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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

Month

July 2012

Somebody’s child

Just a quick one before I head off to sleep.

A funny thing happened yesterday in the grocery queue. I was standing there, waiting, for half an hour.

But that’s not the funny bit.

There was only one other person in front of me in the queue. Just one. Which meant I was waiting there, in total, for twenty minutes before I could be served. And then spent another ten agonising minutes watching the cashier match his fruits and veggies to the screen.

But that’s not the funny bit.

My child, meanwhile, was starting to get seriously hungry. I know this because she was desperate enough to remember her signing, so she was shoving fingers in her mouth (“hungry”) and rubbing her tummy (“please”), while imploring me with sweet, serious eyes to hurry the dickens up.

But that’s not the funny bit.

The funny bit is that I didn’t blow up at the cashier. Or even shoot him a dirty look. Even though my child was starting to go hungry, and my husband was getting grouchy about it. Even though said cashier probably deserved a mumbling about gross incompetence, mind you. No – this checkout bunny was a slight, pimply young man who handled each grocery item with all the unfamiliarity and hesitation of a manicurist birthing a calf. And I was standing in line with almost zen-like patience, waiting for him to get through and find his way.

Why? Because for some bizarre reason yesterday, I kept telling myself that he was somebody’s child. And if Arddun were one day a checkout monkey because of some character-building excursion Tony and I decide she needed, I’d like her customers not to hurl abuse. Or shoot her dirty looks. Or even hurt her feelings by packing up all their groceries and moving to a faster queue.

There’s a parable in the book of Matthew where Jesus explains how proxy kindness works. I am paraphrasing terribly. But essentially, whatever good you do to your fellow man, it’s as good as if you’d done the deed for Christ himself. And I know this parable very well. Yet for some strange reason, it’s never quite resonated with me until I had Arddun.

Quite simply put, I’d never thought too deeply about how God feels about us being His children. I’ve understood my role as His child… but I’d never put myself in His shoes and thought of how God regards those who treat his children kindly.

Till now.

Juxtapose this with another incident that happened in the library fairly recently. The library, as I’m now made to understand, is where toddlers and children go to climb furniture and blow off some steam indoors on a cold winter’s day. Any reading of books is incidental and entirely fortuitous. Arddun loves the library. Mostly because she loves being around other children, and is now getting to a stage where she is fascinated by older girls.

Well one day, Tony took Arddun to the library. And he returned that afternoon to tell me how a group of four-year-old girls were starting to gang up on Arddun. At one point, they were pretending to be sharks and started “eating” Arddun. And Tony was sitting in the corner, watching the proceedings coolly, on the ready to step in if Arddun got hurt. Thankfully, she was far too young to understand that she was getting picked on rather than included, and so she spent most of it looking at them quizzically. No hurt feelings on her part. But I can tell you, I got pretty annoyed about the principle of the thing.

Then one afternoon recently, Arddun and I were in the library and it happened.

There’s a touchscreen television in the corner with some kids activity on, and she had just figured out that prodding the screen got certain things happening. There was a small queue of kids starting to form, and it was Arddun’s turn. And of course she didn’t know what she was doing – she was just happy to be there, and the more kids there were joining her in the pointing and the prodding, the merrier.

Then a four-year-old girl came over, placed her hand on Arddun’s head, and tried to shove her away from the screen. Hard.

But just as she did so, the perpetrator happened to glance over and that’s when she caught my face.

My what-the-hell-do-you-think-you’re-doing-to-my-little-girl-you-little-goblin-do-you-feel-lucky-punk-WELL-DO-YA?!! face.

Which was precisely when she converted her hand-shoving motion to a more sheepish pat-pat of Arddun’s head. And then she climbed down quicksmart and ran to look for her parents, which was the first smart thing she did that morning.

So, lesson about myself is as follows:

  • I’ve grown more empathy for other people’s children – especially when they’re struggling.
  • I think I understand “God the Father” a little bit more.
  • But because I’m still a flawed human being, my empathy has its limits.
  • You touch my child, and you’re quite dead.

Household cleaning tips to try

Just stumbled upon a few household cleaning tips, and thought I’d pick a few to try out. Here’s a list of things I never knew and haven’t tried. If you’ve tried out any of them, could you let me know how effective it is?

Those marked in red are some I really want to try soon.

  1. Eucalyptus oil removes the gummy residue left by shop stickers.
  2. To remove furniture indentations from pure wool carpet place a tea towel over the area and then press with a warm iron. The heat will lift the fibres. Do not attempt this with synthetic or a wool/synthetic mix carpet.
  3. Light a match and let it burn a few seconds to remove toilet smells.
  4. To stop bathroom mirrors steaming up, regularly rub a dry bar of soap over the surface and rub in with a clean cloth.
  5. Stop clothes with thin straps falling off hangers by sticking small felt furniture pads onto the hanger just beyond where the straps sit.
  6. To keep your car windows ice and frost free when left outside overnight in the wintertime, mix three parts vinegar to one part water, put it in a spray bottle and spray on the windows as needed.
  7. To prevent buttons from becoming loose or undone, dab a little clear nail varnish on the top thread or onto the stem of the thread and leave to dry.
  8. To stop ants entering your house, draw a chalk line on the ground where you want them to stop. If you live in a rainy area where ants are a problem, you must re-draw the chalk lines each time it rains.
  9. To deter silverfish, place whole cloves in wardrobes and drawers.
  10. To remove body oil stains from collars and cuffs of coloured shirts and blouses, rub hair shampoo directly on the stains. Rinse out the shampoo, then wash the clothes as usual.
  11. To revive a vase of wilted flowers, add a teaspoon of mild detergent.
  12. To keep pinking shears or scissors sharp, cut through a sheet of folded aluminium foil or coarse sandpaper.
  13. To leave a room smelling fresh after you have vacuumed, place a few drops of your favourite essential oil (such as lavender or peppermint) near the vent where the hot air is released. The air warms the oil and blows it into the room.
  14. To mask unpleasant odors, put some coffee beans in a saucepan and burn them. The smell of coffee will overpower the other nasty odors.
  15. To clean a microwave oven, add four tablespoons of lemon juice to one cup of water in a microwave-safe bowl. Boil for five minutes in the microwave, allowing the steam to condense on the inside walls of the oven. Then wipe them with a soft cloth.
  16. To clean a stainless-steel sink, put the stopper in the sink with two denture-cleaning tablets and half fill with water; leave for several hours or overnight and the next day it should be sparkling. Then use the water to clean the draining board, too.
  17. To remove fingerprints from stainless-steel appliances, place a small amount of baby oil on a napkin and wipe the affected areas. The fingerprints will just wipe away.
  18. To remove marker pen off hard surfaces, spray on hair spray and then wipe it off.
  19. To restore toilet bowls back to their shiny best, clean with old, flat Coke or Pepsi. To dissolve limescale, leave the soda overnight to soak.
  20. Vacuuming a mattress, particularly along piping and crevices, removes dead skin cells that attract dust mites.
  21. Clove oil (sold in chemists for toothaches) kills mould spores. Mix three drops in one litre of water and then use to wipe down areas susceptible to mould.
  22. To get rid of the smell of garlic from your hands, rub against stainless steel – your sink is ideal. Then wash hands with soap or detergent.

 

Justify my love

Now that almost everyone is back at WORK-work (as opposed to stay-at-home-with-baby-full-time work), I’ve likewise switched gears. Or at least my conscience has. The honeymoon period is definitely over, and my child is not a newborn. She’s not even really a baby. And so it feels like a very lame excuse to play the New Mommy card when I try to explain (to myself) why I’m not doing more.

I’ve had a chat to other mothers, and it’s a small relief to find I’m not alone. Somehow, staying at home in this day and age feels too much like a luxury, and so we guiltily cram as many chores as we can into precious little time. The 45 minutes Arddun plays by herself in the cot is spent washing dishes, cleaning her eating station, tidying the kitchen, putting a load of laundry on, emptying the dishwasher, wiping down the stove. An additional fifteen minutes is spent distracting her with TV while I run to the bathroom and try to have a quick shower. (This does not work, by the way. I can hear her complaints when I turn off the taps and I know that she’s been yelling for a time like a caged baby baboon while Playschool is blaring in the background.)

And yet, while I’m towelling off and grimacing about her wails, I’m also wiping down the bathroom sink, bench top and bathtub.

Because we women multi-task. We do not compartmentalise, we connect. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a weekday or a weekend. I find myself cleaning up as I go along, and constantly daunted that I can never get enough done. And when we’re finally back to the job of caring for the child, we read to them, we sing to them, we play hide-and-seek, we cook Jamie Oliveresque baby meals. We take them to the doctor’s, the library, the mall, the playground, the park, the supermarket, other mother’s houses. We take them to baby swimming classes and Gymbaroo classes and Giggle & Wiggle at the local library – even though the librarians cannot sing. All the while kicking ourselves for not stimulating them enough, and secretly wondering if a childcare environment wouldn’t be a better alternative for socialisation and quality early childhood education.

At least, that’s my perversity.

In great contrast, our men – when left in the sole charge of the offspring – are perfectly capable of letting the kid crawl around the house on its own while they enrich their souls and minds on the Xbox. They have absolutely no qualms about doing something they REALLY enjoy while “watching the kid”. Because it’s a weekend. And they’ve worked all week.

And Tony still does the laundry. And he still does his ironing. And he still takes out the garbage, and does the gardening. It’s not like he doesn’t help out – he does. Heaps. But it’s just… different. He has a list. He ticks the items off. He reaches the end of the list. He sits down, and he plays Battlefield 3.

I have a list. It grows by 5 items for every 2 that I tick off. And while I’m ticking the items off, I worry that I’m not making the most of my time with Arddun.

I really get it now. I really understand what they’ve been saying, when they say that motherhood is a full-time job. It is. It never stops. It is unrelenting, and there are no weekends because there are no imaginary lines. And I’ll tell you why there are no imaginary lines. It’s because Mothers are Women. And Women mostly don’t know when – or how – to switch off.

I was reading Kate’s blog post yesterday, and how she’s loving the age of 2 because suddenly, it’s not that full on. The tykes, they’re more independent then. They can communicate a little clearer, they can play independently for longer. And I love my little girl. But she’s not a big napper, so she’s awake a lot of the time and always getting into scrapes and gosh I’m tired. My house was a mess when I was a white collar worker, because I was hardly at home. And now it’s a mess when I’m a SAHM, because we’re always at home.

And I feel like I accomplish precious little. Always.

Will the voices in my head please pop a Valium and drop off?

This. Is. SPA!

So my first Christmas gift from Arddun turned out to be a voucher at a fancy schmancy spa at NewActon. And after postponing and cancelling a few appointments owing to sudden and gradual changes in weekend and holiday plans, the expiration date loomed before us and today ended up being the last possible Saturday to schedule in some relaxation time.

I had booked my spa date in before we left for Brisbane, which meant I completely forgot the list of treatments I’d ordered when I rocked up this morning – still coughing and spluttering from my cold, clothes mismatched, and 3 zits on my right cheek like a pimply teenager on the week of her finals. Not quite a glamour puss, but a puss much needing a touch of glamour.

SOMA day spa photo montage

Turns out I had ordered something called a Satin Wrap, which meant someone pretty much emptied a bottle of LA BIOSTHETIQUE Paris on me, and then wrapped me up in a plastic sheet, then a satin sheet, then a heavy towel, then a doona. And thus I lay swaddled and greasy, and left to soak in all that oily, moisturising goodness while she placed cucumber-like swabs on my eyes and messed my hair with a head massage.

Then I got falsies.

I have very little recollection of ordering this one, but apparently I had decided weeks ago that my eyelashes were in need of a major uplift. And so I spent 30 mildly uncomfortable minutes getting fake plastic hair stuck on my lash line. The result was a little bewildering. I think I looked a little manga and even though I got used to the feel of them eventually, I went home and snipped the corner strands back so I don’t look like spiders crawled under my eyelids and died.

And then I went and got a pedicure.

Which was safe enough. Except I forgot to bring slippers – or what Australians call thongs. (Australians think slippers are house shoes, or ugg boots. And Singaporeans think thongs are overpriced skimpy underwear made infamous by Borat.) I forgot to bring flip-flops – or rather, the bright and chilly winter morning banished all reasonable thought of ever wearing any. Except pedicures, as the experienced know, actually take hours to truly dry. And walking around in hard leather covered shoes is the surest way of rubbing off exactly $20 worth of pedicure within the first 30 minutes.

And so I walked from NewActon to the Canberra Centre in those oversized white spa slippers you see above.

Truly a memorable Christmas present. Thank you, sweetie. xx

Friendly Friday: Introducing Ryan

So I thought I’d hand over the blogging reins once in a while to Arddun, and she decided that she’d like to interview all her cool friends. So in no particular order… except maybe alphabetical… here’s

RYAN

Arddun and Ryan in the bumble bee car
Me and Ryan in the Bumble Bee car at The Marketplace

What’s your full name?

Ryan Pierce Auguszczak

What does it mean?

Ryan is the English version of Rian, which means “little king” in Gaelic. You see, my Mammy (an Irish mummy) has become very patriotic since she moved to Australia from Ireland so I’m actually very lucky I wasn’t called something like Conchobar. (Stop laughing – it is a real name over there!)
Pierce is after my Irish Grandad Pierce (Brosnan) and btw, that’s who I get my dashing good looks (and my modesty?), not to mention my bright blue eyes from… though I hope I can sing better than he did in Mamma Mia when I figure out this whole talking thing first. Of course… I am only 1 after all.

Only joking re the Brosnan part… my Irish Grandad’s surname is Wallace, which leads me to William Wallace and Mel Gibson in Braveheart and right back very nicely to my dashing good lucks and bright blue eyes!

Auguszczak is from my Daddy, who was born and reared in Australia but whose Daddy was Polish. This Grandad is an angel now and lives in heaven. I think he plays cards all the time there. My Daddy says he always had a very good poker face.

Yeah, but what’s your REAL name? The one your parents don’t know about?

My real name is Superbaby. It’s my alter ego. By day, I’m a normal 1 year old boy baby but when there’s trouble afoot, I wear my nappy on the outside and I can fly.

What is your secret power?

My secret power is that I can really walk and talk and read and write and do all that stuff. I just figure it’s a lot more fun to sit back and watch everyone try to get me to do those things. All in good time, my dears…

What’s your latest party trick?

I can poo on cue every time I hear my mammy grab her car keys. It’s amazing, really, this mind-over-matter business.

How would you describe yourself in 17 syllables?

B.A.B.Y – Brilliant. Adorable. Bouncy.Yummy

(Poetic license on dropping a few syllables, please? I am only 1 after all.)

Favourite food you cannot get enough of at the moment?

Chocolate. My Mammy won’t give it to me… and when she does, she gives me a tiny tiny bit and she eats the rest. I mean, hello? There’s not a lot to enjoy off a Freddo’s ear.

If they made a movie of your life, what would it be about and which actor would you want to play you?

A half Irish, half Australian super baby who invents a nappy that never has to be changed. It regenerates itself every 60 seconds (with no harm to the environment, I might add.)

I think Pierce Brosnan as a baby should play me. We can dub over the singing bits.

Are you a morning or a night person?

I love the morning… the daylight shining through the bars of my cot; the birds singing, a whole new day dawning where I can have wonderful experiences… Now, when will I be old enough to have a coffee?!

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten so far?

I had a little taste of Guinness on St Patrick’s day (17th March 2012) when I was the grand old age of 9 months. My mammy thought it would be a cute photo ‘pretending’ to give me a taste of Guinness. But I am a carpe diem kinda guy so I went for it. They’re right… it’s an acquired taste.

Name one of your favorite things about someone in your family.

My big brother Daniel. I love everything about him but most of all, I love how he’ll always pave the way for me. He’ll do everything first so by the time it gets to my turn, I’ll get away with anything!

How do you take after your mother?

Blond hair, blue eyes… Gosh, pretty much all my good points! (Disclaimer: not at all biased.)

How do you take after your father?

I like to sleep a lot… and with reference to the question about my latest party trick, let’s just say I’m not the only reason we’re late for everything!

What’s the most useless thing your mother keeps in your nappy bag?

Lipgloss. I mean I like to look good, but…

If you could have permanent possession of any single object in the world, what would you want it to be?

A super fast turbo jet that can travel between Australia and Ireland in a few minutes so all my family on both sides of the world could see each other all the time. Actually, I think there’s one on sale in Toys r Us at the moment. It’s my favourite shop!

Current dream job?

Jedi Knight, cos my big brother Daniel wants to be one and I want to always be by his side. Plus, girl babies dig it!

If you had to choose the title of your autobiography tomorrow, what would it be?

RPA – My Secret Power

What’s your favourite TV show?

At the moment it’s my own face in the mirror of my play table. I just haven’t figured out how to change the channel yet!

What is the first thing you think of when you wake in the morning?

Mammy and milk. Actually, will it affect my inheritance if I say milk and Mammy?!

Who are your buddies?

As well as my big brother Daniel, in my short life so far I have been blessed to meet 10 other babies born around the same time as me.. By the way,  they have the same secret power as me. Oh the fun we have when no-one is looking! :-)

Minding her Ps and Qs

So as I’ve mentioned before, we’re trying to teach Arddun how to say Please and Thank You. Which has been surprisingly successful, I must say. I don’t expect a 1 year old to say much at all, which is why sign language is such a nice stand in. She’s starting to understand how to put her point across to me other than tugging at my drawstring PJs till I’m on the verge of indecent exposure. Or screaming.

I toggle between teaching Auslan and American Sign Langauge (ASL), especially when certain signs are so similar that it’d be hard for me to differentiate what Arddun’s signing. So instead of “please” in Auslan  – which looks a lot like “thank you” or a flying kiss when literally left in the hands of a 1 year old – I’ve chosen “please” in ASL.

(She said thank you off camera, after 2 bites. We’re still working on it.)

Bizarrely, she’ll sign “please”, but say Kang Koo. Which is Thank You. Which is where this blog post really begins.

The great thing about her newfound manners is that she sometimes uses them unprompted. After each dose of antibiotics administered through a syringe – hardly fun stuff – she’d solemnly say “Kaaaaang koo”. She kang koos you when you hand her the water bottle. She kang koos you when she hands you her prized baseball bat.

And she kang koos you when she makes off with forbidden items.

Remote controls
Temptus electronicus

Yes. In her small but mighty brain, she has somehow uncovered the public service principle of asking for forgiveness rather than permission. And like a consummate salesperson, she assumes a close of sale by thanking you upfront for the privilege of playing with your keys, your mobile, your cordless phone, your remote controls, and anything else you’d expressedly forbidden the last 12 months.

For instance, I’d enter the living room to find her walking around nonchalantly with my handbag like a professional flower girl, leaving a trail of its contents in her toddling wake. But then as soon as she sees me, she’ll speedily toddle over (“Kang koo! Kang koo!”), while proffering her newfound stash of contraband as if to say, “See what I’ve been keeping safe for you? I wasn’t playing with it!” And we’re not taken in by that charade one itty bit. But it’s pretty darn funny.

Still, a rule is a rule. And the handbag and the keys and remote controls and cordless phones and mobile are still off limits. Or so we’d like her to learn.

This morning, I was in the bathroom when I realised that the house was suddenly too quiet. (You know what I’m talking about.) And then I hear it – the sound of hard plastic tapping lightly together. Which, in our home, could only mean that the one-year-old is trying to nick off with as many remote controls as she can gather in her stubby baby bandit arms.

I enter the living room without a sound, and then boom behind her, “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING, LITTLE GIRL?”

She literally jumps and all three remote controls clatter to the ground. She picks one up (the Universal Remote – one remote to rule them all!) and runs over as fast as her guilty baby legs can carry her.

“KANG KOO! KANG KOO! KANG KOO!”

“I told you not to touch the remotes!”

“KANG KOO! KANG KOO!”

She deposits the offending item at my feet quicksmart, and then runs off in a completely different direction to the scene of her crime and feigns sudden interest in shoe boxes.

And it takes quite a bit of effort not to laugh. God help me.

Take me out to the baaaaall game

Tony, if you haven’t already discovered this, loves baseball. Before he proposed, he took 2 months off and travelled across the States to watch 30 baseball games. That’s more than 90 hours of live baseball. That’s a lot of baseball.

So I guess it should come as no surprise that his first birthday present to his daughter would be a T-ball set.

Little Tikes T ball set
Happy Birthday from Daddoh
Unwrapping the present
Giving your daughter her first bat and ball is always a special moment.
Tony handing the bat to Arddun
“Have a go!”

Even though the box claims it’s good for children from 18 months, the bat is actually too heavy for Arddun to lift with one hand. She hasn’t quite gotten the concept of holding it with both hands, let alone swinging the bat over her shoulder and then spitting tobacco on the plate.

And so now it’s become their thing. When Daddoh comes home from work early enough, they play ball. Arddun will hold her pink plastic bat in her left hand, and smack the ball off the T bar with her right.

Then Daddoh picks up the ball, places it back on the T bar, takes the bat from her left hand, and shows her how it’s done.

Then Arddun picks up the pink plastic bat in her left hand, waddles over, and smacks the ball off the T bar with her right.

Rinse, repeat.

Arddun pushes ball off T bar
“This is how it’s done, Daddoh.”

Anyhoo, it’s their special thing now. And some evenings, when the sun’s almost set and it feels like Daddoh should be home any minute, Arddun will find that bat, pick it up, and walk with it to the door muttering, “Dad-doh… Dad-doh…” to herself. Methinks baseball might become her thing, after all.

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