girls, and have a healthy fear of God. 

With all these, I think they have a great head start over very many of their peers all over the world.  

So shouldn’t my wife and I just let go and let the girls set out in their lives? Stop dictating what the girls should do? And stop worrying that without our constant guidance (interference???) they’ll be making mistakes.  

Thinking back of my own situation, my parents stopped quite early because that was all they could do or afford. I have no idea how my parents felt when they could not give their children many of the stuff other kids were getting from their parents. I got a lot better than my brothers and sister because my elder brother took over the task of looking after me.  

The time of the year when the girls and I sit and discuss their goals for the next year is approaching. Though they have already started to withhold some of their goals from me; I still look forward to this time of the year. 

I have made up my mind that it is time for me to let go. Time for me to be just there if they need me. Time for them to make their own plans and start living their lives. Time for them to learn that sooner or later they’ll have to do this anyway, and that they might as well start now.   

After all, my parents and eldest brother did let go of me. Though I made my fair share of mistakes in life, (perhaps even more than my fair share), my life turned out not too bad.  

I suppose, today, as I make this decision, will be counted as a landmark in my life.  Maybe there might be a small feeling of emptiness. At least, by the grace of God, I still have my 3 younger kids’ lives to interfere in.   

The Fathersez family goes wireless….finally

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

I am one who can be considered technologically challenged. I am almost always behind in adopting technology. You can rest assured that the cell phones, computers, cameras, TV etc., that we use in our home (those that I buy or am responsible for buying) would be the ones that the would be about 2 or 3 generations old.  

This habit is not a reflection of my frugal nature, rather a reflection of my strong belief in “not fixing something that ain’t broke”. 

We have had internet access in our home for quite some time. We used wires and it was okay when all we had was the home desktop and my laptop. 

The numbers grew when my wife got herself a laptop. And on weekends with the two elder girls and their laptops the total came to 5 machines. Our internet modem had 4 outlets so we could use 4 machines at any one time. Our computer table arrangements further restricted that to 3. 

You can imagine the wires running all over the place. The power cables as well as the internet cables. Just see the mess!   


From the angle of wanting to get the clutter better organised, I consulted a friend about going wireless. And last week we finally got that done.  

The Fathersez family is now wireless! 

The desktop is still connected by cable. Only the laptops are on wireless. The mess is a lot better controlled now. (I did have to shell out some money for a wireless modem). 


Isn’t this a lot better? I think it is. 

The challenge now is to make sure none of the younger three kids take any of the computers upstairs to their rooms and play all night!  

Buying my daughter a car…her first

Friday, November 7th, 2008

My brother bought me my ever first car. I had completed my studies and was then working in an audit firm. The car was a used Mazda Capella and it cost a princely RM3,800 (about USD 1,100 at current exchange rates).

I have no idea from whom my brother bought the car or what rules he applied when he bought it.  

I do remember that those days, I was not very confident of driving. The road to my office had some slight hills where cars would be lined up in the traffic jams. I had my fears about being able to balance the clutch whilst uphill or downhill so I used to get to work so early that I was about the only one on the road.  

I also remember that my brother (who did not even have a driving license then) never made a big deal about this “gift”. He just presented me with the car. 

And this yellow Mazda Capella was the first car anyone in my family ever owned. Since then I have bought 4 other used cars. Three have been sold and the fourth is now being used at our goat farm by Zai.  I have been relatively lucky in the used car purchases. I am quite a dunggu when it comes to cars and by sheer luck have escaped relatively unscathed.  


A 1970 Mazda Capella. The first car ever owned by anyone in my family, although ours did not look anywhere as perky and shiny as this car looks.

Picture Credit: www.dbmathews.com/mazda.shtml  

Now that my two elder girls are moving in together and the eldest girl’s place of work is too far to walk and is not served by public transport (other than taxis), my wife and I decided to buy her a car. 

We decided it would be a used one and small (to save on petrol and make it easy for parking). We also decided that it would be one with an automatic gear shift. (Malaysia still produces manual shift cars!) Then we enlisted the help of one of my wife’s cousins, Zali, who is an auto mechanic. 

Zali checked out the used car dealers he knew and found one that fit our specifications. He checked out the car and pronounced it well maintained. The mileage was about 86,000 kms for the 10 years old car. 


A Perodua Kancil - my daughter’s first ever car

Picture Credit: Google 

So we have signed up and paid for the car. It’ll take a couple of days for the transfer to my daughter’s name as well as the required mandatory check by the Authorities to confirm that it is road worthy. 

When the car is collected, Zali will be showing my daughter, Aliaa or Along as we call her, some basic car maintenance tips such as water and oil checks and keeping the tires properly inflated etc.  Along will also maintain a car log book just like we do. She’ll be logging the time, destination, start mileage and end mileage readings each time she uses the car. Whenever she refills petrol, the amount will also be entered into the log book. 

I have also emailed Aliaa the URL of a driving school that does a one day class called SmartWoman Driving Course. She’ll check it up and should sign up for it sometime in December. 

Unlike the time when my brother gave me my first car, my daughter’s car is coming with some strings attached. There are some rules, some do’s and don’ts. We have talked about these rules and my daughter has given her agreement.  

My wife and I are sure that she’ll handle this car, her first major physical asset responsibly. And Insya’Allah, the car will not turn out a lemon.

Our 2 elder girls are leaving home……well, almost

Monday, November 3rd, 2008


My elder 2 girls. Taken by their mother when all of us were much much younger. I look at this picture often and have never failed to feel happy and grateful.

I have earlier written about the job my eldest girl got teaching children. She started her job at about the same time as her younger sister who works in an accounting firm. The places of work were at diametrically opposite sides of town so they could not live together. Along, my eldest stayed temporarily with the family of one of my best friends (who passed way last year). 

Azah, her second rented a room near her office.

Along then resigned from her job and came back home.  And now she has gotten an opportunity to be an apprentice to a counsellor, something that she really likes. The great thing is that this counselling office is quite near to where Azah works. 

Naturally, the family has decided that the two girls should now stay together.  We have now rented a house around where Azah works. The house is too big for the two of them, so they’ll have to get some of their friends as boarders. We have bought some basic furniture and a little more stuff such as kitchen stuff is still outstanding. The plan is for the two of them to move in by the 15th of this month. 

Luckily, my wife and I are quite prepared for this move. The 2 girls have already spent 3 years away from home during their varsity days.  Though the fussing parent in me keeps worrying about whether they’ll be able to look after themselves, I just have to let go. The two girls just have to sort themselves out.  The girls now have to:-

  • look after themselves – hygiene, health, safety, comfort, nutrition. (including going to see a doctor and paying for medical services if they are ill).
  • look after their surroundings – tidying and cleaning up, keeping secure
  • look after their money – budgeting, saving, making wise choices
  • take responsibility for themselves

The good things are that they are sensible girls, are only an hour’s drive away and they have each other to help. They can also come back almost every weekend.

And we have another 3 kids still at home with us! So we don’t have to worry at all about an “empty nest”. Still I cannot help thinking of them as the toddlers they were that many years ago. And worry a little.

My two elder girls…….an update

Friday, October 24th, 2008

I last wrote about my two elder girls way back in July. My eldest girl Along had started work with an educational institute for children whilst the second, Azah had started with a Big 4 audit firm. The two offices are located at opposite ends of our Federal Capital, Kuala Lumpur which is about 60 kilometres from where we live. As it was not practical for the both of them to stay together we found rooms for them and thought that we would work out the staying together bit later. 

Along did not find the job to her liking and came back home. Her principal interest is in counselling, especially children, and teaching them did not work out the way she thought it would be. She has now found an assignment as an assistant to a counsellor. She found the lady through a blog and met up with her a couple of weeks before Eid. They both got along well and my wife and I have also met and have gotten to know this lady. Along is really looking forward to being involved in the counselling profession. 

The plus points are that the lady’s office is not too far from Azah’s office and also the University where Along plans to do her Masters in Educational Counselling.  So we have rented a house where the two girls will stay together and rent out the other rooms.

The house is within walking distance from Azah’s office so the transport issue for her has been resolved. It’s a little further from Along’s expected place of work and we have agreed that we will buy a car for her (used, of course).  

Last week the whole family checked out the house (which is unfurnished) and prepared a list of the basic furnishings and household items to buy. The dent in my wallet aside(this has to be discussed with the girls later), there is the fatherly fear of whether my girls would be safe and be “all right”. My wife is taking it a lot better (she is a great believer in independence). 

As I would be in Jakarta all this week, Along and my wife will be taking care of getting the house cleaned and furnished. And Insya’Allah the two girls will move in by the 1st November.  

(Should I or my wife set any house rules or should we just let the girls go with the flow? This will be a thought that will linger a lot in my mind over the next few days).   

Looks like our square foot garden project is still not worthy of a success post

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

It was in August that I posted an update on our square foot garden project. The prognosis was not that good. I did mention that though the house project did not work out well, we were about to launch something a little more ambitious.  

Well, we did and it turned out to be too ambitious and too successful! We parcelled out part of our goat farm for planting vegetables. My intention then was that the “fruits of our labour” would be for the consumption of Zai’s household, our Indonesian farm workers and our household. And we had vegetables in abundance……much too abundant.  

The farm is about an hour’s drive from our house, so it was not practical to drive down daily for vegetables. There were just too much for Zai’s household which consists of 5 adults and 3 young children.  Even Zai’s attempts at giving them away to his neighbours, was not that successful as being a rural community, almost everyone had their own square foot garden.  


Picture shows the former spinach patch now being planted with the Napier cuttings. In the background is the patch for long beans, okra and maize. This will also soon be planted with Napier.

So we have cancelled this project and are converting the plots to grow Napier grass as feed for the goats.  

Meanwhile at our home front, the chilly plant on which I had placed hopes of meeting all our chilly requirements just died. (The late plant is the one shown in the picture.) This happened after we transplanted the plant from its pot to the ground. Apparently the soil along the edges of our house, where the plant was replanted was not that good. Now we are regularly throwing the poop from the rabbits on this part and hopefully the soil will be much improved. 

In the meantime, we are growing two more chilly plants in flower pots and hopefully they will fare better. The plants are still young. I hope that we get to eat something that we have actually grown ourselves.  

I must take my hat off to people like Frugal Dad and Lynnae who have done so much better.  The GRS household is in a class of their own. They have a GRS Garden Project and track the time and money they are spending to grow their own food. See their September report here. And Squawkfox deserves a special mention. She (with some help from her “better half” and her tried and trusted Tivo) had to contend with and overcome deer and gophers in her journey in growing her vegetables.

But rest assured that the Fathersez family has not thrown in the towel yet. 

Non financial lessons from my mother

Monday, October 6th, 2008

 Picture Credit: Google

Lately I have been thinking about some of the “lessons” learnt from my parents. Learnt not by receiving formal instructions or such. Just learnt by example and reinforced by reprimands received when we broke them. 

Lessons such as: 

How to awake a sleeping person 

This had to be done gently. By slow and gentle taps on the shoulder of the sleeping person and softly calling out to him or her. The taps can be progressively increased in intensity, but the start must be soft and gentle.  Islam mentions that our souls are taken away whilst we sleep and to some people the souls are returned (meaning that they awake) whilst for others they are not.  Perhaps this was the basis of my late mother’s insistence that we use a slow and soft approach.  

(Sure looks like the Army’s method of waking people up would have merited severe disagreement from my mother.) 

Never cross over a person’s body 

Whether the person is sleeping or just lying down, we should never walk over him or her. We should always walk around the person. I have never ever found out why, but it does seem to make a lot of sense.  

Never cut our nails at night 

This was a severe no-no. Perhaps my mother, having grown up in an era of no electricity,  wanted to make sure that we did not cut ourselves in the dark or in the dim lights we used to have.  

Never walk over or step on a book 

This was a sure way to make sure that we would grow up as “stupid” people. My mother would insist that we had to pick up any book that was lying on the floor so that there would be no chance of any of the younger children walking over them. We never had any tables or chairs, (we used to do everything on the floor) so this was a common issue. 

Never step on or walk over money, whether a coin or note 

This was another no-no, as stepping on money was a clear mark of disrespect and would this encourage wealth to stay away from us. 

Walk softly 

My mother believed that the ground was Mother Earth and should be treated with great respect. Walking roughly, loudly or shuffling would earn us a nasty clip and a sharp reprimand.  All of us brothers and sister, till today, walk such that you would not hear us coming.

All these rules I still follow strictly, though it has been decades since I got the lessons from my mother. It still grates me when I hear people walking roughly and loudly or shuffling.  

I have tried to pass on these lessons to my children. However my wife (who comes from a different cultural background) is not so sold on some of these lessons. I don’t know if these lessons will be ingrained as deeply into my children as it has been for me.  

I suppose when my children are much, much older, they might think back about these times and wonder about these non financial lessons they got from their dad.

Our square foot garden……not quite there yet

Monday, August 4th, 2008


Our very own chilly plant. Come on! Bloom, Bloom!


One of the papaya plants. Soon they’ll be bearing is a bountiful harvest of fruits, God Willing.


The present state of our square foot garden 

I first read about the concept of square foot gardening after reading Lynnae’s post on this subject. She gave credit to Frugal Dad, whose post included detailed instructions and even what the building profession would refer as a costed bill of quantities. 

Lynnae’s built her square foot garden with the help of her able assistant, her son Sam. The whole project seemed like fun and besides growing our own vegetables made a lot of sense. So with our second daughter as project manager / worker, and my wife and I as advisors and funders, the project was launched in May 08. (Yes, our family can be a little top heavy in our projects.) 

Malaysia is an equatorial country. We don’t have winter and have plenty of rain all year round. We are also blessed with fertile soil and we just pretty much have to toss some seeds and forget about them and they should germinate.  

Theoretically, at least. 

Late last month, Lynnae announced to the world that her square foot garden overfloweth. And overfloweth it sure seems to have. She posted a picture of the vegetables she had harvested and boy, it sure looks like she has a green thumb.  

Alas, I cannot say the same about our efforts. Our project manager/worker, has left home and now stays on her own, not too far from the accounting firm where she has now started work.  

The Fathersez’s family’s square foot garden has not bloomed nearly as well as Lynnae’s.  (You may note that we are using pots, unlike Frugal Dad and Lynnae. We thought we would be the only ones, but it looks like at least Jim of BFP (another blogger I follow and admire) is also doing the same).

On a positive note, the venture into farming also resulted in the sprouting of our first fruit tree. An embarrassment really, since any Malaysian worth his or her salt and with a square foot of land would have planted this tree immediately.  It’s papaya. And there are 3 of them.

The jury may be still out on our gardening achievements. We are not discouraged. In fact we have gotten a lot bolder, and have started a project that should about almost eliminate our family’s monthly vegetable costs.  I hope to report on this project in about a month or so.  

Picture Credit: Our project manager/worker, my second daughter, Azah.

We have launched our Square Foot Garden Project

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008


 Picture Credit: Azah. The stuff we bought. We have a few more packs of the garden soil.

I first read about square foot gardening in Lynnae’s post on Building a square foot garden. It seemed to be a cool way to grow some greens in not too big a space and without too much heavy activity. 

Lynnae also gave links to Frugal Dad’s take on square foot gardening. And he has written his journey into this in no small detail. 

We have some land around the house and this approach looked very doable. And besides, this looked great as a family project, something that cannot but have positive returns. 

I bounced this idea off my second girl and she agreed to read Lynnae’s and Frugal Dad’s posts. Which she did. And the project was officially launched last Saturday. 

We had some reservations on the issue of the boxes. The recommended or suggested manner seemed to be too much of a major engineering issue.  I discussed with my daughter about using baskets. After all they were about the same size and could be moved around easily. They had small holes at the bottom so drainage would not be a problem. They were so easily available, and besides we had a couple lying around at home. And secretly I was wondering as to why we could not use pots. And we had a number of available pots. 

Last night I read Jim’s post on his version of the square foot garden, the Blueprint for Financial Prosperity Garden Project. And he used garden pots!  

For now, my daughter has planted some seeds. They have been planted in polybags. (The leftover polybags bought for the incubation of the petai belalang and the geti trees for the goat farm.)  The idea is to transplant the plants into pots (for tomatoes, lime and chillies) and baskets for the vegetables.  

So far the money spent on the project is negligible. A total of about Ringgit 25 which is about USD 7.80 or so, which was spent on buying seeds, some garden soil and a couple of gardening implements.    

Meet the newest members of the Fathersez family

Sunday, May 18th, 2008


Our family has never been all that great with pets. 

Like many other families with young children, for years my wife and I have had to fend off requests from the children for cats, hamsters, rabbits and the like. We have succeeded all these while. 

Last year, a hen (yes, a hen) wandered into our house and stayed on for about a year. We never found out who the real owner was. We bought a small pen for her and she was quite happy. One day, she disappeared for about 3 days and then came back as if nothing had happened. We never found out where she went, but apparently her female instincts had called. She then laid eight eggs in quick succession and valiantly tried to hatch them. But none hatched.

We have been told that for this type of hen, another should be the one that hatches the eggs, not the mother! I have no idea whether this is true.  Sadly, this hen was bitten and killed by a dog. 

Then it was a pregnant cat that sauntered in. We took her in and she gave birth to 3 kittens. We took them to the vet and he gave us some instructions on how to look after the family. Unfortunately, the mother and one of the kittens died. They died the same day my mother passed away. The two remaining kittens were given away to the Government animal centre where they give them away to animal lovers. 

And that’s the closest we have come to keeping pets. 

Yesterday, my second daughter managed to cajole her mother into buying a couple of rabbits. You can see them in the picture. The white one has been christened as Snow whilst the other is Bobo.  The kids are all excited. And it is difficult for parents not to be infected with their excitement.  

As expected the kids have sworn to look after the rabbits. Time will tell.  

For now, the rabbits are welcome as the latest additions to our family. 

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