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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

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friendship

Happy Birthday to my Sister from Another Mother

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

Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving Day

I am not American, but I understand Thanksgiving Day is huge to their sense of nationhood and identity. It’s also big in the way it brings everyone back to the coop, kinda like Chinese New Year but with turkey and more gratitude.

The church I worship with regularly in spirit and in person have, in more recent years, held a Thanksgiving get-together to roughly coincide with Thanksgiving Day in the States. It’s a lovely opportunity to get together, break bread, and collectively remember just how insanely rich we are in Christ. I missed this year’s – which was held this evening at the building we meet at regularly. Even then, I had a lovely friend pop by with a baby bouncer, bassinet linen, more boy clothes and a play mat. Yet another person to be thankful for.

I came across this quote on Facebook today:

Let us be grateful for people who make us happy. They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.

It would be difficult to name all the people in my life who make me happy – directly or indirectly – but I thought I’d at least name some of them in this post, seeing how it’s Thanksgiving and all.

In no particular order:

The Husband

Who, after almost ten years of wedded bliss, still comes home and wants to hear about my day first before he tells me about his. Who still makes me laugh, who opens my eyes to the world around me, who is the fount of knowledge on current affairs, history, and F1 trivia. Who obliterates his competition some nights on BF4, but wouldn’t hurt a fly in real life unless it really bothered me. Whose logical head cools my own and teaches me temperance and fairness.

The Girl

Who showered me with more kisses this month than the rest of her life added together, thus far. Who kisses her baby brother goodnight, and lately thinks stickers on her face are a great way to lighten the mood around our house. Who is turning out to be gentle and kind, and unaffected by the compliments grown-ups continually pay her. Who tucks me into bed when I sorely need a nap.

The Mother-in-Law

Who has cooked all of this week, helped with the groceries, washed up, and generally taken over Thinking duties so I can waddle around the house in a semi-comatose state and then take long siestas in the afternoons. Who came with an arsenal of craft activities and stickers for the granddaughter, who absolutely adores craft activities and stickers. Who does all this, even though there is a good chance she’s going to miss out on Boy Blob’s Birth because that boy sure is taking his sweet time.

The Father-in-Law

Who came, saw our dead hedges (front and back), and proceeded to tidy up. Tony and I have little skill and zero interest in gardening. Seriously, if we could get away with tastefully astro-turfing our front and back yard in the new place, I think we just might. It’s wonderful to be related to a retired horticulturalist whose passions coincided with his education and lifelong career. And who still had enough energy left over to meet and greet Every Single Toy his excited granddaughter thought to trot out.

The Mother’s Group

Still messaging and emailing and finding out how we’re doing, still interested and excited for us all. I’m sorry I haven’t gotten back to all your emails and texts, but I’m so appreciative of your concern and willingness to help with the odd hand-me-downs and last-minute babysitting.

The Church in Canberra

My blood family, if you count how we are all washed in Christ. Especially the Kirkies, who love us all and are practical about it. I know if this bubba decides to enter the world in the 5.5 hours between my MIL’s departure and my Singapore family’s arrival, that you will have all bases covered. Also, you read and like my blog posts. Extra brownie points for you. xx

The Church in Singapore

Who still love me, even though I am grown and far away and don’t come back very often. You lurk on Facebook, and then completely surprise me with how much you’ve kept abreast with our family shenanigans whenever we visit. I love that you are strong and hardworking for Christ, and I am so proud of you all always. I lurk on Facebook too, and I love watching your families grow even as it saddens me that we cannot spend our everydays together.

The Lee Family and partners

Most of whom are coming to Canberra this weekend! Very, very excited and slightly frustrated that I do not have more energy. Please remember that I only have one refrigerator, and that it’s a baby-sized one compared to yours. So don’t buy up the supermarket, m’kay? Also, my pantry is already busting at the seams because I am still Singaporean and am incapable of keeping a minimalist kitchen inventory. Love you all very much, and Can Not Wait.

The Friends I’m growing old with

Who blog and message and email and chat in bits and bobs, in spates and seasons. Who remain friends, whose hearts remain open and willing to share and partake. Friends where geography is no measure of distance, really. Just this last week, I’ve so enjoyed connecting with you, Gail, Sarah, and Kenneth. And in the last year, I’ve been so delighted to reconnect with others like Evonne and Pei Ching.

 

And so many, many, many more. I know that as we get older, our circles are supposed to shrink and there are some days, when I feel lonely (for No Good Reason, really), that I feel I am not immune. But no, I am richly blessed and surrounded by kind, decent, intelligent, whimsical, funny folk.

Happy Thanksgiving, from my family to yours. xx

TTT – Good weather, good news, good friends

1. Spring time fun in the sun

Winter, and even large parts of Spring, can prove unpleasant weather for little ones to venture out for play. It’s obvious why in Winter, but my idea of a perfect Spring day is the sun, the cool, and no crazy wind. Crazy winds in Canberra Springs usually mean wind chills, and some serious hayfever un-fun. You can practically see fluff flying past your window as you drive some days – like snow, except it ain’t melting and it ain’t a lot of fun up your sinuses.

On Tuesday, after a routine check up with the obstetrician (no gestational diabetes! hurrah!), Arddun and I took a short drive to John Knight park and had the loveliest picnic together.

View of the lake
Our view from our picnic mat

Ducks near picnic mat
Some feathered visitors at the edge of our mat, hoping for bread crumbs.

Arddun close up
Her little grubby, perfect face.

Arddun smiling into camera with hair across face
Sometimes, you take my breath away

Goofy photo montage

Squint and Serious

 

I’m desperately savouring these alone times with her now, for soon we will no longer be just three, but four. And she will no longer be our only one. It’s the ending of a gorgeous era, and I feel I will miss it as much as she will when it finally dawns on her what my swollen belly means.

2. Friends who welcome new babies

Two friends (different families) welcomed babies this week – one day apart! It’s so heartening to hear of safe and empowering natural deliveries, and I love watching my macho male friends fall ever more in love publicly with their burgeoning family – and especially with their wives. Also heard thrilling news about another one on the way after a special wait… It’s Spring time. It’s wonderful. (I am also chockful of mummy hormones at the moment, and I do realise I’m gushing quite a bit in this post. Sorry.)

3. Arddun’s best friend

Arddun is learning the concept of best friends, at the moment… except I think she struggles with choosing just the one. This week, she has pronounced (on separate occasions) first Tony, then me as her Best Friend, to which we both replied that she is our best friend too… just “after Mummy/Daddy”.

But when it comes to her peer group, there is one who remains peerless.

Arddun and Leila watching iPad
Leila and Arddun. These two girls, born 15 hours apart in the same hospital, are inseparable.

Plaited hair of Arddun and Leila
Plaited hair

Leila's cubby house
Leila’s cubby house

Arddun sitting inside cubby house
Well, hello there!

Eating together in the cubby house
Enjoying a very grown-up lunch alone in Leila’s cubby house

Arddun and Leila playing in cubby house
Then it’s off to new adventures!

Arddun and Leila share binoculars
Good sharers

Leila sliding down from cubby house

IMG_0744

The fabulous part is that their mummies get along great, too!

I’m so glad Arddun has made a close friendship so early in life. It’s a delight to see how excited both girls get at the prospect of seeing one another. They both have different personalities, but there is such mutual affection, and giving and taking (most of the time). Just learnt today, for instance, how protective Arddun can be of Leila (a boy had apparently trod on her friend, and she pronounced that a no-no because “That’s MY Leila!”) And Leila’s prone to stopping in the middle of nowhere to give “Huggies” to Arddun. (They are bear hugs, not diapers. And Arddun isn’t into hugs the way Leila is, but will stand there and take it most of the time because it’s Leila.)

Both Fam and I hope this friendship continues for them well into their growing years. It’s a special thing to witness, indeed.

 

Happy (Belated) Birthday, Singapore!

I had Singapore’s National Day on my mind yesterday, truly I did. I missed watching the parade on TV with family, missed the family steamboat dinner, missed the celebration of a crazy-tiny nation that went from Third World to First World in less than a quarter century. We are an efficient and determined lot.

So today, I’m making Bak Kut Teh and took a swag of photos of Arddun in Singapore garb. And also, I’m wearing red and white. Not that you can tell.

Arddun-standing
Still a Singapore Girl

Buns
A bun in the hand, a bun in her hair

Eating-bread
Goofy for bread

Arddun-and-Eli-classroom-1
Goofing around with my friend, Eli!

Arddun-and-Eli-in-classroom
You’re funny.

Arddun-solo-on-carpet
Meditative pose

Arddun-with-Tony-on-carpet
Rolling on the carpet with Daddy, and messing up her hairdo

Daddy-and-Arddun-standing
Modelling the sarong kebaya next to Daddy

Walking-back-with-the-mail
Getting the church mail with Daddy

Tony-and-Arddun-profile
Daddy Daughter

Family-portrait
A rare and treasured family portrait

Little bouncers at the Christmas party

Just got back from our mother’s group Christmas party – our third together! Birthdays and Christmases are our two major annual events, and we try to make each one a little special. The fabulous thing about having 9 to 11 families celebrate together each time, is that we get to split the bill 9 to 11 different ways. Which means we can splash out on stuff like this:

Jumping castle rocket thing
Jumping castle rocket thing. More impressive in real life. (Stolen from Jo’s Facebook page.)

6 toddlers in Jumping castle
Seven little toddlers, seven times the fun!

Here’a video of the little tykes in action:

This year, I volunteered to bring mango tea, an Asian salad (a yummy dish I learnt from my MIL), and a fruit salad.

Regarding the fruit salad: after I went a-hunting through Pinterest, I ended up making this:

Fruit salad Christmas tree
30 seconds to take photo of magnum opus before running out the door.

which went down well with the crowd at the Christmas party – both big and little peeps. If you’re wondering how to do this, I bought a 25cm-tall styofoam cone from an art shop, pinned lettuce leaves to it using toothpicks, used star-shaped cookie cutters for the rock melon, and then pinned down red and green grapes, blueberries, cranberries, kiwi slices, strawberries and blackberries using a gazillion toothpicks. Took me an hour. I’m no maestro on food decorating, so if I can accomplish this, it means it’s Beginner-level easy – just time-consuming. And stressful, when you’re trying to do this juuuust before the 3pm party, and it’s 2pm.

Managed to dress the little people up in cute Christmas clothes. Had less success keeping them on the couch at the same time for a photo:

Christmas costumes take 1
Take 1

Christmas outfits on sofa, take 1
Take 3

Christmas costumes take 3
Take 47

Christmas costumes, waiting patiently
Bored

Gave up and took a video instead:

But what we should have done was put Peppa Pig on telly, because that TV show has proven hypnotic powers:

Watching Peppa Pig
Peppa Pig = Toddler Crack

Other attempts at memory-capturing:

Eating together at small table
Sharing a meal together

Leila and Arddun squeeze into little red car
Two friends share a ride in the Little Red Car

And then there was a whole heap of rather incriminating photos that might get us all in trouble with Jumping J-Jays. But we had heaps of fun. 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! :-)

TTT – A week of visiting

1. Movie Morning

Isn’t it always the case in Canberra that one gets along swimmingly with a new friend before A Big Change comes along and it all goes poof? Canberra, I find, has quite the transient crowd and as it is, I’ve had many up and move interstate just when things were getting comfy.

Which is why I’m hugely happy and a little sad that Arddun and I are starting to form really lovely friendships in my mother’s group, only to remember that absolutely everyone else’s maternity leave is about to dry up by August. But count my blessings, I will. Because they’re not moving out of town, at least. And I finally have friends within walking distance of my home.

This Monday past, 3 of us got together at my  humble home with our 3 bubs and actually accomplished what we had set out to do. Namely,

  1. Actually produce and consume a quality cheese-toasties lunch
  2. Actually make some popcorn
  3. Actually sit down and finish a movie!

Three babies at movie afternoon
From left: Arddun (“Mommy… What’s a chicky?”), Ryan (“Check out ma chickies…”), and Charlotte (“Oh for the last time… I AM NOT YOUR CHICKY!”)

An orange bowl of burnt popcorn
Yeah… the first bowl didn’t go so well.

2. Abi road

Claire and Abi are in town this week, and graced us with their delightful company yesterday afternoon. Yet another cheese toasty adventure (nothing better on a chilly Autumn afternoon!), followed by a leisurely walk to the local mall and coffee at the usual haunt. At least Abi got to visit the home that her mum and dad house-sat (?) after their wedding, and Arddun got to hang out with her Little Friend with the Stunning Eyes.

Arddun, Claire and Abi

3. Triple Fun

At last we got to see the triplets! Or “Chee-pets”, as Lily called them for ages. And I really, really wished I thought to whip out my camera in the midst of wallowing in their cuteness and amazingness and OmiwordI’mholdingaCheepet!-ness. And I stand amazed that three little fellas could have come out of this amazing little lady. And I stand even more amazed that she does what I’ve been doing with Arddun – except to the power of 3. And I’m super impressed that all 3 went down for their naps without even so much as a whimper when my own wiry daughter managed only 25 + 20 minutes THE WHOLE DAY. And I’m inspired, and think, “Wow. Maybe we should aim to have 2 under 2 after all!”

Except I really think I love shopping and coffees in the mall too much.

Bless this little family, their growing tummies, and their happy smiles.

 

 

TTT – Room (in my heart) and a view

1) Beautiful views

Eight years, seven months and four days ago, I came to Canberra and thought it a grey, lonely place. I couldn’t get over how abandoned it looked. How empty, lifeless. (It was a winter week night in Civic.)

But it’s hardly that. I just didn’t know where to look at the time.

We went to The Deck for afternoon tea yesterday. The sun was out, the grass was greener than I’d ever seen it, the waters were still and lovely. The cafe was empty save for the table of us, which meant we were treated to the most stunning view of the lake and Regatta Point. In air-conditioned comfort on a hot Summer’s day. Our babies, crawling and clapping at our feet, oblivious to the magnificent background they’ll one day inherit.

And I fell in love with Canberra all over again that afternoon.

NO PICTURE, though! What a pity!

2) Love notes

Read melancholic mooing. See loving, heartfelt comments. <3

3) Hello, friend

It’s the most natural thing, I realise. It’s such an easy trap to fall into. But with every new milestone I seem to reach in my adulthood, I see my friends less. It’s a two-way street. My timetable’s all different now, and the first few months with Arddun were busy as I tried to settle into my new role. But it’s almost like old friends don’t think to call you anymore when you reach a new stage of life, because they’ve already assumed you’d say no as you’re too busy. When actually, the opposite couldn’t be truer.

But then someone pinged me this week on Facebook, and this afternoon I found myself at Urban Pantry, thoroughly enjoying my linguine and the great company. And talking about non-mumsy things. And feeling HUMAN. A little bit of my old self, peeping through the laid-back jeans and wind-tossed hair. Before I was a mother, I was This Other Person. And she came out and had linguine today.

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