Away

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An unexpected time away from home.

A much belated Happy Mother’s Day to all you wonderful mums out there. I had really wanted to post on the day itself, but unfortunately, our family was pretty busy at the time. 

This year, I spent Mother’s Day in the hospital due to Jamie needing to be admitted to treat a lingering high fever. It was a most unexpected turn of events, but despite all of that, I was glad to be able to be there for my son at a time when he most needed comfort and tender loving care. 

(Of course, I did not do this alone. My husband, Deric was wonderfully supportive, and was present at the ward with us too. And my parents made frequent stops to see us and to help us in whatever ways were possible.) 

Well, I guess there’s no better way to spend Mother’s Day than doing what makes you a mother in the first place: Meeting the needs of your child. Regardless of where that takes me, I should do it with pride. And so I did what I could this year, while marooned in the children’s ward with Jamie. 

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How Jamie would sleep across my chest in the hospital bed.

I slept in the same hospital bed with him because I knew that would comfort him and help him cope better in such a strange environment. I did my best to soothe him verbally, besides patting him gently whenever medicine needed to be administered and he seemed apprehensive about the entire ordeal. We also let him try some of the hospital food to indulge his curiousity and to cheer him up a little, even though he would not normally be given commercial produce or food prepared outside of home). And we brought him a few things from home to make his stay a little more cosy. 

Honestly, as with other times when caring for Jamie, I don’t always know what I should do. But somehow, at the moment itself, the ideas come and my husband and I just kind of just roll with it. I cannot say that I am always this selfless woman who sacrifices everything for her son because there are times where I am tired, I get grouchy and I don’t always behave at my best with him. I do keep trying though. 

Sometimes it feels quite pointless to pour in so much effort into raising kids at this age because I’m told they don’t remember any of it once they’re older. I mean, I don’t recall a thing about my life prior to my kindergarten days either. So I do often wonder what difference it would all make. However, these are supposed to be the most formative years of a child’s life and I’ve learned that whatever we expose them to at this season of their life could very well impact how they are for the rest of their days. Which leaves me with a pretty heavy burden, but one I must shoulder nonetheless. 

There’s no way I can be a perfect parent, which is what scares me. But hopefully, as I do whatever I can, somehow, in some mysterious way, by God’s grace, he will grow up to be a confident, respectable man in the way I hope he will be. 

As much books as you try to read, or advice that you solicit from others, there’s nothing that can completely prepare you for dealing with the unique challenges that your very own child presents. I’m learning new things everyday. It’s scary. It’s crazy. But I’m still here, and glad that I chose at some point in my life to become a mother. 

I hope you are too. And would love to hear about your own tales of motherly valour. Do drop us a line below. 

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That 1 year mark

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Jamie’s Hulk Smash Cake ceremony, which sadly turned into a bawling session. Oh well.

It’s been awhile since anyone has posted on this blog, and for that, I do feel a bit guilty. There’s so much that I’d like to talk about and share with you guys, but I guess we’ve just been so awfully tired keeping up with Mr Hyper over here.

These days, a simple outing or an extended play session at home isn’t enough to tire him out. We’ve had nights where he almost didn’t sleep at all, others where he would wake up each time we lowered him into his cot, and some where he would only hunker down for a snooze around midnight or closer to 1am.

Most recently, our Little Explorer turned one. It was such a flurry of activity that went on over the past 7 days or so as a result of us planning and preparing for his big birthday bash. I’m not one for large gatherings, but somehow I felt it was important to Deric (and Jamie too, of course) that there would be some kind of huge buzz over him reaching the 1 year mark. So, we set out to put together a party with a guest list of close to 70 people. And yes, I agree, that’s a whole lot of people.

We decided on a superhero themed party, since we’ve kept that going from the early days of Jamie’s existence (ie the baby shower) right up till now. Besides, his Papa is mighty fond of comics about superheroes and what with all the superhero movies that have been cropping up over the past few years, it just seemed like a cool theme to go with.

But that wasn’t all. Due to our budget concerns, we opted to DIY the entire party. Plenty of inspiration came from Pinterest, of course: food recipes, decor, etc. The pitfall of that is that most Pinterest party ideas are catered for small scale parties, which is apparently what many Western families like to organise. This, however, is different when it comes to an Asian context where it’s common to invite the whole world and his dog to just about every social event we stage (case in point: Chinese wedding dinners aargh).

Anyway, thankfully we managed to nail it for most of the items on our menu (except for the strange apple and carrot salad that we just had to have for reasons of wanting to be different), although for everything else, it was a huge mess. Not a complete failure kind of mess, but sloppy and half baked (for example, more than half of the decor items I prepared were never used).

All in all, we enjoyed the process though, and despite feeling my usual reservations about big scale events, it felt great having so many friends and family members around us to commemorate this important milestone in Jamie’s life. (The after-party present opening time was golden too. And I think Deric and I were probably more excited about the toys Jamie received than he himself was haha).

So yay for us, we actually survived a year of parenthood, in all its messy, clumsy glory. As Jamie makes his transition from baby to toddler, I can’t help but beam with pride at how far he’s come and how much he’s achieved over just a span of 12 months. It’s amazing that this little creature that I once bore in the recesses of my belly has survived all this while. Hehe.

We’ve learned so much in this past one year, and I feel terrible that I didn’t get to share it live with you as it unfolded over time (which was what my original intention for this blog was). But anyway, I’ll try my best to close the gaps for the things that we’ve been through (and which I think might be useful for any new parents out there reading this) while also spilling the beans on our latest endeavours and challenges in the hopes that it will be helpful in some ways to you.

Before I go, I heed the advice of one of the editors I work for by providing you with something useful to take away from my post. Here are some lessons we learned from our first time experience of organising a child’s birthday party:

1. It’s possible to put together a DIY party, but if you want it to be something you’ll look back on with pride, you’ll need to be willing to get really thorough about every single aspect of the party. It’s a lot of effort, but when you’ve pulled it off, you’ll feel so very good about yourself despite all the madness. And you’ll likely want to try doing it again.

2. There are so many online resources available out there that even if you lack confidence about the brilliance of your own ideas, there’s lots of good suggestions you can pick up on from other people out there. From there, you’ll just need to adapt it to suit your purposes and you’ll be all set.

3. Yes, it’s a DIY project, but it doesn’t mean it needs to be executed by you and you alone. More realistically, it should involve your spouse and some of your immediate and/or extended family members, because it’s just really impossible to do everything by yourself. Trust me on this one. You’ll be thankful for the extra heads to brainstorm and the helpful hands to get things done when crunch time comes.

4. The earlier you plan and prepare, the better it is on your sanity. Last minute miracles do happen, but only if you’re prepared to forego sleep the night before and to work round the clock (something we more or less did, to my regret).

5. Go for finger food and light refreshments when planning your menu rather than attempting to provide full blown meals. For us, we like the tea time slot best (we did a high tea wedding reception as well back in the day) and this is what we did for Jamie’s first birthday too. It takes pressure off the food preparation bit, and lowers the expectations of guests (thus preventing too much disappointments, if any do surface).

6. Baking a homemade cake for the smash cake ritual was golden. I felt super happy that my son’s first taste of cake was something relatively tasty and which had ingredients list that I was absolutely comfortable with (no funky preservatives or artificial colouring). Here’s the cake recipe we used and the one for the frosting, in case you want to try replicating it. Deric really wanted it to be a Hulk Smash thing, so we added natural green colouring extracted from pandan leaves. We also whipped up our own batch of cupcakes for the adults to enjoy in lieu of the traditional birthday cake (standing at the food table to slice out 70+ piece of cake for consumption isn’t ideal in my books).

7. It’s easy to get carried away when deciding on how to do the decorations, especially when those overachieving parents on Pinterest post up all those photos of their accomplishments and make it feel as if it’s all so super easy to do. No problem if you want to start off with ambitious schemes, just be prepared to scale it down last minute if you find that you have constraints in the form of time or other resources.

8. Remember not to get too caught up in the party details that you forget to look after the baby. Deric took leave from work for 2 days prior to the party and we were doing lots of running around and cooking and baking then. A lot of the time we had to leave Jamie to entertain himself with his toys in his play area. He does this much better now that he’s older and can be left alone for considerable stretches of time, but in my opinion, this shouldn’t be taken for granted. Babies only have a certain amount of patience and can endure only brief separations from their primary caregivers. It’s no point throwing a perfect party only to have its honorary guest down in the dumps. It’s a fine balance, and one which we treaded on very dangerously. Do keep this in mind throughout your planning-preparation-execution process.

9. If you have a theme for the party, try to stick to it and to show it in as many ways as possible to make it count. Tiny details like food presentation and room decorations make a difference. Games, photo booths and other manners of fun things are great too and help guests to get into the spirit of things. However, where we come from (ie Malaysia), the general public isn’t always very sporting when it comes to observing a themed dress code so we stopped short of imposing that on them. You’ll have to judge for yourself how applicable this is to your own crowd. If they will follow it, why not?

10. Don’t forget to have fun! It’s no point going through all the fuss of organising a DIY party only to be sour faced and to be bickering endlessly with loved ones while at it. Remember to pick up your little cutie pie for a tiny kissy, cuddly fest in between your busyness of planning his/her party. Laugh at the silly antics of your spouse as he clumsily tries to ice the cake. Shrug your shoulders and refuse to be miffed when things don’t go exactly as planned. Take tons of photos. Make beautiful memories.

That’s all for now, folks. And I’ll be back soon. Fingers crossed.

Making friends

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Jamie (left) playing with a churchmate.
If there’s one thing that has truly amazed me about tiny tots, it’s how sociable they are, despite their limited understanding of the world. Jamie, in particular, is especially enthusiastic about making friends. 

We live in a condo, and every time we get into the lift, he is always looking around at whoever else happens to be sharing the same space as we are. The moment he succeeds in making eye contact with them, his face breaks into a charming smile and he waits eagerly to see what his new friend will do in response. It does not matter if the other person is an old uncle, a young woman just returning from a long day at work or a family with other children. He offers all of them the same friendly expression. And if there are other little kids around, he sometimes even tries babbling and calling out to them. 

It’s so endearing, coming from a boy as young as he is. Even the most straight faced of adults often soften and give in to his tiny gesture of friendship. 

Which brings me to wonder why we become so prejudiced as grown ups. Of course, there is the bitter experiences of the past that dictates our behaviour, and sometimes with good reason. But often times, we are more suspicious than we ought to be and tend to view those around us as strangers that ought to remain shut out from our world than prospective friends whom we can engage with and learn from. 

I certainly hope Jamie will continue to be as friendly and smiley as he is now, even as he navigates the tougher years of growing up that are ahead of him. But for now, I am thankful for the important reminder that my little companion has nudged me with. We could all do with more friends. 

Best years

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Our family during Christmas 2015 – the very first one we’ve celebrated with Jamie.

“These are the best years, contrary to what some people say,” he told us, his face wearing a kindly smile. I almost thought I saw his eyes misted over for a second as he appeared to be reminiscing his own parental journey. 

“My son, he’s 15 now. They won’t be little forever. They’ll grow up, they want to go out, they have their girlfriends… Enjoy them at this stage. These are the dilemmas we face, time… But money you can always make more of when you’re older.” 

There was a glimpse of regret in his eyes as he said it. 

We stood to go, Jamie grinning at the doctor as we exited the clinic. 

“Jamie, say bye bye,” I prompted as we made our way to the door. 

I’d made the trip to our regular GP that morning due to a painful lump in my neck. The advice about parenthood was an unexpected extra, but it served to further affirm my current resolve: To be at home with Jamie and to be available to offer whatever he needed from me, even if it meant taking a step back in my career. 

There are all these worries that accompany the decision. Most days are tiring and long, and I wonder if I’ll emerge haggard, senile and cynical at the end of them all. 

But Jamie smiles every day, and extends his hands out towards me, asking for my embrace. He calls me a myriad of names, “Mmm-meh”, “Meee” and “Mum-mum-ma”. He grows taller every day. His legs and arms swing farther, hit harder each time. 

And I am privileged to be right there as these changes unfold. To notice every little nuance. To applaud each new milestone. 

These are the best years. And there will be better ones to come. 

I don’t know how many years we’ll have together, Jamie, but I hope that when we do reach the end of them, you’ll look back at them and smile at me and say, “Thank you, Mum, for all those glorious times.”

New year, new feat

Image source: Green Parent

Happy New Year, everyone, if it isn’t too late yet to say so yet 🙂 

It’s been awhile since either Hosanna or I have put up a post here. I guess you could say we were swept away with all the festivities and going-ons that typically take place at the end of the year. 

Well, it’s time to break the silence now. Let me kickstart things by sharing something my family and I did together recently. 

With 2015 having left us and 2016 at our doorstep, we decided to welcome in 2016 with a new first time experience: A trip to the cinema. 

While this may sound like nothing special to any of you readers out there who don’t have kids of your own, let me tell you that it means a lot to parents, especially relatively new ones like Deric and I. That’s because it’s one of those things older parents are always bringing up whenever they get started on the topic of Why Having Children Changes Your Life Eternally. 

Public nuisance

Going to the cinema to catch a movie is considered by many to be one of those luxuries that parents of an infant or toddler cannot afford to have. Unless you leave the child in the care of a babysitter or an (unfortunate) family member, that is. Which is hard to do when the child is so young and clingy… and even more so if they’re still breastfeeding. They just can’t be separated from you much, if at all. 

That leaves you with little option but to bring the baby along if you decide to go and watch a movie on the silver screen. That presents you with some challenges. 

One of the main ones would be that babies tend to cry or fuss pretty often. That in itself is something to be managed. Then there is also the fact that everyone else in the cinema would be rather displeased to have their enjoyment of the movie interrupted by your child’s untimely noises. 

In other words, if you intend to bring your little bundle of joy to the cinema, you’re more or less likely to end up becoming a public nuisance. 

But here’s a bit of good news though: TGV now has something they call Family Friendly movie sessions which take place at selected times and locations across the Klang Valley. 

These movie screenings are said to be specially tailored to cater for young families. Lights are merely dimmed and not completely turned off. The volume is lowered. Children are allowed to move about and make noise. Tickets are decently priced and there is a special rate for kids below 12. Or if you’re like us and have a child below 3, they can enter for FREE. 

 

Deric discovered this some time back, and we had always intended to give it a go once Jamie was a bit older and more well behaved on our trips out to the mall. So we finally got the chance to give it a go last week. 

And you know, it turned out to be not too bad an experience. 

Fitting right in

The movie we went for was the Snoopy movie so for starters, it was a pretty child friendly theme and storyline. So we had no worries there about negative influences or potentially traumatising scenes in the movie (eg: fight scenes, excessive drama, shouting/screaming, etc). 

The volume levels were not as soft as I’d hoped for, honestly, but sufficiently toned down to not be too big of a concern for me with regards to how it might affect Jamie. 

The hall layout and seating is the same as it is in all TGV cinemas; there’s nothing different about it from the usual. But since you are less likely to encounter a full house at such screenings, you can opt for seats that are more spaced out from other viewers. This is easier to plan for if you’re buying tickets on the spot at the counter just before the movie commences, of course, as opposed to pre-booking online. 

We chose seats towards the back of the hall, on the right side (the side rows have only 2 seats per row, so effectively we had a comfy corner to ourselves). Jamie the freeloader took turns sitting on our laps throughout the movie. 

He was generally in good spirits from start to finish, so the only minor kinks we faced was some tiny bits of fussing here and there. We handled this by picking him up and walking around the hall for a bit, but never had to exit it. 

In between, we also offered him a toy to hold and chew on. Whenever he was on my lap, I also frequently changed his position and checked on him to make sure he was never frightened or upset by something that was shown on the screen. 

Can’t really say he watched that much of the movie, but there were instances where he did gaze at the screen curiously. He was especially excited whenever there was music played during the movie and would break out into a huge grin. 

There were other kids that walked about or made noise during the movie, but being parents ourselves, it didn’t really bother us as much as it would have in the past. However, I think we were possibly the parents with the youngest kid in the hall. 

Apparently, there’s supposed to be a diaper changing room somewhere, but we didn’t seem to notice where it was exactly. For some reason, we had this notion that there would be changing tables provided in the hall itself, but that would probably present itself with some potentially hilarious outcomes. And lots of hidden “bombs” waiting to be uncovered. Hehe. 

Well, if ever we do go back for another Family Friendly session, I’ll need to make it a point to ask the TGV staff about where that elusive baby room is. 

Post outing review 

Thinking back on what we did, it’s kind of funny. Why did we take our 8 month old baby to the cinema? Jamie is too young to understand anything that played out on the screen. He doesn’t even understand much English. 

If it was meant to be a movie date, well, it wasn’t all that great a movie watching session because I still missed parts of the movie whenever Jamie fussed. And no matter how you look at it, there isn’t much that’s romantic about passing a baby back and forth throughout a movie, although we do love that baby very dearly. 

I guess we did this just out of curiousity so as to know what a Family Friendly movie screening would be like. And we also did it to prove to ourselves that becoming parents does not chance our ability to do normal things, despite the fact that it means it may require more effort on our part to achieve the same goal. 

But all in all, Deric and I felt extremely good that we were able to achieve this. And apparently, when he relayed this experience to his colleagues, many were encouraged and amazed that it was in fact a possibility. 

We’d do it again definitely, if the movie was appealing enough. 

Well, I hope our little tale also serves to cheer your spirits at the beginning of 2016 if you’re in a similar position as we are: Parents of a young infant. I think there are parents out there who have done even greater feats than this, so what we have achieved just pales in comparison. 

But whatever it is that people say you can’t do JUST BECAUSE you’re a new parent, make it your aim to not let it deter you. There’s always a workaround, if we are willing enough to look for it. 

Here’s to a great 2016, and to the many happy memories you’re about to make in it with your family in tow. Have fun out there 😉

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Jamie in his Snoopy romper, asleep in the car after our outing to the movies.

* Note: This is not a sponsored post and all comments and opinions expressed above are entirely my own.