Saturday, July 26, 2008

Food - Triumphs and Defeats

My pride and joy this week - improving on an internet Lasagne recipe from Exclusively Food with the addition of spinach and cottage cheese layers:


Inspired by a much better attempt at a recent gathering, I decided to cook spinach with a touch of minced garlic, and added cottage cheese mixed with egg and milk as a more healthy alternative to the full beef mince layers. No complaints from the hubby on this one!

Having said that, I'm afraid that I'll never reach the levels of food blogging by others from whom I have much to learn. A couple of their blogs have been life savers for me:

My Little Cyberspot

Little Gastronomy

Some of my not so successful attempts this week include under-cooked potatoes and over-baked pumpkins and sweet potatoes. I also learnt that as much as I like a recipe, it's pretty pointless if the audience I'm cooking for can't appreciate the main ingredients. Ok, so no more pumpkin, sweet potato, parsnips, cauliflower from now on.

Quite on a separate note, we went toboggan riding today at Mount St Gwinear, a snow slope within Baw Baw National Park, just an hour's drive from here. Read more about it at Toboganning.


Poor Dylan took a couple of falls on his head after losing his balance in his snowsuit. None the worse for the wear though, thank God! But it is a reminder to me that God's protection is so so important - because we can do all we can to be careful about preventing accidents, but ultimately when they happen anyway we can only quickly react to provide Dylan with comfort and care, and pray that God sustains him!


Chosen and Choices

Thank you.

I couldn't have said it better. Indeed, for all my pithy complaints, there is no other toddler I want to be mother to. And knowing that he is God's special gift to us, with all of his qualities and challenges humbles me tremendously.

Perhaps we're all programmed by the way we've been brought up to be competitive.

Even as parents, we eye other people's children, much the same way as we do other people's jobs, salaries, achievements, so that we can make mental notes about our own. It's a problem, no doubt about that, and we have ourselves to blame for so much unhappiness. Instead of looking out for unique traits and talents, we see shortcomings. What a curse!

And every so often, something happens to remind me that my faith has freed me from this curse. Why should I continue to be tethered!

Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon professor whose book to his three children the Last Lecture inspired millions of readers to re-evaluate their lives and the legacy they would like to leave behind for their children, died today.

I haven't read the book, but reading just how the news covered his death, I see the influence this man has effected by simply choosing not to be defeated by impending death, and instead using it as a "teachable moment" for his children, and hopefully, also showing how one should celebrate life.

Applying this simple general truth to our son, I realize that as much as Dylan is chosen for us, I also have to choose to embrace him for every bit he is, and the mother that he is helping me become.

Over dinner tonight, in a bout of reminiscing about life before Dylan, I told E. that as much as we enjoyed ourselves then, life now with Dylan is so much more fulfilling, and I can't imagine it any other way. Even if it means many more nights of waking at 4a.m. and coaxing a sprightly toddler to go back to bed!


And it's also reciprocal.

One fine day, if the day comes when Dylan looks at the two of us in total despair and asks why he has to have us, of all people, as parents, this mother prays that he'll also have a similar epiphany, and find the grace to thank God for picking us to be his!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Out of excuses.

In my first few weeks postpartum, it was a revelation to me that God made us to experience parenting, so that each of us can be held accountable for another life. My life was no longer just about me - what I want, how I imagine "abundant life" to be - but also how my choices and actions nudge my offspring a little closer to, or farther from, knowing his Creator.

These days, I'm finding that God made us parents actually primarily for us - to nudge us a little closer, or farther from, closely walking with Him, trusting Him, entrusting Him.

After the umpteenth time we go through a massive struggle of wills for the little one to:
A) Stay in his high-chair and finish his dinner, and/or
B) Remain in his own toddler bed to sleep through the remaining few hours of the night

I can't help but throw up my hands and utter a prayer - "Oh God, help!"

We know the theory to good parenting - never lose your patience, always make mealtimes enjoyable, slowly ease the child into sleeping the night through etc. - but delivering these moves are a challenge, when at the back of my mind are untamed and angry worries about whether the child is getting enough nutrition and rest.

In these moments, the words "Be still, and know that I am God" are the furthest from my mind.

It doesn't help to have friends who are blessed with easy babies - you know, the ones that sleep 12 hours straight from the 2nd month, and have hale and hearty appetites no matter what manner of food comes before them.

The green monster, Envy, rears its ugly head and makes me just want to roar aloud the question "Why?!"

To be fair to the little one, he isn't quite the sleep-depriving monster mommy is making him out to be here. On the contrary! Our soon-to-be 19 month old is a clever little angel now, full of ways to keep us entertained with his shenanigans.

Haha... he does a mean impression of a chicken now, and only says "Hi!' to little doggies and kittens, never to humans.

He counts now too, except that every number is a "Two!" "Two!" "Two!" and is able to report to me that the sirens on ambulances and fire trucks go "Ee-yor Ee-yor". He also loves sneaking up on Daddy napping on the couch and startling him with playful punch, complete with a cheeky laugh. Bread is now "Bu", apple juice is now "Per-Ju", and milk is "Mmm".

Watching him, I ask myself the question - am I doing something wrong? What else can we do to make him eat more/sleep more/speak better/count/stack the blocks/take an interest in the alphabet etc (you fill in the blank!)?

The easy way out of explaining why he is the way he is with sleep and food ended on 30 June, the day we left Singapore. Till then, any shortcoming became the fault of what the other caregivers in his life did, or did not do.

Then, I had to luxury of saying to myself - hey I'm employed, going to work and feeding the mouths in this family. Let somebody else be answerable for some of the bad habits our toddler is picking up.

That however, ended when yours truly became a stay home mom.

I'm clean out of excuses.

All that is left now is me, him, and a lot of time for me to sort out these questions and anxieties, and the place in this home for God to continue being an integral part of our family life.

In a nutshell, it is getting clearer and clearer to me, as I step into full-time mommy-dom, that there is a whole lot more to God's purpose in the command to "go forth and multiply" than it may first appear. Parenting without God, as is life in general, is I discovered a sure road to hell filled with personal inner demons and utter discontent.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Finger Painting

Step One to finger-painting: get out the box of paint and canvas. Also, lots of wet wipes (not seen in these pictures but most certainly there) for when paint gets to places it shouldn't go, including Daddy's sofa, carpet, ottoman etc..
Box of Paints

Step Two: Put on your paint-shirt! Although on the box of Crayola finger paint tubes, is indicated that colours may be washed off clothes, we've more or less written off this ex-pajamas top already.

Step Three: Concentrate on creating a masterpiece!

Step Four: Oops... erm. We did a bit of face-painting too, it would seem!
Living with the Mess

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Day in the Life of.

If you ever wonder what the good life looks like, look no further than a day in the life of young Dylan to find examples.

He was a good boy today - woke at the very sane hour of 8.30am, enjoyed a lukewarm bowl of cereal, followed by a trip to the neighborhood grocer's to help mommy stock up the pantry. The trip sure worked up an appetite, because right when we came back he wolfed down a slice of bread and cheese!
Eating Cheese

Lunch consisted of last night's cottage pie (see picture), and off to bed it is again with a bottle of milk until Daddy returned home at 4, after which we brought the little one out for a walk to the uni in the brisk winter air.
Cottage Pie
My attempt at cottage pie (beef mince casserole under mashed potato) - on our dining table in the kitchen

To earn his "keep" - the little one had to demonstrate the following skills today:
1) Roll on the floor on command. (Sounds like dog-training, but he really did roll for the fun of it!)
2) Successfully drink warm apple juice from his sippy cup without spilling (sippy cup courtesy of Uncle HS and Auntie YM from Boston!)

Drinking Apple Juice

3) Go up and down the stairs to the front yard all by himself, by holding onto the side of the railing leading up to the front door.
4) Point out to mommy that the birdie in the backyard just "mm-mm'ed" (poo-ed) under our lemon tree.

The neighborhood we're in is really rather quiet. Just to illustrate, here we are walking in the park which is literally 10 minutes from our front door:
Walk around the neighborhood
As rural as it sounds, the place really isn't so far flung as to be without many creature comforts and nearby amenities to enjoy. The town center comprises two parallel rows of single-story shops, post office, Watson/CVS-like pharmacy, hairdresser, fish & chippery, and a supermarket. Although that doesn't sound like much, it's enough for me. For now.

What I'm enjoying about our cosy little nook here in Churchill is the space we have for the little one to flop about with his new toys!
My toys!

Every day is still a new experience for this mommy and I would guess the toddler too - trying to get into a routine of sorts. What helps is the few hours I get to myself, like now, when he is asleep. I'm sometimes flooded by an immense gratitude in moments like these - when I just realize how many people I have to be thankful for.

In the days, months, leading up to this, I've had so many friends offer words of encouragement and practical advice (thanks, TJMummy!). Friends who dropped a message via the blog or facebook or Skype, or even called from overseas (D, KH, M, E, B., L., J.) when I felt sad, friends who spent time with me and gave Dylan pressies (KH&KP, K&J, H&Y, S), helped out in practical ways (KH&KP) and friends who just offer a listening ear, and a prayer when I needed it most.

I wish there was a way I could express our thanks beyond the long long sentence I just completed typing out!

E, Dylan and I are blessed to be so very much supported by our family, our cell group, our church and our dear, dear friends. Though the days are cold (the winds are blustering outside now as I type this), these thoughts truly warm my heart.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Lessons Learnt and Questions at the end of Day 3.

I'm nearly at the end of my third day of truly being tested as a stay-home mom; prior to Monday, E was around the whole time helping with the cooking and cleaning so it can't count.

I'm surprised by how quickly the day passes. Because Dylan takes a long time to finish his meals, it isn't long after breakfast that I have to start working on lunch already, and I wonder sometimes if he is hungry with meals so close after each other.

This morning, I tried finger-painting with him for the first time. First lesson to finger paiting: it is vital, before you get the cap off even one of the paint tubes, to have within arm's reach plenty of tissue paper and wet wipes on hand to deal with very likely messes, including when the tyke decides the glob of dark blue gunk on his hand is food and hair gel!

There are moments in the day when time slows down - especially when I wrestling with a grumpy toddler to try to get him to take a nap - but other than these awful will-testing moments I'm cherishing every minute. Still, it isn't easy, and I really take my hat off to SAHMs who are coping with more than 1 kid!

Right now, I have a few questions and I welcome anyone to offer suggestions for this inexperienced SAHM:
1) Dylan is starting to throw some serious tantrums. I'm talking about hour-long hair-raising body-stiffening screaming fits, refusing to stop so that mommy or daddy can have a word in edgewise type of tantrum. So we naturally are starting to wonder what the best way of disciplining him is. We tried putting him in a naughty-corner ala Supernanny style, but the tyke just gets right up crying his guts out and runs to me again.

2) How do you do to start introducing the potty? We bought a really basic one for $11, and I've been trying to get Dylan just to sit there when he is doing No.2 with his pants on. He doesn't seem to see the need though, and would just get up from the seat again.

3) At bedtime: is it alright for mommy to climb into the toddler bed with him to soothe him to sleep? What's the best way to wean a young toddler off cosying up to mommy and daddy at bedtime?


Now that I have all of 3 days of cooking experience under my belt - I believe that the 2 boys in this house will soon start to appreciate my ever-improving culinary experiment! Will talk more about that later.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Days 1 to 3 in Melbourne and Churchill

E beat me to it - breaking the first news and photos of our initial days here in Oz, so some of what I'm posting here is already old news. In a nutshell, it's been a fun first few days here with the Daddy, and we have all the photos to prove it!

Read more in Back in Oz.

My biggest worry coming over to Australia was what I should get from the grocer's and whether Dylan would eat my cooking. Thankfully, other than a definite preference for all things potato in the shape of little sticks people call "french fries" and "chips", our little one is eating well and drinking his milk.

How do I know? He's been poo-ing about twice daily, on average! All parents will know what I'm talking about - it's simple Math, really, what goes in must come out, nothing to baulk over. =)

Some things we've been scoffing down our throats -

Our first home-made breakfast on Day 2: Daddy's modified french toast - using ready-made pancakes!

Flat white at the Blue Train Cafe, Southbank

Dylan's perennial favorite, baby yoghurt, though here he's just staring straight into Daddy's camera:

A treat at Iimis Cafe - baby chino for just 50c! Essentially, it's just steamed milk with a marshmallow on the side - mostly foam from the steaming, and a little bit of warm milk and chocolate powder on top.

Yummy savory crepe-like dish-whose-name-I've-forgotten-though-the-taste-was-totally-memorable:
Sausage in pita & chips.JPG

Dylan's first ever trip to the zoo was exciting for him! First encounters at the Melbourne Zoo included coming up close and personal with big cats - three handsome male lions, a snow leapord, a jaguar - lizards, wombats, giraffe, zebras and emus. Midway through our visit, after he saw a bunch of wombats all cosied up sleeping in their den, Dylan decided enough was quite enough and promptly fell asleep. So that's how he missed out on the elephant exhibit and a beautiful orang utan enclosure. Ah well.

At the zoo entrance.

Can't take my eyes off those beasts - what brutes! what beauty!

Erm... mommy, what were we supposed to see again?

Check out my impression of an emu - impressive, no?

So who do I look like more - mommy or daddy?

some giraffes and an emu

with daddy, oh, and a couple of zebras and a giraffe too.

After D's nap, was playtime at the zoo's kidzone!

We headed out to Churchill on Wednesday - a long drive, and I got a taste of what E's been talking about when he mentioned how rural it was out here. But it's populated enough to have a few decent joints and playground facilities for the little one! After lunch yesterday, off we went to another playground nearby in Tarralgon:


Love the looks on both the boys!