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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

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toddler

The Whirlwind of Boy

As much as I’ve been reluctant to stereotype my children’s behaviour based on their gender, I am beginning to understand what mothers of sons mean when they say, “He is such a BOY.”

Because Atticus is such a BOY.

Atticus staring at the camera with lower lip jutting out
Oh boy oh boy oh boy.

Continue reading “The Whirlwind of Boy”

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Atticus the Toddler

I know it’s never quite fair to compare your children, so I’m aware of my parenting phail when I say that Atticus is turning out a little different from Arddun. It seems like such a duh thing to be surprised by — seeing how they are two unique individuals and all — but Tony and I get caught out now and then when Atticus dares to go off the trajectory his older sister took.

Like climbing up on tables before he can walk. Arddun didn’t climb on coffee tables. She didn’t stand in the middle of one and clap her hands after the fact in glee either.

Continue reading “Atticus the Toddler”

Preparing for the next two chapters of our lives

It’s funny how all of us are now eagerly anticipating – no, expecting – Boy Blob’s arrival any day now, even though we are still 11 days out from the official due date. With Arddun, her early arrival had caught us all by surprise. First babies are notoriously late. And second babies are notoriously earlier than their trail blazers.

Well, it’s starting to look like both kids are determined to flout expectations.

The hospital bag is more or less packed. The rented bassinet is where it needs to be, with fresh batteries inserted so now it can vibrate and/or play music while allowing a small night light to shine on. Christmas shopping is mostly done. I’ve handed over most meal preparation duties to my mother-in-law next week. We are stopping by the Baby & Kids Market tomorrow to see what else we can score, but I think we’re almost ready. Materially ready.

And yet, it doesn’t feel like we’re that close to going into labour after all.

Meanwhile…

One of the other things I’ve needed to prepare myself for is Arddun’s entrance to preschool early next year. A small deluge of emails have recently swamped our inboxes from the enrolment office, and Arddun has been fitted out for her uniform.

Arddun was not impressed by her new togs. After very reluctantly allowing me to put on her polo T-shirt and sports shorts (that ballooned out enough, as unisex school shorts always do, to more closely resemble badly fitting culottes), she looked me very seriously in the eyes and quietly pronounced,

“Mummy, I don’t want to wear this.”

In the 3 years+ of my dressing her, I have never heard her utter a preference – much less a statement saturated with such obvious distaste. She has never really commented on what I choose for her to wear. And I have never really given her much choice in the matter, such is the peaceful arrangement we have always had.

But put her in shapeless unisex polyester, and suddenly her fashion senses are screaming.

I had a good read of the school website today, and got the heebie jeebies myself. There’s something about the language and tone of school administrators and teachers that take you waaaay back, and can make you feel this small. I think it’s the no-nonsense way rules are spelt out in full. Read our policies. These are our requirements. You will not bring your child in before this hour. You will sit with your child until such a time. If your child is late, go to the office and fill out a late slip. If you are late picking your child up, God help you. And gaudy colours are not permitted.

I felt like I was going back to school again. And I suppose Tony and I will be, in a way. We may not be the ones in front of the interactive whiteboards, but we will certainly feel every bit as assessed as our child.

Still, I’m glad we’re starting Arddun a year early to ease her (and us) in. And I’m glad that still leaves majority of the week for her to enjoy unschooled, uncurriculumed, unprescribed Play.

Arddun blowing bubbles with her eyes closed

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.

Water play

While the days are still longish and warmish, it’s nice to play with the water hose after dinner and before it gets dark.

Arddun with water hose and standing right in frame

Collage of Arddun playing with water hose

Arddun playing with water and smiling

Arddun holding water hose and standing left in frame

While you were weeping

After a long afternoon out yesterday, Arddun and I were drowsing on the couch before her dinner time – she, in the crook of my right arm snuggled under the covers and quietly monologuing to herself while I did a quick surf on WordPress’s Freshly Pressed listings.

It was a harmless enough exercise – flicked through a couple of writer’s blogs, and then came across a post entitled Dear Mom. It was a long one. And for about 95% of it, I was okay. It was personal, it was honest, it was intimate, and it talked about things I didn’t always understand without context.

But then I came across this paragraph –

I feel you especially profoundly today, our shared birthday. I am now 36. You would have turned 57 today, if only you hadn’t stopped breathing at 52.

And then something inside me broke. Tears spilled. And before I knew it, I was crying in front of my toddler.

I think I’d always made a subconscious effort not to grieve in front of Arddun so as not to alarm her unnecessarily. I had been a bit of a sobbing wreck when we did the walk behind the hearse, but had pulled myself together by the time of the cremation and the funeral service. I hadn’t cried at the eulogy. I think all of us in the family were determined to give my mother that hearty farewell, that celebration of life, that true homecoming feeling. And when I did cave in to the heartrending pain, it was usually in the dead of night, right in the gray between wake and sleep, where man and child were deep in slumber and I was by myself for that while. And I got pretty good at crying silently, mouth curled in a silent scream.

Grieving can be such a private thing, which is an ironic thing to say since I’ve now gone and blogged about the process. But back to my original point – I think I’d always determined not to let Arddun see me cry. At least, not at this age. So it was really quite alarming yesterday when I read that paragraph and the dam broke and I was utterly unprepared.

She noticed the shift in the air immediately, and sat up. She stared at my tears, which were pouring out my eyes faster than I could wipe them. I contemplated running out of the room, but there was the logistical challenge of removing myself quickly (shifty pelvis, big belly, lumberous frame). I was also now conflicted: should my daughter learn that grown up girls cry too, and that it’s not a thing to be ashamed of?

“Are you okay?” she asked eventually, evenly. Her eyes were big, and I made myself look straight into them. They were searching mine in return, trying to comprehend. I was glad to see she wasn’t freaked out, just genuinely curious and understandably concerned.

“Why are you crying, Mummy?”

“Because I was thinking of Grandma. I miss Grandma.”

She tried to sit on my lap, which is rapidly shrinking as the days pass us by, so she soon gave up and got off the couch entirely. Then she walked over to the other couch and pulled a tissue out of the box. She handed it to me wordlessly.

“Thank you,” I smiled. The smile was still watery, but at least I was now distracted.

She crawled back into the couch and resettled herself in the crook of my right arm. And then she placed her tiny left hand over my right. And just left it there, in companionable silence. And the richness of that – the realisation that my girl has empathy in spades, and such an instinct for comforting others. The warmth of that solidarity, if I could call it that. The sudden, visceral yearning for a camera so I could take a snapshot of that little hand over mine.

I fumbled around for my mobile. And as if reading my mind, she asked me to take a bunch of selfies.

And so we did. And gradually the ache dulled, and the calm returned, and with it the smiles.

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Daddy’s little laundry lady

It’s almost automatic that we document the big occasions – weddings, funerals, birthdays, Christmases… But part of the reason I started this blog was to chronicle the Everyday. The little things we can often take for granted because they’re mundane and aren’t even newsworthy enough for a Facebook post. The little things that add up, because they’re too easy to forget.

Like doing the laundry. Like how Tony does all of our laundry, always. He has, since the very beginning of our marriage and it’s only ramped up more now that we have Arddun’s laundry in the mix.

And like how Arddun loves to help. She chooses peg colours and tries to match them with the clothes that get hung. And in this instance, it’s time to take the washing in and do some sorting and folding.

Arddun takes down washing with Tony
Daddy’s home! Time to take down the washing before the sun sets

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Tony pulls washing line down for Arddun to reach
Pulling the washing line down for Arddun to reach
Arddun places pegs in basket
The pegs go in here…
Arddun takes down a peg
Taking down another peg
Arddun close up near washing line
A self-satisfied smile
Arddun consulting Tony about clothes
“Where does this go, Daddy?”
Arddun folding dress
First we fold…
Arddun placing dress in her pile of clothes
… then we stack in the right clothes pile.
Arddun contemplating washing from basket
Think this is one of mine…
Arddun daydreaming beside washing basket
What’s next…?
Arddun sorting through my camisole
Think this one is too small for Mummy…
Arddun holding clothes and saying cheese
I’m getting good at this!

 

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