Life’s A Beach When You Are Three!

So. After the crippling everything-also-DIY party we held for F’s second birthday, I was put off by the idea of having another party for years to come, not until she was old enough anyway (the word ‘enough’ being very loosely defined, as it really depends on how her old folks are feeling – likely to be sleep-deprived – a week prior to her birthday). The only thing I wanted to do was to make her a birthday cake, as I would like to keep to our family tradition of having homemade birthday cakes for as long as the kids and husband would want them.

Then, I made the mistake of asking F what she would like for her birthday cake.

(Of course I did. How else did I end up with a party?! ASKING FOR IT, I WAS.)

“Mama, I want (an) Olaf cake!”

Somehow, that got me looking for cake designs on the web, and somehow, I had my eyes set on one that I thought would thrill F to bits. Somehow, I thought, “Hmm, that cake wouldn’t look nice if it was made to serve only a few people, and somehow, that got me thinking about how F hardly gets to be with her friends outside of school, and how this would be the perfect opportunity for her to have some fun with them….YOU GET THE GIST.

We ended up having a party the size of three playdates.

I wasn’t particularly keen on doing up a full-blown Frozen-themed party. F loves Olaf but not to the extent of wanting everything Elsa-Anna on her bedspread, schoolbag and water bottle (thank gaaawwd). Instead, I had the theme worked out from the cake design, and came up with something simple to execute, neutral, yet fun and colourful for a three-year-old.

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Now, when times are good, we all know that LIFE’S A BEACH (as opposed to the other B word)! Birthdays are happy occasions so ocean blues and buttery yellows, spell a summer, poolside party, yes? F loves to spend time in the pool, and so do most of her friends, Life’s A Beach was just begging to be themed this year!

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The cake was naturally the most challenging bit of the party preps. F had asked for an Olaf cake, and I knew I had to get it right. I am no cake artist and was really quite nervous about pulling this one off, so I made sure to start working on the cake two days before the party. Red velvet has always been my go-to flavour for a cake that boasts a moist and tender crumb even after a few days, and the cream cheese frosting recipe that I am so partial to holds up well in the heat without being cloying. I am completely unfamiliar with how fondant works and was worried that it might melt in the heat, so I fashioned an Olaf cake topper out of jumping clay a few weeks before the party, you know, just in case Mama fails and winds up getting one shipped from who-knows-where. It’s a win-win, really, because F gets to keep and play with the figurine, and it is non-toxic. Of course, it wouldn’t be a party on the beach for Olaf without a nautical deck chair, coconuts to sip on, seashells, flip flops, a beach ball, float and a cute umbrella, and I was delighted to hunt down some miniature toys on Amazon for the cake. A simple bunting made out of construction paper, twine and gold-striped straws and some blue and yellow skinny candles later, the cake was complete and really quite fun to look at! I would say this is the toughest cake design I’ve had to execute to-date (it took a while to nail the look of the waves crashing on the shore) (Disclaimer: I take absolutely zero credit in the idea because I simply looked up the designs online and did whatever I could to make the cake look as decent as possible).

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Now that my hands are full with two kids, I didn’t have much time to do up a full dessert table. I cheated by making some dark chocolate tofu mousse topped with choc feuilletine, salted caramel sauce and strawberries. I did go overboard with the 64% Manjari and the chocolate tofu mousse ended up tasting a little too acidic and…weird (sorry, my party guests). I should have stuck to the yuzu-flavoured version I tested out a couple of days before the party…oh well.

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The dessert table wouldn’t be complete without THE easel that we lugged back from Perth when F was 3 months old. We have put it to very good use for all of her birthday parties thus far and we plan to get even more mileage out of it! In fact, I get so nostalgic about the themes I scribble on that I don’t erase them until the next party comes around..there are two sides to the easel…so yeap, I literally *just* erased F’s first birthday party theme on one side to make space for her 3rd birthday!

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We aren’t fantastic party planners and are definitely not the creative sort; I was rather worried that the kids might get bored at the party especially if they choose not to splash around in the pool, so I thought it best to get something (ANYTHING) to entertain them. I freaked a little two days to the party, having nary a brilliant idea on what to do for the kids to have some fun, so I settled on…a piñata. I sent M out to hunt for one that doesn’t bear any resemblance to human beings, animals and cartoon characters because I don’t want the kids to be traumatised by the eventual mutilation, and I thought this would be akin to looking for a needle in a haystack but…look what he found! A BEACH SLIPPER, ALMOST in our party colours, no less! M picked up some sweets from our childhood – haw biscuits, White Rabbit milk candies, etc (oops, couldn’t stay away from giving snacks, could we, but we wouldn’t resist the idea of showing the kids the candies of yesteryear) – and balloons, and stuffed the slipper with it. We found a sturdy tree with a resilient-looking branch, hung the piñata and the rest was history. The kids had fun getting the goodies out of the beach slipper with the aid of their papas, and scrambled to pick up their prizes when the beach slipper was done-done.

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Being time-starved and all, I was really glad that we had some help with the rest of the party preps. One of the things i really struggled with in the previous parties was party favours! I mean, I didn’t know what to get for kids of different ages and wound up getting snacks and useless knick knacks. (YES, I AM ‘THAT TERRIBLE PARENT’) This year, I am no longer every parent’s worst nightmare, thanks to Kiddy Packs who gifted us with all of the party favours this year! They have a selection of good-quality favours to choose from for children of all ages, and best of all, they pack them up beautifully in brown paper packages (MY FAVOURITE, no tacky packaging, please!), can customise the wording on the label and the colours of the ribbons to your needs, and they deliver! I will reveal the favours we chose in the next post but no prizes for guessing the colours we picked!
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I also purchased some honeycomb balls in white and the most stunning shades of yellows and blues from Most Wonderfully Made, after a very lengthy consultation with the ever-patient S who owns the store, strung them up on garlands, and hung the latter up around the poolside area. I loved that the garlands added lots of cheer to the party, and the best part was the honeycomb balls are reusable because I fanned them out and held the ends together with paper clips instead of using the double-sided tape adhered on them!

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I put up a simple backdrop for the dessert table too, using pinwheel fans of different designs  that I bought from Most Wonderfully Made and another vendor (silly me, I should have gotten both from Most Wonderfully Made because they do have more than one design for the fans). I was really quite pleased with how the backdrop turned out with different shades of yellows and blues. The varying styles and sizes of the pinwheel fans made the backdrop pop!
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Had to take another family photo when Mr. E woke up from his nap!

It is truly a party to remember because E is finally here to join us for our celebrations (I was pregnant, unbeknownst to our friends, when F had her 2nd birthday party). F is also a lot more conscious about what goes on, now that she is three years old. She loves the cake to bits and often talks about it, and it makes me happy that she is thrilled. She has also come to associate the function room with ‘Mama, we sing Happy Birthday inside the room, okay?’, and that’s pretty hilarious. Our guests were such lovely friends to have over, ever gracious about the lack of fancy entertainment or a particularly acidic chocolate tofu mousse, and the kids seemed to enjoy themselves! Well…I guess we might have a 4th birthday party after all; the husband said no because it can be pretty tiring to put a party together, but…never say never!

Clean Where The Sun Doesn’t Shine With GES PLUS: Day 5

[SPONSORED POST*] SO. You might have read about the test I planned to put GES PLUS to. For those who haven’t quite caught up with what GES PLUS does: it clears and maintains a plumbing system by releasing millions of live, non-pathogenic and non-toxic, beneficial bacteria that turn grease and oil wastes into harmless carbon dioxide and water. It also contains a powerful odour counteractant that eliminates odours stemming from blocked drains.

I tested the product out by pouring about half a cap full of GES PLUS into each drain and leaving it to do its work overnight for 5 consecutive days, and did the same thereafter once a week to maintain the plumbing system. Here are our results, which are mighty satisfying! You will see why after you look at the difference between the drains on Day 1 and on Day 5.

 Pre-treatment on Day 1 (left) vs Post-treatment on Day 5 (right)

GES PLUS has helped remove the disgusting slime coating the walls of the pipe! If you are wondering why the slime further up the pipe hasn’t been removed, it’s because I couldn’t get the GES PLUS level to go any higher up even with a larger volume added and I suppose that’s to do with the differential pressure in the pipes of the drain.

I am pretty impressed by how GES PLUS worked to remove the buildup in the drain. I can’t comment on its effectiveness in odour control or increasing the flow rate in slow-flowing drains because I don’t experience any of these problems with our plumbing system, but…JUST LOOK AT THE SLIME. IT’S GONE!

If you would like to give GES PLUS a shot, take 5% off the original price of $79.90 by entering the code ‘thepleasuremonger’ at checkout. The code is valid until 31 October 2015.

For more updates on GES PLUS and other eco-friendly products, follow Our Lifestyle Shop on FacebookTwitter and hop over to the online store to join the mailing list.

*I was gifted one bottle of GES PLUS for the review. No additional monetary compensation has been received. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the products/services, as ambassador to Our Lifestyle Shop.

Clean Where The Sun Doesn’t Shine With GES PLUS: Day 1

[SPONSORED POST*] When we were living in London between 2007 and 2011, the drains in our flat often clogged up and were terribly slow-flowing. Back then, we turned to chemicals to clear the blockages, ones that were so harsh that they burned my skin if I should even spill some on myself. It was painful, whenever it happened, and I should have learnt my lesson and used eco-friendly, less harsh alternatives, but we were students then and too poor to afford anything more than a two-quid bottle of what-feels-like-strong-acid-on-my-skin.

Ever since we became parents, we switched to using eco-friendly household cleaning products as much as our budgets would allow us, including floor detergents, hand soaps and insecticides.   For a long time now, I have neglected the drains in our home as we haven’t noticed any changes in the flow rates or smells coming up from the gutters. Out of sight, out of mind, you know what they say. We are very fortunate to be reminded of the eco-friendly alternatives that we can use for different parts of our home, as I am ambassador to Our Lifestyle Shop which stocks a range of products that I am happy to include in our arsenal against germs, insects and yucky things. This time, we have been sent a bottle of GES PLUS to naturally clear blocked drains and maintain the plumbing system, and of course, I was suddenly reminded of how awful clogs can get from our experience in London. So even though we don’t get bad smells or slow-flowing drains at the moment, that doesn’t mean that the drains are a-okay.

Day 1: Before treatment with GES PLUS

I opened up the drains in our bathrooms and kitchen to take a peek after receiving GES PLUS, and true enough, they were disgusting! Just look at the build-up in one of the drains! The sight of it was so revolting that I wanted to hurl and I washed my hands no less than five times after opening the drains. BLEURGH.

I finally have some time at home after battling endless rounds of illnesses and going on a holiday recently, so it’s time to put GES PLUS to test. It is touted to naturally get rid of fats, oils and grease, you know, stuff that come off our bodies and dirty dishes into the drains, by releasing millions of live, non-pathogenic and non-toxic, beneficial bacteria that turn grease and oil wastes into harmless carbon dioxide and water. It also contains a powerful odour counteractant that eliminates odours stemming from blocked drains. I am eager to see if GES PLUS does clear up the disgusting buildup in the drains!

The plan is simple. I will test the product out by pouring about half a cap full of GES PLUS into each drain and leaving it to do its work overnight for 5 consecutive days. And I do the same thereafter once a week to maintain the plumbing system. Hopefully we will see some results after 5 days! I’ll be reporting the results then in another post, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, if you are keen to try GES PLUS out, take 5% off the original price of $79.90 by entering the code ‘thepleasuremonger’ at checkout. The code is valid until 31 October 2015.

For more updates on GES PLUS and other eco-friendly products, follow Our Lifestyle Shop on Facebook, Twitter and hop over to the online store to join the mailing list.

*I was gifted one bottle of GES PLUS for the review. No additional monetary compensation has been received. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the products/services, as ambassador to Our Lifestyle Shop.

Babywearing: Review on K’Tan Active

[SPONSORED POST*] When F was born, I was the most clueless first-time mother around. I didn’t know anything about the importance of establishing routines (the horror), early bedtimes (where have I been?!) and what-have-you, and I certainly didn’t know that one could wear a baby.

Noob, right? I know.

I was first introduced to the world of babywearing by three lovely friends – Y, Y and P – who came bearing gifts and an arsenal of knowledge on slings, soft structured carriers, wraps and pouches. I was exhausted, frazzled and completely overwhelmed by an 8 week-old who didn’t sleep unless she was held in my arm, so you can imagine how grateful I was (still am!) to the three ladies.

Eager to try the different ways out, I put whatever I could get my hands on to the test. The pouch was difficult to manoeuvre for me as F seemed squashed in the cradle position; no matter what I did, I couldn’t get her chin away from her chest and that made me very nervous. The wrap, whilst highly adaptable to a growing baby and very versatile in terms of carrying styles, was much too intimidating; I didn’t attempt it until I gave birth to my son, E. I was most comfortable with slinging F in the kangaroo position, one that she loved and one that I struggled least with until she was ready for the soft structured carrier when she turned 5-6 months old. I didn’t stop babywearing until F was much too heavy for my swollen frame to bear when I was pregnant again.

Now that E is all small and squishy and warm in my arms, I am back on the babywearing track. I scoured the web for beautiful and practical options and I now have 3 slings, 1 wrap and 3 soft-structured carriers (but SSCs are too big for infants so I didn’t use them until recently) to play with. I am no noob when it comes to slings and bought a third one only because it comes in such a beautiful weave. But the wrap, oh that wrap…I love its lightweight fabric and how it offers even distribution of weight on my shoulders and lower back. You see, there is a particularly noxious point somewhere across my shoulders now, having borne the weight of a growing child for most hours of the day (and night) with poor postures for the past three years, and a wrap offers much relief now that I am babywearing again. Also, one can adjust the wrap to suit the favoured carrying styles well as the sizes of the wearer and baby!

There is a problem though. Actually…two. I don’t wear nursing clothes as I find that nursing wear tends to be expensive and unflattering, and the openings are much too restrictive for baby to get a good latch without having his or her face buried in fabric; I end up wearing normal tops and using a nursing cover instead. As you can imagine, nursing with normal tops whilst being bandaged with a wrap is a challenge, especially when I am out alone with my baby. It is difficult to thread my top back down to my waist through the ties from the wrap whilst cradling a squirmy baby in one arm (a baby with not-so-great neck control at the moment, if I might add). As such, I only use the wrap when someone heads out with me, so I can hand E to whoever whilst I cover myself up again after nursing. And the second problem? It is tough to try and re-tie the wrap if you can’t free up your arms. (Perhaps I should have invested in nursing tops because…I LOVE this wrap to bits!)

Of course, I am being a total noob again because there exists a wrap that does not requiring any fumbling of sorts, and I only realised this when my friend, S used it and again when Happy Coast Kids contacted me to try out the K’Tan.

It is basically a wrap that you purchase based on your clothing size, and it supposedly hugs your baby right, as a well-adjusted wrap does, without the need to fumble with knots and what-not! I jumped at the opportunity to try it out as it seemed to fulfill most of characteristics that I want – convenience, support on both shoulders, lightweight, breathable fabric – in a carrier. There are a few models to choose from, based on your needs. I picked the K’Tan Active as it blocks over 90% of UVA and UVB rays, and I figured this was a plus given that we get a lot of sun during our outings with the kids and even in our very brightly lit home. I did make the boo-boo of picking S instead of XS; word to the wise, make sure you select your true size (I went a size larger as I normally like loose-fitting clothes, but with the K’Tan, you would need it to fit you quite snugly for your baby to be worn safely)! Once I had the size sorted and made sure there wasn’t excess fabric around E when I put him in the K’Tan, I put the carrier to the test.

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For starters, it was easy as hell to prep myself with the K’Tan. I simply had to make sure my arms and head were looped through correctly; this is as easy as putting on your T-shirt. Popping E into the K’Tan was not a problem too; I am used to propping his knees up and drawing his feet up to his bum before putting him in a kangaroo position in the sling. This is no different, he was snug in the pre-set loops of the K’Tan in no time. Taking him out to nurse posed no challenge whatsoever, as there are no knots or tied loops to fumble with; I only had to pull the two sides of the fabric down to his bum and pop him back out of the wrap, and I could lift my top up to nurse him easily before making myself decent and putting him back in the K’Tan without help. The K’Tan is certainly a very user-friendly carrier! Just check out the videos here on the various positions one can easily put a baby in!

E remains relatively cool in the K’Tan as the fabric wicks away moisture and breathes; that’s a bonus as it can get really hot with the weather in Singapore. E also seems comfortable in the K’Tan as he didn’t struggle in it and slept rather quickly whenever I put him in it. Ten points for sleepy dust!

Whilst the K’Tan distributes the weight evenly between my two shoulders, I did find that if I carried E in it for more than a few hours, my middle and lower back would start to ache. I do tend to ache eventually after hours of babywearing, so perhaps this has to do with my longstanding back problem as I was thrown off a horse a few years ago and I failed to take care of my back after I became a mother. The other issue that I had with the K’Tan was how someone of a different size wouldn’t be able to use my carrier. My husband is really tall and wider than I am, so I would have to get two K’Tan carriers if he wants to carry E this way too. This wouldn’t be the case for the sling (M doesn’t like to use a sling), a wrap (M finds it too troublesome) and an SSC (which can run a tad large for E’s petite frame, but we can easily solve that problem with a simple gadget we found).

Based on my usage of the K’Tan over the past few months, I would say that it is perfect for solo outings with the baby as I don’t need an extra pair of hands whilst popping E in and out of the carrier. It is also wonderful for when babies are still too small for soft structured carriers (which I am a huge fan of) and a lifesaver for parents who aren’t adept with the sling and wraps. Simply put, it is completely fuss-free! The material is great for our weather and the fact that the K’Tan Active blocks out UV rays is such a bonus as I do not apply sunscreen on my kids until they turn(ed) 6 months old. This came in really handy as we head outdoors with F pretty often and I certainly don’t want E to burn in the sun! Personally, I would keep outings in the K’Tan to just 2-3 hours as my back starts to ache after that; this isn’t really an issue though because I don’t head out with E for longer than that when I am alone with him. I would recommend the K’Tan as the perfect carrier for babywearing noobs and parents to infants especially (to be used with care and according to instructions, of course)! Now that E is almost five months old, I have switched to using SSCs that I can share with M, but I have seen parents carting their kids around in a K’Tan even after the kids’ first birthdays, and that says a lot about its longevity! As long as one gets the right size, it does take A LOT of stress out of fumbling with knots and pieces of fabric when trying to wear a baby. I do wish the K’Tan carriers come in more attractive designs locally; wider ranges are available internationally, so perhaps this is something Happy Coast Kids can look into bringing in!

*I was gifted one K’Tan Active in Black in size XS (sans shipping). No additional monetary compensation has been received. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the products/services. Sponsors have been notified that I am not obliged to write a review upon receipt of sponsored service/items, should I find the products/services unsuitable.

You may shop for the K’Tan on Happy Coast Kids!

And Here We Are

Six years ago, I sat in my room with my sister, wondering how life would change once I flew the nest. That pensive moment was abruptly broken up by the ruckus going on outside the very room I had shared with my sister for the past decade.

He is here! I thought, on the cusp of being unable to contain the flurry of emotions that were washed ashore, and I struggled to hold back my tears.

This day would mark our union, but I knew that once the two-day festivities were over, we were still right on track of uncertainty. How long would we be in London? How long more till I see my family again? What happens once I graduate? Will I graduate? What does our future hold? Where will we end up? Will we be able to start a family?

Then, he walked into my room having been tortured by the bridal party, holding onto my bouquet with some sort of a death grip, perspiring ever so slightly and sporting a silly, uncomposed grin.

 

“The aluminium foil is still attached to the bouquet!!” I greeted my new husband with a tinge of OCD, momentarily ignorant of all the questions that have been buzzing in my head.

And he whisked me off to our new lives, with the aluminium foil still wrapped around the end of the bouquet.

Six years on, whilst our journey together has been fraught with uncertainty, we have held onto each other as tightly as we could. We have fought, laughed, cried and made two babies along the way; it hasn’t been a bed of roses but…

I’d rather go through bad times with him than live in good times with someone else.

Six years on, I think I love him more than ever before. No, scratch that, I know that I do.

Happy 6th anniversary, my best friend, my worst enemy, the rock that I don’t ever want to let go of. Here’s to more uncertainty to come. Oh, and don’t forget the kids’ laundry that needs to be hung, I am stuck in the room nursing Ethan right now. Nothing like slaving after our children to celebrate our anniversary, eh?

  

Babies Hate Car Seats. Period.

We are here again, you know, at that dreaded car-seat-loathing phase. It lasted 18 months for F, and part of the reason why it took so long was probably because we didn’t head out as frequently as I do with the kids now.

I was a pretty noob driver then, even though I received my license in 2000. I didn’t dare to drive until I was forced to do school runs with F when she started pre-school at 19 months old. School runs were pretty well-oiled after months of ‘practice’ (more like on-the-job training, really); but E comes along with us now, so it’s two hours of commute (read: screamfest) everyday and man, am I stressed!

(As if there isn’t enough stress trying to get all three of us fed, bathed and out the door by 8.30am. And E has to take one nap before that. Pfffft.)

I have tried everything from playing different kinds of music, to blasting the air-conditioning, to white noise, to dangling toys from the backseat mirror I installed, to freeing his hands from mittens so he can self-soothe, to beat-boxing. YES, BEAT-BOXING. Nothing works. The minute I hoist E out of the sling, he knows it’s car seat time and screams at the top of his lungs as I secure him in the car seat. Then, it’s twenty-five minutes of a million decibels going at my ears as I try to pacify him with my voice and I struggle to hear what F is trying to tell me over the wails. I hastily park my car just so I can rescue him and pop him back into the sling for 5 minutes of comfort, and then it’s another twenty-five minutes of watching a positively livid eggplant scream whenever I get the opportunity. My poor mother’s heart.

Some things just don’t change and I am not sure how long it will take for E to get used to the car seat….

BETTER SOONER THAN LATER.

Hands up, those of you who face this much too often like I do. (BIG HUGS TO YOU)

“That’s My Dream Job!”

The stars aligned and I was able to go out for a haircut yesterday afternoon. Instead of paying my usual stylist a visit, I decided to head to another salon, one that has proven its worth with my sister who now sports a banging new look, one that is nearer where I live.

Unfamiliar as the salon may be, the semi-annual hair-pampering bonanza is packed with salon chatter, something that I don’t care for but awkwardly engage in for more selfish reasons than for the sake of being polite. Yes, I am that stoic or (worse) sour-faced person with bushy, unkempt hair that would give Granger a run for her money, that keep-her-eyes-closed-to-avoid-conversation aunty with a resting bitch face who occasionally doles out forced smiles just to keep a cursory, friendly-enough relationship with the stylist, all in the name of ‘whatever you do, please don’t screw with my hair’. That afternoon, the conversation was peppered with remarks on how dry my hair is and how I need to take better care of it, and it remained very much a monologue (as usual) until my new and very chirpy stylist asked, “Are you on maternity leave now?”

“No. I am not working. I am a stay-at-home-mother.”

I expected all sorts of replies, you know, those that have been thrown in my face all these years (including how I have wasted my PhD on *just* being a SAHM and not contributing to society) but hers.

“So lucky!!! That’s my dream job! But I don’t have any children, lah!” She quipped with childlike innocence and an even more childlike squeal. “Do you bring your children to Polliwogs? It looks like so much fun!”

I wanted to say something really snarky but held my tongue, and managed a pained smile instead. Nothing to ruin a budding relationship with a competent stylist like insolence and a smidgeon of assumption, I figured. I wanted to tell her that I’d like to see her try being a mother for a day or two before telling me if she still thinks it’s a dream job but I was being presumptuous on her motives and that was wrong on my part. Once I got that *coughs*bitchiness*coughs out of the way, I spent the rest of the afternoon feeling rather curious about her enthusiasm.

Perhaps, my stylist was poorly informed on what a SAHM does. She could be thinking long siestas and pampering manicures whilst playing with angelic cherubs who sleep/eat/poop on their own, no thanks to the pretty facades of motherhood extolled by parents on social media. Perhaps, she does understand what being a SAHM or a mother (period) entails and she yearns to be one. Or perhaps, she didn’t mean to label motherhood as a job; she simply dreamed of becoming a mother and wanted to share her dream with me. Anyhow, it got me thinking…

A job is a paid position of employment. My dream job would have me doing what I love and getting paid decent bucks for it. I would bake the most kick-ass treats and people would happily pay to fatten themselves up on my bakes, even if they are on a diet. But a job as a SAHM or a mother? No, honey, you can’t work as a mother because (a) there isn’t a salary or medical/dental benefits to speak of, (b) the hours are unbelievably long, it’s 24/7 the last time I checked, so…nope, no paid or unpaid days off, (c) it’s a hamster wheel you can’t get off, or to put it simply, it’s a role you can’t quit, and (d) you would be hard-pressed to find ‘Mother’ in the drop-down list of occupations when you fill in your particulars for a lucky draw to win that top-of-the-range vacuum cleaner. Housewife, yes, (much to my annoyance as housewives don’t get CPF too, do they? Why is that an occupation then?). Mother, no.

Tired jokes aside, the reason why being a mother can hardly count as holding a job is…you have to be one, grow into one and live as one. Whether one delivered her child in a drug-free water birth, opted for a C-section, used a surrogate or adopted her dearest, a mother is born. Like it or not, our DNA changes in ways that were previously unfathomable once we are made mothers…and motherhood becomes us, regardless of who we are, where we are or what we do. One could be labouring through countless tasks at work and STILL be worrying about her child who had a fever yesterday night. One could be cuddling her child who is feeling poorly and STILL be worrying about said child. Motherhood is not something you take on, hold or do, but it is one fulcrum of a meaningful relationship that you quietly grow into, and that in so many ways, is much more complicated, yet simpler than a job.

I became a mother when my daughter was born, and again when my son arrived. Based on our circumstances and preferences, I chose to stay at home to look after my children for now. I have been learning to mother to the best of my abilities (that includes teaching myself to accept that I will falter at times) and to foster a relationship with my children for the past three years. It is a pretty neat dream to live in, most of the time, when I don’t feel like my bones are falling apart or when I am done being chased by dinosaurs. But a job…? No. It isn’t a job to begin with, and it never will be, even if it involves very tangible (and menial) tasks like cleaning out poop from the car seat…because raising children is not akin to working on a project and children are not things to be done. It is a relationship that is forever bound by the ebbs and flows of interaction between mother and child, and I doubt the word ‘job’ describes this appropriately.

A job…? Nah, not really. A dream? Yes, I think I can hardly refute that. Lucky to be a mother? Definitely.

What The Orange Car Taught Me

With two kids under my charge, it is challenging to have good and long conversations with F as I often have to attend to E. I can’t quite sit down and properly interact with her, nor can I read books after books and do craft with her without getting interrupted; it is a far cry from when we were a family of three. School runs are therefore so much more than commutes of late; we often yak up a storm on our way to and from school, and we enjoy talking about the things we spot on the road or events that happened at school or at home, and F ensures that we make time for as many songs as possible in DJ Mama’s repertoire. It’s all very merry (maybe except when E wails to express his utter distaste for the car seat) and we love the time that we get with each other, even if it’s spent confined to our seats.

Yesterday morning, we hit the road as usual and F decided that it would bring her much joy to spot vehicles of certain colours.

“Black car, Mama! Let’s look for another black car!”

“Look Mama, one, two, TWO BLACK CARS! Let’s look for a white car now!”

Two black cars, three white cars and two silver cars later, F was utterly delighted at the game we were playing and she semi-shouted whilst flapping her arms like a chicken on the loose, “Mama, ORANGE! Let’s look for a(n) orange car!”

I froze and thought, ‘Jialat. We are almost reaching her school, what are the odds of spotting an orange car?!’

As I drove around the bend that leads to her school, I gently suggested that orange cars are rare and we may not spot any. I mean, I told her ‘may not’ but I was thinking more along the lines of ‘will not’ as we were just thirty seconds away from school. F was a little disappointed to hear that and her enthusiasm waned but she remained quietly hopeful.

As I filtered right, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

“FAITH, LOOK! ORANGE CAR!” (I truly felt and beamed like I won the lottery.)

“Mama, ORANGE CAR!! Let’s look for another one!” (And F was beyond elated.)

Ten seconds left as I turned into the carpark…well, let’s just say that I was not hopeful at all even though we spotted (rather miraculously, if I might add) an orange car towards the end of the school run.

Then, it happened again.

“OH MY GOSH, Faith!! ANOTHER orange car!” (Never in my life have I thought that I would get that excited over an orange automobile.)

“YAAAYYY, Mama, YAAAYY!” F exclaimed with unbridled joy.

And there I was, trying to protect her from potential disappointment and doling out measured doses of pessimism to my daughter. Unconsciously teaching her to think about what’s impossible rather than focusing on what’s possible. Stifling her sense of wonder and quest for limitless possibilities.

The orange car is not so elusive after all. It can be found, so long as we have hope and look hard enough, even in the most unexpected places. Now, let’s look for a purple car, shall we? (Or so F requested after we spotted the second orange car.)

***

An acquaintance, Tim, shared a lovely quote with me after reading this post. It resonates well and I thought I would share this with you too. 

“That all are born radiating light but that this light diminished slowly (if one was lucky) or abruptly (if one was not). The most charismatic people – the poets, the mystics, the explorers – were that way because they had somehow managed to keep a bit of this light that was meant to have dimmed. But the shocking thing, the unbearable thing it seemed, was that the natural order was for this light to vanish. It hung on sometimes through the twenties, a glint here or there in the thirties, and then almost always the eyes went dark.” – Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation

The Big Small Mercies

The nasty bug that F brought home from school hit me real hard a few weeks ago. We all know that ‘what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger’, right? Well, this bug was trying its darndest to kill me.

I was very sick on a Sunday, threw up a couple of times and had to wrap myself up like a burrito. It didn’t help that I had to get up and nurse E a couple of times in the night; I was unrested and practically died when I had to care for the children the next day. As the week progressed, I got better, in that I no longer threw up, but remained flu-ish throughout. Just when things were looking up, I lost my voice from the sore throat and I became very ill again on Friday. I was nursing E before putting him to bed for the night, when F zipped in and out of the room. As I looked up to whisper to her, the room tipped as if I was drifting on a rough, choppy sea. Everything went downhill thereafter and M said it was best for me to skip putting F to bed, and hop into the shower instead. So I did.

After M was done brushing F’s teeth, they stopped by the bathroom to say goodnight to me and I happened to be gagging from the dizziness. Little did we expect that to take centrestage in the conversation F had with M before she drifted off to sleep.

F (having caught M yawning): Papa, you tired? You want to sleep with Faith?

M: No, I am okay, Faith.

F: You want to sleep in your bed?

M: Yes, Faith.

F: Okay, you sleep with Mama, okay? But I think Mama is not feeling well. Mama wants to vomit. Mama is sick. You take care of Mama, okay?

Now, this…took us by surprise. F usually cries hysterically if I don’t put her to bed. I had expected much tears and resistance that evening, and I was reluctant to skip her bedtime routine, but…small mercies, small mercies.

I had a pretty rough night thereafter. E felt very hot to touch from 3am onwards, and I was up to nurse and soothe him till morning. I was worried sick, on top of being ill, and when I finally had a half-hour window to crash before F woke up, I couldn’t fall asleep. I wished that M could take emergency leave from work to help me out but he couldn’t, and so I was left stranded.

Eight weeks into being a mother of two then, I would say that the most challenging parts of the day are getting both to nap without one waking the other, and getting them to bed on time before they are overtired. I was certainly dreading naptime because synchronised napping is a mythical beast and it didn’t help that I needed some shuteye badly to recover.

I managed to nurse E and put him down for a nap before rushing F through lunch so that she would start napping before E wakes up. Luckily, F went down pretty quickly, and I was horizontal (Finally! Even if I wasn’t sleeping…) for 45 minutes before E cried. Then, F woke up and I cursed as I wondered how I was going to get her to go back to sleep lest she be overtired. When E finally fell asleep after feeding, F was much too awake. Of course. So I asked for the impossible.

Me: Faith, Mama is sick. Can you please let Mama sleep for a while?

Faith: Okay, Mama. I (will) wait for you.

And she did. For TWO glorious hours. A toddler in the throes of terrible twos-to-threes, my daughter, actually waited patiently by my side for two hours while I tried to get back up on my feet. She did kiss me a couple of times when my eyes were closed, in a bid to get me up but…small mercies, small mercies.

Heck it. Make those big small mercies.

(Now, if only they were more of a mainstay, than a delightful, rare occurrence.)