Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places


September 2011


What happens when you:
1. Go to the movies, and
2. Attempt to breastfeed in the dark without a breastfeeding cover, while
3. Feasting on a Choc Top ice cream.

She literally wore my food for the rest of the afternoon. But she didn’t seem to mind, and we had SO MUCH FUN! :)


Month three

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Dear Arddun,

This month, you

Discovered your voice.
Not that you weren’t heartbreakingly beautiful as a newborn, but for weeks all we’d heard was either crying or silence and not very much in between. But then you discovered your voice and suddenly, we’re having conversations. You’ll coo about your day, and ask – rather than yell – for your food. You wake up, and you chat to Mr and Mrs Owl on the wall, and we lie in bed and listen to you through the monitor. These coded conversations! They waft through our corridors and fill us with an overwhelming sense of contentment.

Started swimming classes
Mostly a Daddy-Daughter time, our Saturday mornings are now all about Swimming – working out your wake time, your feed time and your travel time so that we can get you in the best possible mood to basically bob about the pool and have a plastic watering can pour pool water over your face. You have NO idea what’s going on, but you’re easily the youngest kid in the block and therefore readily excused. Also, many mothers goo-gah over you because damn, you look ridiculously cute in your swimming costume, although Mommy worries that you’ll take the word POO in POOL quite literally one day, and…

Watched your first movie with mommy
One Day – a drama/romance with Anne Hathaway. You fed and slept through the whole thing. It was bliss for both of us.
The second movie we watched together was The Help. Mommy got ambitious and bought a choc-top. She also couldn’t reach the feeding cover in the dark. You fed and slept for most of the movie. We both emerged with choc stains down our fronts.

Noticed the TV for the first time
More on this in a separate post. But Mommy now understands why it’s SO TEMPTING to use the telly as an electronic babysitter while she prepares dinner.

Started reading the bible
Our midnight feeds now include reading 2.5 chapters of the bible – in chronological order. Genesis was easy. Job was, frankly, a painful book. Of course, Mommy just assumes you can read her thoughts when she’s silent-reading.

Got 3 new lullaby albums
Your music collection just got bigger, with rockabye lullabyes from Guns ‘n’ Roses, Queen, and… Madonna. The last was entirely your own doing. Mommy spent one breastfeeding session playing excerpts of Madonna, and you loved her. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Learnt to laugh
While out shopping one day for baby dresses, you decided that life was particularly dandy and so you laughed. And laughed. And laughed. And Mommy got so sentimental about the moment, she popped back into the same shop the next day and bought the dress that started it all.

Learnt to roll over
After a week of being too busy to do much Tummy Time, Mommy decided to place you on your front and voila – you shot up like a cobra, and then you rolled over. We tried this again about six times, so we know it’s not a fluke. However when it came time to exhibit to Daddy, you basically flopped on your tummy and gurgled, while Mommy kept insisting that it wasn’t a figment of her imagination or sleep deprivation.

Started hanging around with Molly the Dolly
While practising how to grip and grasp, you discovered that Molly the Dolly has got skinny legs, googly eyes, a big head, and a bell in her tummy. And no matter who shakes Molly, you think it’s ha-la-rious. Much kicking and laughing usually ensues.

Met grand-uncle Tony and grand-aunt Ann
Who took our first family photo! Which made Mommy very happy! Also, there was much cuddling and comparison of facial features. We all agree that your hair is lightening in colour, and certain expressions are All Daddy. Definitely no paternity test required.

The Overshare Affair

A few conversations this week have awoken me to the sad realisation that I’ve gone back on my word and am now as guilty as the next mum of Oversharing.

Oversharing usually occurs when the filter between the mind and the mouth takes a holiday. Many mothers and some world leaders (*cough* Lee Kuan Yew *cough* Paul Keating *cough*) suffer from this fate. By-products of oversharing include the deterioration of the Shame Membrane and Care Factor, and usually results in many grossed-out listeners who are not either mommies or world leaders.

For mommies, oversharing is almost always about bodily functions.

I went to my first mother’s group this week, and the first formal thing we ended up doing was going around in a circle and talking about our labour stories. Which basically got distilled into

  1. number of hours
  2. episiotomy or tearing
  3. c-section or au naturale
  4. epidural use
  5. aches and pains of recovery.

Each detail was outlined in loving, tender detail as if it were yesterday, each fanny scar a badge of honour. And it is, you know. At least for the first year, I reckon.

But it’s not exactly dinner conversation, is it. I hardly know these women – we hardly know each other – but here we were, trading stories about our lady bits as if we were discussing Julia Gillard’s latest hair-do.

It doesn’t stop there. TheOneWithFour recently came back from the Netherlands for a month-long whirlwind tour de friends. We met up for a super time over cakes and bikkies (I came with Sara Lee) but the only conversation that sticks in my mind about the day is The One about The Booger.

So here we were, two mothers, waxing lyrical about the crazy sense of achievement and satisfaction when you finally get that ball of gooey mucus out of your baby’s nostril.

You might know the one. Your baby’s been coughing and spluttering the whole morning and you can just hear it in her nose. But you just can’t get to it, and your baby can’t get to it, and it’s driving both of you absolutely nuts because she can’t breathe, and you can’t stand that she can’t breathe. Finally, you decide to grit your teeth and get that globule out even if it means two excruciating minutes of screaming baby.

Well. We talked about technique – baby cotton buds, screwed corners of tissue paper. We talked about the art of imitation – pretending to give your nose a blow so your baby might try to do the same. And then we talked about that golden moment – that carpe diem moment, where you manage to grab hold of the tiniest end of that glob of Disgusting, and very slowly puuuuuuuull the darn thing out like the longest thread of blu tack known to man, until the rest follows in a gooey ball and your baby’s nose is glob-free.

Two minutes of my life I’ll never get back, but it felt SO GOOD to talk about it with another mother.

But the most criminal thing I’ve done recently is to overshare with a non-mother.

Actually, I’m possibly doing it now, aren’t it. But there’s a difference. I’ve flagged it beforehand, so you know what you’re in for. This article – neon signposted, baby. So you’re getting what you came for. But it’s a completely different kettle of fish when you’re on Facebook and chatting to an Innocent.

One moment, I was typing happily about maternity clothes, the next I was detailing the trials of breastfeeding and how it gives you constipation. How I managed to segue from fashion to bowel movement (or lack thereof) is beyond me, but there you have it. Overshare. Wasn’t even gradual – it just happened. Like verbal diarrhea. Oops. Did it again.

And that’s when I knew I had crossed over and become One of Them. And I’m so, so sorry. I’ll try not to let it happen again but I know better now than to make promises.


I might be on a roll here…

Pecan and choc chip cookies. A little dry, so will ease off on the flour next time.


The last time I baked something sweet that turned out alright was 18 years ago at my Home Economics exam. Even then, the cake had sunk in the centre but I had covered that up with fruit and smothered the whole thing with chocolate, so the teacher got distracted…

Since then, I hadn’t needed to touch an oven. As far as Asian desserts go, I wasn’t ever a fan and as far as baking in the family went, our oven short-circuited the house once and we’d never used it since.

Then I got to Australia.

Hospitality in Australia – good hospitality in Australia – seems to go hand in hand with culinary sweets. Morning tea – cakes and bikkies. Afternoon tea – different cakes and bikkies. Dessert. Cream. Cheese. Butter. Pastry. Meringues – large, small. The boring nutrition of fruit completely negated by sugar and spice and all things sinfully nice.

But the problem is, I suck at baking.

I blame my oven most of the time. The thermostat is as reliable as a weather man licking his pointy finger and sticking it into the breeze. You set the oven to 160°c fan-forced and the light will go off when it hits the mark. But the temperature will keep climbing. Before you know it, your beautiful tart has been sitting in 220°c for the last half hour and you could play frisbee with the product.  And kill the person it lands on.

But the bigger problem is my penchant for making things up as I go along (works for Chinese cooking, baaaad for baking…) and the fact that I’m rather heavy-handed with ingredients. Also, I can never get the butter-flour balance and before long, am spiralling into the abyss as I try to get what I think to be The Perfect Dough. The list goes on and on.

But good hospitality – great hospitality – almost demands some TLC with the dessert. Some effort required. Some home-made goodness. OK for when it’s a lunch or dinner. But when it’s the in-betweeners, it’s not like I can rock up with some soy sauce chicken, you know what I’m sayin’? NO cake goes with soy sauce chicken.

Turning up with store-bought confectionery used to merely be embarrassing but now that I’m a full-time housewife, it bugs the living daylights out of me. “It’s not an exam, you know,” Tony reminds me gently. He is greatly amused by my new-found definition of success in life. But I am not. Now that I am a Mommy, I get to go to mumsy things which always seem to involve driving to someone’s house for tea and sweets. And I’d love, for once, to be able to say, “Great! I’ll whip up some <insert delectable pastry here>!” and not sneak off to Aldi’s.

Also, fast-forward to the year 2016 when Arddun’s 5 and she’s the only kid in her kindergarten not to have cake made from the Australian Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book because her mother is a putz with the oven. My poor baby girl, laughing stock of kindergarten, scarred for life.

Anyhoo. Went and bought a book that promised easy baking. It says so on the cover – “Easy baking“. I made a lemon currant loaf. And watched the oven like a hawk. And moaned into Tony’s shoulder about how it will turn out awful.

And it turned out okay! It even turned out edible.

Lemon currant loaf
"There is hope for her after all."

The Crying Game

If I believed in karma, I’d say I’ve just been bit.

All those times I’d claimed how I cannot stand the sound of children crying? Oh the irony. Because some days, I’m convinced that I have the cryiest baby around.

“Cryiest” does not exist in the English language but dangnammit, it should.

Arddun head-butted my bony collar bone this afternoon. No real harm done – by which I mean no bruising, bleeding and mild concussion. But it’s given her license to com-plete-ly lose it and she’s been crying for 90 minutes since.

No, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened and no, I’m not having a freak-out. I’m just resigned to it, that’s all. I want to take a nap because I am still rather knackered, but I haven’t quite mastered the art of sleeping through histrionics yet (yet!), so I’m sitting here to blog about it instead.

In the last 2 days, it’s started to dawn on me that I’m losing my sense of shame. Pre-baby, the sound of babies crying so grated on my nerves, I was convinced I’d whisk mine out of the room if mine made so much as a whimper that went on for Too Long (read: 1.2 seconds).

But the sad truth is, I’ve just become immune to the sound of Arddun crying. I’ve also lost the ability to think of more than one thing at a time because when she goes off her nut, all I can focus on is calming her down on the spot while teaching her how to comfort herself. To ask that I remove us from the room while I shush her would be to ask that I cook a six-course tofu meal while a man in a hideously gay jacket booms from the stage theatrically (just watched Iron Chef yesterday).

In other words, it’s just too hard, and it’d never dawn on me to do it.

Usually I can calm her down in ten seconds. This involves a lot of shushing in her ear till the noise of simulated ocean or womb or whatever drowns out her baby angst and she stops to admire the curtains or secretly pee in her diaper. All well and good when we’re at home and out of everyone’s way. Not so good when you’re out in public and alone with her, your tea has just arrived, and the baby change room is on the other side of paradise.

But the fact is, I have a stinkin’ suspicion that I’m being quite inconsiderate and I’m a little helpless as to the protocol here. Just yesterday, I had an old classmate complain bitterly on Facebook about a parent who let her child scream blue murder in the elevator while she benignly stood by to watch. And then today, just when my Coke Spider had arrived at the Coffee Club, Arddun decided to wake up half an hour early for her feed and was rather grumpy about life. I shushed her in five seconds, but that was all it took for the older couple beside me to roll their eyes and up and leave in disgust. And I was left sitting there wondering if I’d just turned into a public menace with my 5-second contribution to noise pollution in a suburban cafe.

Perhaps I put too much stock on what others think. Except I remember being just like them, and I remember how tedious it can be to put up with ill-behaved children. And I don’t want to inflict my child on others. I want her – I want us – to be a delight to have around. To be considerate of the needs of others, to be kind. But it takes time and I’m so green and unimaginative right now, it’s not funny.

Have to go. Arddun’s still crying and I think it’s time I gave my new neighbour’s ears a break. :(

Occupational health and safety

About 10 days ago, I put my back out.

And while I could dedicate an entire post to how wimpy that sounds (“Her baby weighs 11 pounds and she puts her back out! Pffft!”), I’d like to talk about how terrifying it all was for the millisecond I realised I couldn’t be there for my baby.

By “there”, I mean functioning 100%. You need your back to take the pram in and out of the car. To twist and negotiate the baby capsule in and out of its pod without flinging its contents (i.e. baby and blanket) onto the backseat or oncoming traffic. To carry baby out of the cot and to NOT drop your baby to sleep quite literally.

The day I put my back out, Arddun’s sleeping and eating patterns took a turn for the funny. Mostly because as soon as she was near dropping off to la-la-land, I’d try and lower her back in her cot or any flat surface and end up dropping her instead.

I’d like to say it was funny har-har. But no one was laughing that day.

Here’s the rub: while I have, in the last 7 years, a heightened measure of self-preservation because I’m now answerable to myself AND a man who loves me, having Arddun has completely upped the ante. Because no mommy = no honey. For once in my life, I have someone who really needs me. Who literally cannot stand up without my help. And that means that I need to think seriously about how I take care of myself.

Where once I’d turned a half-deaf ear to all the safety training on box-lifting at work, I’m now paying attention. I’m eating a little better. I’m praying more fervently. I’m driving a little less like a stereotypical Asian woman (heh!). Where once I had scoffed at fuel-guzzling soccer-mum cars, I now see the huge appeal. HUGE being very much the operative word. Between my car and another in a road accident, I’d like us to emerge with not so much as a scratch on our foreheads. If the turning circle didn’t take after the moon, if it came in prettier colours AND if it wasn’t such a doozy to park in Canberra Centre, the Manic Mommy in me would like to get a humvee, thankyouverymuch. Anything that could secure our safety just that little bit more.

There’s a scene in Steel Magnolias where Dylan McDermott’s character comes home from work to find his infant son screaming blue murder and his Julia Roberts wife sprawled on the back porch, unconscious. That scene terrifies me now. It’s the reason I don’t climb ladders alone in the house, for fear of losing my balance (the klutz that I am) and either landing on Arddun or bashing my head on the carpet and Tony only realising this when he walks through the back door at the day’s end. Paranoia. I think we’re all allowed some kind of neurosis now and then. This one’s mine.

I think I’m starting to understand what it feels like to live for someone else. Whoa!

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