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Tall enough so that your head touches my boobs if you try to butt me with it. Skinny as a rake. So much energy. We can’t keep up. Roamer. You never want to stay at home. Lover of stories and superheroes. Still fascinated by anything on wheels. Put you in a car, train, tram, boat and you’re set for about an hour. Shy, but you always seem to have friends. Peepee and poopoo and penis and butt, these are now your vocabulary. Like the scooter, you mastered the cycle in the blink of an eye. You learned the password to our computer, and every time we don’t hear you, we know there’s a screen somewhere and you’re on it. Cookie monster, Halloween will be your undoing. So much sickness this year, it broke my heart, but you kept smiling. Handsome, even if it’s I your mother saying so. I despaired over your ever learning to read, but you have exceeded my expectations. You hate homework, you can’t sit still, artwork is a hastily scribbled something presented to me with pride. But woe betide we try to dislodge you when you’re into something. Compliant, but on those few occasions stubborn as hell. As you spend more time away from us, I have to keep reinforcing kindness. You decide you’d rather be five, if six means eating and dressing yourself. Still, you curl your long body onto mine, you burrow your head into blankets, you’re scared of the dark and sleeping alone. Early rise. Dreamer. Impatient and patient with your sister. You tire of being her everything, but you’re bored without her.

May this world give you the rainbows you deserve.

These kids

Mimi had to do a thanksgiving project where she decorates a cardboard leaf provided by the school and says what she’s grateful for. When I asked her what she wanted to put on the leaf, she went: “Mummy” and hugged me. I checked with her again whether what she wanted to put on the leaf was “mummy” and she said yes. This girl. I don’t know how I am going to live up to her expectations. Or rather, my expectations of what her expectations should be, because according to her, I have met her expectations.

Rather ironically, or predictably, I ended up getting impatient and yelling at her while we were doing the leaf, because she refused to focus and ended up ruining the nice picture of us she had drawn, and then I ended up having to basically finish the decoration while she allowed herself to be distracted by her brother’s foolish game. On second thought, maybe her expectations are both higher (i.e. completing her project) and lower (okay if I yell) than I think and  I do meet them after all. Hmph.

***


I volunteered to be the class rep for Nene’s class in school, basically because noone else was volunteering and I’m a sucker like that. I immediately regretted it because right after signing up having been told we’d have only minimal responsibilities (i.e. mainly coordinating for the PTA), the PTA rep sends us a whatsapp with a list of ‘guidelines’ that we ‘must’ and ‘should’ do (I’m hoping that the writer was not a native English speaker and did not realise how obnoxious pushy they came across as). I wrote back and said no way I could do all that and pointed out that this was not what we had been told before we signed up. It was suggested that I could get someone else on board to help me which I knew was not going to happen seeing as the reason I signed up was because noone else did. Anyway, another parent told me to ignore the ‘guideline’ because noone does that much. So I carried on.

So far it’s not been too bad,except I got into an thing with another class rep on the whatsapp group and she was incredibly rude. While she continues to be her obnoxious self on the group, I have withdrawn and find myself muttering everytime I see a post from her.

Then the weekend gone by was a so-called picnic planned in the park, where we were encouraged to organise games/activities for our class. Now, I’m all for participating, but not organizing. Especially when you have such an unresponsive group to work with. I’m not one of those cheerleader types who sees the value in coaxing people to do what they don’t want to do. But I also felt obliged to be present and ‘do something’, but I didn’t want to invest a lot of energy seeing as noone was committing to even showing up.

Tbh, I was quite stressed out even though I refused to act on it or even voice it (much). It helped that a couple of days before the event, the start time was pushed back, which meant I could tell myself it was only a couple of hours not the whole afternoon.

In the end, it turned out to a rather nice day out. A few people showed up, I prepared a parcel to be passed for ‘pass-the-parcel’ and the kids ran around with each other. At one point, V told me to sit down and relax but I pointed out that a) I feel like I need to ‘do something’ being class rep (more on that later) b) but also that the point of the occasion was not just for the kids to interact but for the parents too. And both did work out.

This is one of those instances where I am conscious of how having kids has pushed my boundaries. I am forced to step out my comfort zone (for their benefit) and although I do it with a fair amount of grumbling and latent stress, it often works out well for me as well.

***

Oh and I remembered the third thing I wanted to post here. In order to keep the kids stationary so that they didn’t get too tired for the picnic, we plonked them in front of the TV and watched Finding Dory (#sorrynotsorry). And I really liked it. I found Finding Nemo too emotional (I famously shouted ‘Nemo!” on my honeymoon when Nemo was captured during that film. Thankfully we were watching the film in our own private theatre, but V has never let me live it down. Hmph). The last time we tried to watch Finding Dory, Mimi made us shut it down because she was scared but this time I realized she was not “scared” , she was “sad” and I had to explain the difference to her and then she was better.

But also, I later realized she was a little scared… of the octoupus. Which makes no sense, because the octopus was the best part of the film! Octopi are awesome (PSA: octopi is not a word, but totally should be. Octopuses does not do justice to the greatness of that creature). I dearly want to get an octopus tattooed on my shoulder or hip, but I feel unworthy because I am neither as cerebral or as efficient, and V suggested I get a sloth or a slug instead. Hmph. I’m thinking I’ll compromise on a snail instead because that best describes me plus was the one creature I could draw decently and amuse Nene with when he was a kid.

I leave you with a photo of my soul animal.

Earth mothers*

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*For want of a better term

Recently, two posts on a Facebook mum’s group I’m part of caught my eye. In one, a mother asked when other mums in the (very large) Facebook group had stopped breastfeeding their child and started formula. Another described her ordeal as her six-week-old baby cannot be put down for a minute, wants to suck her breast constantly but does not ever get satisfied and go to sleep.

The first post on breastfeeding received a deluge of answers from people who exclusively breastfed, some stopping at 2 years. Among 50 answers, I saw about 3 that said that they used formula. Amazing right? If you read that post, you’d think the majority of mums in Hong Kong breastfeed. In fact, the number that continue breastfeeding beyond 3 months if at all is quite small. Of course, the number among expat, especially Western mums, would be higher. But even in Western countries the continued breastfeeding rate is not high.

We all know that breastfeeding is great and all. But the fact is that many women struggle with it (I do not know a single woman who did not struggle with breastfeeding, despite the fact that it is touted as the most natural thing in the world). Moreover, in Hong Kong where the participation of women in the workforce is high but the maternity leave is restricted to 10 weeks (and you can add a couple more weeks annual leave if you save it all up the whole year and your boss agrees), it’s even more challenging to keep up breastfeeding. So yeah, a lot of women top up with formula or switch exclusively to formula for a variety of reasons, not necessarily because they are duped by formula manufacturers.

My problem with the skew in answers to the post was why the formula-givers were so reluctant to out themselves. It was almost as if they were ashamed. And I feel this is counter-productive. It does no service to other mums, struggling to make a decision and keep the guilt in check.

The response to the second post on the clingy baby was even more surprising. The mother asked for solutions that may have worked for people who had faced similar issues. I did go through the same thing with Nene, and to some extent with Mimi (although she was better than Nene, she had colic and I spent a lot of time just slinging and carrying her). The majority of responses, however, were people telling her to read about the “fourth trimester” and to just accept it and go with what the baby demanded.

First, I was surprised at how many people have gone through the same thing. As one woman ( a tad insensitively I think) wrote in response: “So, good news, your baby is normal.” It did seem that a huge number of women had experienced unputdownable babies (and not in a good way). I think this is something that needs to be shared with expecting and new mothers, and anyone planning a baby. The expectation that your baby will feed and sleep and you can sleep with it in this calm cocoon of mother-baby bonding is … wrong, delusional unlikely to be fulfilled. If you indeed give birth to such a angel, thank your stars and make a big donation to charity to pay your good luck forward. Because this rarely happens.

It appears from the responses that a baby that never sleeps, except in its mother’s arms, that wants to suck constantly, is extremely common. This may or may not be so. Awareness that this could happen to you is good.

However, I also think that the glib answers of ‘accept and move on’ are not entirely helpful. It is extremely hard, after going through labour or surgery, to settle in smiling for three months or more of basically never sleeping longer than half an hour stretches, of carrying a 6 kilo weight on you at all times (it’s easier to carry the weight when it’s inside you frankly), of dealing with the crying and the constant worry when there’s no crying, of the psychological stress that you’re not producing enough milk. Most of us aren’t used to hard physical labour, and being woken rudely from sleep just when you’re getting into the deep end of the sleep cycle is a form of torture used by secret police the world over. There is a high rate of Post-natal depression among new mums and it’s not because we are wusses. It’s because this shit is hard, possibly the hardest thing you’ve ever done and frankly you didn’t know this when you signed up for it.

It is natural to seek solutions and relief, even if you accept the fourth trimester theory. And there are some things you can do to make your life easier. Surround yourself with help who are willing to do shifts with you, for example. Check if the baby is latching on right, consult a lactation specialist (if you can afford one). Try using a pacifier. Co-sleep if it comes to that (while doing what you can to ensure the safety of the baby). Invest in the Fisherprice rocking chair. Check if your baby has issues like reflux. See if massage works. Switch around the baby’s bath time. Try Infacol or gripe water.Take it one day and at time and keep thinking “this too shall pass” (and no, you don’t have to “treasure this time because you’ll miss it when they grow up”. I don’t miss it at all. It is quite hard to treasure not sleeping properly for days on end.)

Talking to other mums to get ideas of how to cope with a newborn can be helpful if those other mums, while commiserating can also share the little things they did that helped them instead of hitching up their halos and going “just deal with it.”

I know a few women whose approach to motherhood has been to roll with it beautifully and beatifically, proclaiming everything magical and miraculous and generally putting on a very brave front. Well and good. But most mums slog and suffer through this period and for me at least, getting some sympathy and practical tips did help. It may be normal and natural to go through this, but it is also normal and natural to think  it sucks.

 

 

 

Apocalypse

Or as MinCat put it, “turning and turning in the widening gyre.”

On Monday, we woke up to the news that National People’s Congress Standing Committee had taken it upon itself to interpret a provision in Hong Kong’s Basic Law (the mini constitution that preserves Hong Kong’s autonomy as a special administrative region of China, and basically guards the freedoms we enjoy here) to bar a couple of newly elected legislators from retaking their oaths of office. The two youngsters had to retake their oaths because the first time around they used the derogatory word Chee-na (used by the Japanese to denigrate China during the Japanese occupation) among other shenanigans. They also somewhat openly advocate independence for Hong Kong, which is a big no-no for China obviously. Their oaths were declared illegal by the Legislative (Legco) President and they were supposed to retake them, when the Government of Hong Kong swooped in and launched a judicial review to determine whether it was legal for them to retake their oaths. The Legco President then caved and decided they can’t take their oaths after all. Before the courts could decide, however, the NPC Standing Committee held a meeting, and basically interpreted the law, as a guide to the courts.

Their interpretation went beyond mere ‘interpretation’ and included granting the official who administers the oaths the right to disqualify candidates who would not be allowed to retake their oaths, even though they have been democratically elected by a huge number of Hongkongers. Mysteriously, this interpretations is supposed to apply retrospectively to the concerned lawmakers and now the net has widened to disqualify more people, but not pro-establishment lawmakers who also fumbled their oaths.

The chilling thing about this is the ‘guideline’ to the courts while the matter is subjudice. It displays a disregard for the authority for the courts, which would not be surprising in Mainland China but we have always believed that in Hong Kong things are different. The NPC has reserved the rights to interpret laws but in the past it has done so at the behest of the chief executive and the courts (the latter is actually supposed to be requester according to the law, but obviously the NPC would be happy to intervene wherever possible). This article lists the five times the NPC has interpreted the law and frankly, I’d have been terrified the very first time (but Hongkongers were happy with the outcome that time, the problem is you can’t have it both ways.).

This time, though, the suo moto manner in which it was done is chilling. It was also done in a climate in which people are already rattled about the abduction of five booksellers across the border. The provocation was the thinly veiled pro-independence views of the lawmakers, but now the writing on the wall is clear, and sure enough we are hearing that moves that Article 23, an anti-subversion law that will bar protests, needs to be implemented soon (something that no politician dared raise because of the ire among the public it elicited the last time such a proposal was made).

When I read the new of the NPC ruling, it was like a death knell sounded in my head. The bookseller saga already told us that if we got on the wrong side of China, thugs could actually sneak us across the border and no consulate in the world could rescue us. Now, Beijing has made clear that even Hong Kong law and Hong Kong courts are subject to its whims and fancies, when earlier its stance was non-interference.

In the face of all this, one can only feel helpless because even as young people take to the streets to protest, they are nothing before the might of the Chinese government, whose authority in the world is now unchecked.

***

Then our dear Prime Minister Modi decided to ban Rs500 and Rs1000 notes. Well, I must admit it did some like a bold move, that would anger some of Modi’s support base. But overall, it was a stroke of genius because the middle class is lauding Modi. Instead of bringing the money from Swiss banks accounts as he promised, he has done abracadabra and turned black to white. Except it’s not going to work, as past experience has shown (interestingly none of the media outlets put this move in context – that is has been done in the past and did not work.). Now, of course, the poor are bearing the brunt as usual. You’d think that even if the PM was determined to push forth with it and give some middle wealthy people a big surprise, he’d make more of an effort to provide relief to the very many poor people who trade only in cash. Here’s just one example of how this abrupt change has affect the less privileged.

***

And then as the final blow, Trump got elected. I can’t say I was surprised, because the dear husband watched Fox News non-stop during this election (for entertained me claimed, but it did put a strain on our marital relations). So I did not, despite my best efforts, live in a bubble in which reason would prevail. Nevertheless, I thought Hillary would win and I wanted her to win, and although I had checked out of the noise of the election a long time ago, I was surprised at how sad I was when I realised she had lost.

I wanted Hillary to win because yes, just as Obama becoming the first black president of the US thrilled me, I like the idea of a woman in highest office. I think the role of President  is symbolic and I saw the powerful symbolic work of Obama’s presidency (despite his failings in some areas). And I thought Hillary was a good woman for the job. Yes, she was establishment, but I didn’t mind that too much. Seeing how hard Obama struggled to get anything done, maybe it was time for someone who knew the drill and had the connections.

I admire Hillary for the sheer hard work she put in, and for how she had risen from the ashes of her husband’s indiscretion (even though I do not like how Monica Lewinsky was treated during that episode). Hillary is the geek who kept putting her hand up no matter how many times people sneered at her, and finally, she got her seat at the highest table. She faced misogyny the first time around, and the full force of it this time. I like how she accepted defeat the last time around and did her best as Secretary of State. I like how in her previous avatar as First Lady, she spoke truth to power about women’s rights in Beijing, and how she did it again when the Feminist Five were detained. Whenever I watched her handle questions on the campaign, it was clear she knew her stuff and she had real ideas and proposals. A few weeks before the election, I heard a clip of her pledging her support for women’s right to have an abortion, even though this is a hot potato, and I silently thanked her for that. She is not perfect, but she was held up to higher standards of ‘cleanliness’ than a man would have been (considering her opponent refused to even release his tax records) .The accusation that she is not ‘likeable’, which so many women in power face. She acknowledged she struggles with that part of politics, but she faced the backlash so much stronger.

It is hard not to take this somewhat personally as a woman, although I know that her being seeing as ‘establishment’ has something to do with it. I don’t grudge the strugglign masses their vote for Donald Trump, but its the educated and elite fence-sitters who gloated after Hillary lost that I have no respect for.

I belatedly came across this article yesterday as I tried to stabilize my mood. I wish more people could have seen it before the election.

 

 

Electra 

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I have to record this because it’s one of those things that you think happens to other people but not to you. Until it does.

My daughter has decided she wants to marry her father.

No wait. First she decided she wanted to marry her brother but he rejected her on grounds of being her brother.

Blows may have been exchanged (which does not bode well for any nuptials),  there was definitely shouting, I’m not sure what else went down as I was in the bathroom. Of course I was.

When I finally unlocked the door, Mimi burst in sniffling and teary-eyed accusing Nene of saying she can’t marry Daddy. When I burst out laughing she clarified “when I grow up.”

First I tried explaining that she can’t marry Daddy because I’m married to him. That didn’t go down well. I’m not against bigamy, but I thought this might shut down the discussion pronto because Mimi is not a sharer. She pondered, then said, then I’ll marry you. Basically she just wants to be married to someone in the family.

Anyway, I explained that it wasn’t a matter of growing up so much as not being allowed to marry one’s family members. However she did not seem keen on the idea of anyone else. and I can see why. Why would you want to hitch your star to anyone other than those you love and trust the most?

Once I calmed down I told her:

A) it’s not necessary to get married

B) it’s a long time away so no need to worry about it now

C) why not focus on a fab ‘Mimi is awesome’ 21st birthday bash with amazing food, dancing, a lovely dress and all her friends.

She cheered up after that. It turns out she basically wanted a big party. And I had to tell her that no, my darling, you don’t need to get married to have an amazing time.

Festive grinching and bearing – 2


So Diwali. It’s a beautiful festival . And as an Indian abroad, I’m expected to celebrate it. Except I was raised Catholic, and in a Christian society to boot, and so Diwali basically meant lots of firecrackers and sweets from the one Hindu family in our colony. I knew very little of the religious aspects of it. Christmas and Easter were the big festivals in my universe growing up, though we participated in festivals like Diwali, Eid and Parsi New Year through exchange of sweets with friends. Again, at a superficial largely food-based level, not really understanding the myths and rituals behind them.

In the forens, one of the ways in which people demonstrate cosmopolitanism is by knowing about other nationalities’ festivals, and Diwali has become the representative Indian one. Or even the representative South Asian one. I’ve always felt a little odd being wished Happy Diwali because well I don’t actually celebrate Diwali. Though I have learned to smile and go with it instead of explaining cultural plurality etc.*

This year, I was asked by Mimi’s school to present about Diwali to the class. Now, I am uncomfortable with this, first, for the reason mentioned above. I am not a stranger to Diwali but neither do I feel qualified to represent it to others. I would feel, let’s say, inauthentic. But also because I resent how Diwali has become the hegemonic Indian festival. Even among Hindus, is Diwali the festival of the year? Please weigh in. For example, when I was younger, I was surprised to realize that kids in the Hyderabad and Bangalore got Dusshera holidays not Diwali.

Anyway, with regard to the school presentation, I wrestled with myself and caved.I gently suggested that maybe Hindu parents would like to take a stab at it, but if not, I was happy to do it. To her credit, the principal apologized for presuming I celebrate the festival, but still wanted me to do it.

It turned out the SIL was coming to Hong Kong and she being an enthu cutlet, I felt only minor guilt at asking her to cart the requisite paraphernalia – which ended up being 40 diyas (!), rangoli colour and stencils and a festive looking kurta for me. I ambitiously planned to do a rangoli with the kids even though I’ve never actually made a rangoli in my life. The trial round at home provided mixed results. Obviously I would only ever attempt this with stencils.

Flash forward to today. Mimi and I donned our finery, and I explained a little about the festival to the kids, including showing them photos of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Durga. Then I showed them new clothes that could be worn on Diwali.I also showed them a diya and they would get their own to paint in art class. Then I intended to show a short video of Ram’s triumph over Ravana, except the Internet stopped working, so I ended up telling the story from a book and then the Internet worked so the kids watched the video and hopefully have that particular myth ingrained in their consciousness (or at least the notion that Indian people have blue blood which was the takeaway of one of Mimi’s pals). Then the finale- rangoli making. I had put the rangoli powder into salt and pepper shakers, which worked well in terms of spreading and I had the kids come up and shake the powders over the stencils, and the results were hardly professional but pretty nice. Everyone oohed and aahed over them and I managed to not get any powder on my kurta which is a Diwali miracle in itself.

In the end, it was quite fun. The kids and the school loved it.And when I looked around the room there were no other Indian kids, so that’s probably why I was asked. I even inspired the sister to do a similar presentation for the kids at my niece’s school in the US.

I began thinking that maybe I should be celebrating Diwali at home, putting out diyas and a rangoli (unfortunately, in Hong Kong, the fireworks part is not allowed, which is probably why I’ve done nothing for ten years – fireworks were synonymous with Diwali for me). I pretty much know I’m not going to, however, because laziness. 

What I do know is that I’m probably going to be asked to represent India at the school international day. And I’m thinking that this might be an opportunity to talk about other Indian festivals. Like, I don’t know, Eid, and Christmas, and Holi, and what else? Do tell.

 

 

* One year, the husband was leaving work with his Muslim Pakistani colleague when a third colleague came up to them, grinning and wished them both Happy Diwali. They looked at each other and burst into laughter. The third colleague was confused and said mainly to the Pakistani chap, “What you don’t celebrate Diwali?” He laughed and said, “Well, we do send firecrackers across the border.” Then he offered the husband a ride home and they chortled about it some more.

Festive grinching and bearing – 1

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Halloween has never made much sense to me.  Masses of candy, much of which ends up being not to one’s taste, and fancy dress, which I’m not a fan of either.

Except now I have kids. And Halloween seems to be becoming a thing in Hong Kong.

I’ve been able to get away with the kids celebrating it at school thus far. However, this year Nene was talking about dressing up as a zombie with great excitement. I ignored him. I have two store-bought costumes on hand – a pumpkin that has served us well for over three years and a fairy. However, that night I got a message from Nene’s friend in the building’s mother who said that her daughter had mentioned Nene would like to join them trick or treating. Apparently, some parents were organising their own trick or treating group in the building.

With a sigh, I said okay. Then, I began stressing about having to buy masses of candy, do a costume, and the fact that the event was planned for 8 pm when the kids usually go to bed. Then it transpired they expect parents to dress up too. Oh God!

I was grumbling to my sister about this. She said she can’t stand Halloween too – all the candy and dressing up, and we decided we were the grinches of Halloween.

But grumpy or not, having committed, I couldn’t back out. It turned out Nene’s school was celebrating Halloween the same day and he insisted on dressing as a vampire. As usual, I stuck my head in the sand till the last minute hoping he would change his mind and then the afternoon before ran around trying to find a cape, facepaint and black pants, which surprisingly my child does not own, so I had to go buy one (thank God, I live above a mall). I have to say I was in a pretty bad mood and Nene had a rare meltdown too when I forced him to try on his exiting pants during his cartoon time.

On the day, V painted Nene’s face and he really looked quite scary. I wasn’t sure it was appropriate for school but Nene insisted. Luckily it looks like there were some other scary kids there, although he elicited some laughter on the MTR. In the end, I think he was happy with his costume (this is a kid who loves the cheap thrills of scary scenes in movies that are probably not age appropriate) because he wore it three times and counting.

Then it was time for the evening shenanigans. After half-heartedly deciding I would wear a green t-shirt, a crocodile hat and some face paint as my costume, I came down with my period and had to send my helper instead. It turned out some parents, and even kids, didn’t dress up, but some parents really went all out. Nene was a vampire again and Mia went as the Scary Fairy – basically a fairy costume with outlandish face paint.

The actual event was simple enough. They gathered at a pre-decided spot – I messed up because I read the ever-changing whatsapp schedule late and so unfortunately my two may have delayed the group by hopefully a few minutes. They then landed up at our door in two very noisy groups. The unfortunate thing was that the first group of kids grabbed quite a lot of candy and I didn’t really restrict them quite forgetting that a second group was coming and then embarrassingly I ran out so I had to rush in and grab whatever there was in our candy drawer. Later, I found much more stuff I could have offloaded. Oh well, you live, you learn. Next year, I’m definitely dumping  all the candy that the kids hoard but don’t eat in there. And ensuring that I have three times the amount of candy to the amount of kids instead of two times.

The next morning I had signed up for a Halloween party at a trampoline park. Unfortunately, my period got quite painful overnight and I had to get a not-very-happy V to take the kids. But even he couldn’t say no in the face of their beseeching. So Nene got into his vampire gear again – criticized my face-painting and made Daddy correct it – while Mia dressed as a pumpkin.

Finally, on Monday morning, Mia dressed up again – this time as the fairy once more and V put on the facepaint – for her school Halloween shindig. Nene had the day off so I let him come with us to drop her and he did his own facepaint. By this time, even I got into the act, and decided to wear a black shirt for the drop-off. Ok, that’s probably as far as I’ll go costume wise.

Our house is overflowing with candy, which Nene has taken to cramming into his mouth wily-nily. I guess Halloween’s not over till the candy runs out.

 

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Snippets

Nene’s eyes seem to be settling down. On his second week of steriod drops, at least I see no redness, and the swelling is down. I hope the drops can be stopped soon, but at this moment I’m just happy to see progress.

***

I submitted my chapter. I feel so relieved, and although I have like many more to do, I can’t seem to focus on the next one.

***

I had my first squabble on the PTA whatsapp group. Someone was clearly enervated with a line of (factual) questioning I was pursuing and went: “FFS, it’s this…” Please enlighten me hear if you have any other understanding of that acronym, but as far as I know it means “for fuck’s sake” which I think is inappropriate for a parents whatsapp group. I said so, she actually jeered at me for not knowing the meaning of it, so I screencapped the Google result and since then not a peep out of her. Some people are mental really. I wish it hadn’t come to that, I was rattled that morning and it was drama I could have done without.

***

Mimi had her mid-term break and I managed to sneak in some time with her. I took her to a cafe for breakfast after dropping Nene off to school and then to the park later. She ate every scrap of the (very substandard I must say) English breakfast and later commented that it was “so fun”. Then, on the last day of her break, I took her to office with me to pick up my computer. She played with stuff on my desk while I did a spot of work, and then we went to a park near my uni, which is one of the rare ones with lots of grass and not one but five swing sets. There were no kids there so Mimi had her pick, followed up by picking up sticks, unsuccessfully trying to smash fallen almonds, and drawing in the sand. That park usually has a couple of fat cats lying around, but they weren’t unfortunately absent, possibly due to the heat.

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Blowing in the wind 

Mimi took a bite of the ‘happy birthday’ sign before I could cut the cake!

Another year, another birthday.

I was determined to keep this one low key, but I couldn’t help marking it. Somewhat literally. I got a word added to my tattoo. It wasn’t as painful as I remembered it to be the last time. But I started stressing that the guy was going to write the word back-to-front because when he put the stencil on my back and I checked it in the mirror, it read backwards (this is because in the mirror you see things reversed, but even after I accepted that explanation, I couldn’t shake the feeling that some awful error was taking place.)

This told me something about me. First, why did I give him the go ahead when I wasn’t absolutely sure? Second, why did I keep stressing in silence. Don’t be nice and stand your ground was the lesson I learnt while getting inked, and I kept questioning the guy about whether he could read it correctly when he was done. Finally, he took a photo of my back to shut me up. Heh.

I try not to tell too many people about my birthday, and I even went to lunch with a new colleague and she was blissfully unaware. However, in my Mandarin class, I had to admit it was my birthday because we happened to be learning how to ask the date and when your birthday is. Turns out my teacher’s birthday was yesterday.

I had ordered pizza for everyone for dinner and asked V to pick up the cake. I got home earlier than expected so I decided to buy the cake myself, but was disappointed to find that all the chocolate options were sold out. Messaged V to tell him I was buying it, and got a frantic call-back. Turns out that he had ordered one for me, and it was exactly the one I had been craving. Sometimes The Dude does get it right.

The day had a silly start. While eating breakfast, possibly because the topic of birth was ongoing, the kids started asking how babies are made, how exactly, but how does daddy put the seed in mummy. I have to say I became quite flustered because while I want to be honest about it, I really think that it’s too early to explain the actual act of sex. We managed to deflect the conversation which is really not my style. But I need to be prepared for the inevitable questions.

V asked me when we were going to bed if when I was in the twenties what I imagined a mid-thirties person to be, and if I fit the bill now. When I was in my twenties, I read Bridget Jones’s Diary and watched Sex and the City and they personified the thirties for me. I got married at 25 and I think I had my Bridget moments in my twenties, but yeah, I do think I’m a Bridget, Shazzer, Jude, Magda, Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte if not Samantha all rolled into one.

Oh and also, I’ve been (re)watching The Wonder Years. Such nostalgia. There were words from this show embedded in my brain that I didn’t know were there until I found myself mouthing dialogues. But all, it’s really well made, depicting (the end of?) innocence in a time of flux.

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What’s been happening

Nene was sick for about two weeks. First he had red eyes, but it wasn’t itchy or runny so I ignored it but it got progressively worse so I took him to the doctor and he had a slightly stuffy nose so the doctor says it’s an infection and gives antibiotics. Now, this doctor gives antibiotics at the drop of the hat, so I’m reluctant to give it. We decide to use the eye drops and wait for a day, and I take him to another doctor who prescribes eye drops but no antibiotics even though she checks his throat. But that night he develops a fever and the next day we spot white spots on his throat – which is the first time I’ve ever been able to (I remember when I was a kid, my mum would make me open my mouth and peer inside but I’ve never been able to see anything when I did the same, until now!). So we decide to give the antibiotics, but basically he has a fever for three days and no progress, so we go back and the doctor changes the antibiotics and drops, but after another two days, he still has a fever. Now, some people are recommending I take him to the hospital but I decide to go back to the doctor and he gives yet another antibiotic.

When there’s no change overnight, I take him to the hospital and the doctor takes one look and says she thinks it’s adenovirus because of the eyes and asks me if I want to get a swab test. Which was my aim of going to the hospital. The next day we get the results and it’s a virus. Not the one she suspected, but a virus which means the antibiotics were pointless – except probably preventing a secondary bacterial infection. I’m pissed for listening to stupid doctor.

So after a week, the fever has gone, but the eye is still bad and he has a cold again. He’s been out of school for a week, and fortunately had a midterm break after so he had time to rest. Take him back to the pediatrician at the hospital and she now thinks the eye is an allergy as is the cold. She prescribes a nose spray and drops for the allergies. I give it a day or two,  go to an opthamologist, who agrees that it’s allergies but prescribes steroid drops. This finally seems to be showing some results but considering the strength of the medication, his eyes are still reddish.

I feel so sorry for my boy who has borne all of this stoically. After the opthamologist appointment, I take him to a cute little cafe in Mong Kok, just a few streets away from the craziness of the Ladies Market. In a cafe with numerous coffee choices, I pick Earl Gray and Nene has a hot chocolate. We split a ciabatta and fish and chips. The flavours are unusual, but I’m surprised that Nene tastes and likes them all. We have a lovely time decompressing and go home. I decide that I need to do a date with each child more frequently. V tends to favour cha chaang tengs for meal stops with the kids, but I’ve noticed that they do appreciate places with nicer ambience.

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We’re into birthday season, kicked off with V’s. This year was a big one and though he insisted he wanted nothing better than to be left in peace, his sisters decided to surprise him with a trip to HK. They are the fun loving types and I warned them that he would not want to anything crazy. Unfortunately, V ended up seeing their messages on my phone and the surprise was out of the bag (though he still pretended for their benefit). We had a lovely dinner at one of our favourite Chinese restaurants on his birthday and ice-cream cake which he requested. Then it was four days of basically non-stop shopping madness with the sisters-in-law (i.e. they proceeded to buy up half of Hong Kong; we watched in bemusement and were sometimes plied with the spoils). We also had some intense conversations, and ended up sleeping at 2 am almost every night. On the weekend, we went out for a drink with friends, the boys left after a couple of drinks and we proceeded to party till 3 am. I pretty much only go dancing in Hong Kong when the SIL is in town, and though I turn my nose up at the crazy of Lang Kwai Fong, it is pretty much the only place I know to go dancing properly (rather than shaking a leg to some uber trendy stuff). It took me a week to recover from the four days that the SILs were here.

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In between, I’ve been trying to revise and submit a paper. I had submitted a manuscript to a journal a year ago, it came back with tonnes of very useful feedback from the reviewers, requiring major revisions. I asked if there was a hard deadline, and was told that there wasn’t. One year later, I get a note saying that my submission will be deleted if I don’t resubmit within 60 days. The fact is that I would have preferred to resubmit a little later on once I had finished writing a chapter or two and got my thoughts straight in my head, but I do understand that a year is a long time. Having gone through the process halfway, I couldn’t let it go either even though there is a low chance of acceptance. So I scrambled and wrote basically a whole new paper in about a month.

***

That’s what I’ve been up to. I have a birthday coming up, then Nene has his, and then we’re off to India in December. In between, I need to write a chapter of my thesis. Oh and did I mention, I’ve started Mandarin classes?