The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

Her name is Stubborn Wolf

#3 is not quite two years and four months old yet.

But as she is in her twos, she can invariably be labelled as being in the Terrible Twos.

The Terrible Twos is that perceived dreaded time of incoherent demands, frustrated screaming and full bodied down on the ground tantrums that can happen any time and anywhere.

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Can I just say that this period of behaviour doesn’t end when they hit three. Fact.

When they are two you can put it down to the Terrible Twos. When they still display moments of incoherent demands, frustrated screaming and full bodied down on the ground tantrums at the age of four and six. Well, perhaps I ought to reassess my parenting capabilities. But that is by the by and not what I’m going to talk about today.

Today is all about #3.

#3 recently started swimming lessons with Coach A. Coach A started teaching #1 almost three years ago and #2 for two years. Both #1 and 2 are very competent swimmers which I’m very proud of and which is a necessity in Singapore with the condo pool downstairs (Yes, I know).

At the age of two years and not quite four months old, it may seem a bit young for solo swimming lessons but she’s actually very good at understanding what you’re saying. Her language ability is pretty good and she is not shy in vocalising her grievances. As Coach A was to find out.

Two weeks ago, just after the Christmas break, #3 had her second proper solo swimming lesson. I took her down to the pool, handed her over to Coach A and walked off with her yelling after me ‘Mummy, Mummy, Mummy’. I’ve done enough school drop offs with screaming child clinging onto me to be able to do the walking off in a cold hearted fashion without wanting to break down and cry myself now. Besides I’m only upstairs and I can keep an eye and ear out for her should she get beyond hysterical.

I’m watching from the balcony overlooking the pool and I can hear #3 crying. I’m ready to go back downstairs and retrieve her thinking perhaps at two years and not quite four months, she’s just a bit too young for this. But then I see her holding Coach A’s hand in the pool as he puts her through some walking up and down the pool drills.

I can still hear crying when she’s holding onto the floats and kicking her legs up and down.

I can still hear her crying as she goes off and collects floating things.

She’s crying and yet she’s still actually having the swimming lesson. So I hold back and just let it carry on. At times she’s not crying but then seems to remember that she needs to express just how disgruntled she is with this swimming lesson situation that she restarts and throws in some random yells.

Time is up and I head down to collect her. As I near, Coach A holds up a hand to ward me off. I can’t quite see what’s going on from that distance but he’s giving instructions to #3 which she appears to be following.

Finally, he beckons me forward and I wrap up #3 in her towel and give her a big hug. I ask Coach A how did it all go and his first response is ‘She’s even more stubborn than #1 and 2’.

But she’s two! Surely that’s her prerogative! Surely it’s just the Terrible Twos at play. This stage will pass. It has to.

To hear someone say that this is not a phase, that this is part of who she is was quite a shock. Then I recalled all the times others have hinted as much. That #3 has that glint in her eye that is so familiar to them because they’ve seen it before in their own beautifully spirited child I have often admired for their character and because they make me laugh with the mischief they get up to.

I remember Big Brother Li telling me that the more crowns you have, the more stubborn you are. Both #3 and I have two. When we were back in the UK, my Mum remarked that people with curly hair are much less obedient when #3 was diving off the couch. I naturally dismissed all this as just folklore. I mean you’re telling me that the whole of the Chinese population do as they are told because on the whole, they have poker straight hair? Pah indeed.

In a moment of pique when #3 was being particularly high spirited at dinner time, I said to her in the presence of #1 and 2, ‘No wonder Por Por says you’re hard to teach with your curly hair’. #2 who likes to emulate many of my more wise sayings, was heard by Husband to say, ‘#3 your hair will never be straight with this naughty behaviour’ and proceeded to ask me where she could have gotten this idea from. Where indeed and I go on about my Dad, Mr Li coming out with some random stuff!

Why should it come as any surprise that a child of mine should be called stubborn. Where could they get that from?

It’s not so much that #3 is charmingly stubborn that sticks with me. I’d rather a child who didn’t easily conform and has a will to do things their way, except for the times when I am asking them to do as I say. It’s when Coach A tells me that I should stop praising #3 for every single thing that she does. He reckons that for every ten things that she does, give her praise for just two of them. That way, she’ll soon learn to do things as just par for the course.

Yes I get that, it’s something that #1 is finding hard when he doesn’t get all the praise for something as regular as putting on his own socks yet if #3 does so then she is just so clever and it’s accompanied by a round of applause and kisses and smiles and it’s just so cute. As I held #3, who seemed like such a big girl going off on her solo swimming lessons, I couldn’t quite grasp the notion that she should no longer receive praise for every single thing that she does because at her age, every single thing she does is just simply marvellous. Except for the times when she’s screaming in frustration and lying sprawled on the floor in the supermarket because I wouldn’t let her stand Kate Winslet in Titanic-top-of-the-world style in the shopping trolley.

All it made me feel is that I would just like to hold her tighter and kiss those chubby cheeks and tell her just how fabulous she always is. Because I do know that there will come a point when you can’t tell them that every single thing they do is phenomenal. Some of it is quite normal like putting on your own socks, feeding yourself and emptying your bowels where you ought to. We have trouble getting out of the door with minimal fuss without having to applaud every single movement. And when was the last time you got praise for brushing your own teeth.

I do give praise. I recognise achievements in not just #1, 2 and 3 but in you Grown Ups too. It’s called being supportive and recognising in others skills that I am sadly lacking.

Coach A tells me that in order for #3 to learn to swim she needs to follow his instruction. I get that too. So in order to get her to understand that, he was rolling a ball away from them and asking her to go and get it. She replies ‘No, you go and get it’. I’m half embarrassed and half proud of her. But then he tells me, ‘I’ll give it another lesson or two and she’ll soon be following my direction’.

Whilst I know that this is necessary and I do want her to learn to swim and build a rapport with Coach A. It also makes me sad to think he’s trying to break her stubborn spirit. That she’s going to conform and follow his instructions and not be telling him to go pick up a ball when he was the one to pointlessly roll it away.

I also know that, sooner or later when she does know how to swim, she’ll probably be the one jumping off the two meter drop into the pool I’d much rather she wouldn’t.

Will she listen to me if I tell her not to?

What do you think?

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Can cook, shouldn’t cook?

I like to think that I can cook. I like to think that I can bake too. I enjoy making something from scratch, it feels like I’ve achieved something creative without losing interest and abandoning the project halfway through like with all things involving my sewing machine and swathes of material. Increasingly, I like knowing what’s in my food and making an effort to curb all the bad things that makes food so good.

I grew up surrounded by chefs. Inspired by family who can create dishes in minutes without following a recipe. For ten years I was shelling prawns, peeling onions, cracking eggs, chopping up mushrooms and whipping up quite a few numbers of your local Chinese takeaway menu you could care to mention. Inbetween barring any late night rowdy revellers behind the safety of the 5 foot serving counter that separated me and them.

In other words, with that kind of background I feel quite comfortable in the kitchen with a recipe book and weighing scales.

I’m not so keen on long complicated recipes that have many ingredients; anything that involves pastry; making your own stock from scratch; making offal less awful or employing techniques outside of peeling, chopping, blending, mashing, stirring and folding. I’m not so inventive I can devise my own menus nor tell you what a dish is lacking in flavour of unless it’s a bit of salt and pepper.

I have a book shelf creaking under the weight of numerous multicultural cook books and yet end up rotating the same trusted recipes that require little thought in the kitchen and is met with approval by the majority of the family. Sometimes though I feel the need to try out something new from one of the numerous multicultural cook books on my creaking book shelf.

But perhaps this sort of activity shouldn’t be pursued when you have one of those days where your usually well kept fridge with it’s potential for gourmet culinary delights is looking a little lacklustre. And when you just haven’t felt inspired enough on a weekend to get to the supermarket to regain that well kept fridge with it’s potential for gourmet culinary delights and your only option is to chance upon a supermarket that is even less well stocked than your own fridge, which is what happened today.

So Plan A went out of the window but with my confidence in the kitchen, I thought I would just whip up something based loosely on the recipe I was going to use from Bill’s Open Kitchen. I’m sure he’s not going to mind I’m substituting all his recommended vegetables for the semi wilting cos lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber in my fridge, spruced up with some edamame beans from the freezer that I have three bags of and instead of snapper fillets, we’ll just have to have a vegetarian alternative instead. I have all the ingredients for the salad dressing and as I’m not able to cut out carbs entirely I’m throwing in some bulgar wheat which sort of feels healthier but may turn out to be twice as carb heavy as white rice and pasta.

I’m industriously putting all this together in a big salad bowl in the kitchen quite pleased that I’ve cobbled something together using ingredients we already have in and which now won’t go to waste. I’m quite excited that I’ve shook up a new salad dressing that is fat free. Whilst not being in the Domestic Goddess league, I’m quite pleased that I’ve tried out something new and improvised on it.

Just as Husband is about to take #3 off to her bed, I’m walking out of the kitchen and placing our dinner on the dining table. Right at that moment, Husband raises his head like a meerkat and says, ‘Who’s been sick? What’s that smell of sick?’ and goes off in search of phantom vomit puddles. Hotly pursued by #1 and 2 who find vomit puddles strangely fascinating.

Brilliant. Never trust a salad dressing that involves fish sauce.

When he gives up the search for phantom vomit puddles, I tell him, ‘I think it may be your dinner.’

Yes, and just like that, I used to think that I could cook.

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Me and my boy

#1 has been six years old for a few days now.

Six years old.

What a busy year it has been for him.

Whilst I was feeling quite emotional the day before he turned five last year thinking about how he was becoming a big boy now, it happens so gradually that you barely notice until you stop and think about it.

So now I’m stopping and having a think about all the things that he’s achieved this past year. The difference between the growing they did when they were babies to the growing they do now, is that back then it was all about the physical milestones. Like marvelling at how much weight they had gained and how many centimetres they had grown. To the popping out of that first tooth and the first rolling over and then on to crawling and walking.

In the last year, the major milestones that #1 has achieved has been mainly on the academic side. Just after he turned five, I seriously wondered how and when he was going to learn to read because I certainly wasn’t helping along the process. But sure enough, he came home from school a month later with his first reading book. Albeit the whole book was made up of ‘Look at me’, arranged in different order but it was his first book all the same and he was reading. All by himself.

He’s obviously still growing of course. To the point where if you swing #2 and 3 in the air and he wants a turn too he complains you’re not swinging him fast enough or high enough. That’s like 22kg of caber tossing.

And he’s growing in confidence too. He’s still not quite the one to be first up and dancing but he likes to share a joke and mess around with his friends. He understands what’s funny and not just laugh because you’re laughing like what #3 does. Husband told him something that #3 did the other day and he cracked up so much at the thought that he clapped his hands and bellowed with laughter. He even made up his first own joke last month.

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But I can see what our neighbour in the lift from last year means about boys outgrowing the ‘big emotional phase’ by the age of seven, and she has it on good authority from her sister who is a child psychologist. So far at the age of six, it is showing no sign of abating. We’ve had a lot of walking off and slamming of doors and folded arms this past year. Everything seems to be a battle of wills and endless negotiation which isn’t really a negotiation at all when they try and wear you down with asking you the same thing over and over again even though you have said ‘No’ over and over again. We could have had a really, really good day doing lots of stuff that interests all of them but then something minute will happen and there’s high drama and #1 feels like he’s had a terrible day based on that one insignificant moment. Something like telling him to brush his teeth before bed. Or he can’t have a snack 20 minutes before teatime. It gets to the point where I feel like I could shut my head in a cupboard until they think it is best to leave me well alone.

But then the moment passes and we are on that blissful home stretch of nearly having them all ready for bed and #1 reads us his storybook. Carefully and slowly trying out the words aloud. It’s a proud moment for any parent. Watching your child learning the skills towards independence and a future that isn’t solely reliant on you. To opening up a world full of wonder, imagination and discovery. Being able to read for yourself is a very powerful tool indeed.

I have been frustrated at how long it takes all three of them to do anything we ask, like putting on socks and shoes, choosing something for Show and Tell at school or a toy he wants to show #1 Best Mate. No matter how many times and how many minute warnings I give, invariably it’s at the moment when we need to be out of the door that #1 (or #2 for that matter and soon to be #3 no doubt) says he hasn’t got something vitally important. But gradually over this past few months, I can see a change in him, it’s slowly happening but he’s getting there. It’s not so much of a job for him to put on his socks and shoes. Less of the ‘I’m tired’ to do such things and yet has abundant energy for everything that is ‘playtime’.

But you know, when I’ve seen him at school and I’ve listened to his teachers at Parent Teacher Meetings, he’s a helpful, disciplined and well liked boy in his class. I have no doubts that he’s a likeable boy with plenty of friends. He has a sunny smile and he’s very inclusive. I have no doubts that he’s helpful and disciplined at school and with his friend’s parents too. I sometimes just wish he would think about giving such a good impression at home too.

But he does.

My expectation is that it ought to be all the time but that is impossible and unrealistic. I haven’t overlooked the times when he has been so helpful and kind when Husband and I have really needed it. Like when we went on holiday to Japan last June and had to ask #1 to either push a suitcase or #3 in the buggy. When we were in the UK for seven weeks, he was so helpful and accommodating with all that I asked of him. From moving him on from this place to that, long drives in the car and introducing him family members he doesn’t recognise the faces of and expecting him to treat them with all the love they have for him. He is the leader amongst #2 and 3. If they see that he is comfortable then chances are, they won’t freak out either.

He makes me laugh a lot and he will remember what makes you laugh the most and do it impromptu as a treat for you. And I love looking at his face. Whilst a lot of his peers are losing their young child looks, he still retains his because he has these chubby cheeks and snub nose. He knows one of my favourites things to do is kiss those cheeks in turn and then his nose. When he hugs you, it’s a real substantial hug now that he’s taller and stronger.

Husband recently observed that a lot of #1’s mannerisms are very much like mine. The good and the bad. Especially the bad. The impatient outbursts of ‘Oh For Goodness Sake’ (far better than my usual For F@£$ Sake), ‘Stupid Idiot’ from our drives in the car and the arms to the side, palms outstretched to the sky, ‘What?’. I can’t deny that I have not uttered them many a time. And then I realise he is what I show him. So I’m trying very hard to be a better example to him. Trying.

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I like how he associates certain things with certain people based on what he knows they like. When he sees Star Wars in the shops he always points it out to me and tells me it’s my favourite and it’s also Nana Moon’s favourite. He knows I like beer, wine and whiskey. Sometimes publicly declaring it at 10.35am. He’s been following my recent return to frequent running with interest and likes to know that we all have a sport we enjoy doing. He’s been playing rugby for a year now and it’s something he really looks forward to. I think having #1 Best Mate there too is an added bonus. And he’s a pretty good swimmer too. Much better than I am now.

He’s inquisitive, sensitive and dare I say it, clever too. When I told him about how #3 had scribbled permanent marker pen on our bed sheets, the question he asked first was ‘But where did she get the pen from?’. Ah, well that would be my carelessness then. So really whose fault is it? He’s recently been asking me why he has three Grandma’s because he’s made the connection that a Grandma or Por Por is the Mummy of Mummy or Daddy and if he only has one Mummy then surely it follows that there should only be two not three.

For his Birthday, I made 48 cupcakes, most of them for school with a few reserved for his sisters and #1 Best Mate and #1 Best Mate’s Sister. I watched him enjoy his Birthday Sing Song and blow out his candles and then as he shared out a cupcake to all his class mates. After we picked him up from school, Husband and I took him to get his first bike. He wasn’t sure he wanted one at first, preferring a new scooter instead but now that he’s got it, he’s really loving it.

And then he waited with huge excitement over when we were going to collect #1 Best Mate and #1 Best Mate’s Sister. We finished the day with fish and chips with proper chip shop chips. He’s a boy after my own heart. For all Birthdays we try and do a birthday outing as the focus of our special day and he chose to visit the Cloud Dome at Gardens By the Bay so that’s where we went on Saturday. He was last there when Nana Moon came to visit and remembers it well. He invited #1 Best Mate of course, who has a very strong love for #3, I wonder how that will develop over the course of the years and how #1 will view that as he’s very protective of #3.

So #1 is six years old now.

My funny, led by his stomach, temperamental, emotional, sensitive, clever and lovely boy. I’m looking forward to watching him grow and develop further his own personality we are catching glimpses of. I’m going to cherish each school pick up when he runs over and shouts ‘Mummy’ and gives me a big hug, only for him to have grown bored of me by the time we get out to the car. I’m looking forward to being with him every moment I can before Gainful Employment and his other interests take precedence over the time we get to spend together.

Me and my boy. Happy Birthday #1. With all our love. xx

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Christmas School Holidays 2014 all done

#1 and 2 went back to school today! Yay! #3 was a bit confused to be left on her own again most of the day but I’m looking forward to spending time with her before she too gets bundled off to school. Yay!

So we’ve just had two weeks of school holidays. Half of that was taken up by the excitement and preparations for Christmas and New Year. The remaining days were filled with doing stuff with #1, 2 and 3.

Hard to believe we also reside in the northern hemisphere with temperatures never dropping below 25 degrees and a ‘winter’ characterised by heavy rainstorms and the pool is rather chilly for a dip today.

I know I often overlook all that is great about living in Singapore, it can feel like an extended holiday that has been taken for granted. I’ve just read an article in the Guardian written by a Melbourne based journalist slagging off Singapore being materialistic and a city state governed by stifling rules stunting a true democracy and creativity of the home crowd which was really more trash worthy of the Daily Mail Online.

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Singapore is a great place for entertaining young children. We are never more than half an hour’s drive away from most places the kids really enjoy going to. We can be off to the Singapore Zoo or River Safari at a moment’s notice. It has cost us S$300 (approximately £150) to renew our annual membership that gives us access to both attractions and we’ve worked out that we just need to go four times in order for it to be cost beneficial.

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Last week we went to Gardens by the Bay to while away a couple hours. The Gardens are free to roam around in and #1 made a request to go up the Skytree Walkway that cost us S$11 (approximately £5.50) for myself and #1 and 2. Then afterwards we picked up Husband from work and headed off for our annual jaunt to the Tanglin Mall ‘Christmas Avalanche and Snow Show’.

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When you look at photos of the ‘snow show’ it does look like it’s blowing a blizzard. You can almost kid yourself that this is winter. Except everyone’s still in their shorts and flip flops. What it more closely brings to mind are the foam parties of yesteryear at Uni and finding one of your friends lost under the suds snogging some bloke.

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The beaches around Singapore may not be all natural fine sand and clear views out to sea, but we’re only 15 minutes drive from several beach options and all #1, 2 and 3 are concerned with is being able to dig a hole and fling wet sand at each other. A child’s capacity to dig in the sand never ceases to amaze me. Especially #3 who hasn’t quite got the concept and is forever flinging sand in her own face and then crying ‘my eyes, my eyes!’.

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I know #1, 2 and 3 won’t know just how lucky they are to have all this right in front of them. One friend told me that the places we go to with our children and the accessibility of the places we can get to in Singapore is what most families in other countries plan to do over the duration of the long summer holidays.

We are very fortunate indeed. Especially me when I consider just how easy it can be to fill the days of #1, 2 and 3 without their cries of being bored or something is boring.

So, whilst it may be zero degrees in many northern hemisphere locations, I’m not trying to rub it in by talking about what we’ve been doing lately in the Great Tropical Outdoors, but I am reminding myself just how much we can do and ought to do when living somewhere like Singapore.

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Happy New Year! It’s 2015!

Do you remember me saying just yesterday that the last time Husband and I were out celebrating New Year’s Eve at a genuine party for Grown Ups only was back in 2007?

Well I should add that the last time I had an all day hangover on New Year’s Day was back in 2008. We rolled in at 3.30am with no regard for the fact that #1, 2 and 3 would be up and out of bed before many hours long. It wouldn’t be so bad come the day they can get themselves breakfast and possibly help #3 out of her cot. But that day has not yet come.

I wish I could say I’ve gained restraint now that I’ve Embraced 40. It appears I haven’t. Not only that but I am solely responsible for my own all day hangover (I think I usually am no matter how hard I convince myself I’ve been led astray). How can I not be when I was the one to bring a bottle of tequila to the party. It was really good tequila too. None of that paint stripper stuff we used to down on Tuesday Tequila night at Uni.

It was a really great night out and all Thanks to the hosts and their fabulous friends who made it a really fun and funny evening. Check out the floating lanterns. The next time I warn #1 and 2 about the perils of playing with matches, I will refer them to Husband who was highly inebriated and determined to make them float. I think they managed to get two to go. I didn’t even know they were meant to float, I lit my candle and did well not to set myself alight and the whole thing just sort of caught fire and fizzled out. But when it worked properly, it was really amazing! It was up and off into the night sky.

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I’m glad to see on social media and various modes of communication that Husband and I are not the only ones to be suffering the ill effects of a good New Year’s Eve celebration. Once again, minimal parenting activity went on in this household for the first part of the day at least. A lot of parental time out was required.

It’s quite strange how you wake up with such a bad hangover and get to the end of the day and wonder how you even managed to get to the end of the day at all. Be it having to go and do a full day’s work or entertain small children, or anyone else for that matter.

Thankfully, we’ve managed to pull it back and produce a good day for #1, 2 and 3 who shouldn’t have to be punished with a dull day at home due to the excesses of their parents. Besides, it’s always good to get out for a New Year’s Day walk even if it’s not a wholesome, crisp clean air romp in the countryside. By Singapore standards, today was positively like such actually, cool and breezy. So we walked all the way from home down the river and within view of Marina Bay Sands (that building that has the boat on top). It was really good to get out and about and along the way we bumped into two families we know. One of them the hosts of last night’s late night shenanigans at that. Not so good was #3 wanting to be carried part of the way causing waves of nausea to rise up and down.

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So it’s New Year’s Day and I haven’t really got the clarity of mind to draw up a list of Resolutions. I reviewed last year’s which were to get more sleep, to be more organised and to do more in Singapore.

Erm, I think we did do quite a bit more of Singapore last year. I was recently told that the ‘Be more organised’ Resolution is on a par with the ‘Must go to the gym more often’. As in you throw it in there without any real intention of really seeing it through. Maybes. I could always be more organised though and I’ll still keep that in mind for this year.

What I do need to do is spend more time doing the things I enjoy. Be it reading, working out my sewing machine so I actually use it to make something, improve my Mandarin, play tennis again, run more (which I will be doing as I’ve entered a half marathon race next month) or use it to be with people who I genuinely love being with.

This year the emphasis will be on the Next Big Change. Whatever that may be but change is definitely ahead. It’s going to be an unpredictable year with new challenges to meet head on. With change comes a bit of apprehension but I’m also excited too.

So this 2015, I wish for you a peaceful start and good health, happiness and many new adventures that brings you many great memories. I hope you embrace all that this year will bring and if times are hard, I wish you strength and positivity to overcome these times and if you need me in any way, of course you can count on me to be there for you too.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Let’s welcome 2015 with open arms.

Just after I get rid of this hangover with a hair of dog beer. And it seems I’m not the only one who has resorted to this hangover cure as Uncle Monkey sent me a photo of his own hangover cure too.

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