Lou has started a photography course (some first creations to be found below) and is fast becoming our family expert in everything you ever needed to know about digital SLR cameras but were afraid to ask.
I am delighted at the prospect of future blog posts now being adorned with colourful photos of Vietnam, providing readers with the more preferable option of not having to read my accompanying narrative…
Anyway, in the previous and more general updates about life out in SE Asia, the tone of things has been a combination of first impressions, acclimatising and adjusting to new routines, and ultimately making sense of it all.
We’re now about to start month 9 and are feeling really settled on all fronts. I have been travelling heaps over the past 2 months and Lou has been juggling a variety of things (including keeping the children fed, watered and happy) and generally performing Super Mum impersonations in the meantime.
Martha is on great form. She’s a real giggler and, even with two teeth well on their way now, manages each morning to wake up with a big grin on her face. It is never that long, however, before she remembers about her itchy teeth, and is gnawing away at any object in range.
She moves around her cot at night so much that we are convinced she will be walking before we are back in the UK next May. She was 5 months old yesterday, and I reckon will soon be on noodle soup and pureed rice, the way she stares at us all eating.
Florence has gone back to school after her half term week, and seems very at ease with things, enjoying making friends and learning new tricks.
Much of our weekend just gone consisted of Flo-centred activities, including a zoo trip, a 1st birthday party, a sleepover, a swimming play-date, a swimming lesson and, finally, lunch with Axel and Niels, twins from her old class at school. This morning, when I said to Lou that next weekend should be a quiet one, Flo interjected with a mouthful of cornflakes to say she wanted, instead, a “noisy one”.
Her 3rd birthday party went off well last month, although the planning and execution of it (full credit for which must go to Lou) has formed a new sense of respect to our parents for the many years of parties they hosted for us when we were kids.
Lou produced no less than two birthday cakes under the orders of Flo – a black and white cow to take to school, and an orange giraffe for her actual party – and I was in charge of introducing Flo and her buddies to some old fashioned party games, including pin the tail, and pass the parcel.
It would be fair to say that the bits of the party that were under my control were utter chaos, but we got through the whole thing without any major dramas, although shortly before the food arrived Lou did find one of Flo’s friends with his hands down the loo in our bathroom. All good fun.
I think Flo liked being on the receiving end of a party, as she has been to a few out here herself now and, for her big day, she clearly enjoyed the whole affair being in our apartment, and on her terms.
We took her to a friend’s party recently which was slightly traumatic in particular, as it turned out Flo wasn’t so thrilled about some of the entertainment provided – namely, the two clowns (actual ones) hired to make animals out of balloons and generally humour or, in the case of the Bishop entourage, petrify, the kids.
What was made worse for Flo, and has put her on a clear road to acquiring genuine coulrophobia (my new word for the day it turns out) was the clown’s insistence on trying to make her feel better by tapping her on the shoulder when she wasn’t looking, and handing her a squeaky, freakish black and red balloon in the shape of an elongated dog.
Flo hung on to me like her life depended on it, just as I could see out of the corner of my eye Martha throwing up her milk all over the floor. We’d not even been at the party long enough by this stage for Lou and I to have any form of alcoholic drinks in our hands to cushion the awkwardness of the whole moment.
So, yes, Flo was full of beans during her own birthday party. Not a clown in sight, just a bunch of children with lots of energy who were, in essence, happily trashing our apartment, leaving it much the same way a burglar would only, in the spirit of party hosting, your role on such occasions is to smile at all times and encourage the kids’ rampaging tendencies by filling them with enough e-colourings and sugar to fuel a small army.
We’re not quite sure where people so tiny (ie 3yr olds) get their energy from? Just as Martha has been sleeping through the night without stirring, Flo on the other hand seems incapable of going even a minute past 5:30am every day – whatever time it is she finally goes to bed the previous night.
For sleepover dates then, long after her actual sleepover date – 6yr old Velvet – has passed out next to her, and way past 10pm, Flo is still jabbering away to her dollies, rearranging things in her room, and doing anything accept sleeping. This can mean a fairly short night’s kip, and bags under her eyes more akin to those her Mummy and Daddy have on display, having simultaneoulsy drank too much whiskey with Velvet’s parents over too many games of cards.
Inpressive stamina for one so young, although there are then the inevitable side effects of us defaulting to classic parenting tactics, such as putting on Cinderella DVDs each morning as the sun comes up to keep Flo preoccupied, or, at the other end of the day, over-indulging her in chocolate of any form, in order to keep her awake through the afternoon.
Over the past 2 months (during those times I’ve actually been in Saigon) I have managed to get Flo interested in the Rugby World Cup. A cause for some new daddy-daughter bonding. She particularly likes the dance that the Kiwis do at the beginning of each match, when they stick their tongues out and stamp their feet. She is also quite curious about the moments when the doctor comes on the pitch.
For every match she has – let’s face it – been made to watch with me, she has always picked a team to win. Typically, her decision is based on the colour of the team kit (if Holland, in their bright orange, were ever to be playing then I think she would be a lifelong supporter) or how interesting a sound the name of their country makes when she repeats it out loud.
During yesterday’s final, Flo decided she wanted France to win (possibly in an attempt to shore up what otherwise seems at the moment to be fairly frosty Anglo-French relations, as reported in the press this morning). Either this, or the fact that they teach French at her school, which was probably the more likely dealmaker.
For about 79 minutes of the match it did look as if there was going to be cause for celebration for France and for Flo, but it was not to be. After the game finished I then had to go to some lengths to lie to her about the result, as she got quite upset at the thought of them losing.
Such behaviour (ie her “passion”, as opposed to my making up tales) I am naturally taking as an exciting indication she will grow to like competitive sport in the future. Expect this is instinctive ‘Dad syndrome’. I can’t help, for example, but wonder too that Martha’s eagerness to get up on her feet at 5 months old is a sure sign of Olympic stardom in the 2032 Games!
As it happens, I’m certain if we were in the UK at the moment, then there would be one more Strictly Come Dancing fan amongst the masses as, to be honest, Flo does seem much more interested in dancing in pretty dresses at the moment than anything related to chasing a ball around.
I will have to work a bit harder when the next sporting tournament comes around.