Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas Cheer

It was Eve's first school Christmas concert this week. The Boy and I had taken the morning off and, video camera in hand, treked off to her school to watch her musical genius.

I know Eve has musical genius because for the last 4 weeks she has been practicing her Christmas songs. Loudly. Whenever she can.

Quick note to all teachers of almost three year olds, they cannot and will not be able to (for another year of so) sing the words "figgy pudding" so unless you want 40 parents giggling at whatever slightly rude words this phrase tends to sound like, ditch the second verse.

Being a stupidly expensive private nursery (although in HK they all are, but it still grates on me), we were welcomed by mince pies, juice and punch. I noted that the mother of the behaviourally challenged child and she of the really odd email had hit the punch. Then we were ushered into a room with the lilliput chairs whereupon we were told how hard all the children had been working on their songs.

Now, I can't recall being almost three but I am pretty sure that when faced with a paparazzi style group of 40 adults, all with cameras clicking and videos whirring, the only sensible reaction would be to panic, cry, gaze in fear and amazement - or all three. Which is what almost all of the 15 children in Eve's class did. There was absolutely NO singing at all. Cue more scary (sorry, encouraging) smiles from the parents and one parent actually got up and gave their little one a bit of a prod.

Half way through the first song, which was really only being sung by the teachers and parents, things started to get more interesting. One little girl, to her credit, threw herself into the challenge and started singing and dancing. One little boy took off his santa hat and went and sat on his Mum. Behaviourally challenged boy started grunting loudly. Another girl burst into very loud sobs. Eve stood, looked at us, smiled a bit and then went back to her previously mute and bemused status.

Nothing really changed on the next song, except that the kids had bells to ring so it was even more obvious that they were not actually moving. Jingle bells sung by the teachers and parents to resolutely silent bells.

It was hilarious. All us parents seemed to step into the enthusiasm vacuum of our children by overcompensating and behaving like, well, almost three year olds singing Christmas songs. Hand waving, manic smiles, clapping, even jingling the odd bell.

After about 15 minutes the performance was finished and off we all went after wondering at the Christmas craft that the children had done. As an aside, Eve told me that her reindeer looked sad because he had lost his Mummy. Ah, that will be what she did while I was away in the UK last week.

Merry Christmas!

Theology 101

This is the first Christmas where Eve has been old enough to start to grasp the Christmas story. As we go to church mostly every week, she has a pretty basic idea of concepts such as God, Jesus and prayers. She knows that we celebrate Christmas because it is Jesus' birthday, albeit with huge frustration that she won't actually get to open the baby Jesus window on her advent calendar for another 20 days.

One of the lesser known facts about her Mummy is that I have a degree in theology. I specialised in the Judeo-Christian tradition and can even read the New Testament in the original greek - well, maybe not now, but I managed to pass the relevant translation exam for my finals. Therefore, there are few theological concepts that I have not thought about, grappled with, and settled in my own mind.

Having an almost three year old throws new light on these. The big ones about the relationship between the God we pray to and Jesus are actually rather easy to explain. God wanted to visit us so he sent Jesus. Jesus now lives with God in heaven (along with great granddad Harry). Jesus was born as a baby and yes, he grew up and taught us lots of important things.

I am also finding that the exposure that the bible stories give to Eve on concepts such as sickness, people being nasty and death (why is it so many people kill children in biblical stories?!) are helpful in exposing her, in a gentle way, to some of the nasties in the world.

However, Eve managed to flumox me this week when we were in a taxi. "Mummy, did the Roman's kill Jesus?". This stumped me a bit. Well, firstly, which gospel are you using? They all have it in a slightly different way. Secondly, is the failure to stop something awful happening tantamount to supporting it? Finally, if ones looks into the political climate of when the gospels were written and the political as well as theological points they are trying to make then can we be sure anyway?

I ended up muttering "well, sort of" and pointing out something pink outside the cab to distract her.

For other such theological musings with children, check out this.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Running with the Dragons

Fresh off the flight back from the UK, with only about 4 hours sleep overnight and I found myself up at 6am the next day to do a 24km canoeing race.

Insane? Probably. Hard as nails? Yes. Now injured with all manner of random bruises, scars and muscle aches? Indeed.

I've added it to the list of improbably stupid races I've done since I fell pregnant and wondered whether the men's crews we beat (I was in a mixed crew with a male friend of mine) are pissed off that they got beaten by a girl. Tee hee.

Eve and the Boy were there to cheer me in. I sometimes wonder what Eve must think of her mother doing all this sport - but then conclude that I must be setting some sort of positive example!

For more details on the race, and should anyone fancy trying it next year, look here

Welcome home, Eve-style

I've not had the best week of my life over the past week. Too detailed and too personal to go into here, but needless to say it involved an urgent dash halfway across the world to London and visiting hospitals. Always the worst fear for any expat who is miles away from their family.

This was also the first time that I had been away from Eve for more than a few days. And the first time on a weekend. I cried when I left home to go to the airport, forcing the Boy to promise to skype me in London before Eve went to bed every night. In the end it was fine. Eve got away with murder while I was away. Exhibit A - a weekend phone call home.

Me "Hello, where are you?"
Boy "In a shop"
Me "I can hear Eve in the background talking about Upsy Daisy, shouldn't she be having a nap right now?"
Boy "I asked her about a nap and she said that she didn't want one"

Hmm, so that's OK then! Eve also wants to ride my motorbike and drive the car but I hope to goodness he didn't let her do those while I was away. In all seriousness, the Boy made a great single Dad and both seemed to have lots of fun without me. That said, I hoped that when I got home Eve would be pleased to see me back.

I purposely walked into the flat, fresh off my flight back to HK, gifts in hand. Whereupon Eve took one look at me, nearly burst into tears and cried "But Mummy, I was about to go to the playground!". After five minutes of gentle reassuring that we would still go and I would come too, and the presentation of the Harrods westie dog in his own bag (thereby combining two of Eve's favourite things in one gift - a fluffy dog and a handbag), I got a huge cuddle and off we went to play on the slide.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When the wheels fall off... the track wheel that is

I don't have much patience for whinging (or gossip, but that's another story). I had lunch today with K, a feisty colleague who is Mum to not one but two gorgeous little girls. K, being the efficient lass that she is, popped them both out at once too. We were talking about someone she knows who is pregnant for the third time and has taken to her Mum's house for the last trimester because she's a bit tired and needs to lie down. Ah, bless. K and I both scoffed at this lack of gumption, us being both of a certain nationality and certain type of upbringing where complaining is seen as a sign of weakness and is punishable by death.

However, I confess that today I feel a lot like complaining. My life is starting to feel like a conveyor belt that seems to be getting faster and faster. I never much liked the Generation Game, I have found something inherently scary about Bruce Forsyth since I was a small child, but I am increasingly finding myself shouting the working Mum equivalent of "teasmaid, TV, hockey stick, cuddly toy" at my life as I desperately try to remember everything I need to do.

So, this morning, for the first time in my career I found myself late to a meeting. Not just a bit late, but full on halfanhourlateanditswithmybossandlotsofimportantpeopleshit late. The cause? My Blackberry broke last night. My life is now organised to the millisecond and if I don't have something to write it all down in and flash and vibrate at me violently to remind me to be somewhere then my life simply stops. Everything goes into my Blackberry, I even put my Sunday school teaching dates into it. Without it to organise my life I am lost.

My assistant called IT to get it fixed this morning, I couldn't bear to call and she had to prise my fingers off it. Someone came and took my broken little device away, and as I wept and made the man from IT to promise me that he wouldn't leave me on my own for too long, I realised the only option is to cancel all meetings for two days until I get the new one.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Stuck inside

A typhoon is about to hit HK (well, maybe, if it can make up its mind where it is going). This is annoying because I have my big rowing races this weekend. The ones for which I have given up my life for over the past 5 months of hard training and dragged myself kicking and screaming countless times onto an ergo. These are the races where all the good international crews come to race. Chinese national crew anyone? But now it is likely to be called off and, well, that's all folks.

However, considering one of the news reports I read today called the oncoming super-typhoon Megi "more powerful than Katrina" I think that come Saturday I will have more to worry about than a rowing race. Thankfully HK is pretty well prepared for this sort of thing - even if it is going to be much, much worse than the normal typhoons that hit.

H, our nanny will be going out tomorrow to panic buy food and I am going to panic buy Disney and Dreamworks DVDs.

The Boy, typically, is flying out of HK tomorrow to go off rowing in the US, leaving us to fend for ourselves.

Mummy rant

It's been over a month since I updated this. In my defence this is my busiest time of the year when I am trying to train for two big races in the next month, write a strategic plan for my team, have a full time job AND be a Mummy that Eve recognises as someone who is involved in her life wearing anything other than sweaty rowing kit or a business suit.

It is usually this time of year that the work/life dilemma looms large and I get to the point where I realise that I simply can't fit everything in. This normally results in me deciding that the only thing to be done is give up work and be an expat wife. Or move to another country. I think both would be slightly extreme responses and the more sensible one would be simply to take on a bit less (I have now added being a Sunday school teacher to my extra curricula activities).

However, for a really extreme response see the below email that was sent out by a parent of a child from Eve's class in reply to an invitation by another to meet for coffee mid-week, when any working Mum is in the office. I'm not sure whether she is taking the piss, had a few drinks too many and let rip, or is really angry enough to send this email to a bunch of parents she has never met. Or all of the above. A few names and locations changed to protect those involved.

"I'm Alice's mom. I would love to come but I tragically have to go to work. I recently discovered that I hate working and I want nothing more than being a stay at home mom, as its so much more fulfilling than the unintellectually stimulating crap I'm doing now. Unfortunately I am in the middle of a project and I can't really leave until February. So as much as I would love to join you, I'm afraid instead that I have to be in my horrible little office carrying out pointless work. Please have a coffee on me and let me know about any weekend playdates, I would love to come along. God I can't wait to resign and be there for my kids."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The real meaning of soap box

Short update on the local election. As election day nears (5th September) the wavers and bowers are out in force. On my way to church today both Paul and Ellis were standing at the same junction waving. I note that Ellis has stopped bowing now, although it was a rather hot day today. It has taken the whole competitive side of the election to a new level when both candidates' waving abilities can be judged side by side.

Clearly, however, the Ellis camp felt they were losing out because on my way home this afternoon I noticed Ellis seemed somewhat taller. A closer look showed that he was, in fact, standing on a blue plastic box.

You couldn't make it up.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Boys and girls bits

Eve has a little friend in the playground, M. He is 4 and his little bother is Eve's age. M is quite taken with Eve and Eve is rather taken with M. He is quite a boisterous little boy, but very gentle and kind to Eve. I think it might help that she is the same height as he is.

We were in the playground yesterday and the three of them were playing together. M needed a wee and ran over to the gutter, pulled down his pants, and had a wee. Eve, wanting to copy everything he does, then went over to the gutter and pulled down her knickers. Quickly running over to pull them up, I explained to her that girls have to wee on the toilet. She initially seemed suspicious, but after some reinforcement by M's nanny, Eve asked to go to the loo. There are loos in the swimming pool by the playground and M insisted on coming with us.

When we got there, however, Eve refused to let me pick her up and pop her on the loo and screamed that she wanted to wee standing up. She had a complete tantrum over it. I explained that girls can't wee standing up because boys have a willy and girls don't. She started to scream louder. Whereupon I looked next to me to see that M had pulled out his willy, held it out so Eve and I could see and said proudly "see this is a willy, and you don't have one".

Eve went quiet, absorbed this piece of factual reality, turned around and sat on the loo.

He who bows lowest

A slight diversion from Mummy chat for a moment to explain a strange phenomenon occurring in Pokfulam (the suburb where we live). We are currently in the run up to a local election for a seat on the district council.

The seat was formerly occupied by Ronnie Chan (now gone to work as a government advisor). Ronnie started a new method of connecting with the electorate by standing with big banners at the junction of my apartment complex and the main road and waving all day. He was the only candidate we ever saw. Our apartment complex has around 1,000 apartments. The equivalent complex just below us about the same. So some clever election analyst figured out that dear Ronnie could capture around 4,000 voters by simply standing in one place all day. Ronnie won the election by a landslide.

This might sound a bit facile but there are few differences in policy platform between the parties. They tend to be either democrats (whose main angle is universal suffrage for HK, because we don't actually have it yet) or the pro-Beijing parties (who don't want it, or only in a form that could never challenge the mainland government). In reality all important decisions in HK are made up of a largely unelected bunch of people at a city-wide level, so the district council hasn't got much impact. Therefore, it is more like a school election popularity contest than a sensible election.

For this election we have two democrat candidates. I think the pro-Beijing ones have largely given up on our district, which is mainly expat and middle-class Chinese. Both candidates have adopted Ronnie's approach and placed themselves strategically at points to gain maximum awareness.

Initially I was impressed by Ellis. Not only does he stand there all day, but he adds a bow to every passing car. Not just any bow either, but full ninety degrees bend at the waist bow. He does this to every car. I was impressed and had decided that he would get my vote.

However, over time we have seen less of Ellis and he seems to have been replaced by supporters who just wave. I would rather see Ellis, it shows a sense of commitment, but at least if he is going to send a replacement then they should also adopt the bow.

Feeling somewhat let down, this morning I was on the bike on my way back from circuits to find our other candidate, Paul, setting up his own stand. This was 7am and he was doing it himself. Not just sending some student supporter to get his banners ready, but doing it himself. Ellis doesn't do that!

So now I find myself conflicted.

That said, I've not yet filled in the permanent residency forms so I am not actually entitled to vote. But that doesn't stop me taking this whole election process terribly seriously.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Influenza childcare

The past weekend I've been rather ill. Too ill to drink wine and too ill to row - usually the sure signs that something is actually wrong. I suspect I just had man flu, but it resulted in a stinking cough, a nose that could run marathons, an annoyingly persistent fever and reacquainting myself with everything I ate. All in all not much fun.

On Saturday the Boy was sublimely helpful in staying home from rowing to look after Eve while I pathetically lay down, threw up and generally made sad and self-pitying noises at him.

Sunday was a different matter because he had to race and, well, unless I was really ill (and bear in mind he still went rowing when I was stricken with pneumonia last year) he was heading off to spend half the day at the river. After lying in bed and feeling sorry for myself, during which he did offer to take Eve with him and see if someone could look after her while he raced, I decided it was mind over matter and of course I could look after my child, however awful I felt. Single mothers have to do it, people without live in nannies manage. Somewhat confused, I had after all been throwing up an hour earlier, the Boy took the window of opportunity and fled.

It started rather well. I needed to bring my fever down and what better than lolling around the pool for an hour. We had fun, I only had to drag Eve out of the pool to the loo so I could dry retch once, and thankfully we were the only people there so my hacking cough wasn't within earshot of anyone who might mutter something about avian flu at me. Then we came home, I switched on Cbeebies for a quick 10 minute fix of the Fimbles while I rinsed the swim stuff. I sat on the sofa for no more than a split second, but the next thing I know it's an hour later and we're watching Mr Maker.

Horrified at having let Eve watch an hour of TV, I got out the farm and vets set and we started playing with the toy animals. Except after an hour I felt rather wiped out again, so became ever more horizontal on the play mat. The next thing I know is that I woke up with two small pigs and a cow on my chest. By this time Eve had clearly got used to me dropping fast asleep every so often and happily continued to play as if I was still awake.

The pattern continued for a few more hours, during which I seemed to manage to help care for her baby dolly and clean and tidy the dolls house. Not that I have a huge recollection of either.

At lunchtime the Boy came home. I cooked the family lunch, whereafter I promptly fell asleep and spent most of the rest of the day in a similar state.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Morning wake up calls

Eve wakes up before 7am every day. This is lovely on a school day (hers and mine) when I get to spend lots of time with her before school. It's not so good on weekends. It's especially not so good on weekends when I've had the rowing girls and a case of wine round the previous night and got to bed late, and drunk.

At 2.30, mindful that the Boy was going to be up at 5.30am to go rowing and I had no desire to be woken up, I crawled into bed with Eve. The next thing I know, it is 7.55am and Eve is only just waking up.

Rarely, very rarely, in the course of parenthood do children take account of your own moods, circumstances or needs. Quite the opposite, usually when I've got a hangover Eve wakes up at 5am. This morning, however, was a rare moment of wonder and bliss. It doesn't quite make up for the sleepless nights breastfeeding, but it's a start.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Downhill from here

Firstly, apologies to LCM. I WILL get round to doing it, but since I got a proper job and can't blog all day I just don't have time.

Now on for the proper post.

Tomorrow Eve starts pre-school. After friends' tales of tears at the school gate and three months of daily tears, I have tried to handle it the right way. Eve came with me when we looked around schools. I went with her last week and she picked her school bag (Thomas the tank engine, an awful Chinese knock off bought for less than 50 of your princely Hong Kong dollars in a market). Lots of her little friends are a bit older and already go to school. She is really keen to go. She already knows her alphabet, can count to 20 and never more has a child needed to go to school.

Then why do I feel so awful??

I have been in a state of semi panic whenever the "S" word is mentioned. I have been asking her daily whether she wants me to take her or get the school bus, and each time her decision is resolutely in favour of the bus. I can't quite figure out why I feel so awful. Eve has been looked after by a nanny for most of the day since she was 3 months old. I clearly don't have an issue about letting someone else look after my child. So why do I feel like this?

I think it is because I am petrified about how much of what I love about her will get knocked out of her at school. She has a delightful imagination, which I adore, in seeing ideas and people and thoughts out of ordinary things. School will bring a harsh reality into her life that I think she is too young for. I also have a huge desire to protect her from any pain. Whenever a child is mean to her (or she is mean to another child) there is someone to remind her that she is loved. I think part of my fear of school is that from the age of 9 until 14 I was bullied horribly at school and I am petrified that she might have to go through this too.

I also had some teachers who marginalised me and made me feel stupid and inferior. They were, mercifully, a minority, but it still hurts to this day.

So, looking at it in the cold light of day, Eve starting school tomorrow has brought galloping back all the insecurities and hurt I associate with school. I just want to protect her from all of that. Of course I can no more protect her from that than I can from shit boyfriends or job rejections. It doesn't stop me wanting to try though.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Lunch with Eve

Every so often I have lunch with Eve during the week. She comes in on the bus with H and we have a girlie lunch together.

Today we sat in the sun and ate pizza and played.

Lesson from today - don't wear nice expensive cream linen trousers around a toddler eating pizza.

Thankfully I only had one meeting this afternoon and kept my legs firmly under the table.

Home sick

I am now 7 years in HK (as of earlier this week). I came for one, maybe two. Seven years, one child and 3 jobs later I am still here. Oh, and I've got a mortgage too. Eve goes off to pre-school next month, I have a fair few good Chinese friends (always the sign you have assimilated a bit rather than just lived in an expat ivory tower). I love the speed and messiness and organic way in which HK develops. It has everything I like about life - good food, easy rowing, great weather, designer shows. It's been very good to me, I have a great job, a fantastic nanny (which enables me to enjoy the great job) and a wonderful bunch of friends. In all practical ways, HK in home. I always thought of relationship permanence could be measured in terms of how easily one could walk away. If that was the case with HK, we would be married and the divorce would be messy.

Which is why, after 7 years of being HK's biggest fan, I am finally starting to think about whether this is long term or not. Of course this comes after a wonderful trip home. The UK was at its best. Lovely weather, we stayed for half the week on the Cotswalds, including where I was at Uni and we got married. The other half was with my sister, who I love dearly and miss horribly. I am very close to my family, so being with them is a treat. Now all the little ones are getting bigger, it is such fun to be with them and they love being together. When we got home Eve's favourite game was getting on a plane to see E and J (my sister's kids).

But still, all good things come to an end and I am starting to wonder whether this may be nearing it too.

Then again, after a sunny weekend of rowing with my new rowing buddy C, playing on the beach with Eve, sitting on my balcony with a glass of wine and a book listening to the cicadas (as I am now) and the sheer convenience of everything here I will most likely change my mind.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Grumpy grump grump

I have been tagged by the lovely London City Mum to list my top 7 things that make me grumpy. After a shit week at work, a few things going not quite right at home, and another night on the sofa after working - again - after putting little one to bed, I feel the venom rising to the surface. So here it is.

1. People who don't do what they say they will when they say they will
I work in a job that means I spend a lot of my time persuading people to do things that they don't really want to, that means they will have to go out of their way just a little bit. Using my best good girl voice, feminine wiles and the odd bit of begging, I tend to get what I need. Which just means that it REALLY, REALLY annoys me when someone says they will do something and then fails to deliver. That goes for people who don't turn up to rowing outings when they know there is a crew waiting, or people who don't turn up for dinner parties (all too frequent in HK).

2. Lack of sleep
Pre-Eve I was an 8 hours a night girl. Or, in my more partying days, the 8 hours every 24 hours. I love sleeping. I love my bed. I have spent that last 15 years of my life being dragged out of bed when it is still dark to go rowing/running/circuits class. Therefore, I love bed. Since Eve, I have learnt that I can survive on 6 hours on and off sleep a night. But it is survival. In the last week, Eve has started waking up at 5.30am. Boy am I grumpy about it.

3. There being no bus between 7.45 and 8.10am
Most mornings the Boy gives me a lift to work. It's a bit indulgent but rather nice. However, when the Boy is away I have to get the bus. In HK we have minibuses that run fixed routes and will stop whenever you want to get on or off. Every big city should have them, it is just about the most convenient part of public transport. I am spoiled because one goes from right outside my block to almost right outside my office. They run every 5 mins or so from 6am until midnight. Except in that crucial rush hour time between 7.30 and 8.15 when there is only ONE bus! This lack of logic and customer centricity makes me grumpy anyway, but it is even worse because I know that all the buses and drivers are having a chat at the petrol station just down the hill. This morning I ran into the office because I couldn't face the stress of waiting.

4. Thin people
I know this puts me out there as a real bitch but I've never been a thin girl. I grew up with an impossibly stunning, tall, thin sister and now I live in HK where everyone is tiny and obsessed about staying so. I don't like feeling fat, therefore I get grumpy with anyone who makes me feel fat.

5. Lazy people
Sort of similar to number one, but this goes for people who are seriously lazy. Those who expect you to organise an evening out. People who complain about stuff but do nothing to change their situation. People who, like today, stand over me at my desk telling me which order they want me to put their charts into a pitch. On the latter, after 5 mins I politely suggested they make all the changes they wanted to themselves and then get back to me with the final version.

6. Cold
I've lived in HK too long, I need heat and humidity to survive - whatever it does to my curly hair. And I don't much like having one either.

7. Eve being in a bad mood
Mercifully rare, but there is nothing that makes me more grumpy than my darling, generally happy little girl, waking up in a bad mood.

I will tag Lady C to take up this idea.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mothers Day

Happy Mothers Day (the international one) to all other international Mummies who are celebrating today.

Although I haven't got a present, I did get to do anything I wanted today. Cue a lovely early morning row in a double scull on flat water in the sun with a dear new friend, a fun church service and lots of cake with the other mummies at church, a boozy lunch, and an afternoon nap on the sofa after reading the whole of the Sunday newspaper in one go - a very rare treat.

I want to break free, oh I want to break free

From when a baby is born there seems to be an awful lot of baby stuff that is designed to keep a baby stationary. Bars on a cot. Car seat. Bouncy chair. As the mother of a very, very mobile child I have embraced this with gusto. When Eve got too big for her cot, not for us was the nice pink princess bed, No, we headed straight to IKEA and bought the highest bed we could find (it's a bit like bunk beds but with only the top one). I used the excuse that it was a sensible storage solution in our tiny HK flat but, in reality, it prolonged the immobility, and sleep, for me.

The other morning, after a rather large night out with Eve's godfather, I failed to hear her plaintive cries of "Mummy, I'm awake". Our nanny did, but she ignored them too. The first I knew about any of this was when Eve climbed into bed next to me and poked me, telling me to wake up. She has finally learnt how to climb down the little ladder from her bed.

Initially I was horrified at this new development. No longer could I rely on the bed four feet off the floor, heavy blackout curtain and sliding doors to keep Eve in. However, after 3 days I must admit I rather like it. Not only is my little girl becoming a proper big girl - a fact she is all too keen to inform me of - but I don't actually have to get out of bed when she wakes up and I can get another ten minutes dozing while we cuddle and she sings to me.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A stitch in time

I have a nice morning routine with Eve. Usually I tend to wake up when Eve does (there is something genetically programmed into Daddies that mean they just don't hear the morning wake up call - I've checked with friends), then we spend up to half an hour just the two of us. Sometimes I jump into her bed and we chat and play, sometimes we get up and read books, sometimes we just cuddle on the sofa. It is precious time.

Last Wednesday was one such morning. My toenails were in need of repair pending a possible outing this weekend so Eve ran to the kitchen to get my nail varnish from the fridge while I got remover in the bathroom. As she galloped back to me, she fell over, head first, into the door frame.

My general principle is that if Eve can wiggle whatever hurts and there is no blood then it gets ignored after a quick kiss from Mummy. Except this time there was blood, an awful lot of blood, coming from her face. And a lot of crying.

Quick as a flash the Boy was up, we all got dressed and were in the car to the hospital. I am not one to overreact but when it's a head wound and you can see the flesh below the flesh, a formal opinion may be needed. Luckily we live 5 minutes drive from HK's best teaching hospital. A public hospital nonetheless.

I cannot praise the HK public health system enough. We rarely use it, having health insurance from both our companies, but I think I will most likely use it again. Eve was seen immediately by the triage nurse, a doctor within an hour, an x ray immediately thereafter, and stitched a short while later. 4 stitches. Everyone spoke perfect English, not easy even for native speakers when dealing with medical terms and distraught parents. And we got all this for the princely sum of 100 Hong Kong dollars. Hong Kong Health Authority, I am your new biggest fan.

That said, I don't want to repeat the experience. There is something heart wrenching about a scared child or one in pain. The look in her eyes as she had her xrays taken and asked "what is that noise Mummy, will it hurt me?" (no, was my reply, it's just like Daddy's camera and takes a photo of your skeleton). Then having to hold her hands down while the nurse stitched her face up, all the while as she cried "no more Mummy, make it stop Daddy". I was almost in tears at this one.

Eve, of course, being a little trooper was fine about 10 seconds after her stitches were in and is wearing them like a badge of honour. She is showing no signs of slowing down or taking any fewer risks. I have resigned myself to the fact my daughter will never be a super model and all is back to normal.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Sound of silence

On Tuesday afternoon I took a bath. Not just any bath, but a bath at the spa of the Four Seasons Hotel. I had an amazing view of the HK harbour, a glass of champagne in one hand and a copy of Vogue in the other. The bath was full of some sort of milk, kept reheating itself, and would bubble gently if I pressed the right button. After my bath I had a body scrub, then a 90 minute massage, during which I fell asleep.

This was my mother's day present from Eve for last year (yes, May 2009). I'd not had time to do it any sooner.

Afterwards I chatted to my therapist, herself a mother of two young boys as it turned out. I told her how wonderful and calm I felt, she empathised with the need for Mummies to have some "me" time. But then I realised that it had nothing to do with the bath, or the indulgent pampering (although they were all lovely) but that this was the first time in just over 2 years that I have been somewhere that was completely silent. No darling daughter demanding I come and look at her lego house, no husband snoring or telling me about his rowing outing, no phone ringing on my desk or emails demanding I open them. Just pure, wonderful, quiet.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

School daze 2

Sorry, I realised that the last blog was getting too long. So, here is what happened in my own pre-school selection for Eve.

There are a few good ones locally and I tapped the local working mothers network to ask for advice. Two came out on top so I arranged to go and see them. I have absolutely no idea what to look for in a pre-school. I googled "what to look for in a nursery school" and was mightily scared by the number of basic child safety things I am supposed to look for (are the staff checked for criminal records, how are complaints from parents dealt with, is there are a large sign outside saying "we beat children, and enjoy it"). So I asked my Mum, who replied via email "I have no idea. Your father says to make sure they have lots of toys". Helpful!

In the end, Mummy instinct came to the rescue, as did Eve. Of the two, both very good, schools we visited one was larger and clearly had more space for the children to be let loose in. As Eve is not being prone to sitting still for periods of more than 5 minutes, this was a big plus. The teachers were all happy to chat to me about what they were doing and they openly welcomed Eve to join in the classes. They had lots of toys (thanks Dad), lots of books and the children there seemed really, really happy. After we had visited both I simply asked Eve which she preferred, which turned out to be the same one as I did. The Mummy instinct is strong in this one (sorry, bad Star Wars pun there!).

We start in July, after we come back from a trip to the UK for Eve's transition time before she starts school proper in September. She can't wait and has already told me that she wants to get the school bus each day and needs a special school bag because now she is a big girl and going to school.

School daze

Last week (apologies for the delay but the lack of blog access at Gnome bank means I don't get as much time to write as I once did) saw me making the crucial decision about pre-schools for Eve. In HK this is no small matter. If my local Chinese colleagues are to be believed, this is the single most important decision I will ever make about Eve and if I get it wrong I could ruin her life. I do not exaggerate. The Chinese cultural focus on education is huge. You can't go down a main street in HK without bumping into hole-in-the wall schools for music, art, academics. The local media has widely covered the burgeoning industry in celebrity tutors, whose faces beam out at you from the backs of buses and have such trendy names as Ken O.

Of course, like most things a large degree of this is down to money and education is a good money making enterprise. I don't know a parent alive who wouldn't give up the clothes off their back if they thought it would help their child get a head start in life. However, there is also a grain of truth in that HK schools are intensely competitive.

If you are a local Chinese parent you have the choice of the local system. However, the good local schools are much like anywhere else and over subscribed and highly selective in the students that they take. They also tend to have either formal or informal feeder pre-schools and primary schools so it becomes even more essential that the right place is gained at the age of 2.

All other parents, expats included, have to look to the private or semi-private system. The private schools (known as "international" schools here as if this gives some sort of extra status) are relatively easy to get into as long as you throw money at them. To even be considered for a place you need to buy a debenture - a sort of bond system that the school uses to raise money. The cost of these vary, but the top ones come in at around HK$1million (about GBP 80k or US$ 130,000). This doesn't even guarantee you a place! You then have to pay a fee for application to the school and if you get in you are looking at a cost of around HK$100,00 per year just on fees.

The other system is a throwback to the colonial era and is called the English Schools Foundation. This is part funded by the government and the annual fees are about 75% of what you pay for an international school, it has a mixed ability intake and even special needs support and you can only apply the year your child is due to go. They don't have feeder schools and admission is mainly based on language because the mission of the schools are to provide education for children who don't speak Chinese and can't be educated in the local system. That said, about 80% of the students are local Chinese anyway. Guess which system Eve will go into!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Photo meme

I have no idea whether this will work. Anything more complex than typing my blog is beyond me because a) we have a mac and I have no idea how to do anything on it and b) my default settings are all Chinese so if I face even the smallest problems I get all befuddled. Oh well. I was tagged by London City Mum to take part on a photo meme (?!?!). The rules are thus.

1. Open the first (oldest) photo folder in your computer library
2. Scroll to the 10th photo
3. Post the photo and the story behind it
4. Tag 5 or more people to continue the thread

I don't know 5 people who blog who have not already done this, so I will risk the wrath of the modern chain mail demon and do it all except the last bit. Any readers I don't know about, please pick up and run with this one too.

The photo was taken I am not entirely sure when. Over 7 years ago, because that is how long I have been living in HK and this was taken when I was still living in the UK. It is Christmas (hence the hats and cigars). The man waving like a look behind me is the Boy. The man next to me is my brother in law, S.

I am pretty sure that neither my sister nor my brother in law read this (Mum and Dad, don't tell them), so I can be relatively honest about my brother in law here. I adore him and have more respect for him that almost any other man I have met.

He grew up overseas and moved to the UK in his twenties. He met my sister in the bar where he was working as a bar man. After a while he decided that he wanted to get out of the bar and get a professional qualification, so studied like a demon, took some very difficult exams, and got a much better job. He married my sister, making her very happy.

S is most definitely a boy's boy. He plays rugby (front row so not a shy and retiring flower like those pansies at the back), and loves his sport and his beer. The Boy loves it when we go to visit on our trips home because we can guarantee that any rugby, or football, of any note will be on the TV. He happens to rides a gorgeous big black motorbike, I left him my small one when I left the UK and he quickly moved onto something sleeker and faster. He is also a dab hand at DIY - he and my Dad practically rebuilt my sister's house so that they now have a lovely family home in London.

However, S also dotes on his two children, to the extent that when my nephew was born he decided to give up work and stay at home and look after him and my niece.

There are very few people who have the patience to stay at home and look after children, and even fewer men. I am not in any way being sexist here, but being a stay at home Dad is going somewhat against the grain of society and that has just got to make it harder. My niece and nephew adore their father (who is also an active member of the PTA where my niece goes to school) and he is doing a fantastic job with them. He is also an amazing cook, his pork belly is better than any I have ever had in a restaurant.

As if often the way with families, especially in laws of the opposite gender, we don't tell each other anything like enough that we love them and how fond of them we are. I genuinely could not wish for a better brother in law.

Thanks LCM for giving me the chance to say that.

Friday, March 12, 2010

For the love of a giraffe

My sister, who picks brilliant presents for children (having two adorable ones of her own) sent Eve a lovely gift for her birthday. It was a giftbox containing the wonderful children's book "Giraffes can't dance". If you have not come across it yet, I can highly recommend it as a delightful book, and the others by the same team are similarly charming. They have not quite exceeded my love of Julia Donaldson (Gruffalo, Sharing a Shell etc) but it comes close.

The giftbox came with a height chart and a small cuddly giraffe. Eve loved the book and the giraffe. There is a part in the book that describes Gerald (the giraffe) learning to dance and Eve would grab Gerald at this point and do the actions, including swishing his little tail. Gerald became her absolute favourite toy.

Last week her godfather was passing through town so off we went to meet him for an early supper. She wanted to show him Gerald so he came with us. I was a bit distracted in the cab (we were sharing it with another Dad, see previous post) and I was a bit rushed getting out of the taxi and realised too late that the beloved Gerald had been left behind. I didn't worry too much. The trusty Amazon would come to the rescue and I could just buy another one. I told Eve that Gerald had gone on holiday to London to see her cousins and would be back soon.

Getting home that night, what I expected to be an easy task turned into something quite different.

Amazon has every version of the book imaginable but no giftbox with Gerald. No matter, a couple of bookshops in the UK and New Zealand had it. Except when I went to their websites they were out of stock. It turns out that the cuddly Gerald was a special limited edition and is no longer sold.

With an increasing level of panic I turned to Ebay. Nothing in the US. Nothing on the HK site. I finally found someone who had 4 copies, seemingly the last 4 in the world, in the UK. All I had to do was register and pay, it even had the helpful "buy it now" tag so I could be assured of a new Gerald, although if the truth be known I probably would have bid an obscene amount of money to get my hands on it.

Except I hit a bit of a problem, you can't register on the UK website if you live overseas. It sent me to the HK Ebay site to register, where the whole registration process was in Chinese. By now I was starting to get really worried. Will Eve grow up always hating me? Will she always feel insecure that one day I might forget her and leave her in a taxi? Will she never trust me to tell her the truth again?

I managed to change the registration page to English, whay hey, and then registered. It sent me my confirmation email, which then sent me to a confirmation website that was, drum roll here folks, entirely in Chinese!

Back I went to the UK site and struck upon the brilliant idea of registering under my parent's address. Except it already had me registered via the HK site, which I couldn't read or confirm the registration, so, in effect, I could bugger off.

I started to sob.

Then I remembered that a good friend of mine is a bit of an Ebay-er. One phone call later, she had ordered Gerald and he was being sent to her.

He arrived today, she gave him to me whereupon he went straight into my handbag to ensure I didn't leave him behind in the restaurant. He is now sitting on the dining table where Eve will see him when she wakes up.


Hello, um, hello

Due to my nightly trips to the playground to pick Eve up I have built up a small network of parents and nannies of Eve's friends with whom I am now on speaking terms. I know the names of almost all the nannies, but when it comes to parents I have a complete memory block on the names of other parents.

It's not like there are a lot of them. In HK, where help is so cheap and work hours so long, it is a small band of us who bother/manage to make it to the playground of an evening to collect our charges. In fact, I think I probably only know the parents of 4 or 5 of Eve's friends. However, remembering their names are beyond me. It's not that we haven't been introduced, we have. However, within a goldfish-memory-like split second I forget them and default to calling them Oscar's Daddy or Chris' Mummy. They are all designated in relation to the offspring. I know I'm not the only one either, all the other parents seem to have the same problem. We studiously avoid using each others names except when talking to the children, when Aidan's Mummy becomes a perfectly acceptable name to use. I know what Oscar's Dad does for a living, where his parents live in the UK, his favourite beer (Friday beers in the playground time), even his type and size of motorbike - but I'll be damned if I can remember his name.

Last week I shared a cab with a parent I know quite well (Kieren's Daddy) and the whole cab ride I had to studiously avoid saying his name. It would have been awkward were it not for the fact that he had clearly forgotten my name too.

The worrying thing is that I know, and can remember, most of the nannies' names.

Gratitude for gratitude

Thanks ladies (you know who you are) for taking up the Gratitude Tag idea. Despite being in a place where the bastardised commercial US mother's day is followed, on Sunday Eve and I will be going to a nice Anglican Church where mothering Sunday will be celebrated and Eve will be forced at Sunday school to make me something with loo rolls and sticky back plastic. It will be the first of many I hope.

So, I've found a church I really like (week 4 and I even know the names of most of the congregation), and somewhere that mother's day will be celebrated at the proper time.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

For Godness sake

New year, new resolve and along with giving up booze for lent (which I am regretting after one day), I also decided to try again to find a church in Hong Kong that suits me and Eve. I have started going to a rather good bible study group run by a colleague so asked around the members and one church was suggested. It struck me as being a bit happy clappy for high church anglican me, but I am willing to have an open mind so trotted off there this Sunday.

It started off well. I was quite warmly greeted and told that I had the option of Eve attending Sunday school or the service. Finally, I thought, I can worship with my daughter. There were lots of children in the service, which started with two songs and Eve and a little boy danced happily at the back while people looked on smiling. I was feeling really rather positive that I had found a place that we could call our church.

Then it all went wrong. "Will all children under ten now leave" came the announcement. Um, what, my child? I didn't really feel I could pipe up and say that the nice lady outside had told me that children could stay in the service. So I left. We were carted off to a classroom where the children watched a video about buying a cow for a village in China. All well and good, except Eve had seen the climbing frame outside and was refusing to sit still. The video, which was a bit too raw in its detail of life in an impoverished village in China for your average toddler, ended with a large, fat man coming in to tell us that every child had to bring in twenty dollars next week to send to the village. Um, hello? Shouldn't children do something more meaningful than asking their parents for money? Earn it? Do a sponsored swim? But then this is Hong Kong where money is supposed to solve everything.

Then it got worse. All the parents left, except me. Three teenagers then taught the Sunday school. Except it involved giving the kids a colouring book about Jesus and then trying to stop them hitting each other. For about half an hour all they did was keep the kids colouring. After about ten minutes Eve was trying to make a break for the climbing frame again so I took it upon myself to read her the story she was colouring and try to engage her a bit. Then we sang a song, by which point Eve was so bored and annoyed with her Mummy not letting her go to see the climbing frame that she just went and opened the door herself.

Then all main service finished and all the parents came to pick up their children. So, in effect, all this actually turned out to be was moderately religious childcare. The teacher even had the audacity to tell me that Eve was a bit too young to concentrate for that long and maybe I should take her to the creche instead. I bit my tongue and restrained myself from simply replying that she was bored out of her mind colouring for 45 minutes.

So we left and I will not being going back. The sad thing is that Eve really quite enjoyed it and has been showing the Boy and H her little bible book that she coloured with real pride. She is even talking about Jesus. This is enough to keep me going and try to find a church that Eve and I are both going to enjoy being at together.

Watch this space.

Pot, pot, pot, potty

Chinese New Year has been and gone and, if you've read any of the previous posts, you will know this was going to be P day. That is potty and pants. I hesitate saying potty because what we actually have is a toddler-sized seat that fits on our loo because we don't have enough space for a potty in our tiny Hong Kong bathroom - but the principle is still the same.

I was well prepared. Four days of Eve wandering around naked and getting used to going to the loo. Easy peasy. Except the day before the Chinese New Year break started a cold spell hit. In fact, the coldest spell for two years. It has gone down to ten degrees and usually sits around 13-14 in the day. I know it's not actually that cold, but in an apartment with no heating or carpets that is required, for ten months of the year, to stay cool and drafty, it is bloody freezing. Not, therefore, ideal conditions for Eve running around naked for a few days.

Undeterred, however, we went ahead with it. The star chart was stuck up in the bathroom at Eve height so she can see and colour the star I draw every time she does a wee or a poo. Disinfectant at the ready to clean up spills. We were ready to go.

Then it was all surprisingly easy in the end. After two initial accidents, now whenever she is in the flat she tends to ask for the loo before she wees on the floor. She managed to make it to the loo for her her poo yesterday and although half came out before she asked today, she did then hold in the rest until she was over the bowl. We still have her in nappies when we go out, but a few times she has suddenly asked to go home, which turns out to mean she actually needs a wee or a poo. I have introduced her to public loos in Hong Kong now, which are almost without exception so clean that one could eat off them.

It will take a few more weeks yet until she is properly ready to go without nappies in the daytime, but we are well on our way now. So, this weekend I am going to take Eve to buy her first knickers, at Marks & Spencer of course!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Gratitude tag

Following on from my post yesterday I thought I would try something here. I am not very "in" with the blogging crowd and lingo so will rely on my regular blogger friends to read this and pass it on.

The idea is simple. Write about one thing you are grateful to your mother for. Or more if you would like, but at least one. Then tag a couple of people you know who blog to do the same on theirs. Hopefully then we will end up with a lovely celebration of motherhood.

So, here goes mine.

Aside from my legs, the thing I am most grateful to my mother for is the amazing example she set me and as a result the incredible self-belief she instilled in me.

Mum left full time school and went to secretarial college. She worked in numerous jobs she really didn't like because we needed the money. This was exacerbated, I suspect, when I got a scholarship to private school that covered a lot of the fees, but not all and we had to find the money for them from somewhere. My sister and I both went to University, when she and my Dad hadn't had that opportunity, so she kept working so we could afford that too. At every point in my school and university life I always felt that my Mum was right there behind me. She feels passionately that women should be educated. She has sponsored girls in developing countries for far longer than it has been fashionable and she supported both her daughters to achieve the maximum they were capable of. Let me be clear here, she never pushed either of us and always allowed us free reign to choose our own path, but we were always very secure in the knowledge that she would support us whatever we wanted to do.

That isn't it, however, she also led by example. While still working full time being a magistrate and sitting (for some time being Chair) of the family bench in one of the less lovely parts of London she also studied in her spare time for a law degree and then a masters. Most of this was while working full time, being a JP AND bringing up two teenage daughters. How the hell she found the time is beyond me.

So, I am grateful to my Mum for being the living breathing embodiment of focus, dedication, hard work and unconditional, loving support.

PS. Sorry, Mum for any factual inaccuracies. My teenage years were a bit of a blur!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Once you have a child of your own you finally realise what your parents, and mothers in particular, do for their children. I have a few friends, mainly male and single but not exclusively so, who have a habit of complaining about their mothers. I don't know why, but some people don't ever quite grow out of the adolescent rebellion that finds them thinking their parents are dull, boring and never did anything for them. Now, however, I am a mother myself I know just how much of oneself and ones life you give up for your children.

Just carrying a child and feeding it and changing it takes some commitment. For many people this selfless (and sleepless) act would be sufficient martyrdom. Add to that the many other commitments and sacrifices parents make to ensure that their offspring are sufficiently healthy and balanced to face the world and it would take a good few reincarnations for any child to be able to show sufficient gratitude to their parents (and don't let me go there on what parts of my body have also suffered!).

It was Fraught Mummy who got me to thinking about what parents do for their children. In her case a bad back and frozen toes. In my case, my list is quite a long one already and will undeniably get longer. I hate to think how long my mother's list would be, I was an awful child!

So, to my own Mum, thank you. I know that doesn't cut it but I don't tell you enough.

And to anyone who dares ever even mutter a complaint about their mothers, take a step back and think hard - what has she done for you?

Sunday, January 24, 2010


We subscribe to the cheapest cable TV package in the Yummy Mummy household but, mercifully, all the BBC channels come as part of that bundle. I know it makes me an expats expat to crave that little piece of home but I swear the programs are just better than the US bunch that come churning out of the Fox-related networks we also get.

My latest BBC addiction is Supernanny. I know that I have come to the Supernanny fold quite late, but there is something incredibly compelling about watching some truly awful children, and their parents, start the show behaving so badly and ending it like little angels. I know I am a complete voyeur in this respect. There is something compelling about watching car crashes, whether rubber necking on the motorway or a family. However, I also view Supernanny as something of a horror movie (a genre I hate). What if Eve turns out like that? What if I do? What if people say that about my child?

I also don't quite believe it is that easy, for either parent or child. I mean why exactly does an otherwise unruly and out of control six year old sit on a naughty seat and not move? Is it all clever editing?

Last weekend Eve had her first tantrum. I naively thought she'd had them before, but like many things with children you don't realise you've had one until they really hit! I can't recall what prompted it, but we had full on screaming and crying and shouting. So, taking a leaf out of Supernanny's book, I popped Eve on the sofa and said she would have to stay there until she calmed down. She got off once, but I put her back on, and she stayed there. She tried everything to fight it. Volume, shouting for Daddy (I had to restrain him from going over and cuddling her), shouting for me. Screaming "sorry" at the top of her lungs but refusing to say it quietly. But she stayed on the sofa.

I sat in the kitchen, I am afraid to say, laughing quietly and mouthing at the Boy "why doesn't she just get off the sofa?!?!". It actually worked. But why on earth did an otherwise bright and intelligent child not realise there is nothing I could do to keep her on the sofa? I am not querying it, but I can't understand whatever psychology lies behind it.

I am now watching Supernanny with a newfound sense of respect.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Going potty

Crap. Eve is two now. I'd better start potty training properly now. It's just so damn cold that it wouldn't be fair for her to run around naked for very long while she wees down her legs - my sister's and nanny's chosen technique.

Chinese New Year is coming up. That is 4 whole days off. It will be warmer by then. That will be 4 whole days of cleaning up Eve's pee off the floor then.

Children at work

One of the reasons I am really rather enjoying the toddler stage, and if I confess honestly hated the whole baby stage, is that now I have a real little person with whom I can rationalise. Eve understands cause and effect and generally tantrums can be headed off before they start, or at least minimised, by a rational explanation of something and boundaries that make sense.

So, this evening, when we went to leave the playground Eve decided to stay. She sat on the floor and screamed. To which I simply said that she could stay, but she would be on her own because all her friends had gone home, would get cold and it wouldn't be as comfy as her big girl bed to sleep there. Within 5 seconds she was running into my arms to come home.

If only colleagues were so easy. I have spent the day listening to excuses about why things have not been done, a fair bit of whining (some from me, I will admit), and a complete lack of thinking through consequences. Much like London City Mum (whose blog I will link as soon as it is up running for general consumption again), I found myself today wanting to tell a colleague that they could do what they wanted to but if they did it then nobody would want to play with them again and they would have to stay on their own in the cold.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Birthdays and birthdays

I will confess this right now but I write this a little bit tipsy. It was Eve's 2nd birthday last week, is the Boys tomorrow and his parents are in town (a WHOLE different post), so rather than having what I had intended would be a quiet birthday at home I did something a bit special today.

I have always been a bit scathing of the highly competitive mothers in HK who wheel out parties that doyens of Hollywood would be envious of. This has seen us at parties with entertainers (a rather surly teenage princess who looked as if she would be happier in a crack den than with a bunch of toddlers) and ones where the helpers seem to run the show. Not for me I thought. I would bake the cake, we would have something small scale at home, children would not be given any of those stupid party favours that seem to be given out in plastic bags at the end of parties. Oh no, not for me.

Except, my in-laws are in town and I would be an even more evil daughter-in-law (for this is the fate of most daughter-in-laws) if I didn't at least make a bit of an effort.

I think I may have overdone it.

Private room at the rather lovely private island retreat at the yacht club. Free flowing food and champagne and wine for everyone. Balloons everywhere. Lots and lots of children. A vastly expensive cake with a sleeping teddy bear on it and icing saying "Happy 2nd birthday Eve", incidentally which lasted about 5 minutes before an unsupervised Eve stuck her finger in it, leaving something saying "Happy irthday ve". And, of course, every child got a cupcake with an animal face on it. In fact, most adults got one too.

The issue comes that I don't know what came over me. I bargain hunt as a pastime and was debating yesterday with the Boy over ten Hong Kong dollars for some balloons. How, then, did I end up having the type of bash that I routinely criticised in the past?

Answers on a postcard please. Needless to say the in-laws thought it was great, so did Eve and the Boy, I had a great time and already have a hangover even before I have been to sleep.