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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

Month

April 2012

TTT – It’s a deliciously mad, mad, mad world

The tardiness can be explained – we’ve been modemless, and even though I could still get to the interwebs through my iPhone, I really don’t enjoy blogging through a handheld device. So here’s my Thursday’s Three Thank-yous, a day late but better that than never, etc etc.

1. Mad Aunt Maree

I love friendships so lasting and genuine that you can pick up from where you left off, despite weeks and months of not talking or seeing each other. I have friendships that stand this test across years and oceans, but today I’d like to focus on Arddun’s Mad Aunt Maree.

Mad Aunt Maree is not actually a blood relation, nor is she actually mental or angry. But she loves me and my child dearly, and we happily return this affection. I haven’t seen Maree in a yonk, so it was lovely to catch up on ANZAC day over a cuppa. Nothing tremendous – we just mooched around the Canberra Centre and looked at pretty things. But I came away feeling refreshed, refilled, and actually heard.

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” — Karl Menninger, American psychiatrist

2. Mad Modem

So on Wednesday night, our wireless ADSL2+ modem-router went kaputz. Quite a bummer really, since the NBN is going to roll out to our suburb soonish (I’ll believe it when I see it), and we’ll need a different kind of modem then. And I don’t know about you, but the internet has become one of our home essentials. There’s water. There’s electricity. There’s natural gas. And there’s the internet.

So on Thursday late afternoon, Tony went and bought a crazy modem that does everything – ADSL2+, VoIP calls, NBN thingies… It even works as an answering machine, where messages get emailed to us so we get to listen remotely. And instead of arriving on Monday like they told us, the courier came bounding up our front steps early this morning and bashed on our screen door like a man possessed, till I answered it with hair disheveled, baby freaked out and crying on my hip, and a half-snarl etched on my face.

Note to self: thank God for overnight courier services, and for the money to buy crazy modems quickly and easily.

Other note to self: get doorbell.

Edit 28 April, 9:55am: Since playing with the modem, Tony’s discovered that the Crazy Modem (yes, capitalised now) also has an alarm, is able to divert calls between certain hours to voicemail, and has an iPhone app where we can apparently turn our mobile phones into landline handsets. Or something. We haven’t figured out the last bit because the instructions are in German. But whoa mama! Things have changed since the last time we looked at modems, eh?

3. More mommy madness

After much soul-searching, I’ve decided to extend my maternity leave for another twelve months. Nothing’s official, but there’s been a conversation with Big Fat Organisation, and I’m doing the paperwork now. And I know how blessed I am to be able to do this. To even have the option. I’m surprisingly nervous, partly because I feel guilty about not going back to earn money, partly because I have crazy imaginings of my corporate muscle atrophying… but mostly because I feel guilty about not feeling guilty enough.

Because this feels deliciously right, staying home with our child to play mommy. This feels like I get to have my cake AND eat it. Isn’t it bizarre? That in our day and age, the option to stay home and take care of house and home should feel like a privilege? I am turning into a 1950s housewife and all the feminists are probably stoning me remotely for reversing decades of bra-burning progress, but I am happier than I’ve ever been in a long time, and it’s scaring me.

I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, and maybe it will eventually. But for now, I’m so thankful, I could kiss the sky.

Blair Waldorf, aged 5

I love modern libraries, especially the children’s section. Because it’s not all about keeping the peace anymore, but about fostering the love of books and learning. Gone are the bad old days of musty books and foreboding quiet corridors, the stereotypical spinster librarian hissing “SSSHHH!” if you so much as thumbed the pages too vigorously.

Our local library has a wonderful children’s section with new books, touchscreen activities, and a generous stage and play area where babies and children can romp and read with their parents and carers.

And it’s not quiet.

I keep forgetting that we have this wonderful resource a mere 15 minutes pram-ride from our home. And I’m so glad I remembered it this week. When Arddun and I were feeling better one afternoon after lunch, both of us took a leisurely stroll and spent the hour before her nap time reading books and hanging out with the other kids. And she, social animal that she is, was just rapt with the amount of activity around her.

Anyhoo – Mother’s Day is around the corner, and we just happened to pick up a storybook about a little girl who goes shopping for her Mother’s Day gift. And I had expected something along the lines of the protagonist buying her mother Coco Pops instead of Coco Chanel, concocting homemade perfume out of squished up dandelions, and making a complete hash out of the greeting card and the stationery cupboard.

Apparently, this author has other ideas.

Storybook of protagonist buying Mother's Day present from Tiffany's
Yes, Arddun. Tell Daddy that only Tiffany will do.

She also went to Godiva for chocolates in the page before her visit to Tiffany & Co. The lady in blue is her nanny. I kid you not.

Yes, we do live on the Upper East Side of Canberra… and that’s where the similarities end.

Open doors

I debated weaving some masterful allegory about embracing the new opportunities that each open door gives us. But only because I wanted so desperately to put up this video of Arddun in the elevator.

Yes. This video was taken in the elevator in my aunt’s apartment, and this is how Arddun reacted Every – Single – Time the lift doors opened. Which got even funnier when we were on the 23rd floor and the lift stopped at the 20th, the 15th, the 10th, the 7th and the 5th floors on its way down.

Poor darling. You have to understand that prior to her travels in Singapore, Arddun had never spent such a copious amount of time in elevators scaling the dizzying heights of skyscraper apartments. Each ride must have been like Disney came to town.

Not dull dhal

Whether you make this vegetarian or add a bit of meat, this puree is tasty, colourful, and was a huge hit with Arddun.

Dhal puree

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup (180ml) water
  • 100g pumpkin, chopped coarsely (or 180g if going vegetarian)
  • 90g carrot, chopped coarsely
  • 90g broccoli, chopped coarsely
  • 90g pork mince
  • 2 tablespoons red lentils

Instructions

  1. Chuck everything into a small saucepan.
  2. Bring water to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes or until vegetables and lentils are tender.
  3. Process mixture to consistency you’re after.
  4. Serve.

TTT – Good masters, good memory, good weather

It’s been such a long time since I’ve done a Thursday’s Three Thank-you, I know. And it’s not like I haven’t felt thankful since The Big C hit our shores. I think I’ve mentioned the scores of silver linings our recent trip illuminated, even while Tony and I struggled with roller coaster emotions, and a teething, jetlagged baby.

But I’ll admit, I’ve struggled to care enough to write about the blessings. Some days, my prayers feel like, “Oh my Holy God, why crazy cancer?! But thank you that my strep throat’s a lot better, and that you took care of last week’s baby-sniffles too. Amen.”

Gratitude, when up against intense angst and supplication, can feel a lot like emptying a leaky boat with a tablespoon.

Still – it’s good to give breath and words to grateful shivers. And I know that I’m being quite facetious – there really is a lot to my life for the heart to smile about. And so I bring you this week’s list.

1. Job masters that care.

It’s only natural for children who live interstate or overseas from family that they feel intense guilt, no matter which side of the equator their hearts or feet lie. And I spent quite a pretty sum of time in Singapore wondering if I had inadvertently made things Very Complicated by choosing a new life in Australia. It’s self-pity, I know. And completely counter-productive. Speculating over coulda/shoulda/woulda manages to achieve very little AND throw sand in God’s face. But I wonder all the same if I’d sold out on my mother, by casting my future with The Good Man from Australia.

And yet, it’s precisely because we live and work in Canberra that we were able to drop everything and run back to Singapore at a moment’s notice. Such a perfect blend of timing and situation meant that I could be with family during my extended maternity leave, and that Tony was able to take a month’s leave with little warning or certainty. I’m so, so glad we both have compassionate employers who are serious about work-life balance… and who are enlightened enough to understand which is the greater of the two.

2. Creating memories

One thing I found sorely lacking in recent moments of bewilderment and fear was the effortless recollection of scripture. It’s been ages since I’ve committed the odd verse or two to memory, let alone whole chapters. I can paraphrase many concepts and roughly tell you who I thought said what, where… but when the heart wilts, it needs to call on reserves. Doubly hard to do when the smartphone is dead or has no 3G reception.

So since last Sunday, I’ve started memorising scripture verses. My aim is to memorise a verse or two a week. I figure I need a whole week for the verses to worm their way into my intermediate and long-term memory, so it becomes so reflexive that I don’t need to focus on the individual word order anymore, but dwell on its meaning and comfort instead. I’ve also deliberately chosen translations that are more contemporary, to keep the cobwebs away. Some scripture verses have been quoted so often in KJV, ASV or even NIV, that I’ve lost sight of their beauty through rote and overfamiliarity.

I’m grateful for the wake up call, and the boot up the bottom. Long overdue.

3. Staying alive

Arddun and I were driving home this afternoon from the mall, when the heavens opened and we got caught in the hugest deluge of water I’d ever experienced.

Ever.

Do you know what driving on an expressway is like when you cannot see? Petrifying. And it wasn’t like the rain had built up over time so I saw it coming. Oh no. It was sudden, it was vicious, and when it hit our little car, it scared the living crap out of me.

This is why I need to memorise more scripture texts, because the only thing I was able to recite over and over in my head was the 23rd Psalm. Which is a great piece of scripture. If I were herding sheep. Or being accosted on all sides by nefarious men wearing dark cloaks and twirling thin mustaches.

So here I was, crawling across the expressway half blindly, trying to make out where I could stop safely on the side in peak hour traffic, while muttering to myself

The Lord is my Shepherd… I shall not want… He makes me lie down in green pastures – THAT I CANNOT SEE, LORD! He leads me beside quiet waters – QUIET WATERS, LORD! – He restores my soul. He guides me through paths of righteousness… or roads… if you could mark my lane a little clearer for me, thanks… for His name’s sake… and even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death… or Gungahlin Drive Extension… I will fear no evil… ; Nope, nothing relevant. Okay… let’s start over.

The Lord is my Shepherd… I shall not want… The Lord is my Shepherd.

He leadeth me. Or rather, we drove through the craziness and into Gungahlin proper, where there were patches of blue sky to behold and the mighty rain dried to a drizzle. And Arddun didn’t seem to notice the difference either way, because she had been chatting to herself and her toes. And my heartbeat finally slowed. And I was SO thankful. I am so thankful.

Crack up

Caught this video on Mommy Shorts this evening, and just had to share the love.

I have to admit that I cried with silent laughter through most of the video because something akin to dread mingled with ironic mirth while whispering, this is my new life.

Because yes, Before Child, a video like this would have made me itch to smack the child, the parents, or both. Tantrums, I had decided in my BC days, were purely a reflection of pathetic parenting.

But now that I’m this much closer to growing a tanty tot of my own, there is – I’ll admit – some degree of foreboding.

And it’s not that I condone tantrums, or think that histrionics and disobedience are cute. But the pursuit of self-control ain’t exactly peaches, is it. Adults crack up all the time. And I am absolutely masterful at throwing tanties. I am an eyeball-roller. A scowler. A raise-my-voice-and-blame-someone-else-er. Take it up a notch, and I turn into door-slammer and use-hot-words-to-tear-off-flesh-from-back-er.

Not quite the embodiment of self-control, no.

The truth is that everyone reaches a tipping point, and toddlers are no exception. Arddun is all smiles, bouncy-bouncy-bouncy… and then she falls off some invisible cliff at about 6.00pm and suddenly, she’s inconsolable when she bumps into cotton wool. Arches her back, screams blue murder, all of it.

She’s tired, she’s grumpy, and she doesn’t have a vocabulary beyond “Boo” and “Daddeeee” to communicate her troubles effectively. I know it doesn’t give her license to turn into a banshee, and we’re still drawing the boundaries on what acceptable tired behaviour is and isn’t. But the road to attaining self-control is looooong… and until she reaches sainthood, I’m thinking there will be days ahead when putting away a dinner bowl at day’s end becomes my child’s metaphor for, “My eyelids are heavy and I just can’t take this day anymore. Please carry me to bed.”

Deep breath.

Month Ten

Arddun on highchair with 10 month sign

This mini milestone blows my mind because it means she has spent a WHOLE MONTH more outside my tummy than in. Yes. When you are a mother of a firstborn – and a smitten mother at that – you spend way too many braincells clocking up wins like this one.

On Facebook, I’ve been faithfully taking photos of Arddun on her monthversary – which would be the 18th of each month. And then I string them altogether on the same photo album in Facebook. The idea was to park her in the same chair with the same el cheapo homemade sign next to her so that when I click really fast on the album, I could recreate some kind of fast-forward of her life over the months.

But as I’ve already mentioned in many other posts before this, my daughter doesn’t do Sit Still and Pose for Mommy particularly well.

Still, looking back over the last 10 months, it seems like Arddun was all-baby for ages and then BOOM! Month 10, suddenly grown up. Her hair especially. For months, my baby girl had spotted a gravity-defying comb that would make most cockatoos grow a complex, before the hair grew longer and went spaz.

But now, her hair’s almost long enough to tuck behind her ears. And we’re starting to develop a side part. And it’s coiffured. And neat. And just so.

And suddenly, she’s turning into a toddler. Or just about.

What other party tricks has she been up to… let’s just see…

She can now

  • High-five.
  • Blow a flying kiss (one per person only).
  • Wave good-bye.
  • Do a “Red-Indian whoop” (where she pats her mouth repeatedly so she goes, “A-whoo–ooo–ooo–ooo”).
  • Say “Daddy”, while looking at Mommy.
  • Say “Mommy”, while looking at Daddy.
  • Play peek-a-boo with any given cloth or paper.
  • Play peek-a-boo with her own hands, when not provided with any cloth or paper.
  • Stand on her own for 10 seconds. Like, nonchalantly.
  • Cover her mouth when she coughs.

Of course, you’ll just have to take my word for it because any attempt to catch her on video turns into a struggle for the actual camera.

Also, any carpet fuzz goes straight into her mouth, and she’s not remotely interested in walking yet. And who can blame her. She’s freakishly quick when it comes to crawling, and she’s now figured out how to grip items with her new teeth so transportation of toys while crawling is no longer an issue. Coupled with the aforementioned carpet fuzz swallowing, I’m wondering if my daughter secretly thinks she’s a cat.

  

  

  

  

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