One of the main things I am hugely thankful for in the midst of this pandemic is technology — specifically our ability to afford it, understand it, and be in community with others who enjoy such privilege and access.
This afternoon, I got to catch up with Audrey — one of my sisters from another mother. Audrey’s family and mine are linked in many ways — primarily through church but also through proximity in terms of distance, life stage, and opportunity. My mother had tutored all three kids in that family, and they, in turn, had been my babysitters twice or three times a week at one stage, when my mother had to work late evenings tutoring other kids. I’d eaten their dinners, learned all their hiding places, played in their playground, watched their TV, read their books, practised on their piano (badly), and loved each of them as I still do.
Audrey is the friend who is closer than a sister, and easily one of the kindest people I know. Her Christian faith is deep with far-reaching roots so I find comfort in knowing she’s still here — running the long race, face tilted towards the Son. Her faith is child-like but hardly naive — the best kind of child-like there is — while I find myself constantly questioning and doubting and uneasy. I really treasure this woman, even though we can hardly find the time to chat between the children, the time difference, and our jobs.
Until today. It’s her birthday, and thanks in part to this pandemic, we managed to have a long and luxurious chat — she in her kitchen, me amongst the books. She’s one of those lifelong friends with whom I can easily oscillate between the superficial and the sacred, the shallows and the deep. So much shared history that there’s such an easy shorthand. So much silliness that we can dissolve into the kind of laughter that hurts.
As for that kitchen she was sitting in, it’s where I experienced that crazy unconditional love — her stripping and cleaning my stroller when Arddun (still not quite 2 years old then) had taken suddenly and violently ill while out at the zoo. That was a seriously gross endeavour and Audrey had been amazing. Honestly, I wouldn’t have taken it well if someone else’s kid had made such a mess and I helped clean it up. I can barely stand my own kids’ mess, much less someone else’s.
Happy Birthday, sis. You know I love ya and miss ya. xx
I look at her, and she’s gorgeous and she makes my heart smile. But sometimes, there’s a particular kind of terror that grips my heart because she’s growing up so quickly. When it was just her and only her, we could note every little difference. We relished each new word learnt, each new concept grasped. But now that we are Four, there are days I feel I miss whole chunks, whole spaces of time where I can look at my firstborn and really see her. The missing of minute changes and whispers of growing. The realisation sometimes stops me in my tracks like a heart twinge.
Question: How does one organise a children’s party at home in winter, while alone with two children?
Answer: Very, very slowly.
Arddun’s 4th birthday party has been and gone, but we are still stretching things out by opening a new present a day. June has turned into birthday MONTH, as far as I’m concerned. I started thinking about Arddun’s birthday party the week after Tony’s 40th party finished. And then it was all about incrementally putting it together.
It was like watching snails mate, it was that slow.
It had been very tempting to lump it all with professional party people, and indeed I had sourced a few quotes. But perhaps it’s been all my casual Pinteresting of late that’s imbued me with this false sense of, “Yeah! I can definitely do that!” What I failed to remember, of course, was how different my life is now. I no longer have long stretches of time in the day with which to plan and execute lavish parties. Even when I was working stupid hours in Corporate Land, I still had more time and headspace to event-manage 50-pax Chinese New Year house parties annually than I do now. For shizz.
Motherhood, in reality, only allows you to think and execute anything in 5-minute bursts. Try putting a strategic plan across that level of chronic interruption. It ain’t easy, even with the best household routine in place. Which is why I needed about a 20-day lead time to pull together a 2-hour party for 7 girls and their mothers.
I had decided on a Vintage Tea Party theme, because lunch was too daunting and I wanted something fun and feminine, but not attached to any Disney franchise (*cough* Frozen *cough*). Thanks to Alice in Wonderland, Arddun has a superficial understanding of what an afternoon tea with friends could look like, but doing it Vintage-style allowed me enough poetic license to go hodge-podge with décor and — more importantly — borrow party gear from friends.
Here’s a peek at the Vintage Tea Party-planning.
As for the party itself, it never quite turns out like how you envision it… but the end result was still deeply satisfying.
There were a few other moments I wished I could have captured. The moment when they all had their first sip of grown-up tea in grown-up china teacups, for instance. My hands were full with having to feed Atticus by then, but it was so precious to watch a tableful of little girls reverently holding their teacups in both hands and sipping solemnly.
Thankfully, there were other mums taking lots of photos too. Can’t wait to see their snapshots! :-)
In the end, I think Arddun enjoyed herself, on balance. And it turned out to be a lot of fun for me, too. Although the pics don’t include them, Tony and Atticus were also at the party, quietly enjoying the festivities in the background. I’m glad we ended up doing it this way, even if it had taken some effort. It’s probably the last birthday party we’ll have in this house before we move, and Arddun’s just old enough now to start keeping memories. I hope she remembers this home.
Not sure what we’ll end up doing next year, but my mind’s already churning. :-)
It’s hard for us to believe that we have known and loved Arddun for four years now. Three still feels like a toddler-ish number, but four — FOUR! — is definitely entering the Little Girl arena.
What is she like now? Bigger and better. Louder, yet gentler. In the last little while, she’s worked out what offends her personally, and so she’s started putting her distinctive stamp on things. Like her routine, the dinner menu, her wardrobe, and even the way we drive. (While waiting at lights, I am often told to “Just drive, Mummy. Just drive!”)
Emotions are likewise more intense and colourful. Her laughs can be huge and hearty. Fluffs are halarious. Burps are halarious. Ending any adjective with “poo” is both naughty and silly, and therefore rates very highly in her vernacular. And then the tears! Yes, there have been meltdowns over seemingly innocuous, inconsequential things. I’m learning to pick different battles from her. There has been the occasional arm-folding, and the one time she dared to roll her eyes. That had been interesting, because I suddenly heard my mother come out of my mouth. Malay words and everything.
She hasn’t tried that again since.
Oh but then she can be so gentle and funny and patient. I sometimes forget just how much I ask of both my children when they tag along to malls because I have to run through a long list of errands, and they do so without any complaint and with so much cheerfulness. I am so thankful that I can trust her to stay close to the car when I’m getting Atticus in and out, that she is willing to ferry the umpteenth item from house to vehicle and back. That she can still play by herself in her room quietly, that she’s willing to feed herself, bathe herself, and change into her clothes (with varying levels of actual success, but about 75% there.)
I love how she loves her brother, and totally delights in delighting him. She is soooo good at getting those baby belly-chuckles and he, in turn, is always looking around the room for her.
Lately, she’s been working out what letter of the alphabet words start with. It’s not unusual to hear her going, “W! Wuh… Wuh… Wednesday! Wednesday starts with W!” or something like it. Js and Gs get her a little mixed up, but she’s so receptive to correction, it puts me to shame. She’s also starting to sing nursery rhymes in Mandarin, thanks to a Chinese playgroup we’ve been going to for over a month. Her rendition of the Hokey Pokey in Mandarin cracks me up each time, but I love that she’s so unaffected, so natural and brave. These classes have become uniquely our thing because it’s about our shared racial heritage. It’s something I’m surprised I really enjoy and didn’t realise I crave.
I’ve been slowly preparing for her birthday party this Saturday, and I hope to dedicate an entire post to that later this week. But here’s a bunch of birthday snapshots. Some were taken at school on Tuesday when I ducked in after Arddun’s lunchtime to watch her blow out an imaginary flame on one of 24 cupcakes that yours truly baked for her classmates. (Uh huh!)
The others were taken today.
An interview with the Birthday Girl
How old are you today? I am 2! No… 3! No… 5! Hahahaha… I’m 4 today. *Big grin*
What’s your favourite TV show? Sofia the First.
What do you love doing in school? Singing and dancing
If you could choose a name for yourself, what would it be? Ivy
What’s your favourite colour? Pink!
What’s your favourite toy? Big Kitty.
What’s your favourite book? Wacky Wednesday (by Dr Seuss)
What’s your favourite movie? Alice in Wonderland and Cat in the Hat
What’s your favourite food? Breakfast.
What’s your favourite animal? Tigers. And lions.
Who is your best friend? Leila
What is your favourite song? 炒萝卜(a nursery rhyme we’ve learnt recently that involves tickling towards the end. How frying radishes can end in tickling is anyone’s guess, but that’s nursery rhymes for you.)
This is our girl. This is Arddun. She’s now three years, one month and two days old. She has a thousand facial expressions, and hundreds of smiles.
Sometimes, she wakes up absolutely grouchy. Sometimes, she wakes up and talks about breakfast. Sometimes she wakes up and says random things like,
“Look, Mummy! I have a lot of hair!”
She still loves to sing. She lives for the end credits of Walt Disney flicks, because that’s when she gets to belt out the numbers and breaks out the moves. She loves Larry Boy (she calls him Happy Boy), and Bob the Tomato. She’s of the opinion that tomatoes are really yummy, even though she’s not eaten any since she was 7 months old.
She’s starts off Cinderella most days, transits into Elsa some days, and is always Jessie the Cowgirl in between, with her trusty steed, Bulls Eye.
She’s starting to recognise printed words like “The” and “On”. Thanks to the slew of birthdays in June and July, she can definitely recognise the print word “Birthday”, which is synonymous with other delicious words like “cake” and “presents”. She now recognises both capital and small letters of the English alphabet, as well as their sounds. She still loves counting, except she now sounds completely Aussie when reciting numbers 1 to 10 in Mandarin. She also looks completely self-conscious when she does. It’s like looking in the mirror.
I love that we now get dialogue, that she can now give voice to her thoughts. I love how we know her best friend in playschool is Emily W, and her best friend in Mother’s Group is Leila. I love how she cups my face in her still-tiny hands to plant a big kiss on my flat nose, before telling me gravely that she loves me too. I love how she gives herself a false name, and thinks it’s hilarious.
She walks into a crowded room, and it takes her – on average – about 45 minutes to warm up. She’s cautious before she’s carefree, looks before she leaps, and in that regard she ceases to be her mother’s daughter and becomes every bit her father.
She absolutely adores her father. They still make pancakes together on Saturday mornings when they can. The bedtime story still belongs to them, and Mummy is largely not allowed. He is Woody to her Jessie, horse (or elephant?) to her cowgirl, prince to her Cinderella. She doesn’t yet understand who God is, but Tony is her rock and her shelter. And because I never had that relationship with my father, it’s now one of my favourite things to watch.
She now feels pain and empathy when others hurt. I took a tumble yesterday and scraped my right knee, and here is my baby girl, grabbing a wet wipe and ever so gently dabbing my bloody wound while crooning, “Oh Mummy. Poor darling… you okay?”
(It had hurt like the dickens, in all honesty. But the moment was too precious to yelp and spoil it all.)
It’s hard to write about your own kid without either coming off flippant or overly mushy. I wish I’m being a lot more articulate, that my prose flows like poetry. But the spirit of this gorgeous human being is woven together by the mundane and the everyday, made altogether exquisite when I realise—with a jolt at the puffing out of candles—how quickly she has grown. It’s all happening now, in strides and sprints. Soon, she will have a sibling. Soon, she will be in school. How many more willing wriggles into my lap during worship for a shared prayer? How many more demands for kisses and cuddles?
Every year, our mother’s group makes a point to celebrate all of our firstborn’s birthdays in one biggish bash. This year’s was a little later than usual, but no less fun. Just two hours of 3yo heaven – flavoured milkshakes, party games, face-painting, rainbow birthday cake, presents… and of course, ice cream on a winter’s day.