Category Archives: Love & Marriage

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.

A Letter From Me to You, You and You

Dear {You},

{Papa and Mama}, I know I was a mess in the early months of motherhood. Sometimes, I still am. I cannot even begin to tell you both how thankful I am for you, for someone like me to have you as my dear parents. If not for you, I wouldn’t know what love is. If not for you, I wouldn’t have survived being an absolutely clueless mother to Faith. If not for you, I wouldn’t know what sacrifice means. Both of you are unconditional love personified. I can only wish that I am capable of giving Faith half the love and care that both of you have given me. Thank you for showing me what it takes to be a parent, and more. Faith is infinitely blessed to have Ah Gong and Ah Ma in her life.

{M}, I want to thank you for being such a strong pillar in my life. It’s tough to be the sole breadwinner and yet, you have been completely supportive on my wish to be a stay-at-home-mum. You have not once frowned upon my decision of giving up years of postgraduate education and good salary for this (even when I felt torn apart), and you have never griped about making ends meet on your own. You work so hard to provide the best for Faith and me, to the extent of neglecting your own well-being and giving up little luxuries for yourself, that it pains me to watch you live the consequences of my decision. I’m so, so sorry that I have not said this to you sooner, but you are my hero.

Sometimes, I can’t believe how blessed I am to have fallen in love with you, to be loved by you. I’m far from perfect, as a wife, as a mother, as a human being. But you, you, step in selflessly to make up for what I cannot do, and you have never ever judged me to be a lesser person just because I failed to rise to the occasion. How is it that I deserve such a wonderful man like you? I’ll never know, but I promise you that I’ll try to be better, because you make me want to be better.

Thank you for helping me to be the best mother I can to our child.

{Faith}, you are the greatest little person to Mama. I haven’t learnt as much from school as I did from you. You taught me to be patient, to be loving, to see the best in the most trying circumstances, to marvel at the tiniest miracles that I took for granted before you came along.

What really astounds me is how strong you are. You have been ill for three weeks. Yesterday, I watched you throw up helplessly and you cried as though you were in pain. I reckon you were frightened, but you stopped crying and started dancing the minute I cleaned you up; it was as if nothing had happened. In that instance, I thought about how I would curl up in bed, overwhelmed with self-pity and lethargy, had I been struck with bouts of high fever, hacking coughs and the vomitting bug. I felt ashamed and inspired at the same time, because you are but 20 months old, yet, you are so much more resilient than Mama. You make me want to be much more than I am, so that I can love you the best way I know how.

Thank you for giving me the privilege of being your mother, to learn from you, to look at the world through your eyes, to share with you, and to watch you grow.

(My brother, sister and friends}, I wouldn’t be a mother, if not for you. Thank you for helping me with Faith when I try to gobble down my lunch. Thank you for wiping away my tears when I feel defeated with the challenges of motherhood. Thank you for taking me out for dinner, even though I turned you down a million times before that because I couldn’t get away from parenting duties or was just too darn tired to head out. Thank you for not being mad at me when I run off to chase my toddler midway through a conversation. Thank you for telling me that it’s okay to not be okay. Thank you for sticking around and keeping my head above the water. Thank you for sharing my joy as a parent, even though I may babble on too much about Faith and annoy the hell out of you. You know who you are.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. I can see why they say that now, so…Happy Mother’s Day to one and all, because I don’t think this day is possible without you, you and you.

Love,
Your daughter, wife, sister and friend

201405 Mother's Day Open Letter

Married Life Blooper #3: The Tale of Four Butt Cheeks

M and I were about to turn in for the night, after a particularly drawn-out and tiring day. As he hoisted the duvet  up to his neck, and snuggled under the covers, he mumbled, ‘Do you know that I love you very much?’

And I, being all manja, asked him the question that most men feared.

Me: Will you still love me when I grow fat?

M (half-asleep): I love you, no matter what.

Me: Even with the face of a char siew bao?

M (still half-asleep): Yes, of course.

Me: Even when I have four butt cheeks?

M (jolted awake): FOUR butt cheeks?!

Me: Yes, four.

M: Why would there be four? Where would the extra two cheeks be?

Me (*rolls eyes* not that M could see them in the dark): Underneath the first two, LAH!

M: *BURSTS INTO LAUGHTER*

Me: …

The shit we say.

The Way I Say I Love You

201404 Toasted Coconut Cake with Lemon Curd and Lemon Italian Meringue Buttercream 1

I am not one who tends to be all loving and gregarious and warm in person, mostly because I am afraid of saying the wrong thing. Often, I fumble for words and end up not telling someone how I feel because I spend too much time thinking about whether I would overwhelm people, or hurt someone, or generally freak people out with my weirdness. So if you have met me in person, you would know that I hardly initiate conversations and I mostly respond to people only when asked to, well, respond. I prefer to sit back and listen, than to fire away and be the life of the party. Yes, I am usually that quiet, aloof oddball, especially in a group of people. (But I have improved substantially since I got to know M, because his confidence in speaking up has rubbed off a little on me, which explains why I am a little less awkward these days, especially when I meet people one-on-one.)

201404 Toasted Coconut Cake with Lemon Curd and Lemon Italian Meringue Buttercream 2

I do, however, love to write. Feelings can take the form of handwritten letters, emails, post-its, messages, even blog posts, and I word and offer them more freely and unabashedly, than if I were to communicate them in person. I love that I can write my thoughts down without having people scrutinise my facial expressions or my tightly wrung hands. The time alone with my pen and paper, or even the phone, is void of distraction, and that allows me to be…free.

201404 Toasted Coconut Cake with Lemon Curd and Lemon Italian Meringue Buttercream 3

There are, however, certain things that can, and should only be said to someone when you look at him or her in the eye. A heartfelt letter, or a simple note by the lunch bag works, but shouldn’t we all try to tell that special people in our lives that we love them, in person? I know that I don’t tell people that I love them as often as I should. I don’t say it to my parents, or my siblings, whom I love with all my life. I sneak it in, when my husband and I are all tucked into bed, after we turn out the lights, because I’m too shy to look at him in the eye. I sneak it in, when I gaze at his profile as he watches the telly, because I know in the split second of words tumbling out of my mouth, he would be too distracted to glance at me before I hastily look away in embarrassment. The only person whom I consistently say it to has got to be Faith, who is far too young to be all weirded out by her Mama’s profuse declaration of love for her.

201404 Toasted Coconut Cake with Lemon Curd and Lemon Italian Meringue Buttercream 4

But I can say it with cake. And I love to say it with cake. It starts with what I know about the likes and dislikes of that special someone, and branches out into ideas on flavours and textures that he or she would love. It then grows with days of labouring over the stove and the oven, hunching over the cake as I try my best to make it look nice, battling with the humidity and often, my daughter who pleads for my attention every two seconds. And then the moment comes, when the birthday song is sung, the candles are blown out and the cake is cut. My special someone tucks in and exclaims, ‘This is amazing!’ and I pretend to be busy with brushing non-existent crumbs from the table. That moment is perfect because I have said I love you in the biggest and smallest way possible, and no one gets weirded out. I get to retreat to my little oddball corner and feel like I have gone all out to say I love you with a slice of homemade cake.

And this was the case for my husband’s birthday this year. I don’t earn a salary, and I don’t do much other than take care of my family’s needs. I didn’t and couldn’t get him a present (it would really come out of his pocket, rather than my own…), and the only thing that I could do was to really think about what he loves, come up with flavours to surprise him, and get down to making him a cake that I hope he would adore. I don’t know if he was just trying to make me happy by saying that he loved the cake, but I was glad that he appreciated my efforts. I was glad that I made it, a Toasted Coconut Cake with Lemon Curd and Lemon Italian Meringue Buttercream. I was glad that he knows that I love him…and that’s all that matters.

201404 Toasted Coconut Cake with Lemon Curd and Lemon Italian Meringue Buttercream 5

I love you, darling.

 

Not Your Average Superheros

201404 My Monsters

These two people boast an arsenal of mysterious superpowers that can make me feel ANYTHING.

They can drive me nuts. When I’m awake. When I’m asleep. When I’m just trying to be alone with my thoughts. When I’m trying to talk to them (ANSWER ME, DAMMIT).

For the annoying ticks they are, they have the strange ability to make me laugh. When I’m in the middle of a WAAAAAAAA-WAAAAAAAAA breakdown. When I’m out somewhere where it’s highly inappropriate to snort like a sow as I attempt to stifle my laughter. OMG, awkward much.

And then, they often harness the kungfunoshadowkickdrunkenfist power of making me melt into a puddle of loveydoveychocolatey goo. Like the other day, on a late afternoon after M came back from his overnight shift. F was really driving me up the wall with her wacky new tantrums the entire day (hello, Terrible Twos!) and I was flat out of battery by mid-day. M promptly took on his parenting duties, in spite of exhaustion from lack of the sleep the night before, and distracted F. He thought she might be running high on fuel and decided to chase her back and forth between the bedroom and the living room, where I was plastered to the couch. That’s not an unusual sight as we often chase F around and she LOVES to be chased. But on that day, M decided to kick it up a notch and he….planted a big kiss on my lips whenever he reached the couch. And you know what, F followed suit.

So it was RUN-LIKE-ELEPHANTS-ON-A-STAMPEDE-and-SHRIEK-WITH-DELIGHT followed by a big fat kiss on Mama’s lips, rinse and repeat.

Sigh.

Told you they aren’t your average superheroes.

 

 

The Here-and-Now

I have lost count of the number of times that I chased after the has-beens, what-ifs and maybes.

When I was a child, I was in a hurry to grow up in every way possible. I would try on my mother’s high heels, play with her humble stash of makeup, ask to go to the playground on my own, plead to go out with my friends, and buy my very first grown-up wallet (my mother used to attach a coin pouch to the inner lining of my pocket using a safety pin so I wouldn’t lose it….again). I even saved up to buy five curry puffs from my primary school canteen (and kept them in the pocket of my skirt…) for everyone in my family because that made me feel like a steward. I remember thinking that it would be nice if I could be an adult, kinda like Tom Hanks in the movie ‘Big‘, because I wanted to make my own decisions, and that seemed like the coolest thing a kid could do at that point.

When I started working, I was in a hurry to be somebody in the company I was working for, and to earn a handsome salary so that I could give my parents an allowance, buy them a house with a pretty garden, get my first car, etc. (But of course, I had to throw myself into the pursuit of a postgraduate degree and regress to being a student who was broke as hell from the age of 25 to 28, which largely represented a stage in life where my peers were starting to climb up the ladder at work and have some semblance of financial independence.)

When I was slogging through PhD, I couldn’t wait to graduate, so I could kickstart my late-bloomer of a career, be (yay) finally un-broke and put the skills I have learnt to good use. And yes, as I got married whilst getting my degree, I yearned to have a child too but we shelved the plans because pursuing a PhD whilst having a kid in a foreign country just didn’t make sense (to my disappointment).

Then I finally became a parent.

The sleepless nights, and state of being generally clueless about what a newborn needs, had me wishing that my daughter would grow up as soon as possible. I also thought about the times when I was young and carefree (read: before I became a parent), and occasionally wished that I could turn back the hands of time, and be the kid that I was. The kid who had the drive to propel herself, without incessant worries weighing heavily on her mind and cumbersome burdens on her shoulders.

Today, Faith is a little over 19 months old; she is is learning incredibly quickly and trying to be the big girl she wants to be. I look at her, and then at my dear husband, who has really, really gone through thick and thin with me since we became parents, and my heart aches a little. I whip out old photos and videos, and giggle as I watch my then-newborn sneeze for the first time. And then, I shed a tear or two at how she used to fit in my forearm, and how she and I used to spend the waking moments talking about anything under the sun. Well, I talked, and she listened, babbled, laughed and sometimes, cried. I can’t help but wish for her to stop growing up, to let me hold her tiny being close to me for a little longer, before her desire to be big gets…bigger.

As I meditate on this, as I lament the future of my past and the past of my future, I realise that the only sensible thing to do is to live in the here-and-now. For today makes yesterday’s future and tomorrow’s past, and try as I might to cling onto the has-beens, and get a whiff of the maybes, only the here-and-now matters. After all, it is the here-and-now today that makes tomorrow’s memories, memories that I will keep for life, memories that I will share with my loved ones.

So yes, Faith will grow up to be an angsty teenager at some point. My husband and I will only be getting more wrinkles here on out. A couple more spare tyres may unfold on my belly. There is no stopping time and the scary thing that is change. But I reckon the here-and-nows with my loved ones make everything so much better than if we were stagnant, living in the past or over-thinking the future.

To all of our here-and-nows.