They say you should be careful what you pray for.
A few of you know that I’ve been searching for a paying job for the last few months, in amongst the steady stream of visitors and birthday parties we’ve had.
“The turning point in the process of growing up is when you discover the core of strength within you that survives all hurt.”
I am equal parts a lover of paper and phablet, of the online and the off. My journals and organisers are probably the best expressions of this duality; from the moment my day begins, my phone and iPad are my electronic secretaries, but I turn to paper when I need to connect with myself and others deeply.
My personal journal – the one with the thoughts I never want to blog about – is therefore spread across a paper journal and an electronic app (Flava). On the one hand, I love the app for its immediacy and convenience. To be able to jot down a fleeting thought at a playground, grab a snapshot to suit. But it can’t beat writing longhand in a bound book — something I rarely make time for nowadays. Quality vs Quantity.
Gail had recently mentioned how she had deliberately left her phone by her bedside one morning, instead of picking it up to scroll through the usual apps as soon as sleep left her. The result was instant and positive. She felt more engaged with her children. She got things done. She was mentally uncluttered.
And I thought to myself, what a fabulous idea.
I’ve been trying different things on and off regarding my gadgets. I try to go without Facebook on Fridays when I remember to – except when I flick through it out of habit first thing in the morning, it tends to ruin the motivation for abstinence for the rest of the day. I’ve been weaning Arddun off the gadgets too, and have gone back to packing mini games and activities now that I’m once again lugging a humongous nappy bag everywhere I go, because of Atticus.
My biggest problem with these deliciously convenient gadgets is my rubbish capacity for delayed gratification. Have a question? Jump on Google now. Need to ask the builder something? Send him a text. Check my emails for the nth time, just in case the insurance people got back to me. Flick through ABC News and Facebook, just in case I missed something big. I’m sure my need to know absolutely NOW goes hand in hand with rubbish self-control and good ol’ kiasuism (a very nifty Singaporean word that roughly means “the fear of losing out”.)
The thing is, being constantly “on” is making me more tense and tired than I need to be. And it’s making me lazy about parenting. Every moment I spend flicking through Facebook needlessly out of stupefied habit is a moment that could have been better spent really playing with my children before they never want to play with me again.
So, three things tomorrow.
I grew up without a father for most of my life, but I’ve always had several father figures. There were many to be found within the church I grew up with in Singapore, and God has this wonderful way of providing different ones at each stage of my life.
My children are deeply loved by their daddy, but they are also very blessed to grow up around other men of character. On Sunday, anticipating a mini milestone, I took my camera along so I could introduce you to some of the men in Atticus’s life.
Arddun, for reasons only her young heart knows, refers to Liz as Aunty Liz but to Raymond as Mr. Ray. Even as a baby, Arddun has never been afraid of his big bushy beard and loud, hearty laugh. I still have fond memories of Arddun reaching out tentatively to pat his bristly chin like it were a curiosity. He may look a very little bit like Gimli from LOTR (or a garden gnome, depending on beard length) and in many ways, he can be just as courageous in fighting for what is right. Always generous, always opinionated, deeply in love with God, Raymond is a teddy bear.
And Atticus adores him.
Before children, I was never one of those at church who would scan the room for cuddly babies. And on looking back, I wish I had been because at the very least, I could have provided something that many mothers of young babies are always thankful for – a bit of reprieve from baby, just so they can sit down for 5 minutes with a hot cup of tea for a change.
Peter is another gentle man in Atticus’s life. He just loves children, and Atticus has been a great and ever-willing beneficiary of his cuddles and walks around the room during our Sunday morning teas. I love watching someone else light up when they see a child of mine.
Mark has three children of his own, two of whom Arddun loves playing with on Sundays. Miles (the youngest), I’m eyeing off as a playmate for Atticus in the years to come.
Being a father of two boys has also called on some resourcefulness when it comes to haircuts. Thanks to YouTube, Mark has learnt to cut his own boys’ hair. And with Atticus’s own wispy baby strands now falling over his eyes, I’d called on Mark to exercise some YouTube hair-cutting wizardry.
Okay, no more awkward photos. I promise.
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about what I’m thankful for. I used to take a breather every day at 3.00pm and again at 11:15pm to take stock of how my day is going over a hot cup of tea. One of the things I used to do at both those stops was to reflect on the big and little things I was grateful for. Free parking, for instance. New job. That sort of big and little. If I paid enough attention to what was going on, I could even mark the moment with a photo.
That habit had, sadly, shrivelled up in the wake of our new and more hectic home routine, what with Arddun’s preschool and Atticus as the newest kid on the block. Now that we have more of a routine going, I’m hoping to put some Mindfulness stops back in my day.
Like a muscle that’s fallen into disuse (see Velle’s Abs for further reference), identifying and celebrating things to be grateful for takes practice and doesn’t come as easily as one would think. So in coming back to this Thursday meditation, I struggled a teeny bit before the following came to me.
We had Mandarin playgroup again today, and the three of us had rocked up extra early. The playgroup is held in a children’s gym at the community health centre, so Atticus soon found himself in a cheerful corner of the room surrounded by age-appropriate toys. He was rapt enough that I could sneak over to the kitchenette on the other side of the room to grab a tea and bikkie.
And then I heard it. Volley after volley of that unmistakable belly-laugh.
Lately, Arddun has made it her mission to make her brother laugh. The moment she leaves her bedroom in the morning, she makes a beeline for her brother. She does everything from fart sounds (already a hit with the boy) and tickles, to bray-laughing like a donkey and general slapstick. I didn’t have to look up from my tea to guess what was going on back at Atticus’s playmat. His big sister had settled herself down beside him and was jiggling the levers and bells on the toy in front of him to get a reaction. Another mother who attends the playgroup sidled up next to me and marvelled at how wonderfully they play together.
Giving Arddun a sibling was a big part of why we had Atticus. But making a loving, gentle and kind big sister out of Arddun has turned out to be a wonderful blessing for Atticus.
Atticus and I went to the Canberra Centre yesterday to catch up with some of my old colleagues for coffee, and to get some errands done. About two minutes before said coffee-date, however, I realised that I had left my wallet at home.
I wasn’t too panicked – the ATM machines lately have this feature where you can retrieve cash without using your card. I was also going to try and get some cash at the bank, although it wasn’t until one of my colleagues pointed out that I would need my ATM card for that, that I blanched. Oh dear. I had parked my car within the Centre, and there was no way to pay to get it out. I still needed to do my errands. What now?
Turns out, banks understand. In fact, it seems to be such a common occurrence that the teller could finish all my sentences.
“Hi, this is a little awkward, but I just found out I left my wallet at home…”
(Eyes the gurgling baby in the pram squeezing out every ounce of cuteness from his chubby cheeks and shiny eyes.)
“How much do you need?”
Less than two minutes later, I was out of there with enough cash to pay for parking AND get what I needed from Officeworks.
After a lot of drama and rain and waiting and more rain and banks and then finally losing our tempers, our house has both slabs. It feels like we’ve gotten over a hump in the project. It hasn’t been a straightforward process, and it’s also turned out to be a complicated build… but at least we have a nice view.
While flicking through Facebook the other day, I came across a blog that was inviting its readers to do a 30-day Declutter, by sending out a prompt a day.
It immediately appealed to me for various reasons — unlike FlyLady, this challenge is finite and focused, and there is a possible prize at the end. ($150 vouchers from Howard’s Storage World, anyone?) I’d tried doing FlyLady a few times, but ended up annoyed either by their emails or website — which are both ironically cluttered and disorganised. The more I wander through An Organised Life, however, the more I fall in love.
I feel like I’ve been continually decluttering, especially since 2013 when we were
What I’ve been confronted with over and over in these last 2 years is my sentimentality. I had marvelled, while packing my mother’s house, at what she had opted to keep in her tiny flat. What most people would pass over as junk, I had immediately recognised as remnants and relics of my childhood and her life. And since her death, I have been finding it especially difficult to declutter because, like her, I simply can’t bear to let go of the silliest things.
Like 20-year-old eyeshadow and perfume. Like showercaps. Like bindis that no longer stick to anything.
Like shoes that hurt. Like blouses that have shrunk since I had Atticus (ahem!).
Like notebooks filled with everyday lists and scribbles. Like old contact lenses.
Like badly chipped jars. Like clothes that no longer fit either Arddun or Atticus. Like costume jewellery that’s broken beyond repair. Like lotion for stretch marks that don’t actually work because, hello? I’m a grown woman, not a bloomin’ rubberband.
And so I find I have to revisit my piles of clutter periodically, if only to summon the fortitude to let. it. go.
Since I came into this challenge late, I needed to catch up on 10 days’ worth of prompts. This, on top of my usual housework and that small matter of keeping Atticus alive and well. But thanks to the last 2 years of that constant cycle of gathering and dispensing, I managed to do the following today.
I haven’t tackled bags yet (Day 4), or knick-knacks and ornaments (Day 5), or toys (Day 6), mostly because there’s nothing to be done there. Most of my bags are in storage, as are the family’s knick-knacks and ornaments (mostly from my mother’s house). I had also just sorted through Arddun’s toys the week before, so I’m counting that as a done deal.
Sorry this is a boring one for you. It’s mostly a means for me to pat myself on the back. I’ve never enjoyed housework and Tony is amazingly consistent with the bits he does (all our laundry, some dishwashing, the garden, the garbage, the garage.) But when it comes to sorting and sifting, it seems to be my one constant project. And I, for one, am grateful Atticus napped for 4 hours today.
If I were to fall asleep
And wake up new in heaven
I want you to know that you were always loved.
You captured my heart the moment yours started.
When you laugh, I am liquid and warm.
Your happiness is my happiness.
Today, we held hands almost everywhere
And sang Chinese nursery rhymes
We braved the first winter winds
And talked about the end of autumn.
Today, your fly-away baby hair
Stayed tame, framed your face
And I chanced a glimpse of the boy in years to come.
You both shared a dinner for the very first time
Of congee and spinach and fish
And had a competition to see who would finish first.
(Your brother won.)
We waited for Daddy, and felt joy when he walked through the door.
I held you both in my arms today
And thanked God for my time with you
And pleaded for more
Because nothing is a sure thing.
If I were to fall asleep
And wake up new in heaven
I want you to know that I love your father.
I do not wonder or wander.
Every day, I pray for travelling mercies
Every night, for a new day.
He is a man of few words when I have too many,
My anchor when I fly off the handle.
I become a better mother to you because of him.
If I were to fall asleep
And wake up new in heaven
I want you to know that I’m alright.
If I make it to heaven, when I make it to heaven
I will be giddy with relief and joy.
(Even as I miss you profoundly.
Even when I can no longer hold you close.)
I imagine that it will be nothing like I imagine.
I hope I’ll still get to see you grow.
The world will tell you that Heaven is fictitious
Simply because it cannot fathom it.
But it is there, and I will be waiting
So promise me that you’ll never lose sight of its light
And that you’ll find your way home, too.
Your minds are still young
Your memories, still short
So that even though you touched my hands, stroked my face today
Tickled my sides for a laugh
Stuck your tiny faces in my neck and breathed me in,
You may not remember me
Quite the way you do now.
But I will never forget you.
If I were to fall asleep.
They — the ubiquitous, mysterious THEY — claim that it takes 21 days to make a habit, but only a few to break them. I don’t know about the magical 21, but I can certainly vouch for how easily it takes to get out of a habit or five. Some travel, a long bout of fitful coughing, hardware issues surrounding wifi reception, and the recent arrival of Foxtel in our household have completely derailed the following habits:
The balance between making memories and chronicling them can be such gossamer-delicate work. Especially when the chronicling an often ruin the very moment you’re trying so hard to capture. My sluggish computer has also made blogging a source of frustration rather than a joy. I should probably reformat the darn thing, but who really has the time and energy?
The opportunity cost… Tony and I have had more cuddle time after dinner, and I’ve found myself soaking up Atticus’s babyness more intensively. I’ve done some packing and sorting, mourned the passing of a national titan with my country of origin, and we are in the throes of sleep training Atticus through the nights, (He seems alright in the day now.)
Anyhoo, this is me trying to get back on the wagon. I’m still coughing like I’m got a smoker’s hack, but I don’t feel blah anymore. My laptop is still stuffed, but perhaps that will become a seminar on patience-building.
I have a few half-baked posts that I want to finish off and backdate, so I hope to knock those over in the days and weeks ahead. And if I’m very, very lucky, I’ll have a stable enough wifi connection to upload a decent number of photos.