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

Categories: Sweet moments | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Birthday cake for everyone!

Every year, our mother’s group makes a point to celebrate all of our firstborn’s birthdays in one biggish bash. This year’s was a little later than usual, but no less fun. Just two hours of 3yo heaven – flavoured milkshakes, party games, face-painting, rainbow birthday cake, presents… and of course, ice cream on a winter’s day.

Here’s some Arddun-centric highlights.

Smartie cake with birthday candle 3

Guess who are turning three…

Arddun getting face painted

No sudden moves…

Arddun with face painted with flower on cheek

Finished product: a simple purple flower.

Solving puzzles with Ivy

Puzzling it out with friend Ivy

Arddun eating a biscuit at the table

Plenty of food to go ’round

Blowing out the candle

Birthday song and blowing out the lone candle among 10 kiddies

Arddun contemplating the cake

Eyeing the smarties

Cross section of rainbow cake

That is one impressive rainbow cake. Truly blessed by multi-talented mommies who labour with love.

Tony scrubbing Arddun's face

Removing evidence of cake inhalation…

Arddun opening her present

A birthday’s not a birthday without presents

Family portrait

One of many attempts at a family portrait.

Arddun giggling while lying on the floor

Goodness! That was a lot of fun!

Categories: Celebrations, Family, Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Middle

I have two posts jostling to be written today. One is supposed to be a snapshot of Arddun, aged 3 years and xx days. It’s a burst of adoration, a love letter, a scrapbook of scrappy descriptions that can only hope to sketch the lovely creature she was and is and is becoming.

The other is this post. It’s all about the distractions, and the art of decluttering the mind and heart to prepare for goodlier things.

I haven’t been very organised.

Part of it started from the sheer exhaustion one feels in the first trimester of baby-growing, when all you want to do at day’s end is crawl under the doona and fall into a deep sleep. Except I couldn’t bear to indulge myself this way, because I needed to do lots of other things. So we started packing and sorting for the eventual, inevitable house sale. Even before the papers (the stacks of papers!) got signed, Tony and I went and rented ourselves some storage space, and put away about 20-odd boxes before the bitter winter chills set in.

And then it felt too much like I hadn’t had enough Me time, so I started watching The Good Wife from the pilot. And because no one I know in Canberra watches TGW religiously, I wasn’t prepared for how utterly well-written and addictive the series is. Oh my word, it’s addictive.

I’ve finally caught up with the series, so now that there’s nothing left to fill my very late nights, I’ve turned back to decluttering my life. Also, I’ve stumbled upon The Fabulous – a rather pretty Android app that can be summarised as a Life Coach wearing lace. Or something.

I’m realising that my life pendulums from 20,000 boxes of discrete tasks that reek of chlorinated discipline, to wild, unstructured periods of floating and exploring and meh. Except ironically, my unstructured walks in la la land seldom provide inspiration to write or read. There is a mid point, before either extremes take over, where I feel free and disciplined enough to blog regularly.

Welcome once more to my middle.

Now that my energy levels are back to normal, I’ve awakened to a few new truths.

  1. My time with Just Arddun now has a rough end point.
  2. I need to work out a new weekly routine that involves fewer errands and that maximises whatever little free time I’m going to have with a new bub.
  3. I’ve been mentally run down, which usually results in some form of disengagement from social things – bad juju for extroverts like me. I need to lock in time to recharge batteries, find the discipline to follow through, and keep irrational guilt at bay. This includes sleeping before midnight, for a change.

So with that, I bid you a good evening. Sorry this is such a boring post for you, but writing literally helps me think better. Also, I haven’t blogged in ages – so I’m out of practice. So thanks for listening.

Categories: Personal reflections, Philosopher | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

To everything – turn turn turn – There is a season

Since I last wrote 147 days ago, our family has gone through stuff - some big, some small, but all significant in their own way. I realise that the longer I put off writing it all down, the further away the reality of catching up will seem, and then Arddun will grow up one day, learn about this blog, and wonder why I stopped bothering to chronicle our lives when we all know how shocking my memory has become.

So in no particular order, here are the salient points.

My mother’s first death anniversary

I think the anticipation of it being a big hairy emotional day became bigger than the actual event. Our family here in Australia took it real slow. I had Arddun for the day, and we did things together – went to an indoor playground, pottered around the neighbourhood, did some grocery shopping.

I spent a lot of time thinking about the everyday things I remember doing with my mum when I was a kid – the travelling to and from her students’ homes, wheeling the TV into my parents’ room to watch Cinderalla and half of Snow White while she was teaching at home, a LOT of window shopping, that time in the elevator when my mother unconsciously put on an Italian accent to explain directions to a couple of tourists…

Part of me still wonders if I should have made more of an effort memorialising the first anniversary, except I still haven’t shaken off the feeling that we are parted only for a little while and that she is just a Skype call away. That is, until I actually log on to Skype and realise that she’s not there.

As long as she is in my everyday, she stays immortal. Beloved.

Got Tupperwared out

Bizarrely, February and March became really successful Tupperware months for me – to the extent that I got second-level Star Demonstrator for both months. (Which just means I got a shiny gold two-star pin, because I sold a crazy lot of quality plastic.) Could have gotten Star demonstrator in April too, except I had an equally bizarre spate of party cancellations in the last week, which stuffed up my targets and rewards. But that is how the cookie crumbles.

Went to a Tupperware conference at the Four Seasons in Sydney, got to cross stage to receive lots of goodies for hitting targets, and ended up forgetting one of my reward bags when I returned to Canberra so I’m rather miffed with myself for that. The conference itself felt like a rock concert that went on for 7 hours. Lots of pom-poms, lots of piccies, lost my voice.

More than anything, it was just lovely to dine out with a gaggle of women sans child, and to dust off my high-heels again.

Got surprise part-time contract

Not much would get me out of the bliss of mothering full-time during the day, so when a particular job with an international Christian NPO floated into view, I sent in my résumé  thinking nothing of it but half hoping, and got tickled pink when the national director called to have a chat.

Long story short, I’m now doing a web project until August, and work twice a week with a couple of hours snatched in between my full work days. And even though I had been doing some freelance editing work since Arddun was a year old, this part-time job has really awoken me to the fact that women who work part-time are insanely organised. Or schizophrenic. Probably both.

Before Child (BC), I worked full-time – and I worked long hours. I’m not averse to hard work. But until I started doing, effectively, THREE jobs (all-day mother and housewife 5 days a week, part-time web project manager, Tupperware evenings and weekends), I hadn’t realised how much discipline I had lacked as a full-time worker.

It’s one thing to be completely immersed in the one job and do plenty of overtime. It’s quite another to not have that luxury of one job leaking into all other areas of your life.

Because every time I’m at any particular task, I now have to be completely present – heart, body, mind. Because that’s all the time I am allowed to dedicate to that task. Miss that window, and I have no pockets of time left to make up for it because another job is owed my time. I speak for myself, of course, but my work ethic BC involved sacrificing my personal time (and sometimes, time with the husband) to finish work in the office. I can – and will – no longer do that.

Do you know how blinking hard it is to switch from one completely different job to another? That is probably the most exhausting part of my current work-life balance, but I’m also loving it. I have three completely different jobs that require very different soft and hard skills from me, and I’m loving the challenge. I also like to think I’m growing from it.

Got job change

Tony also had a job change a couple months ago – a real God’s timing moment, because things are very tight in the public service. For a little while there, it meant that on my work days, Arddun, Tony and I would be in different suburbs but in another great chess move, Tony got additional duties which meant he could be back in the same business park as Arddun’s childcare, on the days he needs to do the school drop off.

Got visitors

Tony’s mum came down for a visit, and got to spend some quality time with all of us – especially Arddun. Always a blessing to have her around; it just brings such a deep-sigh-aaaahhhh comfort to be with family, where it’s all about the companionship and the catching up, and you can lean on one another.

Adrian, Audrey and Sophie just came and left too… my family in spirit, if not in blood. Again, just deeply satisfying to be with them. The joy and glee of being in the same continent again – and this time in my home – was already something I had been looking forward to for months.

So… when are the rest of you coming over to my turf, hmm?

Got knocked up

A hundred and sixty-three of you stopped by one of my Facebook posts to scream about the fact that I’m now with child again. Second Bub is 17 weeks old today, and this pregnancy has sailed by. I forget a lot of the time that I’m pregnant – until I have to find something big and warm enough to wear.

All that they say about second pregnancies are true. My body had inflated in 2.5 seconds flat, like a pop-up tent. The baby, my phone app tells me, is now the size of a turnip but I look like I swallowed a rock melon whole. This baby is also a savoury baby – Tom Yum Soup is probably the one thing that strikes all the happy notes because it’s sweet, sour, salty, hot. So unlike Arddun, who made me down tubs of mango yoghurt and who now eats cheddar cheese in 1cm-thick slabs just like her father.

We’re happy that our family is expanding along with my waistline, but the timing is rather tricky because

We’re building a house

Or rather, we’ve been planning to since September last year and we’ve only managed to sign everything that actually says we are this week.

So think about it: we have to de-clutter the current house we’re living in to prepare it for sale (hah!), possibly pack and move to another place before our new house is finished (hah hah!), and then move into the new house after Second Bub greets the world (sob.)

Yes, there is a lot to do. But after the logistics of 2013, I’m all “Bring It On!” Might just be the second trimester talking. I suspect I’ll be less enamoured by it all come September, when I approach Waddle Station and have to face the prospect of packing or unpacking boxes.

Arddun turned three

On the 15th, we celebrated Arddun’s third birthday with a low-key backyard BBQ and a Peppa Pig cake. And then we celebrated some more by spending the actual day bouncing around at Flip Out with her friends, and having the yummiest ham and brioche toastie in homemade bread at Dream Cuisine with her BFF Leila.

Pictures to come. Have not synced technology appendages to the Mothership in a while.

Our little girl can now officially play with toys that have small pieces. Actually, our little girl can already do that – and so much more. I want to dedicate a completely separate post to the individual she has become, so I’ll leave you with some photos that befits the title of this post. Being all poetic and all.

Arddun making autumn leaf pile

Arddun about to toss autumn leaf pile

Arddun tosses leaf pile

Arddun twirling in falling autumn leaves

To everything, there is a season. And I loved spending the season with you. xx

Categories: Celebrations, Family, Food, Gratitude, Personal reflections, Pregnancy, Sweet moments | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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