Friday 30 December 2011

Josh being a doctor

Josh plays hungry caterpillar, Felix does animal sounds


What's the difference between "picking your battles" (A Good Thing) and "giving in" (A Bad Thing)?

If the boys want to switch the lamp on and off ad nauseam do I let them because I know they'll scream otherwise (=giving in) or because actually it's not really doing any harm (=picking my battle and saving my ammunition for toy-related aggression)

Thursday 22 December 2011

Let it snow!

Thanks to the Wizard for recommending this sooper dooper Christmassy jobby.

Type "let it snow" into Google, and behold the festive results!

Since Google is in Chinese in these parts, the first time I did this, I got an auto-translated page with just one button, which (inexplicably) just says "Defrost".


So the boys are getting older, I'm getting sadder. Will they ever love me, blah blah blah. To quote Glee (season 3, episode 8) my life is full of rich white girl problems. Time I grew a pair.

Meanwhile, Christmas is approaching with relentlessness (can you tell I'm a copywriter? Sorry folks but I have no creative writing left once I've written an introductory paragraph about a neo-classical ballet based on a Puccini opera - any guesses?) I am once again in Starbucks. While we're on the subject, why oh why does Starbies not have the truly superior hazelnut and choccy muffins that they piled high at Crimbo last year?

It's 9.30am. I've done the conversion and figured out that 9.30am in Hong Kong = about 5am in any other part of the world. Starbucks is echoingly empty, apart from a couple of elderly tai tais (who are sadly not wearing their PJs, just regular street clothes) and an office lady doing her make up. I am not complaining because it means I can work in relative peace. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Canto convo behind me is not really a distraction. Sometimes I wonder what it'd be like to go back to the UK and suddenly overhear a thousand conversations a day. It would feel so having had cotton wool in your ears for 3 1/2 years then taking it out and being shocked by the hullaballoo.

P.S. 9.50 am update - they've just switched the lights on, in time for the mainlander influx.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Momentous occasion

For the first time in its history, this blog is publishing a retraction. Katamoran informs me that actually goose is very good for Crimbo lunch: "Lee has done it for several years now and it's seriously good! Turkey is banned from our home". 

Katharine, I'm definitely up for having my mind changed. In the meantime I eagerly await the outcome of the Hamkey that I am trying to persuade my family to have for Chrissy Day - who needs a turducken when you could combine pork goodness with a traditional turkey?! Waiting with baited breath.

Sunday 11 December 2011

Thursday 8 December 2011

All grown up

This is my absolute second favourite photo of all time. The only one that's better is the one of the boys in the playground because they are both in it.

Taken with the fabulous camera that my darling husband gave me for my birthday!!

The goose is getting fat

So there's no denying it, Starbucks is bashing me over the head with a "musical" reminder that Christmas is just around the corner. Our house is totally un-chrismafied, apart from the enormous box of 50 kids' presents that is shoved under the dining table. They're not for J & F, they are for a whole load of twins who will be at the annual MOMs Christmas Party on Saturday.

To tree or not to tree? How do we feel about fake trees (can't believe I just typed that out loud)? What are the odds on the boys ripping the lights out of the sockets and ending up with charred faces and stand-on-end hair as a result? Should I just face the fact that it's about time I trusted them? or is that the toffee nut latte talking?

I got our decos out the other day - they are looking really rather sad. They are mostly from Paris, I think we bought them about 5 years ago - can that be right? Anyway, I think it's time to reconsider the tree trimmings. Whether we have a tree or not.

At Joey's baby shower, we all gave the glowing mum-to-be tips about motherhood. Mine was dull and practical. But someone suggested that everyone should start a tradition with their kids, something that's special just for the family. And shouldn't it be at Christmas? So blogosphere, any ideas?

p.s. we once had a goose for Christmas lunch, it was minging, don't do it.

The recipe book

I started collecting recipes quite a while ago. In fact, the address I have written in the front of this recipe book (in case I lost it in a public place and someone wanted to return it to me - WTF?!) is 6, rue Francisque Sarcey, 75016, Paris. My sophisticated carbon dating equipment tells me that this dates it to the early 21st century - around 2001-2 to be precise.

Back then, I was under the illusion that at some point in the future I would "grow up" - that's also the reason I kept the Port Meirion Tea Set. I distinctly remember justifying it to Ross by saying that when the vicar came to tea, we'd have something reasonable to serve him from. What was I thinking?

So yes, I thought I would grow up, but I never ever thought that I would employ a maid. I collected all these recipes for the time in the future when I was grown up and cooked dinner for my husband once the kids were in bed. That hasn't quite come to pass. Sometimes I think about what it would be like to take Vergenia back to the UK with us on holiday. And I wonder how on earth I would explain the situation.

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Thursday 10 November 2011

Arrival imminent

Granny and Granddad arrive tomorrow. The last time they were in Hong Kong, I was about 4 months pregnant, and knackered. This time, the boys are just over 18 months old, so a lot has changed! one thing that hasn't changed is our lovely abode, Lei Shit Court, sorry I mean Lei Shun Court. We have just signed a new lease for another two year term, which led us to contemplate our previously slightly nomadic existence.

I think the longest we've lived anywhere was our house in Sawbo, where we lived for 2 1/2 years after we got married. So in no time at all, good ole 6G will be our most permanent home. Isn't that strange? I guess the cost and hassle of moving house with young boys will keep us in one place for a while!

Our rent only went up by 10%, which is very reasonable compared to friends whose rent increased 40%+.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Stones are funny

Look at moi, I'm parenting!

I love this blog. It's called 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle. Today's post struck a chord with me, you might like to take a look.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Isn't it strange how everything Christmas-related in HK bears lashings of snow? I hear it's the same in Aus. The ever-fascinating Hong Kong Observatory website tells me that the last time it snowed in Hong Kong (I was quite amazed to hear that it ever has!) was back in 1975.

November has begun, and therefore in Starbucks all the cups are red, and all the staff are wearing badges saying "Let's Merry!" Your guess is as good as mine. And while we're on the topic, who wants a Cranberry White Chocolate Mocha?! Minging.

As always at this time of year, I suddenly realise it is November and start looking forward to bonfires and fireworks. Except of course Guy Fawkes Night is totally irrelevant here, and fireworks are illegal.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Count Felix

We had our first experience of Hallowe'en this year. Well, I say first, but somewhere in the dusty recesses of my memory, I think I recall a hallowe'en party at Frederick Mansfield's house...I remember it because our Nanny wouldn't let me go back into the house to get my RSVP because we were already late leaving for school. Anyway, I digress.

Hallowe'en is a big deal here, and I've spent the last two weeks telling everyone that it just doesn't exist in the UK, but Facebook evidence is ruining my credibility. It obviously does exist, and looks to be getting bigger and bigger. Maybe the point is that when we were kids, nobody went trick or treating for Hallowe'en (but it was a great excuse to buy some sweets - "just in case"). Actually we also used to buy a pumpkin to carve up sometimes.

We went to two parties - the first at Kiddy Village in Taikoo Shing The boys tried out their costumes - I was terrified that they'd be super lame, but actually they looked great! Amazing what face paints can do. Tayla came dressed as Elmo, and she was absolutely terrified of the boys...whoops. Aiden was a skeleton, Emma and Helene were a cat and a mouse, and Christopher was superman. We had lots of fun.

The second party was at PIPs, the pre school at Parkview (famed for being the location of a dastardly murder - as fictionalised, sorry I mean recorded in Never Enough, which I read faster than any other book in my life) The school's enormous, and we had a little party in the playground at the back. It was a MOMs party, so there were lots of twins there. It was good, but I think it would be infinitely improved by the addition of a few bottles of champagne. I'll record that in my notes for next year!

The weirdest thing about PIPs is that there's a little plastic playhouse in the corner of the playground, which contains a miniature urinal and a miniature toilet. They're real. Plumbed in. Flushing. Cute or bizarre? I was torn. The boys decided that it would be HILARIOUS to pick up stones, and drop them through the window of the little house. I can only assume that by this time the combination of running around, cupcakes, slides, games and too many kids had made them delirious. Ross took a video, I'll try to get hold of it.

Thursday 27 October 2011

Wednesday 26 October 2011

The wheels on the bus

Ready, steady, go!

The boys and friends pegging it around during Millie's not-a-baby-shower baby shower.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Hundreds, teasers and swan dives

I have started doing Pilates again, at Flex in Wong Chuk Hang. IT IS AWESOME. I cannot express how much I love Pilates. I guess it appeals to the disciplinarian ex-ballet student in me. I love proving to myself that I can still do it, after cough cough, erm, two years of nothing, I love seeing that my mind has way more control over my body than I realised, I love pushing myself further than I thought I could go (literally) and most of all I love staring at the ceiling, thinking about breathing, thinking about where my shoulders are, thinking about engaging my abs.

After the class today, the teacher Victoria (who is also awesome - and let me tell you I am super-fussy when it comes to pilates teachers) said she was surprised I hadn't done Pilates for a long time, because I can still do it all, and she said I had excellent physique. That might just be the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me! I don't care what I weigh, I care how I feel. And walking out of those classes I feel taller, stronger and most importantly happier.

Happy 18 months munchkins!

548 days ago, I was on my way from the delivery ward to the maternity ward at The Queen Mary Hospital.  I had Josh with me, but not Felix, he was up in the neo-natal unit for one night, so I had one night of singleton parentism!

We went to the Aberdeen Marina Club this arvo for a playdate, which was lovely. We don't go there often, and every time we do I really notice the big changes in them, how they behave, how they play, and how independent they are. It's a massive, massive relief that they are finally able to clamber around (padded) climbing frames on their own - Josh even managed to climb up and down the stairs unsupervised a few times so that he could slide. I know I'm supposed to supervise them, but that would involve me contorting myself to fit into the kiddy-sized tunnels and twisty turny slides. And frankly, the joy of being able to see them playing independently is so great that it even outweighs my immense guilt at not being within lunging distance of them at all times.

I had a super lovely afternoon yesterday, partly because I was with my BFF, and partly because BFF's helper Nora the Explorer came to help Vergie with the boys while we tai-tai'd. It is fabuloso knowing that there are two people looking after them and they are happy and active, not stuck inside because one person cannot realistically take them out alone.

Another factor in the loveliness was that I saw the boys from a distance for the first time really. Nora and Vergie were playing with them, then they held the boys' hands as they walked home with us. It was a bit weird to see them like that. They are ridiculously cute, and of course I see that every day, but seeing them as a stranger must see them, toddling across Lie Don Doh was a bit of an eye-opener. Maybe I should remove the blinkers more often.

Sunday 16 October 2011

Tuesday 11 October 2011

W, X, Y and .....Zed or Zee?

As the boys get bigger and start going to classes with structure, they are often singing the ABC song. Now if you ask me, that song ends "w, x, y and zed, now I know my alphabet..." then something else, I've forgotten the end. But the version that everyone (including britishers) uses here ends "w, x, y and zee, now I know my ABC, next time won't you sing with me."

This seems weird to me - are the boys going to grow up Americanized? Or internationalized? I expect they will say "heaps" instead of "loads", and they "won't have a bar of it" and spell it "vegies" not "veggies" but that's the Aussie influence (they are already addicted to Vegemite and were born on ANZAC day). Now, it won't come as much of a surprise to you all that I am something of a snob, especially when it comes to languages.

Already friends with school-age kids are worrying that they say candy instead of sweets (just to complicate the matter, the Aussie for sweets is lollies) Why do I feel so strongly that I don't want them to say chips instead of crisps? I think it might have something to do with a fear of them being bullied at an English school. But it's deeper than that too, it's always been there. I don't know, just my own little foible I guess.

Here in Hong Kong we have a curious blend of linguistic habits. The old melting-pot metaphor applies here, and I am only referring to the stuff written in the Latin alphabet. 

Of course it's easy to mock names - like the shop called Wankee Sports, or people with names like Purple, Champagne or Buffet. It's also easy to mock the difficulty that Canto speakers have distinguishing between L and R - see you tomollow, la! But it seems like the influence of many different cultures has seeped into common usage here.

Shroff, for example (Parsi for "one who deals with money") is very frequently used; everywhere from a car park attendant's hut to the hospital cashier's desk is called a shroff. A warehouse is a Godown (from the Malay "gudang"). Nullah is used to describe a sort of concrete reinforced gully for rainwater, it's from Hindi and is apparently hardly used anywhere except Hong Kong.

Hong Kong English has many idiosyncrasies, and perhaps the habit that we mock the most is for HKers to say "cannot". Cantonese is such a direct language, made up of simple units, that there is no custom of sugar-coating, as we would in English. No "would you mind" or "I'm afraid not" or "I'd be grateful if". Just CANNOT. And as much as we take the piss, I don't actually get cannotted all that often. It's more of an attitude I guess. 

It's ironic because the answer is so often CAN - yes, I can come and fix your water heater on a Sunday afternoon, yes I can continue to negotiate your flat rental at 10pm on a Friday night, yes I can bring you a keg of beer on a public holiday. Of couse the flip side of that is yes I can dig a massive great hole in the pavement without any protective barriers around it so that you and your ma chai can fall into it!

ps: I just took the boys out with me when I went to get coffee at Pret in Lee Gardens II, and I dressed them in jeans, socks and shoes and jumpers because it was a bit chilly. I explained this to Vergenia, who asked me what the temperature is, so I just looked it up - 25 degrees. Not exactly chilly.

Monday 3 October 2011

Sunday 2 October 2011

Tuesday 27 September 2011


I am lucky enough to have true, loyal friends, lovely (if ma fan) children, an awesome husband, a place to live in one of the world's greatest cities....doesn't sound enormously problematic does it? And yet...

I am still feeling rather empty. Maybe it's the Prozac, maybe it's the twin thing, maybe it's making such a momentous life change so far from home. Maybe it's the way that the concept of "home" has become a lot more relative than it used to be.

What do you say when people ask where you are from? When we arrived in Hong Kong, we used to tell people that we were from London, because that's what most people expect, and of course everyone knows London. Naturally about 50% of the people who asked us thought we were America, Australian or even German, but that's another story.

Now it's harder. Travelling in Asia from Hong Kong, saying "we're from Hong Kong" often prompts a double take - no one expects to hear that from a pair of peely wally gweilos. "London" is usually the easiest response, at least it's easier than "Sawbridgeworth in Hertfordshire, about 30 miles north east of London" which is where we last lived.

What does home mean? These days I often reply that I grew up in the South of England, I guess that's enough. What do people want to know when they ask where you're from? I suppose they want to find some common ground (most people here have a relative who has studied / is studying in London) or maybe they just want a point of reference to try and help them to pigeon hole you.  So perhaps I should just say I'm...hang on, English? British? from the UK? or even from UK, as Chinglish would have it? Then everyone would know that I like to eat crisps with my lunch, and say "lots" instead of "heaps" and have a tendency to drink too much gin occasionally.

Thomas, Felix and Josh at Kiddy Village

I freakin' love Kiddy Village. It's in Taikoo, so it's a little way away - about half an hour by MTR. It just opened in June or July 2011 so it's all sparkling clean. They have a good area for little kids (including a playhouse - the boys like to open and close the wall, rather than just the door) as well as a fairly large soft play area. There's a trampoline, a couple of slides that swoosh down into a big deep ball pit, a room full of balloons, and loads of obstacles and swinging things and little cars to ride in. The boys love it too, and it's only $70, which is a bargain compared to Wise Kids' $120, especially when you are taking two kids....So that's our destination of choice these days, I just wish I had found out about it earlier in the summer.

We're still going to My Kiddy Gym in Causeway Bay. We didn't go one week, as we were in Phuket, but going again today actually reminded me of how good it makes me feel, as well as the boys. They are generally (touch wood) well behaved, happy and co-operative, and I am always so enormously proud of them. Even if there's something they don't want to do, they are usually ok about it, as long as they're not forced, they're relatively quiet while they wait. We have heard quite a few complaints about Mr Reggie unfortunately - lots of mums (and helpers, judging from what Vergenia has heard in Tagalog) feel that it is not appropriate for him to discipline children. Firstly, it's not a school, it's supposed to be fun. Secondly, they are often only 12-18 months old! they just don't understand. Thirdly and perhaps most importantly, I don't think it's ok for someone to discipline your kids unless you know what they are doing and agree with their approach. Most of the time the carers at Kiddy Gym are helpers, not parents, who may not have the confidence to object to the disciplining....that's why I always go with V and the boys, I want to be there if it all kicks off!

Monday 26 September 2011

Saturday 17 September 2011

Wednesday 7 September 2011

T minus 24 hours!

Off to Phuket tomorrow night with Brooke Nath and Aiden. Can't wait, I think we are all in dire need of a break. Vergenia and Doreen are coming so there might actually be the opportunity for a break!
We're going to the Outrigger - I did the choosing and booking which always makes me nervous...if the place is rubbish I'll feel it's my fault.
Anyway, packing has commenced!

Monday 29 August 2011

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Jardine's Lookout Residents' Association Pool and helper musings

We had a great time yesterday afternoon at the pool. Actually there are two pools, the big one in the foreground and also a little baby pool. We were the only people's so hidden away, you would never guess it was there. The path's a bit overgrown and it's set down several staircases from the road, through a rusty old wrought iron gate. It's like something out of a story book. I took both of the boys and Vergenia, but was astounded to hear that "Auntie's* feet must not touch the water". So I had to try and manage J and F at the same time - no mean feat! there was no drowning, so it all turned out ok.

It's kind of hard to believe that such rules exist in 2011. Helpers in this city often look after kids 12+ hours a day, on their own while both parents work. One family I know went on holiday to Europe for 2 weeks, leaving their 15 month old with their helper (who they fired shortly after they got back because she was "useless") They take them to the dr, to school, to playdates, and yet they are not allowed to swim with them in many swimming pools. This seems like blatant discrimination; here's Mr Know-it-all's opinion, and there's more discussion here. This is one of those ocassions when I wonder where the truth lies. The argument is often put forward that not all of the members of these clubs / housing complexes are ok with helpers using the facilities. As a non-Chinese reader / speaker it's all too easy for me to assume that it's Chinese residents who object....but maybe they assume that it's the Westerners who object?

I didn't question the rule yesterday (since I was a guest of a member and didn't feel it was my place), I just said OK and ignored the rule. I needed Vergenia's help, and after warning us the superintendant lady went away and left us alone, so we just got on with it.

(*Auntie is one of the more popular names for helpers in HK. Chinese kids often call their helpers "zhe zhe" which means older sister. As the boys grow up, I am encouraging them to call Vergenia "ya ya" which is Tagalog; I understand that it means something between auntie and nurse, it's supposedly a very affectionate term for someone who looks after you and is very close to the family."Amah" is the Chinese term for a helper, implying someone who's both a child carer and maid - it's a respectful term.)

There's a case that's being disputed here at the moment. In its simplest terms, it's an appeal against discrimination. The law states that anyone who has lived in Hong Kong for at least 7 years and can prove their ability to support themselves financially, has the right to become a "Permanent Resident". Among other things, this means that any of your family who do not live here are entitled to move to Hong Kong. EXCEPT....if you are a domestic helper. None of this applies to domestic helpers, who have often been here many years (Vergenia's been here 10 years now). The government's main argument seems to be that changing this law to include domestic hepers would have a huge impact on society, health care, etc (no kidding, there are around 284,900 helpers in Hong Kong, half from the Phillipines and half from Indonesia).

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Felix being a TIGER

Some awesome toys that the boys are LOVING at the moment

The boys are now 15 1/2 months old, and they have spent the last decade (maybe it just feels like that, it was probably a few weeks) opening doors, trapping their fingers in doors, headbutting coffee tables and trying to pull the TV off the shelf. But FINALLY they have got very interested in a few toys - and what's more they were mostly pretty cheap, what more could you want?! I definitely didn't have enough primary coloured plastic in my life, but the boys are doing their best to remedy that.

I think they are a little bit behind some of our friends' kids, who are trying to say a few words, and following instructions quite well, but Josh and Felix are seriously fit and strong! they run around all day and love piggyback rides.

One thing I love they love is a very cute toy farm that I got from the Early Learning Centre on sale (yes!) They're really into HappyLand stuff, now they have Goosefeather Farm, the double decker bus, and a little fire station. I've also got them a few more books recently. It's funny to see which ones they like - Dear Zoo and Brown Bear, Brown Bear what do you see? are still faves, but the stupidly expensive Noisy Noisy Parp and the Night Garden are popular too because they make sounds. Also Josh really likes one with a whirly wheel at the end, which I thought was a bit crap. Oh well, each to their own.

We went for a little walk yesterday along the harbourfront, east from Victoria Park. There's a reason it's off the beaten tourist track! On the road opposite our house (Yun Ping Road) there's Cartier, Chanel, Tod's, Van Cleef and Arpels, Miu Miu, Gucci and all manner of other, equally useful high-end designer shops. Most of the time I am at work, at home, or at other people's houses for playdates. So walking along the harbour front was interesting (and hot - I got a bit burnt in half an hour). We saw a tiny little boat, just 5 feet long maybe, which was being propelled by an old lady standing at the back, waggling the thing that looks like a punting pole backwards and forwards, which mysteriously makes the boat move. Anyway, she was ferriyng another old lady, holding her umbrella, from one of the bigger boats in the Typhoon Shelter over to the shore. I never would have guessed that there are several sets of stone steps up from the harbour so you can climb onto the path which is next to the highway.

There's a confetti of "Poisonous rodent bait has been laid in this area" notices along the path and fence, but I figured that such bright sunlight would probably drive the rats away. The path is weird, it's like a parallel universe to the bright lights of Hysan Avenue, just a couple of blocks away. I would say it's run down, but there's not much there to run down. There are strange little shacks, which seem to be suspended out over the water, miraculously hanging there. There are all sorts of discarded bits and pieces in the water, mostly old tyres and ropes. And a little way along towards Tai Hang there's a little kiosk-y thing that is the only structure that looks inhabited, called something like "Causeway Bay Water Selling Hut". Bizarre. A little further along, in the shade of a bridge, several groups of old men were playing cards. I think our unexpected appearance made their day - silence fell as the gweipo, the Filippina and two blond babies approached. Towards the end of the path, before it turned into a pavement leading into Tin Hau, was a large fenced off area, marked as Government property. On the sprawling tree just inside the fence sat about a hundred fat grey pigeons, all sunning themselves before the warmth faded.

Anyway, on the way home through Tin Hau we passed lots of those little everything shops, which often have a few toys. I spent about HK$100 buying the boys some little ink stamps, some Thomas the Tank Engine stickers, a TtTE jigsaw puzzle, and a bouncy ball which lights up and flashes. I don't think I need to tell you which was the favourite! Also we went to Wellcome, the skankiest supermarket in the world which is always inexplicably filled with Western models - seems an unlikely place to buy toys, but Annie told me she got some plastic fruit and veg there that sticks together with velcro, and you can "cut" it open with the knife provided. I also got an equally cheapo thing that is a set of stacking cups that make a kind of tower which you then throw plastic rings over, a la Westwell Village Fete circa 1985. Both of those have proved pretty popular.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Monday 8 August 2011

Sunday 7 August 2011

Thursday 4 August 2011

Meanwhile, in other news....

This morning the boys came to say goodbye to me before going to bed for their nap. They have both recently learned to kiss on demand (although their performance is rather erratic) and they both went to kiss me at the same time and accidentally headbutted each other! Whoops. Too cute.

They've started doing puzzles. Felix is relatively patient and can just about finish the Nurse out of the Early Learning Centre set. They are also into drawing and painting - it looked like a very bloody murder had taken place in the flat last week! Red footprints everywhere. I have come to the conclusion that chalks are best, although they break they are easy to make marks with. Crayons are ok too, but they have to be a bit more precise which is a challenge.

We're now going to the next class up at My Kiddy Gym, which is for 18-24 months. I took Josh to the Tuesday class, where there were 3 kids. Then I took Felix to the Wednesday class where there were about 20 kids! it was a little bit chaotic....actually it's usually the parents who are out of control, not the kids.

We've also signed up for ArtPlay at Kids' Gallery in the Coda Plaza. It doesn't start for a while, but should be good fun. The boys enjoy making a mess, so it'd be nice to do it somewhere without sofas!

Off to the viewing floor at ICC with Cath and HP today. From here it looks like a lovely day, so I hope we get good views.

Lifestyle, darling!!

I've started seeing a new doctor because the old one in Central was very lovely, but extortionately expensive. You can tell we've been here a few years, because I can't be bothered to schlep all the way into Central any more (it's about 4km away). So I now go to Dr Lisa Cham in The World Trade Centre (naturally), who seems very good so far. I had a blood test there last week - I took Joshemy and he was way braver than me. Which is not saying much.

I spoke to the Dr about the thyroxine that I'm taking, and also Prozac. I asked if there's any benefit to stopping the Prozac, and she didn't really come up with any, other than "you're still young". Her suggestion is that at some point in the near future, we try to decrease my dose, while making lifestyle changes to make me happier without relying on chemicals. But I'm not sure that I can make many improvements. Anti-depressants aside, things are great. I have wonderful friends, a supportive husband, and an amazing helper. I get plenty of exercise, eat well, and get lots of time outside.  I have a job that's interesting and stimulating but not too stressful, I have a 10 minute commute, and a boss I really like and respect. 

And yet....I still need anti-depressants. I won't go into the details, but I have been a bit unwell (so's Ross actually) for a few days, and as a result it seems like the Prozac is having little effect. Which, I hope is why I had a complete meltdown last night. I could hear myself saying things that made no sense, and I got so short-tempered and impatient with the boys. But everything's better today, now that my body is finally retaining some nutrients, and I had 9 hours of sleep last night!

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Friday 29 July 2011

Are they or aren't they?

I wanted to find out once and for all whether the boys are identical. They are getting more and more similar, and a few of the signs make us wonder. Of course they have the same colour hair and eyes, and so far all their teeth have come through in the same order.  They weigh nearly the same, and they have no physical features that distinguish one from the other except for Felix's double crown.

Here's a little lesson on zygosity.

  1. One placenta - must be monozygotic (identical) 
  2. Two placentae - could be monozygotic (identical) or dizygotic (fraternal). If the egg has split early, before the placenta starts to form, then they could be identical. This occurs in about one third of identical twins.
Well, it's a bit more complicated than that, but that's the simplified version.

So the boys had a placenta each (I should know, I had to deliver them), which means they are probably fraternal, but there's a small chance they are identical. Anyway, I contacted (through the Multiple Births Foundation) a KCL lab which runs zygosity tests based on samples taken from cheek swabs.

I spent ages researching various alternative labs, which have widely varying prices. In the end we chose this one, since there's some information on the site about how they conduct the test, what the chances are of the results being incorrect etc. Also KCL seems pretty respectable, and the test is done at cost (80GBP) because, I guess, they can use the information they collect for further study. It's quite funny looking for zygosity tests, because they are usually offered by labs which specialise in paternity testing, so anyone checking my Chrome history would find, and so on. Ok I made the second one up, but you get the picture. 

We sent off the swabs last Tuesday, they were received this Tuesday, and the results should be available on Monday! Exciting. Jo asked me if I'd be disappointed if they weren't identical - it would be cool if they were, but if they're not that just confirms their individuality so that's cool too. 

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Saturday 16 July 2011

Thursday 14 July 2011

Baby Blues and then some

The other day Vergenia was making lunch for the two of us. She was cooking chicken in stock, of the "Chicken and ham" variety that is so popular here. Knorr I think. Anyway, I was working in the morning, but when I got home, the smell of that stock totally slapped me in the face. We were feeding the boys, and I felt increasingly nauseated, dizzy and hot. I had to go to my room for a while to recover, and as I sat there I pondered what on earth was going on. I am a fainty sort of person on occasion, but there's always a trigger....then I realised that the smell of that stock had incredible power over me because it vividly took me back to the Queen Mary Hospital, where I had the twins 14 months ago. The food was largely inedible, but I will never forget that smell.

It got me thinking about the whole Queen Mary / Tsan Yuk Clinic experience, and whether it contributed to my post-natal depression. Quite a few of my friends are pregnant again, so all the discussions about who's the best doctor and the relative comfort of different hospitals are top topics again.  In retrospect, part of me wonders why I made the choices I did. Or more to the point, why I didn't make the choices I could have made.

I would like to point out that all the time I was pregnant until the last few days, I have found my circumstances normal. I didn't want to spend a fortune on doctors and hospitals, and I was proud of myself for "roughing it" on the public system. I was proud of paying the $450 for two nights in hospital, Felix's one night on the neo natal unit and two babies with an Octopus card. But now I wonder whether I was of sound mind....

Being at QMH was miserable - I didn't really feel it at the time because I had a lot on my mind, but perhaps that miserableness came out little by little after a few months? Hence the Prozac....

Most people here have a private OBGYN who will look after them throughout their pregnancy. From what I understand, each of these doctors is "attached" to one or more private hospitals, such a the Matilda, Canossa or Adventist. I never had an OBGYN - I just went along to my appointments at the Tsan Yuk, and later the Queen Mary, and just saw whoever was on duty. Same goes for the birth, I don't even know who delivered the babies, it was certainly no one I'd seen before. I didn't have a mini-fridge in my room, and I certainly didn't have a nurse on call 24 hours a day. Nor was I on the Peak. But I did have a view of the container ships, which look deceptively slow as they glide towards the Kwai Tsing container terminal.

Here are the things that weren't great:

  1. Complete lack of bedside manner from almost all the staff
  2. Not knowing who anyone was
  3. The (surely unnecessary) severity of the pinching involved to get breastfeeding started
  4. Lack of communication - I didn't even know that there was a nursery, let alone that I could leave the boys there overnight and they would be brought to me for feeding. Also at the Tsan Yuk during my ultrasounds, it really freaked me out when the technician went all quiet for several minutes, then went off and spoke quietly in Canto to her supervisor.
  5. The nursery (when I found it) was not nice - that many babies crying all at once is truly harrowing for anyone, let alone someone who just pushed a baby (or two) out. Their schedule is very rigid, so if your baby is crying before it's had its bath, tough, it'll have to wait to see Mummy.
  6. You can't go into the delivery room until you're 3cm dilated (sorry that's a bit graphic) and your husband is only allowed to be with you once you are in the delivery room
  7. Visiting hours are 6-8pm.
  8. Nasty pink PJs
  9. 1 TV per ward, in Canto only. Ok, that's a minor thing.
Here are the good things:
  1. There were a few very sweet student nurses
  2. It was super cheap! which meant we had money to buy the boys what they needed.
  3. The meanness of the nurses gave me immense motivation to get out of there asap (by the way, did you know that Felix was born at 5.59pm? that's because if you give birth before 6pm, you only have to stay 2 nights, otherwise it's 3 nights. Man, was I pushing hard by 5.58!)
  4. Lack of communication was possibly a very good thing during labour. It helped me stay calm and in control I think, because they only spoke in English if there was something important that I needed to know / do 
  5. A rigid schedule is actually pretty good preparation for life with twins! 
  6. If you are expecting twins, you get loads of extra tests and ultrasounds during the pregnancy - not much fun, but reassuring. 
  7. My superb husband managed to find lots of little tricks to stay with me for longer, or at a non-permitted time...I wonder if a gweilo privilege was accorded?
  8. Nasty pink pjs meant that I didn't wear anything of my own in hospital. Actually in retrospect, I am glad of that. It means that somehow it's a very detached episode in my life that is over and strangely impersonal.
  9. The lack of TV gave me a few minutes now and again to read The Poisonwood Bible, my favourite book. 

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Quick plug for The Hong Kong Ballet

Ok, here's what you've all been waiting for....a rundown of the upcoming shows from The Hong Kong Ballet.

Swan Lake - everyone except me has seen Black Swan, so I'm sure you know the story. Evil sorceror casts a spell on a girl to be a swan by day, and a girl by night. The Prince falls in love with her while she's in swan form (what the??!) and hopes to marry her; happily the betrothal will break the spell over the White Swan, Odette. However, the dastardly sorceror will not be beaten that easily, so he transforms Odile, his daughter / niece (depending on who you ask) into the spitting image of the White Swan, and the poor old prince is fooled by her appearance and proposes to her instead. Disaster! Anyway, in the end, Odette and the Prince seal their everlasting love by topping themselves together. Very romantic.

Swan Lake is partly famous for its extreme technical demands - not least because traditionally one ballerina dances the role of both the White Swan and the Black Swan. (This will not happen in every performance of the HKB version by the way) The music is very well known, and the show will have live accompaniment from HK Sinfonietta.

Coppelia is a comedy ballet, which is popular with kids and families. Well, it's not HILARIOUSLY funny but it does make you giggle now and again. Essentially the story revolves around Coppelia, a beautiful, incredibly lifelike doll, created by Dr Coppelius. The Dr sits her our on the balcony, "reading", where she catches the eye of Franz, the local flirt who's passing by. Incidentally he's due to get married in less than 24 hours, but that doesn't stop him giving Coppelia the eye. When she doesn't respond, he decides to break into the house and meet her. Meanwhile, Franz's fiancee, Swanilda, gets a bee in her bonnet about her betrothed flirting with the new girl on the block. She breaks in too, in the nick of see, Dr Coppelius, scheming old curmudgeon that he is, wants to use Franz's life force to bring his doll to life (don't ask me how) but Swanilda comes to the rescue, and what's more she doesn't dump Franz, she marries him in the morning. And they all live happily ever after!

Coppelia is sweet and jolly and light-hearted- there's lots of humour inspired by mistaken identities (it's not exactly sophiscticated) Often cited as a good first-timers ballet.

Moments in Time is a triple bill, featuring 3 ballets which are each about half an hour long. They have all been commissioned by The Hong Kong Ballet, and their performances will be world premieres. They are all contemporary ballets, but not "someone sitting on a chair staring into the distance" contemporary... Luminous is inspired by the way that people often change partners, and a new boy/girlfriend brings out new aspects of yourself. Black on Black is inspired by, wait for it....the colour black. There are lots of videos of the choreographer's work on his website if you want to get an idea. He's called Kinsun Chan. And finally there's a piece by the resident choreographer of the National Ballet of China, Fei Bo. Title's about a writer, who becomes paranoid about the nature of her husband's relationship with a new colleague. It's very emotional from what I've seen so far.

The Nutcracker - all about Christmas! The story focuses on Clara, a little girl who is given a nutcracker for Christmas (slightly rubbish gift, but never mind). Inspired by the nutcracker and no doubt fuelled by egg nog and mince pies, Clara's dreams take her to a wonderfuil world filled with fairies, mice, toys and of course, the nutcracker. Finally the Nutcracker is transformed into a handsome prince who whisks Clara away.

The Nutcracker is a really charming ballet, with well known music, and a very joyful, upbeat mood.

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Felix and Grandpa in the pool at the Metropark

Josh giggling at Iggle Piggle In the Night Garden

Josh and Felix watching In the Night Garden. Josh thinks it's hilarious that each time Iggle Piggle stands on one of the stepping stones it makes a noise...and Felix feels that he should get in on the action so he giggles a bit too (while displaying his tummy HK style)

Thursday 30 June 2011

Special announcement for Mrs Kathy Bousch

There IS such a thing! not sure you'll get it at Wanchai computer centre though...

Tuesday 28 June 2011

My Little Gym

Took the boys to My Little Gym in Lee Theatre Plaza, Causeway Bay yesterday. Although it was a "free" trial class according to the website, it was $200 per child, so $400 for the overly-fertile amongst us....

I didn't think it was as good at My Kiddy Gym, which is where they usually go. MKG is bugging me to renew for another 12 sessions at the bargain, knock down price of $2,800...I think I will, because having been to 2 alternatives, I can see that MKG is the best. It's much more ambitious (we did one somersault each at the little gym, whereas the boys typically do a pike, double tuck and handstand in the average MKG class....) Also about 75 or 80% of the class at My Lttle Gym was free time to use the equipment, but there wasn't a great deal of equipment, and frankly I don't want to pay $250 a time to play with the boys, I can do that for free at home.

So back to MKG it is, although I am still in two minds about Mr Reggie's attitude to discipline...

Race Course Fire Memorial - II

We finally made it to the Race Course Fire Memorial, right at the end of our 25 day long visitor marathon. Phil and Oliver braved the nikniks and mosquitoes with us, and we all headed up the path at the side of the HK Stadium. It's virtually impossible to get lost on the way, as there are signs at each fork in the path.

It's a very impressive complex, and you would never guess that it's there, tucked away behind the stadium. We also saw all the foundations and floors of the old squatter settlements on the way up, very cool!

According to 80skid, a regular contributor to,

 "The memorial was originally built in 1922 on a small hill nearby named Coffee Garden Hill (named after 19th century plantations). The hill was levelled by the government in 1960 to built a sports stadium and the memorial shifted up the slopes. (The present stadium was rebuilt in the 1990s)"

We watched The World of Suzie Wong again, just to give the visitors an idea of what the squatter settlements might have looked like. Remembered how much we like the film, for goodness' sake!

Josh at Happy Valley Race Course