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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

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NaBloPoMo 2014

Atticus up close

Too tired and sore to blog in detail, but I thought we could end the month with a nice profile shot of the little guy.

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Thanks for all your love, support and well wishes, everyone. God is good. xx

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Well, helloooooo there!

Introducing our newest member of the family, Atticus Nolan Kai. Came 3 days early in a screaming mad rush this morning. Mild drama. Also, all those assurances that Boy Blob is “average size” might have been a tad conservative, since he’s a bonny 9-pound+ bundle of deliciousness.

More details to follow but for now, Arddun has taken to calling her new brother “Boy”, and referring to him as HER baby.

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We are delighted. We are tired. Talk more soon.

Baking Anzac biscuits with Nanna

Enjoying some quality time with Nanna before she returns home tomorrow.

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Arddun mixing flour

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Arddun scooping biscuit mix into tray
Scooping biscuit batter into tray
Covering ears before baking paper is torn
The ripping of baking paper sure can get loud
Grinning at camera while baking with Nanna
Baking with Nanna is heaps fun!

Nanna and Arddun posing for camera in mid-bake

Golden and perfect Anzac biscuits
Golden and perfect Anzac biscuits
First bite into Anzac biscuit
First bite into Anzac biscuit. (At least two others were consumed in quick succession thereafter!)
Looking guilty while eating biscuits
A shared guilty pleasure

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

Motherhood Mundanity and Monotony

Again, lots of wispy strands of thought that seem to belong to a common thread but I have trouble pinning them down. I think that’s why I blog (or write) as often as I do. It’s one of the quickest ways to ground myself.

I’m talking about the day-to-day of motherhood. It doesn’t matter if I’m playing stay-at-home mum or go-to-work mum or work-from-home mum… It is all too easy to fall into a pattern of things. Weeks pass into months, which string into years. Traditions get formed, the annual calendar gets that little more rigid with each passing year and somehow, we hum along.

It takes awareness and, at times, tremendous effort to conscientiously resist the ordinary.

I am torn between fighting the usual and embracing the constant. I wonder which of the two reflects the more contented heart without slipping into treacherous complacency or hooking onto selfish ambition. At heart, as much as I love my lists and my systems, I’m still a woman who adores surprises and thrives on spontaneity. But is that the most loving expectation to heap onto others around me?

I’m thinking of all these things because Boy Blob’s Birth is imminent. And with all of that preciousness comes the spit-ups and the cleaning and the washing and the napping. The training and the cooking and the diapering and the playing. And yes, we can plan holidays and yes, we can try and break things up. The odd family outing on a school night. The long weekend away. At some point late next year, it might be nice to fly back to Singapore to introduce Boy Blob to friends and family. And if I’m perfectly honest, I’d LOVE for once to go on a proper overseas holiday that was just about us and not about visiting friends and family.

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

But for the most part – and especially with Arddun now entering Big School – our calendar seems carved out for us. And with it, predictability and sameness.

Parents on the other side of life’s spectrum are known to urge younger parents to treasure the moments while we have them. Because it really can feel like you’ve blinked and missed it. It’s one of the key reasons I started this blog – because it’s the quickest way for me to document the Now, to scrapbook our moments, to freeze-frame our life and times.

But in the thick of things, in the throes of mundanity… When you’re vacuuming the same floor for the hundred thousandth time, and repeating yourself about Manners to your toddler. When you have to talk to the banks before they close, but your daughter wants to start painting her masterpiece — and only with you by her side cheering her on. When there’s a nappy blow-out. When there’s foot-stamping tempers. When dinners refused to be eaten.

When chronos drags on, boring as heck at times, and the kairos can be hard to recognise.

It is enough, some days, to make me seriously question why I didn’t opt for a more high-octane, extraordinary life. Were all those years of book-learning and God-given talent-honing meant to culminate to this suburban tedium?

Have I copped out? Am I not fulfilling my potential?

These are almost sacrilegious thoughts when you are a mother, but they exist. At least for me.

And then I found this quote on Through a Glass:

“But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.”

Motherhood, life. Seemingly an endless chain of ever-changing routines. You get good at one stage and settle into sameness, and then it changes and you scramble for homeostasis. Rinse, repeat. But the truth is, as much as I may secretly wonder about the value of this ordinary life, I also yearn for equilibrium and tranquility. Because within all of that, there can be so much joy and wonder and growth and opportunity.

Another great quote from another great blog:

I remember that my goal in life is not to be happy. Or organized. Or on time. It is to be holy. To that end, God has orchestrated every circumstance of every day for my own good, to draw me nearer to Himself and to change me into His likeness. Every circumstance has my refinement in mind, even motherhood. Especially motherhood.

Because it is in motherhood that I have the opportunity not only to be like Christ, but to demonstrate Christ to my children. Day after day, under this roof with these children, I have the opportunity to be Jesus passing out the leftovers, Jesus holding babies and breaking up arguments, Jesus washing stinky feet, Jesus who is never too busy to be touched, never too busy to be needed. I even have the opportunity to be Jesus, filled with power and overcoming this world of spilled milk and spaghetti stains, if I let him.

The slow, plodding things aren’t the obstacles to my happiness. Missing the Shiny for what it is, is the greater tragedy. And I have it real good.

I want to exult in monotony.

B1 staring at kiwi fruits
What do I see? (a) Kitchen bench-top clutter to clear, or (b) B1 grinning stupidly at a plastic cage of kiwi fruits.
Arddun grinning with stickers on face
The face that upended my prior ambitions

Sizing things up

I think I’m slowly getting used to looking at boy things. And I’m trying to prepare myself for all that newborn crying. Arddun had heard a 3-month-old baby girl wailing today after she’d woken up from her nap, and that had turned into a teaching moment about how babies cry because that’s how they talk. Because they don’t have words yet. Crying doesn’t always mean something is very, very wrong.

A good reminder for myself, seeing how it’s been a long while since I’ve had to personally deal with the full-throttle fury of a hungry newborn who will not wait. It’s always distressing to hear a baby cry… but it’s also very natural for them to do so.

Baby crying - the song of his people

The other thing I’m trying to get used to again is the tinyness. Tiny baby clothes that can almost fit Arddun’s potty-training doll. Tiny shoes. Tiny hats. Tiny sunglasses. My gosh-aww moment yesterday was when I opened a pack of newborn nappies and realised how tiny they were next to Arddun’s most recent size.

Comparing newborn diaper to Junior girls's diaper
How tiny is that little man’s butt gonna be!

Can’t believe we’re going to do it all over again. The prospect both delights and terrifies.

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.

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