Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What's in A Name - Part Too

It turns out that my first post about the mysteries of names What's in a Name is the most read post on this blog, by a long shot. I guess that proves my point, names are important and a subject of interest and curiosity. I still pay a lot of attention to people's names, and since being in Manila I've encountered a Jelli Ann, Girly, Ace, and a burly security guard by the name of Jasmin. Just when I think I've seen it all, another one pops up and I find myself being greeted by a Fish.

We've recently gotten to know a couple, who live quite close to us, and their son is also a J, just two months older than ours. The irony is that their daughter's name is Grace, which happens to be at the top of the list of girl's names I love for that daughter I don't have any plans to produce anytime soon. It has me wondering about how these people would feel if I gave both my children the same names as their little ones (who I've never met, by the way). I know when I was pregnant I was extremely disappointed that friends named their daughter Zoe, which was top of my list back then. They weren't close friends so it probably wouldn't have been a big deal if we'd had a girl and I named her Zoe (although I would've changed my mind a dozen times by then anyway), but I would've been disappointed that my Zoe wasn't the first. It would no longer have been an original-ish name amongst our group of friends.

We have a lot of friends who have given their children names I love, and I have to wonder if they would be honoured or a little miffed if I happened to "steal" one of these names at some point, a long, long way down the track. The same goes for family members. Could I name my imaginary, unborn daughter Emily knowing there is already an Emily C? I love Amelie but that's taken too. I could live with Emma but apparently that name once belonged to an ex-girlfriend of my beloved and is well and truly off-limits.  Another issue we have is that we have quite a complicated surname, so first names have to be easy to pronounce and preferably short. I may very well need to take on board some of the more creative names I've seen lately.

For those of you possibly wondering why you don't know my name, when you know so much else about me. I stay fairly anonymous on this blog (a bit odd maybe considering that my most prolific readers are my mum and a few friends) because when I started writing my darling husband had visions of thousands of people reading my blog and invading our privacy. He was worried, given how much I reveal about us, that someone with greater internet skills than mine might do something with our personal information. I didn't share his concerns (or his faith in my skills as a writer) but I do agree that cyberspace can be a bit hostile at times, so I keep myself to myself. Ditto goes for photos of us. Those of you that don't know me will have to take my word for it that we all have quite normal names and we're really ridiculously good looking.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Double Trouble (But So Much Love!)

The Monster's back... As in the Baby Monster, as it's known in our house. I know I've protested rather loudly lately that I'm nowhere near ready for another baby, and for the most part that's still the case, but it has been divine sharing my days with my two favourite people under the age of three, instead of just one. There is so much to love about having two kids, and I can't help thinking about how lovely another one would be. Arghhhh, not yet, not yet!

I never understood how people could have their babies close together; I thought it was way more work than anyone should ever wish to take on, but I do see the logic now. I've missed that particular window of opportunity but if were to be mad enough to consider a third child one day, it could very well be hot on the heels of the second, so to speak. J and my niece A are 13 months apart in age and they have had a great time together this week, playing in the pool, chasing each other around the apartment and indulging in their mutual love for Justine Clarke and the Wiggles. Two kids may be ten times the work but they are oodles of fun, and I love getting double doses of kisses and cuddles every day.

On the downside (and I really need to focus on the downside!), neither of them are great at sharing, and they want to do everything that the other is doing. That's ok at mealtimes and bathtime, but once we even had them doing tandem poo poo's! And they definitely feed off each other when they're in simultaneous bad moods. A sensed that J was having a bad day with his teething, earlier in the week, and she was particularly difficult at dinnertime; spitting out her pasta just because he was. Outings can be a challenge, especially when one or the other, or both of them want to walk; you really need an extra pair of hands, to wrangle recalcitrant toddlers back into line. Luckily I have two helpers, so I don't have to worry about anything other than the two beautiful people I'm lucky to be spending my days with. And there's no shortage of things to occupy them here; Gymboree, a massive garden, several pools and plenty of loving arms everywhere we go.

Even with all the help I'm exhausted and I have a whole lot of respect for mums who do it all, every day, all on their own. I might be naive but I'm hoping that taking care of someone else's child as well as my own, and trying to respect their way of parenting, is somewhat more challenging than if they were both mine. Either way it's a good kind of exhausted and I like the way two kids fill my day, and my heart, and constantly surprise and amuse me. It hasn't all been easy; I've had a lot of moments where I've questioned whether or not I've been doing the right thing. I can't in any way be a substitute for A's mummy, but I can make sure she eats and sleeps and has a bath, and is as happy as she can be under the circumstances. I had a nap yesterday afternoon and when I woke up I realised that one of the kids' daddies was alone with both of them. I wondered to myself what he would do with them if I left them alone; would he be able to occupy them the way that I had all week? I laughed out loud at the thought. I was so pleased when I came out and found our helper playing with them while daddy was on the computer. The fact that it hadn't even occurred to him to try and take them out was the validation I needed that I am definitely the one for this particular job. My mummying skills, still so new, have really been put to the test, and I think I've done a pretty good job. They both still love me at the end of the week, which is all I can really ask for.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Kung Hei Fat Choy

I've struggled this week with a form of writer's block. I've actually been working on a few posts but I haven't managed to finish any of them, at least not in a way I was happy with. We've got a lot going on and my head is full of the things happening out there in the big world as well as in our little world. The last few months have been great and we've had a lot of time together as a family, but it hasn't all been fun and games. Looking at the bigger picture there are many who have had a worse time of it; there has been political unrest, war, tragedy and heartbreak. Not to mention the natural disasters that recently had us glued to the TV, the flooding and cyclone that hammered Queensland weighed heavily on our minds as we worried about family and friends.

Foremost in my mind this week is my sister-in-law in hospital in Melbourne. She has been waging her own private war for two years now and we're flying to Manila on Monday to entertain her 2 year old daughter. It's always lovely to spend time with family but it stinks that it's not under different circumstances. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else at the moment but I know we'll have our work cut out for us. If I'm a little distracted and a bit slack with the blogging in the next few weeks it's because I'm suddenly in charge of two toddlers, in a foreign country, and my capacity to form sentences is compromised.

I can't complain, like I said, we've had a great start to the year but I can't help feeling like we need a do-over. Chinese New Year is the perfect opportunity to start again, again. If you've had a crappy January or you've already failed at your New Year's resolutions you can just put it all behind you and have another go at it in February. I have to admit that after three years in Hong Kong I'm still fairly ignorant when it comes to the traditions surrounding CNY, and I felt like I was missing out by not knowing more about it.  So I've spent a lot of time this week with my friend Wikipedia, researching this huge cultural festival, and I'm definitely going to embrace the holiday wholeheartedly from now on. The timing of the start of the new year is based on solar and lunar cycles and coincides with the beginning of spring; in China it's called the Spring Festival. It's steeped in tradition and superstition and there are rules and rituals for every day of the 15-day festival. The lead-up to the end of the year is a time for cleaning your home and removing all the 'bad luck' that's accumulated, literally and metaphorically. It's mostly about family and getting together to eat and give gifts - much like Christmas but on a larger scale, if you can imagine that. And instead of turkey there are lots of dumplings! There's something so organic and hopeful about the new year and the celebration of spring tying together like that; it really does feel like a clean slate, and a chance for something new to blossom.

This year, being the Year of the Rabbit, has a good vibe to it too. The Year of the Ox was about hard work, and the Year of the Tiger was a constant battle. But the Rabbit inspires fun and romance and is apparently a "placid and indulgent" year, a time to sit back and let the good times roll. The sun has been shining in Hong Kong this week, and it's warm again after the coldest January in 35 years. That fact alone is enough to make you feel positive and hopeful, given that it's normally so damn cold over the CNY weekend. Clever marketers are also cashing on the cuteness of the bunny and the abundance of chocolates in the stores and connecting CNY and Valentine's Day. It's all very sweet and romantic and, with all the love in the air, it really does feel like there are good times ahead.

So while the Chinese families around us are sitting down together and wishing for good health and prosperity, I'm thinking of the families who are now homeless after Cyclone Yasi, the parents of the young Aussie soldier killed in Afghanistan this week, the people fighting in Egypt for a better life, and all those who have experienced tragedy or hardship recently, including those in my little world, and I'm sending my share of the new year's blessings their way. I have hope that this year will be better, and I think that's a really good start. Kung Hei Fat Choi, or Happy New Year everyone!