Archives for posts with tag: children

glittery horse

Yes it’s the Chinese Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival and it is celebrated across this region with bells on starting on January 31st for fifteen days. The date changes each year depending on when the second moon after the winter solstice occurs. There is something very poetic sounding about that although I’m sure any astro-physicists reading (unlikely) are putting their heads in their hands in quiet despair.

Welcome to the Year of the Horse.

Some of the decorations outside the flash department stores are all a bit bling but we decided to go into Chinatown and see the celebrations up close and personal. Aside from the crowds (oh my word!) it was a huge dose of tradition slamming into modern culture. It does take your breath away. The horses in Chinatown are cleverly wired in the air and although they look striking in the daylight…

daylight horses

…as the sun went down they are lit so cleverly and sway in the breeze and they look like they are galloping down the street.

at night

Then it was less about the poetry and more about the celebration in Chinatown and it was good fun.

chinese lanterns

everything red

new year barrels

I was also told that I was born in the unluckiest year of the century so far. When a friend of mine – also born in the same year – married, his future wife’s family had to make more offerings at the temple to try and counterbalance the bad luck his birth year would bring. So there you go. The jury is out whether that explains a lot or proves it is nonsense.

There’s a lot of red in these photos and the condo here is covered with red banners and lanterns and when the kids asked, it was time to find out. Here, as always, is my version of the myth.

This time it is written for Jacob, because he likes stories.

Once upon a time there was a fishing village in China that was surrounded on one side by a fierce sea and on the other, by a huge mountain. Every year, on the second moon of the winter solstice a terrifying monster, Nian, would come to the village and destroy their crops, take their hard earned fish and steal their children. Every year, without exception he would come and he was too strong to fight; too terrifying to even look at. He had the head of a lion and the body of a bull and he was so big that even the strongest of the villagers cowered in fear. On the eve of Spring, the villager would hurriedly pack their belongings and try to find a safe place to hide. They were never sure if he would come from the mountains or appear suddenly from the sea.

One year, as people hurriedly packed and panicked, an old monk called Hongjun Laozu came to the village. But no one had the time to offer him food to eat or a place to rest. “We must hurry!” they said as they pushed past him. Eventually an old woman took pity on the monk and stopped her packing and helped the monk to rest. As he sat there he chuckled to himself and said to the old woman “Why are they running from old Nian?” They should be celebrating the New Year”. And so he told the old woman how to fight Nian. The old woman sat next to the monk and they both enjoyed their meal with all the villagers shaking their heads in disbelief.

That night, the villagers watched Nian come down the mountain and approach the house of the old woman. Suddenly, red lanterns lighted up the house until it looked like it was on fire and the loud crack of firecrackers could be heard across the sea. Nian reared up in fear. As the lanterns burnt the sky red Nian fled to the mountains. As the villagers came back, the monk told them that Nian feared three things – the colour red, fire and noise. Every year since, to keep Nian away, each family lights red lanterns and sets off firecrackers.

There is so much more to say about the Spring Festival – about the ritual spring cleaning that is embraced across much of this part of Asia, about the traditions for each of the fifteen days and about how in another version of the myth it was actually the fact that Honjun Laozu was wearing red underpants – that he flashed at Nian – that scared him away. But it is late and I still have to do my own spring cleaning before all the mops and brooms must be put aside on New Year’s Day. You must not sweep away your good luck as the New Year dawns.

(Three days left, I’d better get a wriggle on).

Xmas tree

Yes, it’s THAT season so it’s ‘happy holidays’ to you all – you see, I’m very transatlantic, even global with my greetings these days.

So, as is customary for a 44 year old mother of two, here is my letter to Saint Nick. Saint Nick, not Old Nick… though when I’m preparing for Christmas with often murderous thoughts, a letter to Old Nick may be more appropriate.

Dear Father Christmas,

However bad I’ve been, please please don’t let me have to go again this year to:

VivoCity
ToysRus in Tampines, the basement of Takashimaya or Daiso.
Malls with scented gingerbread candles
Supermarkets (actually that one is a year round wish)

Please can you also stop the children from re-writing their Christmas lists because they aren’t getting half the stuff from the first edition, let alone the 65th version?

These lists are not helped by the fact the best fun Ned has had all year was wearing a bucket on his head while his friends shot Nerf gun bullets at it and pelted his armoured head with lego. I’m not sure how we move on from that present wise.

ned with bucket on his head

Also, if one more pink toy enters Millie’s bedroom, we will all need therapy. Her online course in ‘breaking gender codes’ will start in January.

Although I don’t blame you entirely, it does seem that the majority of presents may well tip Dom over the edge as they need:

Knife/scissors/screwdrivers to get into the box
Knife/scissors/screwdrivers to remove toy from the box
Knife/scissors/screwdrivers to then get it to work

I am delighted that you have a sense of humour too as there is also stuff that needs:

Parental interaction

This list is not exhaustive but appears to include:

Board games *shudder*
Skateboards – I understand that they will not master this until at least next Christmas
Lego. Bloody lego. This year I will be firm and vacuum up pieces left on the floor. Unlike last year when I spent an hour rescuing Anakin Skywalker’s head from the Dyson.

I realise that our Christmas tradition of consuming enough prosecco by 10am to bring down a rhino may not help any of the above.

I also need to point out to you that being British at 3pm on Christmas Day we listen to the Queen’s speech. This is a time when all good parents put a napkin over their head for a quick and deserving snooze. In Singapore, am I expected to power through?

If I am, there will need to be an extra sleigh delivering more prosecco. With thanks

Love Sarah x

ps Any chance of it not raining and being damp and unbelievably humid while I cook a roast dinner with all the trimmings? I would be very grateful.

pps I secretly love it, but don’t tell the elves.

The summer holidays are rolling on here as the deadly duo start school at the beginning of August. They are like animals that have come out of hibernation a little bit too soon and have struggled going from the freezing UK to hot, hot Singapore. (As have I). Finding your way around a new place on the hunt for things to do can be a challenge… here are my top four places for lazy mothers of the summer (so far).

Our Pool. Lucky that we are to live in a condo with two pools I can officially record that it takes an eight year old and a six year old exactly one month to utter the words ‘nah, I don’t feel like swimming today’ after swimming twice a day for the past four weeks.

Singapore Art Museum. Free for them (always a bonus) and the kids summer art program was a surprise hit. I think it was the room where you sit on a bed and it spins through the wall taking you into a 3D nightmare that did it.

climbing the beanstalk

Botanic Gardens. Another freebie, wahey! I’m not going to lie I am heading back here the day they start school by myself. I enjoyed it more than they did, but you know, give and take and all that….

black swan1

The Beach. Hhmmm, jury is out. We live near the East Coast – it’s man-made; it shows. The kids ask if they can swim in the sea, ‘not if you have all the vaccinations in the world’ is my reply. The horizon is full of tankers queueing to get in to the harbour and the water is a grungy brown. Singapore, so famous for its draconian approach to gum, does not have the same policy towards dog poop. Kids love it, so there you go.

millie on the beachNed at the beach

;homemade chess

In the UK. When Ned was five and starting school a bossy girl in his class asked him what he wanted to be when he grows up. ‘A Knight’ he said. ‘You can’t be a Knight, my dad said they don’t exist’. Ned came home deflated that night and asked if he could be a knight with a sword. I replied as I always do – be whoever you want to be. ‘But I’m talking about when I’m a grown-up’. You can be a fencing champion, you can be a stunt specialist for sword fighting, be noble and go on an adventure, look for truth and stand up for honour, find yourself a princess, join the Welsh Guards, join a re-enactment society – the list is endless – if you want to be a knight, be a knight. That weekend we went to our local 12th century castle to a medieval weekend. It had a jester, a hog roast, music and knights demonstrating hand-to-hand single combat – a real life knightly sword fight. Ned was transfixed. There were knights in this real world. Afterwards you could visit the tournament tents and see the knights preparing. Spotting a kindred spirit one of the knights waved Ned under the rope and let him hold a sword and talked to him about what it is like to be a knight.
So, imagination repaired, his toy sword collection has grown – we have medieval broadswords, roman swords, pirate cutlasses, Eastern scimitars and oriental samurai swords. We have read King Arthur, Perseus, Jason and the Argonauts, the adventures of Sinbad, Peter Pan and Aladdin.

In Singapore. Making friends is scary when you’re six. Ned takes a few swords and a bow and arrow down to the pool and starts laying siege to the jacuzzi and slowly I watch a few other boys circling him. It takes minutes and they play for hours.

We have a Knight in the family.

swordfighting<

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