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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

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Where life and home organisation ideas go to die. My collection of articles, research and attempts at self-improvement through reorganisation and renewal.

How to build a Capsule Wardrobe in tiny, tiny steps

I recently came across a minimalist fashion website about Capsule Wardrobes, and the very concept both fascinated and terrified me. 

Basically, the challenge is that you choose 30 items for your wardrobe (including footwear!) to mix and match for an entire season. 

Thirty. Considering I’ve now started an office job as well,  I can no longer pass off home togs as going-out duds simply by throwing on a smart jacket and sliding on some lippy in the car. 

Thing is,  I am already recycling the same old clothes week in week out. It gets especially bad in winter –  everything pretty gets swathed in the same winter coat or thick woollen tunics anyway.

HOWEVER. It’s now Spring,  I have a new office job, and my walk-in wardrobe is basically a dumping ground of ironing I have yet to conquer since 1993.

While I know I need a kick up the backside to refresh my wardrobe and think hard about how to deal with my clutter, the other slightly terrifying thing is the throwing out of things. I am HUGELY sentimental when it comes to crockery and clothes,  I’ve come to realise. This has only gotten worse since my mother died. She is inextricably linked to a third of the clothes I will never wear but will never want to give away because they are living memories to me. They speak of many shopping days gone by –  we loved shopping with each other. We didn’t have to buy anything –  it was all about the discovering. 

Most of these clothes were my mother’s way of showing she was missing me when I moved a continent away. Some of them have never fit me, but I never told her because I didn’t want her to feel she was losing touch. 

How does one declutter like that?! 

Simply by allocating them to a box in the corner of the walk-in robe. After reading a few blog posts about capsule wardrobes obviously written for sentimental schmoos like me, I am resolved to do the following. 

  1. Putting away the seasonal stuff first. 
    That’s an easy one, because winter has just ended. I used to rotate summer and winter outfits in my wardrobe Before Children, and I need to get back in that habit. 
  2. Tossing out the Absolutely Nots
    And being really brutal if I can. No, I’m not going to tell myself I’ll fit in them again. Because if I were to ever fit into those size 6s again, I’ll look like mutton dressed as lamb anyway. As for the things my mother gave me,  I’ll have to find a special box and limit myself to that space.
  3. Definitely Maybes
    Before she moved to Perth, Rosie C had told me about this Japanese decluttering principle where you mull over each item and whether it brings you joy. And if it doesn’t, to then think fondly of the times you’ve shared before letting go. Something rama-ding-dong like that. Very Dharma & Greg. We had a bit of a guilty giggle, mostly because as daft as it sounds, it feels like a process worth trying. In the privacy of my home. With no one looking, and moody jazz playing, and posh OJ swirling in wine glass because wine = itchy for me. 
  4. The final countdown
    The magic number in other articles is 30, but I’m just going to go with my age and try streamlining my mix-and-match wardrobe to 37 choice pieces. Per season. Which means really,  I’m trying to reduce my capsule wardrobe to 37 x 4= over 4 seasons. 
  5. The peace of resistance
    This is probably the other part of the exercise that is going to mess with my head big time: not shopping for togs. Or bling. Or shoes. If I am going to train myself to live within my means (and I have lots and lots of means!), it means not adding to an already bursting wardrobe every time I go out. I will,  however, reward myself at the end of each season with a small shopping spree – only because I suspect I’ll learn more during the process what I’m missing from a Capsule Wardrobe. Like a good, tailored all-purpose jacket. Or something. 

But these aren’t exactly “tiny-tiny” steps, I hear you say. Don’t worry. I’ve recently come across another interesting project management theory that I’d like to test out on this decluttering mission. More on that to come later this week. 

Meanwhile… 

Here’s a good article about Capsule Wardrobes. And a good introduction to the different approaches to capsules. And hey, Wikipedia – so it must really be a thing. And this guide is great too. And also, Pinterest

Why I’ve started a Facebook Page

I’ve been blogging semi-regularly since I came to Canberra 13 years ago. To me, it has always been about keeping in touch with family and friends in Singapore and around the globe – an extension of my Facebook profile, really. A means of chronicling our moments and milestones, of keeping a loose scrapbook of my life in general and my children’s lives in particular.

And I dare say that for the most part, my blog will continue in that vein. I think having the children has sharpened the focus of my writing, and has in turn brought me a small but loyal following of readers within my family and friends. Thank you for keeping in touch all these years and for delighting in my delights. I love writing these open letters to you.

Continue reading “Why I’ve started a Facebook Page”

So yes! New blog name. New domain name. Slightly new categories (I’m still working out the long game on that one.) New website template. New blogging resolutions.

Same me. :-)

Purposefully On

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.

  1. Wake up with a prayer, not a phone
    I shall very deliberately move my iPad and phone away from the bedside table so I don’t reach for them tomorrow morning, before I realise what I’m doing. And when I’m finally awake enough to think straight, I shall begin the day with a prayer.
  2. Schedule my online times
    It’s going to be hard work because I have a tonne of things tomorrow, but I shall endeavour not to touch my gadgets until a dedicated timeslot for dealing with House Build things. It’s crunch time for house things I know, but this is about eliminating distractions and time-consuming tangents, and building better self-control around my electronic crutches.
  3. Go offline and be inspired
    I bought a book from Kikki K recently with 135 suggestions on how to unplug and snatch some soul-pampering moments. I’m going to do the tried and tested thing tomorrow of thumbing through the book and then doing whatever suggestion my finger lands on. Let’s hope it’s not the one that says “Go Camping”.

Declutter Challenge Accepted

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

  • packing to live in Singapore for half a year, and then
  • packing my mother’s house in Singapore, and then
  • unpacking when we got back from Singapore, and then
  • unpacking boxes that we had shipped from my mother’s house, and then
  • decluttering and packing boxes in anticipation of Atticus and an eventual house move.

Phew!

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.

Box of shoes
Shoes! Mine and Arddun’s. A surprisingly small box, but then again my summer shoes are lost in storage somewhere.
Floor with old cosmetics strewn
Toiletries, a surprisingly difficult one for me to tackle. I had consolidated my travel-sized toiletries a few months ago, but the make-up drawers were hard work for me because they come with memories of choir days, and dates in my twenties, and shopping trips with girlfriends, and just that promise of a magical evening out dressed to the nines. Never mind that some of them are about 20 years old, and I don’t dare smear any on my face.
Cups and crockery on kitchen table
Coffee Cups & Crockery… very low yield, as I most of our crockery are hand-me-downs and therefore sentimental. In fact, I was rather reluctant to part with these except they’re quite badly chipped all over, and I never use these cups because they’re quite useless thermoses.
Candles and platter
Vases, candles and platters. I use all our vases because we only have three, so none to throw out. Heaps of candles but again, many are sentimental so these were all I was willing to give away.
Cookbooks on kitchen benchtop
Cookbooks! I’d already done a cull before, but then duly went out and fell in love with a few more volumes. These were the only ones that made the cut this time around.
Boxes of children's clothes
Children’s clothes. Two boxes worth, the bottom being Atticus’s and the top being Arddun’s. To be honest, I’d been accumulating Atticus’s for 4 months now, so it’s not like I threw everything together today although I did fill it up enough to close the box today. As for Arddun’s, I regularly go through her clothes because she grows so quickly, and now that we know we won’t be keeping most pieces for Atticus, it’s made decluttering a whole lot faster.

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.

Getting back on track

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:

  • blogging and photo editing
  • a photograph a day
  • daily journaling and reflection on gratitudes
  • daily bible reading (I am now a month behind).
  • Atticus’s monthversaries… missed the poor boy’s third and fourth months. The trials and tribulations of a second child.

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.

Talk soon…

Welcome to 2015!

My 2013 was horrible for the most obvious reason (mother’s death, for the uninitiated) but last year really blew for many of my friends, and for Malaysia’s aviation industry. There were quite a few good-riddance-to-this-rubbish-year posts on my FB news feed, and I’m glad for them, at least, that we have reached 2015.

For us, 2014 was largely a calm year. A winding down from the emotional roller coaster that was 2013. There were a few points for anxiety – the sale of my mother’s home being one, haggling with financial institutions on two continents, being another – but on the grand scheme of things, they proved paltry compared to the addition to our family. Atticus signaled a new chapter to our family life in late November — and a welcome focal point. We rounded off the year largely sleep deprived while being surrounded by family, and feeling older, slightly melancholy and stressed, but not sad. And after the sorrow of 2013, being not sad was a great step forward.

There was a study on “workplace happiness” conducted in Singapore between April and August last year. And the grand reveal was that Singaporeans are Under Happy – that vague, lukewarm, non-committal, soggy middle ground between the state of being Happy and being Unhappy. Under Happy was last year’s Meh, and the punchline for many Singaporeans still secretly seething about being ranked the Least Emotional Country in the World in 2012.

And it got me thinking. Although I had many things I’d been grateful for, and felt largely content with my lot in life, there was still a lot of Meh left in me last year. I’m wondering if it’s a self preservation thing, or the natural trajectory one follows after being shot out of the Emo canon that was 2013. Numbness is comforting. It allows one to function well and to even feel episodes of muted happiness. But although a bland life can be a happy one, happiness isn’t blandness.

I know this is a blog largely about my children and a little about my personal life. But some of the things I keep circling in this blog seems to be Life organisation and finding the Happy – whether it’s about some habit tracking app I find useful, or whether it’s about reflecting on my list of gratitudes every Thursday. I know I probably appear to be overthinking things, or maybe I’ve reached some kind of 40%-life crisis that induces me to contemplate my life and purpose. Perhaps I’m still trying to define myself, since I’ve currently parked my Career Woman persona. Or my cousin’s and mother’s early deaths have shaken me to the very core, and what you see here are the aftershocks.

Or perhaps, if I can indulge in some hubris, my soul resonates with the likes of W.H. Auden, who observed that “between the ages of twenty and forty we are engaged in the process of discovering who we are…”

I don’t know. I just know that I’m searching for… something. Every New Year, I pounce on the chance to reinvent myself to some extent, and this year is no different.

I had started out last year reading Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project, and then got sidetracked. I had planned to explore my year like she did with a theme for each month, but that intention got seriously derailed by January, when I decluttered the house (just like in her book) for our anticipated move (which didn’t happen), only to pack her book in the process in one of 70 boxes now sitting in a storage unit four suburbs away.

Oops.

Anyhoo, I’ve gotten hold of an electronic copy and I’m trying her book out again. This is my Eat Pray Love, except I don’t have to leave my husband and children, and swan off to India to learn how to meditate. I’m still plotting my game plan for 2015 in between innumerous breastfeeds and rocking and shushing and diapering and cleaning and cooking and soothing and playing and including… so wish me luck.

What are your New Year resolutions, by the way? Made any this year, or cannot be bothered?

A birth plan for a second-time mother

When we had Arddun, I came to the hospital without a written birth plan. Partly because Arddun was early (she came in week 38), but mostly because I wanted to go with the flow as much as possible. It was my very first time, I had chosen not to educate myself on other birth stories for fear of setting up unrealistic expectations personally, and I’d rather scoffed at the idea of planning a birth. As if something as mysterious and miraculous as that could be wholly micro-managed. Pfft.

I’m rethinking my stance now with Boy Blob.

It’s not about micro-managing Boy Blob’s entrance to the world, and nor am I trying to tell my obstetrician and midwives how to do their jobs. But I do want to capitalise on the lessons learnt from Arddun’s birth. At the very least, articulating on paper how I’d like to try new things and what I found disempowering will help crystalise what is important to me and my family.

So here’s what I’ll be trying to cobble together in the next 24 hours as the clock ticks over to Week 39.

Document length: short and sharp
If I am to whip this out and wave it in front of staff in a tremendous hurry, I need it to be scannable and easy to digest. Enter Web Writing 101 – good headlines, chunk content, use dot points to break down large sentences or concepts. Preferably kept to one page length.

The introduction: a disclaimer
I read the following introductory paragraph in a birth plan, and like it enough to want to adapt it for my own. It sets the context for the document, assures everyone that I’m not a control-freak (or try not to be), and that I understand things can get fluid.

Mine might go something like this:

We’re hoping for a natural childbirth without unnecessary intervention or the use of drugs, although we are open to changing our minds on pain relief medication down the track if needed. We appreciate your support with our birth preferences.

This plan represents our preferences. However, we recognise that in the event of unforeseen difficulties it may need to be re-negotiated. In this eventuality, please discuss all procedure options with us. When possible, we also kindly ask for some privacy to discuss our decision(s) between ourselves before agreeing to any new procedures.

Backgrounder: How did the last birth go?
Chances are, my midwife will be someone I’ve never met before. Which means she is going to assume that my body will labour at a similar pace to other women’s. Except I know what party tricks my body whipped out the last time, and that knowledge will ultimately benefit her judgement, too. Things like

  • the fact that Arddun’s birth was mostly drug-free (does paracetamol count?)
  • how Arddun’s birth was augmented and I was on syntocinon
  • how, after contracting every 1 to 2 minutes for about 2½ hours, I had dilated a mere 2cm
  • how, after being told I probably had another 12 hours to go, promptly dilated 7cm in 30 minutes so my obstetrician had to abandon his lunch and run back
  • how my total length of active birth was 4 hours
  • how I used vocalisation as my primary pain management tool, especially when hooked up to a cocktail of drugs and confined to the bed. Read: if you are going to constrict my movements, be prepared to hear me bellow for 4 hours like a dying animal. And oh, I have a pretty fit, choir-trained diaphragm. I can project.

What I’d like to try out
Because my last birth was an augmentation and I had a monstrosity of tubes and such sticking out my right arm, I ended up delivering Arddun while flat on my back. I’m not saying the same won’t happen, but if I could, I’d like help to move around the room more, get into easier birthing positions, and get into that bath so I can pummel warm water down my back for pain relief. Assuming, of course, that baby isn’t in distress and nothing crazy is about to happen.

What I’d like to avoid
I also want to stress my right to speedy pain relief if I decide that’s what I need. I think I’m going to try and do it without drugs again because part of me wonders if Arddun’s birth had been quick because of that. But if this birth turns out to be the opposite of Arddun’s (i.e.: slow, start-stop) and I feel that I need to conserve energy for the final push later, I just might opt for an epidural. I am older now. I am also less fit than how I was when I had Arddun, and I’m getting less quality sleep every night. I understand my limitations, but I want the assurance that others will trust my instincts, too.

Also, the idea of forceps and episiotomies scare the living crap out of me — even more than a C-section. I’ll brave them if I have to, but I’d really rather not.

 

I’m open to hearing other birth preference ideas, if you have any. Even if this turns out a purely academic exercise and I don’t actually whip out a plan on the day.

First-time Mum Lessons I hope to learn

As we get ready for Boy Blob, I’m already noticing the differences between our first time and the second. I feel a lot less prepared, for one thing – an offshoot of being so much more tired this time ’round, but also because experience has taught me that babies can throw you lots of curve balls. And I’m more okay with being uncertain. I think I’m learning to roll with the punches.

Which makes me wonder what else I’ve learnt after almost 3½ years with Arddun. Here’s a tentative list.

1. Have SOME sort of a birth plan this time

I hear of some first-time mums who were so determined to have THE most natural (read: non-intervention) childbirth they could possibly get in a hospital, that they prescribed everything. And then promptly freaked out when they had to go for an emergency C-section — or worse, endangered the lives of their babies because they could not imagine another way.

Determined not to fall into that mental cage, I had swanned into the hospital the last time with no birth plan.

I wouldn’t say it was a huge mistake… but this time, I think we’ll be a lot more assertive about getting the medical attention when we need it, and also telling them when to back off. Without getting into a bunch of hairy details, I had ended up with an augmented birth with Arddun, due largely to delays by the hospital. This meant a zero-to-hero experience for contractions (“No pain… still no pain… nuh uh… OMIFREAKINGLORDOWOWOWOWOWOWOW!”), and semi bed-riddance, thanks to the cocktail of drugs they had to hook me up to. Some midwives can also be quietly militant about their brand of Best Childbearing Protocol and push you along a path you may no longer want to take. And that is why I’m interested in learning how to articulate a birth plan upfront for this round.

2. Recognising the Bigger Evil

Totally convinced about the joys and benefits of breastfeeding exclusively, and sufficiently scared into secretly abhorring the “easy way out” formula route, I had completely not banked on the following happening:

  • Having a baby come early, so her liver wasn’t quite ready yet
  • My milk supply not kicking in that quickly (apparently very common among Chinese women)
  • The lethal combination of post-partum hormone surges and broken, scant sleep.

Arddun lost weight and turned orange in her early days in hospital. And this was after I had spent hours and hours sitting up in that hospital room in the middle of the night, alternately stroking her tiny cheek to keep her awake to drink, and silently screaming from the sheer agony of breastfeeding. Sometimes, there were tears streaming down my face in the dead of night from confusion and frustration and embarrassment at “already failing”. And my child was overtired and still underfed.

When the gentle suggestion to supplement her feeds with formula was broached – by the very champion of Breast is Best, a midwife — I finally lost it. It was the report card I had feared the most in those early days. FAILURE TO FEED. Failure to sustain my child in her first days of life outside my body.

It was the best thing we could have done for both Arddun and I. And I wished I hadn’t been so stubborn, or so scared. Supplementing her breastfeeds with formula gave Arddun some rest because it was easier for her to drink out of a rubber teat than to work her darndest on a set of boobs that was still clueless about their new role as milk buds. It gave me much-needed sleep, which then helped to establish that supply. It quickly gave her the fluids to flush out the bilirubin, and helped her put on weight so she got strong enough to breastfeed efficiently.

I ended up breastfeeding for 22 months — well after many women I knew who had breastfed exclusively. That doesn’t make me a better mother, any more than giving Arddun some formula in those early months made me a lousier, lazier one. And if Boy Blob comes early and I have trouble establishing supply again, I’m going to seriously consider formula. Because tough choices. Because priorities. Because big picture.

3. Not Accepting Help

There’s something I’ve learnt about myself over the years: when it comes to problem-solving, I need to imagine the worst-case scenario. Once I think I have a handle on that, I’m fine.

I had approached new motherhood with Arddun like a problem to be solved. There was a fierce, visceral need to Manage Everything Ourselves, and as a result I think I had ended up shutting others out in the very early days — especially my mother. (Huge regrets on that score. Tonnes.)

I don’t know that it was pride at work, so much as the self-sustenance borne out of being by ourselves in Canberra for 7 years… and the realisation that everyone will go back to ‘normal’ eventually, and it’d be Just Me and The Baby. And I had needed the certainty within myself, that confidence, that I was going to be okay when that day came. That I could be an adequate, competent mother without the village.

That was the internal mental and emotional dialogue. Outside, I must have looked territorial, closed to instruction and advice, and rather selfish.

This time, I want to make a conscious effort to let others in. Because the village wants in. And having the courage to depend on a village is something I want to work on.

4. Save my money on those parenting books

What a waste of time and braincells those turned out to be. The best support and advice I got turned out to be from those in the trenches with me (thank you Mother’s Group!), from remembering lessons from my childhood, from chatting with family members, and from observing older families around me. The trouble with self-proclaimed parenting experts is that there isn’t a single right way to parent. Ever. The more valuable exercise was growing my own intuition and confidence through prayer and practice. And mistakes. And forgiveness. And rinse and repeat.

5. Take care of myself

I was the first-time mum who spent every ounce of energy on Arddun. And I stopped wearing make up (or taking care of my skin), and I stopped wearing pretty shoes, and I didn’t take time out to do my nails, or cut my hair, or doll up for special occasions because we didn’t date anymore. I didn’t exercise much. I wore ill-fitting clothes.

I wasn’t a fat slob, and I was still clean and hygienic. But I wasn’t a lady. I was only, exclusively, a mother.

I don’t know that I will be any better this time around, and I can’t imagine being one of those mums that manages to clown-cake on make up before going anywhere… but some effort would be nice.

6. Take care of each other

Date nights. A lot more of them. Just Tony and I. Not vegging in front of the couch, but actually making an effort to go some place and remember what it was like to focus on each other exclusively. It’s only going to get harder to do with TWO little ones and still no family around us within quick babysitting distance, but I suspect a large part of our current reticence is because we’re quite attached to our routine.

7. Trust their ability to adapt

One of the things that has been unconsciously drilled into both Tony and I is how young children need their routine, and how they are creatures of habit. And that is largely true: routine is what enables Arddun to get enough sleep. It affects her ability to learn and eat, and therefore have the capacity and readiness to develop mentally, physically and emotionally. Routine is part of the framework that enables her to be a happy child.

But I also think we’ve been too afraid sometimes to mix things up a little. We have, perhaps, missed opportunities to build good memories because we’ve held the bedtime routine as sacrosanct. I’m also wondering if part of our motivation hasn’t stemmed from a form of laziness. Of avoiding the hassle of the next 36 hours that might be affected by one unorthodox evening.

And yet, what have Arddun’s early years taught me? We have travelled back and forth to Singapore many times with her, battled with jet lag, adapted to different social expectations (they tend to hoist their babies around till late in those parts), worked through different sleeping arrangements (she co-slept for the first time), and she had more than survived there – she had enjoyed herself. And despite months away, she still managed to adapt back to Canberra life when we returned. It was a process, but it got done.

So why are we so conservative when we are home? It’s something we keep slipping into, but I’d like to get more adventurous as we expand our family. It will take effort and planning, but magic only stays with children for such a sliver of time. It’s worth making Wonderful for.

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