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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

Month

August 2012

Beauty is in the eye of the baby holder

Warning: If you’re a man, this post is about make-up. Very boring and shallow, somewhat embarrassing in bits. Read at own peril.

So last Thursday, I walked into Mecca Cosmetica to procure some mascara, and came out with a tube of Kevin Aucoin, some OTT Nars blusher, Bare Minerals foundation, and a renewed determination to live up to my blog’s name and actually try and look like a Yummy Mummy.

The idea, of course, is to call so much attention to my new flawless face, that no one will pay any attention to the baby muffin top.

I have hardly worn make up since The Birth. Or maybe even some time before. The pregnancy glow did great things for my complexion, and besides… having a waist-strapped bowling bowl enter each room before your face does kinda negated the need to slap on face paint. And so I’m dreadfully out of practice. Not that I was ever great at glamming up with make up before baby, anyway.

But lately, I’ve started to notice things about myself. The care factor for personal maintenance had rapidly fallen since Arddun entered stage right, and it’s now plateaued somewhere in The Land of Shapeless Eyebrows. I no longer plan the wardrobe – it’s now whatever’s on the top of the laundry pile that doesn’t clash like fashion cymbals and doesn’t require ironing. I have three outfits at any given time, ready to be thrown on in 30 seconds flat – one for going out to the local shops, one for venturing past 10km, and one for actually living in. The last is known to Peter Alexander as Sleepwear. But in my house, it’s Whatever’s Most Comfortable to do Housework In. The fact that my pyjamas are rather funky is my only saving grace. If my winter indoor socks happen to match, it’s a bonus.

I had entered Mecca Cosmetica, looked at my face under their oh-so-bright lighting and their hide-nothing mirrors, and saw a rather dried up version of my face staring back guiltily. And thought, yes. It’s time to put the Me back into Mommy.

So it’s been a week of a stepped up skincare routine and the occasional effort at dolling up so I look Naturally Awesome. Tony has always laughed at this particular irony of make up. But I’m trying. This morning, I even found the time to dab on some highlights around the eyes and the top of my cheeks before an amble to the local shops. No mean feat, considering I was aiming to leave the house before 9:30am to meet Lisa and Jaclyn for coffee.

And so I made it. Day 6 of raised cosmetic standards. Not bad, not bad. I was starting to remember this. Slip back into the familiar. Get comfortable in my moisturised-nightly skin.

I know all about Man looking at the outward appearance, and God looking at the heart. All that’s important and true. But it felt good to be… unslothful about what little looks I have. As a small reward, I got myself some lip gloss in a colour I traditionally NEVER wear, and then swanned off with Jaclyn & Son to have lunch in style.

And then I stood up to pay at the counter.

Something was chaffing inside my bra. There it was again. It was starting to walk the fine line between discomfort and pain, and so I stole a peek to check. Nothing. But okay, this was getting seriously alarming. Did a cockroach crawl in there and suffocate or something? The mind was starting to get a little wild, but there was no hope of dashing to the bathroom quick enough…

I looked around. No one was looking at me. Of course no one was looking at me. I am no longer a nubile 20-something,  I am a Mommy. Everyone looks at the baby, not the mother. Perfect. I turned to one side, reached in and – there’s no other word for this – I rummaged.

So much for glamour.

My fingers closed over an object quite foreign to any woman’s wardrobe. In her epic struggle to be returned to her pram, Arddun had apparently chucked a long, still-crisp shoestring fry down my bra. Later, I found another half piece had already worked its way down my camisole, producing an odd, oily bump just above my belly button.

French Fries in my bra. The very definition of Yummy Mummy.

Moral of the story: Real Mommies wear make up and food, and smell like flowers and spilt milk. She glows, because she’s puffed from carrying a toddler on her hip while balancing the shopping.

I think I can live with that.

The Help

I’ve never been great at servitude. I’ve never been much of a servant. I’ve always been more comfortable in front, whether I know what I’m doing or not. In most cases, I’d rather lead than follow. Which is why this stay-at-home business has taken me quite by surprise. And it’s also why the inner dialogue never seems to cease.

I know there’s more to being a SAHM than the housework and the babysitting. But in the middle of two loads of laundry, a house strewn with toys, dirty dishes and a perpetually dusty floor, I wonder. If I didn’t live in Australia, for instance. If I had just stayed home in Singapore, if I had married a Singaporean and if all my peers went down the path of hiring a maid domestic helper to play babysitter, cleaner, cook and car washer for $400 a month… would I have done the same thing? Would I be back in the corporate world, in my 3-inch heels and my pencil skirts and swanning off to pseudo-important coffees?

Or would I have chosen to step out of the rat-race, even for a little while, because this basic instinct is screaming at me to sacrifice the career for a couple of years because the bub is only going to be a bub for a blink in time?

I honestly don’t know.

If a Singaporean were to come right up to me right now and tell me that I’m wasting my education because I’m doing what a Filipino maid would do for far less, I’d actually be tongue-tied. Because – horror of horrors – a part of me believes that myself. It really isn’t rocket science to cook and clean and ensure the child doesn’t maim herself with the staplers. And my Communications degree didn’t have a whole lot to do with toilet training a toddler. I cannot project manage her nap times, much less her learning curve or when she decides to grow four molars all at once.

And so sometimes, it feels like I am a tremendously overpaid nanny and housekeeper. If you only count the opportunity cost of my wages, that is.

These past two months have seen our household change gear. The honeymoon period is over, the traditional length of maternity leave having ended in June and bidding a sayonara to the giddy havoc and newness and endless soirees of coffee with newfound mommy friends. I am now career mommy. I keep the house in reasonable order, and have more fanatical systems for tupperware stacking and Where Things Should Be Kept. I cook every day, several times a day. I cut coupons. I attend community meetings about local schools opening.

I trap random cats and fantasize about confronting the stupid neighbour and charging him/her for the cost of landscaping our garden.

My concerns are everyday and mundane. And yet, I can’t recall ever feeling so refreshed. Or fulfilled. Because as ridiculous and as hackneyed as it sounds, I am all-important to one human being. I am indispensable in a way only a mommy can be. And I look back at my corporate life, and struggle to remember if I’d ever impacted anyone’s life as much as I do Arddun’s, or she does mine. Or if I’ve ever felt so passionate about the mundane. Or so convinced that I’m where I need to be.

This week, I watched my girl

  • discover her belly button
  • discover my belly button as a result of discovering her belly button
  • learn to say “Uh oh…” whenever something drops/breaks/leaks
  • reverently breathe “Ohhhh WOW…” when beholding an awesome toy
  • recognise an apple from a book jacket, before promptly asking to eat one
  • try and close her new toy stroller like Mommy and Daddy do with her actual pram
  • cuddle her stuffed toy cat like a baby
  • go “woo-woo-woo!” to imitate a dog
  • try to conduct a singing group
  • run to the front of the church to dance to a hymn.

Half of these incidents were a direct result of just hanging out with Arddun. And half of these moments I would not have traded for many, many things in the world.

So. Note to self. I am staying at home for a host of reasons. Chief of which is that I chose to become a mother, and so that’s what I’m here at home to be.

NOOOOOOOOOO

It took me a full 2 hours before I dared to take a peek at the courtyard.

And then my heart sank.

Dug up dirt in courtyard
Evidence of late night excavation from dastardly intruder

This implies several things, of course.

  1. My troubles are not over.
  2. I might have trapped the wrong cat.
  3. The same cat has already been released and had wrecked furry vengeance in the wee (heh heh, geddit?) hours of this morning.
  4. I have to drive ANOTHER (50 x 2)km and do this ALL OVER AGAIN!

Today, I’m going to Magnet Mart to talk to a person about some serious repellents. Hopefully, they do not suggest I get a dog. Arddun will be ecstatic, but I will want to punch somebody.

UPDATE: Just checked with the RSPCA. Cat was retrieved yesterday afternoon and therefore probably released last night to say hello to our hedges. I’ve just booked a cage. We’ll do this all over again next week.

The one about the Tat

So yesterday, I hauled me and baby toddler across 25km of boring highway so I could waltz into the RSPCA and say,

“I would like to rent a cage.”

“A what?”

“Er, I mean a cat thing. A trap. I want to trap me a cat.”

“Right.”

See, after months, MONTHS of flower-girling our yard with lemon peels and orange peels, and white peppering our hedges, and sweeping – oh, SWEEPING – our courtyard every other day, only for the soil to miraculously un-dig itself onto our now grubby, soil streaked courtyard… After months, MONTHS of watching the hole in our hedge get from tennis ball to basketball to hello-you-can-birth-an-elephant-here… I decided that short of running out and spending oodles on toxic mongrel-deflecting chemicals, I’d drive down south and get me a cat cage trap thing.

“Except…” I hesitate, while I’m getting the instructions and filling out the paperwork. “What if… it turns out to be a dog?”

“Have you actually seen this animal?”

“Er… no. I think it’s a cat… but maybe it’s a small dog?” I wanted to say “small, stupid mongrel dog” after seeing yesterday’s mess, but I was frankly scared of the RSPCA folk and felt cruel just asking for a cage trap thing as it is. I had also just learnt, while filling out the paperwork, that there’s a $10,000 fine for animal cruelty.

She gave me one of those patient stares that made me feel like a twit.

“If it’s a dog and it’s small enough and it gets in, bring it in. If the animal has an address tag, take it back to the neighbour. We don’t want it. If it doesn’t, bring it in and we’ll check for a microchip and take it from there.”

Ooookay.

“Bring it in as soon as possible, mind. We don’t want the cat to spend too long in the cage. So as soon as you’ve trapped it, bring it in.”

Right.

So last night, I spent 69¢ on the smelliest cat food I could think of (sardines in jelly), got home, padded out the cage with old bedsheets, set the trap, covered the cage with blankets so it was extra nice and warm and enticing, and went to sleep.

This morning, we bunny-slipper silently to the sliding doors and peek out into the courtyard.

BOOYAH!

Yard rummaged. Sardines eaten. Trap door closed. Cat in trap.

NYAH NYAH na-NYAH NYAAAAH!

Arddun is having her breakfast in the highchair. Tony is in bed with a bad case of the flu.

I bring the cat into the house where it’s warm. Cat mews. Arddun is stoked, so we have a hiatus on the breakfast, and Arddun gets to run to the cage and have a point-and-stare.

“TAT!” she pronounces excitedly. FINALLY. All those what-animal-is-this games have apparently paid off. “TAT!” she says, pointing. And then, “BIRD! Bur-deh… Bur-deh…”

We place the toddler back into the highchair where it’s safe. And then we walk back to see if there’s a collar.

There’s a collar. Dang. Can’t tell if there’s an address tag. There’s something dangling around the collar, but I cannot tell because he/she won’t let me.

I need to know if there’s an address. Oh please let there be an address, so I don’t have to drive another 50km today!  But what if the neighbour ends up being a complete neanderthal? Oh please don’t let there be an address so RSPCA can deal with this…

I cannot see anything. Who friggin’ buys a black collar for a black cat?

I need to get a little closer. Lift door slowly. Easy does it. Small gap, so your hand can slip in but the cat can’t get…

The cat gets out. The cat bolts for the guest room.

Crap.

What-are-you-doing, asks sick and grumpy husband who has padded out to the living room.

I’m-trying-to-catch-that-stupid-cat!

Why-did-you-let-it-out-of-the-cage-(groan)-you-shouldn’t-have-let-it-out-of-the-cage-(long-suffering-moan)-now-look-what-you’ve-done

Because-I-needed-to-see-the-tags-okay-but-I-couldn’t-see-through-the-cage-alright

(Long-suffering-indecipherable-grumble)

It-has-a-fat-neck-alright-It’s-fluffy-I-couldn’t-see-the-tags-just-HELPMECATCHTHE****CATANDSTOPCOMPLAINING!

Spend next 20 minutes with my butt in the air, half crawling under the bed and singing, “‘Here kitty-kitty-kitty, tch-tch-tch!”

Husband gives half-hearted attempt in his flu-addled state. I send him back to bed in exasperation.

Toddler still dizzy with excitement, and chirping “BIRD! BIRD!” from high chair.

Getting hot and bothered now. Strip off woolly pullover, and proceed to towel-swat the cat with it. Remember $10,000 fine and try not to actually hit the cat or give it a heart attack. Spend another 5 fruitless minutes playing kitty peek-a-boo until…

CAT MAKES BREAK FOR FREEDOM! AND RUNS INTO WINDOW!

HAHA! It’s not open space after all! I haven’t cleaned my windows in over a year, but you got fooled anyway! You’re breaking my wooden blinds trying to climb up them, but no matter… Now that I have you in my grasp, I’ll just walk back here and slide you back into the…

CRAP. Trap door falls shut in skirmish. Yell for husband, after just sending him off for not being helpful.

Turns out there isn’t a tag, but a useless bell. A bird would look at it and fall off its branch, laughing at the stupidity of this useless bell. I much prefer it if the neighbour attached a loudhailer around the cat’s neck that bellows “CAT IN THE YARD” whenever it so much as lifts its leg to scratch itself near our property.

Gorgeous, sleek black thing, though.

Arddun reacquaints herself with our guest:

Arddun talks to our furry guest
What’s new, pussy cat?

Cat now back with RSPCA. Yard is swept again. Slightly nervous that I caught the wrong animal and the courtyard will be disgusting again tomorrow. But for now anyway, our yard is cat-free.

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