Friday, April 30, 2010

Clean slate meets open book

I left Little Miss to pick out her bedtime story in her bedroom, and when I walked back in, there she was, already in our chair, reading out loud in toddler babble to herself. I melted. As a lover of books myself, this was a great moment for me. 




TV.  If kids are entertained by two letters, imagine the fun they'll have with twenty-six. Open your child's imagination.  Open a book.  
~Author Unknown


Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Do you see yourself on TV?


Image from NBC
I do. Every Tuesday nights at 9pm. Although, with the DVR (yay technology!), sometimes it's Wednesday, sometimes it's Friday, depending on when we can fit it in. We recently became fans of the show Parenthood on NBC. In essence, it's a saga about four siblings and their lives as (surprise surprise) parents. Of course, as with most prime time network TV, it's pretty vanilla, replete with characters with the requisite personalities across the spectrum and their foils - successful lawyer and drop out bartender, gifted and asperger kids, grounded husband and neurotic wife, you get the gist. And of course very Hollywood PC with its token minority. Sounds rather run-of-the-mill, and by no means the best show we've seen on TV (it's no Battlestar Galactica or Dexter for sure), but we enjoy it. Quite a bit in fact.

That's because we see ourselves in it. We identify with these parents with the difficult teen (even though our own Little Miss is barely 18 months old), the awkward adolescent, and the precocious toddler. We see our daughter in all of these stages - what she may or may not do, and apart from recoiling in horror, we see how we may or may not react at any given situation. The best part is when we make fun of each other - "Oh you are SO her"; "Oh my God - you would TOTALLY say that"; "I can just see Little Miss doing that"; "No way! I would NOT do such a thing" and last night, when the neurotic mom did something completely in character for her, I intercepted My Guy's attempt to glance askance at me with a "Don't you dare look at me. I am NOT like that." But secretly, I knew he was right (as usual); I am like her. This character has a teenage daughter and I see myself turning into the mom depicted here, minus the blonde hair, and my little girl as her angst-ridden, rebellious 15-year-old buying a sexy Victoria Secret bra to spice up make out sessions with her boyfriend (GASP!).

We hardly watch TV these days, so to be able to nestle in with each other on the couch for some mindless TV watching is a luxury. This one-hour program (45 minutes if we skip the commercials - again, yay DVR!) offers us a glimpse into our own future, and however realistic or unrealistic, it helps us to know the difficult decisions that we may have to make someday (like should the mom go back to work or stay home with the kids on tonight's episode), or what it's like to be parents who screw up in front of their kid and how doing the right thing, like apologizing for your mistakes, is often hard but always rewarding - this last one is usually accompanied by soundtrack that conjures hope or at least one that says "this is the part where you cry" and I do of course. Every time.

The thing is, we don't know that many real-life parents. Of the ones we do, they're also stumbling and fumbling like we are. Our role models, our own parents, may be the only ones we have as our guides and let's face it, the generational gap between us can feel like worlds apart sometimes. And so we look to outside influences - books like The Parents' Tao Te Ching and shows like Parenthood - for something, anything that tells us it can be bad sometimes, but it can also be really, really good.

This was my favorite quote of the most recent episode:
 
Mom 1 (Kristina): You know what the problem is for mothers?
Mom 2 (Sarah): Daughters.
Mom 1 (Kristina): Daughters.
 
Ain't that the truth. I'm already beginning to see that in Little Miss. It's in her eyes - the emerging defiance, the innate stubbornness, the growing fire. They're all in her. In me. It's not going to be an easy relationship (I've just jinxed it, I know) and maybe that's why I look everywhere now for clues, ideas, and hope that maybe our relationship, the one between two passionate, headstrong souls, will survive even the most tumultuous times. It may be that I'm grasping at straws when I sit through a 45-minute program rife with banality and predictability to look for inspiration. Some might even think it's rather pathetic to build our family values or emulate our parenting skills from a TV show, but in my defense, at least it's not Beverly Hills 90210.

I'm quite aware that Parenthood is not real but as far as I'm concerned, neither is "reality TV"; in fact I loathe what passes for reality TV, which seems to be a trend that isn't going away anytime soon. Ugh. Parenthood isn't Mad Men or (insert what you think is the best show out there) either, but it has its moments - the warm fuzzies and the enviable sibling relationships that neither My Guy nor I have - that keep us glued to the screen. Selfishly, I'm hoping to entice you to watch the show (increased viewership = decreased chance of cancellation = happy me). I'm devious like that. If I can't sell you on the endearing characters, how about its sheer entertainment value?

On a poem being read out loud at a poetry reading by the mom's old flame -

Mom (Sarah): It's about flowers right?
Teenage Daughter (Amber ): I think it might be about your vag.

See? Entertaining.




(Do you have a favorite TV program? Have you ever seen yourself on TV - if so, which character, what show? Conversely, if you could be any character on TV, who would it be? What do you think of reality TV? If you don't watch TV, what/who/where do you turn to for comfort or even guidance?) 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Little Birdie Told Me

That I should be tweeting. And so I am. See the button on the right? Yes, that ubiquitous blue bird that’s been chattering, sorry, twittering up a storm in cyberspace (do people even use this term anymore?) these days has landed on my blog. Just like my preoccupation with car metaphors in a previous post, I wonder how far I can fly with the bird metaphors now that I’m starting to learn this hip new lingo. I have to say, I do have the mother of all avian metaphors crowning the top of my blog – Here Where I Have Landed. Although the origin of the title is not quite bird-related, I do feel like someone who has found the perfect spot to roost, a nest of my own. And perhaps that’s why it’s inevitable that I tweet.

So there you have it. I have officially joined the 21st Century. First Facebook, then a blog and now this. I still don’t know much about it, other than needing to curtail my verbosity to think and write in 140 characters (which, as a few of you may know, is VERY DIFFICULT for me). So now what? I tell you the color of my mood ring? (Steel Blue). The dinner I have planned for tonight? (Still unsure, but I need to use the rapini in the fridge before it dies on me). Or the color of my underwear? (Would this guarantee a larger following? If so, it’s red. And lacey. I can lie right? I didn’t see anywhere on the Twitter terms about having to be truthful. But if we really have to be honest, fine, I don’t have a mood ring either).

Anyway, as you can probably tell, I didn't think this one through. Just me indulging my flighty half (the fun half, no doubt), so here I am, back to trying to figure it all out. Life. Motherhood. Blog. And now, Twitter. Maybe while I’m still attempting to find my voice for my blog, I can look for one skilled with word economy to handle the challenge of the 140-character limit of Twitter. You know, two birds. One stone.

And apparently, MANY metaphors. 


Last one, I promise: If you are a bird of my feather will you come flock with me? If so, click on the button and twitter with me. Or is that tweet? Man, I have GOT to get the lingo down.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cat got her tongue

My daughter says Hi – but only to our pets. Whenever we come home, our two cats and dog stand ceremoniously at the door to greet us, which gets Little Miss really excited. She gleefully says Hi to the gang, sometimes to each animal, and not just her favorite kitty, if she's in really good spirits. It’s evident she knows the word, but when asked to greet a friend, a neighbor or any human being with it, she stares blankly at them.

No, she knows how to say it. Really. Say Hi...
- Blink. Blink. Stare. Blink.
Come on sweetie, say Hi… You can do it... Remember? Hi…   
- Blink. Blink. Stare. Blink. 

Thanks. Now I’m a liar. Coaxing her with a “just pretend Auntie Jane is a dog” probably wouldn’t go over well either, so I decided to let it go.

Yesterday I was awakened by the sweet sounds of toddler speak on the monitor. It was strange as it was an hour earlier than when she would normally wake up and while premature rising cramps my nocturnal style, I couldn’t help but enjoy the adorable chatter so I stayed in bed, smiling and listening. Ewryounf, wrjodufn foeuron woufnfno yioirnninl – that’s the closest approximation to what she sounded like. And then I heard this: HI erarnaon HI anroun bebendon HI… 

I bolted upright and looked around my bedroom. There's a cat missing! Sure enough, before I alerted the press (namely the guy sleeping soundly next to me, completely oblivious to the world), I heard the high-pitched MEOW MEOW MEOW from the monitor. Dammit! We had to go in to rescue the cat; she’s been locked in that room sans litterbox for over 12 hours, and I shuddered to think what we might find.

Thankfully, the cat darted out of the room to the “restroom” of her choice, and Little Miss' bedroom was as we had left it the night before. Only this time, with an active, alert toddler in our hands, and it’s not even 7 am. Purr-fect.

Good morning Little Miss – Hi!
- Blink. Blink. Stare. Blink.


 The culprit



Monday, April 26, 2010

Busy but not moving forward


Our little family of three attended a birthday party together this weekend, but we were never really in the same place together for very long. Little Miss often went off looking for new furniture to scale or remotes to explore, and one of us usually had to abruptly break away from adult conversation to tail her. In the midst of babysitting my own kid - although I think the word is parenting - I overheard My Guy talking about my blog (yes, this very one) on more than one occasion to a few friendly faces. I could hear the pride in his voice. And the love. And I was unexpectedly flooded with warmth.

So he wasn't lying when he said he liked it. Huh. Whaddya know. Asking a supportive partner his opinion and receiving a positive response was generally a given (how else do they get in your pants? - this is rhetorical. I don't really want to know) so to hear him genuinely praising my effort without my instigation was a pleasant surprise. The truth is, I've not been feeling very sure about myself lately - more so than the usual dose of human insecurities. Ever since I had the baby, I've pretty much taken the backseat in our relationship as far as ambitions go. The career woman on overdrive has set the gear on neutral, and just happily allowing the topography of her journey to move her along. And perhaps that's why I feel like I'm sliding backwards sometimes.

When my life in neutral is juxtaposed with My Guy's career on crack, charging ahead in full speed - even though this was something we both agreed upon - it leaves me feeling like I'm stalled in traffic, with everyone else moving around me. (OK, I think I got all of the car metaphors out of my system.) I'm not jealous; in fact, I am incredibly proud of him. This, after all, is our plan. Our roles were reversed before, and now it's his turn to shine. I suppose that's just what partners do for each other. We support, we strive, we take turns, we share the load, we embark on different paths but we always arrive at the same point together.

Now that it's My Guy's turn to shoulder a little more of the responsibilities, I see how passionate he is, and it moves me. But I also feel guilty for not being able to match his fire with mine. We stay up late together every night, in our home office, both engrossed but in completely different worlds, working towards very different directions for our family. He's moving us forward; his focus is our future. I'm chronicling the movement, mainly dwelling in the past. Sometimes I feel helpless, like I'm not contributing.

On those days, My Guy, my rock, would reassure me of the significance of my supporting role, not just as family anchor but memory keeper as well. (This was the part where I suspected he’d say anything to get in my pants).  What you're doing is important, he once said to me as I was lamenting the loss of my old ambitious, forward-moving self. He went on to describe the photos from our childhood - how when we look at them, we often forget the context for the laughter in the pictures, the story behind the sheepish grin – and that through these words on my blog, I was more than just keeping records, I was crystallizing our memories, giving color to life. I have to say, since he's not the most eloquent person in the world, I was mostly paraphrasing but while the words were mostly mine; the sentiments were his. What cemented my faith in his words was what he said at the party, when he didn’t know I was listening (and that was the part where I started to really believe him.)

So now, one existential crisis down, so many more to go. I know what I do won't win awards or a lifetime supply of Colgate toothpaste (which is fine since we use Crest anyway). It won't even get me a Starbucks latte since I don't get paid to blog, but I continue to chug along, weary eyed, well into the late hours of the night (secretly – and now not so secretly – trying to keep My Guy company as he burns the candle on both ends), knowing that someone, no, a very special someone will appreciate these chronicles someday. So here I am, tapping fluidly on the keyboard, my own pulse at the tip of these fingers and finally feeling content just writing the story of our lives, one day (ok, every other day, except on weekends) at a time.





(Have you felt like you're moving forward in breakneck speed only to not know exactly why or even how? What's with these car metaphors anyway?! Do you have an existential crisis? If so, what is it? If you share yours, it will make me feel a little less like a freak. How about that? Consider it your good deed for the day.)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Plan B.

Yesterday, as you may know, was Earth Day. I had planned to walk to the nursery down the street after work to get some herbs that Little Miss would help me plant. You know, saving the planet, one plant at a time and all. At least that was my noble intention. Until we got to the nursery and Little Miss Cranky Pants would have none of it. The herbs. The little vegetable garden. Row upon row of gorgeous spring flowers. Nothing. So we left in a haste, before her whiny cries turned into the tantrumy kind.

Instead we went home and she sat down with her book of animals, content with making animal sounds on her own while I made dinner, consciously making the effort to not use too much water or paper towels and not cook too much to avoid waste - doing my Plan B part of saving the Earth. At this point not destroying it would be good too.

That wasn't our first Plan B of the week. Recently, we received big news at an unexpected moment and although we were elated, we also had a sleeping baby in our hands. Realizing that an impromptu celebration at a fancy restaurant, playing dress-up and drinking with abandon, were a thing of the past, we opted for a quiet evening in with takeout from our favorite place and a bottle of Ice Wine we kept for a special occasion, procured from our first trip sans baby almost a year ago.

That night, we made a toast by candlelight and felt really good about our future. It may not have been our original plan, but it was nonetheless perfect.




We're getting used to making the best out of contingency plans. In fact, Little Miss is the epitome of this. She was our surprise baby, a (beautiful and adorable) wrench of our Plan A. But as it turns out, sometimes contingency plans do work out better than the original.

Way better.





Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Our children's children.

As a parent
it's not enough that we
talk
ask
tell

it's imperative that we
lead
show
do

for our children
and their children
and their children's children.

As a people
let not our cruelty, greed
callousness and apathy
be our legacy

let the
unity in our effort and
strength in our beauty
be our truth

for our children
and their children
and their children's children.




Happy Earth Day!


The above was inspired by this amazing then 12-year-old, the girl who silenced the world for five minutes.

One of the things I'm doing to preserve the greenery is to make my blog carbon neutral. Just click on the button on the right and read about this movement there. Please join me!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Half Monty.

[For the sake of PG rating, imagine a picture of someone's naked behind here. Preferably female. And while you're at it, preferably attractive...please?]

I was asked to see a coworker at her office the other day, and I walked the entire length of a long hallway to see her only to be greeted with horror. "Where're your pants?!" I shrugged and mumbled a faint I dunno. Then she wanted me to look around the office to see if anyone saw me with my assets in full view. Again I shrugged nonchalantly and did as she asked. No one was there. I didn't care either way. And then I woke up.

Of course it was a dream. If I really did something as ridiculous as forgetting to wear my pants to work, do you really think I'd announce it to the world? OK, maybe I would, but that's not the point. Office half-nakedness only happens on The Benny Hill Show. (Sorry, can't think of an American equivalent. Blame the Puritans.)

I don’t usually remember my dreams so this one struck me as peculiar. Especially the part where I felt no shame, like Eve before the apple. Quite unlike real life, where the tiniest public squawk from the Little Miss would embarrass the real me. Yes, I smack of new-momminess but I'm also a little gun shy - when your toddler's crying louder than the plane engine and disturbs everyone from rows 1 to 40, or when said toddler dives onto the filthy museum floor to throw an obscenely hysterical tantrum IN FRONT OF EVERYBODY, how do you keep it together?

But then again, I do wonder sometimes. When onlookers stare aghast at my screaming child and then accusatorily at me, do they really think I could easily stop that silly behavior? Just give my 17-month-old a stern talking-to? A wave of my mommy wand and a little sprinkle of stardust perhaps? Or worse, GIVE HER WHAT SHE WANTS AS LONG AS SHE SHUTS UP! Oh. OK. Sure. Why didn't I think of that?

Is a toddler tantrum embarrassing? Sure. But it’s also a healthy part of their growth (just not so healthy for my nerves). As a parent, I know that. As horrified onlookers, I'm just a breeder of the Devil's spawn. (And maybe I am - it's too soon to tell). The shame I feel is dulled by sheer practice, but it’s there. It makes me more mindful about the space we're invading and the people we're intruding, and I'd like to think that it makes me a more considerate parent. And that's a good thing, isn't it?

I'm also a believer in all things in moderation - I don't leave a party at the sound of the slightest whimper but I don't let her kick the seat in front of us, annoying a fellow passenger, just because it keeps her happy and relatively quiet on the plane (yes, I'm talking to YOU, Mama; YOU know who YOU are). However, I am also realistic. Little Miss will occasionally throw a public fit and launch a spoon to an unsuspecting stranger’s lap - and if they're really unlucky, there may be soup in it. That is her gift. And thankfully, if I play my cards right, it's also a phase. So maybe I should cut her some slack, and in the process, do the same for myself too.

Which reminds me (slack --> slacks --> or the lack thereof) let's get back to this dream of mine. (Naked butt? Hello?) I'm still having trouble deciphering it. Perhaps it's about shame? Modesty? Parenting at its kinkiest? The merits of underwear? Who knows. It's just a dream. If you asked Freud, he'd probably say it's about my mother. And he's probably right. But he's dead; so I guess I'll never know.



[What kind of parent are you? Or person? Do you do whatever it takes to make sure people view you (and/or your kids) in a positive light? Or does that have no bearing on your actions? Do you have naked butt dreams too? And if you do, more importantly, do you know what they mean? I'm really curious.]

 

Monday, April 19, 2010

The story behind the name.

My little trip to the far corners of my mind with my train story stirred up an old sensation I haven't felt in a long time, even though it was one that dominated many of my nights here in the States as I made my journey into adulthood. When I moved here from Malaysia at 19, the excitement overwhelmed my sadness of leaving my family behind. I had a future of new-world explorations that kept me busy, and I protected myself from homesickness by learning to adapt quickly to the new culture and assimilate, assimilate, assimilate. It wasn't difficult - years of American TV prepared me well.

Even then, there was a part of me that always felt like a misfit. I could change my clothes, my accent, my behavior, but I just couldn't change the fact that I had left a part of me behind, and what's left felt separate and hollow. As weeks and months turned into years, that hollowness morphed into a gaping hole. That was when I read Adrienne Rich's incredibly powerful poem, "An Atlas of the Difficult World", for grad school, and it spoke to me. That voice in those verses came from that hole, that darkness I could not reach or fully understand. While I was doing well in school and had many friends, something always felt amiss, except it was not known to me until after this poem began to take shape in my head.

However, that didn't unfold with each word I read. Nor did it happen overnight. I felt a kinship to that voice and decided to write a paper on it, but dissecting that poem only further entrenched the emptiness I felt. In the years that followed, I sought answers in all the wrong places, resulting in what seemed like covering a hole with mismatched jigsaw puzzles. It wasn't until I finally have my own little family now that I realize what that hollowness was - belonging.

In my attempt to procure a new identity for myself here, I had given up a large part of my own, until one day, I could barely recognize the girl staring back at me in the mirror. She was smiling with mirthless eyes. It brought me back to Rich's poem, where I felt like one of its characters fraught with melancholy - they were all where they had to be, not where they wanted to be.

The poem unleashed a tidal wave of sadness that was dammed in that dark space inside me, saturating my pores, and I was overwhelmed. Ironically, that was also when the healing began, when I realized that I couldn't just exist; I needed to belong. Finally knowing the ailment meant I could stop just treating its symptoms and start looking for my answers in the right places. I ceased clinging on to people just to feel whole and leaning to feel strong. Belonging no longer felt like losing my Self to something, but gaining clarity to another part of my Self. Eventually, it led me to this woman in the mirror, who is not just smiling with her eyes, she is laughing. And dancing. With her family. And happy. Happy. Happy.

While I continue to empathize with the characters in the poem, I feel like I have broken away - I am no longer one of them. It took me awhile to get here. But I'm here.


from An Atlas of The Difficult World
I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush-hour. I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a grey day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plains' enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed
and the open valise speaks of flight
but you cannot leave yet. I know you are reading this poem
as the underground train loses momentum and before running
up the stairs
toward a new kind of love
your life has never allowed.
I know you are reading this poem by the light
of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide
while you wait for the newscast from the intifada.
I know you are reading this poem in a waiting-room
of eyes met and unmeeting, of identity with strangers.
I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light
in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out,
count themselves out, at too early an age. I know
you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your
hand
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else
left to read
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.


An astute reader like you would have noticed that I adapted the title to my blog from this poem. This an homage to the voice, the "I" from the verses, that marked the beginning and ending of the black hole that almost engulfed me. Depending on how you look at it, "Here Where I Have Landed" may either sound like I have arrived here quite by accident or by a premeditated course charted by Google maps.

In my case, both are true.


[image source: http://www.easystockphotos.com/birds/bluebird.html]

Friday, April 16, 2010

Starting the weekend off with new bangs.



My dearest Little Miss New Hairdo





I'm glad I had my iPhone on me so I could capture your new haircut these spontaneous moments while we were having dinner on the back porch this gorgeous spring day.





Especially these moments of laughter





Moments of silliness

 



And moments perfect for future blackmail.




Seriously kid. Pace yourself. The dish isn't going to run away with the spoon - that's just a nursery rhyme. I promise.



Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The day I lost my train of thought.


I am an only child. With two working parents, being alone was par for the course. But I was never lonely. I had my imagination, and a neighbor with eight daughters(!) so I didn't lack playmates either. Even when there was no one around, I could be still with my own thoughts, and I've been able to do that for as long as I can remember.

Perhaps that is why some of my most distinct memories are from the times spent by myself. One that immediately comes to mind is when I was pulling all-nighters for my term papers in college. In the hours between not quite night and not quite morning, my frantic typing would be the only sound in the room. However, it would be interrupted by the occasional distant rumble of a train passing by our slumbering town, and I would stop to listen, mesmerized by the sound, curious about its freight and passengers. I imagined details about where they're from, where they're going and what they're thinking that precise moment (the passengers, not the goods).

Years after college, whenever I heard a train in the dark of night, it would always take me back to those solitary nights, when all of my procrastinator's panic came to a halt, replaced by the momentary peace that arrived and departed with the train. I would see that bedroom again with my mind's eye - the corner desk lost amid books and papers of photocopied research from the library, the ever-present mug of strong black coffee, the two windows that provided much needed cross-ventilation for an apartment - my first apartment in college - with no AC, and a queen bed with the maroon bedsheets and quasi-matching floral comforter I purchased on my first shopping trip as a student in the States, which I still own to this day. I don't even know why I have it. The floral pattern, now faded, is outdated and no longer my style, but I suppose something that kept me warm those first few years I was here feeling mostly cold and homesick for my family deserves a place in my home now as its value in memories alone makes up for its lack in aesthetics.

That room, those moments of solitude always came back to me with the sound of the train - until recently. Little Miss, who's beginning to make more discernible sounds other than grunts and squeaks, has recently acquired a vocabulary that's rather useful in barnyard communication. She woofs, baas, moos, and choo-choos (well, what do you think ferries these animals to and from the barn?). After she learned choo-choo for the first time, having seen a few commuter trains go by where we were, she wouldn't stop choo-chooing in our car ride home. I suppose she's like most toddlers who like to practice their new found skills. Over and over and over.

That night, after she went to bed, My Guy and I decided to relax on the couch to talk about our day with the baby monitor by our side. By then there hasn't been a peep for over 20 minutes so we were pretty sure she was asleep, and it was a relatively quiet evening for us as well. And then it happened: "Choo-choo!" And we cracked up. It happened several more times, followed by more of our laughter as we could only imagine what was running through her head in her darkened bedroom as she eventually choo-chooed herself to sleep.

Now when I hear a train, I think of the infamous choo-choo and giggle, but I have to say, it's a little disconcerting. With her books, DVDs and multi-colored toys in every nook of our house, her pile of dirty clothes deprioritizing mine in the laundry basket and her oddly shaped plastic wares occupying a large square footage in my kitchen cabinets, you'd think she'd leave me something that I can claim as my own. But no... Little Miss Raider of Thoughts has also taken over one of my favorite memories. Great.

What next? My blog? Oh. Wait. 


(Is there any part of your life that hasn’t been infiltrated or subverted by or trampled upon by someone else, whether it’s your kids or a loved one? One that you can distinctly call your own? If so, what is it and how do you do it? I’ll be taking notes.)


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Now I know how Brutus felt. Kinda.


At dinner last night, Little Miss Generous offered me a piece of asparagus from her plate (she must love me because she loves asparagus), and I, warmed by her gesture, happily obliged. When she placed it in my mouth, I bit down, but since she didn't let go, I bit down a little harder and tugged at it - Little Miss does enjoy a little game of tug n war. Except she wasn't smiling. In fact, there was a look of astonishment in her eyes, replaced quickly by one of distress. Then it registered. It wasn't the asparagus that I caught between my teeth, it was her finger!

The tears and ear-splitting crying followed a second later. When I assessed the damage, there was a mark of white amid the pink of her tiny, fragile finger where my teeth were. I can't believe I bit my own daughter! I, her mama, her protector, her lullaby singer, her belly rubber, her boo-boo kisser, her blueberry provider, bit her.

What hit me hard wasn't that I hurt her, because accidents happen all the time, I get that, but it was the reaction on her face that shook my core. The one of confused shock on her innocent face, almost as if I had betrayed her; one that said, "Why mama?" not unlike "Et tu Brute?". The wailing that resulted from it was unequivocally a "WTF mama!".

But that look...I never want to see it again.


(Yet, who am I kidding? Really? ... She did get over it quickly (after a million smooches and apologies from me) and offered me another piece. Toddlers this age must either have a short-term memory issue or are not quite up to the task of learning their lesson. Either way, more asparagus for me.)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The power in the now.


My best self is now –
Not when I was five pounds lighter
Not when I had good grades
Not when I had time alone to myself
Not when I completed my workout
Not when I was at the top of my game.

My best self is now –
This is when I can make a choice, and do
This is when I can affect change, and take that first step
This is when I will not just recall a laugh, I will feel it
This is when I make great moments, not just dream them
This is when I can truly savor, not just be.

My best self is now –
Not tomorrow, not way back when
Not when I was young and carefree
Not when I feel better, or have more to give
There is a power in today
The power in the now, where I live.



This post is part of the Moms' 30-Minute Blog Challenge. Thank you Steady Mom for this great idea!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ready or not.


This is the end of an era. No more bottles! And nipples. And the numerous miscellaneous parts that accompany these bottles. Good riddance to our nightly bottle cleaning regimen, and hello to all that extra time I can now use to write about this extra time I have.

Little Miss went from bottle to sippy cup with no problems. I still find it incredulous. One day she was drinking milk from the bottle and the next, she wasn't. If only everything had been or would be this easy. But it probably went without a hitch because she was ready for it.

Lately, she's been exhibiting signs of "potty readiness", letting us know that she has gone in her diapers, and even going as far as placing the wipes and diaper changing pad on the floor and laying on it, waiting to be changed. Seems like a pretty good sign, most would say, but she's only 17 months and has never removed her own pants. It just doesn't seem like she's ready - but more than that, I am not.

It's not about my inability to let go or my fear of losing my daughter's reliance on me (believe me, my fear is that she will still need me at 18 years). At this point of their lives, children go through so many stages of development - nursing/weaning, eating/not eating, sleeping/not sleeping, crawling/walking, talking/tantruming - that we can hardly savor one stage before we're told to move on to the next. As new parents, what do we know, other than what "the experts" say? And so we scramble blindly with the books and gadgetry to help us navigate to the next level.

With each mastery of a new skill comes the next stage of life, so one day I have an infant who can barely hold her own head in my hands and the next, I have a curious toddler who understands me when I say "Please don't drink out of the dog's water bowl with your spoon; use the cup - it's way more efficient." Well, maybe she didn't understand the rationale at the end, but she did use the cup. Kids are gross, why fight it? I'd rather focus my energy on planting seeds of common sense that they can later sow - when they're ready.

Often parents are thrilled, and they want to share (ahem, brag) about what their kids can do or say, but I just want my little girl to slow down. No, she doesn't know her times table or the difference between a leopard and a jaguar (frankly, I don't either) but it still feels like she is 17 months going on 24. The next thing I know, she'll be asking to spend a week at Science Camp (with nerd parents, do you really think she will end up anywhere cool?) or worse, borrow my clothes!

In the end, I suppose she will do whatever she is up for, whether I like it or not, but now that what I say still goes, I'm going with no on the potty training. I'm just not ready for the weeks or months of frustration that may ensue just because some expert, who doesn't know my daughter, thinks her signs point to her ability to whiz (pardon the pun) past this phase. Besides, she may know how to sit on the little blue potty (as practice, with her diapers on) as she's doing the deed, but she also puts the potty to her mouth and pretends to drink from it when she's done.

Yeah, methinks she is not ready.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Running and chasing.

We spend our whole lives chasing happiness that it’s nice when it comes running after us instead. 











 





 Actually, it's pretty wonderful.



Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Raindrops falling on my head.


  "All I can say is that my life is pretty plain
I like watchin' the puddles gather rain
And all I can do is just pour some tea for two
and speak my point of view..."

No Rain by Blind Melon

I hate the rain. OK, maybe hate is a little harsh; I should say that I intensely dislike it. When it rains here in the spring, it seems to go on for days, and everything is awashed with grey and gloom. As if the dreary winter wasn't quite depressing enough. Now April taunts us with warmer temperatures, where we can finally feel our fingers and toes when we're outdoors, except we can't go outside because it's raining! At this point, you probably get the gist - Rain and me, we're not pals.

That was me, two days ago. Something curious happened yesterday that led me down a different path. Little Miss and I went on our usual evening stroll with our dog, and she found a tiny little puddle from the rain the day before. She pointed at the puddle and babbled toddler-speak to me that I knew meant, "water. spilled. (not me!) must clean." (I admit, when she spills anything at home, I have her clean it up - child labor aside, she actually enjoys and insists upon it, so who am I to argue?) I then explained to her that it was OK, that it was only a puddle. Somehow giving it a name made it acceptable, at which point she proceeded cautiously towards it and stepped in the puddle. And then she couldn't stop smiling. It was shortly followed by the stomping, the jumping, the running in place, and her favorite, the splashing. She was ecstatic at this new discovery. 

I couldn't believe how something this simple could bring so much joy to this little girl, and yet there she was, her eyes sparkling, her face luminescent. It was infectious. Were it a bigger puddle, I would've jumped right alongside her, but unfortunately, it was only big enough for two happy little feet. I had to settle for the role of the observer, or in this case, admirer.

As I watched her readily embrace this world, I caught a glimpse of the dewy blades of grass by the puddle and it startled me. When did that happen? That was when I looked around and finally noticed the brilliant yellow of the daffodils piercing through the peripheral landscape. Further away were the bright green spots on the once-barren trees that promised a summertime canopy.

And then it occurred to me - the rain did this (I know, duh!). The exuberant little puddle-jumper? Also the rain. My heart swelling with so much love for this girl, this place at this very moment? The rain.

Sure, the muddy pants and shoes are going to be a nightmare to clean, and I'll still sulk about being rained in, but to see those laughing eyes, the colors, the life! - I think I can deal with a little rain.

In fact, I say bring it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Pay It Forward.

This was the Easter basket (although it looks more like a pail to me) that I hastily put together last Saturday night for Little Miss, who I also affectionately refer to as my Little Monkey. In fact, there wasn't even going to be a basket-pail-thingy. But at 11pm at night, en route home from the train station, I walked past a 24-hour drugstore, and my guilt led me down the seasonal aisle, where I picked up some last-minute Easter treats and trinkets for her.

It's not that we're procrastinators (well, actually, we are); we're just not Easter people. My Guy is a non-believer, and I want to but have trouble doing so (fodder for another post, another day?), which is why celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ did not make sense to us. But when I thought about the Easter egg hunt, the dyeing of the eggs, the baskets, the candies, the little frilly dresses and their matching purses, I felt guilty about all that Little Miss would be missing out on, just because I am struggling with my own faith. It was then that I realized that it doesn't always have to be about me and my beliefs. Sometimes it's just about her.

When I was little, I was enamored with Christmas. Having a Hindu mom and a Buddhist dad, Christmas was always a celebration that I witnessed from afar - the trees in the malls, the fake Santas (as opposed to the real one of course), and the beautifully wrapped packages. In our own culture's celebrations, treats for little kids always came in the form of money in a red envelope. Sure, that will be my preference now, but to a little kid, there is magic in the frantic opening of presents that you just don't get from gingerly unfastening an envelope, knowing exactly what's in there.

One Christmas day, which would have been any other day in our house, except it was a public holiday and my mom stayed home from work, I woke up to a present on my pillow. Needless to say, it took me all of two seconds to tear it open to find this doll I'd been coveting, and when I rushed downstairs to thank my mom, I found a two-foot Christmas tree by the stairs! I was speechless - for a moment anyway before it was replaced by squeals of delight. My first Christmas gift and my first Christmas tree - jackpot! My mom, part psychic, part genie, somehow knew of my secret wishes (don't they always?) and decided to, against her own beliefs, surprise me that day - one that's emblazoned in my memory forever.

And maybe that's why I felt it was OK for me to indulge my own daughter this Easter. Little Miss will probably not learn about Jesus from us, as our stories of Easter will be of spring and renewal, and the hope that they bring. But when she's old enough to see the dresses and the easter egg hunts around the neighborhood, I want her to be able to experience the joy in them herself, and have wonderful stories of her own childhood to share with her kids, just like I do because of my mom, who may not have believed in Christmas or even knew what it all meant, but she knew what would make her child happy. And she did exactly that.

In the end, I'd like to think that the tale of this basket-pail-thingy is not about giving in or selling out - it's about paying it forward.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Reset.

At bedtime the other night, after we tucked Little Miss in, instead of her usual kiss goodnight and a wave (to signal "get out, I need my rest"), she started fussing. We left the room anyway, thinking she will just whimper herself to sleep but it escalated to full-on crying, and 20 minutes (that felt like hours) later, with no end in sight, I went back in. My heart ached at the puffy eyes and the uncontrollable hiccups, so I decided, bedtime be damned, this girl needs a cuddle. And we did just that. It was then followed by her bedtime routine all over again, but this time, when we left, she was quiet - for the rest of the night. The do-over was all it took. I guess sometimes we could all use a reset button.

I have to say, I've used that a couple of times myself. When I was at the end of my tether, working for some highly unethical corporate types, I desperately wanted out. I was leery of the nine-to-fivers so I decided to veer off my career path, and with my love for food and cooking as the main driver, I gave the food industry a try. Three and a half years later, when the novelty wore off and the long hours and weekends away from my family finally took their toll, I went back to a cubicle. However, the reset felt right as it gave me the chance to meet some truly wonderful characters, one of whom is now my best friend who shares my passion for the English kitchen sensations, Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson, and all things Harry Potter (curiously, also English - blimey!). Who can forget the midnight jaunts to Borders for the book release parties? Such nerdery, such fun. (Sans costumes, in case you're wondering; we're not those type of nerds.)

That reset button came in handy again a few years later when I decided to leave my marriage. My then husband was a great guy, and we were best friends, but I guess that was the root of the problem - it lacked passion. If you read my last post about my hopelessly romantic side, you will understand why a best-friendship-type marriage wouldn't work for me. Leaving an eight-year relationship, especially one that provided me a home away from home, didn't just make me single, it made me lonely. But I took my chance because I had faith that there had to be something better. And that something would be worth my risking everything.

And I was right. The proof is in this face. (And her daddy's too, of course, but he couldn't fit in the box with her.)


Now I detect the faint stirring in the air that comes with change as I contemplate another reset. We've been dreaming about starting life anew elsewhere - somewhere with the great outdoors within easy reach and hopefully near mountains. Heck, having been in the flattest flatland for this long, I'll take a molehill. However, to do that, we have to leave behind the city and the people we love.  I've uprooted myself before, when I left Malaysia for an education here, but it just doesn't feel like the same thing. At 19, I was eager and wide-eyed, ready to make my mark in this part of the world. Now, having spent the last 16 years placing roots to make myself a new home, the thought of re-establishing myself and my family in a new community seems tedious.

And scary. But I've faced worse.

And challenging. But I love a challenge.

And uncertain. I can live with that.

And exhilarating. Now we're talking.

And full of possibilities. That's a good thing.

And maybe even mountains. Where's that button?

I am ready.



Have you reached for the reset button yourself? If so, did it work? If not, what's stopping you?

Friday, April 2, 2010

I'm it

Kerry tagged me to share 10 things about me that you may not know. What a fun exercise, although I have to admit it's taken me a bit to think about them. Anyway, this is the best I could come up with. I'm sure after I post this, I'd think of better things.

1. I am afraid of yeast. Not the infection, although that warrants some fear, but the dough inflating kind. As much as I love cooking, when too much of the success of a recipe depends on an ingredient that seems to set its own course I get turned off by it because of how little control I have in the process. Maybe I have Type A issues, but until I get over it, homemade bread and pizza are sadly just not in the cards for us.  

2. I am usually a lot funnier (in my head). Initially, this blog was meant to be lighthearted and anecdotal, as I wanted to share crazy stories about this kid who makes me laugh every day, but as it turns out, most of these are "you just had to be there" moments. A silly face here, an infectious giggle there - not exactly blog material. And so I had to dig deeper and realize that apart from being deliriously happy in my new role as mom, I was also often times insecure, frustrated, unsure and exhausted. And those aren't always funny. So here we are. Sometimes we laugh. Sometimes we don't. C'est la vie.

3. I am a worrier. You're thinking, you're a mom, of course you worry. But I was that way pre-baby. If My Guy is out on the town with his friends and I don't hear from him, I fear the worst. If we have guests, I fret about the menu for weeks - too much? not enough? vegetarians? allergies? religious views? too ethnic? too spicy? kid-friendly? thigh-friendly? - and end up with 10 dishes for five people, just in case, and leftovers enough to feed a tiny village. And while this blog has been cathartic for me for the most part, it's also one of my biggest sources of worry. Will I offend anyone? Did I say too much? Is this the right word? Does this sentence sound right? Do I sound like a bumbling idiot? As you read this, I'm probably still wondering about the construction of this sentence, and would have rewritten this six seven times.

4. I don't want to run a marathon. Ever. I'm not a runner, and I don't have the discipline or the high threshold for pain needed to train for this event. It takes me about five days to do laundry (first day to wash and dry, second to contemplate folding, third to actually fold and place them in a neat pile, fourth to forget all about it and the last day to put them away when I finally run out of underwear). Now, does that sound like someone who can complete a marathon?

5. When I was in college, I changed my major from Psychology to English because the English building was right next to my dorm and Psych was across the campus (ten-minute walk!), and that meant I could sleep in a little longer for my 8am classes. True story. This little factoid probably confirms Number 4. No one this lazy can or will run a marathon. Duh.

6. I am loony for Buffy. The Vampire Slayer (TV series). Hot chick who kicks ass with pithy dialogue and deadly roundhouse kicks to save the world from sexy, pale-faced, photo-sensitive creatures clad in black leather. Come on, what's not to love?

7. I don't have many friends. By choice. I don't have the patience for drama - which seems to increase proportionately with the number of friends you have - and I don't have the time for acquaintances. If I wanted superfluous conversations about the weather or what Sandra Bullock wore to the Oscars, I have the local cafe barista for that. The friends I do have, I may not see or converse with every day, but when we do talk, it's all heart, mind, and soul. And what Sandra Bullock wore to the Oscars, of course. With only a handful of them, versatility is key.

8. I'm not always honest. This blog isn't fictitious but I do refrain from divulging too much because even after all these years away and all these miles apart, I still care about what my mother thinks of me, and because of her, I care about what the (somewhat more traditional) society and family that I left behind would say. Even now, I still want to be the good daughter, craving my mom's approval. Is it an Asian thing or a daughter thing, I wonder.

9. I own a sewing machine. But I don't sew. Or knit. Or crochet. Or craft. Other than making the occasional card, I did complete a scrapbook once when I was newly in love, and it was to capture the first year of my relationship with My Guy (gag, I know). It was more a testament to the ridiculous lengths I would go to when in love than my creativity because the scrapbook was more like crapbook. I would love to craft with my daughter and create beautiful things with her someday, but if I were her, I wouldn't hold my breath.

10. I am a hopeless romantic. Nicholas Sparks and Sweetest Day - so not my style; It isn't about the sweeping gestures and the grand emotions. It's the details in the everyday things. A shared passion, a stolen moment, a deep longing. It's the kiss you plant on the forehead even when the other person is sound asleep. It's taking the time to celebrate the first 70-degree night of the year with a three-hour conversation about the past, present and future over a bottle of cheap wine on a candlelit porch. It's reading aloud to you when you're too tired or too pregnant to do it yourself. Actions that linger when the moment has long since passed, that's the stuff.

(A toast to a gloriously warm night in March)

Now it is my turn to tag. Since I'm new to the blogosphere, my choices are but a few. I hope my tag-ees will indulge me all the same. These are the people I stalk every day because I love what they have to say and how they say it. Kristen, Stacia (I hope you're feeling better) and Rachel: Tag. You're it.

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