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Olive's dreams were realised last night when she played in her very first fake snow.

Olivisms

Olive: Daddy, will Mummy get new boobies for Christmas again?
Daddy: Again? Did she get new boobies for Christmas before?
Olive: Yes.
Daddy: Well, I guess I could buy her some new boobies, yes. What are boobies, Olive?
Olive: We wear them on our nipples.

Olive: Daddy, I wish I could live in Grandpa's house.
Daddy: Why, Olive?
Olive: There are so many places to hide when I play hide-and-seek.
Daddy: Where do you like to hide?
Olive: I like to hide in the grass but sometimes it's so long I can't get out.
Daddy: That's because Grandpa forgot to mow the lawn.

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Above: Olive chilling at Vivo City with Daddy and Leo while Mummy does the weekly shop-up.

Above: Olive, Leo and Daddy sneaked into a nearby condo to use the playground.

Olive swimming under a coconut tree, self-portrait (Olive, Nov 2011)

Olive swimming under a coconut tree, self-portrait (Olive, Nov 2011)

We took Olive back for a second check-up a week after the accident and the doctor said he wasn't sure about the 'viability of her fingertip'! Evidently the tip is not as pink as he had hoped for and he's concerned that the whole fingertip may fall off. :( Obviously that's the worst case scenario but we're praying it heals. We'll be back in the hospital next week.

wonky pinky

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The telephone call I always dread: "Phil, come home now. You need to take XXX to hospital."

It's Leo who balances on window sills, hangs off table edges and sleeps in the oven but amazingly this time it was Olive who took a tumble. In a freak cooking accident, Olive toppled from a chair while preparing my dinner and either landed in a tub of raw rice or the tub landed on her. We're talking 10kg of rice here. According to Sandy there was blood all over the kitchen floor.

I made it home from the office within 10 minutes, scooped up Olive and took her straight to A&E at KK Women's and Children's Hospital. Olive was obviously in shock as she was happily singing Chinese songs all the way to the hospital. Or perhaps the fall hadn't been so bad after all? The doctor took a quick look, sighed in a way which said "Damn, I'm going to be home late for dinner", and proceeded to explain that Olive would need a general anaesthetic to allow him to sew up the inside of her little pinky, pull the fingernail off, cut the nail in half and sew the top half of the nail back onto the finger. Ouch!

Olive was great, she didn't complain once. She was a bit apprehensive of the injection to administer the anaesthetic but after the doctor told the nurse "Watch out, she's strong" and three of us pinned her down she was soon in dreamland. The operation took 45 minutes so I had time to call for help. Sri stepped up to play the hero and jumped in a taxi to our place to pick up Olive's cuddly toy, which I thought she might need on waking from the anaesthetic, and to fetch me an iPhone recharger as my phone was about to die and I would then have no way of contacting Sandy. With unusually good timing, Sri arrived at A&E a minute before Olive was wheeled out of the theatre and fluffy pink bear was duly proffered. Olive's first words upon waking were: "Daddy, the doctor forgot to give me a sweetie." In the meantime, Sandy put Leo to bed and called neighbours Karen and James to babysit, which they very kindly did for four hours. Sandy joined me in the hospital and five hours after checking in we were heading home, tired, hungry and, one of us, in bandages.

Many, many thanks to Karen, James and Sri.
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Phil, Olive and fluffy pink bear, photo swiped from Sri's Facebook page.

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We put Olive to work as soon as she was home and she prepared a lovely BBQ for us last night.

Happy Halloween

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Happy Halloween from Olive, Leo and Lucy the dog!

Too much energy …

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Do you almost faint every time you open your utilities bill? We do. We're paying S$400 (GBP200) a month for electricity and water. That seems way to high. Unless the neighbours are secretly hooked up to our juice then we're doing something wrong. Sandy eventually contacted the Public Utilities Board and they sent a guy round this morning to investigate. He measured the electricity usage with various appliances running and has determined that the problem lies with the water heater. Apparently the water heater uses the same power as four aircons! He did also suggest cutting down on aircon usage but he stressed that the main culprit was definitely the water heater. Sandy always complains I don't bathe often enough so I'm not to blame! We'll try reducing the length of time the water heater is on and see if it makes a difference. I don't think we leave it on for more that 20 mins at a time, but we'll be extra vigilant from now on. And bathe less ...

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'Mummy' by Olive (3 1/2)

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dog sitting

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We're dog sitting Lucy, a friend's 10-year-old spaniel, for two weeks. She's taken to sleeping with Olive, which is a little unhygienic. I wouldn't want her infected with lice from the kids.

missiles

This morning, while putting Olive’s shoes in the shoe rack at her daycare centre, I noticed that the neighboring shoe ‘pigeonhole’ belonged to a Trident Tan or Trident Lim. Now, I know Olive and Leo are unusual names, but to name your child after a deadly submarine-launching ballistic missile is really quite freaky.

'Hello, have you met my children? This is Trident and over there is Patriot. We have such high hopes for them. World domination, mass destruction. We’re not so sure about our youngest, though, little Scud. He’s a bit slower and his range seems limited but the doctors have assured us he will be able to safely deliver chemical weapons.'

disco queen

Olive the disco queen groovin' on an al-fresco dance floor at Esplanade, Singapore.

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Not only does Leo look like Phil, he's even wearing Phil's old t-shirts. Below are photos of Phil and Leo wearing the exact same t-shirt 40 years apart. Phil is 2 and living in Papua New Guinea, Leo is 16 months old and living in Singapore.

Mr Bump

Mr.Bump

Olive pointed out a Sikh gurdwara from her vantage point on the upper deck of bus 196 as she travelled to Esplanade to watch The Nutcracker ballet with Sandy.
"Who are those men, Mummy?"
"They are Sikh men, they wear turbans on their head," explained Sandy.
"Oh, they are sick," said Olive. "I think they bumped their head, that's why they have bandages on."

Childhood crush

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Olive and Leo spent the afternoon playing hide-and-seek with 10-year-old neighbour Jia Wei today. Olive and Jia Wei would hide and little Leo had to find them, which he always managed to do. Leo is so short he can see under the table and cot without crouching down. When it came time for Jia Wei to leave, Olive's lower lip trembled and she had to fight back the tears.
"Mummy, is Jia Wei very sad to leave?" asked Olive.
"Not as sad as you are, I think," teased Mummy.
How cute, Olive has a crush on her neighbour!

Ballerina Olive

As requested by Granny in England, here are some photos of Olive's ballet class.

The Tatham family blog is back by popular demand. Well, not that popular. Only granny from England said she wanted to see some photos of the kids! This probably will become a photo blog, not that it was ever anything more, as I have no time to write anything and I’ve stopped bringing my laptop home from work. And I still can’t convince Sandy to post anything.

What have we been up to since we returned to Singapore in July?

Olive
We enrolled Olive in a new childcare centre in July but it’s only temporary as she starts at a preschool in January. This temporary school is 20 yards from my new office, which means I take Olive to school every day. This is the best time of the day for me; I really enjoy hanging out with Olive. We take a 10-minute walk from home to the bus stop, play games at the bus stop and say hello to the Indian construction workers who are building Mediapolis (Olive is convinced they are building her a huge playground). We’ve never seen more the four people on the bus so it’s basically like a large private taxi. We know the driver and two other guys who ride the bus so Olive waves madly at her friends when they arrive every morning. Three stops up Portsdown Road and we arrive at Fusionopolis. We then have a 10-minute walk to Olive’s school. Every morning I have to make up two new stories for Olive that will last both walking legs of the journey. Olive always gives me two characters to create a story around … more often than not a princess and a fairy. I drop Olive at school then cross the road to my office at Mediapolis. I can see the playground from my window and can hear the kids playing. Wonderful.

At midday, Sandy and Leo take the same bus up Portsdown Road to collect Olive and I’ll usually pop over to the school to see them or to pass Sandy takeaway Malay mixed rice for her lunch. If it’s raining hard, I’ll bring Olive to the office and wait for Sandy there. Olive enjoys playing hide-and-seek in the warehouse part of my office.

Olive has now started ballet on Saturday mornings, which she absolutely loves. Olive and I walk to the ballet class, which is housed in a gym in the nearby Science Park so, while Olive does pirouettes, Daddy hits the gym. A perfect Saturday morning. After ballet, I take Olive on the bus to my office where we mess around and buy more Malay mixed rice for lunch. My office is littered with paper cups full of water which Olive leaves for the “friendly baby monsters who are thirsty”. We’ve now run out of paper cups.

Olive loves cooking and she and I often cook scrambled eggs on toast or oeufs en cocotte for breakfast at the weekend. We also love to make strawberry ice lollies … delicious and kind of healthy (strawberries, Greek yoghurt, black pepper and only a little sugar). Olive and I can eat these all day long but Sandy's not used to the flavour as they don't contain any chemicals or preservatives.

Olive’s English is really good and she can chat about anything for hours. She’s quite serious but does have a sense of humour developing. She’s still very shy though, so finds it hard to talk to strangers. Olive’s Chinese is limited to singing and she only seems to have one verb in her vocabulary so her spoken Chinese is pretty non-existent. She knows lots of nouns, she just needs some verbs to link them together! Her recognition of letters of the alphabet and numbers is still very poor but we’re trying not to worry about it. This is Singapore though. I notice during her ballet class that the other mothers (I’m always the only dad) spend an hour drilling other kids in English and Chinese vocab or sentence building. It takes a lot of willpower to hold back and not force your kids into the same intensive learning regime.

On weekday afternoons Sandy takes the kids out to a park, play gym or friend's house. The mother's group tries to meet up once a week and Sandy often hangs out with friends and neighbours. Sandy is truly amazing although I try not to tell her this, lest she requests a raise.

On Saturday or Sunday afternoons I like to take Olive to the local bar where we get a table outside and do jigsaw puzzles and drawing with a few mugs of beer and orange juice.

Olive and Leo now sleep in the same room, which is fantastic. Sandy gives the kids a bath then, if I'm back from the office, I read them three books while they drink milk. They’re both asleep by about 8.30pm and wake at about 8am. I’ve trained Olive only to get up when she sees an 8 on her digital clock!

Another major milestone for Olive is that she’s stopped using diapers (during the day). What a relief. As a reward for using the loo she spent a morning in a toy store and came out with some scary-looking Barbie dolls. Oh well, anything is better than us having to clean poop.

Yesterday Olive told me she is becoming a big girl. She already talks about meeting a prince to marry (usually me!). She’s great at playing with older kids so if we go out to a restaurant she hangs out with the other kids. Last night we had pizza at Pietrasanta and I overheard Olive telling a girl on the swing that her daddy was the one with no hair! I shouted back that I have very hairy feet.

Leo
Like any 15-month-old boy, Leo spends his day laughing, spinning like a dervish, falling over, screaming, refusing to eat his food, stealing everybody else’s food, balancing on raw potatoes, shadowing his sibling, climbing the furniture, smashing glasses and vases, eating chalk ...

Leo’s first word was the same as Olive’s: ball. He understands everything but is much slower to talk than Olive. In addition to animal noises, he can say "hot", “more”, “no more”, “there”, “mama”, “bird”, "duck", “star”, “no” and, bizarrely, "giraffe". He loves dressing up in women’s clothes and wearing high heels. He’s got a molar poking through his gum at the moment and that’s causing him a lot of pain so he likes to carry around a tube of Bonjella.

Phil
Having lost more than 10kg (1 3/4 stone), I’ve now turned into a health freak. Hopefully it’s a passing phase. It’s not as fun as the eating and drinking phase I’ve been enjoying for the last 20 years. I run 3 clicks home from work, I cycle 5 to 10 km and swim 1 km at the gym several times a week (I know it’s not much but I’ve only just started!). Worryingly, I’ve signed up for a triathlon but I hate running, I can’t do front crawl and I don’t have a bike! Thank god the triathlon season is over in Singapore and the next one isn’t until early 2012. I’m also playing tennis again, which is great fun. A year ago I couldn’t run for more than 5 mins, now I can do an hour on the court. I’ve finally given up smoking and junk food, I’ve cut down on red meat (although Sandy tells me we have steak for dinner tonight), I drink less beer and the result is … none of my clothes fit. I feel great even if Sandy’s family say I just look gaunt (never a good source if you’re looking for encouragement!).

Sandy
I wanted to ask Sandy what’s new in her life but she’s too busy cooking and cleaning so I don’t want to disturb her. I’m quite sure she would have a lot of exciting things to tell everybody. “No, I don’t! Lunch is ready!”

Below is a selection of photos I found on the camera. They date back to a party at Holly and Nel’s house in London.

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Hooray! Leo has taken his first steps one week before his first birthday. And he's sleeping through the night. Tonight he's in with Olive. Three cheers for the little man with the large head.

Rutland County Show

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98 years old

Four generations of Tathams and Hayllers celebrate Granny Tatham's 98th birthday with lunch at Baxter Farm. Thanks Mum and Dad for a lovely lunch! This is what we're missing stuck halfway round the world in Singapore.

Halfway through our 3-month holiday in England ...

Sandy, Leo, Olive and Phil (henceforth known as SLOP) left London for rural Nottinghamshire and stayed with Phil's parents in Willoughby on the Wolds for a week.

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The heatwave in UK continues — grandpa sunbathes while Olive sensibly retreats to her castle.

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We're short of beds so Leo's sleeping in the cupboard.

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Olive celebrated her 3rd birthday with her cousins Oscar and Ralph at Baxter Farm.

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Aunty Holly arriving for Olive's party.

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Sandy baked Olive's favourite cupcakes.

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More cupcakes!

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We like the styling but enough of the cupcakes.

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Olive handing a cake to her 98-year-old great granny.

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Olive dressed as Snow White and Oscar as Hank Chief ( the pirate from The Troll by Julia Donaldson).

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Phil with hat.

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Grandpa and Ralph under the pear tree.

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The whole family wants to play with Olive's birthday presents.

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Bedtime stories.

Sandy, Olive, Leo and Phil are on a three-month working holiday in Europe. We need to change the blog's tagline to "Life in the UK with baby … and baby". The following photos were taken during our first week in London staying with Holly and Nel.

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Olive hanging out with her cousins Oscar (left) and Ralph (right).

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A must-stop for lunch in London is Borough Market near London Bridge.

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Olive hiding behind a toasted cheese (raclette) sandwich from Kappacasein stall at Borough Market in the grounds of Southwark Cathedral.

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After lunch at Borough Market, Sandy's chocolate radar soon picked up a chocolate festival being held at South Bank.

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Phil enjoying chocolate samples for pudding.

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Celebrating Nel's birthday under a glorious blue sky.

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From the left: Grandpa, Ralph, Oscar, Nel, Olive, Phil, Holly and Granny.

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Oscar and Olive cooking food on the barbecue.

pancake day

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Olive and Phil celebrated Shrove Tuesday with mini chocolate pancakes. Olive cracked the eggs and whisked the ingredients, Phil flipped the pancakes.

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Leo, who is now crawling, made a beeline for Olive's pancake and had to be wrestled to the floor.

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Olive emerges victorious and covered in chocolate.

I opened today's Straits Times to see a photo of my son, Leo, endorsing products for Cold Storage. Admittedly he does use some of the products he was pushing — such as Pampers and Kodomo — but I've repeatedly warned him not to sell out like other celebrities endorsing products and to concentrate on his acting career. He's eight months old and still has a lot of work to do before he can afford to sully his reputation for cold hard cash.

When asked to comment on today's product endorsement, the actor replied: "goo goo, gaa gaa".

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Ooooooh my god! Sandy told me to keep 10 days free in Feb for a surprise holiday to celebrate my 40th birthday but I never expected this. I arrived at the airport with no idea of the destination and no clue as to what Sandy and the kids had planned for me. I guess I imagined we would pop up to Thailand or down to Bali, but at Changi airport we checked onto an Emirates flight to Dubai via Colombo. Three hours later, at 3am, we disembarked at Colombo and checked into a hotel near the airport. No Dubai then. I thought perhaps we would transfer to the Maldives but we were met by a car and driver in the morning and we took the coastal road south of Colombo. We were going to Galle! The trip down to Galle took longer than the flight from Singapore and I had only slept one hour in the last two days. By the time we finally pulled up at a huge villa and were greeted by the staff I was a walking zombie. The driver pointed into the entrance hall where a "Happy Birthday" banner was hanging and for a second I couldn't think whose birthday it was. But that wasn't the surprise. I caught sight of people moving towards me from the side of the room and ... there was my sister Holly with Nel, Oscar and Ralph, and my parents! Ooooooh my god! As you can imagine, it was all rather emotional. How the hell they managed to keep that a secret I'll never know. All our friends in Singapore knew about it too but nobody let on. Thank you to my amazing family, I love you all.

I'm posting this from a luxurious villa set back from the sea and bordered by a river. The cook has ruined my diet with delicious Sri Lankan curries and the largest barbecued parrot fish I've ever seen (much less eaten). We have our own tuktuk with driver, which is lucky as the driver of the villa's MPV was in hauled into court this morning for a speeding offense.

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[Photo of Red Junglefowl by Nick Baker]

Last week I posted a comment on the Bird Ecology Study Group website, a fantastic site dedicated to bird behaviour in Singapore and Malaysia, in response to a post about red junglefowls (gallus gallus). Formerly confined to Pulau Ubin, this rare ancestor of the domesticated chicken (which therefore answers the conundrum of which came first, the chicken or the egg ... it was gallus gallus) seems to be spreading across the main island of Singapore and since I'm woken up every morning by one of these birds I wanted to know why it is in my garden and whether it is a pure red junglefowl or the offspring of interbreeding with a domesticated chicken. To my pleasant surprise I received an email this morning from neighbour Nick who confirms it is a real gallus gallus (he knows these things) and he even has a photo of it. While I'm honoured to be woken up every morning at 6am by the rare ancestor of the domesticated chicken, I'm still going to kill it at the very first opportunity and cook red junglefowl curry. Anyone feeling peckish?

Fed up with Daddy's criticism of her Chinese singing, Olive invites Daddy to sing the song instead. Well done Olive!

Meet the authors of "Crime Scene: Singapore", the first ever anthology of Singapore crime fiction, at a special crime night to be held on Saturday 29 January at Prologue bookstore in ION Orchard from 8pm till 11pm. Join the authors and bookstore staff in games of Cluedo and a criminology quiz.

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