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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

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Thursday’s Three Thank-Yous

{Thursday’s Three Thank-yous} Ye merry gentle men

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.

1) Raymond

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.

Atticus and Raymond seeing eye to eye

Raymond tickling Atticus

2) Peter

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.

Peter with Atticus

3) Mark

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.

Atticus eating arrowroot biscuit in highchair
Arrowroot biscuits, a fabulous distraction for a first-ever haircut!

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Atticus's face getting squished during haircut

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Atticus with Mark
A handsome result. Thank you, Uncle Mark, for taming my unruly baby locks! Can you YouTube how to build a cubby house next?
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{Thursday’s Three Thank-yous} Brother, Bank, Building

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.

1. I’m thankful Arddun and Atticus have each other.

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.

Arddun kissing Atticus on couch
Yes, yes… I am adored.

2. I’m glad banks understand Mummy Brain

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.

3. We have a slab!

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.

Slab
Never thought I’d be so happy to see so much laid concrete.

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 – The kindness of strangers and friends

Today was a good day.

Which is a happy coincidence, because Thursdays are also when I blog about what I’m thankful for. And while I usually try to keep it to three main things, I haven’t been able to stop at that magical number lately.

Here’s why.

I’m thankful for a beautiful girl with a beautiful temperament

Arddun walked a lot today. She spent pretty much the whole afternoon in a mall, shadowing her Nanna and I as we went about trying to get last-minute supplies. Presentable Pajamas for my hospital stay, for instance. A swimming top so if I were to end up in a bath tub during labour with the shower head beating warm water down my sore back, I have swimmers that finally fit me in my beached-whale state. I went to the post office. We went to Babies R Us. And everything took four times the length of the time it usually takes, because I’m getting slower and slower…

It’s boring stuff for 3-year-old girls. And she didn’t complain, not once in that mall. She did ask very politely whether she could go to the little indoor playground a couple of times, and then waited very patiently when we explained the sequence of events that were to unfold. (Lunch, shopping at Target, then playground.)

I jumped onto Facebook this afternoon, and someone had posted this challenge:

For 24 hours without complaining

And you know what? This little girl, from the second hour since her day began, didn’t complain a single time. I was so proud of her.

These kind of days happen more often than I give her credit for, but perhaps I sat up and noticed this time because we had her Nanna’s company. And as much as I know that part of it is Arddun’s natural temperament and part of it is consistent messaging from Tony and I… I’m just so thankful she has a teachable heart.

 

I’m thankful for hand-me-downs

I have received so many boy clothes that Boy Blob’s entire wardrobe is settled for 2015. This, of course, has not stopped me buying the occasional to-die-for outfit for my little man – but the fact remains that the entire half of Tony’s tallboy reserved for Boy Blob’s things is now almost full.

Sarah V came by tonight to hand-deliver my Norwex things… and she has been carting around boxes of boy clothes from size 000 for a while, so when I get the space and chance to go through them, I can. And now she’s offered to wash them for me. Seriously!

 

And it’s not just clothes. If I were to just whimper in passing about perhaps needing something, someone invariably rushes back with an answer. It’s probably why I’ve been less organised with baby prep this time around. Help seems available every which way I turn. I’m so thankful for this community.

 

I’m thankful for caring strangers

Have I ever mentioned how Canberra, for the most part, loves young families? Until I started carting Arddun around when she was a baby, I never got so much as a cursory glance. No one would ever think to strike up a conversation with me randomly. Once I started carrying a baby that was obviously mine? BAM – passing smiles, offers to grab things from shelves, people unpacking my shopping trolley at the conveyor belt while I’m queueing, passing me compliments and encouragement, the works. I was no longer invisible. I now had status – I am a Mother.

Last Friday was freakishly hot for Spring – a scorching, dusty and windy 35°C, real skin-cancer inducing weather. And while waddling around Garema place and Canberra Centre, I had total strangers coming up to me and asking if I was alright, and if I was keeping myself hydrated. I mean, it’s no secret that pregnant women have an inbuilt radiator behind their belly buttons, but that level of sympathy or empathy blew me away, frankly.

 

I’m thankful for professionals who truly try to help

Last week, I alluded to the frustration that we had been facing for the better part of our month. Emotional and financial interests spread across two continents can be hard, hard work. Throw in the complications of a home build and a newborn Coming Soon to a Bassinet Beside our Bed, and it’s enough to get a little angsty about life — a reaction we were working hard to avoid because we are grateful overall… but it made us feel anxious now and then.

For a good chunk of time, it looked like our options were getting narrower and more awkward. It seemed like the only road ahead was for me to travel back to Singapore very soon. Try figuring that in your schedule when you have a brand new baby to look forward to. When Arddun was born, she had arsenic hour from 4pm to 1am for upward of EIGHT. WEEKS. And then there were vaccinations and Boy Blob’s immunity to consider, the need to establish my milk supply, passports…

The alternative was for me to travel alone. And that was an even more difficult option for me to swallow.

Meanwhile, two professionals on two different continents were beavering away in the background to find a solution that other institutions weren’t interested or able to pursue. And this evening, I was finally given the word that I would NOT have to make this crazy dash, perhaps with newborn in tow. And that, my friends, is something that we are very thankful for.

So for those of you who have been praying… thank you.

Finding the Happy

Tony and I both had a tough day today. Actually, it’s been a stressful week which seems to have culminated this afternoon. His is mostly work-related, with borrowed stress from what I’m dealing with. And I guess you can say vice versa for me.

Apart from the obvious impending birth of Boy Blob, I’ve lately had to deal with yet another tendril of my mum’s passing. My aunt – after The Cuz’s death four years ago – had warned me about Estate stuff. These things can take months, sometimes even years to work through. Even if there aren’t any assets to speak of, it can take upward of six months.

It gets compounded when your past and future are spread across two continents.

I was intending to blog tonight about other things I have been thankful for, but I’m only just calming down after an afternoon of frustration that had ended with a depressing answer that will cost us money, time, and further complication. And tomorrow, I’ll have to start the fishing expedition for new answers. More visits to banks. More calls, potentially, to lawyers. More waiting, more explaining. More patience needed as I wait for the other party to grapple with the extent of my ask, and then flounder around for answers.

And then sitting down and trying to work out the wisest path forward. Except now, the optimism has well and truly waned and I will no longer trust the first answer I get. Because part of my learning curve has included doubting the accuracy of the first assertion, and then nudging and nudging and nudging until someone higher up the food chain gives the answer I was asking for, but was desperately hoping against.

Rinse and repeat.

Still, they say that gratitude helps us deal with adversity and lowers blood pressure — two things I could do with right now. And so at the risk of sounding rather rama ding dong about this current trial, here’s me, trying to be gracious about Today.

I’m thankful, first of all, for VoIP. 
Because without VoIP, international calls would be hugely expensive. I spent two solid hours on the phone to various parties in Singapore this afternoon and it had cost me less than $5. I cannot imagine doing what I’ve been trying to do in the limited time I have left (remember: IMPENDING BIRTH!) back in the dim, dark days before VoIP or worse, when you could only write letters and wait for a ship. Eeeuch.

I’m thankful for DVD players.
Judge me if you must, but I had to plonk Arddun in front of the TV this afternoon and make her promise only to call on me when absolutely necessary. I made the mistake of putting on The Incredibles, which has rather exciting action sequences at times, so she took the opportunity to burst into my room and yell, “I THINK I’M A BIT SCARED, MUMMY!” (She wasn’t. She loves it, and usually runs around the kitchen island pretending to be Dash and Violet getting chased.) And then there was that fifteen minutes, when she stood outside my door asking politely if she could sit on my lap so we could watch together… which then slowly snowballed into a whinge when the polite route didn’t work… until I had to interrupt the bank lady on the phone, get off my seat, throw open the door and wrestle with my stress and frustration as I told her to go back to the couch and watch without me. I don’t think I did a great job with the wrestling because her eyes grew wide and hurt, and then she didn’t bug me again. Did I have heaps of Mummy guilt after? Oh you betcha. But I’m thankful that my girl doesn’t hold a grudge either. Whether I’ve scarred her for life remains to be seen.

I’m thankful for the three-hour time difference
Because then, I could call heaps more people. Banks, as you know, close early – so being able to time my calls across two time zones worked in my favour. It also gave the parties in Singapore enough time to consult their colleagues and then call me back, so I didn’t have to wait 12 hours for the business day to begin again. Or for them to forget me.

I’m thankful for options.
Which is an ironic thing to say, because one of the last phone calls I received this evening told me the opposite – that I had only one option, and it was going to be expensive and difficult to execute with a new baby latched to me. And yet, at least we have the means to exercise that option. Yes, we lose money in the process and a bit of sanity, but at least the answer wasn’t No… just Yes, Using The Most Inconvenient Means Possible Because We Only SAY We Think Global, But We Really Only Act Local.

I’m thankful I’m not working.
Not in the sense of sitting at the office, beholden to a paymaster. I’m home, I can make these calls, I can sit and plan. And even though I’m toddler wrangling at the same time (and feeling like I’m doing a real half-baked job of it at present), it would have been nigh impossible — or hugely unfair to my employer — if I had to do all this while earning a wage.

I’m thankful for Ken Lee.

 

 

 

 

TTT – A spidery web of thankfuls

Thankful for
My daughter’s hair
So long, oft knotted
Neither here nor there
Thankful that she calls
A simple plait her “Elsa hair”
She twirls and swirls
And casts her spells
Imagining bad juju she dispels

Thankful
That she sings
Both Christian songs
And nursery rhymes and things
She learns along the way
Her little voice just brightens up my day
Thankful
That she kisses
Baby Brother through my belly big
Even though she doesn’t twig
To what it will all mean
Major change yet to be seen

Thankful
That I have the time
To sit and write, and even try to rhyme
To spend these days at home
To hold my daughter and not feel alone
Thankful that I have
A husband who loves all of us deep down
And wide, and high, and long
Thankful that I didn’t get him wrong

Thankful
For his job
Though often tough, and tense, at times
A schlog
Thankful
He has one at all
As Canberra’s growth slows to a sluggish crawl

Thankful
He continues to provide
That we complement
That our ambitions don’t collide
That he is not a selfish man
That he supports in every way he can

Thankful
For the Boy
Whose kicks and turns might threaten to annoy
And yet I can’t complain
I’m thankful that he gets to wear our name

Thankful that he grows
And scars my body with his sharp elbows
Yet I will ne’er erase
This march of time
This proof of God’s embrace
The miracle of child
(The concept by itself is kinda wild)
And I anticipate
His Hello World
(The day my daughter meets her new playmate)
With huge emotions and a twitchy nerve
But most of all, a mother’s love

Thank you for my life
As mother, Christian, woman, girl, and wife.

TTT — Parking, Piccies, Pregnancy

Great parking when I needed it

This piece of gratitude actually came about the week Andrea and Ben were here. I hadn’t included it in last week’s list because going all swoony over parking is, frankly, a little embarrassing. But I think all drivers can relate to that punch-in-the-air feeling when you score the perfect parking space. As it turned out for my cousin’s visit, I scored a parking space riiiight in front of Jollimont Centre (the coach station here in Canberra) the day of their arrival… and then I scored a parking space at the side of Jollimont Centre on the day of their return.

Noice.

Parking around Jollimont Centre
So nerdy, but HAD to take a photo

I was especially thankful to get the second parking space, as that allowed me a good half hour coffee with Andrea and Ben before they boarded the bus. Precious times.

Selfies with Arddun

Arddun is beginning to get curious about photography — probably because I keep taking pictures of her on all mobile devices and now, an actual camera. She hasn’t quite understood the concept of looking through the viewfinder of a camera to take a shot, but I think she’ll get there soon. She is now fascinated with selfies, though. (I’m not altogether sure how to feel about that one.) We had a mini indulgence one recent lazy morning during breakfast, and for some reason I wasn’t quite prepared for how she snuggled up against me to take a bunch of selfies. Heart melted, blub blub…

Selfies with Arddun

Cruisey pregnancy thus far

I’ve heard that second pregnancies are harder on our bodies, and I’ve personally found that to be true. Muscles are looser, which means things get sore quicker; the pelvic pains I got on the last week of pregnancy that made walking difficult is something I’ve now been struggling with since the start. My nausea had hit harder, I feel more tired, I lose energy quicker. I’m sure part of it has to be with age and the fact that I’m running after a dancing toddler, too.

But I am so thankful that my pregnancy is boring. “Boring,” my midwife and obstetrician sagely reinforced, “is a great thing when you’re pregnant. No events. That’s what we want to know.”

There are other pregnant women who really struggle with the big stuff, even the possibility of severe complications leading to death. And I know none of us is immune. I try to remember this whenever I wake up in the middle of the night with blindingly painful leg cramps, the kind that contort your face into The Scream, or when Boy Blob decides to break out dance moves violent enough to cause me to jump. Because all this is temporary, and I know I actually have it real good.

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