Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places


May 2012

TTT – On becoming Singaporean

1) My daughter, the SingAustralian

Yes! It is official. We’ve received the certificate and the passport, and so our daughter isn’t just OZ-OZ-OZ-oi-oi-oi anymore. She’s also a Singaporean and as such, should now be schooled in

  • singing the other national anthem in both soprano and alto
  • saying the pledge and all its 4-syllable words (“democratic”, “equality”, “prosperity”), with tiny fist across heart and with coordinated stamping of right foot during school morning assembly
  • shopping and eating like there’s no other pastime or way to live
  • squishing eleventeen languages and dialects into a single sentence while butchering the English language
  • outsourcing domestic chores and heavy lifting to foreign talent
  • demonstrating fanatic allegiance to branded school that will last through lifetime, which is related to
  • losing her childhood to extra tutoring, enrichment classes, after-school remedial classes, special papers classes, mock exams, preliminary exams, streaming exams, exams to qualify for after-school tuition classes, and countless “continual assessments”, which also leads to
  • complete smashing of self-esteem till age 19 when she realises that her future isn’t ruined just because she’s not academically inclined towards science or math.

Okay. That all just turned dark and twisty. And perhaps it’s too simplistic a summary of the life that is Singaporean. I love my childhood and my country of origin, its colour and variety and multiculturalism and ever-changing landscape. And don’t get me wrong – Australia can be just as materialistic, worldly and competitive in other ways. But we are determined to give her an environment that doesn’t kill the joy of learning from the moment she steps into her first school uniform. And Singapore, with its clinical worship of academia, ranking and statistics, just doesn’t know how to do that yet.

2) Walking in a winter wonderland

Arddun is officially walking more than she’s crawling, which I suppose means she’s now properly walking. She still staggers about like a drunk munchkin but, thanks to fantastic winter fashion, looks like a very cute drunk munchkin. And that makes all the difference.

3) Flying north for winter

As her first birthday looms, we find ourselves working out birthday bash plans and what better way to celebrate than with family? And so, because Brisbane is the nearer of the two and because Arddun didn’t get to meet a swag of people there from her last trip, we’re flying north for warmer climes in >2 weeks! CANNOT WAIT! And also a leetle nervous as I’ll be flying with Arddun sans her “daddoh” (that’s what she calls him) for the first leg of the trip. Am also secretly looking into those baby leashes that masquerade as cute animal knapsacks because I’d rather look like I’ve turned Arddun into my poodle than lose her in the airport. She be small, but she be wiry. And fast.

Her Mother’s Voice

So Arddun’s doing a splendiferous job of ignoring me. Already.

While pregnant, I had touched lightly on the concept of first-time obedience and how the perfect child would ideally respond to your every god-like command with a cherubic “Yes, Mommy.” It’s a Babywise thing, if you’re familiar with that parenting philosophy. Basically, Growing Kids God’s Way aka Babywise/Toddlerwise/Childwise advocates teaching children to obey from the start. No 1-2-3 strikes and you’re out. No counting from 1 to 10 before they do your will. You say, they do from the get-go.

And there’s a bunch of stuff in between about a child allowing to appeal or something. It’s not a dictatorship we’re trying to establish here. But basically, the ideal is this very French parenting thing of a quiet word and some very calm compliance.

Enter Arddun.

Now for months, I’ve been training Arddun to crawl to me when I ask her to Come Here. Like, I’ve been literally trying to train her. If she sees something shiny and asking to be gummed to death, and is about to make a beeline for it, I’ll choose that moment to call to her. And when she turns around – and she usually does – I’ll firmly yet gently ask her to Come Here. And then I’ll sit there and watch her make up her mind. And most of the time, she has turned around and come crawling back.

And it sounds ker-razy. It sounds like I’m turning Arddun into my poodle. And I’ll admit there are days when it even feels like it – particularly when compliance is rewarded with very enthusiastic clapping and breathless “GOOD GIRL!”s. And when the child swings around with a toy clenched in her teeth. But the way I see it, between a quiet “Arddun, come here” and the alternative – running through a shopping mall and screaming for her to come back to me while she dashes into the nearest supermarket and snorts contraband candy powder and red cordial… guess which scenario is preferable.

And so I’ve been practising. We’ve been practising. But lately, it’s gotten harder. And while I don’t believe in original sin or the idea that Babies are Secretly Manipulative, there is something to be said about the spark behind the eyes. That flash of cognition I’m starting to glimpse when I call her and she looks straight at me, before turning back and trotting off calmly in the direction she was headed.

What’s that saying again? “I’m not deaf. I’m just ignoring you.”


It’s starting to get more interesting. Where once I wasn’t sure if she even understood my meaning to begin with, I now know she does. I now know she makes choices. Her movements, though still babyish and clumsy, are also more purposeful and controlled. She may not be yelling NO like a tatty two-year-old… but she is still saying no. Sometimes.

It’s fascinating to watch. It’s also transition time for both of us.

I come from a long line of smackers. Like, generations of people who believe in punitive punishment. Spare the rod, spoil the child, etc etc. It’s not the done thing nowadays, but lots of parents today still smack their children even if they’d never be willing to admit. It’s become very un-PC to do so but personally, I believe there is a time and place for it and I’m not going to write it off as something we’ll never do.

I’m just not convinced it actually works right now.

Because babies, I’m starting to realise, really DO need something to be repeated 200 times before it becomes understood and accepted as de rigueur. And while it’d be a lot quicker to smack the bottom or yell at the kid – and I’ve had words with her more than once, buh-lieve me – I’m finding that the really hard part is the consistency.

Modelling the same way. Enforcing the same consequence. Teaching the same lesson. Doing the same thing at least 200 times. And finding that you may still not get the message through, even then. Or worse, that you seem to be regressing.

And it’s in times like these that I find myself losing sight of the prize. So I call her to come here and she ignores me. So what. Big deal. She’s an 11-month-old. I have plenty of time. Maybe I’m trying to control her too much, I say. Maybe I’m being too unreasonable. Maybe I’m being too hard on the both of us.


But in the long road ahead to instilling a healthy respect for her crazy mother and an inherent trust that my voice will bring her to safety, this is literally our first step together. And a crucial, fundamental one, at that.

(Un)steady as she goes

I’ve been asked quite a few times to put up a video of Arddun walking. Easier said than done, because putting up a video would imply having a video of her walking in the first place. Which is like trying to catch a cloud and pin it down. Or keeping a wave upon the sand.

As Tony can testify, she’s very good at walking behind your back. Quite literally.

Blink and you miss it.

But then today, she decided that she needed the practice. And so she walked from the kitchen bench to the fridge. And from the guest bedroom door to the kitchen bench. And from the playpen to the fridge. And from the kitchen cabinet to the dishwasher. And from the toilet to the laundry, pause, and then to the bathroom.

And it took me about 4 hours to realise that all this walking around would be perfect for whipping out my camera and taking a video. Because that’s the other reason we haven’t had a video of her walking in the first place. I’m a bit duh, and I don’t always remember to put two and two together.

And so here’s a short.

TTT – A week of visiting

1. Movie Morning

Isn’t it always the case in Canberra that one gets along swimmingly with a new friend before A Big Change comes along and it all goes poof? Canberra, I find, has quite the transient crowd and as it is, I’ve had many up and move interstate just when things were getting comfy.

Which is why I’m hugely happy and a little sad that Arddun and I are starting to form really lovely friendships in my mother’s group, only to remember that absolutely everyone else’s maternity leave is about to dry up by August. But count my blessings, I will. Because they’re not moving out of town, at least. And I finally have friends within walking distance of my home.

This Monday past, 3 of us got together at my  humble home with our 3 bubs and actually accomplished what we had set out to do. Namely,

  1. Actually produce and consume a quality cheese-toasties lunch
  2. Actually make some popcorn
  3. Actually sit down and finish a movie!
Three babies at movie afternoon
From left: Arddun (“Mommy… What’s a chicky?”), Ryan (“Check out ma chickies…”), and Charlotte (“Oh for the last time… I AM NOT YOUR CHICKY!”)
An orange bowl of burnt popcorn
Yeah… the first bowl didn’t go so well.

2. Abi road

Claire and Abi are in town this week, and graced us with their delightful company yesterday afternoon. Yet another cheese toasty adventure (nothing better on a chilly Autumn afternoon!), followed by a leisurely walk to the local mall and coffee at the usual haunt. At least Abi got to visit the home that her mum and dad house-sat (?) after their wedding, and Arddun got to hang out with her Little Friend with the Stunning Eyes.

Arddun, Claire and Abi

3. Triple Fun

At last we got to see the triplets! Or “Chee-pets”, as Lily called them for ages. And I really, really wished I thought to whip out my camera in the midst of wallowing in their cuteness and amazingness and OmiwordI’mholdingaCheepet!-ness. And I stand amazed that three little fellas could have come out of this amazing little lady. And I stand even more amazed that she does what I’ve been doing with Arddun – except to the power of 3. And I’m super impressed that all 3 went down for their naps without even so much as a whimper when my own wiry daughter managed only 25 + 20 minutes THE WHOLE DAY. And I’m inspired, and think, “Wow. Maybe we should aim to have 2 under 2 after all!”

Except I really think I love shopping and coffees in the mall too much.

Bless this little family, their growing tummies, and their happy smiles.



Month Eleven

Arddun in highchair

Month eleven - close up 1 Month eleven - close up 2 Month eleven - close up 3 Month eleven - close up 4

It continually freaks everyone in my mother’s group out that all our babies are 11 months old. Just one month shy of the Grand Milestone: the First Birthday. I vaguely remember carting Arddun around in cafes when she was as light as a feather, and looking at 11-month-old babies lolling about their highchairs and scoffing their grubby faces with their fat little grubby hands, and thinking, “Geez! They’re HUGE! I can’t imagine Arddun getting that huge! And I really like her this tiny. Please stay this tiny, Little Arddun.”

But then, she went ahead and thrived and grew. And time marched on. And suddenly we’re here. She’s eleven months old. Almost a year. And she’s huge. And bizarrely, even cuter.

What can I say about Month Eleven? She’s walking. Sorta. On carpet, she goes quite far on foot – perhaps to avoid carpet burn on the knees. But on tile, she walks two steps before she drops to her padded, dimpled knees and crawls away to whatever fascinating toy that has caught her fancy. Usually something plastic that makes a loud clackety-clack noise on tile when you drop it repeatedly.

She has her own timing, that girl. She tells you in her own way that she’ll walk when she’s ready. You know that thing where you try to hold her up by her hands so that her legs hang down and her feet touch the floor? And then you try to “walk” her by standing over her and holding on to her hands? She’s onto you like a snap. She turns her knees to jelly. Just keeps buckling her knees, so there is no way you can keep her upright. And her body? Also jelly. Suddenly, she’s invertebrate, and she keeps at it till you let go and she slithers to the floor before gleefully – GLEEFULLY – crawling away.

The girl has her own timing, the girl.

And her hair has gotten long. First, she looked like Kramer with her hair all standing. Then she looked like a little old man with a receding hairline. But now, her hair’s grown over her ears and she’s starting to look sweet. Feminine even. I’m wondering if it’s coincidence that she hasn’t been mistaken for a boy in the last month since her hair’s grown over her ears. But perhaps it has more to do with the fact that I dress her in cute stockings and pinafore dresses.

And black, shiny, patent leather Mary Janes. Don’t forget the Mary Janes.

And finally – Grey’s Anatomy.

For some reason, she adores the plinky-plonky of the song they play in the end credits. Because as soon as it comes on, she stops whatever she’s doing and stares at the screen. There’s this tiny giggle, like “Hey! It’s my song!” And then she starts to groove.

Don’t believe me? Watch.

TTT – Walking, Hunting, Ironing

1. Rounding the wagon

Ever since Arddun’s 20+ paces, it’s like she’s made a mental breakthrough with the whole OTHER use for legs, other than crawling. I won’t go so far as to say that she’s walking now, because she isn’t. She makes the occasional sneaky run for it from one chair to another when she thinks no one’s paying attention. And then she spends the rest of the time crawling.

Still… she’s standing a lot more now, and she’s figured out how absolutely fun it is to push her toy wagon around. Best part? After months of leaving a trail of destruction in her crawling wake, she now pushes her little wooden wagon around the house, picks random things up, and places them in her wagon. It’s like housekeeping, only 76cm high and unable to reverse properly without bashing furniture, skirting boards, and toes.

2. Finding the bargain

Cooking with mummyOh the Baby & Kids Market, oh how I adore thee. Thou melting pot of cheap books, clothes and toys, thou labyrinth of pre-loved goods and good-as-new designer baby clothes… Except this year, they were situated next to Erotica Lifestyles Expo 2012, which meant parking got doubly hard because the Erotica crowd preferred to park near the market and feign interest in bargain hunting, before doing the surreptitious walk of shame to the expo for the last 20 paces or so.

Whatever. I spent waaay too much money there, but came home with pretty awesome stash including a brand new mobile flat-pack high chair which I can clip to our kitchen bench, so Arddun can finally see how a traditional Nonya babi ponteh gets cooked Mommy Style.

3. Tackling the ironing

I loathe, loathe ironing. And now that I’m not working, I’m even less motivated to run a chunk of heated metal across clothes for hours on end. But this last week, Arddun’s discovered how FUN it is to help herself to my to-be-ironed pile of clothes by pulling a stack of them off my laundry basket to the floor, and then diving into them like a pile of autumn leaves, before making off with one or two articles in her wagon or on her determined little head.

And so I tackled the ironing this week. Got about 35 pieces done and am feeling mighty smug. There’s still a stack of un-ironed clothes stashed in the laundry basket, but at least they are out of sight and therefore, out of baby-diving range. I know you’re probably appalled that I even have that many clothes un-ironed, but I’m still mighty proud of myself. So there.

My first and second Mother’s Day

I can’t decide if it’s my first or second Mother’s Day. It feels like today should officially be the first because the child, you know, is grown and tangible and extrauterine. Which helps.

But on 8 May last year, I was big. I was with child. I was waiting. And felt every stretched inch a mother in my own right.

The Chinese – the real traditional Chinese – are said to count a person’s age from the time of conception. And depending on which side of the Lunar New Year you’re born, you could find yourself zero days old and yet celebrating your first year in the world. It does your head in, but it’s a concept I like very much because it coincides very happily with what I felt and believed throughout my pregnancy.

That I was already a mother. That it was already three of us, not two. That if Arddun had died before she was born into the world, her life would have been sorely missed and I would have classed myself every bit a mother. One who had lost her living, kicking baby.

And so yes. Today is officially my first Mother’s Day. But it also is my second. Because I was a mother from the very beginning. And once a mother, always a mother I say.

Happy Mother’s Day. xx

Mother's day
Striking a pose after a beautiful lunch at Poacher’s Pantry yesterday afternoon. Thanks, Attentive Husband!

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