mrbrown and the overseas Christmas

I am wondering if my six-year-old son would mind a box of Taiwanese Nai Yu Tai Yang Bing (奶油太阳饼), or Suncake, for Christmas.

It was all I could find on my Taiwan holiday with the wife. The little souvenir shops of the mountain village tourist trap, Jiufen (九份), did not really have any Power Ranger Jungle Fever figures in stock. All they had were assorted Taiwanese biscuits, giant fishballs and something called Blood Meat Cake.

That's the problem when you go on a long-awaited holiday with the wife for the first time in years, without the children. And you choose to do it just before Christmas, when you should be a good little parent and stay in Singapore, looking for toys and presents for your brood, together with the great masses.

I think I will have to find a way to buy him that Power Ranger (what does Jungle Fever Power Ranger mean? Does he have some kind of exotic flu?). Either that or shape a Power Ranger out of a piece of Taiwanese Pineapple Tart.

We have been calling home almost every night. The wife insisted on talking to her brood via Skype because she missed them even on the plane to Taipei. Our online conversations would generally start like this:

Random child of ours: “Hello Papa!”

Me: “Hello child!”

Random child: “Did you buy me the toy yet?”

We could tell they missed us a lot.

Every day, they would share some drama from their lives without us over Skype.

“Papa, I want to tell you something.”

“What is it, son?”

“I was sleeping, and Joy Joy wasn't sleeping, and she jump up and down, and the broke the head of my Optimus Prime! I don't think I want him any more.” said my son.

I had a stern word with Joy, my four-year-old, on the call about the importance sleeping when she is supposed to be in bed, the dangers of jumping on her brother's bed at night, and the implications to the future of the Autobot race that her decapitation of Optimus Prime wrought.

I promised Isaac I would try to fix Optimus when I got back and he sounded convinced of my skills as a Transformer mechanic.

Joy took great pains to communicate her Christmas needs to me. She had her sights set on a Baby Alive toy. I have no idea what a Baby Alive is but it sounded ominous. She must have seen the commercials on TV and I recall seeing her poring over the toy page of the Robinson's Christmas catalog we received in the mail.

Did they have a Baby Not Alive version, too? Some kind of evil nemesis of Baby Alive?

I had wanted to continue the trend of buying her some accessories for her Polly Pocket doll. But she told me over Skype that her Polly Pocket was gone, like it was abducted by some Polly Pocket kidnapping syndicate.

I said, “Well then, you will have to find her if you lost her. I don't want to buy toys for a little girl who keeps losing her toys.”

Joy sounded a little worried when she replied, “Ok.” She sounded like she was going to activate a search party. After all, her entire incoming toy future was at stake here.

Our Christmas shopping was mostly done in Taiwan. The wife had a mental checklist of all the people we had to buy presents for and I, like the dutiful husband that I was, did my part by not questioning her need to enter every souvenir and food store in Greater Taipei.

We discussed the issue of a having Christmas Tree, too. The wife felt it might be a good idea to put all their presents under a tree, like you see on TV. I pointed out to her that on TV, you never see the part where the father has to disassemble the tree and put it back in the store room, preferably before Chinese New Year.

The other issue with a Christmas tree and all the presents wrapped in shiny paper under it, was that my 8-year-old firstborn with autism, Faith, was likely to go into Destructo mode and take the whole festive plant apart. Her sensory make up makes her very fond of shiny, crinkly things and the wrapping paper would be too tempting to pass up.

So it was decided by unanimous vote (just mine, my wife abstained) that we would not have a tree. We were sticking to our age-old tradition of hiding the presents in the store room until Christmas Day.

I know one day, the kids will discover where we stash the presents. When you live in a four-room HDB flat, you run out of Christmas Present Hiding Places very fast. Perhaps I need to look into buying a new flat soon. Either that I need to work on creating an indestructible Christmas Tree that has secret compartments, and that packs itself away when the festivities are over.

Oh, and that tree should also be able to turn Taiwanese pastries into Power Rangers.

About mrbrown
mrbrown aka Mr Kin Mun LEE is the accidental author of the popular Singapore website,, and has been documenting the dysfunctional side of Singapore life since 1997.

Affectionately known as the Blogfather of Singapore, his readers follow his writings closely, which these days range from current affairs, his family, and even his trips abroad.

Currently, mrbrown also hosts the mrbrown show (, probably Singapore's best known comedy and satire podcast.

mrbrown is married to Ginny, his long-suffering wife for 12 years, and is father to three lovely kids, Faith,  Isaac and Joy.

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