Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places



Big hole

Liz and I arrived in Canberra at close to 6pm on Monday the 11th, after possibly the shortest trip I’ve had coming back from Singapore. It’s been a long time since I’ve slept through most of the flight and coach ride – having a bright-eyed and inquisitive toddler makes that an impossibility lately, but I also think the year’s dramas have finally caught up with me.

In amongst the waiting in queues and the teasing out of technical details relating to my mother’s passing, Liz and I managed to eat and drink very well in Singapore. We even got to do a tiny bit of sightseeing – had another gander at the SEA Aquarium (the world’s biggest, apparently), and a lovely morning at the Art Science Museum. We even took a water taxi through the Singapore river at night, and I got to soak in the ever-changing cityscape with all its gorgeous lights.

It was a fitting close to a chapter in my life that I wish with all my heart didn’t end so soon.

But then I came home to a husband who visibly relaxed as soon as I walked in the door (shoulders easing, anxiety expelled with a sigh and a smile). And I came home to a happy, taller, chattier toddler who now eats more than I do for breakfast. More on her later.

I haven’t had the time to tell you about the dramas we’ve been having with our shoddy plumbing. Our bathrooms have now become places of anxiety and foreboding rather than temporary retreats from the day’s worries. It all started during the packing for Singapore when I realised the carpet in the walk-in robe was damp. About 6 tradies later, the litany of woes read as follows:

  • leaking shower tap
  • leaking shower recesses (BOTH bathrooms)
  • no condensation tray for ducted gas heating unit in roof cavity
  • window treatment in skylight unfinished
  • hole in wall adjoining roof, letting rain in

The first two are especially painful, because now we have a fight on our hands with our insurance company. It’s also going to cost us a pretty penny to fix up two bathrooms. But the biggest lesson in all this, is how you can NEVER rely on just one or two tradesmen to give you a comprehensive idea of what’s going on in your walls… and that God gave you instincts for a reason. The first plumber didn’t even pick up the biggest cause of the leak, which was the leaking shower tap.

Long story short, we now have a gigantic hole in our wall.

Big hole in wall
After all this leaving and cleaving (good-bye Singapore house, good-bye big part of my former life), methinks this gigantic hole is rather metaphorical.

Arddun has been great. She has not fiddled with the hole once, nor felt anyway inclined to hide her toys and treats there. Instead, she tells anyone who will listen that, “It’s a BIG HOLE! Very Very Don’t Touch.”

Actually, Arddun’s been the one constant to lighten the mood around here. It’s hard to feel very sorry for ourselves for too long, when she’s bounding up to you bright and chirpy for a cuddle. She is definitely going through a growth spurt of some sort – polishes off a meal size that I’ve seen other 8-year-olds struggle with, and then asks for fruit. She is still singing all the time, but her latest party trick is to quiz, “WHO’S GOT THE POOS?” before coming up behind me or Tony to yank down our pants for a check.



This morning, I got reminded that in 2½ weeks, I’ll be back in Singapore.

It was a good kick up the backside (although that was hardly what the reminder was about!) because it helped me distill exactly what my priorities need to be. I need to prepare the house for my in-laws’ arrival, which includes updating my Arddun childcare notes. I need to get a bunch of appointments and decisions made. I need to put my freelance work on hold. I need to stop trying to achieve every single Tupperware sales target put in front of me.

Did I tell you? I’m a Tupperware Demonstrator now. It’s turning out to be quite a bit of fun, and I’m liking how I get to swan off to party and mingle with grown women. It is also a time suck, at least at this beginning stage. I’m learning all the time and while selling Tupperware isn’t rocket science, it’s been over a decade since I last had a sales job. The temptation is to throw myself entirely into this new business but again, I have to remind myself constantly what my priorities are. All this, while half day-dreaming about what it would be like to be a Tupperware manager just so I can name my own team. (Shortlist so far: Silicon Velle.)

There’s a more sobering side to my return, of course. I’ve had a few cloud-like thoughts wafting through the brain cavity all morning, so I’ll try and pin them down here.

I’ve been thinking about what it’s like to never forget someone. And I’ve been thinking about what it’s like to remember them. Until my cousin’s sudden death a few years ago, and then my mother’s death this year, I never knew there was a difference. But the truth is, while I will never forget my mother; while the stark fact of her death has been branded into my soul and the burnt bit is still healing, it takes a huge amount of effort for me to remember her.

And that’s because remembering takes courage. It takes time. It takes up oodles of emotional memory, and you’re left panting after. I have a photo of her sitting on the buffet in the middle of the house, and you cannot miss it. And I can have whole conversations with her while Arddun is asleep and I’m doing the housework. But once I find my mind flashing back to the past and remembering what once was… I find myself pulling the plug. Making the images vanish. Because it is just so easy to sit there and feel paralysed with sorrow. And I don’t want to be paralysed, because I need to move.

“Give me unction in my gumption, let me function function function…”

In 2½ weeks, I’ll be back in Singapore. I’ll be sleeping in my mother’s bed. I’ll be bidding the rooms good-bye. Because this time will really be the last time. I love my husband truly, madly, deeply… but my mother and this house had always been my unconscious safety net. “What if Tony got hit by a bus… what if he goes all Rod Stewart on me one day and leaves me for a 20yo twinkie…”

My love for my husband is a choice. Every day, I wake up and choose to be with him. They say you don’t get to choose your relatives – NOT TRUE. Because out of all the men in the world, I chose Tony to be my family. I chose him to be my closest peer and kin. I continue to choose him daily.

My love for my mother is biological. It isn’t a choice – it is in my veins and permeates my soul, because I am of her. I think that with all mothers and daughters, the depth of love is variable – you get out as much as what each of you put in. But the starting point of that love and bond is biological.

Severing my ties with my family home is going to be one of the hardest things I’ll have to do this second half of the year. (The first, of course, was saying goodbye to my mother.) Going back to Singapore means having to Remember. God give me strength, because I’m sorta quaking at the prospect already.


Less gray, more colour

So yes, I’ve been meaning to post pictures of what we’ve been up to, aside from me feeling all moochy about my mother’s departure. I haven’t been the best photographer lately, but I am surrounded by people who love taking photos and videos of Arddun and who quite happily send them to me straight after, so I plan to put them up so that you can literally have a snapshot of our days here.

Waiting to get on Scoot plane
Waiting to get on the plane. Which was late. As usual.
Arddun at the wake
Clockwise from top left: 1. Drawing is a great way to while the time at a wake. 2. Playing with THE noisiest toy EVER, next to Grandma Singapore. 3. Waiting for other friends to arrive. 4. In earnest with Poppy, who came to visit with Nanna.
Mum's fridge magnets
Fridge magnet wisdom from my mother’s kitchen


A flight to remember

So yes, we’ve been rather quiet online. Most of September has been spent in the following ways:

  • preparing for Surprise Grandma Singapore trip
  • in Singapore
  • recovering from Surprise Grandma Singapore trip.

And if I have time and energy enough tonight, I’ll cover some of the highlights of our journey. But I thought I’d dedicate this post to my solo-parent flight with Arddun.

Yes, that’s right. Me, my very wriggly toddler, and an almost-full Singapore Airlines A380. Sydney to Singapore, non-stop.

To understand the full extent of this enterprise, you have to understand that we live in Canberra. Which means our day had started with an indecently early wake-up call, followed by 3 hours on the road, and another nail-biting bit where we got stuck in Sydney traffic for half an hour. And that was just to get to the airport.

Couple that with a late and bumpy take-off, and you’ll begin to see how long my day was starting to get.

I think in my heart of hearts, I’d rather relished the prospect of doing the solo-with-Arddun travel thing. It was something our family anticipated having to do this year because we knew how stupid Tony’s workload was going to get by September, which was why he couldn’t join us. But I think it also evolved into something like a rite of passage for me. A personal challenge. Something I’d embraced with all the apprehension and naive optimism of a new mother contemplating labour and childbirth. Right, I’d told myself, I’m going to do this. I know I’ll be able to survive this, because loads of other women have. Eight hours on an airplane with an active toddler. Nothing to sneeze at, but I am creative, I am quick-thinking, and I have a sense of humour.

I’ll skip the bit about the check-in, except to say that I’ll never use Sydney Airport’s luggage trolleys again unless I can work out trolley reverse psychology. I’ll also glance over the take-off (so bumpy that the child on Arddun’s left cried, “Wheeee!!!” like he was in the amusement park). In truth, the first 6 hours of the flight were, on hindsight, uneventful. Sure, it got difficult trying to keep Arddun seated. But it was a huge blessing that SQ gave me a spare seat for Arddun even though I didn’t pay for one, so I wasn’t complaining. And sure, every air stewardess that got babysitting duty while I nipped to the bathroom commented on “how very active” my child was, upon my hasty return.

And yes, we lost at least one crayon within seconds of opening the box and the boy next to us ended up hogging the entire set anyway. The in-flight entertainment failed to capture her attention because the screen was fixed high up on the wall in front of us, and her headphones were too big for her tiny head. Also, all iPhone apps and videos downloaded for her pleasure were drowned out by engine and ambient noise, so In the Night Garden made even less sense than ever. Her nap was cut short by at least half, because the child beside us had given an almighty yell out of the blue. She devoured my lunch since she’d clearly outgrown Rafferty’s, refused all the goodies I’d procured from the Asian bakery the day before, and wanted, NEEDED to drink my tea. And of course, she HAD to use up two diapers by hour 6, which meant already two rounds of changing her in a very cramp lavatory.

But nothing too dramatic. She wasn’t noisy, she wasn’t unmanageable, we were fine.

Enter hour 7, and I smell something seriously suss.

I had been sure to secure our seats the moment I bought our tickets online, so I was able to get the bassinet seat in the upper deck. Which meant the front half of the upper deck was First Class, and then it was Economy, with us on the front row. I’d figured that the fewer the passengers surrounding us, the fewer people I’d be likely to irritate, should my child turn feral.

It also meant, however, that I’d have to walk the entire length of Economy class to get to the lavatories. And this was turning out to be an almighty stink.

True enough, we get in there and I realise that everything has gone everywhere. It’s a miracle my clothes are not soiled, because the poor girl needs a bath. I use up all my nappy wipes, save one. I’m so thankful I packed her a change of clothes, and I am praying the plane doesn’t get major turbulence while I’m frantically giving her a mini-bath from the slow, stately trickle of airplane tap water.

Not fun.

Amazingly, Arddun didn’t try any Chinese acrobatics, and we eventually make it out. I apologise to the queue, and scuttle back to the front.

An apple had been dropped off on Arddun’s seat, as previously requested. Stolen from First Class. How kind.

“Would you like an apple?” I ask my daughter.

“Apper!” she agrees happily, signs “please” very politely, and takes two bites.

And then she erupts like Mount Vesuvius. Top end, this time.

Yes folks, it’s everywhere. On the seats, on the blankets, on the ground, on me. Amazingly, thanks to the wide angle of her projectile spew, she managed to keep herself nice and dry. Lord knows I don’t have any change of clothes left for her. But then, I didn’t pack anything for me either, did I.

I had yelped involuntarily, so I think lots of passengers heard. There’s this horrid pause while I’m standing there, wearing spew and a rather wild look. Meanwhile, the curtains part from the back of the plane and the stewardesses wheel our in-flight dinner down both corridors. My access to the lavatories – blocked. No stewardesses on hand to help. Wriggly one-year-old, impervious to the disaster she’d just created and surprisingly chirpy for one suddenly so sick. Clothes starting to stick to my skin in a sickening fashion.

Napkins, nappy wipes, tissues start coming forward from everywhere. My first instinct is to get the yuck off the seats, just in case SQ decide to hand me a bill for chair shampoo.

“Right!” I say, and firmly toss Arddun on to her seat before strapping her in. “Don’t go anywhere, little girl!” She unbuckles herself in 2 seconds. I frantically tear open a paperbag for garbage, and start swiping with my left while holding on to my inquisitive child with my right. Nota bene: the little paperbags they supply on airplanes just in case you feel queasy? Absolutely impossible to tear open in a tremendous hurry.

Someone from the next aisle tells me that I have spew on my clothes. Yes thank you, I’m aware of that, I’m just trying to do one thing at a time please, thankyouverymuch.

A stewardess comes over. How can I help, she asks. She arrives with a humongous paperbag that has two tiny packets of nappy wipes in them. I direct her to the happy child, and ask that she just watches Arddun so I can get on with it. And then I clean everything. And spend lots of time yet again in the lavatory at the back. And apologise to everyone on my way there and back, for spoiling their dinners.

And then I sit in my stinky clothes, now scrubbed transparent because I was stupidly wearing white, for the final hour of our flight. And I thank GOD that we’re flying to Singapore, and not London.

And so yes, that was our flight to Singapore. Thankfully, the flight back to Sydney felt quicker and much easier, even though Arddun didn’t get a spare seat this time. Turns out that Arddun had contracted gastroenteritis before or during the flight, which meant the poor thing was still spewing and pooing all through our first week in Singapore. And then she’d passed it on to me. And we eventually passed it on to our host, Audrey, before scuttling off to my mother’s.

It’s funny – I had been so diligent about Arddun’s food and entertainment that I had brought enough to even feed and entertain the child sitting beside us. But it had just never crossed my mind that she’d be this sick on an airplane. Still, like childbirth, the awful moment eventually passes… and then everything becomes just a Really Good Cringey Story.

Queensland Cuddles

We’re back! Survived the flight to and fro – although the flight back with two adults turned out to be a lot harder than the flight to Brisbane with just me, owing to the rapid deterioration of good temper from Missy Moo. She yelled and bucked so hard in her car seat the whole 30 minutes to the airport, I had to mop sweat off her soaked head when we got out.

I guess she really didn’t want to leave. And guess whose temper she’s got?!

I have a couple of half-done post drafts sitting in my phone and will try to get to them soonish. Meanwhile, here’s a quick snapshot of some of the family cuddles the birthday girl received this past week.

Top row: Nanna | Middle row: Aunt Kerri, Aunt Ally | Bottom row: Grandpoppy

Dribs and drabs

Sorry for the radio silence – it’s going to be this way for a while. At least until we come back to Canberra. We’re in Singapore at the mo, and while the island had been interwebbed loooooong before Australia even started whimpering about FTTP… we find ourselves rather disconnected at the mo.

But it’s not as if the posts have dried up. I have tens of posts milling around inside my head every day. And I miss y’all.

Not a homebody

Sorry for the radio silence, but Arddun and I have been having too much fun, you see.

A few things have changed since Arddun turned 2.5 months.

  • She learnt how to go to sleep on her own.
  • She found her voice and started chatting in Baby to everyone and everything.
  • She started fitting into all the super-cute clothes everyone bought her at the baby shower.

This, combined with the fact that I’ve gotten friendly with individuals in my all-new, all-lovely Mother’s Group (thank you ACT Health) and that Canberra weather has, on occasion, remembered that it’s now Spring, has practically formed an imperative for the two of us to spend almost every afternoon painting a satellite town red.

My daughter, I am pleased to say, is turning out to be great company.

Whether it’s a day out alone at Floriade or a movie with the ladies-and-babies from Mother’s Group, we generally have a ball. There’s the occasional tetchy afternoon of course, but nothing insurmountable. Nothing that a quick jiggle in the pram or Ergo wouldn’t fix – mostly because she’s agitating for a nap.

And I have to say that as much as I understand that breastfeeding isn’t for everyone, it is SO CONVENIENT to be a walking milk bar. Because ’em boobs? They are baby whisperers, man. They calm heartache and soothe tired brows and salve baby hurts and quench tiny thirsts and sate rumbly tum-tums. I don’t know that we’d be quite this outdoorsy without the boob factor.

Which is why I blog now, because I have a hunch that this glorious phase is about to be interrupted for a little while. Tony and I suspect that Arddun’s teething. I know, I know… babies are supposed to teeth, on average, at 6 months. But if that’s an average, then it suggests some sort of bell curve where perhaps some babies could be early. And while nothing’s poking through, I think there’s some furniture-dragging in her little gums, the poor munchkin. I say this with lots of mumsy sympathy now because she’s currently asleep and not latched on. Because her latest party trick is to latch on, and then GNAW.

When that happens, my yelps tend not to be mumsy and sympathetic.

So while she’s generally good-natured and gurgles like a brook, she’s now also getting all over the place with her sleeps and her feeds. I caved in the other week, and finally bought into the Manhatten Mommy’s Must-have –  I got Arddun a Sophie. Straight from France, too. Didn’t see what the big deal was, apart from the all-natural food colouring and the fact that it has a very loud squeak… until Arddun grabbed its little legs and shoved that giraffe’s nobbly head into her mouth and there was an appreciative silence, except for the systematic sounds of a baby chewing that head for all its worth. (Which would be $34.99 if you buy from Babies R Us, $29 from Baby Bunting, and $19.90 from France on ebay. For a friggin’ rubber giraffe!)

With teeth also comes the imminent weaning stage and while she’s only coming 4 months now, I’m already looking into the most efficient yet healthy way of producing baby food. Suddenly, spur-of-the-moment outings look a little less likely in the foreseeable future. My zippy little Skiphop nappy bag will probably have to be replaced with one of those Giant Mumsy Bags of Eternal Abyss. You drop a baby spoon in there, and it free-falls for days but man, it holds EVERYTHING.

And so perhaps I am mourning the impending temporary loss of easy-breezy outings with Arddun, precisely because I’ve fallen in love with her company and all our little gallivants of late. But as with everything else, I’m sure we’ll figure out a new rhythm and the beat will go on.

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