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

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 first Reality TV Celebrity US President

I cannot lie, I once enjoyed a reality television show. Big Brother. Wife Swap. The Apprentice. I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. But I’m now so over the idea of such shows that in my haste to condemn them, I almost forget I ever enjoyed watching them in the first place.

If I remember back to the early years of Big Brother, in the early days of reality tv shows in fact, everything seemed more innocuous. I quite enjoyed getting home on a Friday night for 9pm to watch Big Brother. It was actually nail biting tense to have your particular favourite up for eviction. We even had Big Brother Final Night dinner parties. Mostly heavy in attendance of one gender over the other. I can’t remember what was so fascinating or appealing about watching a group of everyday people in one place. Sometimes funny, sometimes cringeworthy, sometimes outrageous. Perhaps it was because they were just everyday people that made it seem intrigueing. And most of all seemingly harmless.

Like with all such tv shows, after a few series, it all begins to go horribly wrong. In a bid for more ratings. To up the ante on the previous year. In pursuit of fame the easy way. Who can be more outrageous. How can we humiliate the contestants. Make them cry, crying always gets the ratings up. And a romance. Will they or won’t they on live TV. 

Nowadays, I wish this genre of so called entertainment would just go away. Instead it has evolved into the docusoap. Following the lives of already famous people like The Osbournes to making people famous like the Kardashians because we have created a monster out of this. I can only be glad that by the time I left the UK shows like The Only Way Is Essex, Made in Chelsea and Real Housewives of Orange County do not feature on my radar. 

It makes me angry that the ‘stars’ of these shows are famous. For what? It’s bred a whole plethora of talentless ‘celebrities’ for no purpose whatsoever, except perhaps to fill column inches in the Daily Mail. What makes me despair some more is that people aspire to these ‘celebrities’. Aspire to being a reality tv star as a get there quick route to infamy. And then after your 15 minutes of fame is over, you still desperately cling onto it. But why were you famous to begin with? Many for all the wrong reasons.
You may say, if you don’t like such TV then don’t watch it. I no longer do. But it’s there and normalised. So normalised that there’s a whole generation of people who have grown up watching this tripe and think it’s acceptable to bully others, be racist, belittle, humiliate yourself and others for the viewing pleasure of millions of people. 
It worries me as a parent of a future generation. Am I being overly melodramatic you say? I don’t think so. There are no boundaries it seems. Do you remember the first time that Jools Holland uttered the F word on live tv? It was outrageous! As if none of us uses the F word if not daily then at least once a week. There has to be boundaries. And I don’t know where they are. Can Husband and I alone set these boundaries for #1, 2 and 3 to live by? Are we enough? It’s only enough if society also has these boundaries. How can we say don’t film someone so out of their minds on booze and upload it on YouTube when on the other hand you turn on the TV and you have it there? 
I need others to also find it enough. I don’t want to be pushed beyond limits of taste and decency. I don’t want to be told that you’re going to appear on a show and expect to do mind boggling things in next to nothing. I don’t want that on my TV anymore. And I certainly don’t want my children thinking this is reality. 
Reality TV is quite a dangerous thing I’ve realised. It’s so full of drama. I often watch the interactions of young people and wonder if these tendencies to overact every nuance is a by product of this tv era. I really worry. I worry for the impression it’s going to leave on my two girls should these shows still be on going in 10 years time. They’ve survived 16 years already and seem to show no signs of abating with the myriad of cable channels available for broadcasting. 
Perhaps this is why the Great British Bake Off became such an unexpected hit. As an antidote to the trash of other shows. I’ve only managed to watch two series but it was so reassuringly soothing. And I love the fact there was real talent involved. Not just about getting into a bikini or your kit off. Being rude and obnoxious. Real talent and something beautiful that you can eat at the end of it. Even then though, the media tried to make it something more sensational with the contestants being too bitchy or too pretty. 

Reality TV is also dangerous because it fooled me into thinking Donald Trump was harmless. I’ve never really watched The Apprentice US version but in recent months, I’ve become horrified that reality TV gave this man a platform to give him the exposure and following that he now has. Today as citizens of the  USA go to the polls and make a very important decision, I worry again at what the outcome may be tomorrow. 

Was it ever a career trajectory for Donald Trump to use The Apprentice US as a springboard to becoming the 45th President of the USA? I thought Donald Trump was a figure of buffoonery. A showman. In it just for effect. I never once imagined he would get this far to becoming one of the most influential global powers. And this is the power of television. For good and bad. Six hours a day. That’s the average number of hours a person watches tv. Unlikely it’s going to be filled with documentaries. It’s time to wisen up our viewing audience. 
If for some cosmic joke he is elected as President, I blame reality TV. I place the heavy burden of influencing such lack of judgement on a nation by the choice of TV programmes that have been brewing and feeding people’s minds for almost two decades. This should be a sign that we should get rid of all such programmes. 

It has given us nothing of substance, no people of character worthy of our attention and let’s certainly hope it doesn’t give us our first Reality TV Celebrity President.

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A lot of Treats and no Tricks

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

Happy Halloween!

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I can still do this

You’ve lost your touch. 

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

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

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

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

Indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Laughs in unexpected places

Jimmy Carr played a gig in Singapore last Tuesday. Ticket prices were slightly on the inflated side, especially when the last time I saw him live was at the Hen and Chicken theatre, Islington for the princely sum of £10 with Ms Beefy back in 2007. 

But you know, sometimes it’s worth paying a premium for some home comfort laughs. Like the time John Cleese and Al Murray came to Singapore and I belly laughed the whole way through until I felt a bit dizzy. 

Who doesn’t love a pee your pants laughing session? Which one of us doesn’t need one from time to time either. Especially being the responsible Grown Ups that we are.

However, I never got the chance to belly laugh with Jimmy Carr as I had to take a work trip to Sumatra and drive through miles and miles of palm oil and pulp and paper plantations to get to a very small patch of natural forest where you may still find the odd wild elephant and tiger. If you’re lucky.

See what I mean about needing a good old belly laugh. 

But you know, when you book tickets for a comedy film or show then you sort of expect a laugh or two along the way. As I said earlier, humour is quite unique. I think of the people I hang out with the most and it’s the people whose humour I get. Or they get you. 

There’s nothing more painful in good company than not finding the same things funny. Or cringing at something totally unfunny or inappropriate from someone trying too hard.

Truly funny people love storytelling. They are natural entertainers. Sociable people who enjoy making others feel good. 

On a very humdrum Tuesday afternoon in the middle of working day, I book a cab to head to a meeting. Mind full of checklists and wondering where it is I’m heading to. I don’t often catch cabs in Singapore. Sometimes I try and make conversation. Other times I’m too concerned with the cab driver’s interpretion of road safety rules. 

On occasion you come across a real gem of a character. Inspiring accounts of personal struggle, patriotic pride or like today, pure comedy genius. 

It all started with one question. One that he probably hears all the time. “So Uncle, are you not ready to retire and enjoy yourself?”

Which results in him lamenting the need to work and work in Singapore. How he has worked and worked to raise five children. That he intends to work and work for a few more years and retire in Japan. 

But his is not a tale of hardship. He brushes over the difficult years when the five children were young and times were tough. Now, he says, they’re all grown up with the eldest being a year younger than me. 

I don’t know how much time he actually spends ferrying fee paying customers to support his retirement as he talked about fetching his children and grandchildren here and there. An act of kindness that must be a bone of contention with his wife who he says is always on his case about why he doesn’t charge his children and grandchildren a fare. 

He says she always going on about it and I say what to do it’s our son/daughter/grandchild. She says you ask them to pay like everyone else. Then I say to her ok the next time you ask me to collect you then you pay, she yells at me “what? I’m your wife and you’re asking me to pay?”

He continues in entertaining fashion for the remainder of the journey which sadly was all too short. As we pull up to my drop off point, I thank him for such a funny time. He rounds down the fare because he doesn’t want any coins. For that I round it back up to give him extra notes. 

Laughter is afterall priceless. 

As I head out to find where I’m going I feel so much lighter which puts me in a much clearer frame of mind ahead of my meeting.
If only that happened everyday, how much happier we would be. 

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What happened to Birthday Eve? 

As Mrs Cake Pops pointed out eight days ago, I demonstrated little fanfare on Birthday Eve this year. 

How out of character you may think. Unless you saw my Facebook post at the start of August declaring that it was Birthday month. Indeed.

Truth is, I was just too busy to dedicate much time to Birthday Eve having just come back from a week away in Thailand. You sort of think that a two hour flight with #1, 2 and 3 should be a breeze these days and on the whole it is but the whole travelling thing is still quite exhausting. Especially as I’ve mentioned before that as the years roll by my exuberance for air travel wavers somewhat. The mere mention of turbulence has me in a silent panic. As the plane jolted around for a few minutes I could hear #1 and 2 whooping like we’re on a roller coaster as I grip the arm rests.

Birthday Eve is significant in that it marks the end of your own personal year. The last day of an age you’ll never be again. As far as being 41 goes, on the whole I can definitely leave that one behind as a year that ranked lower than some other years but also contained some good stuff too.
It was a year of huge change with the return to Gainful Employment and #1 and 2 starting Big School. There has been sadness as well but also joy with new family members to meet. World events also played a part. All these things combined is tiring. Exhausting even. 
As Birthday Eve and even Birthday passed, I looked over my shoulder and acknowledged some of the challenges that 41 came with and realised that whilst some of them were rather rubbish, they wouldn’t define the whole year. There were learnings definitely and to take something away from such experiences can only add to yourself and not detract. 

After all in a few more years what happened at 41 will become distant memory. Think back to all the years where it hasn’t felt so amazing and then suddenly it is amazing. Nothing truly lasts forever and in the great scheme of things, can you really expect every year to be amazing. You would never learn anything new. About yourself and others.

But already 42 (42!!) has started off pleasingly. I realised what needs to happen more often is quite simple. I need to spend more time with friends and family. I really do. Get back to doing things that I enjoy. Be it running, cooking, crafting, pottering around, laughing. 

It is as simple as that. 

So Birthday was spent trying out a bar I’d heard plenty about. It’s one of those ‘hidden bar, secret password’ places with drinks menus in font size not designed with the elderly in mind. Followed by dinner at a place that has a six week waiting list. But for once I ‘know’ people who can get you in within three weeks. I am what they call connected.

Birthday Plus One was spent with Twin 1 and Twin 2 who generously hosted belated birthday celebrations for anyone who happened to have had a birthday in the past 12 months. If you greet most people with a ‘it’s been too long since…’ then it’s time to change that. 

Good conversation and company makes for an enjoyable evening but lob in a good party game with highly covetable prizes to be had leaves you going home decidedly satisfied. 

On it’s own a solar powered inflatable light may not seem like much but if you know you’re taking it off someone who highly desires it, well then it becomes much more enjoyable to drink a jumbo tumbler of whiskey with your newly acquired jumbo ice cubes by solar powered inflatable light. 

The reflection of Birthday Eve this year is that I didn’t spend the time doing anywhere near as much as I should have done of things that make you say that was a good Birthday year.
And so for this year of 42 I’m going to tip the balance the other way. 
Do more of what you love the most too. 

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The end of the first Big School year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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