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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

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TTT – Two weeks in One

I missed the whole of last week, which only sharpens my appreciation of those who successfully set aside the time to blog regularly amidst their own crazy schedules. And so today, I present to you a bit of a bumper crop of gratitudes. And hopefully I get to finish this post in time, too!

  1. Finishing up with The Gideons

    For the last six months, I’ve been working part-time for The Gideons in Australia . Twice a week (and a few nights in between), I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work alongside a bunch of professional, conscientious, servant-oriented, fun, gracious, genuine Christians from all walks of church life. As with any job in the third sector, the people are largely there because they want to be there, and they believe in the cause. It has taught me a lot about the ministry and the Lord’s work outside of my immediate church family, and the breadth of their vision based on strong convictions and sound doctrine has been a humbling thing to uncover.

    My last week with The Gideons ended on Friday, and it involved late nights every day of the week leading up to my finish – which explains the quiet on the blogging front. I’m glad to say that I got to give a satisfactory handover, even though frustrating external circumstances meant that I could not finish the second phase of the project within my time with them, as I had hoped. But I dare say we will be in touch with one another. It’s been a work environment that truly embraces families, understands and supports the need for flexibility (and this includes providing the technological means to do so), and trusts its workers. Looking back, I could not have orchestrated this better – which only goes to show that God is the ultimate and consummate Project Manager.

  2. Global call to Prayer

    I participated in the Global Call to Prayer for Iraq and Syria on 29 September, even though my understanding of politics and chaos in that region is patchy at best. Specifically, I prayed for Christians in that region who seem to be trapped in the middle of a deadlock of extremist ideals, and whose suffering is the quietest because their numbers are few – and dwindling ever more. But their plight is no less dire, their women and children no less traumatised and their spirits torn to shreds as they are systematically raped and tortured, and as they watch their husbands and fathers die cruel deaths. I prayed for them all, but I prayed specifically for the minorities on the 29th. Because they are voiceless and bleeding.

    And I cannot tell you how grateful I am to have been born Singaporean. To have emigrated to Australia which, for all its secularism, still collectively singles human life as sacrosanct no matter how diverse our individual views on God may be. It is not because I am smarter, more diligent, more resourceful… my current state in life, in the grand scheme of things, has little to do with my individual accomplishments. I was born into a different world and had privileges bestowed on me. It could have been very different.

    If you’re interested in being a part of this, the next prayer is on Sunday 5 October.

  3. Gorgeous weather

    For the most part these two weeks, the weather has been fabulous. We try to make the most of the good days outdoors, especially when winds are tolerable. Went to Floriade last Tuesday, and to John Knight park again this afternoon. And a few random on-the-way playground visits in between. Considering I could predict the weather report in Singapore verbatim by the time I was 7 years old, I love that I’m now in a “city” (glorified country town) that has such a wide variance of weather conditions.

    Floriade flag
    Floriade flag from our Ferris Wheel cage. More on our visit in another post.
    Sara with her babies
    Enjoying simple pleasures – good company, good weather, good cuddles with babies
    Arddun swinging her imaginary friend
    Arddun, pushing her imaginary friend on the swing

    IMG_1216

    Arddun and Leila walking and talking
    Can’t believe these two girls are only 3 Years Old! They look far too grown up in this shot.

    Arddun and Leila walking the bridge

    Sara, Famiza and kids on picnic mat
    An idyllic picnic in the park
    Jett blowing out dandelions
    Adding to the pollen count in the cutest way possible
    Jett having emo moment on swing
    “All By Myself” by Jett
    Jett and Leila strut their stuff
    Walking with determination.
    Arddun pondering in the distance
    Tolerating lunch time so she can get away and play to her heart’s content.

    Leila and Ayman
    Caught Leila on camera, finally! She’s quite camera shy, but such a photogenic subject. :-)
  4. Discount lighting and a flying visit to Sydney

    The drawback to living in a fairly affluent inland Territory with a small population is the price gouging. Houses here just cost more to build, which is why we ended up driving to Sydney to buy all the lights for the new house. We ended up saving about 25%, excluding the time and fuel it took us to drive there and back. That’s saying something, considering that we’ve chosen to LED everything except one lamp. The 老板娘 (lady boss) also threw in a feature lamp for Arddun’s bedroom, and upon finding out that we are expecting a boy, got a “boy lamp” for Boy Blob’s bedroom. It has a lenticular print of cars racing. Very cute.

    Our flying visit to Sydney meant that we crashed at the Whitcombes’ overnight, and they were very gracious in accepting us at late notice. It was just lovely to see their new home, and to wake up in the morning and breakfast with them. Arddun and Abi got along great, and I suspect both girls would have liked more time together. Worshipped with the church at Macquarie before heading over to IKEA at Ryde (of course). Don’t quite know how it happened, but because Arddun had been such a patient and uncomplaining chicky throughout the weekend while we pottered around in a pokey lighting shop until sundown, we left IKEA with a gigantuan plush toy dog as a Thank You. She’s delightfully named him “Wags”. I think we both figured it costs a whole lot less than a real dog AND we don’t need to spend evenings walking it, so why not.

    Arddun with Wags her stuff toy dog
    Queen Elsa watching TV with Wags.
  5. Boy Blob, he is growing

    I am getting slower and more tired with each passing day, but that in itself is such a gentle reminder of how well this baby is growing. And he is growing. My obstetrician keeps saying he’s an average size, but I feel a lot bigger this time, and I have the stretch marks to prove it. While Arddun used to give me a series of butterfly kicks in the right ribs, this boy does the butterfly stroke across my entire mid section. He definitely lets me know when he appreciates the food. I feel like I’ve hardly blogged about the poor kid this time ’round, compared to the many posts dedicated to Arddun during my pregnancy with her, but in truth, he makes his presence known every waking hour (and sometimes while I’m asleep still). I am achier and lumpier and older and more wrung out energy-wise this time ’round, but I know I’m really going to miss this when he’s finally born. Exactly two months to go from today! Crazy or what! I’m so glad I have these last two months to spend with Arddun intensively before we become one bigger happy family. I’m so grateful to Tony for working so hard, and that he has a job that allows us to do this.

TTT – Water, Family, and the art of asking for permission

(Again, a very late one… but at least not forgotten!)

It’s taken me a little longer to think of my list this week – possibly because I’ve been privately logging my gratitudes daily for almost a month now and feel a little repetitious, and partly because I feel like I need to pick Three Huge Events from the week just passed.

It’s been a lovely week. My quest to cut down on consumerism has yielded a mixed bag of results – I now steer clear of most shops, that’s true. But I’ve also ended up visiting more friends or inviting them over, and therefore buying a lot more food. I’ve decided it’s a net gain, overall. Spending the time to connect with others over nom-noms trumps wandering into malls out of habit… and I’ve learnt to eat more simply during my lunches.

Anyhoo… here’s three things I’ve decided to be thankful for.

1. Clear drinking water

We had Mark’s parents over for morning tea on Thursday last week, which wandered into lunch, and then again into afternoon tea. Spent a lovely day with them at Gold Creek. They’ve just very recently “migrated” from Perth, and so the comparisons between short visitations and actually settling in Canberra naturally came up.

The topic of water came up, and I know it sounds like one of those I’ve-run-out-of-things-to-be-thankful-for moments when I say that I’m grateful for Canberra’s water quality. But it’s true. I’ve drunk water from the tap in many cities and in many countries when it’s deemed safe to drink water from, and Canberra’s water is probably one of the nicest-tasting and cleanest. It was one of those epiphanies I didn’t get until I was reminded of Adelaide’s water – which tastes vile. I mean, it’s considered safe for drinking but it just tastes artificial and wrong. And their water alone is the reason I would never want to move to Adelaide. Seriously.

Canberra drinking water in a glass
Cool, clear Canberra refreshment

2. Family coming down

Plans are finally falling into place for this year-end! Tony’s parents will be staying with us in the last 2 weeks of November (hedging their bets that Boy Blob, like Arddun, will make an early entrance), and my family and their significant others will be making their way down over the course of the first two weeks in December! Nothing like a full house to welcome a new baby. It will be a bit nuts, I suspect – but good nuts.

3. Arddun’s habit of checking first

Something else I’ve grown very thankful for lately is how Arddun thinks to ask Tony or me for permission before she helps herself to food – whether it’s a biscuit for afternoon tea, or an extra slice of cheese with her meal. It’s something we’ve reminded her gently to do over time, and we haven’t always been successful. There was that one recent time she got caught polishing off a bag of lollies she received from a school friend’s birthday party… she had to learn a lesson from that. But lately, she seems to understand that she needs to ask for permission before helping herself to food. And it’s a relief, frankly, especially since she is still reacting to popular “child-friendly” foods like sultanas and other fruits and vegetables.

Probably jinxed it now, and maybe she’ll sneak off something at the next Mother’s Group luncheon… But for now, it’s something I’ve observed that she’s grown good at. And it’s such a win for all of us.

“Look, mama! I’m Rapunzel!”

IMG_0648.JPG
You crack me up, kiddo.

TTT – The Boy, The Girl, The Dirt

There’s a meme going around my Facebook feeds lately, where friends tag others to publicly post 3 things they are grateful for every day for 5 consecutive days. Kinda like the 365 project lite, or 1-day cricket.

It’s made me remember that I used to dedicate Thursdays to Thankfulness.

I’d very recently purchased the Gratitude 365 Journal App – partly because it had the prettiest user interface out of the all the gratitude apps I’ve seen, but mostly because I want to fine-tune my perspectacles. I don’t have to tell you that there can be a lot of negativity on the internet; gone are the days of one-way mass media where a small group of elites opined. These days, an opinion piece could invite instant feedback and with it, hot judgement, cold trolling and many times, downright nastiness.

Politics and religion aside, parenting is one of those things that can press everyone’s crazy button – whether you’re a parent or not. Lately, I’ve grown so weary of reading comments that quickly deteriorate to name-calling and judgement. I’m also quickly losing what little patience I already have with manipulative scaremongers who prey on the insecurities of others to inflate their own misplaced sense of superiority and saintliness. As if parents don’t have enough secret oodles of self-doubt to deal with.

You know what I’m talking about, because we are surrounded by it daily.

It is hard not to be sucked in the game, and especially with the Facebook posting and the retweeting. I’m very opinionated on a raft of topics (read: most things). It’s probably why I started blogging, although I’ve made more of an effort with this blog to reflect and refine my words and deeds.

It also means I’m so much more susceptible to the hot judgements and the cold cynicism.

It may seem like disparate topics – gratitude and unrighteous judgement – and yet they can be two sides of the same coin. Self-righteousness is narcissistic because it assumes from the very start that my values and life experiences should determine everyone else’s True North. Yet, Gratitude is another kind of self-absorption, in that it requires discipline, and continual self-awareness and reflection.

Simply put, I find that focusing on things I’m thankful for helps slay the part of me that wants to think the worst of others. It’s not a coincidence that people who feel grateful are more likely to feel loved – and to want to love in return.

(I just want to put in a quick disclaimer that I’m not talking about Positive Thinking here. There is a difference between being perky and being thankful.)

Anyhoo – back to today’s Thursday’s Three Thank-yous

1) This active, growing boy

I am incubating a human being that is now strong enough to kick me awake. He’s starting to settle into a 3-hour pattern – which includes an 11pm Snoopy Dance (happening right now), a 2am plié, and a 5am Ninja-stealth wallop. He responds very positively to chocolate. I am also contemplating a life with an Even More Active Kid. (Remember that Arddun was crawling and standing by 6½ months, and walking by 10½ months.) I miss him when he’s zoning out, and there is a slow smile that breaks across my face when he starts up again because I know he’s still alive. I am so thankful for the privilege of carrying 2 babies in my lifetime. Having someone move independently of you while within you is a bizarre, delightful thing.

2) This loving, (mostly) obedient girl

Didn’t mean for this round of TTT to turn out to be so general — but I’ve really enjoyed Arddun’s company this week. Sure she wants to strike out now and then – refuses to hold my hand sometimes, bursts into tears when I say “not yet” or “no”… but her manners can be so beautiful, her gratitude can be so transparent, and her concern for my welfare, so guileless and genuine. I love how she has learnt contentment with her own company, something adults can struggle with still. I love how she mostly understands when I need space to accomplish other things; that she doesn’t need to be the centre of my universe all the time.

Arddun sitting on a red stool and reading in her room

3) The ability to own a plot of dirt

We officially became landowners yesterday. Not such a big deal to many Australians, but it’s surreal for a Singaporean like me. To own land and build your own house in Singapore (no matter how tiny) is the reserve and privilege of the fabulously, obscenely wealthy. We are not multi-millionaires, but we have been given enough to own a plot of dirt. (Weeeell, “own” is a strong word considering all land in Canberra is crown lease. But it’s still a great feeling.)

A beautiful day at Yerrabi Pond

After a pretty horrendous a day of blizzard-grade winds that finally culminated in mid-afternoon snow (!), we stepped out of our house on Saturday afternoon to soak up as much of the winter sunshine as possible.

We love living within walking distance of Yerrabi Pond, which is turning out to be one of the nicest family-friendly suburban parks in Canberra. Got organised this time and had cut up our old bread into fling-size pieces for the ducks and swans. THIS time, I checked the weather beforehand — a lesson learnt from Thursday, when Jaclyn and I brought our children to the park during near gale-force winds and I watched as Arddun tried vainly to feed the ducks, only to find her bread slices snatched up by the vicious winds and consequently snagged by opportunistic magpies. A bit of a parenting facepalm moment.

Some happy snaps:

Arddun and Tony heading out to the pier
Walking to the pier to feed the ducks
Arddun back view looking at ducks
Waiting for the ducks to gather
Arddun flings bread to the ducks
Flinging bread pieces as far and wide as little arms can manage
Arddun, Tony and ducks on pier
Pseudo-artistic shot
Close up of Arddun flinging bread to the ducks
Action shot
Arddun feeding ducks on other side of pier
Not to neglect the ducks on the other side…
Arddun, duck and Tony on pier
Arddun, duck and Tony on pier, each doing their own thang.

Arddun gazing thoughtfully at ducks

Close up of Arddun gazing thoughtfully at ducks

Arddun waiting for her turn on the Flying Fox
From ducks to foxes… Arddun waiting her turn on the Flying Fox.
Tony helps Arddun on the Flying Fox
Getting on the harness with a little help from Daddy
Tony giving Arddun a starting push on the Flying Fox
And a one…
Tony giving Arddun a  push on the Flying Fox
And a two…
Tony letting go as Arddun takes off on Flying Fox
And away we go!
Tony pretends to catch Arddun while she's on the Flying Fox
I’m gonna get you!
Tony wheels Arddun back to base on the Flying Fox
Not enough momentum to get back to base. Need some help from Daddy
Close up of Arddun waiting for the Flying Fox
My girl
Tony looking into the distance
My man

This is Arddun, aged 3

Arddun in Cinderella Dress, Extreme Close Up, grinning

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?

The girl is growing up.

Arddun in Cinderella dress, full length shot
Her favourite outfit this winter: Cinderella dress.

Arddun looking afar, wearing Cinderella dress

Arddun looking at hands, Cinderella dress

Arddun looking straight into camera, wearing Cinderella dress

Arddun in Jessie costume looking at Jessie doll
Jessie is a new friend, never parted with for long
Arddun dressed as Jessie the Cowgirl
My cowgirl

Water play

Blowing bubbles is something that just doesn’t get old with Arddun. Except lately, she’s coordinated and big enough to blow her own bubbles without getting too puffed.

Trouble is, she’s gotten into the new habit of talking herself through the steps. Which has the unfortunate side effect of using up precious bubble-blowing air.

What she’s saying:

“First, put your stick in the mixture… shake it around… take a deep breath [DEEP BREATH]… and blow!”

The other thing I love about having our own yard (a sheer luxury in Singapore that is practically a given here) is keeping cool on very hot summer days.

Arddun in her wading pool
Taking a big bow, after a mighty splash around her wading pool. Also very thankful for neighbours who planted a tiny tree in their yard which has now grown enough to give us marvelous shade in summer afternoons.

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