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

2017 Year End Reflections

Yet another year is drawing to a close.

I remember thinking at the start of this year that big changes were ahead. I thought it would be a year of progress and taking charge of areas that I felt I had lost my grip of in 2016. I was thinking mostly about the work life balance I had going on after a return to full time employment with three young children in a new and very different work culture. A lot of hours in the office and out of it, a lot of energy fretting about work and feeling a disproportionate level of satifisfaction at the end of it. I knew I needed to gain a better perspective this year and get back to doing the things that I enjoyed the most.

I wanted this year to be about the good stuff. More time for people, more running, more baking, more crafts and more attempts at aspiring to an aesthetically pleasing home. These were simple changes that I could make and feel all the better for it. I do believe we have a responsiblity to ourselves to be the change we want to see happen.

I felt ready for change. And so when Husband and I first spoke about leaving Singapore to return back to the UK, it felt both the right move and time but albeit quite a daunting one too. Finally, we were heading back to the UK. It was exciting to think about being with family and friends and getting to know all the new additions and reconnecting in new ways. Going on different kinds of holidays and introducing the children to favourite pastimes and places of our youth.

After living in Singapore for nine years, the life we had over there was our normal. I knew how everything worked. I did not know how everything worked over here. And not knowing how things work can make you feel quite vulnerable. Knowledge is power so they say. Setting up a new home on my own was hard work and running it almost like a single parent has taught me new skills and found reserves of energy I knew I had and most definitely need.

There are days where I miss my old life that I used to get ribbed for. The one where we have live in help who helped with all the household jobs. I appreciated her then and I miss her a little bit now but I do enjoy having the whole home to myself. And there is also something soothing about doing laundry and ironing. In times where you have no control, you at least can make clothes look like new and have a fresh, clean bed to sleep in which is satifyingly pleasing. There is no denying that I miss the freedom though of having someone on hand who can look after the children whilst I just pop out. Though at the moment there is no one to just pop out with!

Some of these changes I expected. I wasn’t completely unnerved by the big move back to the UK. I don’t really think too much. I know! I know you know that too. Such a move is managed through doing. You have to set up a new home, get into the school routine, go out and find new friends, do the household jobs. These are the things you have to do to take care of your family and their basic needs. And if I don’t know the answers right away, I’m also not afraid to ask for help and that is important too.

You also need to explore and connect. Explore your new surroundings, find things to do,  go places. Connect with people, be it family or friends and connect with your new home town. Be present. I find this an ever important aspect right now. I don’t think there’s much to be gained from wishing to be anywhere else but here. Especially when there are young children involved who have no say in what happens and it is up to us to give them as many good memories and experiences as possible.

We would have preferred coming back to the UK as a whole family and not with Husband still working overseas. We are also not unique in this set up. I know plenty of people who are in my position and I know we are all more than up for the challenge. There have been times when I have felt out of my depth but I hope I am managing ok. It is overwhelming at times being the sole, responsible grown up taking the lead and being all things to three young children. We are all in this new adventure together but often you have to appear braver than you feel. I have also had to push myself with going to new places that I’m not familiar with. I know it has been hard on the children and they miss their Daddy terribly, as he does them. So it was good that we were able to share our first family snow day experience together. After years of looking forward to snow, they finally had their day building snowmen and sledging. My heart will always feel some guilt that they’ve had to bear some of my sadness these past few months without Husband around to comfort them too. But they are incredible children and can teach us a thing or two about getting on with things. In time, I hope they will remember and feel incredibly proud of themselves of how brave and strong they are and what a bundle of love and comfort they have to give.

As a couple, I also know how difficult it must be for Husband to watch from afar as we get through this time and not be here to provide the emotional support that we all need. The difference his presence has made over the Christmas holidays has been the tonic we have needed.

The events of this year has certainly put last year into perspective. With hindsight, I allowed some people’s behaviour to get the better of me. I doubt I could have changed it then but I am in a position today to let it wash over me. I do not dwell on the value I gave myself based on their words and actions which by all accounts are worthless and is a reflection of them and not me. It was a valuable lesson and reminder about what our roles as mentors should be.

You all know what the biggest change and challenge this year has been for me and my family. Bereavement is a necessary part of life. I keep telling myself that. Everyday though it’s still there. That well of sadness that may always linger a little even years from now. A few days ago, I made my first visit to Newcastle since my Dad’s funeral and stopped by the cemetery with Husband just to have a look at my Dad’s resting place. Until the 100 days since his passing are over there’s not much to do but I wanted to go and see because how could I possibly make a trip to Newcastle and not see my Dad. As I stood there, I still felt a wave of disbelief that he is really gone. My Dad, Mr Li. I feel his absence acutely but at the same time, I have my Mum and all my other family to see and be with and that in itself is a huge comfort.

I can not imagine being anywhere else but here right now. No matter how short the time I had with my Dad since our return, it is far better than how I could have managed my time with him if we were still living in Singapore. At the moment, we are catching up on family time and doing all the things at Christmas that we have missed out on in previous years. It may have been a busy few days travelling up and down the motorway but what we have gained is invaluable. The children will remember Christmas holidays spent with family more than anything. Yesterday, the children disappeared for hours with their cousins and had a wonderful time, those kind of moments make up for many others.

I end this year feeling quite sad still, a bit blurry around the edges and not quite at full capacity. I have lost not just a parent but one of my biggest supporters, someone who is always looking out for me and champion of my children’s achievements. That will take some getting used to.

At the same time, I feel the multiple sources of love and warmth that have helped me through this. I still find myself at a loss to express just how much this means. Not just in the immediate afterwards but even now, perhaps more so now, when I get asked how am I doing, how are the children doing and expressing your words of condolence when we meet to acknowledge my loss. You may be at risk of seeing my tears fall but that’s all that will happen. This feeling of grief is something I cannot fully control so I guess I will have to be patient and allow the passing of time to heal my heart and bring peace and laughter once more as it surely will.

2017, you have exhausted me. But I have not written you off. It is not a year that I will say good riddance to. To do so would mean I haven’t valued anything that this year has brought or taken away. As sad as the memory of this year will be, I take forward life lessons and experience that can only serve me well. I am far stronger for it and I hope more understanding too.

Tomorrow is the start of a brand new year.

2018.

It sounds like it ought to be a lovely year. I have no plans as to what to do with it just yet. I know there is lots of practical things to do. I need to get on with the sorting out jobs that I didn’t do in November before I got caught up with preparing for Christmas. I hope to learn a new crafting skill, make use of my sewing machine finally, continue to aspire to an aesthetically pleasing home. I may even return to employment too. I’m looking forward to planning a full calendar of visits to people and places. I feel like starting the year at a more gentle pace to recover from this year, though I’m sure it will soon snowball like every year does when you have a family with young, busy children.

As I look towards a new year, for the first time in many years, I will just see how it goes with no expectations. I shouldn’t forget that I have made a pretty good start with this new adventure in the UK so far. I think just making the most of what we have right now will be more than good enough as we look ahead.

Whatever you do, I wish you a happy and fun filled New Year’s Eve. May good health, happiness and time spent well be yours in 2018.

Cheers to you and here’s to us.

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Finally, we have ourselves a proper cold Christmas

Finally we have ourselves a proper cold Christmas. Though at a ‘mild’ 11 degrees celsius, I’m told it’s warm outside…I don’t think you know the meaning of a warm Christmas!

For how many years whilst living in the Tropics have I longed for a cold Christmas! This will be my first in ten years and the first ever for the children. That in itself is exciting enough. Even after all these years, Christmas only feels much more like Christmas when it’s dark and cold with twinkly lights shining out from people’s homes and on the streets.

Singapore knows how to dazzle at Christmas but our first UK Christmas has brought us back to a more traditional tone. The story of Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem, Jesus born in a stable, the Three Wise Men, Shepherds, Angels and a wandering star. My three children have been enchanted by it all and I have to admit that there were key parts of the Nativity story that I simply hadn’t known about. It’s amazing what I am learning at School.

This week we attended the school’s Carol Concert at the local church and today Husband and I took the children to our first Christingle concert. Previously I had only been to church for weddings and funerals but for the children to discover their own path, I’d like them to know and later decide for themselves. Though for my own part, I have found on both occasions a certain calm and opportunity for reflection.

This year for the first time ever I have found myself with no social engagements at all! Not one Christmas lunch! Can you imagine! No rolling home inebriated in the early hours. No fancy cocktails in some exclusive bar. Bah humbug indeed. Until I realised it’s about who you want your Christmas celebrations to be with and so we did have a Christmas do after all and it was exactly just right.

I hope I have managed to create a good enough Christmas experience for my three children this year. There is guilt in my heart that due to my own sadness and even their own that Christmas preparations for my three children has been missing a bit of its usual shine. I have really tried my best but it has been hard to think about presents when this year it is people who matter the most.

We have a lovely tree all lit up brightly, we’ve baked batches of gingerbread people, we’ve sung countless Christmas carols and songs, we been to visit Father Christmas and gone on winter walks. I’ve circled all the tv programmes in the Radio Times and already missed a few shows.

I really don’t know what I imagined this Christmas to look like but I do feel the warmth of goodwill, family and celebration all around me.

And if anything, hearing of how others are celebrating this year has buoyed me along too. I love Christmas. That will never change. And what has been most exciting is sharing with friends the chit chat on what they’re cooking over the festive season. I bought all the cooking magazines and have barely deviated from my usual! But who doesn’t love looking at a good festive feast and oohing at the many variations on a turkey dinner with all the trimmings that you can get!

I really hope the children wake up yelling with excitement that Father Christmas has been! That they come running upstairs with full stockings and have raced downstairs to check he’s left something on their list for them too. If anyone deserves a bit of magic tonight, it is them.

They’ve excitedly and carefully laid out goodies for Father Christmas and the reindeers and placed a ‘Santa Stop Here’ sign on their bedroom window. They’ve sprinkled Santa and Elf magic dust on our doorstep (previously unavailable from the shops in Singapore would you believe.) They handed out good things to eat to our neighbours and strangers on the street. This year, I have asked them to think of not just themselves but others too.

Surprisingly though, I seem to have everything ready and can even enjoy a restful glass of wine. In previous years I am still wrapping gifts until the early hours on this night. I have so little to do I suspect I have forgotten something!

But whatever it is, I’m sure it won’t ruin the day. Tomorrow is a day about family being together. Something my children will value more than anything. They have done amazingly well whilst we have relocated ourselves and their Daddy has remained in Singapore. So whilst there are many gifts under the tree that will be met with great enthusiasm and much joy, the best gift we have is that we have these next nine days of togetherness to share the holidays with.

This year, I have not sent out Christmas cards as is the custom during the first year. Though I wish you more than anything a Happy Christmas to be shared with those who matter the most. May you laugh, love and enjoy each other’s company.

Merry Christmas to all. xx

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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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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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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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Long may they forever believe……..

So, he wasn’t quite the Father Christmas beloved by all in Miracle on 34th Street but he’s Father Christmas all the same. Or Nick as he introduced himself to #1, 2 and 3. How times have changed.

Meeting Father Christmas at the Big School Christmas Fair today

 

As it is still November and quite the norm not to be thinking of Christmas and Christmas related festivities for another good week or so, my brain was unprepared for #1 asking to queue up to see Father Christmas. #1 will only queue up uncomplainingly for something he is really keen to do. Otherwise every 10 seconds or less there will be declarations of boredom. But not so today as he waited patiently in line with all the other believers at the Christmas Fair held at Big School today.

 

In fact in previous years when I have suggested such a rendez-vous with FC to set in stone The Gift from FC so that there is no sudden change of mind two days before Christmas, #1 has always been a bit reluctant. A bit fearful of FC to be honest, as you would be. Great big looming man suspiciously the only person in the tropics wearing entirely inappropriate clothing for the weather. #2 has never been so sure either and #3 outright refused to go anywhere near him last year. She was much better this year as you can see but when asked for a group hug, she high tailed it out of the Grotto. Quite rightly so and adhering to the Stranger Danger laws impressed upon them.

 

Where do you sit in the debate over whether we should perpetuate the myth of such whimsical characters like Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny?

 

Are we creating magical childhood memories or are we setting them up for bitter disappointment and breaking their trust in us, their parents, who they should trust the most. The ones who tell them not to tell untruths because Father Christmas and his Elves are listening.

 

I never believed in any of them because I was never led to believe in any of them. My Mum would have found the idea completely preposterous. Yet ask her about the Goddess Chang E who flew to the moon and lives there with the White Rabbit and that’s all ok. Actually someone should tell John Lewis that the man in their latest Christmas ad has a neighbour he needs to meet and there is really no need for him to feel so lonely.

 

Yet I hold all these characters from both cultures I cross with warmth and value. I haven’t picked a side and so we celebrate EVERYTHING. Living in Singapore #1, 2 and 3 celebrate the cultural festivals of several religions. Christianity, Muslim, Hindu. And they are all the more richer for it.

 

It was a very natural decision to welcome Father Christmas into our home, along with the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Chang E and lately Messrs Solo, Skywalker and Darth Vader. Because they are children and children should have something magical and fun before they realise that the world is not always magical and fun as we know ourselves.

 

Husband and I love being able to create some great times for them. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. And I have to admit it’s also good for us to do. Creating little traditions of our own and giving #1, 2 and 3 fun times and hopefully happy memories.

 

The reason why I’m writing about this today is because all of a sudden it occurred to me that it won’t always be like this. I’m not sure how many years there will be left where all three will Truly Believe like they do today. And I will miss that when one of them doesn’t. 
Perhaps it won’t make much difference. Perhaps it’s the Christmas traditions we create ourselves that will be the most remembered and time we spend together. I still love Christmas and Chinese New Year and Easter and Mid-Autumn festival all the same.

 

But of course it will be the first time they realise the world is not all that it appears to be. Though I really hope that our efforts to make it a wonderful place is enough for them to keep on loving it and all that it has to offer just as much as they do now. To keep an open mind about everything they come across and see the value in a bit of magic. Otherwise what dull lives we would all lead. 

 

 

 

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So that’s how you cook a turkey!

So the 3kg turkey, which incidentally weighed the same as #1, 2 and 3 at birth, wasn’t that difficult to cook after all! It was a bit of a disappointment really after hearing all these years about how people have to get up in the middle of the night to start cooking the turkey but apparently Mrs Cake Pops says that’s only if the turkey is double the size of the one we had. No wonder Christmas dinner is a stressful event if you’re cooking for that many people because that’s a lot of turkey going on there. Plus all the trimmings. You need another kitchen really.

Husband says our turkey was rather like a large chicken, except with huge wings, but I thought I better make more of an effort with it than just bunging it into the oven. Out of the twenty odd Christmas food magazines I’ve accumulated over the years illustrating the various ways you can cook Christmas dinner, I opted for the rub the turkey all over with butter and then decorate with rashers of streaky bacon option as advised by the Butcher. It was a bit weird rubbing the butter all over the turkey, I’m not sure I’d do that too often.

The real challenge though was how do you cook all the other things as well? Like the potatoes and parsnips that need roasting, the sausage meat stuffing and had there been room in the oven, the Yorkshire puddings which categorically should not be reserved solely for roast beef. Husband and Sister in Law like a spare Yorkshire pudding with golden syrup. Try it. Husband also likes a slice of Christmas cake with cheddar cheese on it. Try it too. These all require significantly higher temperatures than the 170 degrees the turkey needs to cook at. So suffice to say that Christmas lunch almost became Christmas afternoon tea by the time that everything was ready.

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Not that #1, 2 and 3 were concerned as they barely touched a morsel. So wrapped up were they in the visit of Father Christmas that had happened earlier that day.

Barely had I finished writing my last post and climbed into bed when a commotion erupted as #1 and 2 came charging into our room informing us very excitedly that Father Christmas HAD ALREADY BEEN!

Erm, that wasn’t the plan we had agreed on. #1 and 2 you were meant to sleep in until 7.30am.

NOT BE UP AT 3AM!

Then not only be up at 3am but #2 decides now is a good time to start freaking out at the fact she’s scared of Father Christmas. After he’s delivered the presents. She then insists that one of us has to sleep in their room in case he comes back. ‘But he’s not coming back #2’. ‘How do you know Mummy?’.

Quite so. How do I know?

#1 was beyond excited and kept getting out of bed several times before it was even dawn and then having to wait another hour before #2 and 3 were up. The anticipation was almost painful for him but he did really well.

And then everyone was up. Marvelling at the mess the reindeers had made on the balcony after eating the carrots and how Father Christmas had eaten all the snacks and drunk the whiskey and milk.

Now in each family, we all have our traditions and in ours the gift from Father Christmas can be opened after we’ve had breakfast. It worked well in previous years but as #1 and 2 join forces together and show no regard for patience it wasn’t really happening as before.

#2: ‘When can I open my Snow White dress from Santa, Mummy?’
Me: ‘How do you know that’s your gift?’
#2: ‘Because I asked him for it and he’s been now’

I can’t really argue with that can I. Where’s the surprise and amazing coincidence that Father Christmas delivers what you ask him for so long as you’ve been (mostly) good all year?

To #2 it was just fact. But joyful all the same as they excitedly opened their special present and it’s exactly what they’ve been coveting for some months.

I know it’s hard to tear yourself away from something you’ve been waiting for but I like a Christmas Day walk. Even if it’s just for an hour and we definitely had an hour to spare whilst the turkey cooked. #1 was a bit disgruntled at having to leave his new toys but in the end I think he enjoyed it. Along the way we passed by a temple that offers people who need it, a hot meal everyday of the year funded by the generosity of the public. It was a timely reminder.

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In the absence of family in Singapore, we do have good friends, great friends in fact, to spend a time of year usually reserved for close family. We ended Christmas Day with friends who opened their home to welcome so many of us who are a long way from Parents and Grandparents and plied us with lots of fizzy alcoholic pop.

Then on Boxing Day, which is fast becoming one of my favourite days too, we celebrated with a Boxing Day ham fest with Mrs Cake Pops and her family. Boxing Day ham is by far a much more relaxed affair. Just do the ham accompanied with left over cranberry and bread sauce, freshly sliced bread and copious amounts of cheese. What more could you ask for.

So the turkey is all done without a turkey curry to be had but a mashed potato topped turkey pie with shortcrust pastry grated on it before baking to a golden crunch. Absolute genius idea Mrs Imperturbable!

Christmas Day is over for this year and I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful one.

It’s time to prepare for the New Year and everything that it brings.

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