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

#3 is Three

A few days ago #3 turned Three. Though the day before that she would have you believe she was five turning six. As far as she is concerned, #3 has never been two. All through her Twos you could ask her ‘How old are you #3?’ and she would answer you back, ‘3’, ‘4’ or ‘5’. Sometimes even ‘6’.

I can totally understand why she would think that. I think small people suit being two for just a few months and then they ought to move onto the next year. That year between two and three is one of such immense change in their lives that being two just doesn’t seem to do enough justice to their achievements. Or change in temperament. I think it’s more the change in temperament that makes me say this. Ah, she was still so compliant at the turn of two. You could strap her in her car seat with no bother, put her to bed in her cot and walk out of the room safe in the knowledge she’d be asleep in a few minutes and there were no insistent demands that require a will of steel and ear plugs to deflect.

But then somehow the button that triggers a small person’s internal navigation system with destination INDEPENDENCE was hit. And that was the end of that. #3 found her voice and uses it frequently. She discovered volume control and cranked it up high. She learnt quickly from those two old timers #1 and 2 and now she’s like a mini hybrid version of them both when it comes to stubbornness and stamping her ground. And I guess that is the key point. Instead of figuring it out slowly for herself, she’s been given the Cliff Notes version of ‘How to bypass two’ just by absorbing what’s going on all around her. And that is what makes me wonder where did her Two year go because for a long, long time she has been just as vocal, demanding and independent but not quite so capable as #1 and 2.

It is quite true that your parenting outlook becomes more relaxed with each passing child. And whilst I would never describe myself as having thrown away the manual, it is noticeable that she has been granted more leeway than #1 and 2. This extends to what she can do, eat, play with and how much television she has had in comparison to # 1 and 2 by same age comparison figure. #2 had to patiently wait until she herself turned three before she was allowed her first ever pair of Big Girl dress up shoes. You can guess that #3 has been clomping around in them so much to have worn out the heel.

But what I think what really made the difference was her confidence that made you (and her) think she was beyond two. I love how being the #3, she gets to do everything with the security of #1 and 2 around her leading the way. The good and the bad I must say. And how much love there is around her. With older siblings mostly looking out for you. Being the #3 means you already have quite a lot of people who love and protect you right from the get go.

#3 suits being three. And so far she also agrees she’s three rather than four, five or six. Thank goodness she does because I am the one who laments the speed of these fast flowing months the most (and also Husband too). By now, I know how fleeting these years will be as I echo the sentiments of many parents before me. You never believe it when you have a tiny bundle of baby that you don’t quite know what to do with and someone helpfully tells you ‘Enjoy them whilst they’re little because they won’t stay little for long’ and you’re thinking but I just want to them to feed themselves and let me sleep!

Every stage never last longs. Hang on, did I really just say that? Even the current three siblings having an altercation at least four times a day stage? But I’m getting side tracked here. Every stage really never lasts long and I can feel that tug upon my heart strings thinking about my littlest young one growing up. She’s already getting so heavy that it’s not with one smooth movement I can lift her up. And when she sits on my knee at the table or for a story I need to contort in a way that doesn’t agree with my back to see past her. I have to be patience as she tells me she can do it herself and answer the myriad of questions that start and end with ‘Why?’

But she is still my littlest young one in the way she loves to be near you and hold your hand and sit right by your side. How she loves nothing more than to raid my bag daily and go through my lipsticks at an alarming rate. Casually sauntering out of the bedroom with lipstick smeared across her face and acting like nothing was amiss. How she loves Lellephant and can’t travel far without it. How she’s going to be a Princess when she’s grown up and thinks nothing of wearing fancy dress out for a stroll to the shops. How she loves all things animal and has made me overcome my own fear of approaching new dogs. How she likes to suddenly pretend she’s a cat called Toffee and slinks around miaowing and wanting you to stroke her curls. And those curls! It’s still very odd to see that she has inherited curls. She still hasn’t had her hair cut yet but I think it’s time because when asked what would she like to do for her Birthday treat, she answered with wanting to get her hair cut.

It takes an extra 20 minutes at least to get her to bed now that she’s no longer in a cot. She just barges in on #1 and 2 whilst we’re trying to read them their last story even after spending a good chunk of time getting her all nicely settled in. But I don’t really mind because inevitably without fail she’ll be in the middle of our bed for half the night. I know this is not best practice as advised in all the Generic Parenting Guides. It is perhaps not a great reflection on our parenting ability to admit that we have never been able to keep #1 and 2 in their beds at the same age either. I know what the ‘correct’ parenting technique is to address this and for a short while we tried but I figured it just wasn’t worth the upset when it was better that everyone got some sleep.

Perhaps we just weren’t strong willed enough. Perhaps. But I know this stage will also pass. We are no longer a family of five who could survive in a two bed flat because who needs the extra bedrooms when we all happen to end up in the one room every night anyways. I admit to wondering just before #3 was born whether #1 and 2 would ever sleep the whole night in their own bed ever again. But just as suddenly you find that they do. So now when #3 silently makes an appearance and claims the land in the middle of the bed, I really don’t mind. I like waking up and seeing her there and having her snuggle up to you first thing in the morning to start off your day on a warm and fuzzy note.

#3 is still only three. I guess that’s still very little. Of course it is. I know it is. But there’s something about your littlest young one. When you know you will never see this stage again that makes you want it to drift by very slowly so you can savour the good bits all the more for that bit longer. Collect all the cuddles and kisses and holding of hands. The squishing of cheeks and the feel of their little selves right up close and their demands of your attention and answering of their questions. Make these moments last the longest and their tantrums the shortest please.

Happy Birthday #3. With so much love and laughter.

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All by myself……..

It is the plight of many people with young children who say, sometimes complain, they never have a quiet moment to themselves. I am one of those people. The amount of times you just want to have a bit of privacy going about your personal hygiene business when all of a sudden a small child just magically appears out of nowhere. It’s an assault on the senses when #1, 2 and 3 compete at the same time for your attention. One starts talking, then the other and then the third joins in for no other reason than to just join in. It results in a mounting crescendo of high level noise like a conductor waving his baton at the orchestra for the grand finale of some complicated symphony.

I really wish I were one of those people who can serenely function with a cacophony of activity going around them. But what I find is that my ears begin to ring, the blood pounds behind my temple, I barely know where to begin to stop the noise and I feel the need to retire to a dark, quiet room.

I’m pretty used to it now during the waking hours of #1, 2 and 3. Their boundless energy and capacity for more noise is quite something. I look forward to that golden moment of quiet as soon as they are all sound asleep. It’s like running on all cylinders firing and then suddenly you can just be still.

But it never feels long enough. This time in the evening which you may need to use to do other jobs left over from the day or preparing as much as you can before the next day starts all over again. 

Time to yourself is rare. 

And how often have we imagined just what we would do if we had time to ourselves. Read a book? An uninterrupted coffee? Get wildly inebriated and wallow in your all day hangover? Meet a friend for lunch and stay out all day?

And how often do we reminisce how much less time it took to get from A to B without organising a multitude of people with a multitude of accessories ‘just in case.’

And then there’s of course sleep. Oh my gosh. Uninterrupted blissful consecutive hours of sleep. With no small person visiting in the early hours. 

Yes, it does all sound rather attractive. 
And of course it is. For a short while that is. 
I rather unexpectedly had to go away for Gainful Employment purposes. Just for a couple of days. All by myself. 
Get up at 5am, just me. Quick shower. Carry on luggage, just for me. Taxi to airport. Already checked in online. Straight through Departures. Through whizzy finger print recognition gate thing. There’s an hour and a half before my flight. I’ve never had so much time to spare before. 

There’s time for an unhurried breakfast, a browse in the bookshop, a stop to buy paracetamol and then a saunter to the gate furthest away from anywhere. It’s the most stress free pre-flight experience I’ve had in ages. I’m almost congratulating myself on this achievement. 

And whilst on the flight there is no luxury inflight entertainment system, that’s ok because I’m not busy unpacking half a toy box to keep #1, 2 and 3 occupied. I don’t have to worry about any of them kicking the seat in front or tipping the contents of water/juice/tea over themselves. I can just be still. 

I brought a book with me but I’m not even going to bother opening a page. I’m going to do nothing for the whole 2 hours and 15 minutes. I might even have a nap. I do.
It’s all so civilised, none of this gathering bits and pieces of Lego because #1 insists that’s appropriate inflight entertainment. Not having to gather five pieces of hand luggage because everyone needs to have their own stuff. Not having to gather three small people together and ricochet off the seats because the galley is just not wide enough to herd three small people, five bags and yourself.

It’s the same going through Immigration and straight out to Departures where for the first time ever there’s a person stood with a sign with my name on.

The hotel room is ginormous and far too much for just me. But it’s oh so comfortable. I get more than 7 hours uninterrupted sleep. No waking up and going straight into a non stop routine. Just need to get myself ready and a table for one.

But the truth is, I’m not used to being all by myself anymore. I’m used to having several questions thrown at me at once. To be thinking about what I need to do next. To get things ready for the next day. To be in the company of other people. In the company of Husband and #1, 2 and 3.

It’s all very well jet setting off to some exotic location. It once sounded so appealing. Exciting. But now, as much as I enjoyed sleeping in a massive space for one uninterrupted night, I miss the cacophony of home where Husband, #1, 2 and 3 are.

It’s not like I’ve never been away from them before. It’s the first time it’s been all by myself. 

And as the song goes, I don’t want to be all by myself and so, I can’t wait to get home. And I’ll never complain about not having time to myself ever again.

I bet that lasts all of 30 minutes after walking through the door!
  

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#Xthehaze – We Breathe What We Buy

The atmosphere has been a bit unpleasant in Singapore lately. Nothing to do with the General Elections that took place yesterday.

The atmosphere I’m talking about that is hanging over Singapore is something we can all influence. We just don’t know that we can.

The Haze has once again descended over Singapore. An annual event that can rear its ugly head to a greater or lesser extent. In the seven years that I have lived in Singapore, this is the third time that I have experienced such an extreme change in the air quality which is generally very good here.

October 2010 was the first time I came across the word Haze and even then it didn’t leave much of an impression. I was more confused over how I could go out for a couple of hours and return home to find my kitchen was covered in a layer of soot. How was that possible? I cleaned it up, grumbled a bit and that was that.

Until June 2013 when the Haze hit hard. It descends like fog and hangs heavy in the air with a lingering smell of burning, much like being out on Bonfire Night. Except the air is hot and humid. Your energy levels feel drained, your eyes feel itchy and your throat becomes dry and irritable. You become irritable in fact. Irritated that you can’t go outdoors, swimming lessons and outdoor pursuits get cancelled, the kids can’t go to the playground or park and when it starts affecting your health and that of your children then naturally people start to get angry and concerned. The shops ran out of face masks, people who can leave Singapore take the opportunity to do so and question is Indonesia to blame for it all.

  
But then just as suddenly as it arrived, the Haze disappeared after a week and once you could see Marina Bay Sands, all becomes well again it seems.

Until the Haze returned last week. Causing a storm in the news and on internet forums about what is it, where does it come from, are we safe, how can this happen, why isn’t the government doing anything about it, why isn’t Indonesia doing anything about it, should we leave Singapore for good, what is palm oil, boycott all palm oil products, never buy anything from Nestle.

The Haze is air pollution caused by land clearing activity in Indonesia and Malaysia. Forests are burned down as the quickest method to make way for growing crops, mostly palm oil crops which is commonly labelled as vegetable oil in food items. Peat is the soil that is found nourishing the tropical rainforests, it is made up of decayed plant matter and forms boggy peat swamps. Unfortunately, there is a lot of deforestation going on in the tropics, natural peat swamps are being drained of water for agricultural purposes. When dry peat catches fire it can smolder for days and be difficult to extinguish because of how many metres deep it lies in the earth. Then when the fires get out of hand and burn for weeks and the wind carries it a certain direction and it affects a whole neighbouring nation it becomes a bone of contention again.

Singapore, and Malaysia even, suffer the consequences of the irresponsible actions of Indonesia who seemingly are doing nothing to stop the matter. How selfish of them. Don’t they know how harmful their actions are to our health? To our children’s health? Don’t they know how badly they are affecting our quality of life? How can they just erase the rainforest like that? Don’t they care about the orangutans? And so we rant on.

And yet, is it really all Indonesia’s fault? Are we totally innocent bystanders here? Why is the land being cleared? What are they using the land for? To grow palm oil crops? Let’s all avoid palm oil I’m never buying anything with palm oil in the ingredients ever again. Boycott Nestle and all other big name brands. Switch to other oils. What can we eat then? What do you mean it’s in my toothpaste and favourite shower gel and shampoo? But I recycle and buy organic, how can I be harming the environment and leaving the rhinos homeless? I’m so confused!

And it is a confusing issue. It is a complex issue. It is not one that will be solved overnight by one NGO, one company or one country. It needs to be driven by a whole global consumer movement where knowledge is power to create an effective market shift change that will ensure all sides receive mutual benefit. Consumers are safe in the knowledge they are buying sustainable products, companies can still turn around a profit using sustainable resources, local communities thrive through growing crops in a sustainable way. Is this a lot to ask for? Perhaps. But it’s about time we found a way to make it happen.

And how could it happen? Well firstly to know that yes, the forests are being burnt to make way for palm oil plantations. But palm oil is not the evil here. Palm oil is a very useful oil as is already proven by the multitude of uses it has. You can find it in lots of food products that has vegetable oil as an ingredient. This makes it difficult to avoid because most products will not have ‘palm oil’ labelled as such so you can’t easily avoid it. But should we avoid it and feel better buying products that uses only sunflower, soy, coconut or rapeseed oil instead? Consider the effect this would have if we boycotted palm oil altogether. The same products that need oil would need to find alternative types of oil instead and so wouldn’t this be like creating the same problem in a different guise? So far palm oil is proving to be the most effective crop per hectare in the amount of oil it yields compared to the other oils mentioned. So that is why it is best not to say let’s not have palm oil altogether.

Deforestation is a big issue in Indonesia, the rainforest is rapidly decreasing and along with it the natural habitat of wildlife species such as the tigers, rhinos, elephants and orangutans. Does this matter? Does it matter if you live thousands of miles away? Yes it does. Because we share this earth with many species and who says one has precedence over the other. The other issue is that as a whole, we are consuming the Earth’s natural resources far quicker than the Earth is able to replenish them and so it’s time to take responsibility for our actions.

Indonesia is the biggest supplier of palm oil. The production of palm oil provides indigenious communities with much needed livelihoods. If this was taken away what would happen to the future of these communities? How would they live? Considering it’s mostly the developed countries who demand the need for palm oil the most, it’s a bit unfair to chastise and hold back a country when it’s our demand that is driving part of the problem. So how can this be solved? By being better informed on the how and the why. Then lending your voice to the what can be done about it.
  
WWF are leading a campaign to Stop the Haze by raising awareness of what causes the Haze and how it can be stopped. Eventually. You may have seen the campaign We Breathe What We Buy doing the rounds on social media. The campaign clearly outlines how the Haze is caused, what is palm oil, what does it mean to demand sustainable palm oil and what can we as consumers do to help make this change. 
I’ve seen some scepticism about whether switching to sustainable palm oil will make any difference. Well the definition of something being sustainable is that it doesn’t cause long term harm to the environment or to people. Wouldn’t that make you feel better? And if you needed further proof, if you take a look at a map of where the fires are burning, you will find it is coming from unsustainable palm oil plantations only.

And if hundreds of kilometres away we complain how awful the Haze is affecting the air quality in Singapore, can you imagine just how detrimental it is to the communities who live right by these plantations in Indonesia. Is it fair to them either?

This is a really important issue to support and even though you may never have to feel the effects of this kind of Haze before, please support from the perspective that as consumers of products that contribute to the problem then we should all share the responsibility to find a way out of it. The farmers can only supply what there is a demand for. Will the companies voluntarily demand sustainable palm oil if there’s no need for them to do so because their consumers don’t know to ask for it? Some do to be fair and that’s great news and a good start to prove to other companies that it’s not going to affect their profit margins. But not enough are and farmers are willing to supply sustainable palm oil but there needs to be a guaranteed market for it. So until consumers start shouting out to all the companies that they know they can do better at this game then they’re not going to change.

  
So please, let’s all do our part now. For all the good reasons. To consume less that will reduce demand. To demand what is sustainable. To provide local communities a good source of income. To get corporations to act more responsibly.

Please sign the pledge the following link will take you to:
https://webreathewhatwebuy.com
(And Yes, I’m back in Gainful Employment with WWF Singapore.)

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Long may she continue to do so

I like the Queen. Queen Elizabeth the Second that is. I’m not so sure I would like the Kings and Queens of old so much who would chop off your head on a whim.

It may not be a terribly modern view to have but I’ve always felt a degree of warmth towards the Royal Family. I think because growing up in the late Seventies, early Eighties were simpler times. I distinctly remember painting pictures of the Queen and Buckingham Palace in Infant School. A couple of years later this was followed by the huge occasions that were the Royal weddings of Charles and Diana and Andrew and Fergie. By the time these Royal weddings were going through Royal divorces and all the scandals that went with it, I was in my early twenties and busy being a Student to feel properly shocked or let down by them. Well actually I was rather disturbed at seeing the photos of Fergie having her toes sucked splashed across the Daily Mirror. Disgusting.

There have been periods of time where I have felt indifferent about the Royal Family. After all it’s not like they have any direct impact on our daily lives. They just happen to be there. Living off our taxes as many believe. What’s the point of them some people say. Why do we need a Royal Family. What purpose do they serve. How much revenue do they bring in from tourism anyways. Let’s get rid of them. We don’t need them. And all sorts of other negative feeling that I find unnecessary.

Having lived away from the UK for nearly seven years, in a Republic city state presided over by an elected President to be rolled out for ceremonial purposes, I would much rather have an inherited monarchy in place. It can be annoying enough having to put up with an elected Prime Minister you didn’t want, let alone an elected President to represent you. At least with the Monarchy it’s just their unknown fortune to be born into that role. Both a blessing and a curse wouldn’t you say and certainly not one most of us would want. Consider the scrutiny of your every move, the lack of true freedom to do what you would like, to voice opinions that are truly your own. Forever the diplomat and allowing everyone else to have an opinion about you and your worth. Who would want a life like that?

I feel great respect for the Queen, I admire her consistency and sense of duty. And whilst you may not think rolling up and smiling and being presented with flowers is much of a job or hardship, consider that today at the age of 89 she’s still getting up, having her hair done and putting on makeup, to get out of the door, be on her feet and smile nicely for everyone. There is no way I would want to be doing that in 48 years time or have had to do so for the last 63 years and 216 days. Or have had to sit through weekly meetings with Prime Ministers you may secretly think is a total idiot. It’s such a weird job really when you think about it.

Duty and obligation seems to have fallen out of favour in modern times. But I believe it demonstrates commitment and the desire to see something through that can be seriously lacking. We don’t give things as much of a chance as before. Everything is so fast moving and disposable from things we buy to relationships and opinions. But I like consistency and I like how the Queen and her successors are one constant factor that is quite soothing when so many things are uncertain. I think the Queen’s ability to evolve the monarchy and pull it back from the brink of really low public opinion following the death of Diana is a sign of good leadership. How many world leaders refuse to listen to what the people are saying. How many CEOs of any organisation listen to what their staff are saying for that matter.

Celebrities who seek out fame and infamy do so out of choice. But when it’s been put upon you just by chance, I feel we should have more empathy towards people who have to live their lives in the public eye. They will inevitably make mistakes like we all do. Consider the sort of stuff the world media doesn’t know about you. And what I really want to see is less of this desire of wanting to see people slip up, be they royal or not. It’s unattractive and it’s unhelpful. I want to see more happy going on in the world and the Queen with her safe colour block outfits, hats and gloves provides that for me.

I think the Queen does a great job and I hope she gets to put up her feet with a nice up of tea whilst listening to Prince Phillip say something wildly inappropriate and consider it another day well done.

Change in colour: The red 1st class stamp has been turned purple

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When we say nothing at all

I don’t know what to say. I really don’t. 

Yet does it mean I shouldn’t say anything at all? Let it all blow over until some other world news item comes along to take its place like it surely will.  

I know a reaction will have been stirred deep within everyone who has seen the image of the lone boy washed to shore on a Turkish beach. It is impossible to look at it without feeling an overwhelming surge of emotion that is hard to put into words.

Such is the power of the media both traditional and new. One day it wants to influence you this way and the next a different way. 

As the world looks on at a situation that has been unfolding for some time. How many of us know all the facts that has led to so many families taking this risk to try and escape a life of atrocity that they know of. In the hopes of finding a better life eventually in some unknown place who knows where. 
All too often when you watch the news and see events happening some place else it can feel so distant. Like the images depicting the destruction of the ancient temples preserved for centuries in Palmyra, Syria. 

Then suddenly this week we see images of people who once lived in Syria washed up on the shores of Turkey in an attempt to reach the island of Kos, Greece. Names of places that sound less distant. Familiar. Places you may have even been to. 

I don’t know the political facts that have led to this point in history. Whether it is down to the removal of one tyrant that has only led to the uprising of another more powerful and deadly version to take its place. Whether it is because this government or that who has not acted fast enough in giving help to those who desperately need it. 

I know I often feel weary just thinking about the level of conflict that exists all over the world. Sometimes you can read about it and move on.

Sometimes you can’t. The boy in the image was three years old and died along with his five year old brother and his 35 year old mother. We know their names and we’ve seen the grief etched in their father’s face who survived. I can’t even think about his guilt or loss because it makes my eyes well with tears. Just like it did when I saw the image of his face in this morning’s news sites when I was at work.

I truly don’t know what to say. Nothing feels adequate enough. How can anything I say resonate with this situation when nothing in my life bears any comparison to the lives lived by people who have now lost them. 

I often wonder how people who have all lived on this planet for the same length of time can have such vastly differing lives. Even from one neighbouring country to another. I realise just how fortunate I am by chance to have the life I have. 

I’m pretty sure if I had not moved to Singapore, my world would have been further sheltered from the discrepancies of wealth, opportunity and equality that exists. When a person moves from one country to live in another, there are many words you can use to describe them. Expatriate. Migrant. Refugee. Asylum seeker. Displaced. Illegal. 

I don’t know what to say about what I think should be done. But this hasn’t stopped people voicing their opinions on forums all over social media. It’s in turn interesting, heartwarming and incredible the views that people have. 

Even though I don’t know what to say, I don’t want to let it go unacknowledged either. The tragedy is not just the loss of such young life or the depiction of this one event. It is the accumulation of a sequence of events that has been affecting people’s lives for a long long time with no end in sight. It may not stop there either. The despair I feel is what will stop everything else related to this event. 

In some small insignificant way, I need to express appreciation for the life and opportunities I have. I don’t feel like making inconsequential comments on social media right now as it just doesn’t seem appropriate. 

So I don’t know what to say. Except I hope some good will come of this to redesign the way we look at each other. Without prejudice and with understanding and compassion. To be that bit kinder to each other and ourselves. To provide hope and support to people who need it. 

  

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