Saturday, December 29, 2007

We're Back

Yes tonight our plane touched down at about 4.30 pm and we have now been home for a few hours. Within 10 minutes of reaching the apartment Niels and I were in the pool, soaking away the tiredness and stale air of a long haul flight. It's lovley to be back, despite the fat heavy rain drops which plunked down on our taxi during the ride home. It may get wet here, but at least it never gets cold.

Now before you all start sighing collectively I am not going to complain about how cold it was during our trip back to the Netherlands. Actually it was refreshing and invigorating to experience a season other than summer again, and if the frigid cold air caused me to break out in cold sores and for the skin to start flaking off every surface of my body and my hair to resemble something usually associated with feeding horses and haystacks, then it was a small price to pay.

The kids played outside constantly - the first couple of days when the temperatures hovered around freezing they would run around or play on their bikes and then race inside to thaw out for 10 inutes before repeating the process. After the weather became milder they were able to stay out for ages and both thoroughly enjoyed being back 'home'.
Hubby and I enjoyed being in our own home, sleepingin our own bed, and catching up with all the family and friends we miss so much.

Fortunately I took some photos during the first couple of days during the fantastically beautiful frosts which turned the whole country into a picture postcard. The temperature only dropped to about -8 C at the worst which is pretty mild really and for the last week they stayed mostly above freezing, so no, I'm not complaining.
It's lovely to be back though.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Number Two Is Growing Up

Friday was Carl's last day as a pre-schooler. Because he turns 4 years old in February, he will be joining the intake of kids moving up from the Jip & Janneke pre-school to the Hollandse School after the Christmas holidays. It's hard to believe that he is about to start 'real' school. The past four years have flown by and he has never shown any inclination to be "all growed up" as he puts it. When he wants a cuddle he still sidles up to me and whispers "I'm your baby bear" in my ear, and if he's feeling particularly generous he exuberantly shouts "You're the best mummy in the whole world...and all the planets too!"

Carl and a few of his class mates who are also being moved up to group 1 next year celebrated with a farewell party. I made cupcakes, another mum put together a goodie bag, another a present for each of the teachers. The three women who work in his class are really going to miss him and were a bit tearful at him leaving. Very early on he had developed the habit of holding their hands tightly, looking deeply into their eyes and saying "you're my friend". You could hear their hearts melting across the room.

There are certain physical charcteristics in women that Carl definitely prefers, even at his tender age. He LOVES Asian women. Every day he would shower Serin, the Singaporean woman at Jip & Janneke, with compliments. Everything from "you have beautiful hair" to "you have a beautiful dress" to "you have beautiful toes". He also appreciates a generous bust size. Whether it's because he was breast feed or just a general appreciation of the female form, since he was 2 years old Carl has told me during our cuddles "I love your boobies". For the last six months I've been trying to dissuade him from saying this and I suspect at pre-school they have been working on it too. A while ago he moderated what he said to "I love your whole body" which is I guess a bit more acceptable. However often he sneaks in a little add on at the end when I'm giving him his last cuddle in bed at night: "I love your whole body Mummy.....

....and your boobies too".

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wintery Holland

So here I am in chilly Brabant (that's in th South of the Netherlands for those of you not in the know), where it's currently -3 degrees C. Much to Niels delight it was snowing lightly as we drove here, a welcome change to the humid warmth of Sweatypore.

We've been back for a few days now and are getting over our jetlag, so it was time to head to Eindhoven to visit Rocco and Ashley at their luxury Rabbit Recluse in Liesbeth's back yard. Attached are some pics of the wintery landscape, absolutley beautiful but best seen from indoors!

The rather charming ginger tom cat who appears to be standing on my head is Karel, who is overseeing proceedings and making sure we didn't forget to include him in the photos. After all, surely I didn't come all this way just to photograph some rabbit...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Still Heading South...Or Maybe Out To Sea?

For those of you who are wondering whether Niels has assumed a normal sword-free status, the short answer is we don't know for sure but think the answer is yes. After all this time of hovering whenever he needed to go to the loo to check if it had gone through his system, I turned my back for 5 minutes this morning to start packing our suitcases and suddenly I heard a toilet flushing. So all evidence has disappeared without trace.
Since he is obviously not suffering from a perforated bowel and is in no discomfort we're going to assume that it's safely passed out of his system. Of course, Murphy's Law would dictate that in the small hours of tomorrow morning, when we are flying at 32,000 feet on our way to the Netherlands, he will suddenly grip his stomach and start howling in pain. We prefer not to think about that option at the moment.
On the bright side the doctors said that it would take a maximum of 52 hours to go through and we are well over that by now.
My next posting will be from chilly Holland, where the kids are hoping for snow, hubby is hoping for a big plate of boerenkool with Dutch sausage, and I am hoping to give my bunnies Rocco and Ashley a big smooch. And no frost bite of course.
Will report from the flip side soon.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Heading South...

OK here's an update on my stunt-sons sword swallowing adventure (see yesterdays blog if you don't know what I'm talking about). So far Niels feels fine and is showing no ill effects of having swallowed the plastic sword. As far as we know, it hasn't passed through his system yet, 30 hours after being swallowed. He is however getting a lot of mileage out of the story AND he lost a tooth tonight so his bodily functions are a source of ever-increasing wonder to the little guy.
I took the kids to school this morning and explained discreetly to his teacher what had happened so that if he complained of pain she would contact me immediately. I didn't want to make a big deal of it in case he was embarressed. However during 'kring' (circle time) this morning as soon as class started he loudly declared: "Who can guess what's in my stomach? It's not food and it not drink!" Apparently his buddies were kept busy for ten minutes trying in vain to guess what the mystery object might be, and Niels eventually triumphantly had to put them out of their misery and tell them. One can only imagine the awe and wonder that passed through their six years old minds when they discovered that a genuine sword swallower was in their midst, cleverly disguised as an ordinary little boy.
The story soon spread and other Mum's were coming up to me and asking "did he really....??"
When I asked Niels how he even managed to swallow the thing his dead pan answer was "it just fell in my mouth". Duh.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My Son The Sword Swallower

This evening at about 5.10 pm Niels, our 6 year old, walked up to me with a stricken look on his face. "My throat it's a bit...well I can feel it...I didn't mean to....I swallowed a sword".

Now my kids have been known to tell a few tall tales in their time - everything from jet fighters flying past the windows to the mess in their room being made by little green monsters who came running out of the closet - but I could see that Niels was serious.

"You've swallowed what?"

"A sword"

And indeed he had. A Playmobile sword to be exact, the kind that comes with those little vikings and knights with the warning not to give to children under THREE YEARS OLD due to them containing small parts. And now one of those parts was heading south down my 6 year old sons gullet. I looked down his throat - nothing.

"I can feel it down here now" he whimpered, tears welling up in his eyes and pointing to his upper chest.


Wihtin 10 minutes I'd rung a taxi, found an identical plastic sword to show to the doctor, shoved 4 peanut butter sandwiches and a bottle of water in my bag (it was almost dinner time and Carl was bound to start yelling for food), turned off said dinner (which was going to be slow roasted New Zealand lamb shanks in a creamy tomato and red pepper sauce, 'sigh') and headed downstairs. Stuffed kids etc into taxi and headed for the KK Womens and Childrens Hospital which is conveniently located 5 minutes away down Bukit Timah road. We're familiar with this place becuase Carl needed four stitches in his chin after falling by the pool last year...but that's another story.

Tried to ring hubby: mobile phone suddenly on the blink. Shit shit shit. Tried texting, that still worked:
[off to hospital niels swallowed playmobile sword]

Almost reached the hospital when hubby's frantic text came back:
[which hospital??]

Now something you have to know about Singapore's health system is that their hospitals are BRILLIANT. We took a number and less than five minutes later were being whizzed through triage by a masked nurse who bribed Carl into silence with lollies while trying not to smile at Niels predicament. I popped over to the desk next door to pay ($75), then back to the triage nurse who handed me a form she'd conveniently filled in for me in the mean time, then it was into the x-ray department next door (no waiting) for a quick x-ray. Out again in less than 5 minutes (yes really), then asked politely to wait until our number flashed up on a screen. Taking a breather on a plastic chair I texted hubby again:
[dont panic niels needs xray he feels fine]

Phone still not allowing me to make calls, shit shit shit shit.

No response from hubby, so I'm soon having visions of him hurtling along the rain soaked roads and crashing into a lamp post...there's our number so we're whizzed in to see a doctor who points to Niels x-ray hanging on the light box on the wall.

"Are you sure he swallowed something?" he asks suspiciously. The x ray shows no foreign objects, and is especially empty of sharp pointy bits of sword shaped plastic. Shit shit shit shit shit.

I take a long look at Niels, and he looks back at me. "Yes he really swallowed it."

The doctor heads off to consult the head physician on duty then comes back with the final verdict: take him home, give him dinner, bring him back in one hour.

Hubby turned up about then, sans lamp post, and we head home. At the moment Niels is peacfully asleep in bed and we are officially on poo duty. Yes, he is expected to pass said sword within the next 52 hours, so guess who will get the lovely job of searching for the missing sword amongst you-know-what?

Shit shit shit shit shit.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Singaporeans Rank Stabilty Higher Than Free Press

Many Westerners seem to perceive Singapore as being a repressed society ruled with an iron fist by an authoritarian government. While it's true that the government has a more active rolein what I would call social control than some other governments, apparently this is not major concern to the local populace. A news story out today reports that Singaporeans rate social stability as being more important than freedom of the press, and what's more, they feel that government-run media does a better job of reporting news than private companies.
Of the 14 countries surveyed, Singpaore, India and Russia were the three that ranked social stabilty as being more important than free press. Taking the turbulent histories of these nations into account, I don't find the result very surprising.
Interestingly, in the US and UK - the countries most often clamouring for right for freedom of the press for other nations - citizens surveyed were the most critical of the quality of their national news reporting. Personally I find this no surprise at all. During my (admittedly short) stay in the US a couple of years ago I couldn't believe how sensationalist some of the news reporting was. It was edited down into 30 second slots complete with flashy titling, loud music and special effects. In the UK, where I have lived for a while, the tabloids are not only hugely popular but people actually belive what's written in them.
However I digress. It was an interesting item and if you want to read the whole story, click on this link:

Friday, December 07, 2007

Aint Life Tough...

Take a close look at the blissed-out eyes peering out through the froth of bath foam.
Mmmmmmmmm, can you smell the fragrant foam as it sensuously massages your warm skin, can you feel the steam rising gently through your hair, can you hear the tinkling pop and rustle of millions of incandenscent bubbles as they brush against your thighs, sense how your facial skin is relaxing and revitalising under the caresses of the fruity herbal mask....

....actually this isn't me.
It's my Mum, who should be in ecstasy encased in a luxurious bubble bath tonight but is actually convulsed by giggles at the whole experience. I thought it would be a nice relaxing start to the weekend for her, and since hubby has obligingly headed off to the Chanel counter at Isetan in preparation for our early Xmas celebration tomorrow, it seemed the perfect chance to let her indulge a little.
I'd give her a glass of wine but apparently there's no room left behind all that foam. In fact, she just yelled out that she "can't even find her bits under all this foam". What a life.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Oom pah pah

This is a photo taken at the Octoberfest we went to last month showing me and a distinctly Asian looking fraulein. It's a cool photo for two reasons. Firstly, it was a great night out with good freinds, good food, and good beer (Erdinger), although my head was a bit sore the next day. White beer just doesn't agree with me unfortunately.

The second reason it's a cool pic is that it was taken on an iPhone. For those of you who have never had the chance to play with one of these amazing devices, you really don't know what you are missing. It's at the top of my wish list (and likely to remain there indefinitely considering the ridiculous price) not just for the sexy design but also for the incredible functionality of it. If you're looking at an image on the comparatively huge screen, and you tip the iPhone on its side, the picutre tips too so it's still upright! You can put two finger tips on the image and pull them apart and it causes the phone to zoom in. Drawing your fingers apart will zoom out again. Think how cool that would be if you were looking at a street map or a schematic diagram? It's made of course by Apple, the people who created the iPod, the ultimate toy without which my life would be devoid of meaning at least several times a day. (Follow this link to judge for yourself how attached I am to my iPod:

Hubby's colleague Phil had bought his a day before the Beerfest so I had ample opportunity to play around with it. I was showing all the functions to Holger ("look honey, isn't this amazing? And look! And look! And look! I've got to get one of these! How much was it? $1000? Wow that's a lot. Isn't this cool honey?")

Holger turned to Phil and said drily, "yeah, thanks Phil".

I guess I can't expect an iPhone in my Xmas stocking this year.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Mosaic madness

Anybody who likes mosaics has to check out the Merlion Walk on Sentosa Island. I’ve been through there twice and each time I’ve noticed different things about it which are just so cool.

This time I had both kids in tow and we’d taken my Mum up the Merlion on a day trip. It was of course hot sticky weather so the kids stripped off down to their undies and jumped in the water. They weren’t the only ones, as there were about a dozen kids speaking a handful of languages giggling their way up and down the waterway. A rainbow collection of children to match the fountain!

It was great fun for them exploring all the nooks and crannies and trying to catch – or avoid - the jets of water which shoot out of different places along the length of the mosaic fountain.
The entire thing is quite long – maybe 50 metres or so – and has an ocean theme. Every now and then you can spot an octopus or an anemone or sea shell built into the seemingly random forms. There are also tunnels and caves, waterfalls and sprayers.

You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy the Merlion Walk but it would help if you don’t mind getting naked in public.