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

Where did that school year go?

The brand new shine of black patent leather shoes has long since been scuffed away. The pristine white of a school polo shirt has been washed out of shape, mottled with splodges of paint. Cardigans have buttons missing and jumpers are well, just missing.

It’s hard to imagine that we have reached the end of another academic year. Yet here we are about to start six weeks and two days of summer holidays. You could see that for many the 2.30pm bell today couldn’t come soon enough, with Teachers following swiftly on the heels of parents and children out of the school gates.

It doesn’t seem that long ago when I waved off #1, 2 and 3 off to their new Big School and wondered about the six hours I would have to while away. (Turns out that six hours isn’t really that long after all when you’re back to doing your own laundry and general keeping of home.)

It is a stressful decision choosing a school and especially when we chose a school without the benefit of paying a visit beforehand. We really were throwing them all into a new unknown. Especially after the gloss of a large international school overseas with all the facilities like an on site swimming pool and full size running track. These things do matter of course and it is a shame that their current primary school lacks the space of a sports field.

I know without doubt that all three have had a happy year at school. I don’t think any parent could ask for anything more at this stage. Sure, academic standing and sporting achievement is important but also is the well being and welfare of each child. Times have changed dramatically since my school days in the 80s. There’s a lot more out there competing for the attention of a child’s time than Maths and English. Indeed, even we as parents offer children a lot more extracurricular activity than just Brownies and Scouts.

But also not much has changed for children going to school. Maths and English is sort of the same but somehow long division is not a thing anymore. The complexities of playground friendships however, remains every child’s golden goal and parental heartache.

“What did you learn today?”

“What did you have for school lunch?”

“Who were your friends?”

These three questions form the basis of our short walk home after school. Most of the time they can’t remember what they’ve learnt but will speak quite enthusiastically about lunch, especially if ice cream or cake pudding is involved. The answers to the third one though, have on many occasion made me want to weep for them. Sometimes there have been minor fall outs and you figure that’s something they’re going to have to navigate themselves.

But sometimes, when you hear that your child went to lunchtime club by themselves without another buddy, your heart wonders why. Because no parent likes to imagine their child has not made a friend and we can not be there to help them. Of course we can’t be there engineering friendships we think our children should be making either. I have found that a lot of a child’s social circle evolves around school, unlike our days in Singapore where they had friends within the condo we lived in and also from the Expat community in general.

Everything is a lot more compact, a lot more local community in the town that we live in. And with that, and within the school, there seems to be a greater holistic approach to nurturing each child’s ability and emotional well being that I really like. I can’t remember with much significance whether my Reception year teacher gave out as many warm hugs and encouraging words. Perhaps she did and I just don’t recall. Perhaps #3 won’t recall how kind, caring and warm her Reception year teacher is. But I do and as a parent wondering whether you’ve made the right decision in sending your child to the right school, this is what you need to see.

As I look through all the school books that have come back with #1 and 2, I can also see how hard they’ve worked and how each piece of homework (a source of much weekend angst to be honest) is a reinforcement of what they’ve been learning in class. And I have been so impressed and grateful for how quickly it was noticed where a child has lacked strength in an area and how a support plan was put into place.

The children’s school was recently inspected by Ofsted and achieved Outstanding in every category. A well deserved recognition. And it’s also a school where the happiness and well being of the children who attend is at the heart of it.

At the end of this school year in a brand new school for all of us, I’m so glad and relieved over how well each child has thrived and the lovely friends they’ve made.

And I will be so glad to wave them off again back in September but first we’ve got a summer holiday to see to.

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A family reunited

Hoorah! With less than 12 hours to go, I feel I can safely congratulate myself on getting through nine months of solo parenting. On less than 12 bottles of wine throughout that time. Give or take a gin, whiskey or two. You know what, I think I may crack open a bottle of wine tomorrow in celebration.

It is not just the end to solo parenting that I’m looking forward to. Parenting in itself will throw up the same challenges whether there is one parent or multiples parents around. I don’t think in that respect, anything that I’ve had to deal with has been any harder just because I have been on my own. Though I think what has been hard is that there has been no respite from it. No one to give you that time to recharge yourself for the next round and no one to share the load of just how unreasonable small people can be. No one else for me to say, ‘Can you please just tell them…’ in a way that would suggest another person will make any difference to the bickering going on.

It has definitely been an intense nine months of solo parenting. And yet, I feel thankful for it too. Of course there have been plenty of times I have felt like quietly disappearing to my room to escape them but I would not exchange my role for Husband’s. I can imagine the last nine months has been harder on him being apart from us. Watching from afar as we have struggled through extremely tough and turbulent times and not being able to be the support that he wants to be.  Equally being unable to join in all the new experiences that we have had and all the new friends that we have made whilst trying to fill too much free time.

But we have made it through, as I knew we would. Although at the very beginning, before the very beginning when Husband first said that most likely I would have to come back alone with #1, 2 and 3, I did fleetingly wonder how that would work. How can you split a family apart and make it work? And for how long can you do that for? I had discussions with other friends in similar situations and we all decided that up to a year was doable. Anything longer is not sustainable. But thankfully we won’t have to think about that.

As I reflect upon the last nine months, I feel in a bit of a daze that so much time has gone by and in particular all that we have been through. It hasn’t been as simple as moving back and settling into a new town with new friends to find and a new routine to establish. All this and a bereavement too. Being on my own meant that I had to get up and get going every day. To do otherwise was out of the question. And there were many times that another parent would have helped the day run much better. I can think of the moments I would rather forget but I am also amazed and proud that we did get through them.

So finally, I feel it is time to exhale and relax a little. For when Husband arrives tomorrow, we will no longer be counting the days we have until our family is split across two continents and different time zones again. I feel that we can now start ‘living’ our new life. That’s not to say that #1, 2 and 3 and I have not been living our new life. We have and we are doing it really well. But it has also felt like we have been living ‘on hold’ too if you get what I mean.

Just last week, we were walking through town and noticing all the different places we have yet to try out and with Husband’s pending arrival, we can now include him in our plans and that feels so much better. We can start thinking about all the places we can explore and take him to visit the places that we’ve already been to. We can start thinking like a family.

This evening, #1, 2 and 3 were so excited it took them a long time to fall asleep. They cannot wait to see their Daddy. It’s been almost four months since they last saw him. I know people say children are much more resilient than we think and they have handled all the changes with acceptance and an open mind. But I have not enjoyed wiping away their tears over missing their Daddy and for him to miss out on Birthdays and school performances and the joy of their company (when all is good) on a regular day. We have asked a lot of the children and I would not want to put them through this again.

When you need to do something and you think at first you haven’t got it in you, it all falls into place eventually. Taking each day as it comes, you discover quite unexpectedly one day just how far you have come and surprise yourself with how good that feels. I have been strong and resilient and also fallen into a crumpled heap during this time. I have forced myself to be brave when I wasn’t feeling it. Being the only grown up in a household is quite scary. You have to lead the way all the time and be expected to know what to do! I will appreciate the company of another grown up so that I’m not the only one making all the decisions and that includes what we’re having for dinner every night.

Tomorrow starts the beginning of another new adventure and no doubt we will need some time to adjust again. But this time, we begin as a family reunited and it’s time we got to be one again.

Double hoorah!

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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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And just like that

As bright as three shiny new pound coins, #1, 2 and 3 left the house, bounced down the road and around the corner, off to explore new places and be amazed by great things. 

It has been a long summer holiday for these three. A lot of change. A lot of moving around. A lot of waiting. But finally, a step towards normality. 

Filled with a good mix of nerves and excitement, #1 and 2 started their new Big School just a couple of days ago. Thrown right in at the deep end having never seen the inside of their new school before. What an adventure. And such bravery from them. For what else can be more nervewracking at that age than being the New Kid. The one that doesn’t know what is expected of them. 

  • What do I wear.
  • What’s my teacher called.
  • What do I put in my bag. (Actually this is more for me)
  • Where are the toilets.
  • What if I get scared.

Two years ago I was sending #1 and 2 off to Big School for the first time. They were fine. Two years later, I was sending them off again. They were fine. As I knew they would be. I took them to meet their new teachers, who were waiting to welcome them in class with big friendly smiles. I could feel their hesitation. A few more moments of delay. A few quiet words of nerves. ‘Mummy, I’m scared.’ I know sweetheart but you will have a brilliant day. And I will be waiting at the gates for you.

And of course they did. Brimming full of excitement and hardly believing their good fortune that for school lunch there was ice cream! Ice cream inside some kind of cake. Wow, that sounds exotic. Artic roll? 

The relief is palpable as I hear them excitedly chatter about their day. And the hug. That hug you get when they see you immediately after school. I’m so glad for the chance to get these hugs again. Those arms wrapped around you, filling you with warmth. Then it dissipates like steam and normality resumes. “I’m hungry Mummy.” “Can we go to the park? Whhhhy noooot!”

So you see, I’ve been through this before. I’ve done the whole starting school thing several times. I should be a Pro at this. I should be writing my Get Up and Go List with all three in Big School. Six hours a day of quiet time. Isn’t this what all parents have been waiting for? The countdown to the end of summer holidays and back to school. 

Yes that is quite true. When I was in Gainful   Employment, school marked a sigh of relief that their time was going to be properly occupied and I no longer had to wonder what to do with them outside of the annual leave Husband and I could take.

Equally, since giving up Gainful Employment I have enjoyed seeing their faces everyday. And not just for the last hour, half hour of the day. Some days have been looooong. Some moments of some days could be better but overall, I wouldn’t be without these days. Especially when I think about how fleeting every stage of their childhood can be.

Perhaps it’s because I know how fleeting it is, preparing #3 for Big School has been the hardest. Apparently it always is for the youngest one. Your last baby all grown up. The one you don’t mind crawling into your bed space in the middle of the night, long after the older ones slept all night in their bed. You don’t mind because you know one day it will stop, this little squidgey person snuggling up to you. And one day you want it to stop because they are taking up too much bed space. 

I always enjoyed shopping for school uniform. I think it’s because it was the only time you got so many new things at once! New clothes, new shoes, new bag and new stationery. It seems it’s just as much fun for #1, 2 and 3. (Less so on our pockets though. Three lots of uniform, school bags, PE kit, welly boots.) #2 and 3 have been wearing their new school shoes indoors for days! They are so proud to be wearing their new uniforms and they look so smart in them too.

It’s funny this whole Big School thing. Now that it’s the end of the day, I can laugh about it to myself. How this morning I could barely hug #3 closely and wish her a brilliant day before I could feel the tears threatening to fall. She had no doubt it was going to be ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT. Yesterday we talked about how she felt about starting Big School, she was ready. Then she said “you’re going to cry Mummy.” Really? Why! “Because you’ll miss me.”

Ah. She got me there. 

The walk was barely long enough. The Goodbyes in the school yard all too brief. I help her place her bag on her peg and walk her into her new little world. It’s colourful, warm, fun and exciting. This is where #3 belongs. She’s waited patiently for today. For the uniform, the shoes, the friends, the learning. The learning. Constantly telling me that she doesn’t know how to read the words yet. I’m sure it won’t be long. 

I watch her through the window. Overhearing other parents talking about the Parent Syndrome. I have Parent Syndrome too. I wonder if #3 will look up and see me for one more wave. But of course she doesn’t. She’s looking around with a curious happy smile on her face in her smart new uniform and shiny shoes. Full of confidence. She’s looking happy. And then she moves out of sight and it’s time for me to move on. 

But before I do, the Teaching Assistant has already clocked another one with Parent Syndrome. She comes over and asks if  I’m ok, offering words of comfort and encouragement.  I feel even more ridiculous admitting #3 is #3 but she reassures me it’s all quite regular. 

There are days you cry out for ‘ME’ time. A quiet moment to sit down and have a hot cuppa tea uninterrupted. None of the multiple echoes of “Mummy, Mummy”, being able to get jobs done within half the time it takes with three in tow. Sort out boring admin jobs. Clean and tidy. Go out running. Have coffee. Find new cohorts. Regain Gainful Employment. Read a book. Do something new! 

Six hours seemed to pass by quite quickly before I’m back in the school yard. There’s #1 and #2. We go and collect #3 together. She’s all smiles and dishevelled curls. A sign of a brilliant day. 

Later on, we all ask her how she felt. She thinks about it. 

“I almost cried but then I was having too much fun.”
And that is why she’s ready to join in with the big kids.

 

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The end of summer

Perhaps not quite the end of summer. Who knows. There may even be an optimistic few days of balmy weather towards the end of September to send us into a frenzy after our summer/holiday/Singapore standard wardrobe has been relegated to the backs of cupboards and wardrobes. 

I have never known The Weather to feature so prominently in daily life. It’s rather exciting how utterly unpredictable it’s going to be. Rather like the temperament of #1, 2 and 3 all at once. One moment it’s cloudy and grey, the wind picks up a bit and you consider putting on another layer. No sooner have you done this then brilliant sunshine breaks through the clouds and your legs feel on fire, protesting indignantly at being covered up.

My Birthday Treat this year was an outing to York Maze complete with pig racing (put it on your bucket list) and an international corn eating competition no less. (To think a couple of years ago I spent it sipping posh BOGOF martinis at the glossy hotel bar in the Hyatt.) You can just tell the out of towners, the rookies to a British summer by the way they react to the whim of the Weather. Both Mrs Cake Pops and I were like this:

Grey clouds overhead.

She: It’s getting a bit chilly now isn’t it. I’ll go get us coffees.

Me: Ok, go get us coffees. I’m going to put my jacket on.

Sun peeps out.

She: It’s getting a bit warm now isn’t it. I’ll go get us ice creams.

Me: Ok, go get us ice creams. I’m going to take my jacket off. 

This activity is not just reserved for the Grown Ups. I have become a walking wardrobe for #1, 2 and 3. I’m expected to produce raincoats, cardigans, scarves, gloves, wooly hats at their request. And at their change of body temperature, I am equally expected to be a walking coat stand. 

If ever you relocate back to the UK, summer is the season to do so, even Spring if you can. Summer fills people full of cheery optimism and this is what you need when starting a brand new life. Winter receives unfair bad press I think. Why waste a quarter of your life complaining. But from a practical perspective, I’m glad we haven’t waited until December because the last few weeks of getting out and seeing all that is glorious about the UK has definitely softened the edges of transition. 

I’m pretty sure there will be days quite soon where the reality of the change of seasons is less romantic than I remembered. This makes it immensely important to store those days in the outdoors, it doesn’t have to even be sunny,  for the days indoors. But of course by then, I will be excellent at creating indoor entertainment.   

This last day of August marks the end of my first month back to the UK. It’s gone by fast hasn’t it. I can hardly believe it myself. I’ve been very busy looking at what’s around me. Exploring new ground, introducing #1, 2 and 3 to amazing new adventures. Mostly play grounds, parks, woodland walks. We’ve travelled several times to our soon to be new stomping ground and looked at houses and cars together. Involving them in the process of putting together their new life. It’s been a month, only a month, and if you ask them what would they like for lunch or dinner, the answer is still chicken rice. 

I have been so impressed with how much the UK outdoors is putting into getting people outdoors. Farms, parks and country houses that offer amazing days out with really fun activities and not everywhere charges an entry fee. This makes me look forward to other events in other seasons.

  

But to be fair, it hasn’t all been green fields and rolling hills. There have been clouds of confusion, blank space in my brain space, a lot of noise from #1, 2 and 3 and juggling a massive to do list in my head. 

You see, I haven’t had to do All The Stuff on my own for a long time. I’ve always had an extra pair of hands which takes the edge off  things in so many ways. Now all of a sudden and even if it’s not going to be like this forever, I am the person getting us from A to B about 90%, maybe a bit more, of the time. I think I’m getting better at it. I have to be but I’ll let you know in another post in a month’s time when we’ve got a new routine on the go. 

Humans, as #3 often likes to refer to us people, are a resilient species. We can draw immense strength when we need it but we also need to soften our hearts and let others in to help us along the way. This process of repatriation is a slow and long one. Quite frankly I am losing patience and I am weary of living out of a suitcase for six weeks with another three weeks to go. I completely understand why #1, 2 and 3 lose their rag and they have done amazingly well. They miss Husband to a heartbreaking degree and I can only provide big hugs and kisses and to wipe away their tears. They have been distracted with amazing outings and lots of fun and they have received warm welcomes from so many close to us who are very happy to see them, as we are them. But it is time they had their own space and familiar things around them. It is time to create and implement a new normal. One that welds both their Singapore and UK sides together before chicken rice is replaced by chicken nuggets forever.

The lazy days of summer are drawing to a close. August has been a wonderful welcome back. I’ve just returned from a week road trip with #1, 2 and 3 visiting family, godparents and friends. I could not say just how fabulous it has been to see the people of England who have helped us recharge for the next few weeks. 

As I turn my thoughts to the start of a new home, new school year, new school and new school system for #1, 2 and 3, here is where the real steps towards ‘settling in’ begin. I’m almost out of the waiting room and I’ve decided to start a new blog about it too documenting whether repatriation is as difficult as I’ve heard others say.

Until then, there’s still time for a last few glasses of Pimms. 

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Birthday Eve of new beginnings

Well actually new beginnings started 10 days ago. At the same time they haven’t really started at all. 

Since I arrived back in the UK with #1, 2 and 3, it has felt more or less like previous times we’ve been back on holiday but without the frenetic pace of travelling here and there trying to fit in people and places in a few short weeks. We also won’t be packing up and flying out again but we hopefully will be packing up to move into a new house of our own. 

I’ve been asked how does it feel being back in the UK after so long. In short, it feels quite surreal. I’m neither here nor there right now. Whilst I feel like we’re on holiday, I also need to think of the quite big things such as finding somewhere to live. Even getting a monthly mobile phone contract wasn’t as easy as I thought. It seems I’ve been away nine years and you can’t just pick up where you left off. 

So I guess you could say I’m in the waiting room just before starting my new life and the key is not to be impatient. As much as I would like to have a house, a car, a mobile monthly price plan and a routine, I have to wait for these things to happen. In short I want to have the regular ebb and flow of how my life used to run. This transit period feels like it is moving too slowly. And yet it’s only been 10 days since I landed. How long did it take me to get up and running when I first landed in Singapore? A lot longer than my memory cares to acknowledge.

But it is also quite amazing how quickly you adapt to your current surroundings. Perhaps it’s because I have #1, 2 and 3 to entertain that you push yourself to get out there as soon as you can. Or more to the point push them out there to avoid endless hours of bickering indoors. Everywhere we go right now, there is something new to see and who can make you see the ordinary from a different angle than from the viewpoint of small people. From supermarket aisles stacked full of good things to eat to the summer blooms in the neighbours gardens; from stairs in houses to walking past sheep and cows in fields. I get to experience all these things afresh with #1, 2 and 3. 

With more time to explore the neighbourhood where Husband grew up, we have discovered a number of places we had never been to before just a short drive  away. And whilst the first few days were unpredictable with sunshine and rain showers stopping play, when you grab hold of a good day, there is so much to appreciate and how many sights can you behold that could be better than sunshine across fields and watching small people round up the sheep. 

So far, the beginnings of this new life looks promising. I take it as a good sign that upon visiting our soon to be new home town that I feel a good sense of warmth. Yes, it is different to how life was in Singapore but there is also a new groundedness I feel will come about once we have moved there. 

And so tomorrow will be another Birthday. And as if to remind me, a few more grey hairs pinged out from nowhere. How do they do that? Just ping out of nowhere? 
This is my first Birthday celebrated in the UK for nine years. It brings Husband and I full circle to my Birthdays spent in the UK whilst he is in Singapore. (Maybe that’s the pattern for all our future moves.) I would much rather he was here than there and I take that as a good sign too.

So this Birthday Eve marks the beginning of something truly new. I’m interested to see what’s going to come in the next year. Yesterday on my run down country lanes I found a horse shoe and horse shoes they say bring good luck, so I hope it will be sprinkled with a dollop of good luck. And some for you too. 

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Thank you Singapore, you have been amazing!

Did you think I would leave Singapore on a sad note? That is not my style. I am going out with a happy face emoji like this 😊 and perhaps with a few of these thrown in too 🤗😍🤗😍😮.

I woke up from a good nights sleep 😴 at the Shangri La Rasa on Sentosa and no one could wake up unhappy ☹️ there. #1’s favourite part of any holiday is unlimited, help yourself breakfast buffet 😋. All the places we have travelled to around South East Asia have done this really well. But without thinking I went for the full English fry up instead of roti prata and soup noodles. 🙄

I’m on my way with #1, 2 and 3 to the UK🇬🇧 leaving Husband to fend for himself in Singapore 🇸🇬for a while longer. That’s the hardest part of this move😥. It would be totes different if we were all starting off this new chapter at the same time but you know, we’ll be ok. I will miss Husband and so will #1, 2 and 3 but we’ll take each day as it comes. 

Hence there’s this slight panic 😵 over suddenly parenting three on my own. Especially since we’ve had home help for the last seven years but fear not, I do know how to work the washing machine, I’ll do the ironing whilst watching Netflix and suddenly I’m all for dishwashers even though in my green marital days I told Husband we would never need a dishwasher as that’s just lazy 😒 and when we had kids they would do chores around the house like cleaning and stuff. Except I forgot to factor in that they need to weigh more than the vacuum cleaner before they are of much use 😕. Though I can already see that #3 has a clear talent for cleaning which will come in handy 🤗 and #2 is handy with some carpentry and #1 can do laundry sorting.

Among all the advice I’ve been given about parenting the regular way like the rest of the world, these are my new best friends first and foremost…. 🍷🍷🍷🍺🍺🍺🍻🍻🍻🍻🥂🥂🥂🍸🍸🍸🍹🍹🍹🥃🥃🥃. And in the UK these new friends cost way less than Singapore. Bonus. 🤗.

But that aside, I’m packed up 🎒 and ready to start this next new adventure of our own. Thank you for all your kind words of friendship and support these past few weeks. I’m so grateful for friends who have had #1, 2 and 3 over for all day, and I do mean all day, play dates, when the packers were around. Thank you for making the time to fit in last minute catch ups and dinners. Even at the very last hour for one more glass of bubbles.

Of course there’s a part of me that’s still sad 😫. Like not being in the same time zone as Brilliant New Adventure and having to wait hours for a reply to my photo and ‘what do you think of these?’ messages. But I’m so very glad that nine years ago, fate would put us both together again. ❤️.

Besides some of the more obvious life changing experiences involving travel, parenthood and Gainful Employment in a new country, the biggest and most significant experience I’ve encountered is the network of inspiring women I’ve met. 💪. Having reached that 40 PLUS milestone and starting afresh in your 40s, it could seem a bit daunting. Note I say could. But I’m totally nonplussed about that. I’ve been surrounded by strong, independent women all these years who do nothing but support each other in everyday things, sporting achievements and Gainful Employment advancement to have learnt a thing or two about communication and camaraderie. 👏.
For the past nine years I have had the support of many amazing women to get through all these new challenges. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it without you. I will miss your sound advice and good shoes 👠. But I know you’re just one whatsapp away.

Even though I have mentioned on other social media platforms that Twin One has a certain knack of encouraging my running 🏃🏼‍♀️prowess, I would not push myself as far without her watchful eye 👀. I’m pretty sure she’ll continue doing so when I’m over there too. And so she should. 👍. But covering four running routes in this last week whilst residing at Windsor Castle has taken a toll on my knees but filled my heart. 


  
There’s still a lot I’ve not done in Singapore and I keeping hearing of new hidden gems all the time like Mrs Imperturbable’s love of torch ginger and foraging for fresh herbs at Fort Canning.  As I sat there on a sun lounger watching #1, 2 and 3 charge around the poolside, I couldn’t help but feel thankful for all the amazing experiences I’ve had. The opportunity to travel to places I would never imagine I’d make it to and still more that I didn’t get to but feel I must some day.

At this juncture, I have new opportunities ahead and I have additional experiences, expectations and understanding to add to it. That’s quite something to keep in mind. 
Yes, I’ll miss Singapore and Asia. I’ll miss being in a culture that is also partly my own but now I know far better how to integrate that part into the lives of #1, 2 and 3. Lion dancing around the living room. Lantern walking in the garden. Earl grey chiffon cake for afternoon tea 🎂☕️.

This Singapore sojourn has been an amazing experience for Husband and I but it’s time for a new chapter. And almost like fate is guiding us towards it, just as I’m walking into the breakfast room this morning I happen to bump into an old friend who made the move to the UK just two and a half years ago. Hearing first hand of how it has been for their family has been so good to hear and we are already looking forward to catching up in the UK.

And don’t think I’m not thinking about all you people in the UK who I can’t wait to see! I just need to find a car 🚙 and house🏘 to live in before I’ll be making our first British summer road trip. 

And you know what? I can’t wait to see what this next chapter brings. 🤗😊

Thank you Singapore. I’ll miss all that is good about you. I’ll miss all these faces and so many more. Let me hug you all again right now. 🤗😘

But for now it is time to say Hello again UK! See you tomorrow 😍.

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Out with a bang

It’s my last sleep as a resident of Singapore. 

That is unless I get in an afternoon nap tomorrow which I hope is highly likely. I have no doubt we will be back to visit every now and then and marvel at what has changed and what remains the same.  There is much to love about Singapore. The weather is one where most people rave about what seems like an endless summer. Most days I’ve just felt hot and sweaty or even more hot and sweaty but I am definitely sure on a long, dark winter day I will look at photos of blues skies over Marina Bay Sands and wonder whether I will ever feel so hot and sweaty again. Perhaps I will even kid myself that I actually liked the hot and sweatiness and never lived in a semi permanent state of heat rage. 

Like most things you’re about to let go of, you suddenly feel reluctant to do so. A feeling that kept arising as I was trying to clear stuff out last weekend. On one hand, I never wore that blue top. But on the other hand, it’s a perfectly good top and I definitely could wear it again at some point maybes. Luckily Brilliant New Adventure happened to be right next to me, no doubt itching to grab a bin bag and declutter in a more efficient manner, she immediately picked up said offending garment and placed it in the see-no-more-forever pile. Which I then may or may not have retrieved from the bin bag. I honestly can’t remember.

In fact, this whole process has gone by in a sleepless blur. I haven’t slept more than 6 hours for quite a number of days. Some days I’ve been down to just three. I could close my eyes and fall fast asleep right now but sleep can wait a few days more. It seems having put into motion such a life changing big decision, I have the lost the ability to make simple everyday ones. Like what to eat when meeting friends for lunch and dinner. Often resorting on the goodwill of others to take pity and decide for me. Things must be pretty dire because when it comes to food, that never happens. I will eat what I want to eat and have some of yours too. When I’ve been asked what will I miss most about Singapore, one of the top three has to be the food. From $4 hawker centre fayre to amazing fine dining experiences at Michelin starred restaurants. Singapore – you have spoilt my tastebuds forever. Though I have to say that kidney beans and sweet corn should not be classified dessert components. Yet I was looking at #1, 2 and 3 tuck into an ice kachang this afternoon and they seem to find the combination very much a regular thing. 

And that’s the thing as #2 clearly demonstrated earlier this week. She identifies herself as being Singaporean, she knows Husband and I are not and therefore are the reasons why we have to move away from Singapore. The logic is quite simple in her mind. Singapore is our home. It’s been home for as long as #1, 2 and 3 have been around. So where are we moving to? It certainly can’t be home as home is here. It was an interesting observation made to me some six or seven years ago when I was still fairly new to the whole living away from home thing. I naturally missed the UK very much and spending time with valued friends always made it difficult to leave. But like with most things, something changes over time very subtly that you don’t even notice you think less about being over there and much more about being here.

So now it’s time to head back over there. Be positive for me and don’t tell me you’d rather be here instead of over there. That’s not very helpful when one is trying to imagine a whole new life someplace else. But actually I can’t even imagine what that whole new life will look like. I don’t have feelings of great euphoria but I’m also not being dragged out of Singapore against my will. I know that if we had decided to stay, a whole host of things would pop up that would make me feel less than content. But as with any occasion of letting go of something, there’s that slight panic of wanting to stick with something familiar, predictable even if it’s just not quite right it seems better than the unknown. But we are more brave souls than that aren’t we.

I know a new life is exciting and I am more than equipped to put into motion building a new life for ourselves. The possibilities of creating new memories for everyone makes me want to get on with it right now. Or tomorrow even. I can see small bubbles of new memories just ready and waiting to be collected. Things like Christmas in cold weather. The change of seasons. Walks up mountains and down valleys. These are the good things that will counterbalance the not so good things. The important lesson to remember is to keep moving forward and whilst you may mourn the loss of your old life, you should make the most of the present. 

In saying that, I’ve found myself organising gatherings and outings that has focussed on visiting familiar faces and places. The nostalgia is clearly all my own. For when #1, 2 and 3 have had play dates with old friends we haven’t seen so much of lately, they get right back into things without missing a heartbeat. And you wonder why you didn’t make more effort to see each more often especially when the children get on so well together. Easy to say outside of all school or Gainful Employment related activities. But it is still good to know and I wonder whether #1 and 2 will remember any of this time together. And I wonder how will we keep these many relationships going. This network of international buddies all over the globe. These kids are really lucky to be aware of the wider world at such a young age and to have friends in many interesting and wonderful countries to visit. I do intend on visiting many people when we’re back in the UK and hope that we will be just as comfortable with each other.  

Even though I have been on the farewell trail for some time, it still doesn’t quite feel real. I think I’m actually too tired to let the emotions hit me properly. It will probably happen some time next week when I’ve had more sleep. Or perhaps you and I over here are pretty good friends as it is and whilst things may be different, we will always be friends. I hope so. As I think back over the last five weeks of the farewell trail, I have seen so many of you for BBQs, coffee, lunch, dinner and running. The people who have been a part of our lives these past nine years at different stages. People who have provided good company, wise counsel and booze. People who #1, 2 and 3 adore. Whose children I have watched grow up. I know I will remain in contact with many of you and I know there are some people I may never see again. Two people said that to me as we hugged Farewell and that really unsettled me. There are of course, hundreds of people I’ve met and never seen again from days gone by. But when it’s said out loud, it can make you feel quite odd and sad to realise the high chances of it happening.

I had a list of Things To Do Before Leaving Singapore. The usual tourist hotspots but what #1 and 2 cared most about was seeing friends. Isn’t that lovely? And every spare moment has been spent catching up with old friends and yet still I didn’t get around to seeing all of you. So you’ll just have to stay on in Singapore until my next visit. And I wonder who will still be here in a year or two posting photos and check ins at places I once went to. 

Repatriation they say is harder than moving to a new country. But I guess it’s all about perspective. I have many new things to learn before I’ll even get our new family life going. It will definitely be different and hard but it is also different and hard over here too.  What makes it all worth while are the people you meet and I have met some wonderful people.

 

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A life packed up and ready to go

I guess one who is more organised than I am will not have forgone sleep these past few weeks getting sorted out having known for a few months in advance there’s an international move ahead. It would have been more prudent to slowly shed stuff gradually instead of in the way one crams for an exam the night before. But this is also a good example of how one works well under pressure too.

As I sit here writing to you in the corner of our spare room, I am watching a team of five efficiently at work moving the bits and pieces of our lives to be neatly stacked into the back of a van as if setting up for a giant game of Jenga without any of the pieces falling down.

It has been at times an overwhelming experience sorting through what to keep and what not to keep. What is important and what is not needed as a memory, a momento of a special event. Some of the things that I’ve kept, you may not even recall giving to me, some pieces you definitely will. 

It seems a purge every now and then is good for the soul. What seemed essential in that moment, suddenly holds less meaning later on as it’s replaced with something bigger. I don’t like to throw things out after a single use but isn’t it more wasteful having things sitting there idly. In sorting out what comes and what goes, I’m still reluctant to throw without thinking and prefer everything to go to homes where its use will be appreciated. I’ve tried to sell a few things and the bit of money I’ve made has been handy but sometimes it’s like a full time job. What has given me satisfaction is how others are pleased to receive said items who have more skill or time to do something with them. As I undertook this cleansing of things, it did make one feel lighter but also made me want to make much better use of the things I’ve kept. 

Taking a good look at all of our things threw up some lovely surprises such as photos I came across. There were also many amnesiac moments of how did that get there! Mostly though there was a feeling of letting go and moving on. Letting go of a stage in our lives that has long past. These children of mine are no longer babies, toddlers or preschoolers. It’s time to embrace the next stage. Some of you may be thrilled that you yourself have reached this stage. I am too but there is a part of me that laments how fleeting it all now seems. Letting go of things naturally doesn’t mean you lose the memories but things can trigger a memory and it’s a warm feeling to remember that moment.

Singapore is where we began our family life. Where we got through the crazy, new parenting days with the help of so many amazing friends who guided us and supported us and left an indelible mark. Most have already left Singapore years ago and it will be easier to catch up with them when we are back over in the UK. I guess what is heavy on my mind though is all these familiar places and sights that have shaped the life we have with #1, 2 and 3. 

Nearly every day we pass the hospital where they were born, the condos we’ve lived at, the water fountains they ran around in for free entertainment. All these places in a 15 kilometre radius. We may be halfway  around the globe but the space we carry out our daily lives is actually quite small. But it is so familiar. For me and #1, 2 and 3. And ironically this is one of the reasons why we are ready for the move. To experience something bigger. To travel around the UK, Europe, US. Asia is beautiful and many kinds of wonderful but there is much more out there that I want to see and do.

There is just the middle bit to get through. The disruption period.

The date on the calendar marking the packers arrival means there is no turning back. This move is happening and it’s for real this time. You can be as prepared as you like for them to wrap up all your belongings ready for a new start but in your heart it’s the last vestige of letting go of this life and getting ready for the beginning of a new one. 

Letting go of a familiar routine, even one that you may have tired of, is not often easy. Procrastinating is far easier. I’m ready for a change. It’s easy enough to say but change is a process that needs working through. Whether it’s about relationships, an image overhaul or career focus.  It happens over time with many different building blocks coming together to create a new picture. Like one of those digital advertising panels that flips over a square at a time. 

We can be impatient for change and other times we want to delay it just a while longer because we know that change brings about uncertainty. It takes us out of our comfort zone. It requires reinvention to a degree and it means putting yourself out there again. I have just found my network of familiars who accept my thoughts as they come and now I’m going to have to find some more all over again. Lucky unknown you.

As I buzzed up the packers, the feeling of being overwhelmed was, well, overwhelming. They are here not just to pack up my things. They are here to signify the end of an era. Living in such a transient city as Singapore this is not unusual. It’s what expat living is all about. It’s a merrygoround of people coming and going and over the years I seem to have gotten used to that too.

But you know, it’s almost like the packers know this time can be fraught. I have done three local moves where it has been a frenzy of activity and movement. They swarm in and everything disappears. I was concerned it would be like that this time and how little control just watching from the sidelines would make me feel at a time where there are many unknown variables left to figure. But it’s been very calm and I feel so much better. Still in need of sleep though.

And so here we are. Everything is loaded and ready to go. Am I ready to go?

I need to take in a deep breathe and release the tension and stress of the last few weeks. All the wrapping up of school for #1, 2 and 3. The final catch ups and play dates. The gearing up for something new that may not start off wonderfully but we will get there. 

The same as how we got to here starting a new life from the beginning in Singapore. I’m a little bit teary. A little bit sad and nostalgic. But I’m grateful for this experience and opportunities I’ve had to travel and meet so many people from different cultures and be educated on a wider world that has opened my mind and heart. 

But yes. I do think I’m ready to go. My stuff is moving and I need to go with it. 

Thank you to Classic Moving Services for a professional and reassuring team led by Mr Sam who came amidst chaos and calmly sorted it all out with a cheerful smile. 

 

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It’s 2016 good and proper

We’re only five days into 2016 and there has been no easing into it gently. 

It was a good decision to stay at home this Christmas holidays. With the big changes we have had in 2015, it made a lot more sense to enjoy some fairly low key quiet time in Singapore together even though it was very tempting to make a quick trip some place else. When you don’t spend much time at home, it’s good to appreciate it again. Whilst realising at the same time that I really need to do a big clear out……..

Anyways, the holidays have been long for #1 and 2 but I think they enjoyed themselves and of course Christmas and Star Wars played a big part of it. Tomorrow they are back to Big School. So one final act to mark the end of the holiday season was the taking down of the Christmas tree decorations. Gone are the twinkling lights and brightly coloured baubles. Long gone are the presents under the tree. It’s time to pack all the decorations away for just another 11 months and if you can’t wait until then the shops will be fully stocked by September.

  
But for now, it’s time to start the New Year!

Or if you’re in Singapore, it’s time to start preparing for the new Lunar New Year! I can’t believe how fast the shops were to empty its shelves of Christmas paraphanalia to make way for Chinese New Year stuff. Definitely leaving no room for festive sentimentality but that’s another occasion.

There was only semi drunken debauchery this year but any kind of mild drunken debachary can lead to a very slow start the next day. What was highly exciting is being able to stay out until nearly 2am and catch the new MRT line from right outside Singapore Bake Off’s condo to the nearest station to ours that’s just a 10 minutes walk home. How times have changed. Like wanting a comfortable seat and the music at a level you can actually hear a conversation going on around you. The great thing about #1, 2 and 3 being that little bit older this year is that we can prepare their breakfast utensils the night before and how grown up is it for them to pour cereal into their bowls themselves without Grown Up supervision! Unlimited Cocopops! It’s New Year’s Day afterall.  

Whilst there was huge antipcation of what 2015 would bring and a degree of uncertainty with it too, 2016 looks  more settled. Insofar that I’ve made the leap back into Gainful Employment, we’re still living in Singapore and #1 and 2 have started Big School. With these transitions and constants also brings new perspectives such as the whole work life balance question. The most important thing for me is family and spending time with #1, 2 and 3. Equally important is spending time with Husband. As is spending time for yourself. And friends. And family. 

I know last year there were many moments I felt like time was running away from me. Not enough time for #1, 2 and 3, for Husband, for myself, friends and family as I adjusted back to a life that involved Gainful Employment. It’s only with hindsight that you realise such a big change is a big deal and you down play it because there are lots of people who are in exactly the same position and who have been in that position a whole lot longer. But there’s no point being hard on yourself. 
  
Whilst I wouldn’t make it a New Year Resolution to spend more time doing all the above, I’m more conscious of decisions that places those things at the centre of it. Perhaps it means being a little more selective rather than agreeing to everything but time well spent is something I’m after doing more of. Because as you know, time can pass by so quickly. Already we’ll be a week into the new year and whilst it’s still a long few weeks before pay day, we’re already wishing away January.

Except if you’re #1 who turns a big SEVEN very soon. There is no time to sit back and rest on your laurels as life is forever evolving and we’re trying to keep up with everything that is going on. 

It’s exciting though and looking ahead there are big events to look forward to. This year we’ll be welcoming new family members. I can hardly believe that our Dazzler, who I looked after when he was a small child, is about to become a father himself. There are weddings to look forward to (d0n’t break out into a cold sweat, I’m not referring to just you and you know who you are!) Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and people to see again. Races to run, new skills to learn, old projects to finish off. 

With a new year brings a time to plan ahead and embrace the good things. Things that I’m very much looking forward to. It’s also a time to acknowledge the things that you wish to change and not be bound by reasons why you can’t. 

Happy New Year! Wishing you good health, happiness, peace, resilience and much love.

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