{Thursday’s Three Thank-yous} Brother, Bank, Building

Okay, no more awkward photos. I promise.

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about what I’m thankful for. I used to take a breather every day at 3.00pm and again at 11:15pm to take stock of how my day is going over a hot cup of tea. One of the things I used to do at both those stops was to reflect on the big and little things I was grateful for. Free parking, for instance. New job. That sort of big and little. If I paid enough attention to what was going on, I could even mark the moment with a photo.

That habit had, sadly, shrivelled up in the wake of our new and more hectic home routine, what with Arddun’s preschool and Atticus as the newest kid on the block. Now that we have more of a routine going, I’m hoping to put some Mindfulness stops back in my day.

Like a muscle that’s fallen into disuse (see Velle’s Abs for further reference), identifying and celebrating things to be grateful for takes practice and doesn’t come as easily as one would think. So in coming back to this Thursday meditation, I struggled a teeny bit before the following came to me.

1. I’m thankful Arddun and Atticus have each other.

We had Mandarin playgroup again today, and the three of us had rocked up extra early. The playgroup is held in a children’s gym at the community health centre, so Atticus soon found himself in a cheerful corner of the room surrounded by age-appropriate toys. He was rapt enough that I could sneak over to the kitchenette on the other side of the room to grab a tea and bikkie.

And then I heard it. Volley after volley of that unmistakable belly-laugh.

Lately, Arddun has made it her mission to make her brother laugh. The moment she leaves her bedroom in the morning, she makes a beeline for her brother. She does everything from fart sounds (already a hit with the boy) and tickles, to bray-laughing like a donkey and general slapstick. I didn’t have to look up from my tea to guess what was going on back at Atticus’s playmat. His big sister had settled herself down beside him and was jiggling the levers and bells on the toy in front of him to get a reaction. Another mother who attends the playgroup sidled up next to me and marvelled at how wonderfully they play together.

Giving Arddun a sibling was a big part of why we had Atticus. But making a loving, gentle and kind big sister out of Arddun has turned out to be a wonderful blessing for Atticus.

Arddun kissing Atticus on couch

Yes, yes… I am adored.

2. I’m glad banks understand Mummy Brain

Atticus and I went to the Canberra Centre yesterday to catch up with some of my old colleagues for coffee, and to get some errands done. About two minutes before said coffee-date, however, I realised that I had left my wallet at home.

I wasn’t too panicked – the ATM machines lately have this feature where you can retrieve cash without using your card. I was also going to try and get some cash at the bank, although it wasn’t until one of my colleagues pointed out that I would need my ATM card for that, that I blanched. Oh dear. I had parked my car within the Centre, and there was no way to pay to get it out. I still needed to do my errands. What now?

Turns out, banks understand. In fact, it seems to be such a common occurrence that the teller could finish all my sentences.

“Hi, this is a little awkward, but I just found out I left my wallet at home…”

(Eyes the gurgling baby in the pram squeezing out every ounce of cuteness from his chubby cheeks and shiny eyes.)

“How much do you need?”

Less than two minutes later, I was out of there with enough cash to pay for parking AND get what I needed from Officeworks.

3. We have a slab!

After a lot of drama and rain and waiting and more rain and banks and then finally losing our tempers, our house has both slabs. It feels like we’ve gotten over a hump in the project. It hasn’t been a straightforward process, and it’s also turned out to be a complicated build… but at least we have a nice view.

Slab

Never thought I’d be so happy to see so much laid concrete.

Categories: Gratitude & Grace | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

{Monday Me} In the eyes of the beholder

I can’t remember where I read it, but a blogging mother recently dared to post a picture of herself that her son took. It wasn’t a flattering shot. She was lying in the sun in her bathing costume, one arm thrown over her face at an awkward angle, and a very white bare leg in all its post-pregnancy cellulite splendour stretched out front and centre.

Why did her son take that shot, right at that precise angle, in that unguarded moment? Was it to prank his mum? Embarrass her? Build some counter-ammo for that proverbial threat about silly stories making it to the 21st birthday speech?

No. He had taken it because he thought she looked beautiful. Out there, resting and relaxed in the sun.

I don’t know if Arddun had thought I looked beautiful when she took this one, but this is my unguarded-moment photo that I’m rather embarrassed about:

Velle changing Atticus's nappy in bedroom

EEEEEAAAARRRRGGGGHHHH! Avert your eyes!!! Do you see it? DO YOU SEE IT? My muffin top! My post-pregnancy, too-much-chocolate-too-many-late-nights-too-tired-to-exercise muffin top. The secret body of a woman who doesn’t live in Hollywood (or Asia) and who grew and birthed a 9-pound bubba 7 months ago. My body hasn’t bounced back, and my preschooler outted my disgrace with her new camera.

Except all she saw was her mummy doing a diaper change. All she captured was my joy with the mundane. That look on my face was one of surprise and pleasure — I was thrilled that she was starting to get the hang of her camera, and touched that she wanted to take photos of me. In fact, she took lots of photos of me because she adores me. Just as I take lots of my children because I can’t take my eyes off them.

She sees my body, cellulite and all, every day. They both do. But they don’t see the stretch marks, the bags under the eyes, the freckles. They don’t look at my body and think that I’m fat. They don’t wish I have a sharper nose or a butt that looks great in jeans. They don’t think I’m ugly. I’m Mummy. I have pretty hair. I give good cuddles and tickly kisses. I sing silly songs. I am like no other.

In a sermon two Sundays ago, Paul had suggested that we do massive clean-ups of our house before guests come over, all because of pride. And I had disagreed out loud – mostly because I do massive clean-ups because I’m trying to spare our guests having to wade through our filth (imagined or real). But there is an element of pride – of course there is. We want to be seen as put-together. Civilised. In control of our environment.

And it’s the same with our bodies – we don’t want to seem slothful. Slovenly. Ill-disciplined.

Being Chinese puts me in a slightly more *unique* position than my non-Chinese friends in Australia because my body is always held to a higher standard in some ways. For whenever I meet an Asian woman – even a complete stranger – there’s more than half a chance that she will comment on my body. I’ve been told I looked fat and that I should get a corset a mere fortnight after giving birth, while my body was still swollen from shock and water retention. I’ve been warned that I shouldn’t let myself go (the inference being that I already have). For my birthday this year, I had bought myself a full-length navy blue dress peppered with sweet yellow-white flowers, with an empire waistline. I absolutely love it because it’s pretty and comfortable… but every other time I’ve worn it, some Chinese woman somewhere was bound to pat my tummy (for real) and ask if I was pregnant and if not, that I therefore needed to lose weight. Never mind that I was jiggling an infant in a pram while they were doing and saying so.

It’s almost enough to develop an eating disorder.

I’m almost used to it now. It’s definitely cultural, this kneejerk reaction to tell another woman why she isn’t trying hard enough. And it’s not just looks – it goes into childrearing, housekeeping, you name it. But the looks are where it starts, because it’s the first and most obvious thing when you meet another person. I don’t know why my culture perpetuates this cycle of women crushing other women with the weight of vanity and expectation, even with those we love. I know it’s very seldom done maliciously. I know it’s done unconsciously.

(Or perhaps it happens in all cultures, except Asians lack subtlety. Certainly true, if the nastiness of parenting forums are anything to go by.)

I don’t know. I suspect the Looks thing has a lot to do with vanity and that notion of Saving Face that is endemic to our culture. And my shame in showing others my flabby bits is part and parcel of all that. But I reckon if I see myself through the same lens that my children use, I’d be a lot happier with myself and my body. And in turn, I’d be teaching my son and daughter valuable lessons about looking right past the outsides so they can recognise true love and real beauty.

Here’s to breaking free.

Categories: Moments & Milestones, Motherhood & Me | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Point and Click

But before I begin, let’s start with this pretty picture:

No television on entertainment unit

“Where’s our TV, Mummy?”

And yes. As much as we started out as parents who wanted to keep our child away from the “evils” of television, we ended up losing our way. Repeatedly, and without regret. I don’t know who I was trying to kid – I love film and television. I think I watched, on average, a movie a week when I was Single in Singapore. And I grew up with the original Disney heroines, long before they thought to package them as Princesses. Watching Arddun’s eyes widen and sparkle as she is introduced to my animated companions of old is always a very special treat we both share.

But our 7-year-old Samsung seems to be of that special factory breed which has a glitchy capacitor, so it’s been taking longer and longer to wake up when we point and click. In one of the rarest times an extended warranty actually worked in our favour, the tech people came today to take our TV away and fix it for free. And so we find ourselves without the gogglebox for a whole week.

Thank goodness S5 GoT just finished.

Naturally, this called for an arsenal of other distractions. I had recently recharged our old point-and-shoot Olympus (8 megapixels, 10x optical zoom), only to find the lens or digital monitor damaged. So today, I splashed out a little on a cheapie – just to see how well Arddun takes to photography.

It’s only a 2mp with a very slow reaction time, so most shots end up blurred after pressing the button. But Arddun was pretty thrilled with it. “I take pictures like you!” she beamed at me, which more than made up for the $25 price tag!

And off she went, working out how to place her fingers so they didn’t block the lens and how to use the digital monitor to frame her shot. The first few times she took a picture of me only to find my head chopped off, she accused me of “not standing right”. So yes, practice needed on how to frame a shot, methinks.

Photo of me without head

“You’re not standing in the right spot, Mummy!”

Velle and Atticus on left of shot

“That’s better!”

Photo of drawers

“I take your drawers.”

Photo of ceiling

“Look, Mummy! The ceiling!”

Photo of toys

The Princess and the Hammock

Photo of Velle holding Atticus

I think I’ve had more photos taken of me in this half an hour than I’ve had in a looooong time.

Photo of Tony without his head

Daddy’s home.

Blurred photo of Arddun's dinner

“My dinner!”

Every time she managed to take a picture without her fingers in the shot, she just beamed. After just 20 photos, you could see a marked improvement. Can’t wait to see if this becomes a passion of sorts!

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Arddun’s vintage birthday tea party

Question: How does one organise a children’s party at home in winter, while alone with two children?

Answer: Very, very slowly.

Arddun’s 4th birthday party has been and gone, but we are still stretching things out by opening a new present a day. June has turned into birthday MONTH, as far as I’m concerned. I started thinking about Arddun’s birthday party the week after Tony’s 40th party finished. And then it was all about incrementally putting it together.

It was like watching snails mate, it was that slow.

It had been very tempting to lump it all with professional party people, and indeed I had sourced a few quotes. But perhaps it’s been all my casual Pinteresting of late that’s imbued me with this false sense of, “Yeah! I can definitely do that!” What I failed to remember, of course, was how different my life is now. I no longer have long stretches of time in the day with which to plan and execute lavish parties. Even when I was working stupid hours in Corporate Land, I still had more time and headspace to event-manage 50-pax Chinese New Year house parties annually than I do now. For shizz.

Motherhood, in reality, only allows you to think and execute anything in 5-minute bursts. Try putting a strategic plan across that level of chronic interruption. It ain’t easy, even with the best household routine in place. Which is why I needed about a 20-day lead time to pull together a 2-hour party for 7 girls and their mothers.

I had decided on a Vintage Tea Party theme, because lunch was too daunting and I wanted something fun and feminine, but not attached to any Disney franchise (*cough* Frozen *cough*). Thanks to Alice in Wonderland, Arddun has a superficial understanding of what an afternoon tea with friends could look like, but doing it Vintage-style allowed me enough poetic license to go hodge-podge with décor and — more importantly — borrow party gear from friends.

Here’s a peek at the Vintage Tea Party-planning.

Arddun, putting together goodie bags for her friends. Loot includes chocolate chip teddy bears, colourful beads to make jewellery, temporary tattoos, and stationery.

Arddun, putting together goodie bags for her friends. Loot includes chocolate chip teddy bears, colourful beads to make jewellery, temporary tattoos, and stationery.

 

Party bags for friends

Special bags for special friends

 

Pouring milk while making cupcakes

Part of the day’s fun includes cupcake decorating. For that, we first need to make some nekkid cupcakes.

 

Arddun being silly with Atticus while baking

What fun is baking if you can’t make your baby brother wear a funny hat, hmm?

 

Montage of Arddun and Atticus

I must be near the oven, ‘cos my heart is melting. These kids!

 

Edible teacups

Made these in the middle of the night. Let’s just say that icing sugar ain’t no superglue.

 

Edible teacups close up

First saw these at my baby shower when Arddun was still in utero. Seems rather poetic that I’m making them now. Also featuring my mother’s colourful chicken plate.

 

Passing the parcel forfeit

Apparently, Passing the Parcel nowadays means each child wins a present every time the music stops and they tear open the package. True to the vintage theme, we went old-school with ours and each layer peeled meant a small “forfeit” with only a single prize at the end. Nothing too traumatic, and all in good fun. I hope.

 

Passing the parcel Hokey Pokey forfeit

The final “forfeit” before the prize.

 

Dress up corner

Dress-up corner with a chest of vintage clothes (half procured from Salvation Army shop), and jewellery box filled with gloves, lace, pearls and bling. I had no idea how vintage-inspired my bling collection was until I put this together! Borrowed mirror from Fam.

 

Tea party table

Pom-poms and netting put together by daddy. The idea is for the girls to sit at their tea party table and dabble with make-up after having a rummage through the dress-up box. Half expecting drag-queen results. Camera on the ready.

 

Table setting for tea party

Tea party spread shaping up! Gorgeous teacups and teapots borrowed from lovely sisters in Christ who were brave, slightly insane but generous enough to trust seven 4-year-olds with such precious crockery.

 

Teapot and teacups

Arddun and I went shopping a few weeks back and did some tea-tasting at T2. Finally settled on Fruitalicious – a lovely uncaffeinated fruit tea that is suitably pink, like Dorothy the Dinosaur’s.

 

Colourful meringues

Wasn’t insane enough to hand-make everything. These meringues were store-bought purely because they were pretty, and they turned out very yum.

 

Cucumber sandwiches

I’m under the strong impression that very English tea parties require cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches, so I cheerfully obliged.

As for the party itself, it never quite turns out like how you envision it… but the end result was still deeply satisfying.

Emma dressing up

You mean, I get to try out all the clothes in this chest? You’re kidding!

 

Ivy in dapper hat

Not really into the girly dresses, but this hat is pretty dapper on me!

 

Charlotte in pearls and dress up

That’s LADY Charlotte to you, thankyouverymuch.

 

Emma dressing Tracey up

Look what I found you!

 

Zahra at make up table

Eyebrows always require deep concentration

 

Birthday girl putting on make-up

I think that’s how Mummy does it.

 

Leila putting on blue make up

That fine line between Make-up and Face-painting.

 

Ivy and passing the parcel

Passing the Parcel forfeit: make a silly face at the Birthday Girl. Ivy shows us how it’s done.

 

Arddun in corner collecting herself

Sometimes, all that attention can just get too much. Introverted birthday girl takes some time to collect herself.

 

Cupcake decorating

Cupcake decorating time!

 

Charlotte with finished cupcake

Almost too pretty to eat.

 

Birthday ice cream cake

The candle says it all. You are officially four!

 

Happy birthday song

A rousing Happy Birthday song

 

So much love put in to the day.

So much love put in to the day.

 

Birthday present line-up

Thanks for coming, everyone! We definitely feel very loved.

There were a few other moments I wished I could have captured. The moment when they all had their first sip of grown-up tea in grown-up china teacups, for instance. My hands were full with having to feed Atticus by then, but it was so precious to watch a tableful of little girls reverently holding their teacups in both hands and sipping solemnly.

Thankfully, there were other mums taking lots of photos too. Can’t wait to see their snapshots! :-)

In the end, I think Arddun enjoyed herself, on balance. And it turned out to be a lot of fun for me, too. Although the pics don’t include them, Tony and Atticus were also at the party, quietly enjoying the festivities in the background. I’m glad we ended up doing it this way, even if it had taken some effort. It’s probably the last birthday party we’ll have in this house before we move, and Arddun’s just old enough now to start keeping memories. I hope she remembers this home.

Not sure what we’ll end up doing next year, but my mind’s already churning. :-)

Categories: Moments & Milestones | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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