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

Year End Review 2015

It is yet again the end of another year. New Year’s Eve is upon us and it is time to think back over what 2015 has brought us.

It has passed by so quickly. Filled to the brim with things to do and not quite finished. Big things at that. A lot of change and plenty of adapting for the whole family. Perhaps that’s why I’ve enjoyed the lull after Christmas before the new year begins and we start it all over again.

In September we passed the seven year mark in Singapore. SEVEN YEARS! It’s quite frightening to think how long it has been when we first arrived and were so blasé about how long we thought we would stay. On one hand I want #1, 2 and 3 to have memories of the country where they were born and to enjoy all that Singapore has to offer. On the other, there’s a piece of me that wants to be someplace else with family and friends. Leaving a country can be a lot harder than you imagine, it’s all about timing and having a plan. 
In saying that, this year has been a pivotal year in Singapore’s history and m I feel like I am beginning to understand the city state that we have made our home for now.

Perhaps it’s the same for a lot of people who are living an Expat life for the first time. The way you move to another culture and still expect things to be the same as where you just moved from and complain when you find that things are not. How rude! As with anything, it takes time to adapt and eventually you get used to the changes or learn to accommodate them. However it’s only been this year that I feel like I finally live in Singapore. Taking the time to understand the significance of SG50 and the huge outpouring of grief after the passing of its founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. The growth and success Singapore has achieved in the last 50 years has been amazing and we are lucky to enjoy many of the outcomes. 
I still feel like I’m just passing through and I guess after seven years of a kind of detachment, you do start to feel like you want something permanent. Like a forever home that is yours to enjoy and look after.

As we found ourselves still in Singapore, we realised it was probably a good idea to find #1 and 2 an education. There was a point where it was looking unlikely that #1 was ever going to Big School! Luckily the school we chose had openings for the start of the academic year in August. As I’ve mentioned before, the transition from pre-school to Big School has been the hardest not for #1 and 2 but for us as parents! The amount of reading that needs to be done and the checking up on the school website on activities, home work, school events is phenomenal and I must admit to missing a whole section on class activity to do at home for the whole first term. A huge dose of parental guilt has resulted from that. The new year presents a new start on keeping on top of your child’s education for a start! 
 

#3 also started school this year too. Only having a few months crossover with #1 and 2 before they went off to Big School but not before we had all three starring in the same school concert! That was quite an emotional event for us to see all three performing and feeling so proud of them! When your youngest child starts school it can be a rather bittersweet moment. You long for that little bit of freedom and yet you have to let go too.#3 now has a life outside of the family and finally some friends all of her very own.

As for myself, this year has been full of great change. I guess last year I was preparing myself for new challenges for 2015. Be it leaving Singapore or otherwise.

The return of Running Wolf has been great fun and I really missed how running can focus the mind as well as open up a new group of people to hang out with. For years the incubation and nurturing of #1, 2 and 3, the heat and humidity have all been reasons I haven’t ran so much here but chancing upon Twin 1 changed all that and it was a good step towards rediscovering the things I used to. The year started off really well but by mid May, other distractions occurred that put running and other sporting participation to one side.

One of those new distractions is a return to Gainful Employment this year too. I was hoping to write a post about it before now but I find I just haven’t had the time to think about it properly!

It had been on my mind for a while. After the luxury of seven weeks in the UK last year, I knew it wasn’t going to be something I could repeat this year. With #1,2 and 3 at school and the gaping six year hole in my CV, it was about time to address how to fill it. In this respect, I have found myself lucky in how quickly I have been able to find myself Gainful Employment. It began by chance with a parent of #2’s schoolfriend who happened to ask if I wanted to do some part time temporary work for her organisation. It seemed a great starting point and came at the right time for me in a field that wasn’t too dissimilar to what I was interested in beforehand. Soon after I came across the position of Gainful Employment that I now occupy.

Whilst I was open minded about the challenge of returning to Gainful Employment, the reality of transitioning was hard. Both the guilt of being away from #1, 2 and 3 and ensuring I was putting in all that I could into my new role. I imagine this is a postion that you will never get away from once you have children to consider. After seven months I think we are all a little bit more adapted and financially it is good to have a small sum of income that is your own. For the first time in years I was able to buy Husband a Christmas gift that was truly from me.

A return to Gainful Employment in Singapore has brought a whole new dimension to living here. I think you truly feel embedded in the lifestyle and culture once you have to pay your taxes. It’s been the first time in almost seven years that I have spent a good amount of time with Singaporeans. With that has brought some interesting new friendships and opportunities to go to places to eat and drink that I would never have known otherwise. 
I am definitely glad that I made a return to Gainful Employment but I do miss time spent with #1, 2 and 3. Equally if I was spending all my time with #1, 2 and 3, I know I would be thinking of doing things that would enable me to get back into Gainful Employment. 

This year my Mum turned 80. It’s an occasion that has made me think a lot about someplace else I would rather be. I miss my Mum and my Dad, Mr Li. Though he didn’t get to see #1, 2 and 3 this year like I’m sure he hoped he would, my Dad, Mr Li has been quite savvy on the what’sapp front. Mind you it’s all been rather one way. I’m not sure he knows how to send photos himself but in the absence of being able to be with them, it’s a big step that I can now send him photos and videos of them doing their everyday stuff every day. I know he looks at the photos and videos a lot too and somehow that makes me feel both happy and sad at the same time. Happy that there’s this connection but sad that we are so far away still.

More and more, I’m finding that #1 and 2 have been asking about their cousins. They are beginning to understand the wider concept of family members and after spending time with their cousins and other relatives and close friends in the UK, it’s a an idea that fascinates them endlessly and it would be good for them to experience more of this.
Same for me too. I’ve been lucky that this year I’ve had the company of Nana Moon and Big D over to stay. As it’s not their first trip over and we have done a lot of the first time tourist must see activities, it’s good to share with them a bit of the everyday stuff that we do. Except it’s not really everyday that we go to Legoland of the F1 and see Bon Jovi live! 

All things considered, I would say 2015 has been a real mixed bag. 

It has been a year filled with excitement, challenges, achievements, new friendships and discovering old things again. It has been so busy and tough at times. 

There are people we will remember and there are new people we look forward to meeting. Events, both personal and global, that put the year into perspective. 

In a few short hours it will be the end of 2015.  Tomorrow will bring new beginnings and a fresh start with unseen opportunities and memories to be gained.

May you enjoy a wonderful end to the year. Thank you for sticking with me and my blog again. 

With much love.

Karen xx
  

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The days after Christmas

I’m enjoying this lull after Christmas.

 

When the cupboards and fridge are no longer creaking with the amount of stuff stored inside them and we have just about worked our way through all the Christmas food. Ooh, except the pannetone. I forgot about that. I do love pannetone except I always feel cheated when you open up the box and it’s actually a tiny sized pannetone for one inside.

 

The days after Christmas when you can just relax and enjoy time spent thinking about other things than Christmas presents, Christmas food, Christmas posting dates (missed them again this year.) Rushing to the shops when you have a spare moment or just leaving everything to Christmas Eve……..Ahem.

 

But I do love Christmas. The twinkling lights on the tree. The smell of pine throughout the house. The excitement of all the small people (some who are quite the grown ups now) that I’ve spent each Christmas with. Now with #1, 2 and 3 who all FULLY BELIEVE and anticipate the annual ritual of preparing for the arrival of Father Christmas, I guess you could say that I am reliving a part of my childhood too.

  

 
I love how #1, 2 and 3 left the carrots and a bowl of water for the reindeers and immediately went to investigate the ‘mess’ they had left behind with #1 almost folding his arms in shock. #2 was pleased that Father Christmas had drunk his apple juice as well as the whisky and of course the almond tarts would go down well.

 

 

#1 took a while to settle down to sleep, such was the excitement and almost caught Husband still wrapping a few last minute gifts. On Christmas morning #1 and 2 were first up (after 7am thankfully) and wasted no time investigating whether anything new was going on in the living room. That first morning call of ‘He’s been!’ is one that will never tire.

 

 

A bleary eyed #3 soon joined the fray and all clamber  into our bed with their stockings. Shaking out the contents to see what’s inside. As always, the suspense of unveiling what Father Christmas has brought them has to wait until after breakfast. The air rings with persistent calls of ‘Can we open it yet? Can we open it yet?’

  

 

Then they finally do and it’s pure joy to watch them shriek in delight at what they find. #3 as you may recall asked for a dog. If not a dog then a cat. What she unwrapped was a singing karaoke Elsa that she was still enthralled with. Of course she wasn’t going to get a dog just because she had asked Father Christmas for one, he’s much more considerate and practical than that. But there are always ways around it. I have never known a child to be so in love with animals than #3. Right from when she first set eyes on a dog or cat she would be straight over wanting to befriend it. I myself, have a fear of all things animal but #3 has made me overcome that fear somewhat.

 

Our neighbours have a lovely young dog R, and they are more than happy  for us to look after him for a short while but #1 and 2 have been less keen. However seeing as it’s Christmas, we decided that for #3 she could have him over and whilst it may have seemed unfair on #1 and 2 to have them shrieking in their bedrooms on Christmas morning, we thought it’s about time they started to really think about making others happy. It didn’t happen that first day but the next day when R came by there was a little less shrieking and a little less fear. On the third day, a Christmas miracle happened with #2, who is the most shriekiest of them all, actually wanting to take R for a walk. Yesterday, they were all letting him run amok at home. Their attention taken away from all the toys and television to wanting to be near him. I think it was almost a relief for R when he could go home! But I think he will soon become a regular around ours.

 

     

This year I could see a change in #1. I think he’s starting to get that Christmas Day isn’t just about the presents (though a big part still is) and he’s becoming aware of the fact it’s special in other ways like preparing a special kind of lunch and setting the table with a real table cloth instead of the wipe clean vinyl. In previous years, the traditional turkey and all the trimmings was more for our benefit than #1, 2 and 3 would could equally be happy (happier) with traditional chicken rice. This year though #1, whilst not yet venturing onto his first Brussel sprout, showed an appreciation for some items of ‘trimmings’. In contrast to #3 who definitely would have been happier with traditional chicken rice.

 

 

#3 is still the feral one. Ploughing through the unwrapping of her stocking at a rate of 3 to every 1 that #1 and 2 opened. Then having the audacity to complain that she had no presents to open when #1 and 2 were playing catch up but try explaining the concept of ‘you’ve already opened your presents!’ to a 3 year old. Cue enter cute dog from next door  to distract her. In fact actually, R has become quite the discipinary tool for #3 if she shows signs of becoming Stubborn Wolf.

 

 

What better way to round off Christmas Day than to spend it with other friends. In the absence of family around us, we are thankful to have friends who open up their homes on this day to welcome us over for drinks, more food and merriment for the kids.

 

The same goes for sharing Boxing Day ham with friends that we’ve made here too. Almost every year, we’ve invited different friends over to share in this much more relaxed day of celebration and continuation of over indulgence.

 

Christmas is about spending time with each other most of all. The people who make you laugh and feel good. It’s about hanging out with Husband and #1, 2 and 3 without rushing here and there. 
It’s about enjoying this lull after Christmas. I hope you are too.

  

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The night before Christmas……

I only have myself to blame really. I know that.

 

Especially when the shops have been filled to the rafters with all kinds of Christmas merchandise possible for months. I even had the audacity to complain at the sight of a Christmas bauble in September that was jostling for space on the shelves with a pointy witch’s hat.

 

I saw rows and rows of sprouts and cranberries last week on my regular weekly Big Shop.

 

A few weeks ago I made a note to actually buy some when I admired the same staple Christmas crackers that have been decking the aisles in my eight tropical Christmas celebrations in Singapore.

 

I pondered the Christmas wrapping paper and even bought a couple of rolls back in early November.

 

I only got as far as thinking about most things Christmas though. Whilst I had in mind exactly what I was going to buy for the gifts and for Christmas lunch and Boxing Day. I just never consciously started acting on the To Do List.

 

So today I have been racing around  the shops like the proverbial Kardashian glitter bottomed fly. Picking up sprouts, cranberries, chestnuts, double cream, single cream, potatoes, Christmas crackers, Christmas wrapping paper and last minute stocking fillers. I had a moment of panic over the cranberries as the mountains and mountains of the week before had suddenly been snapped up.

Yet as I was busy locating the cranberries, it didn’t fail to register in my mind that if there were to be no cranberry sauce or sprouts, who would actually mind? Certainly not #1, 2 and 3 who are a broccoli and carrots crew and any other vegetable is still consumed via Annabel Karmel’s ‘hidden vegetable’ pasta sauce tactic. Would it really matter if I bought a tin of cranberry sauce? Or not having to explain what is bread sauce. That lump of mush that smells of cloves to the side of your plate?

 

 The thing is, these traditional food items only grace our plates once a year. To miss out would mean waiting a whole year more. (Which, if this year is anything to go by, won’t take that long to come by again.) Without these traditional food items, it may as well be just a regular Sunday roast dinner. Actually we are more or less having a regular Sunday roast dinner as at the request of #1, we are having roast beef. Posh roast beef though because it’s Christmas but not quite Wagyu roast beef posh leaving no expenditure left for anything else. #1 is of that age where it’s important to recognise his contribution is valued in this household. Equally, it sort of doesn’t quite spell Christmas without some form of turkey product on the table. It’s quite odd for me to think this now when I happily spent nearly 30 years without a turkey in sight adorning the Christmas dinner table.

 

The other more practical issue we have right now is that with #1, 2 and 3 you really can’t have the items on their Father Christmas list magically get delivered weeks in advance. How could you possibly explain that one? Father Christmas decided that because they have been extra good (ahem) then they get theirs way before anyone else? So to avoid this, we usually get the most important gifts at the very last minute.

So much so, that Husband just managed to get to ‘Father Christmas’s Workshop’ with 15 minutes to spare for #2’s ‘gift from Father Christmas.’ A request that was suddenly put in last week. Unlike #1 who is always consistent and slightly prescriptive, with detailing who is bringing him what. As for #3, it changes every time someone mentions something else. I don’t know what her reaction will be when she opens ‘that’ gift but we can easily get around it because she would have asked to put it on her list at one stage or another. She’s 3.

 

Speaking of which, this year #1, 2 and 3 are giving gifts to each for the first time. After ‘helping’ to wrap up her gifts, #3 in a very secret stage whisper says to #2, ‘Shhh. #2 you can’t open your Shopkins. Shhh. You can’t open your Shopkin ok?’ To Husband, ‘Daddy, I told #2 she can’t open her Shopkins.’ Whilst #2 is stood right next to her.

 

So why all this last minute exhausting dashing around doing everything in a Supermarket Sweep fashion?

 

It has nothing to do with not loving Christmas. I have always loved Christmas. Perhaps though, in this tropical heat, it takes a little longer to get into loving Christmas. There is no gradual transition from the warm, lazy summer days to the long, cold winter nights. Even though the shops are telling you it’s Christmas soon. There seems to be mixed messages from is it Halloween or Christmas? To is it Christmas or Valentine’s Day? The commercial aspect is relentless. The Sales have now started even before you’ve got the presents wrapped up.

 

The longer you live this Expat Life you realise just how much your Christmas wish is to be amongst all your family. Which may present other festive challenges and logistical issues but embrace them I say.

 

 

 

I still have a few more things to do but an improvement upon last year may mean that they’ll be done the night before Christmas instead of the early hours of Christmas Day!

 

#1, 2 and 3 are finally asleep. The wine is out for Father Christmas and the more responsible apple juice too. I’ve made the annual batch of almond tarts he likes. A few things have been prepped for tomorrow’s lunch, so I think we’re winning at Christmas 2015!

 

 But if there’s anything I’ve forgotten, it won’t really matter, because I already know that for #1, 2 and 3, it will be a brilliant day. It is Christmas Day! CHRISTMAS DAY! I can’t wait to be woken up super early to hear how excited they are. Has he really been? Check out what’s there by the tree. Can we open anything yet? Can we? When can we open another. And so on.

 

And there’s another reason why I’m looking forward to tomorrow and whether they truly believe. I’ll tell you about it afterwards though.

 

For now, I’m looking forward to a good day, perhaps not John Lewis Christmas ad perfect but it’s our Christmas Day. I’m sure you’ll have one too.

 

Merry Christmas. Wishing you and yours all the joy that being together brings.

 

 

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Dear Santa……May the Force be with you.

Right now it is difficult to ascertain whether the high levels of excitement in our household is due to the impending arrival of Christmas or the next generation of Jedi masters.

Both seem to be hotly anticipated and spoken about with equal reverence. I am pretty amazed at how quickly #1, 2 and 3 can switch conversation between Father Christmas, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. The Good Guys and the Bad Guys. The ones who are on the good list and those who aren’t. And who Father Christmas will be visiting this year.

 

The build up to Christmas is always eventful in Singapore. I love how in this tropical weather there’s still that feeling of hope that it could snow. I just realised I haven’t seen snow since 2008. OMG indeed. Of course I miss it and of course those who have seen snow on a regular basis since 2008 will say that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. I sort of remember that too. But it’s all part of the Christmas build up.

  

 Like drinking sherry whilst cooking every meal throughout December  (Mrs Steamer) and finishing off with port and a jar of stilton (I miss that too). Or using Christmas as a reason, if you needed one, for celebrating with a few drinks. Buying several varieties of mince pie with a big tub of double cream (mince pie has to be gently warmed in the oven first.) Buying up every Christmas food item in the supermarket whether you like it or not. Buying food items that are available all year round but only seem to appear in your household this one time of year (cranberries, sprouts, nuts in shells.)

 

And over the years, with #1, 2 and 3 in tow, other Christmas traditions take shape. Like going to pick out the Christmas Tree. What constitutes a good one #1? It has to have a tree shape. Good point. It has to have room underneath to put our presents. Of course. It has to fit into the car. Most important of all. I 

I haven’t had the joy of decorating our Christmas Tree for some years now. Ever since Nana Moon showed #1, 2 and 3 that the way to do it is to put ALL the decorations on the tree. Every year, #1, 2 and 3 get to choose one new ornament each. #3’s choice was a bag of Christmas toadstools, precariously balanced on each branch. It does look like someone has just vomited decorations all over it but it’s all their own work. And I haven’t even redistributed one single bauble. Well done me.

 

In the midst of all the Christmas planning and activities that I usually like to do (like watching Elf – Smiling’s my favourite. Every year I watch this film, something new I hadn’t noticed before can crack me up!), there’s the small matter of the new STAR WARS film out this week. 
In an already very busy pre-Christmas schedule, I’ve been going off on a tangent to do Star Wars things. #1 has known for time my love of Star Wars. Mrs Cake Pops on the other hand did not and our friendship hangs in the balance. Can you imagine what life must currently be like for those people who do not believe in Christmas and the Force? Double OMG indeed.

 

#1, 2 and 3 truly believe. Why wouldn’t they. And I love seeing the look of astonishment and excitement when they see this belief come to life.

 

This year they’ve seen Father Christmas three times and told him what they would like for Christmas. #1 would like the Lego X Wing. #2 would like a pedal bike. #3 would like a cat. When told that Father Christmas can’t bring a real cat she asked for a dog. We went to see the ‘Dear Santa’ show at the weekend and the Santa calls out ‘Boy and Girls, I’m sure you’ve written your letters to me by now.’ To which #3 says out loud ‘I cannot Santa. I cannot because I don’t know how to write the words.’ I smile every time I think of this.

  

 The first time #1 asked me whether Star Wars was real, I was actually quite surprised. It had never occurred to me that he would think space ships, aliens, Wookies and light sabres were real. I mean, how outrageous is the idea? About as outrageous as a man who lives for Christmas Eve in a red and white outfit, even in tropical heat, with a bunch of Elves and flying reindeers.

 

I actually heard myself say out loud, ‘Well, it happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…..’ What else could I say? So I asked #1 what would make Star Wars real. He said if he saw someone chop someone else in half with a light sabre. Ok, let’s not share that with too many people. Not quite what I had in mind. I was more thinking about the life size X Wing fighter jet on display at Singapore Changi Airport.

  

 I love Changi Airport for this. It’s amazing! Even if all the Stormtroopers are about my own height. I somehow expected them to be taller and more menacing. Like Nana moon says she doesn’t think the Emperor will take too kindly if he knew his Stormtroopers were waving at civilians in such a friendly manner. But #1 had a great time. And as a parent that’s the most important thing. To see them having a great time.

  

 There’s just 10 days to go! I’m a bit more prepared than I was 12 days ago. At least I’ve ordered the Christmas Day beef and the Boxing Day ham. Father Christmas has been briefed on what he’s dropping off at our house and if there’s been any miscommunication then I’ll just use the Force on #1, 2 and 3 and say ‘These are the presents you have been looking for……’

 

But in between then, I’ve booked our tickets for Star Wars and so to add to my list of Things to Do before Christmas, I need to watch all six films before then.

 

This is by far the most fun pre-Christmas build up ever!

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