Friday, 25 December 2009

Joy To The World

As we celebrate the birth of Christ our Saviour, it is with joy that we remember how great the grace and the love of God is. We are grateful for the blessing of having family and friends to share this important day with. And what a wonderful Christmas day we've had again.
It is always a special moment to see your children's faces light up when they are finally allowed to open ALL those presents under the our ever-slowly wilting tree which we didn't think would survive until Christmas day thanks to 3 days of non-watering...Oops. Blame it on Farmville...
The children didn't care. They still tore open their presents with gusto. They are very fortunate children to have so many loving and caring family and friends who gave thoughtful and wonderful gifts. The only one who really couldn't care less about the presents was Jonah, he was too busy trying to get at the banana that the reindeers didn't eat. I was really excited about my new kindle! But perhaps the more gratifying present had to be one from Jonah. The one who only points and grunts decided to give his parents an early Christmas present yesterday by walking three steps! I am still in disbelief today.
After getting the children dressed for the day, I thought I'd take the opportunity to take a nice photo of all three before any food stains took hold of their party gear. Between the non-stop fidgeting of all three (in particular Jonah) and my slow camera, I was unable to get even one good photo. I have attached the only one where you can see the faces of all three, where they are all vaguely smiling, where none of their faces are completely blurred by movement and which doesn't have some part of their head chopped off the picture.
After the Christmas service, we headed to the Swissotel for Christmas Day lunch with Malcolm's parents and grandfather. After initial confusions, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that we had been allocated the only private room in the restaurant! It had a little alcove for the children to play in and a superb view of the St. Mary's Cathedral. Unfortunately, by this stage, we had no idea in which of the gazillion bags our camera was in, so you'll have to wait until we pilfer Mal's dad photos.
It was a feast and a half. The food was superb, topped off by an exquisite and fantastic array of desserts. The creme brulee was phenomenal, as was the creme caramel and the beautiful chocolate fountain. With an endless supply of coca=cola, how could one complain!?!?! We rolled out two and half hours later for Cabarita to exchange more presents. By the end of this, we had more presents that we could poke a stick at.
We hurried off for Pymble for the final meal of the day with Brian, Asha and Michael. Wagyu beef, lamb cutlets, prawn skewers and macadamia ice-cream capped off a wonderful day of feasting. Elliot really enjoyed playing with the nerf gun Brian bought him. Brian enjoyed it even more, having bought himself three. It wasn't long before the only ones shooting each other around the house were Malcolm, Michael and Brian.
We finally reached home after a long and delightful day. Mal is still preparing for tomorrow's festivities while I ponder how I will find a home for the 4 big boxes of presents that we have...

I hope that your day has been as wonderful and joyous as ours. May your Christmas sparkle with moments of love, laughter and goodwill, and may your eyes, mind and heart be filled with the true spirit of Christmas - JESUS . Wishing you a Merry Christmas from the Albany Family.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

A Christmas present from Disney

We received a lovely little present to the tune of $100 OBC per person for our upcoming Disney mediterranean cruise. Yipppee!!!! It was a really nice surprise and unexpected. We not have a total of $1700 in OBC! Thank you Disney!

We're paid in full. Yeee haw! Now I'm super-duper excited and can't stop writing with exclamation marks!

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Kris Kringle Kraziness

What a wonderful day we've had. We took a drive to Cecil Park to head to Tanya and Robert's who kindly hosted this years Kris Kringle. The Albany clan had certainly expanded with 58 family members turning up this year! We've never had to buy so many bread rolls in our lives!

It was a great setting for a great party. The mobile BBQ was set up and fired up cooking up steaks and sausages on top of the chicken, pasta and seafood dishes. Shortly after lunch, the kids (and adults) had a go at Robert's pride and joy, the slip and slide. The goats on the other side of the fence sure enjoyed all the bleating and screaming of Auntie Rita!

This was followed by a dip in the warm pool before the kids opened their presents. We drove home weary but happy, stopping at our favourite place for dinner...Mc Donalds! The pictures themselves will tell the story. Enjoy.

The towable BBQ

Luke setting up
The Albany clan enjoying lunch

The kids table

The famed slip' n' slide

Malcolm having a go!

Taking a dip

Mums and Dads watching from the sides

Present time!

Jonah trying to open his present

Calym also trying to rip open his present!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Lula Park and fairy floff

Yes, it was THAT time of the year again. As Lara used to say, "Time to go to Lula Park to have fairy floff". Well, she still says fairy floff...

We were again blessed with beauftiful weather for this all important day of family fun. Sunny, but not too hot with a cool breeze. Sydney Harbour was very picturesque today with blue skies and a cruise ship docked at Circular Quay. I couldn't quite make out the name of the ship.

2009 Luna Park
Sydney Harbour

At the entrance to Luna Park ready for a day of fun with no whinging, whining or fighting...(severe warnings put in place)

Mini Ferris Wheel

Innocent fun?!?!

Once again, the room that was hired was beautifully decked out and packed with goodies for the whole family. The usual favourites were there - face painting, fairy floss, coca-cola galore, coffee cart, lunch, Santa Claus, christmas presents, a toddler area. This year, they managed to squeeze in a jumping castle which entertained Elliot for quite some time. For the first time, we were able to convince Elliot that he should get something other than a "spider" to be painted on his face. His choice was...see below!

Jonah enjoying himself in the toddler area.

Lara after getting her face painted.

The presents for all the children

The real ferris wheel

Coney Island is serious business!

One last ice-cream before home time!
If you're wondering what Elliot chose..."scary monster"!

Monday, 7 December 2009

O Christmas Tree

We did it!

Amongst the chaos that was the weekend with ferrying Lara to and from dress rehearsals, getting her dressed, finding a hairnet, the right shade of lipstick, going to the concert, looking for our video camera, grocery shopping, christmas shopping, going to church, sending off Christmas cards, having 2 extra children over, cooking, meeting up with friends, and eating...we managed to find the time to get our christmas tree and put up our Christmas decorations! This included the lights for the outside of the house. We can't disappoint the neightbours now, can we?

Having the tree and decorations up have made us realise just how close Christmas is! The smell of the pine is just sublime. This year, we will be having Christmas lunch with Malcolm's parents and grandfather at the Swissotel in the city. I am really looking forward to the much-advertised chocolate fountain....YUMMMY!

Oh, and one more thing...I managed to make my very first cruise logo! This required overcoming the lack of many technical know-hows so I am very proud of myself!

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Our little bunny

Lara had her first ever ballet concert performance today as a bunny rabbit. What a cutie she was! It never ceases to amaze me how seriously she takes her ballet and how much she loves it. As she recounted her moments on the stage, she informed us how she was always checking her feet and making sure that she pointed them beautifully. She was so excited about getting to put on make-up (an absolute treat for her!) and donning a beautiful white costume complete with bunny ears and a fluffy bunny tail.

Can you see my fluffy tail?

However, I must admit that I was very disappointed with the ballet school. They charged $40 for each adult and a further $2 just to get a home-printed program. This is on top of the $57 that we had to pay for the costume. I really felt for the families for whom this amount is a stretch. As parents, all we want to do is watch our little ones perform. It does not have to be a big production. These are only 4 and 5 year old little girls. I was also quite stressed about getting ready for the concert itself. The hair had to be done this way, the stockings had to be new, she had to have the right shade of lipstick..."a deep mulberry shade, not fire engine red". She must bring hair pins, hair spray, hair gel, foundation etc. We'll be writing a letter to the school but I am not sure if anything will change. We're fortunate that Lara has a wonderful teacher who has the patience of a saint and who is so postive and encouraging. It's a pity the administration/big wigs is so pretentious.

In the meantime, we're trying to figure out how to continue lessons without having to go the concert...

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Back to Disney

Disney finally released their Mediterranean shore excursions today. The first thing that struck me was how expensive everything is! Some sounded like a lot of fun but not for that much money.

I was finally brave enough to write my very first ever pre-trip report on the DISboard. Let's see how that goes

I hope that my new alert - the Disney Cruise Line Horn! - for a new sms isn't too distracting...

Saturday, 21 November 2009

A video is worth a million words

Well done Elliot! We are so proud of you.
Sydney Opera House - 21 Nov 2009

Sunday, 15 November 2009

By George, he did it!

What a day! Flying solo the whole weekend when Malcolm is on-call was tough. Managed to scramble the troops together for church and had a yummy chinese lunch before getting ourselves ready for Elliot's first big concert.

After settling Jonah and leaving him in my father's capable hands (cough, cough, splutter, splutter), we headed out to the Theme and Variations showroom at Willoughby. Upon entry, my nerves started to surface. My brain went into overdrive "hope he remembers to repeat, hope he remember to play in time, hope he remembers the dynamics, hope he remembers to keep going if he makes a mistake...". Luckily, it appears that Elliot is still completely oblivious to the concept of being nervous.

Elliot on the Steinway concert grand

He walked up to the piano, sat down and started playing without much ado. And he played brilliantly! Maybe that's all that we needed all along, a $300,000 piano. After all, it is for sale...

A close up...

Despite the parental anxiety, I still thoroughly enjoyed every single performance. The music truly was beaufiul and the children all remarkably talented. I still can't believe that Elliot made it into the group chosen to perform. I have never been prouder in my life.

The talented little people

To celebrate, we all went to Ribs and Rumps. I lost the battle of wills and ordered a nice juicy cheeseburgers with chips complete with a large glass of coke. The healthy diet can resume another day! Tomorrow, it will be back to the grindstone in preparation for the graduation concert at the Opera House next week.

Friday, 13 November 2009

A toast to my little springroll

During mother's group today, a friend mentioned how proud she was that her son has passed his grade 3 piano exam. And on facebook, another friend posted a video of an incredibly talented 3 year old practising two of her piano pieces.

And it occurred to me that I should boast more about my own son's achievement. What is wrong with me?!?!? Why is the "competitive Asian parent" gene not expressing itself? So here it is, a tribute to little 6 year old Elliot's piano accomplishments.

We have been practising hard in preparation for 2 big concerts, the first being this Sunday. He is part of a small group who have been picked for the concert to raise money for the children in Cambodia, a charity that his piano teacher champions. He will be playing on a $300, 000 9 ft Steinway. As we madly try to get our scales in the Sonatina to be in time with the metronome, I have to be amazed at how far he has come.

We started lessons at 3.5 but had to stop because of my pregnancy with Jonah. This was a huge setback for Elliot. After a break of more than 6 months, we had to "relearn" everything. And this was a hard slog, not to mention discouraging for a little boy. He didn't understand why he couldn't "learn" new songs. To his credit, he never gave up. He would merrily sing along to all the songs and scales that he practices and still does presently. I should video it one day. Although very noisy, it really is quite cute.

I also have to give great kudos to Erica, his teacher. Ever so patient with such a great way with young children, her endless encouragement and clever teaching no doubt played a big role to keeping Elliot motivated. Elliot has not looked back since. He has flown through book 2 and managed to squeeze in 2 graduations this year. He is very proud that he is now a "Book 3" boy. We eagerly await his Sydney Opera House debut on the 21st of November. Well done Elliot! We are so very proud of you.

Here's to the same for my little char siu bau who started lessons 2 weeks ago...

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Good news week

I have been so busy that I've been neglecting my blog! Now I have so much to write about I don't know where to start.

So let's start with our second placing at trivia tonight with a diminished team! The Fruitloops is a tribute to the good old university days when we would travel all the way to the Bankstown Sports Club for trivia every Thursday. The venue has changed but the day stays the same! Minus Sharon, Paul, Fiona, Mr and Mrs Hooker, the Fruitloops managed to hold steady and win the tiebreak to come second in a field of 15. Personally I am most proud of the fact that I could spell Philippines and that I knew the difference between rigatoni and penne.

I also have to congratulate my dear friends for the cute additions to their families recently, notably Vivien and Eugene with Timothy (miracle baby number 2) and Sharon and Paul with Trinity (the one who didn't want to come out). We also had the pleasure of finding out that 2 of my school friends are pregnant and have the same due date. They are also booked in at the same private hospital! It is so nice to see that friends are finally starting to procreate!

My most exciting news, however, would have to be the prospect of being in a Disney parade in December 2010! I am still in a state of disbelief but a current cast member has offered for our little group of 7 adults and 7 children to be in a DISNEY parade. What started off as an enquiry about how to organise something special fo little Elyssa's birthday has become an absolute dream come true.

Will have to update my Europe, New York and Washington DC research another time. Need to sleep...

Saturday, 24 October 2009

It's never too early

Having spent the yesterday evening researching our options for Disney 2011, we, along with the Kohs, were inspired to do a "practice run" before the real thing. We had to simulate American conditions as closely as possible to see if we could handle American cuisine. Ethel and Jason even came attired in their matching Mickey and Minnie T-shirts from their honeymoon!

First up, yummy golden fried chicken. It was of the Indonesian sort but no one was complaining. Dinner at Ratu Sari hurt the wallet somewhat, but boy was it satisfying. Kangkung belacan, telor Bali, ikan belado...Mmmmm!

That was followed by some good old ice-cream and waffles. We went to an ice-creamery near Arthur's pizza. It is amazingly still present and looks unchanged from university days. The area around it though has turned into a hotspot. It is apparently the place to be. After finally getting a parking spot, we managed to get ourselves into 2 booths and ordered our poison. The children finished theirs in one breath. It was hard work trying to stop the vultures from devouring our share.

If this is what dining in the states will be like, then BRING IT ON! But first, we diet...

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Quiero la leche

I have been busy researching information on Barcelona as well as the various ports that we will be visiting. I am very fortunate that Brian has a Spain lonely planet guidebook which is always a good place to start. In addition, he also has a Spanish phrasebook! Hurray! So now, at the dinner table, we are practising Spanish. There will no more "wo yao he niu nai". It is now "quiero la leche".

So engrossed in my quest for information that I let myself be distracted into reading about Spanish history for 4 hours while trying to find information about a tourist bus. Perhaps my need to "know" down to the minute details may be my undoing. It can't be healthy scouring forums on cruisecritic, thorn tree, tripadvisor and DISboards for hours just to verify the cost of a taxi from Barcelona airport to town...

On the upside, I have discovered that the people on DISboards are quite friendly! We have received offers to be hosted for New Years Eve, offers of a garage to store our luggage and many, many ideas and advice for travel in the United States. Yes, I have switched topic to my "other" Disney holiday... Speaking of which, we have added another family to our Disney adventure...The Marrs!!! It seems like half the church will be away in December.

Which brings me to another realisation. There is just over 9 weeks left before Christmas! I think I really need to update my to-do list. It is too long for me to remember it all in my head.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Mama Mia Mia

Baby Jonah started his first day of childcare at Mia Mia yesterday. My earlier confidence of previous weeks dissipated as I approached the gates of the building. I had to start leaving my baby behind with someone else.

It didn't take long for the routine of the nursery room to come flooding back. Put his bag in his locker, put the sheets on his cot, wash our hands, put his bottle away, make his breakfast and start the day! I had forgotten what a well-oiled machine Mia Mia was. The room was so well set up with such great equipment. Their processes were also well thought out and well-practiced! I was happy to notice that staff were pro-actively cleaning snot off the children's faces with a glove and tissue and then discarding it straight away.

The staff... I couldn't rave about them enough. It was nice to see familiar faces. Out of the four that was on that day, there was only one new face. Their love and dedication for their jobs clearly showed through in the way they interacted with all the children. Boundless patience, plentiful cuddles, playful banter, and all the time striving to engage the children in various ways. They didn't mind me sitting in for the whole day at all.

Jonah seemed to be very interested in his new surroundings. He was confident enough to wander outside away from me on his own and joined another toddler in emptying the baskets of their contents. He was also comfortable enough to let one of the staff put him down for his nap which was a relief for me. Lunch was a big hit. He wolfed down all of it without spitting once! This included large chunks of the little monster can chew after all!! The civility of meal times at Mia Mia always amazes me. Why can't children behave like that at home?!?!?!

Before long, it was time to go home. Malcolm, bless his soul, took today off to take up "shift" at Mia Mia with Jonah. He was asked to leave after an hour as Jonah seemed to settle in well. He didn't cry, and in fact seemed to enjoy his day. He managed to have two naps albeit short ones and really enjoyed washing his hands...He only protested upon being picked up because he didn't want to stop playing! So all in all, a good start.

It is never easy to juggle family and work but it certainly helps to know that you children are in fantastic hands. Three cheers for Mia Mia!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

All's well that ends well

For the past few weeks, we've been praying for a heatwave. Specifically, a heatwave for today, the day of Jonah's first birthday party. We were lulled into a false sense of security by the unusual and short-lived spell of warm weather, and chose a theme of "BYO pool" party.
The fact that it had been raining for the past few days and that the temperature had struggled to even hit 20 degrees was only the beginning of our woes.

We then had to contend with THE dust storm. The one that turned Sydney into a martian-like landscape, the very same one that covered everything outside with a not so thin layer of red dust. Yes, everything including the outdoor setting cushion covers that I had painstakingly washed, the seats that I had carefully cleaned, the pavers that were lovingly scrubbed. AAARGGHHH!!! That is a lesson learnt that diligence is a waste of time. I should have kept to my usual procrastination.
And then, we got distracted by our bid to get on the Panama Canal cruise. Before we knew it, we had only 3 days left to finalise the details and prepare the house for Jonah's party. To make things worse, Jonah was due for his 12 month immunisations. We jabbed him (well, the nurse did) and hoped for the best. Luckily for us, he behaved like a good Albany child and did not get any fevers, rashes or unwanted changes in sleeping and eating patterns. Malcolm and I needed to celebrate this small but significant acheivement as well sustenance for our multipronged attack on our "to-do" list. So we arranged to have food from the 4 essential food groups in the one sitting. KFC, Hungry Jacks, Oporto's and Mc Donalds. Unfortunately, we were not able to fit in the 5th, pizza by any fastfood chain.
We managed to shop for all the food, organise the games, clean the house and kept the rain away! We had a fantastic time with family and friends and Jonah enjoyed opening all his presents and throwing them all over the room. We even remembered to take pictures and video footage. I now only have to remember where I put away the electronic equipment...

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Earnt my ears

What lousy weather for a long weekend. The cold, miserable conditions have dampened my spirits enough for me to blog more. What kind of silly weather is 30 degrees and sunny and then becoming 15 degrees and rainy? Having said that, I am still glad that I don't have to go to work on Monday. The gloss of returning to work has already lost its shine. Luckily I have more exciting things to pre-occupy me. I am a now a mouseketeer on disboards! No longer just "earning my ears".

Our Panama Canal cruise booking has meant that other parts of our Disney adventure can now take shape. We have all agreed that the best way to avoid the chaos that is Walt Disney World over Christmas is to hit WDW first up and have a white christmas in New York instead. The Parsons have volunteered to co-ordinate our New York leg while everyone else is busy researching their various sections. This was when I discovered that I had made what turned out to be a most fortunate error. To cut a long story short, I had mistaken dark orange for light orange. This meant that we had booked verandah staterooms which were right at the back of the ship over 3 different decks with solid metal railings rather than see-through plexi-glass ones. Because we could only get category 6A GTY (guaranty) rooms, this means that our rooms won't be allocated until right before our cruise, so Disney can shuffle their guests appropriately. All we know is that we will be guaranteed at least that category for our cruise or better. Our inside room in the meantime, is fixed and is right at the front of the ship on deck 7. I was devastated. What had I done? or rather what had I not done?!?!? Obviously my research was not up to scratch. So I dug deeper.

It appears category 6A rooms only hold 3 people with the exception for 4 handicapped rooms at the back of deck 7 which can hold 4 people. Upon reading the reviews of the rooms and looking at the pictures, I found out that these rooms were nearly double the size of a standard room and had HUGE balconies. Disney also tries to hold these for those who really need it, which means we either get a free upgrade or we get rooms which will give us fantastic views of the Canal!

Yippee!!! I can now concentrate on other important things I have to do over the weekend, like playing boardgames at the Kohsino...

Friday, 2 October 2009

Cabo San Lucas anyone?

Where to start?!??!? I have been so full of nervous energy and excitement that the ability to sit still long enough to blog had deserted me.

The 21st of September seemed like a lifetime ago. Another monumental life-changing day was to be had on the 28th of September. Why are these dates so important you may ask? As my dear friend Hester would say, "WELL..."

The privileged platinimum and gold members were able to book the Disney 2011 cruises on the 21st of September. I kept nervously refreshing my disboards page as I read posts on member's waiting times on the phone..."got through at 8:03am, waiting time 16 minutes", "got through at 8:12am, waiting time 57 minutes", "8:23, waiting time of 647minutes" WHAT?!?!?! That can't be right. I can't afford to make such a long international call just to be kept on hold. Bugger, what now? The good news was that the cruise hadn't sold out. One of the previous Disney Panama Canal cruise sold out in 4 hours.

The troops had to regather and formulate a new plan of attack. Guerilla warfare was in order here. Our new motto was get on the ship AT ALL COSTS! In the process, we collected another family to join us on our adventures. Woohoo!!! We now have a slightly better adult to children ratio of 7:9. We decided to go with a travel agent, a Disney vacation specialist of course. We armed her with our credit card ready for battle on the 28th of September, when everyone else gets their chance to book the 2011 cruises. She assured us that we were her number 1 priority. We expected no less.

At 9:39pm our time (21 minutes before bookings opened), I logged onto the disboards to discover that online reservations had apparently already started. Frantically, I sent an email to the frontline to let her know (just in case, even though she mentioned that she would be online an hour early and be on the phone as well). She confirmed that she was already online and the stateroom acquisation had begun. By 10:01 pm, she had accomplished her mission of securing our 4 staterooms. By 10:14pm, our category had sold out! 5 minutes after this, early dining had closed.

WAHOOO!!!!! We are going on a Panama Canal cruise!!!!!

Monday, 21 September 2009

My oh my, what a wonderdul day!

I am happy to report that my return to work today went rather well. I got to work early at 0720 only to realise that I couldn't get in as the receptionist had not yet arrived for the day. No matter, a workmate kindly let me in and another let me in through the glass barricade that encircles the stairs.

Once at my desk, I saw that my laptop was not there and neither was my phone. My first emotion was panic. Would I get to keep my wonderful extension 2600? or had they given it away to someone less worthy? Maria, our administrative assistant will not come in until 0930. Oh well, time for a chai latte. I was aghast to find out that the price of my favourite hot beverage had increased to $1.30. I had to move on and cope with this so I brought my drink with me to enjoy with a Tim Tam while I pondered what to do next.

Amanda, another colleague, had a brainwave and suggested that my laptop could be in the storeroom. She let me in and after rummaging around, we found a laptop. I turned it on only for it to die a few minutes later. After about 30 minutes of failed resuscitation attempts, IT rescued me by advising me to take out the battery pack and re-inserting it. Karen rescued me by finding me my phone. This meant that I could now call Malcolm, Sharon and Vivien in my breaks.

Maria, upon her arrival, informed me that the laptop I had scavenged was not mine. IT was still "refreshing" my laptop and it would be ready by 2pm. Oh well, I guess I couldn't do much work until then. Damn shame as we have a meeting scheduled for 2pm. In the meantime, I wiped down every surface I could see with anti-bacterial wipes and cleared out the previous owner's stationery drawer. After testing out every pen/highlighter/permanent marker, sorting out all the paperclips into large, medium and small, and organising my 3 pairs of scissors, 2 sticky tape dispensers, clips, blu-tack, a regular stapler, a light up stapler, rulers, post-it notes and notebooks, I finally got to visit my most favourite place in the building...the stationery room. It was definitely one of the highlights of my day!

By this stage, I thought I'd better watch Amanda do a few cases on our new database. This didn't take long and before I knew it was time for lunch. Hurray! After lunch, I acquired myself another thermal mug for my tea breaks. It was then meeting time. By the end of the meeting, my laptop still had not arrived. The time had been delayed until 4:30pm. Bummer, I guess its time to have another break. To my joy, I rediscovered why it was so hard not to put on weight when I was working before. There was a lovely selection of cakes and pastries leftover from a meeting. I helped myself to a yummy macadamia nut caramel slice and wondered what would be served for lunch at the meeting tomorrow. After chatting to Malcolm, Su and to Sharon briefly, my laptop finally arrived. I was delighted to discover that I had received one the newer laptops complete with a new bag. I was even happier to find out that on Wednesday, we are all going out for yum cha at Rhodes to farewell Diana (the girl who replaced me while I was on maternity leave).

It was now time to go home. I couldn't have asked for a more wonderful first day back.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

No more naps

Tomorrow signals the re-awakening of my non-career. From Mondays to Wednesdays, there will be no more morning and afternoon naps, trips to Ikea, or leisurely lunches with other fellow stay-at-home mums. Yes, tomorrow is the day that I have to go back to my glorious role of Pharmacovigilance Associate in a multinational Pharmaceutical company.

Other than my breaks to have children, I haven't really moved up the career rung. Some will know that I only work for the annual "Lula" Park day. Others have the wrong impression that all I do is ebay at lunchtime and hang around Macquarie shopping centre. Let me tell you the real reason. I work to feed my Disney addiction. Somehow, someone has to pay for all these expensive upcoming holidays! Perhaps the greater significance of tomorrow is the revelation of prices for the 2011 Disney cruises...

In all seriousness, I have conflicting feelings about going back to work. Although the emotions on the surface are those of partial relief for the opportunity to spend some time doing non-children or house related activities, there is a part of me that is deeply saddened by the change that is about to happen tomorrow and what it means.

Working part time over the past few years has always been rewarding because it made me appreciate the best of both worlds. Now that we have had our last baby (yes this is definite and non-negotiable), it makes me even more desperate to hang on to the "home" part of my world, to hang on to the precious moments of my baby's childhood. Going back to work means my baby is growing up! The year has flown by so quickly. I can hardly believe that my baby is about to turn one and is looking more and more like a toddler each day. Suddenly, a career has even less priority than before. I do not want these precious years to be lost. I do not want to worry about how to fit my children around my working days. I want my working days to fit around my children.

I have been very fortunate to have a job that is close to home, part-time, low-stress, pays well, as well as a boss that is very understanding. The company has also been very supportive and understanding during the very difficult months of my pregnancy when I was very ill. All in all, I have been well looked after. To ask for reduced hours during current times would be unfair. And so, I will plough on for the time being. Who knows, maybe the french will one day realise that full time equivalents works much better than having head counts. I only hope that the day arrives sooner rather than later.

Until then, I will just have to savour the 2 weekdays that I am at home and enjoy the HOT chai lattes while I am at work.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Never give up, never surrender!

This is all to hard...ok Belinda...stop, breath....focus....focus

I have too many things on my to do list. On top of all the planning required for our Mediterranean Disney cruise, I now have to divert some of my focus toward Project Orlando in January 2011. This all has to be done at the same time as organising Jonah's birthday party, surviving Little Athletics on Saturdays, planning our next Cuisines of the World dinner, getting ready to go back to work on Monday, as well as studying for Thursday night trivia (I have assigned myself the task of learning flags of the world and African geography).

We had the bone carpenter, Sn0apple and their little cutie Samuel over for dinner this evening. It became obvious that we had to pull up our socks with regard to the planning for our trip in January 2011. Our concern was whether or not the crowd levels on the New Years Day weekend would take away from our total Disney experience. With Disney music, Chim chim cheree to be specific, streaming live in the background, Malcolm made the decision to pay a statistician for his services to forecast the crowd levels in Walt Disney World in early January. He seemed to be suitably qualified and had allocated "weight of importance" to the many variables that affected crowd levels. For example, time of day has a rating of 10, whereas, day of the week had a lower rating.

Things were getting serious. Important decisions had to be made. $10 disposable Walmart phones or walkie-talkie? Which kind of walkie-talkie would be best? Do we all need call signs or code names? Do we need a communications officer? Should we have a dedicated planning wall for the trip or would a simple spreadsheet suffice? How many shore-excursion specialists should we have? Do we need a craft coordinator for the group T-shirts that we are going to make? Who should be assigned the vital task of designing our logo...the Mickey Meeple?

Alas, the meeting had to be adjourned so little Samuel could retire for the night. This gave me the opportunity to look up the reports for the staterooms on the Wonder as well as investigate the new categories that Disney has introduced. I feel much better now that I have our preferred set of staterooms ready to go for September 28. I feel even less anxious now seeing as I also have 5 back up sets ready just in case the first one is unavailable, as well as a list of non-interconnecting rooms that are acceptable.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Only 1 year, 3 months, 2 weeks and 5 days to go

Things have moved along since I last checked in on that tension-filled day of September 11. I surprised myself by resisting an early morning wake-up to check the new Disney 2011 itineraries. And so it is set. The Disney Wonder will be repositioned to the West Coast which means a Panama Canal cruise! With Los Angeles as its home-base, the Wonder will be cruising Alaska as well as the Mexican Riviera. The Magic appears set to continue its 7 night Caribbean itineraries with a summer break in the Mediterranean. The Dream will have its grand announcement on Oct 29. Why can't they just do it all in one go?!??!?!

Today, the Kohsino frequent flyers met up to discuss our strategy. One of the highlights of the day would have to be finding out that our theme park strategist cum secretary had purchased the newly released 2010 Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. I was impressed and secretly (ok so not so secretly) chuffed that he took his assignment so seriously.

Whilst munching through our allowed yearly ration of KFC, we formulated a plan. At 11pm sharp on 28 September (that is when the bookings open), Malcolm will hit the phone while I use my touch typing prowess online to try and secure us 2 interconnecting category 9 rooms on the starboard side mid to aft ship with an over-the-corridor inside Category 11 room. Failing that, we will take whatever we can get. Failing that, we will go on a 7 day Disney eastern Caribbean cruise instead.

Other things that were settled on the day included the fact our dining strategist will research the best lobster buffet available, and resident craft guru will create autograph books for character signings for all the children. My mind is already racing with all the extra door magnets that I have to create. So little time...

Friday, 11 September 2009

Only 2 hours and 42 minutes to go

I am too wired to sleep. Disney will be making its announcements for the 2011 itineraries. There are exciting rumours of cruises to Hawaii, Europe, Alaska and many more. However, staying up until 2am may not be the responsible thing to do as a mother, seeing as I have to go to Mia Mia fete duties in the morning before taking the children to Little Athletes and then making it to a birthday party by 11am.

Malcolm is unfortunately on call the whole weekend. He kindly helped to bake the cake this evening for the fete tomorrow but forgot to add the baking powder so we had to bake the cake again. We are now waiting for the cake to cool so we can ice it with the chocolate icing.

The kids athletics uniforms are ready, snacks prepared, water frozen (hot day forecasted tomorrow), party clothes and shoes chosen, present and card loaded in the car and the baby paraphernalia packed.

If only the sleep would come...

Thursday, 10 September 2009

My little athletes

Last Saturday was our debut for little athletics. It wasn't smooth sailing all the way but we made it to our first week...

I was quite hesitant about the whole Saturday sport business. As I spent most of last year with my head in the bucket due the pregnancy, I didn't have the privilege of accompanying Elliot to his cricket games. All I know was that it chewed up a big chunk of our Saturdays. Elliot had decided that he would like to give athletics a go this summer but we didn't take the idea seriously until Lara chimed in that SHE too would like to do little athletics. As opportunistic parents, we immediately signed up for the Northern Suburbs Little Athletics club. Here was our chance to get the children into an activity where they go to the same grounds and at the same time.

On our way to Little Athletics

Somewhere along the line, Lara had decided in her mind that she was a runner. Persistently, she asked if "training" is on today. She would voluntary run around moving her chubby little legs like we'd never seen before. This was contrary to my expectation that she would become a great shot putter (based on her size as a baby). She may have multiple talents and be a decathlete!

On Friday night, as we were looking for their uniforms, we realised that their numbers and badges had to be sewn on. For a household with no needle and thread, this posed a problem. At 10:30pm, there was only one place to go...Malcolm rang his parents and headed there straightaway. The plan was to feign such utter ineptitude that his mother would do the job for him. Well, the plan was nearly executed to perfection. He had to wake his mother first as she asleep and he was made to iron the edges down and tack the pieces on, but she did do the sewing on! And Malcolm got to watch some of the cricket that was on pay TV at his parents...

The next morning, the children excitedly jumped into the car for the 2 minute ride into the sports ground. We dropped Lara off first with her group of Tiny Tots before depositing Elliot with the Under-7-boys.

Elliot did very well. We only just received the results from last week via email. He posted the second best time in the 50m run and the third best time in the 100m run out of 24 boys. And may we add that the boys who came first and second were big strapping boys for their age. He also came 6th in long jump and 9th in discus. After, emphasising to Elliot that Little Athletics was all about improving your best records, we did a little "woohoo" on the side.

Lara surprised us all and also did very well. During the quest to teach the group to run in a straight line, she showed a surprisingly fiery competitive spirit! She looked around and really pumped those legs to make sure she came first. She took each activity during the morning very seriously, even more than Elliot.

We have just read through the "handbook" and discovered that we, as parents, have "duties" such as manning the canteen, set up, pack up, time keeping etc. Bugger...too late now.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Just another day

Today was just one of those pleasant days even though nothing of significance happened!

The day started off well. The baby seemed extra cute and cuddly today and went down for his nap with a smile. Mothers' group kicked off at our home today at 1000. I was feeling nice and relaxed having had the previous hour to browse through a few more trip reports from the 2007 Disney mediterranean cruisers. The study today was on instilling the Christian faith in our children. It felt good to know that despite our imperfections, God had entrusted us with His little miracles to nurture. Although there were moments of fear and feelings of immense responsibilty, I felt even more motivated to be an active rather than a passive christian. Hopefully in the process of trying to be more Christ-like, I will be a much better christian parent and my children will know and love God of their own accord.

During morning tea, I briefly mentioned my thoughts of a possible career change. Being holiday crazy, a career in travel might not be bad idea. My fellow mothers agreed that becoming a travel agent would be worthwhile. So I added this to the list of the many things that I have to do. As the others left, Ethel and I enjoyed some mee pok flavoured instant noodles with fishballs. Mmmm, boy do I miss the hawker centres in Singapore. The things you do to satify cravings!

Malcolm coming home early from work was a pleasant surprise. The happy feeling lasted despite the fact that he had to go back to the hospital to fix the haemorrhoid that re-bled because the patient tried to do a big poo. This (the happy feeling) could have also been due to the fact that I managed to squeeze in an afternoon nap, and woke up to the wonderful aroma of apple cake that Alessandra had baked during my slumber.

Jonah and I had to control ourselves and refrain from eating the cake until dinner time, so we decided to have some of our recommended serves of fruit and veges for the day instead. After sharing a gold kiwi fruit (I make the distinction here as I can't understand how anyone can eat the green variety), Jonah and I amused ourselves by pulling out weeds in the backyard. Well, I pulled out weeds while Jonah randomly pulled out bits of the lawn. I also experimented with the 5 new mock-stone Jamie Drurie solar lights that we bought from Big W while Jonah chewed on the instructions. Mal thinks the light is wussy but I like it. Its nice and has a soft glow, giving out just enough light to see where to put your foot down next. Re-arranging the lights in different positions took up the rest of the afternoon. Before I knew it, Elliot and Lara were back from swimming, it was time for dinner and the kids were in bed.

I now had time to do my research about being a travel agent. It appears that they work very hard for very little pay and that part time work is very hard to come by. So drats, there goes the cheap cruise fares, flights, accommodations and every other discounts that travel agents get. No cheap holidays for me after all.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Fishy business...continued

It was a semi-productive shopping expedition at IKEA. I managed to get Sharon to come along to bounce ideas off. IKEA fortunately had great products for my need. There were many pre-made items with bright colours at a good price.

One thing became apparent very quickly, going in with NO plan about what my fish extender should look like wasn't a good idea. Not only did it magnify my indecisiveness but it also brought out my worst Asian qualities. After dragging around different items in multiple quantities, I finally settled on the FABLER bag. I couldn't decide which colour I wanted. I knew it came in red, green and blue. Red is my favourite colour. The red bags, unfortunately, were out of stock. There were plenty of green ones but they were way down on my preference order. There were only 5 blue bags left. Should I wait until the reds return? Or should I stick with the blue? Maybe I should get a combination of green AND blue? Should I get 2 greens and I blue or 2 blues and 1 green? And then, Sharon asked the worst possible question ever..."Don't you want pockets for Malcolm & yourself?"

OH NO!!!! I now had to decide whether I wanted to have 3 OR 5 pockets! So putting my best kiasu (see definition below) foot forward, I took 3 blue and 3 green bags...just in case. Besides, as Sharon quite rightly pointed out, I could always return them. I wouldn't want the blue ones to sell out as well. The reds may never come back...

Now I had to decide what I should glue the bags on. The choice was endless...there were materials galore, towels, blankets, wraps, aprons all with nicely sewn edges that could be converted to form my fishy backbone. It was all a bit much for my disorganised brain. I decided to call it quits and ruminate some more at home before another shopping expedition. I needed more inspiration.

Looking at my purchases upon reaching home, I suddenly realised I didn't how high the "fish" was on the wall. Will it be high enough to fit all 5 pockets? Luckily for me, DISboards came to the rescue. I found out that it was approximately 6 feet high. I also discovered how to make the Mickey dowel ends that so many people had on their fish extenders. The one thing I haven't got the answer to is the weight capacity of the fish. I will keep trawling...

As I end this post to continue organising my baby's birthday party, I keep thinking about what Sharon said today. Perhaps I should let Ethel know about the fish extender business. She does sew, and she is super creative. Plus she has a sewing machine. Maybe her machine can embroider the Disney font...

Kiasu = a hokkien word that literally means 'fear of losing'. Used to describe the must win, never lose mentality of Singaporeans.

Fishy business

The time has come for the fish to take its first breath. Well, hopefully it will soon. After a Disney-free weekend, I am especially motivated to get cracking. But first, let's describe the Fish Extender to those who may not know what it is. And I suspect, there might be many...

I don't know whether or not this is purely a Disney phenomenon or whether this also applies to other cruise lines. The aforementioned "Fish" is a wall decoration that is apparently used as a communications system. My understanding is that it is a message clip and that it does not talk. It is located on the wall outside every stateroom on the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder.

The "Extender" as posted by GoofyIsAsGoofyDies on DISboards "is anything that you care to hang on the fish. Literally anything will qualify, but in general, they are usually some type pocket organizer similar to a shoe caddy or mail organizer. They can be as simple as a canvass bag or as complex as your imagination cares to stretch."

Here is one of many made by very creative and dedicated people who cruise Disney. I found this particular one made by LuvTheEars on DISboards (where else??!?!?!). Cruisers then use the fish extender as a medium for gift-exchange. The intricacies, rules and etiquette are described at length in the forums. For the moment, the purpose of mine will be for gifts for the children "from" Mickey.

I have thought long and hard about how to make mine. I am not particularly creative nor am I a genius with a needle and thread. Having dragged my mother-in-law (She is a sewing guru. She made a life-size Gremlin costume for Malcolm) with two children to the mega spotlight at Auburn last week, it is clear that my skills are definitely lacking. As multi-talented as I like to think I am, I am dubious about my capability to be able to sew so many bits of material together. There is also the small problem of not owning a needle and thread, let alone a sewing machine. So its off to IKEA we go to browse for suitable "components" that I can hot glue together.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Bugger the bath

It is Father's Day today. And surprisingly, there is little to write about. Other than an excuse to buy oneself a present, it, along with Mother's Day, isn't a big celebration in our little family.

I never did get to wrap the sucker-blower that Malcolm bought for himself last night. So early this morning, Elliot, Lara and I strategised as to how best to present "Daddy's present". In the end, the kids decided that it was easier to just put the big cardboard that we had sitting in the corner over the gift. That way, we wouldn't waste paper. My parents would be proud that their grandchildren had inherited this ancient Chinese trait of thriftiness. Elliot then wrote a big "SURPRISE" on the cardboard box. Lara nominated herself as the person who would shout "SURPRISE". The scene was set, the coffee was made...and then I noticed that my microwave rice-cooker was completely warped. I could not withhold myself from letting out a scream. Malcolm came down immediately. Amid the heated discussion of how the amazing feat of destroying the microwave dish was possible, the Father's Day "surprise thing" got waylaid. We realised we were going to be late for church, quickly did the "surprise thing" and headed out.

After church, we did the obligatory barbeque at Malcolm's parents. It was a lovely day to spend lazing on the grass, but not quite lovely enough to stop us from visiting the Kohsino to trial out Jason's new game. Having satisfied Malcolm's gaming urges ("It's the one thing that I WANT to do today"), we did our grocery shopping, hurried through a McDonald's dinner and went home.

We are pooped, so despite the fact that the children had been rolling all over the ground. We say, "Bugger the bath". Besides, there is cricket to watch on T.V.....

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Cover blown!

Alas, the days of anonymity, all two of them, are no longer. At a dear friend's wedding today, Malcolm disclosed the start of my blogging career. My immediate thought was whether or not this would change the way I write or if it would change the contents of my pages. Would I still write about the woman who wore one too many bright colours all at once (who I discovered later is the sister of the groom)? Should I comment on the fact that I think the celebrant may have had slight control issues? Would the bride one day discover my blog and be insulted? Should thoughts just remain as that, thoughts, and not be committed to words? Does refraining from voicing your thought make thinking about your thought ok??!?! I am not sure what the answer is.

Let's talk about the wonderful bits. My friend looked absolutely stunning and radiated happiness. The wedding has been a long time coming and we felt privileged to be a part of it. The venue, the groom's parents' home, was beautiful and was a lovely backdrop for the ceremony. The speeches were great to listen to, and it was nice to catch up with friends.

The sad bit is that I had to veer away from Disney for the day. And it appears that I may have to do this for a few days yet. For in my current Disney focused state, I had nearly forgotten to organise my little baby's first birthday. Bugger me!

Oh, and that reminds me. I'd better go to the garage to wrap the sucker-blower that Mal bought for himself so the children can give it to him first thing in the morning tomorrow for Father's Day.

Friday, 4 September 2009

I dream of Disney

I have always been a big fan of everything Disney. From the very first time I went to Disneyland as a little girl, I was hooked. After marriange and children however, things seemed to have toned down somewhat. I have always wanted to take the children to Disneyland but I was too worried about too many things. What if they're still too young to enjoy it, what if we don't cope with the jetlag, what if it's too expensive? The list goes on...

And then, we booked ourselves a Disney holiday. We will be cruising the mediterranean not just on any ship, but on a DISNEY ship. Yes, that's right! We are going on a Disney cruise! We didn't even know that Disney had their own cruise line. We accidentally stumbled across it whilst surfing the net for our planned 2011 Disneyworld trip (Yes we're going on another Disney holiday!). When we saw the "kids sail free" promotion for the mediterranean cruise, we knew it was too good a deal to pass up. Besides, we HAD to make sure that Malcolm could handle being on a ship before going on a cruise in the caribbean in 2011...

Suddenly, the yearning for everything Disney was re-ignited. I now salivate whilst dreaming about churros. I hum Disney tunes constantly. I discover and recite mundane Disney facts. I get annoyed that my disney DVD collection is not complete. I dream about towelgami. I feel happy simply thinking about Disney. I am sure everyone around me thinks that I am mad. Luckily, my partner in crime, Malcolm, understands! He has enough "boy" in him to embrace the magic that is Disney and enjoy rather than be cynical about the whole thing.

And then, the panic set in. How are we going to get there? Which flights would work best? How much is this going to cost? Where are we going to stay in Barcelona? Do we need US dollars onboard? Is Jonah too young for this? There were so many questions that needed answers. There was so much to do. There was only just under 8 months to do it in.

And so, the planning started. And oh boy, did it start! I discovered the Disney forum, and found other Disney freaks who were more freaky than me by a hundred fold. If you want to find out about anything Disney, you will find it there. The threads fuelled my previously dormant obsessive compulsive disorder. I even forgo sleep to be on the forums. Those who know of my love for sleep may not believe this. As a result, I now know all sorts of esoteric information on cruising with Mickey. As incredulous as I found the people on the board and their dedication for Disney, I quickly discovered that I fit right in and that I enjoyed lurking around the forums. So much so that I befriended someone whom I have never met on facebook just so that I can read his blog about his Adventure with Disney (tours that Disney provides...something new to try down the line...) I want to be IN... the whole hog. I don't want to be half-hearted. I am proud to announce that I am a Disney fan.

I am on a mission. I am so inspired that I have convinced myself that I NEED to make fish extenders for the children. That will be project 1. Project 2 will be to make magnetic door decorations. My parents, who are also coming on the cruise, don't know about this yet. I am too embarassed to tell them just yet. I will just have to show them my creations. Project 3 is to make a water-bottle holder that was inspired by our travels to the hilltribes of Thailand and Vietnam in our early 20s. It will be crocheted out of recycled plastic bags. I only have to make 6. How hard can it be?!?!? Surely a mother of 3 children who is going back to work in 2 weeks time can do this.

Wish me luck. I will keep you posted on my progress.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

In the beginning...

I don't really have any idea as to how to blog nor any plan about what I want to write about. All I know is that I have always wanted to do it. I have been putting this off for years. Today is a momentous day when procrastination ends. So here I go...

Is that the baby I hear?!?!? Drats, I'll have to start tomorrow.