The here and now and a bit of way back then

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Year End Review 2016

It is tempting to write off this year as being a terrible one. Indeed, that was my initial thought. It would be all too predictable even to go on about the things that would make 2016 memorable for all the wrong reasons. 

Truthfully, 2016 on the whole has not been my most favourite year and for those who know me well, you already know this. But to say that it was a complete shambles would do the whole year a huge disservice. It would be unfair to all those who celebrated a special occasion for instance to have it tarred with the same brush as the less favourable events that happened. All too often we can be led by the negative but this will only lead to the Dark Side. We all know how that ends. It is right now as we are about to welcome a fresh new year, that we need to lead with the positives.

How best to do this than with our very own positives from the year. 
So for my Year End Review, I am going to share some of my own personal highlights from 2016.

#1, 2 and 3

Everyday I feel thankful for #1, 2 and 3. Even if there are moments within those days when I forget to feel thankful. I am definitely thankful for them. 
They don’t know anything about what’s going on with the state of the global economy, everyone is friends and a good day is measured by what’s happened in the last five minutes. They enable me to live in the moment. Something we should all do more of.

There have been some challenges of course, there probably always will be. At the same time, it has been a joy to see #1, 2 and 3 achieve their own mini milestones at school and home, more so at school than home. I still don’t understand why they can’t just show us some of that same helpfulness at home. Just a little bit. 

#1 in particular has worked very hard this year. Some of the earlier challenges in the year around adapting to a Big School environment was hard work. There were some battles we had to overcome but hard work and perseverence has rewarded #1 with confidence and enjoyment of learning. Most of the time. I’ve also discovered that #1 likes to help out in the kitchen and can almost bake a banana loaf all by himself. And he has stuck to his goal of wearing a Star Wars t shirt everyday this year. 

 
When your children start Big School, you hope for a good teacher and that your child makes friends. We have been lucky on both counts with good teachers but friendships have to be navigated themselves. I know one source of worry for #2 was whether she would find friends this school year. Within three weeks of the new school year starting, #2 had been sent to see the Head of Year twice. For boisterous behaviour with her friends. Whilst I’m not condoning the behaviour at all and #2 has solemnly sworn not to find herself in that situation again (we’ll see), I’m also glad to know that she has found a group of partners in crime that she talks about all the time. I like how she’s enjoying her hobbies of judo, gymnastics and has a creative streak in her. For Christmas, she gave us books of drawings of our favourite things as presents. 
#3 has heart and generosity. As well as a loud yell. Sharing comes naturally to her. She will offer you whatever she’s eating even before she’s had enough of eating it.  That is saying something. Mostly I get offered leftovers. Or mushed up food spat into my hand. Yum. 


Catching my first ever moonset

I wonder whether, like me, you even thought about the moonset. Though it’s so obvious isn’t it? If there’s a sunrise and sunset, there should be a moonrise and moonset. I’ve often chased a sunrise and settled down with a sunset but never a moonset. For one thing, you have to be a really early morning person. Like super early. 4.45am early. I am not a 4.45am morning person. But for this occasion I was. 

The setting could not have been more idyllic. In the resort of El Nido,  Philippines which I was lucky enough to have travelled to for Gainful Employment. The waters there were so clear and the amount of marine life you could see just a 30 metre snorkel away from shore. The furthest way from the hustle and bustle of city life you could imagine. There are few opportunities to be really still and I will always remember the calm of sitting there, watching the moon slowly dip further towards the horizon as the light all around became brighter and you were caught between that moment where night ends and day begins. 


  

My Dad, Mr Li turned 80


Just a few days before Christmas, my Dad Mr Li turned 80. I’m very thankful for that. I’m sure he is too even though he often tells me his job is done. But I have news for you my Dad, Mr Li. Your job is not yet done. Who’s to say without your watchful eye on things that I won’t be feeding your grandchildren food from dented cans. Or allow them to go out with wet hair. Or allow them to be so daring as eat two bags of crisps in a 24 hour period. 
No my Dad, Mr Li. Your job is not yet done.
Travelled to new places sans kids

I know! I actually travelled sans kids three times this year. Twice was with Gainful Employment and whilst a great experience, it wasn’t actually a holiday and shouldn’t really count. 
This year Nana Moon came to stay en route to somewhere else. As seems to be the new tradition, whenever Nana Moon comes to stay, she and I must travel to someplace new. At first we thought about Taipei but it’s actually quite far from Singapore and with just three days to spare, you want to make sure you make the most of every moment.  There are plenty of places yet to be explored nearby and so we went to Yogyakarta, Indonesia. I bet you’re pronouncing it Yog-ya-karta. That’s because you’ve never been. For us it’s Jogja now. Though Nana Moon will still insist it’s Yogi.

I don’t know about you but an opportunity to travel sans kids for me is to explore and do things that I’ve never done before or would do if I wasn’t sans kids. Any notion of long lie ins and leisurely breakfasts never happen. These mini sojourns are to remember all the things that you should do because you can do them. 

In saying that, there was a moment whilst being suspended 60metres over a cliff when I wondered what on earth was I doing putting my life in the hands of a harness with three kids and Husband at home. The experience was worth it though.


Celebrating Big Brother Li turning 50

I think it’s fair to say that decades have passed since we celebrated any of our Birthday’s together. So it was particularly special to be able to celebrate Big Brother Li turning 50 this year. To him, these milestone Birthdays are no big deal. Indeed, even if it weren’t a big Birthday, it was still a special occasion to be together as a family for it.

Getting right up close to Take That, Kylie, Ronan Keating, Madonna, Queen and Imagine Dragons


In my former London and Manchester life, going to see live bands was a regular occurence. I’ve seen some of my favourite over the years and I’ve even been fortunate enough to be at Live8 just five rows from the the front. Strangely enough, I’ve had some of the best live band experiences in Singapore. 

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Going to a live gig is uplifting for the soul and one of my top five favourite things to do. You can’t fail but smile and feel your spirits rise when you are in the presence of real drums banging and guitars twanging. Perhaps the list of popstrels I’ve been to see this year are not exactly to your liking, but for me they make me happy and therefore seeing them live makes me double happy. 


I was a bit concerned that finally getting to see Take That live for the first time (even with just three of them) would be a disappointment. Would they be too middle aged I wondered and whilst I was so close I could see wrinkles, when they played songs from the 90s we were all transported to this other time. Whilst in the 20 years or so since they first were dear to my heart, much has changed and we have all aged but in those years those same songs have seen us through and brought back feeling of happiness. 

Time with family and my closest friends  


This counts for both friends in Singapore and the ones I’ve known much longer. Time in your company is always a pleasure and thank you for all the invites to many a social occasion this year.

We are very fortunate to live in times when international air travel is so possible and affordable. I think back to when my Dad, Mr Li left Hong Kong for the UK over 50 years ago with no idea of when he would next see any of his family and friends. Whilst we may struggle at times in this privileged Expat life of ours, we have the luxury of modern technology that makes distance a little easier to bear.

However, nothing can compare to having them here with you. This year we have had the joy of my In Laws come to stay in the summer. As #1, 2 and 3 get older, we can see that they need more than Husband and I around. We are of course very important and much loved by them but there are others who are much loved too, who can give them something else in addition to what we can. People who love very much and tell them all the positive things that small people delight in hearing about themselves. 


As you know, I don’t just think Brilliant New Adventure as my friend, she is family and I often do wish she was here in Singapore. But equally, when we go now to go Hong Kong we have an extra reason to visit. It can be bittersweet because you imagine what fun times the children would have altogether. But I wouldn’t miss these times for the world. Nor the opportunities to catch up with friends you haven’t seen for many years and for it to be like no time has passed at all.


It’s funny how Nana Moon tells me that when siblings are together, you all revert to type. I think the same can be said about friends who have known each other a long time. We are all of a certain personality and the core of us perhaps doesn’t change as much as we think over the years. I still rely on Nana Moon to tell that jumping across a beam, kayaking in deep waters or being hoisted over a cliff is going to be alright. I have no idea what reassurances I give her. Let’s not ask that question.

Learning new things

This year I took Mandarin Chinese lessons, picked up new skills in Gainful Employment and made my own chutney.


Husband

One constant this year, through the ups and downs, has been Husband. He who does not complain (too much) about my intention to master the use of the sewing machine he bought me several years or the bike he got me for my Birthday which he has made more use of than me so far. He who gets up early in the mornings on school days. Who enables the travelling sans kids and much more.

We celebrated Birthdays, weddings and the arrival of new family members. And we saw otters.

 So really, 2016 gave us some good memories. We just needed to think about it. 
May we all end this year thinking of what 2016 did right. Husband and I are not going out tonight because #1 has been unwell but tomorrow, we’re going to start the year fresh, with friends and new hope for a bright 2017. 

Whatever you do, do it in style. Do everything in style. 

Happy New Year’s Eve to you. xx

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You did a great job

What else is there to say? Many familiar faces and old favourites have left us this year. 2016 seemed to start off badly with the loss of David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Terry Wogan. I wrote a post about it back in January, whether this feeling of sadness and loss for someone on one hand familiar but by no means someone I knew, was ok. And it seems as 2016 comes to a close, we are ending the year as it started. 

In a year that feels bleak following the occurence of many negative world events, the loss of public figures whose talent in film, music and entertainment took us away from such feelings, has only added to the gloom. 

I realise why I feel so sad at the news that celebrities such as Victoria Wood, Caroline Aherne, Gene Wilder, George Michael, Carrie Fisher and so many more who have passed away this year. Their work, be it the music, the films, the tv shows, their appearance on tv shows has been ever present in the background of my growing up, growing older. They have provided many a great night out and evening in. They helped us to bond with family and friends. They enabled relationships to grow and flourish because you discovered someone shared the same taste in music and humour. They made us happy, outraged, disappointed at times even. 

Mostly though, they made us happy. And who can bear the loss of someone who made us happy. Whilst it may have been their job to do so, the world needs people who have this talent to share it with us and take us away from the daily grind and all the other rubbish stuff that goes on in the world. 

Earlier today, I took #1 to watch Rogue One. It’s the second time I’ve seen it and I have to admit, I shed a tear several times during the film (in secret) because the film makes you and because this time around it was more poignant. The same way it felt watching Alan Rickman’s final film ‘Eye in the Sky’. You are so good and mesmerising, why can’t you go on entertaining me forever?

And that’s the sad reality. 

Thankfully though, there’ll come a day when I can rewatch that film, listen to the CD or watch that tv show and remember fondly and gratefully, just how much joy these people gave us. 

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Christmas dinner is best served cold

I’ve had more cold Christmas dinners than hot. This is mostly due to the fact that after several hours in a hot sweaty kitchen, by the time all the spoils of my labour are laid bare on the table, I’m suddenly no longer hungry. It is also because I (and this year the Butcher) overestimate just how much Christmas dinner #1, 2 and 3 can and will eat. 

Out of the following food items on this year’s Christmas menu:

  • Roast turkey breast (expecting one small size but get 3kg worth of breast)
  • Roast beef (supposedly small piece for 3/4 persons but in get 1.5kg)
  • Roast potatoes and parsnips
  • Brussel Sprouts and chestnuts
  • Carrots, brocolli and corn (one vegetable of choice for each of #1, 2 and 3)
  • Yorkshire puddings
  • Stuffing 
  • Bread sauce
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Gravy
  • Ketchup

#1, 2 and 3 between them ate a combination of five of the above food items between them. With two of them going off menu and requesting rice. You can tell these children have been brought up in Asia. So with the Butcher grossly overestimating how much of a carnivore a family of three adults and three young children, barely a dent was made in today’s fayre. 

On the plus side, I can now estimate how much food is required to feed 6/7 people. And we now don’t need to cook for at least the next four days. And I really don’t want to cook. But nothing beats preparing all the trimmings. I like Brussel sprouts, I really do. Mini cabbages. Who doesn’t love mini food.

I don’t know what constitutes as a successful  Christmas. With or without small children, Christmas is a day of celebration. With small children though, there are hidden gems to the day. Whilst I was busy preparing a meal that they were barely interested in, I tried to keep an ear on what was going on beyond the kitchen. Opening presents in itself is full of excitement, let alone for small children who have thought carefully what this very special gift should be. Usually Father Christmas delivers the one BIG GIFT but this year, he very generously dropped off two. Not because behaviour has been exemplary this year, though #1 thinks it’s probably because he so generously helped #2 and 3 win carnival prizes the other day.

But still, the joy in his voice as he came out into the living room to find not one but two gifts from Father Christmas this year. Plus the fact that Father Christmas had polished off three of the almond tarts he made and all eight reindeers got their fair share of carrots. 

Gratitude and appreciation is on my mind this festive season. As I’m sure many of us are feeling the need to reflect upon this year. But how does one create that same level of awareness in small people. I don’t know. But I do know that whilst there are gifts and lots of good things to eat, I cannot have #1, 2 and 3 plough through everything without even taking a good look at what they just unwrapped. Anticipation is always the most fun part of almost everything and stretching out the wait is no bad thing I feel. 

Given all other days, there is always something that I deny #1, 2 and 3, today we have a complete Yes day. Well about 98% Yes. “What would you like for breakfast?” I asked #1, 2 and 3, “You can have anything you would like.” “Anything!” they answered. Anything indeed. So #1 had a squeezy fruit yoghurt, chocolate and apple juice. #2 had a Babybel and KitKat. #3 had whatever #1 got her which involved chocolate. On any other day, the choice of having whatever you would like for breakfast falls within the range of regular breakfast items. But anything at all? Well that is something else completely. These are the memories I will carry with me, the picture of all three sat at the dining table with their luxury breakfasts.

The other memory I will carry from today is #3 opening a $5 stocking filler and the awe in her voice as she unwrapped it. #2 finally getting the glow in the dark pyjamas she once saw a picture of over a year ago. And #1, sharing with me just how great his new Lego set is and would I like to build. However, that may not be completely altrustic as I think he has his eye on building my new Lego Tie Striker.

As we wrap up another Christmas, I am already promising myself that I will not spend next year’s sleep deprived having spent the early hours still wrapping and sorting everything out. The day, like the rest of the year goes by so quickly but there’s still tomorrow yet to come and I’m looking forward to spending a more relaxed day with my family.

I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas. 

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All I want for Christmas

I hope your Christmas preparations have gone to plan this year. That you’re sitting nice and snug with a glass or two of red wine.

Without a pile of presents yet to be wrapped. An hour before Father Christmas is about to come visit your sleeping household.
 
The fact that I’m only just watching Elf sums up how far behind I have been with Christmas preparations this year. Elf opens the Christmas season you see. But who needs sleep, after all Father Christmas and the Elves will be up all night delivering those presents!


I am ready for Christmas though! I love the warmth and goodwill this season brings and we all need a bit of extra sparkle this year I think. But it seems that whilst the shops have been indiscreetly nudging us towards planning and prepping for the festive season since September, somehow, I find myself speed shopping for all the groceries and even some important gifts this afternoon. Not just stocking fillers. But THE gifts. 

For weeks #2 was adamant that she didn’t want to receive a gift from Father Christmas. #1 never really has such concerns but he threw a curveball right at the last minute requesting not all things Star Wars. #3 asked for ‘lots and lots of elephants. And magic powers.” Quite. Which then set off #2 asking for magic powers…Definitely both are child of mine as I have always wanted to be able to orb, freeze stuff and swipe things to one side with the flick of a wrist. Too much watching Charmed I think.
 


But then several days ago, #2 realised she did have magic powers. She is strong, kind, clever. All excellent magic powers anyone could wish for.

So already in possession of magic powers, #2 then decides perhaps this is a good opportunity to ask Father Christmas for all the things that Husband and I have recently said No to. The list was quite long. 

This is my ninth Christmas in the tropics and it’s still not the same without the cold and long dark nights. Though Singapore does do Christmas very well. Beautiful lights. Amazing Christmas trees. Gift options galore. But there’s just something not quite the same without a winter woolly hat, scarf and gloves. 

But it seems that Singapore has also got this covered. Christmas Wonderland in the Tropics. A tent with the aircon blasting full on and what can only be decribed as an ice pit. With sand toys. All true. It has been a very busy December with Nana Moon staying for a week (and a sneaky jaunt to Indonesia which I’ll tell you about another time) and Gainful Employment never stops of course. Facebook has been reminding me of all the Christmas activities we would have already done before now. But we’ve done the important job of a visit to see Father Christmas before the big day and none of them were disappointed after sweating it out for an hour.  


I wondered whether my lack of Christmas preparations would make them believe any less. It seems not and I am thankful for that. This morning #1 helped me bake the annual almond tarts we leave out for Father Christmas, choosing the best ones for him to enjoy. As well as making sure that the carrots are equally cut into eights pieces so each of the reindeer got their fair share. The Santa Stop Here sign is in it’s place and all three are sleeping peacefully after a very busy couple of days. 

Whilst Elf is playing in the background and the Christmas port is sitting in front of me, I feel ready for Christmas Day. There is food and there are presents. But most of all, Husband and I get to spend time with #1, 2 and 3. That’s all I want for Christmas.
   

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Where are Mochi and Fred?

How do we find ourselves back to this day so soon?

I barely managed to locate the Star Wars Lego advent calendar I had squirrelled away some months ago far, far away from the all seeing eyes of #1! And then I just about in time dusted down the regular advent calendar to be filled with not yet finished Halloween sweets. And then, five minutes after I should have been in bed asleep, I realised I couldn’t find Fred and Mochi!  

As you know, I am not a fan of the Elf on the Shelf but last year in sheer desperation to elicit good behaviour (as if) from #1, 2 and 3, we adopted Mochi and Fred. Fred and Mochi are creations by Grandma sent from Father Christmas to help out at this particularly busy time of year. Hi tech surveillance all the way back to the North Pole. 
Mochi and Fred will bring peace and goodwill to #1, 2 and 3 and hence all will be calm and all will be bright. They will be fun and innovative this year. Not just sitting in one place. Or even for several days in the one place. They will be getting up to all kinds of mischief making bringing joy to all as we chortle over what funny comedians they are.

Well they would be. If only I could remember where they scarpered off to last Christmas Eve. Like where? If only they had sent me a postcard letting me know where they would be. They are obviously in such a safe place so that no one will ever find them until they are needed. Except I can’t remember where that could be. I need to spend the next hour before bedtime locating Fred and Mochi before the suspicions of #1, 2 and 3 are alerted. 

The countdown to Christmas has arrived once more and I feel woefully unprepared. Again. How can this be when the Christmas lights have been up and running since the day after Halloween and I have all the Christmas paraphernalia we could ever need. Lights, baubles, tinsel. Christmas smelling sticks even. No tree though but I must attend to that this week just before Nana Moon arrives. (Yay!) We have already discussed that she can once again supervise the decorating of Christmas tree. Except this time I will remember to separate the tree decorations to the everywhere else decorations. Else we shall find the Christmas tree looking like a cat has vomited an entire Christmas shop all over it.

This year, I have decided I am going to unashamedly fill it with Christmas sparkle. There will be Christmas films, Christmas songs, Christmas arts and crafts and festive cheer in the form of Christmas port and beer. 

The year is coming to a close fast but it is a year that has been full of unexpected happenings that has unsettled many a person. At times, it has felt like the world has lost some shine and laughter in recent months. Too much reality is not good for the soul. I want to step out of it for a short while and look at the world through the eyes of #1, 2 and 3. There’s an article I read today in the Telegraph that says perhaps we shouldn’t be perpetuating the idea of make believe and magic. Telling the biggest lie which will come undone before long. Fuck that. If anything, why shouldn’t you create a bit of magic because when the world becomes this big scary endless maze of truth and facts, what keeps you grounded? The ability to find curved edges among all the sharp corners. Parenting for me is mostly a series of getting through tasks 1 to 10 each day. This time of Advent lets you get through tasks 1 to 10 with a bit of glitter on top. I am allowed that.  

So it is time to recreate a bit of magic. We shall begin with fairy lights. Fairy lights are always good. And I am fully embracing  being welcomed home by gently twinkling lights on the trees outdoors. Who can fail to be mesmerised by the soft warm glow of a fairy light. I would keep fairy lights up all year round if Husband did not vehemently object to this. Pah.

So anyways it’s time to relax into this month of December. Enjoy this season of good will, we totally deserve it. 

And now I must go find Mochi and Fred.

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Pass me the Elf

The thing about refusing to get overexcited about Christmas in November is that suddenly December descends and I feel woefully ill prepared for Christmas which is in just THREE WEEKS AND THREE DAYS!

Perhaps it’s time to write my Christmas list too.

  1. Sort out Christmas tree and decorations.
  2. Find Christmas decorations after moving.
  3. Fill Advent Calendar with stuff. Pass on organised idea of filling with mix of treats, Christmas related activities and Christmas related days out.
  4. Make Christmas cards, write them and post (and hope some arrive in time.)
  5. Clear space for Christmas tree.
  6. Drink Christmas Port.
  7. Secure the Special Gift from Father Christmas.
  8. Secure the Special Gift from Husband and myself for #1, 2 and 3 (when the truth is out then need only one Special Gift.)
  9. Order Christmas turkey and Boxing Day ham and copious amounts of cranberries to make sauce nobody really eats.
  10. Watch Elf, Arthur Christmas, The Grinch, Miracle on 34th Street.
  11. Find Christmas music DVDs.
  12. Sing Jingle Bells every day, ten times a day with #1, 2 and 3.
  13. Buy and successfully hide Special Gift from Father Christmas wrapping paper.
  14. Dig out recipe for Mother in Law’s Almond Tarts that are only to be made at Christmas time though can really be eaten all year round.
  15. Make a note to start Christmas preparations earlier next year.

 

Yes indeed. There appears to be a lot to do in the next THREE WEEKS AND THREE DAYS!

 

So not much has changed from last year. Or the year before.

 

There’s another thing that hasn’t changed.

 

Those Elves have reappeared.

    
   

Not just on shelves though. They get up to all sorts of shenanigans. Knocking over cereal boxes. Messing up the toys. Abseiling down the staircase. Hiding behind photographs.

 

I’m very glad they do things like that to entertain themselves. It’s awfully tough sitting still without moving. Just watching. With that fixed happy grin they have. Until the children fall asleep. Then they fly off to Father Christmas and report back the events of the day.

 

It’s a lot of waiting around. Most of the day children are still at school. So what do the Elves do then? I mean you’d think they could make themselves useful and do a few jobs around the house. You know, like mend shoes and stuff. Maybes I should pass them my list of Things To Do in the next THREE WEEKS AND THREE DAYS.

 

The Elf on the Shelf is not for this household as I have said many times before. It creeps me out more so than #1, 2 and 3.

 

But as it’s the season to be jolly, I’d rather be just that. Jolly. Rather than the parent that is reprimanding #1, 2 and 3 for the regular behaviour of small people of that age. It’s the season of goodwill and I would like a bit of that too.

 

So you know, as I truly believe in Father Christmas then on occasion I’d quite like him to do something to keep that belief alive. Like just call me when my phone happens to be on silent but his picture flashes up because he’s just heard about something #1, 2 and 3 have done that he thinks could constitute as behaviour for the naughty list. I just have to take the call you see and discuss the consequences with him.

   

And whilst I’m not in favour of the Elves on anything but shelves, I have welcomed new additions to our family this year.

 

Meet Mochi and Fred. They are friends of the Elves and they will be staying with us until Christmas Eve. Father Christmas has diversified his workforce this year and roped in Grandma to knit him some new staff.

 

They will be hanging around keeping check of everything. Especially in the mornings whilst getting ready for school. They’ve managed to shave off 10 minutes of time wasting already as well as settle disputes amicably.

 

If only they could stay all year round and not just for Christmas.

 

     

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