Monday, April 27, 2009

I'll scream and scream and scream

Since Eve has been about 4 months old she has been pretty easy to put to bed at night. I would hear other parents' tales of endless rocking and soothing and feel quite grateful that I got my evenings back quite quickly. Of course it didn't mean that she would stay asleep, but at least she would drift off long enough for us to have dinner.

So why, after a year, has she suddenly decided that she will not, under any circumstances, go quietly to sleep? Last night she kept up the crying and screaming for 45 minutes until peace finally descended onto my evening. Tonight she only lasted 15 minutes but in that time screamed so hard that she managed to throw up on herself, her rug and me. I can only imagine it is a phase, that she really, really wants to stay up and play. I hope this, somewhat loud, phase passes soon.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A rare catch

Today I had lunch with a good girlfriend who was bemoaning the lack of nice, sensitive men in Hong Kong. This is a tale I have heard many times and, at risk of offending my male friends and loyal readers, in many respects I have to agree. This is not something exclusive to HK, but the usual men are from mars argument. It rings even more true when one has children and realises how little exposure boys growing up, or even older, get to the bits and bobs associated with babies and children. One memorable event was the reaction of a close (male) friend who visited me in hospital and looked at his feet the whole time I fed Eve.

On my way back to the office after my lunch I ran into a relatively new acquaintance, G. To all intents and purposes, G is a red blooded male. New in HK, goes out a lot, very easy on the eye, is a rower who has rowed at international level, works in finance. I don't think we've ever met away from the rowing course so we briefly chatted about the weekend. There was a rowing pub crawl on Saturday, which I didn't go to, and it turned out neither did he. By way of explanation I said it wasn't really my thing anymore. He agreed, so I felt the need to clarify and say that it used to be but I can't drink much anymore. He looked knowingly and asked "is that because you are still breastfeeding?".

I nearly fell over. I can't think of a single other man, alive, dead, married, unmarried, gay or straight who would have had the sensitivity, knowledge and interest to have asked that. It was so utterly lovely.

I've told a couple of girlfriends about this and they want to meet such a rare catch. Boys - listen and learn.

Things you shouldn't do with a toddler

I am slowly creating a list of things one should not do with a toddler. Screeching up the chart to number 1, even surpassing the "don't leave your toddler on a sofa, leave the room and expect her not to fall off and hurt herself" comes one from the Boy yesterday.

Do not fling your toddler down a water slide at the pool, head first, when her mother is shouting "don't" and is not even at the bottom to catch her. Apparently he didn't see the signs in bright red saying children under 12 should only go down with an adult, or the other red sign saying it was dangerous to go down head first. Eve, completely unimpressed at the slide and going head first into a deep pool of water only to be pulled out by a worried, and angry, Mummy was not very happy. She stuck to me, limpet like, and refused to go anywhere near her father until we were a long way from the pool. Sensibly so.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Not a million miles from here

An interesting article on the impact of pollution on children in Shanxi province in China. As I currently look out of my window onto the harbour at what the Hong Kong Observatory are optimistically calling "mist" I worry about the pollution here, but have nothing like these parents have to contend with.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tech whizz

Words are coming thick and fast now. The new one today was "pooter" to inform me that, no, Eve was not coming over to Mummy's chair while I was working for a Mummy cuddle, Mummy kiss, or Mummy slide but because she wanted to type on my laptop.

The Boy said he thought she would probably be able to use it better than me too.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

More breasts

Although I am well finished with breastfeeding, the ongoing debate about it still interests me. Therefore, I read with interest about a new study that claims breastfeeding offers all manner of health benefits for the mother as well as the child. Aside from the fact that I think everyone should just stop hassling us poor mothers and let us make our own choices, I was somewhat heartened that finally a study has looked at breastfeeding from the point of mums rather than relegating us to the position of functional dairy cows and focusing solely on the child.

More milestones

I do love my days working from home. Although I am sure Eve does all manner of things when I am not here that are similarly brilliant, she does seem to have a habit of saving new things for when I am here.

Today we passed two milestones.

Firstly, she has started to dance, and really enjoys it. In fact, so much that she sings too. I have danced with Eve since she was tiny, but all my efforts recently to get her to dance without my carrying her have ended up with me flailing around the flat like a loon while she watches on, slightly bemused. Today, without any prompting or even any music, she started to sing to herself and dance. I then put on a Lilly Allen CD and Eve, myself, and the toy Rudolph and bear, danced around happily for 20 minutes. It is at times like this I know I should get the video camera out, but I was having just as much fun too.

Secondly, she said thank you for the first time. Since she was born I have been very careful to say please and thank you for everything I give or get from Eve, often saying it for her. H does the same. Today, when I gave her my mobile phone to play with, I got a distinct "dank oo". It's not consistent, I've only had it once since then, but it is lovely nonetheless and my middle class polite tendencies are satisfied.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Baby socialite

Last night I went out for dinner with the most glamourous and fabulous man I know, S. I used to work with S and had been feeling rather guilty that I had lost touch since I had Eve. It sounds awful to say, but there are simply fewer hours in the day, less "me" time to be had, and some people fall off the radar despite your best intentions. Thankfully, S and I get on like a house on fire and it was as if we had never been apart. Being fabulous and knowing everyone and everywhere glamourous, he took me to a lovely Japanese restaurant I had not been to before in HK, very chic and positioned above the Gucci flagship store. I had a complete panic over what to wear, I don't go out much to super-glam places anymore, but the Louboutins and a LBD came to the rescue.

S, of course, knew the restaurant manager, general manager and most of the staff. He didn't even need to look at the menu because the staff know what he likes. We got the star table in the middle of the room and were treated like royalty. I felt like a princess, and one who got tiddly on a lot of sake.

However, when we entered the restaurant and were greeted by fawning staff, he introduced me as an old friend who had never been there before even though I lived in HK. I found myself mumbling "well I've just had a baby and don't go out much anymore" by way of explanation for this social faux pas. Halfway through the meal the restaurant manager came over to me, gave me her card and told me that they did a weekend brunch where there was a children's play area set up and to give her a call and she would make sure I got a table whenever I wanted.

Now where do I get a pair of baby-sized Louboutins?

The worst place to bring up children

Another day and another survey about child rearing. This time on the best countries in Europe for children to grow up. The UK ranks 24 on the list apparently, cue much navel gazing in the British media about the breakdown of the family, being too PC, and how one should bring back the birch, hanging and the stocks.

As someone who is bringing up her child overseas, this is something I often think about. There are pros and cons of anywhere. I like Hong Kong because it is very safe, the Chinese love children and so Eve is welcome almost anywhere, and there are lots of beaches, parks and most things are free. The schools are good, there is a good work ethic, we live close to a lot of very interesting places and countries and have a much more diverse group of friends than we would if we were in London. I don't like the pollution, the almighty dollar mentality, and some of the manners. But, for a child, it is a great place and I am happy for Eve to grow up here.

Which got me thinking about what it is about the UK that makes people think it is so bad for children. Whenever I go back and spend time there with Eve, and with my niece and nephews, it strikes me as a great place for children. Lots of open spaces, great museums, free and plentiful libraries and playgrounds, Europe so close. OK so the state school system gets a lot of knocks, but it isn't so bad (I went to one of London's sink schools until I was 16 and turned out OK), and it is free and with parental involvement works very well. Having read the article a number of times, I can't see what is so bad about the UK that can't squarely be laid at the feet of parents themselves for not taking advantage of all of this.

I would be interested in hearing from other Mummies, and non-Mummies, about where they live and what they think.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Shoes glorious shoes

It is a well known fact that Yummy Mummy rather likes shoes. It is, therefore, with some delight that I approach shoe shopping for Eve now she is walking. I've read the toddler rearing books so I am well versed in the need to get sensible shoes for her. She shouldn't, for example, wear anything higher than three inch heels until she is 5. I am also aware at how fast she grows out of things at the moment and how stupidly expensive shoes are. Since she first started to walk, we have done pretty well on the cost front. There is a stall in Stanley Market on the south side of HK island where a nice Chinese lady makes lovely leather shoes for children. The sizes are all over the place so it's a bit hit and miss trying to find what you want in the right size, but Eve's first pair of red shoes came from there at quite a sensible price. The second pair were even more of a bargain because they were a pair of Crocs, something of an obligatory item for any child in Asia, but came from a market in the Philippines and I suspect are not entirely legitimate.

However, Eve has grown out of the red shoes and her toes are nearly at the end of the Crocs so we needed to buy a new pair.

I had every intention of going to Stanley and buying the new pair from the nice Chinese lady. However, the Boy and I were in a shopping centre one Saturday and I was looking at a new pair of trainers for me when my attention was grabbed by a whole rack of small, pink items. I am of the persuasion that branded items for children is an indulgence, but they were so pretty and I got more excited than during the Jimmy Choo sale as I asked for more and more to be brought for Eve to try on. We finally settled on the cheaper end of the Adidas range, but when it came to finding out the price I was horrified. They cost about 70% of what the adult version would and are tiny. Really tiny. We bought them anyway, Eve did look adorable in them.

The Boy has a cunning plan to recoup the costs by taking lots of photos of Eve in different sports brands as a child and then, when she reaches inevitable sporting excellence (in his eyes - Olympic gold medals, winning Wimbledon, the first female F1 champion), we can increase her sponsorship value by having actual baby photos of her in the relevant brand.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More than words

Eve is starting to say more words so in addition to Da Da (which she says when she is being cute or pointing to the cat)and Ma Ma (when she wants something) she can now also say bear. We've had Be Be for a couple of weeks and then today, as I was changing her I gave her a koala to amuse her during the process she said, with perfect pronunciation "bear". Just to check it wasn't a fluke, I pointed at it a few more times and she said "bear" each time. Then her nanny did the same thing, in a different room, and we got "bear" every time. I almost got her to say tiger as well (came out as "digger"). The most adorable thing is that she can now hear when she gets it right and then giggles with happiness.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I have very fond memories of the family traditions that I grew up with. My parents, either by design or evolution, developed a number of little traditions that we held around festival times. Some of these lasted the test of time, such as being allowed to open one (just one) present after midnight mass at Christmas or the lego Santa. As my own little family grows, I want to find our own traditions. This desire found me, on the day before Easter, trying to find little eggs to hide all around our hotel room for Eve to find on Easter morning. My first preference had been to take her to church, but after the Tokyo experience and discouraging noises from the Boy, I decided to do something the whole family would enjoy and do a egg hunt. I bought a few little eggs and some chocolate bunnies from the supermarket near our hotel. Once Eve was asleep I hid them around the room, leaving one for me to put in her cot the next morning before she woke up.

The next morning I got up, in the dark before Eve was awake, popped to the bathroom and had nothing but placing this final chocolate on my mind. So much so that I walked out of the bathroom and promptly straight into the corner of the wall. I ended up with a bump not dissimilar to one of the eggs on my forehead and ice held to my face, sobbing quietly, as Eve watched bemused from her cot.

The hunt, started eventually, was a great success. One new tradition now in place. However, I don't intend to do the wall thing every year.

We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo, how about you, you, you

Singapore zoo is an amazing place. If you ever get the chance to go then do. It is billed as an "open" zoo, which means that other than some of the faster moving and jumping big cats, nothing is in a cage. Monkeys can roam free (Eve will never try to grab a cotton topped Tamarin again), the deer or giraffe could jump out of their enclosure but clearly can't be bothered, and the white rhino sat in their mud a few metres away eyeing us with boredom. There was something a bit unnerving about looking at a lion or tiger with no bars between you and the animal, but there have been no deaths as yet so I figure they are doing something right. A friend of mine strongly believes that the approach of the zoo is synonymous with the political approach in Singapore in that if you keep the captives well fed and happy then they have no reason to make a fuss.

Eve loved the zoo, but not in the usual "ahh, there are cute animals" way. In fact, she largely ignored most of the animals and seemed very non-plussed at all the tigers and rhinos and elephants that her mummy was getting excited over. Being a very child friendly place, for a small fee you could rent a little khaki green truck thing that you could seat your toddler in and push or pull them around. We got one with a little door. Eve loved it. It would not be an exaggeration to say she found it the most exciting part of the whole zoo experience and would not be parted from it. While we were waiting for the jaguar feeding Eve decided that she wanted to push the cart herself. As we were, at this point, sandwiched in a small hot room with about 30 other people I wouldn't let her, there was nowhere to push it except into other peoples' knees. Cue a meltdown of the strongest, and loudest order, so that in my very British-my-child-cannot-ever-disrupt-other-people way I ended up taking her out of the room. However, I couldn't get the cart and a screaming Eve out of the tiny room so left the cart there, which made her even louder and more upset. Until I showed her a little yellow flower, which she pulled apart, and all was right with the world.

Island for children

The Easter weekend saw us in Singapore on a family long weekend. The flight out was, as predicted, wonderful. If you are travelling with a toddler and have the cash or miles fly the new Singapore airlines business class then beg, borrow or steal to do so - the seats could house a family of 5 so Eve sat next to me to eat her lunch at the same time as I ate mine. It was wonderful not to have a squirming toddler on my lap while I threw bread and pasta onto her head. Anyway, I digress. Singapore is a brilliant place for children. Most families new to Asia, given a choice between Hong Kong and Singapore, tend to choose there simply because on the face of things it is so child friendly. I must admit it is. The whole place is set up for kids. Aside from the Asian love of all things small and cute, everywhere is child-friendly. Every restaurant or cafe we went into had child seats - something I have never found anywhere else - and people to help you get them and put them in place. Even the Indian cafe on the beach where we went, bikini clad, for lunch had children's seats and a children's menu. Almost every major attraction had a special area for children so we enjoyed the botanic gardens (with a children's garden complete with sandpit and fountains to play in), the zoo (kidszone with a pool and little pull along carts for the kids to ride in), and the aquarium (a petting pool full of stingrays). Even when Eve was shouting at the top of her lungs at breakfast in our nice hotel, the staff would play peek-a-boo with her and other guests would smile and laugh at her. They even have a toy museum. It was the perfect child-holiday.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Queen of the playground

Tonight when I went to pick up Eve, one of the boys and his nanny were playing badminton precariously close to the roof of the swimming pool entrance. Of course, the shuttle ended up on the roof. The roof is probably only about 7 foot high, but way beyond the reach of the children or the nannies, all of whom are from South East Asia and none over 5 ft tall.

So, it fell upon me, as the tallest person in the playground, to try to get the shuttle down. Despite donning my 6 inch red heels, and leaping like a loon, it was too high. I tried to knock it down with a football but my throwing is so bad I couldn't get near it. I had quite a crowd watching me now. In a flash of inspiration, I asked the tallest boy in the playground to go up on my shoulders. He looked a bit worried, but gamely clambered on, reached up and grabbed the shuttle, to applause from the crowd.

My playground kudos has reached stratospheric levels now.

First words

After many stresses of worrying about Eve being looked after by a nanny who is not a native English speaker and how this would be stunting her language development, she is finally starting to speak. She understands pretty much everything we say but has not taken to using more than baby babble herself until yesterday.

How do I know she is now doing this? Because yesterday she stood underneath the shelf where her toys are kept and shouted "ma ma" with quite discernable anger in her voice until I came and lifted her up to pick one. She later did the same thing when she wanted a book. So, my darling daughter's first word is one to get the attention of her willing slave.

She also says "dax" every time a taxi goes past. Already a child of Hong Kong then.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Mummies around the world

I am no good at technology so when Fraught Mummy sent me a link to a blog that is aiming to get as many Mummy bloggers from all around the world to write the five things they love about being a Mum (see previous post for the links) and then "tag" to each other I thought I'd give it a go. I have no idea what tagging is (can someone help me?) but in anticipation of impending multinational linking, here are my five.

1. Seeing everything through Eve's eyes means seeing them as if for the first time. What fun can be had from an empty bucket, or throwing sand, or the wonder of birds flying overhead. Everything seems fresh and wonderful, and I am falling in love with the sheer amazing beauty of everything around us. I can't believe I never noticed it before.

2. Having a little person who loves being with me. It doesn't matter if I have no make up on, am so hungover that I can't string a sentence together, that I am padding around in an old t-shirt and a pair of dirty pants. She just likes being around me. And the feeling is mutual.

3. Lots and lots of fun and letting my creativity run wild. From setting up a tent in the lounge with a sheet and two chairs, to having a reasoned discussion with Eve about whether the toy panda or the toy giraffe will go the farthest if I throw them along the floor (the giraffe if you are wondering, although the sting ray is the king of slip slide as he has something of an aerodynamic advantage), to painting and getting covered in paint. That and falling in love with children's books again.

4. Realising that there is more to life than work, shoes, what people think of me, how thin or pretty I am, whether I earn enough money [delete as appropriate]. All that really matters is the people you love and making sure they are safe and happy.

5. Becoming a member of a club I didn't know existed, Mummies. It is a fantastic bunch of women who often display a quite amazing capacity for coping with what life throws at them. And the closeness between my own mother and me now that I am a member too.

Her Bad Mother: The World According To Mom

Her Bad Mother: The World According To Mom

Thursday, April 2, 2009

What to expect when...

Having had the baby book in the loo for the past 2 weeks, it has done the trick of putting me off having another baby for a bit longer. I read, in the bath, the chapter on the first six weeks and it all seemed a little too recent to want to do it again. So, the book has been joined by my new copy of "What to expect... the toddler years". The previous version for pregnant women was my bible while I was pregnant, and this one is similarly practical, sensible and covers most eventualities.

The only problem, however, is that the appendix has a rather comprehensive list of all the awful diseases children can get with lots of bold letters scattered around to scare you. I am now, on Eve's behalf, becoming a hypochondriac. Reye syndrome anyone? I know all about it now and it is SCARY.

Mile high club

The family are off to Singapore for Easter. We were going to Vietnam, but the Boy is working in Singapore for most of April so we thought that rather than the ridiculous situation of him flying back from Singapore on Thursday, to Vietnam on Friday, and then back again on Monday - Eve and I would go to Singapore to join him. This decision is also helped by me having miles for Singapore Airlines (an airline no good for us except to go to Singapore) that need to be used up by May. So, in the spirit of my daughter always seeming to fly business class, and the sheer number of miles I have that are about to run out, Eve and I are flying to Singapore in their swanky new business class.

On the way back we are flying with the Boy, using miles again. However, the Boy, whose company is paying for his flight back, is on a cheapo economy fare that can't be upgraded. Goody, I thought, Eve can be with Daddy back in cattle and I can enjoy champagne and movies in peace for the first time in a very long time. I made a few considerate noises about feeling a bit guilty about him being back in economy with Eve, but not so loud that anyone would actually be able to hear them.

I have just got the ticket for Eve through. She is with me in business class. It would appear that the Boy is going to have a restful flight, albeit back in the cheap seats, while I toddler-wrangle on my own next to businessmen glaring at me.

This was not what I had been imagining. Although she could be useful in taking champagne back to Daddy.

Postscript: I know this makes me sound like a precious expat. Oh well.

Bytes and gigs and mpegs

Growing up it was always a standing joke that Dad never read the instruction manual for anything. Our first video recorder (betamax - we didn't always make the right technology decisions!) broke after a few years and only at this point did anyone realise that half the instruction manual was missing. He was always a whizz at figuring out how technology worked. This is not, however, a skill I have inherited and I am a slave to the instruction manual. In fact, so hopeless am I that when I had to replace the last phone that Eve had munched through and broken, I had a list of things I wanted the helpful salesman to change on my phone before it left the shop, fully aware that I would never figure out how to do it myself. It took him half an hour.

Eve, however, seems to be a little like her grandfather in that she has taken to technology like a duck to water. She can find functions on my laptop I didn't know were there and regularly, when I am working at home, opens my company online chat tool and merrily types away to people. This afternoon I had a conference call and, in a severe error of judgment, I gave my phone to Eve to play with just beforehand. It was impossible to get it off her without a lot of shouting from us both, and it was my own stupid fault that I gave it to her so I left her with it while I did my call - all locked and in the capable hands of H.

By the time I came off my call Eve had managed to download me some ringtones (goodness knows how much that will cost me) and changed my standby setting completely. I have sat here for half an hour and for the life of me can't figure out how she did it and, therefore, how to change it back. Thank goodness she didn't change the language setting to Chinese.