Category Archives: Family & Friends

Something Right

I don’t know about you but these days, there will come a moment everyday, however transient, when my heart goes all frail on me and I wonder if I have even done anything right. I have always been very self-critical; it hasn’t always worked to my advantage but as I grew older, I learnt to harness the ability to find fault in everything I do and turn it into motivation for excellence. And it paid off in my studies and career (or whatever I used to have before I became a mother). I excelled in everything I worked on, and the grades, appraisals, anything that was telling of a report card were apparent indicators of my best efforts. It was easy to know that I did my best, and I thrive on knowing that I gave my best efforts.

But…parenting is NOTHING like I have ever worked on previously. Don’t get me wrong…I have never once thought parenting to be a race. I don’t seek to be the best mother in the world. I simply wonder if I have done enough for my child because everyday, something is bound to happen that makes me feel like I could have given more to the being I am nurturing. And surely, this being is way more important than any of the silly exams or projects I have  undertaken in the past?

My everyday could look like this:

F is playing independently or reading in our living room. I look up from whatever I am doing, and I am suddenly consumed with guilt as I realise that I haven’t taken her to the playground to run with wild abandon for weeks just because I haven’t been feeling well enough to do so. 

Or this:

F is ill. I have been trying to coax her into drinking more water but she refuses every attempt. When I finally get some fluid into her, she lets the fluid dribble down her chin and breaks into a cheeky smile because that is apparently funny to her. I lose my temper and tell her off for doing so. She looks at me with tears welling up in her eyes and tries to hug me. I dodge her attempt to be close to me and go on to clean up the mess rather angrily. As I calm down, I feel like a downright lousy mother as I realise I should have been more patient and that I should have held my tongue and accepted her gesture of apology.

These are just two of the infinite permutations on how I feel that I have let my daughter down. And I have been struck by this guilt every single day ever since she was born. Have I done anything right? There isn’t a pat on my back to make me think otherwise. And it’s not like parents are routinely entitled to pats on the back. In fact, criticisms inundate my everyday, and it’s up to me to filter them and take up the constructive ones, but it is just so darn difficult when I doubt myself to begin with. On good days, I shrug the guilt off and know that it is okay that I tripped up. On bad days, like today, I crumble.

This evening, as F clung onto me tightly with her head buried in my chest for our bedtime prayer, I took in her baby scent and am reminded of how small a person I am and yet, how much she needed me, and how much she needed me to be BIG. I asked God to help me become what I can never be without Him, to help me do something right, and I broke into sobs mid-prayer. It was then when F drew her head back away from my chest and looked at me with so much love and concern in her eyes that I knew my prayer was answered in an instant.

“Mama, you want tissue?” She asked gently, yet earnestly as she stroked my face and nodded to urge me to go on and take a piece of tissue.

And there and then, I thought, of all the things I have done wrong, I might have done one thing right.

201411 Sydney

The Things Faith Says #2: She Doesn’t Share Food

We were having a much-anticipated steak dinner at Chophouse (which turned out to be a real disappointment) in Sydney about two weeks ago and Faith’s main course of fish and chips had arrived sooner than ours.

M and I were famished and started picking off the mountain of fries on her plate (which we were sure she wouldn’t be able to finish), when Faith frowned at me, pouted her lips and exclaimed, “Hmmph!”

We were a little taken aback as she has always been okay with us eating off her plate, and in fact, is quite generous with sharing even her favourite foods. I dropped the fry immediately out of surprise.

Me: Faith, can Mama have a French fry, please?

Faith (in all seriousness that made M and me snort with laughter): This is Faith’s fries. Mama order your fries, okaaaayyyy?

Me: HOKAAAAY. Sorry, dear. Mama will not eat your fries, okay?

Faith promptly nodded and went back to demolishing the mountain of fries. Mama and Papa continued to battle hunger until our cardboard steaks arrived.

201410 Sydney Grounds of Alexandria

How Faith feels about food.201410 Sydney Grounds of Alexandria 2

How Faith feels about sharing food.

P/S: We thought that it was a one-off, because she was back in the spirit of sharing food after that meal, but today, she refused to let me have another piece of kaya toast for breakfast and claimed it for herself, saying, “This is Faith’s bread.” Well, at least I no longer have to finish her leftovers!

The Things Faith Says #1: On Loving Us

I should have done this a long time ago, when Faith started having properly hilarious and startling conversations with us. Well, better late than never, so here goes (and I sure hope to keep this up with my busy bee schedule!)

Papa: Faith, do you love Papa?

Faith: YES!

Papa: Do you love Mama?

Faith: YES!

Papa: Who do you love more?

Mama (softly chiding Papa): What a question to ask her!!

Faith: FAITH!

Mama: *dumbfounded*

Papa: GOOD ANSWER.

Faith: You love Faith?

Papa and Mama (in unison): OF COURSE!

Mama: Papa and Mama love you very, very much, dear.

Faith (gives an approving nod): Thank you for everything. Amen.

There and then, we burst out laughing, and sat wondering where the time has gone and if our little girl is growing up too quickly.

faith

Married Life Blooper #4: When One Gets All Smart-Ass on the Other

*This conversation is best illustrated as we spoke it, in English, Mandarin and Singlish. I thought of doing a translation for international readers, but it’s not half as funny in Queen’s English! Sorry, guys!

We were taking an evening stroll through the ‘hood, when we came across a house where the owner had grown a thick canopy of climbers over a quaint sitting area in the garden.

M (referring to the canopy): Look at that!

Me: Why would anyone do that?! What if the 鸟生鸡蛋,or worse 送他一粒炸弹 while he is sitting underneath the canopy?

M: Please lah, 鸟 doesn’t 生鸡蛋.

Me (shooting M the eh-you-fail-your-science-ah look): 鸟 of course 生鸡蛋, it does not give birth to live young, OKKKAAAAYY?

M: 鸟生鸟蛋, lah, PLEASEEEEEEE! (proceeds to shoot me the you-then-fail-your-science look)

Me: … (turns lobster red and smacks M repeatedly on his arm, as I do when I realise I am completely and horribly wrong!)

Cake, Candles and Balloons!

201408 Faith turns 2 15

F turned two a while ago, and we held an intimate garden party for our amazing family and friends. Truth be told, I’m no hostess with the mostess, and I’m not quite a party animal nor a social butterfly (yes, contrary to the fact that I have a blog, I really am socially awkward in person). I had written off holding a party for F’s 2nd birthday (having gone through the life-shortening madness of planning her 1st), and tried to sell the idea of us three going on a short, stress-free and fab getaway to M instead. M wasn’t keen on that, and I don’t really blame him because we have travelled quite a fair bit in the first half of this year, and his work schedule was rather (still is) punishing.

I sulked a little at not being able to travel And so, I was really quite happy to spend the day quietly with F, at the zoo or something, until M suggested that we could hire the ice-cream man (you know, the one with the old-school pushcart) and invite a couple of friends with kiddos over for a tea-time treat. I protested, of course, because…why would any parent bring their kids over, knowing that they are going to get sugar-high, hyperactive and run into epic meltdowns later in the day?! Geez, M…

He wouldn’t let the idea go, that stubborn man, and I decided we would have to plump the party up a bit and make it a little more reasonable for our guests to haul their kids over for an afternoon of fun. Any logical person with a crazy toddler on the loose would cater, you know, like PAY someone else to cook the food, bake a cake and set everything up. But I, (a) was not happy with the catering menus out there, (b) couldn’t bring myself to break the tradition of baking my family’s birthday cakes, (c) have terribly itchy fingers and (d) love to torture myself, and so I decided to…DO EVERY FREAKING THING BY MYSELF (except the curry puffs and fried chicken wings we got from OCK, because those are definite crowd-pleasers, unlike our food…).

*CUE MADNESS AND STRESS AND SLEEPLESS NIGHTS*

Of course, I recruited my minions, M and my darling sister, J, to help me with the food preparation, and begged my future brother-in-law, J, to babysit F (who probably terrorised him) while we were slogging away in the kitchen. The preps started two days before the party. Many curses, countless regrets, and one massive birthday cake mishap later (the weather was too hot even in the air-conditioned kitchen, and the four-layer cake did a BBC-news-worthy landslide on me whilst I was putting on the crumb coat, so I had to RE-DO the freaking cake), we were done.

I hope everyone enjoyed the food (though the humidity killed some of the crispness of my signature roasted pork belly and that pizza toast) and the cake (I was disappointed with the way it turned out, unlike the previous ones I made), and that the kids had fun playing with one another and chasing after bubbles. F had a most wonderful day, in spite of the glitches, did not have a single bite of the ice-cream (the irony, she wasn’t in the mood for any), and was genuinely sad and puzzled when everyone left (that’s testament to how much she enjoyed your company). Thank you, our family and friends, for your presence, love and gifts (we are allowing her open only one gift every month, and you guys have been so generous, she will be opening presents into her third birthday!).

Alright, Mama should probably stop rambling and let the pictures do the talking. I’m sorry that there are so many of them over here (there are more on my camera but I have to keep them away from the public eye to protect my family members’ and friends’ privacies), I had to take as many shots as possible because there is no way in hell I am going to DIY a party to this extent ever again.

Till the next birthday (which is hopefully a quiet getaway because I need to rest from planning this one)!
201408 Faith turns 2 8

A simple, styled table, laden with food and peachy, minty colours, perfect for a tyke!

201408 Faith turns 2 9

We made everything except the OCK curry puffs and wings, and store-bought nachos. Word to the wise, cater if you don’t want to lose your sanity.

201408 Faith turns 2 7

Putting the chalkboard easel we bought from Perth to good use again this year.201408 Faith turns 2

I’m all for reusing silk floral arrangements. I did this for F’s 1st birthday, and I didn’t have time to get fresh flowers, so this came in handy.

201408 Faith turns 2 2

Homemade spicy guacamole with store-bought nachos.
201408 Faith turns 2 4

My favourite salad to make, inspired by one of Ottolenghi’s recipes – roasted aubergine salad with pomegranate, basil, toasted pine nuts, saffron garlic yogurt dressing and roasted buttermilk chicken.201408 Faith turns 2 3

Always a crowd-pleaser – curry puffs and fried chicken wings from OCK. Thank goodness for our Airfryer, which did a fine job of crisping them up again.201408 Faith turns 2 5

Another of my favourite foods to make – roasted pork belly (also known as siu yuk) with garilc aioli dipping sauce.

201408 Faith turns 2 6My favourite snack to eat since I was a kid – Papa used to make this for us every Sunday morning. Pizza toast with cheese, fresh tomatoes and bacon, grilled to gooey, crisp goodness. Perfect for kids!
201408 Faith turns 2 17Another shot of the table, just because.
201408 Faith turns 2 10

The ice-cream man and his old-school pushcart! 201408 Faith turns 2 11

F, being absolutely delighted to be surrounded by one of her favourite things in the world, BUBBLES!201408 Faith turns 2 12

The kids looked like they were having fun!201408 Faith turns 2 13

Goodies bags we prepared for the young ones. The parents must hate me because I filled them with treats. I did try to soften the blow by putting in some balloons and self-inking rubber stamps.

201408 Faith turns 2 14

The birthday cake, which caused way too much drama during the preps. My cake-making mojo wasn’t there.

201408 Faith turns 2 16

Devil’s food cake with raspberry curd, cream cheese frosting and topped with fresh raspberries.
201408 Faith turns 2 18

I couldn’t help notice how F has grown and matured since her 1st birthday. My poor mother’s heart can’t take her growing so quickly! Happy birthday, my love. You must know that Papa and Mama love you so much that we would die planning a party for you. Just sayin’. By the way, all the practice sessions we had to sing the birthday song, make a wish, blow the candle and cut the cake? Went down the drain because F had stage fright. GAH. She did it at bedtime with her imaginary cake that night, though. I guess that counts, somewhat?

 

 

 

 

 

You Are Always On My Mind

It’s 10.24pm on a Friday night.

Most people I know are spending time with their family and friends after a dreadful week of peak-hour commutes, school runs, deadlines and run-ins with their bosses, colleagues, clients or (gasp) children.

I, on the other hand, am alone; yet again lounging in bed and having some me-time online. And I know that after I finish penning my thoughts, I will curl up with a good book before turning in for the night. Such is the story of my life in recent months.

You see, M has signed up to work in one of the most intensive departments. He yearned to pick up whatever he can learn from this rotation, but in return, his hours are long, gruelling and intensive. He practically works the graveyard shifts now, and rarely gets to sleep partly due to a largely confused circadian rhythm, and partly because he tries to see Faith and me as much as possible during our waking hours. Our family of three has been thrown into the deep end once again with his work schedules. Well, it kinda feels like the times when F was still an infant…you know, the times when days and nights are not what they should be.

It’s very tiring, this solo-parenting-not-seeing-M-as-often-as-I-wish-thing. As is juggling between work, rest and family time for M. Even F is feeling the heat from the recent arrangements. She didn’t used to cry when Papa left her in the past, but ever since M started work in this department, she has taken to wailing whenever Papa ups and goes to work at different times of the day. It’s hard for us to stomach the separation, and harder for her to grasp the abruptness and irregularity of it all. I would be lying if I said this isn’t taking a toll on us. These days, I’m usually flat out by the end of the day and I can’t sleep because I worry about M. M would be shattered with exhaustion and torn with guilt on neglecting us and his buddies because of unyielding demands from work (I mean, you can’t just leave your patients and insist you want to knock off at the end of a stipulated shift). M doesn’t say it, but I know from the glances he throws at us, that he misses us terribly too.

But we are, strangely, stronger in parts and as one. And I am very thankful for that bond and love we have for one another. For the most transient father-daughter exchanges that I get to witness in that few seconds and beam at for the rest of my life. For the times when F goes, ”Papa?” and she quietly nods when I remind her gently that ‘Papa is at work.’ For the times when I stir as M reaches home in the wee hours of the morning, squeezes my hand and whispers, ‘Don’t worry, I am here.’ just before he falls into a deep slumber. For the bunch of the most beautiful blood-red roses that M (wouldn’t have usually bought because he doesn’t believe in buying flowers) surprised me with after a 10pm-8am shift, and the way he asked me to not forget that I am always on his mind even though I am mostly alone these days. For the times when I throw my arms around M and watch his favourite Hobbits series, just because I know he would like some company whilst trying to get himself accustomed to sleeping on demand, when all I really want to do is to catch some sleep.

Suddenly, every word spoken, every second spent together, every gesture is much more precious and memorable than before.

While our lives are currently fraught with unpredictability, exhaustion and our future, with uncertainty, I cannot remember a time when we were happier, more contented, and more comfortable with walking on a tight-rope. It’s almost as if we have truly grown as family, even with F at the tender age of (almost) two and we are somehow (surprisingly) letting the obstacles roll off our backs like they don’t matter. Children are creatures of habit but F seems to know how important it is to flit and float with us now that our circumstances have changed, and she has adapted well, save for the separation anxiety when Papa leaves for work. I cannot be more thankful for what we have going on here to cope with our new lives.

So, on this Friday night, as people around us snuggle up to their loved ones and recharge for the coming week, we fight together in spirit and take comfort that we shall see one another tomorrow morning, even if it’s for a few minutes.

Because…Faith, Papa thinks of you all the time, and M, you too, are always on my mind. And that is enough to keep us all going.

201408 Red Roses

There Is Always Time to Dance

Before M and I became parents, we were young (tsk tsk), carefree (tsk tsk) and did most things in the spur of the moment. Feel like getting fat on gelato and bistecca alla fiorentina? Off to Florence this weekend! Feel like taking in the rich history and sheer beauty that make Austria? Off to Vienna the next weekend! Never mind the odd hours of flying with budget airlines, the mere hour of sleep that we would get right after landing and before we hop (yes, we could still hop) to work. We were tired but we could harness that bit of energy left in the name of impulse and adventure, two words that make up so many of our memories together.

These days, we would grab any chance to sit still, glaze over and try to remember our first and last names for about thirty seconds before someone springs a timely reminder and goes ‘MAMA!’ or ‘PAPA!’ on us. We no longer ‘hop on the next flight’ just because we felt like it. We run our lives on a loose-tight-ish schedule, depending on whether it’s a school/workday, and mostly plan where we are going down to the o’clocks to accommodate nap times and mealtimes (for our toddler’s sake, not ours).

But I’m not complaining. There is comfort in this routine, contentment in the privilege of being parents to our little girl, and unbridled joy in any surprise.

Such as this. M is excellent at making memories out of the tiniest gestures, especially when I am much too caught up in the daily grind to appreciate the small things in life. Two nights ago, I was battling my old and cranky MacBook Pro, and hoping against hope that I hadn’t lost all the photos taken back in London as I tried to restore its contents. I was on the verge of crying, absolutely gutted that I might have erased those precious memories of London, when M picked me up from the floor, put on a song, 月亮代表我的心, on the phone and held me close as we danced in our pyjamas in the still of the night. And that was all it took to make a memory, one that wouldn’t be captured on photos, one that couldn’t be captured on photos.

In that three minutes and twenty-eight seconds, I am reminded that we could and should find the time to dance in the busy-ness that is parenthood and our lives, trying to complete this and achieve that. Because, in that 3:28, I found forever, something that I wouldn’t be able to get if I had spent the time getting all flustered.

So…yes, impulse and adventure may not make our memories now. Gelato and bistecca alla fiorentina may not rank tops in our priorities, not as much as sleep and rest anyway, but we dance, and I will take 3:28 over that any day.

201407 A Time to Dance

Us. Post-wedding, pre-baby in the winter of 2011. After a hike through Forest of Dean up to Symonds Yat Rock, taking in the beauty of Wye Valley.