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

This Happy Father’s Day 

We all want special occasion days to be, well special. Birthdays, holidays, weddings, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, school events and so on. 

With small people in tow, ‘special’ in my imagination usually means good, kind, helpful behaviour. No bickering, fighting, shouting, answering back, whining, crying and so on.  In other words, no such behaviour that requires parental intervention to keep the peace and maintain balance to one’s well being. I wish for this every day to be fair but on special occasion days, please can we?

Of course we can’t. I waste my breathe asking for it and yet some small glimmer of hope is there at the start of every special occasion day only to flicker weakly and fizz out before the special occasion day has even warmed up. I mean the day wouldn’t be the same without them being just as they are with us and with each other. It’s no reflection on how much we are loved by them, we know that already from the little things they say and do every day that make you happy like specks of dappled sunlight. 
I read in one card Husband received today the reason why Daddy is special and the answer is ‘because he loves me’. Yes he does. 

We have been parents for a relatively short space of time but it feels like the days and weeks are galloping by so fast. We seem to be working in fast forward mode, especially so since #1 and 2 started Big School and the year is broken down into three chunks of frantic activity and three more chunks of frantic activity. Blink and you’ll miss it is what people say who are many parenting years ahead. You kind of fail to appreciate these wise words in the early years but I totally get it now. 

This Father’s Day, I can only describe myself as thankful. Thankful for Husband and the love and care he puts into our family. I’m also thankful that earlier today I was able to call my Dad, Mr Li to wish him a Happy Father’s Day. A few months ago, I was faced with the stark reality of one of life’s only certainties and I felt the ground beneath me open up. During those days of waiting and waiting and progress moving so slowly, you have a lot of time to think. Mostly to think about the things you didn’t do enough, didn’t say enough, didn’t spend time together enough. The panic in your heart over whether there is time to do more. Even when people say there is, do you dare to believe it though you want to believe it so badly. 

As I recall this now, those deep feelings of grief but not quite are still quite fresh.  Though it seems, I am very lucky. My Dad, Mr Li says it is he who is lucky to recover from this spell of illness. But I know it is me. 

Time spent together is time spent well. Not always do you need to spend this time doing something momentous. Often it’s quite enough just to be sat there, talking to each other.

But I can still imagine that special occasions will at some point elicit special occasion behaviour from #1, 2 and 3.

Happy Father’s Day.  

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#1’s first sleepover

Bedtime is a smooth running affair in our household. Sometimes.

Most times it’s fraught with dawdlers unwilling just to go to sleep when quite clearly the anger levels suggests they (or I) need to just go to bed. GO TO BEEEEEED! 

I have never quite understood that relationship between small people and sleep. The tipping point between coping quite well with the day to the sudden must-be-in-bed-screaming-like-the-whole-world-has-done-them-wrong can happen in a matter of seconds.

Invariably at least one of #1, 2 and 3 can be in this state once every few days. And at least one of them will feel the impulse, the need to drag bedtime out just that bit longer by hiding a favourite bedtime friend say, or disagreeing on bedtime story of choice and insisting on ‘their own’ bedtime story of choice. Then there’s demands for ‘one more story pleeease, that was so short’. It was short for a reason kids. 

By this stage, I just want them all to go to bed. JUST GO TO BED!! Goodnight kisses are hastily issued. Lights off. Door closed on disgruntledness. Then hopefully within five minutes all is quiet and good. Hopefully. I don’t know when bedtime because such a rushed affair that can take a two person approach. 

Tonight though there is one less in the bedtime mix but it still doesn’t seem to have made much difference to bedanger as I can hear that tone coming from #2 who is quite sure SHE IS NOT TIRED. Quite.

But bedanger is not today’s topic. Tonight #1 is away on his first ever proper sleepover. It’s not the first time he’s slept away from home without Husband or I being around but I guess being 19 months old doesn’t really count. Neither does sleeping over with family feel quite the same as a proper sleepover on your own all night. It’s in turn exciting and a little scary I imagine. 

 #1, 2 and even 3 have often asked for a sleepover but we’ve never gotten round to it just yet. As much as there’s a lot of talk about it, when it comes down to it, I don’t think they’ve been ready. They haven’t? Or I haven’t? Well I know for definite that #2 can’t have a sleepover until she can go to a drop off party for two hours without getting upset. But it is nice to be missed as her school friend’s Mum kindly put it, ‘she misses you a lot’. Indeed.

I wonder whether at 10.41pm. #1 is alseep yet. I very much doubt it but I’m sure he’s having a great time. What an adventure to be on to have your first sleepover with all your schoolfriends at school. This will be the first of many and it is another step of the journey towards independence. A necessary step of course but one that seems to come around far too quickly. I think back to when I had my first sleepover as such. I was 14 and it was a school residental trip to the Lake District. Completely exhilarating to have that freedom for a whole five days. Comparing the residential trips of then to now, it feels like seven or eight years old seems quite young but I forgot that when I was 10 years old there were already skiing trips away to France and weekend trips to Amsterdam which seemed a bit too adventurous for my Dad, Mr Li to allow me to go on. But I guess that’s exactly why #1 and eventually #2 will benefit from going on sleepovers, to build that confidence and reassurance that they can be away from home for one night, perhaps even two, and we will all be ok.

It’s an odd feeling without #1 at home. The things that I know he would do in the mornings. Such as being the first one up and alerting you to the fact by the bedroom suddenly bursting open and being woken up with whatever question is on his mind and ready to be asked with no consideration for the fact you are still sleeping and then getting impatient because you’ve not given an answer to said question immediately. And it won’t be just Husband and I missing his presence but #2 and 3 are also asking when is he coming back home which is a good sign considering I often wonder whether they even like each other the way they bicker and fight. 

There are times, many of them, when you say out loud how lovely it would be to have a night away from small people and all the crazy late night stuff you’d do. How you would love for someone else to do the bedtime routine. For one night maybes yes. So the next time I get a sleepover offer and off go #1, 2 and 3, I’ll make sure I have a long list of all the crazy late night things I’d go off and do. 

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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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A lot of Treats and no Tricks

Halloween is a huge deal Singapore. Hence the fact we have been to three Halloween events with a final one I totally forgot about happening on Friday at school. Though I feel satisfied with the value for money gained from their $20 costumes.

Any occasion to get #1, 2 and 3 dressed up is fine by me. #2 and 3 love a good dress up and can often be found on a regular day with some form of fancy dress outfit about their person. #1 can be slightly more reserved but in pursuit of treats knew when to go with the flow.


Now, Halloween with small people is a round of cute pumpkins, cuddly witches and less than threatening pirates. I mean it’s just a big fancy dress day with all sorts of costumes allowed which I don’t quite get but there you go. Over the years, I had forgotten that Halloween is really a make you pee in your pants as you jump in the air scary sort of event.  

I don’t do scary as I keep saying. Even when I know something is about to happen, I will still jump in the air and pee myself a little. True fact. Even at my place of Gainful Employment I’ve yelped in people’s faces because I’ve opened a door and come face to face with someone I know in daylight. It’s a terrible affliction. 

So I’m probably not the best parent to lead the way on a Trick or Treating mission. Not even around our own condo. Husband stayed home dressed head to toe in breathable polyester armed with at least 100 packs of sweets, waiting for the troops of angels to come by. Whilst I braved the outdoors tropical heat with #1,2 and 3 and a map to the homes providing treats. 

Front doors were bedecked with pumpkins and cobwebs, separated limbs and tombstones. One family even geniusly taped over the landing light so that an eerie red glow emanated around the hallway. It was a lot of spookiness. And it seems many get a lot of enjoyment spooking people out and go to great effort with a generous amount of facepaint. Towards the end of our rounds, we call upon a home who must have done the routine at least 60 times that night and yet still was not bored of it. First the buzzer was greeted by a ghoulish ‘mwah ha ha ha ha’ as we made our way to their floor, I had a sneaky suspicion it wasn’t just going to be a kindly face with a basket of sweets. #2 and 3 knocked softly on the door. There’s no answer. I’m sort of hanging around the corner like I know something wicked this way comes. Then suddenly, the door is flung open and a demon jumps out with a loud ‘raaaah’. #2 and 3 jump and scream loudly which is not doubt the desired effect. I’m just glad I had the foresight to hide because no doubt I would have screamed the loudest.


I have no idea how many sweets #1, 2 and 3 have eaten this weekend. In the back of my head, I’m thinking about how carefully we try to ration the sweets and chocolate intake so perhaps it does seem strange that this one of time of year, it is positively encouraged to go and fill your bucket with them. But like most occasions, it’s the joy of collecting than the eating of gathered goods that is the most fun part. Though I think #1 would dispute this. 

So what to do with all these sweets? It’s a waste to throw them away. I can’t possibly eat them all myself. I can’t possibly let #1, 2 and 3 eat them all either. So isn’t it best to regift them? I often hand out small treats at Christmas, Easter and Halloween in fancy little boxes that I enjoy making. Not many, just three or four sweets and I never thought it wasn’t ok. Until that is a good friend and successful parent blogger recently wrote a piece on his wrath at other thoughtless parents handing out sweets for birthdays and all other such occasions. I thought, I am one of those parents! Should I stop? What if parents of #1, 2 and 3 feel the same way?

I contemplated today not to bother with sharing Halloween treats amongst school friends. But then I changed my mind. I often feel that #1, 2 and 3 are very used to receiving a lot of things. Treats for all sorts of occasions so that it doesn’t seem ‘special’ anymore. Not like when treats were for special occasions when I was a child (I know.) So ever since they started nursery and for celebrations, there’s been a bit of sharing going on and more often than not the sharing involves a sweet treat. 


I agree, as a parent you should be able to say what treats and when they are given to your child. I mean there have been times when I’ve been annoyed when #1, 2 and 3 have been given loaded with food items that I perhaps wouldn’t have given them but then again it’s all part of the experience. Like the days when they’d go over to Pancakes for Dinner and thought it was the most decadent experience to have pancakes for dinner. It’s left a lasting impression. 


But perhaps it would upset us less if we notified each other when the sweet treats are coming. So I did. And never do cheap sweets. Or chocolate. I think parents fear glow in the dark treats more than anything. 

Happy Halloween!

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I can still do this

You’ve lost your touch. 

That’s what Brilliant New Adventure said when I showed her the spoils of my hard baking labour. 

Maybe she was right.
I’ve followed this recipe many times. Never has it done this before. Like, tip it out and turn around and suddenly it’s like this. 

Mocking me with its Peace sign. At 9.15pm. The night before DOUBLE PARTY DAY! 

Posting this photo on other social media platforms, I was given some very helpful advice. Cover it up with lots of buttercream. Reshape and mould it into a 3D shape. 

Indeed.

It seemed far easier to sit down with a beer. Go bake another batch. And eat the surplus sponge myself. For quality control.

The Birthday Cake is always a big thing. A challenge I had previously taken on with some relish and trepidation. Until I thought why not let someone who can do it far better take over. But then faced with having to take the challenge back myself was somewhat daunting. #1, 2 and 3 have far higher expectations of The Birthday Cake having been used to the creative skills of my good friend Singapore Bake Off. 

But then children can be surprising. #2 asked me why was I not making the cake. It seems it’s still important that you do. 
So there I am. 11pm the night before DOUBLE PARTY DAY. Beer in hand. Cake in oven. Buttercream ready to go. Fondant mixed in the right colours. Ready to do cake battle. But surprisingly, once I got started into the early hours, it was therapeutic to create something from scratch. 

The next morning as I put the finishing touches to the cake and asking what #1, 2 and 3 thought of it and getting their approval, it felt good. I had forgotten how much fun it was. Wondering whether the cake is going to turn out ok. Whether you have enough fondant to cover it. Whether it’s going to go baggy on the bottom like Nora Batty’s tights. 

And what happens to it anyways? It gets demolished as soon as the Birthday Sing Song is over. 

Cake is cake as far as the small people are concerned. Sugar and chocolate is a winning combination. 

At the tender age of 6, #2 already has many different groups of friends. From long time friends to new friends from school and where we live. It’s a lot of different social circles that many of us only have to navigate when it comes to our Hen Do. Oh yes, #2 was 6 some two months ago and we’ve only just go around to putting on the party. I’m late for nearly everything but this has got to be my best effort yet! Most of her new schools friends are celebrating their 7th Birthday.

But again I don’t think it really mattered. Who doesn’t love a good party! It makes me especially happy to hear that party guests are looking forward to the party. That they’ve been bouncing off the walls waiting for the party to start. 

Friends are lovely things to have and equally important to be too. I watched as the differenct groups of friends chased and played together. Even #3 is coming into her own with her own little posse doing what 4 year olds do. Which seems to be following each other around and to tell each other to follow each other around. 

If there’s anything I really want #1, 2 and 3 to remember about the Birthday Party. It’s the friends who came to share it with them. And that whilst the Birthday Party is all about you, it’s good to give something special back too. And who doesn’t love a goodie bag.

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The end of the first Big School year.

As we languish by our holiday pool five weeks into the long school summer holidays, I catch myself marvelling how it was almost a year ago since Husband and I waved off #1 and 2 onto the school bus for their first day at Big School.

Whilst the academic year is only a little over ten months long, at the start of it, it feels like a big a long stretch ahead. But at the end of it, it seemed to come by all too soon and I never felt I was totally on top of things. You know, the right kit for the day (swimming or PE?), signed consent forms, reading books, library books, rehearsing lines for school assemblies, missing the different tabs on the class blog because you can’t see them properly on a mobile phone and hence missing out on a whole terms of notices. Yep. 

Call me a Big School rookie. I think that’s why Class Parent Reps were assigned. They say it’s to support the Teachers but really it’s to let someone else kick parents like me into action. I love, and dearly need, those reminders about what kind of dress up day it is this week because there is always something going on that I’m not keeping track of. I am forever grateful to the Class Parent Reps for taking on this role, so much so that I feel like I may weep whenever I see them. 

I’ve promised myself that next year I will be READY for the end of the school year. In a flurry of end of year Parent Teacher meetings, swim galas and sports day; a class party marked the end of Year 2 for #1 and Year 1 for #2. The shock of how quickly this came about took me by surprise. On this last day, as I flitted between the two class parties barely able to put names to many of the children’s faces, I felt pangs of guilt that I didn’t know who they all were. Barely a year ago I knew all the names of every child in their class. To be fair though, it was a very small class. 

Whilst I fretted over #1 and #2 adjusting to Big School, guess who needed to adjust the most? Of course. You probably already know this and I was naive not to. I was not prepared for all the expectations that Big School brings. In my school days, there was very little parental involvement, take it not as a sign there was no interest but simply because they couldn’t help. So how would my parents fair in today’s academic world? Even for those in Infant school it’s all about using computers and coding (when did this change from being called computer studies?) as well as practicing handwriting, reading, maths and remembering stuff. 

I often wonder about the remembering stuff side of things. Like now that we can store all phones numbers in handy gadgets having only  to input the number once, what is happening to our brains? Surely less and less is being used up. I have more memory space in my brain than on my phone right now.

Then there’s the Work at Home stuff. This is the stuff that I completely wasn’t aware of for the whole first term. I will carry this shame for the rest of my days. Work at Home is like a multiple choice of project based activities to do together. Research about a shark’s life cycle. A video of a science project. Put together your time line. The research stuff I can do with the help of Google. Don’t you miss those trips to the reference section of the library? I remember aged nine having to go to the local libary to find out what the Magna Carter was all about. You could find out right now if you like. These Work at Home projects are an education for me as well as #1 and #2. Like having to work out how to make videos using iMovies. In fact, I should be given a report card on what new learnings I’ve achieved throughout the year. 

Provision of interesting and nutritious packed lunches every day? Satisfactory effort. Could do better though with variety. 

Attendance of all class activities? Excellent effort. Missed just one swim gala but said child did not particupate so it doesn’t count.

Attendance of Parent Social Activities? Poor effort. Try harder next year.

Competent understanding of the Work at Home requirements? Satisfactory effort once realised the Work at Home aspect.

The last day of school for the year is always going to be a nostalgic one. Just as you get used to the routine, the teacher, the challenges that have arisen for your child during that year and the discussions on how to overcome them addressed, it’s time for change again. And who is most resistant to that change? A new teacher, new class, new expectations. How will #1 and #2 rise to this? Will their teacher know that last year we had this to work on and that in class this one needs a bit more encouragement than other. Will #1 and 2 come back from school each day having absorbed all that you’ve said so that opinions are led not by what Husband and I have really told them but from what their teacher has said. 

It’s funny how there is another person in your child’s life who they will believe in without question. This is how I know that both #1 and 2 enjoy being at Big School and their minds are ready to absorb all sorts of new stuff. In both their Parent Teacher meetings, the eact same phrase was to said to me. They are ready for the next level. Am I? 

My babies are all growing up. And all is how it should be. The new academic year is almost upon us and I need to get myself organised with new kit, new haircuts, new marker pens for the calendar. 
With my marker pens I am ready. Well at least I’ll be ready with getting  the right kit ready on the right school day. 
Which is a start at least. 

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Happy Star Wars Day

Who doesn’t love Star Wars.

 

Oh you. Well, we can still be friends. But how can you not love Star Wars. The original trilogy is still the very best, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away from Disney. Without the CGI effects of the remastered editions. Less polished than the much anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

 

But this is not a post about my love of Star Wars or the merits of each episode. It is more about a shared love of Star Wars. At some point I’m sure #1, 2 and 3 will instantly dislike anything that we do. Labelling it uncool to like something that your parents do because they are of course uncool.

 

Having young children is an opportunity to relive the best parts of your childhood. Like those student days when it was ok again to like all things retro. Books, films and characters may have moved on but there are ones that endure timelessly. The Magic Faraway Tree. Paddington. Beatrix Potter. I find that in this current world saturated with short lived fads it becomes more important to introduce them to simpler times.

  

 The long lasting appeal of Star Wars is that it’s about Dark vs Light. With hyper speed and light sabers. And the Force. And the Millenium Falcon. And X Wings. And just being oh so cool. I can’t even begin to imagine back in the day watching The Empire Strikes Back in the cinema and getting to that scene when you discover THAT revelation.

 

#1, 2 and 3 have all been to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The impact of the revelation that was revealed in that episode was slightly lost on them but I’m sure as time goes on they’ll value the significance. Right now it’s all about the light sabers and using the Force. I laughed so much when #2 tried her hardest to read our minds with her hand hovering over our heads. How I wish I had that power too.

   

I’m openly very pleased that #1 is such a big Star Wars fan. His Stars Wars trivia surpasses my own by a long shot. He is now the Master. Branching out into Star Wars Rebels. The Clone Wars. Educating me on characters like Ezra Bridger spawned from the animated series that I never really took to. Sometimes keeping it simple is best. Like trying to read the books as well. I love Star Wars but if I were to follow all the books that have been written, I probably wouldn’t have time to do anything else but that would probably be ok as I’d have no one to hang out with.

 

Star Wars: A New Hope is next on our reading together out loud list with #1. I’m looking forward to it just as much as being able to read the Harry Potter series. What is there not to love about a bit of magic and mystical powers.

  

 But what is equally important is having something fun to share with #1, 2 and 3. What is it that you have that is special. That makes them think of you. #1 has for the longest time associated Nana Moon with Star Wars and it helps to build rapport. Finding the things you have in common with others to build relationships on and share discussion and different scenarios and whether or not you want to have a blue, green or purple light saber.

 

I watch #1 keenly analysing all the characters in his Star Wars Visual Dictionary. Checking out the Lego Star Wars kits. Asking me which ones do I like best and whether he can ‘share’ my Snowspeeder.

  

 Just before Christmas, Singapore Changi Airport had a life size X Wing and Tie fighters. It was amazing! #1 was quietly impressed I’m sure. #2 and 3 were all about the Stormtroopers. Sometimes it can take some coaxing to get #1 to go places that he has dismissed as ‘not fun’ in his mind. Or will begrudgingly come along to and end up having a great time. But this weekend, he didn’t hesitate when I asked him if he could like to go to a Star Wars thing.

 

You could call it our very first Star Wars convention. There were all the characters, a Jedi Academy and all the merchandise. #1 loved it. As did #3 who declared she likes a Stormtrooper. Hmmm. #2 was all about the lightsabers.

  

 Next stop Comic Con 2016. I’ve still got my Leia buns from Embracing 40.

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On an extra day

So what do you call today?

 

Besides 29 February 2016.

 

This year is a Leap Year but is today a Leap Day? I don’t know. I just know that there are 365 days in a year except in a Leap Year when there are 366.

 

You know, standard textbook trivia that you practiced hard remembering when you were like five. Not like now. When you can just Google it. Though you really shouldn’t have to Google this stuff.

 

But do you know why there’s an extra day every four years? That you may have to Google.

 

Anyways, I found I had an extra day to my weekend today. Ah, the luxury of the long weekend. Especially since returning to Gainful Employment are days of Annual Leave allowance precious. Not to be squandered as you please but to be saved and hoarded until most needed during the school holidays.

 

 

Whilst that is important, it’s also important to give yourself a break. I’ve just finished an event last Friday. I forgot how exhausting and stressful these things can be. The event had been at the back of my mind for at least six months and snowballed into late nights at work and so many To Do Lists that needed ticking off. The pressure of it being a success in so far as people turning up and for there to be no massive hiccups. Yes, the pressure was huge. Coupled with the fact that the late nights take you away from bedtime stories, dinner with Husband and give you a pre-occupied mind even when you are together.

 

So today was a much needed break. An extra day of dedicated ME TIME! Yay! You start thinking about what you can do. All the possibilities of a free day.

 

Like:

 

  • Coffee/lunch with that person you haven’t seen for some time.
  • A massage to undo all that tension in between your shoulders.
  • Baking an abundance of snacks for school packed lunches.
  • Go for a run. Get some new running shoes.
  • Sorting out the mess in your home you haven’t tended to for the past few weeks.
  • Buying some new shoes to replace the ones that make your feet smell at work.
  • A swim and lounge by the pool.

 

So many choices to fill just one day. Which isn’t really one day at all when you take out the time for tending to the needs of #1, 2 and 3. Equally lost was time spent hungover. Yep. Totally. In fact I’ve spent Saturday, Sunday and today hungover. Quite possibly tomorrow too. But you know, it’s good to do once in a while. Because I’m not going to be repeating the pain for at least a month or so. There’s just nothing I can do about the 48 hour hangovers these days. I’ve realised that Day 2 hangover feels like the equivalent of a Day 1 hangover from my youth.

 

So once the fog cleared from my brain this morning, I realised there were some Must Dos. I mean clearing out the junk and tidying up is an endless task so that can wait another day but there’s also other admin stuff that needs doing like checking all vaccinations are up to day and having to spend your day off taking #3 to be jabbed in the thigh is not as much fun as heading to the zoo. It wasn’t that traumatic for her actually, she was very brave. We went for lunch that we haven’t been to for a very long time. We used to go there quite often with Brilliant New Adventure, so I sent her a photo of #3 watching the soba noodle man do his soba noodle making.

  

 
That’s one thing I miss you know, since heading back to Gainful Employment full time. It’s that time you get unrushed to have lunch with #1, 2 and 3. I really must make more time at the weekends to go out with just one of the three or even two of the three or even all three really.

 

After lunch we went shoe shopping to replace the shoes that make my feet smell at work. Then it was to school to pick up #1 and 2 and talk about school stuff with #1’s Teacher. When I do get to pick them up, they’re usually waiting at the School Pick Up point but today we had the time to wander around the play area where #1 pointed out the spot that he used to go to dig for worms and to show me the tadpoles in the School zen garden. All these things I didn’t know about their daily lives.

   

It felt so unrushed today. Quite possibly due to my Day 3 hangover. Or perhaps it’s been because these past few weeks have been so busy that a regular day feels slowed down. Perhaps tomorrow when I’m back in the office, everything will continue at the same hi-speed because there is always going to be another big project coming up.

 

Today though, on this one extra day, I appreciated the opportunity to spend it with #1,2 and 3. To just be with them and thank them for understanding that last week is not going to be the normal week. Also to set a precedence that we are allowed a break and today whilst I’ve had messages relating to work, it’s ok for me not to respond to them because it really can wait until tomorrow.

 

And today being a Leap Day,  of course I proposed! And Husband accepted.

  

  

 

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Love is……..a bag of M&S Square Crisps

That’s right! I’m embracing St. Valentine’s Day in all its glory. Forget I ever thought being showered with gifts today was all a load of commercial coercion. I totally didn’t feel a modicum of cynicism walking past the florists with their huge bouquet of beautiful roses priced over $200. Thinking of what else you could buy instead of something with a shelf life of five days max in this humidity. Then feeling a twinge of guilt as I clocked the lady sat in the corner on a hard plastic stool hunched over, carefully arranging one rose next to another and interspersing them with some baby breathe and fine greenery. Gosh no, not me.

   

I LOVE VALENTINE’S DAY!

 

Like I love Christmas, Easter, Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival, my Birthday, your Birthday and any occasion that you choose to celebrate. Or in this case any occasion that #1, 2 and 3 choose to celebrate.

 

If I’m going to attempt to bring up #1, 2 and 3 fully in touch with their emotions and be able to express them freely and recognise that love should be given and received openly and equally then I can’t exactly start them off on the path of declaring Valentine’s Day is just a money grabbing corporate conspiracy. They’ll come to that conclusion themselves when they pay taxes and have a mortgage. Until then though, I hope they enjoy all the anticipation of Secret Admirers and cards in envelopes that are S.W.A.L.K.

 

Before they set their eye on that lucky someone, some other lucky someone gets to be the centre of all that love and attention. I wonder who though? Exactly right. Me! More me and just a little bit Husband I have to say. I received three cards, flowers and a bag of M&S Square Crisps today. I’ll let you guess which gift was from #1, 2 and 3 and which was from Husband. What is there not to love about Valentine’s Day. What have I been thinking all these years!

 

My Dad, Mr Li always calls without fail every Sunday. Not really to talk to me, well a little bit to me but mostly to #1, 2 and 3 and I could hear #2 wishing Gung Gung ‘Happy Valentine’s Day, did you get any cards?’ and that made me smile. Love is many a splendid thing and the love of small people has no other rival.

  

 
Just to show that I really am embracing today, as well as a home cooked dinner ready on the table complete with apple crumble, I bought Husband these strawberries. Note the shaped container it came in. I could have bought the ones in the regular square container but I went all out for the heart shaped ones. You must be rather proud of me too? I’m sure my former colleague who may still be doing heart shaped potato wedges for today’s dinner as a Valentine’s Day tradition most certainly would be. She was right and I was so totally wrong.

 

However you may acknowledge today, may it be simple and meaningful.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

 

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Your hand in mine

It has been seven years, one month and three days since #1 arrived and turned our world upside down. Making it a much better place and changing the value of things that I thought I once knew. The value of time being one of them. It goes by too fast. The value of creating memories. To look back upon because time goes by too fast. The value of my own judgement. Am I making the right decisions in guiding #1, 2 and 3. Especially #1.

 

Why would this be so? I often feel #1 gets a rough deal. There really isn’t that much difference in years between #1 and #3. Yet #1 is definitely seen as being the older, responsible one. How can he not be? There are two impressionable younger siblings to emulate his behaviour. Very keenly as well. Not much encouragement is needed for #2 and #3 to follow in his footsteps. The good stuff of course we let them roll with it but the not so good stuff, well you just can’t. It would turn an already chaotic household into an unruly one that would have people running in the opposite direction for fear of the terrible family with the feral children.

 

It occurred to me the other day that whilst I may act like the Parent-in-Charge, the one setting boundaries and seemingly with all the answers, it’s actually #1 leading the way. It is his growing needs, interests and behaviour that shapes most of our parenting. Being the first of them all, we started this parenting journey together and what we know and we have have done differently with #2 and 3 has been because of what we have learnt with #1.

 

I’ve had an interesting turnaround of opinion right now as a parent. I remember those early days and the sleep deprived nights that really put a ravine between your Life With Sleep and your Life With No Sleep. We think those days are hard. The seemingly endless feeding, cleaning, changing of nappies that made up the early routines that quickly turned into cuddles, giggles and chubby cuteness. Chasing after the runaway toddler and the reading of the same book on loop night after night. Enjoying the key milestones they reach, all well documented in thousands of photographs.

 

Then there are the moments that you’d rather forget. The not so easy times that leave you all exhausted and yearning for the clock to reach 7pm so you can put them to bed and draw a line under that particular day. Perhaps you’ve yelled at each other and made a number of serious threats. Perhaps you’ve lost it completely and feel full of guilt at not keeping one’s shit together. Especially when you think that you’re the only one who gets wound up so easily at the defiant, unreasonable and downright bewildering behaviour your child, made from your genes has managed to exhibit. Just ignore it. Let it wash over you. You’d ignore that really annoying person you know in your place of Gainful Employment. You can hold your thoughts when someone is being highly unreasonable anywhere else. Yet a 7 year old, and on occasion a 5 and 3 year old can make you suddenly vent in ways that you didn’t think possible.

 

   

How is it possible? Seemingly calm, rational and regular with other grown ups do you turn into a screaming banshee at times with your own offspring. It’s because I always make the mistake of assuming they are capable of calm rational reasoning like most other grown ups I know. How simple is it to understand that I said no more snacks because it will be tea time in just five minutes. But Mummy, I’m hungry. I know and tea time will be in 5 minutes. But I don’t want to eat my dinner. I want to eat toast. I’m hungry. Then you’ll eat your dinner super fast won’t you. But Mummy, can I have a snack please. What did I just say? What happened to the dictatorship we once had? Regular as Gina Ford predicted.

 

I still don’t get the why bother asking me a question or for permission if you’re just going to go ahead and do as you please. That is for much later on in life when you’re not seeking someone’s approval, you’re just politely informing them of what you intend to do anyways.  So when asked, can we watch tv? Not right now, you’ve watched quite a bit already. But Mummy, can we watch tv. I said not right now. But Muuuummmmy, can we watch tv.

 

 

Same goes for can we have a biscuit, ice cream, play on the iPad, phone and I’m constantly saying not right now, later, how about something else. By constantly asking for stuff you know I’m going to say No to then you’re taking all the fun out of parenting. No one likes to be the person that takes the fun away. But that’s what it often feels like. Especially in triplicate.

 

And what happens when you say No but they go ahead and do it anyways? Rage is what happens. Disappointment, anger and fury that leads to the dark side. Bewilderment and confusion too. What is it about my children that makes them not listen to a word I say. I actually can hear myself sometimes and lose the will to carry on. No one appears to be listening. Nothing is registering. Eyes are blank and their thoughts are probably chasing after Lego Stars Wars, rainbows and unicorns.

 

And yet I have to carry on. As much as it would be nice not to have to correct behaviour that would have them deemed feral in some circles just so I could give myself a break. The truth is, they rarely put a foot out of place with other people who are not me. A delight to teach, very helpful, never a cross word are phrases I have heard about them. It’s a relief to know this of course. But why can’t we have a day, weekend, week of never a cross word?

 

Recently it got to a point with #1 where there were far too many days filled with cross words. With nothing getting through. Lots of anger and upset on both sides. It hit a pinnacle before I realised it was me that needed to break the cycle. I was focussing on the wrong thing, as I’m sure the Generic Parenting Guides could have told me but sometimes with so many other things going on you miss the point.

 

#1 may have turned seven but it’s still only seven. In my mind he was this boy growing up so fast and at times he’s astounded me with his thought processes and questions. He’s interested in many things and is kind and caring. Naturally he likes to wind up #2 and she’s an easy target but because of the volume of noise that ensues, it can get blown out of proportion and the amount of times you are roped in to play referee is tiring. Sort it out yourselves, as a friend once advised her own children, if there’s no blood then I don’t need to know.

 

Of course he’s going to try it on. I said just the one pineapple tart and he sneaks in another when he thinks I won’t know but I always do know because I’m looking out for it. And because he knows I almost always find him out, he knows (sometimes) not to do it again (but easily forgets this).

 

Choose your battles. I understand that better too now. You can’t pick up on everything. Otherwise it does get to a point where you seem to be critical of everything they do and neither of you will like you for it.

 

I look back to when #1 was this tiny bundle of new discoveries to be made. How frightening it was to have this responsibility of something so precious. Wishing away the days when both of you were exhausted and crying thinking it will be easier when they get older. It is in many ways. But not so in many others. The parenting journey is forever changing and #1 is teaching me new things all the time.

 

Time goes by so fast. Every day that I hold #1’s hand in mine I inwardly smile and think how his hand still has that child like roundness to it. Everyday I hold each of their hands. Just so I will have those memories for when they think they’re a bit too old for it and I will try and not be too upset about that. Not in front of them at least.

 

I’m sure there will be other challenging days ahead and we will both be yelling at each other which sounds totally ridiculous when I say it out loud here.  I’m 41 and he’s seven for goodness sake.

 

But to have your hand in mine is one of my greatest simple treasures. It’s a reminder that I’m here to guide #1, 2 and 3. I’m not really sure how but together I’m sure we’ll figure it out somehow.
   
 

 

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