Childhood Smellies

We started Atticus on solid foods in the last week, partly because he suddenly grew two teeth but mostly to see if filling his tummy up before bedtime was going to result in him sleeping through the night. So far, he’s slept through two out of three nights, so we’re hoping tonight will mark three out of four.

It’s also meant that he’s sitting more regularly in the high chair. And boy, is he loving the view.

Today, I trotted out the clip-on one for our benchtop so he could watch me get lunch ready. It was a surefire way to stop the constant grizzling – in fact, he slipped into a baby stupor as I prepped, wearing this spellbound expression for the entire 20 minutes and following my every move up and down the kitchen like a tennis match.

First time Atticus sits at kitchen bench

I have no idea what she’s doing, but I can’t look away.

In the last 18 months, I’ve rediscovered sardines. One of the simplest meals my mother used to conjure was the humble sardine sandwich. Take a can of sardines in tomato sauce (I only use Ayam brand – pure nostalgia), and fry ’em up with red shallots and sliced chilli. A dash of white pepper, a squeeze of lime and voilà — mouthwatering yums. Slather between two pieces of bread. End up polishing off half a loaf.

It’s comfort food – my comfort food. It takes me back to Mei Ling Street, and primary school recesses, and secret sacrifices made for two kittens I absolutely adored who lived in the wet market I walked through on the way home from school. I didn’t much care for bread growing up. But give me fried chilli sardines, and suddenly the Gardenia loaf starts to look rather short.

Gardenia bread

I grew up with this bread. We didn’t eat Sunshine bread until they brought out the chocolate loaf. Tony tried Gardenia once and said it’s way too sweet for him.

One of the things I found on my mother’s laptop the day after her death was a letter to me that she had started but never finished. She was starting to tell me about her life, not just with the broad strokes I’d always known, but in intricate detail. It left me wanting a whole lot more. I really wished I got to interview her properly before she died.

Shoulda coulda

It strikes me that as much as this is a blog about my education as a parent, I would like my children to read it one day. A big part of why I’m doing this is so I never forget their stories, in detail. So that if I were to die before I ever get to remembering with them, I’ve got their histories chronicled. Today’s mundanities can become so cherished tomorrow. Like pennies.

But what about my history?

If I were to try and condense all the wonderful nonsense of my life in a letter to my children and husband while on my deathbed, I doubt I’d know where to start or what to say.

So yes, sardines. Inconsequential, kinda random… but it’s a little jaunt down memory lane for me. Today, Atticus got to witness fried chilli sardines in the making, and both of us sputtered and sneezed through the fumes. Not great for open-plan living, but the result was wunderbar, and brought me back at least 25 years. A bit of my history in the remaking.

I ate six slices of bread.

Fried chilli sardines

So noxious, so good

Categories: Moments and Milestones | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Big fat hairy deal

After 3 years, 10 months and 6 days, I finally relented yesterday and got Arddun’s hair cut.

And only because it had become a real handful to un-knot after every shampoo.

There’s a scene in I Don’t Know How She Does It, when Sarah Jessica Parker’s character finds out that she missed her son’s first haircut because of her busy corporate life. The hot nanny had gone and done it, displaying great initiative but inducing secret muffled Mommy sobs in the process.

It has taken me a long, looong time to come to terms with cutting Arddun’s Rapunzelesque tresses which, at last measurement, hung slightly below her waist. At first, I had been nervous about sharp scissors near an active toddler’s face, but as time passed and her ability to sit still and obey instructions increased, I realised how attached I had gotten to her mane… mostly because I had attached so much sentimentality to it. It had been something we had left alone, intact, since birth and which had since become her trademark. In the early months and after a decent length, her hair signalled to the world that she is a girl in a way that no number of feminine baby clothes did. Her hair texture told the world she came from my body, but its beautiful brown with occasional strands of gold whispered of her uniquely mixed heritage.

Most of all, there had been something so unspoiled about it. Her Original Baby Hair, untouched all this time. To me, anyway.

Arddun three days old

72 hours old with standy-uppy hair

Arddun watching TV

Hair-raising television

Arddun watching for cars

No longer defying gravity: full head of hair by 6 months

Arddun wears grandma's wig

Our rug-rat, test-driving Grandma Singapore’s new wig

Arddun aged 1

Arddun aged 1

Arddun aged 2

Arddun aged 2

Arddun aged 3

Arddun aged 3

So it was a little Coming Of Age moment, when Arddun and I entered the hair salon together yesterday to get her hair shaped and trimmed.

Arddun, a day before her haircut

Arddun, a day before her haircut

Back view of hair before haircut

Back view of hair before haircut

Arddun on hairdresser dress

Even though we role-played the inaugural haircut, it’s still a big moment

We had practised not moving during the haircut, but none of us at the salon had quite expected Arddun to sit so still, nor to look that solemn throughout the affair. We sat next to each other in companionable silence, listening to the snip-snips, obeying gentle instructions.

Arddun during first haircut

Watching intently

And then she was done! I heard a “you can show your Mummy now!”, whereupon I turned to my left and looked at my little girl. Except she had suddenly grown up.

Arddun's first finished haircut


Arddun and Mummy with new haircuts

Sporting our new looks in public. Look out!

But then she goes and does this. Just so we remember that she is still a funny little girl at heart.

Arddun with pegs as hairclips

Pegs. They’re not just for the clothesline.

Categories: Moments and Milestones | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Embracing royalty

I think I’ve come full circle.

Growing up, I pretended to be princesses, and I pretended to be villians. My favourite was playing Maleficent, waaaay before Angelina Jolie thought to make that fairy tale character all misunderstood and quasi-raped. And because we couldn’t afford a She-ra Princess of Power sword, I decided to get very good at yo-yos, and become Yo-Ra. In my head, I could wield mine like nanchucks, and lasso the baddies in with effortless ease while still wearing a very short white dress and riding a unicorn. I remembered entering the kitchen dramatically and announcing my augmented superhero identity. “I am Yo-Ra!” I cried, and tried — but failed — to Walk the Dog with my blue 20-cents yo-yo. My mum stopped stir-frying, threw her head back, and about died laughing.

Growing up, I don’t think my mother gave a fig about what were politically correct games for little girls to play. She had her own rules about what constituted ladylike behaviour — standing on the ping pong table in the void deck of our apartment building, for instance, was strictly prohibited. It also warranted some pretty unladylike mummy-bellowing from the 9th floor if I were caught doing so. (That happened twice.)

But loving pink? Wearing golden tiaras and swanning around in my magnificent royal robes (read: blanket trailing on the ground, pegged around my neck)? Pretending to be Cinderella, then her stepmother, then Sleeping Beauty? Imagining myself as mother, teacher, bride? I don’t think gender stereotypes bothered my mother. I don’t think she even thought to “save” me from them. And I certainly don’t think she minded my wanting to be a princess.

So why have I been struggling with princesses when it comes to MY daughter? Why do I feel this strange warmth of satisfaction burst within when Arddun chooses green, red or blue over pink? Why do I feel almost exultant when she asks to watch Cars? Play with trains? Become a Robot? Work in an “office”? And why did I feel this weird guilt, like I’m letting down Team Feminista, when she wants to go full Princess?

Notice I said “did”.

Cinderella reading in her room

That’s right, I am (still) making my peace. It is a process. Most days are good, some days I really struggle. Because in the countless articles that harp about how Disney manipulates our daughters and how marketing Princess as a brand has become a multi-billion dollar cash cow, I had gotten anxious and guilty. And then I lost sight of real feminism. The pendulum can swing both ways; in my secret denouncement of the Silly Frilly, I had ironically subjugated girlish behaviour. In scorning the commerce of vanity among the young, I had ironically become proud. Worst of all, I had turned “girly-girl” into a dirty phrase, and prescibed and projected rather “masculine” behaviours on my daughter in the hopes that she’d… what, exactly? Not be such a girl?

Elsa sitting by the door Elsa in black and white

I had also lost sight of the most important things – the focus on the insides. Because beautiful insides are what matter most. I’ve read articles that snort about how some Disney’s Princesses prescribe “meek” behaviours to our daughters. Kindness. Gentleness. Goodness. Servitude. These princesses, they argue, are nothing more than paeans of passivity. These princesses are weak. Simple-minded. Lacking in ambition.

Except it takes courage and character to exhibit kindness, goodness and gentleness. Especially when it concerns loving the enemy — that just takes some kind of special stubbornness woven tight in a loving lion heart. There is nothing humiliating about hands that are willing to serve either. In fact, the only thing I protest along with these pseudo-feminists about the messages Princesses send, is the disservice we do the boys. I think we do our sons no real favours when we emphasise kindness in princesses and inadvertently portray kindness as the sole domain of the woman.

We need more heroics. We therefore need more princesses. And I’m growing one.


Categories: Looking Around and Looking Within | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Getting back on track

They — the ubiquitous, mysterious THEY — claim that it takes 21 days to make a habit, but only a few to break them. I don’t know about the magical 21, but I can certainly vouch for how easily it takes to get out of a habit or five. Some travel, a long bout of fitful coughing, hardware issues surrounding wifi reception, and the recent arrival of Foxtel in our household have completely derailed the following habits:

  • blogging and photo editing
  • a photograph a day
  • daily journaling and reflection on gratitudes
  • daily bible reading (I am now a month behind).
  • Atticus’s monthversaries… missed the poor boy’s third and fourth months. The trials and tribulations of a second child.

The balance between making memories and chronicling them can be such gossamer-delicate work. Especially when the chronicling an often ruin the very moment you’re trying so hard to capture. My sluggish computer has also made blogging a source of frustration rather than a joy. I should probably reformat the darn thing, but who really has the time and energy?

The opportunity cost… Tony and I have had more cuddle time after dinner, and I’ve found myself soaking up Atticus’s babyness more intensively. I’ve done some packing and sorting, mourned the passing of a national titan with my country of origin, and we are in the throes of sleep training Atticus through the nights, (He seems alright in the day now.)

Anyhoo, this is me trying to get back on the wagon. I’m still coughing like I’m got a smoker’s hack, but I don’t feel blah anymore. My laptop is still stuffed, but perhaps that will become a seminar on patience-building.

I have a few half-baked posts that I want to finish off and backdate, so I hope to knock those over in the days and weeks ahead. And if I’m very, very lucky, I’ll have a stable enough wifi connection to upload a decent number of photos.

Talk soon…

Categories: Organisation and Obsessions | Tags: | Leave a comment

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