Archive | November, 2010

And your free time starts…now !

29 Nov

Is it true ? Can it be ? Babies are asleep (including the big one also known as my husband) and it’s a peaceful, tranquil Sunday afternoon.

All this solitude !  All this “me” time !!!  I’m like a kid in a candy shop !  And yet, how do I spend it ?  Not watching that brand new “Sex And The City 2” DVD still freshly wrapped in its plastic cover (Although, I must admit, Carrie and the girls let me down this time…) or picking up the November issue of “Madison” that I bought weeks ago (Consider the “Spring Racing Fashion Trends” section: Null and void).  For Pete’s sake, I’m not even taking that much needed nanna nap…

Instead, I’ve plonked myself on the couch and started typing into my iPad (my new best friend), writing in my blog (my next best friend) about how sublime it is to just be in the company of my own thoughts.  Am I going crazy ?  I must be going crazy…

But, seriously.  How DO you make the most of undesignated “time-off” as a mum.  It happens so rarely.  If you’re not child-rearing, you’re doing the laundry, you’re cooking the meals, you’re cleaning the house..the list goes on and on.  Before I had children, I never thought about it (I mean, why would I ?): Free time for a mum never just falls on your lap.  Usually, you meticulously plan it weeks in advance. Otherwise, you don’t know when it’s going to swing by your way again.  Kinda like the next Stella McCartney for Target “exclusive” collection.

It’s not like I can just pick up the keys and purse and catch the next session of “The Social Network”.  Nor can I do a “spot” of shopping at Westfield and just wander aimlessly in and out of the forests of my favourite shops (Namely, JB Hi-Fi, Nine West, Mango…not necessarily in that order).

 

Now, my reality is based on knowing that any minute now, my family will be awake again. And I need to be here, ready and waiting to tackle the general chaos and disorder that we call: “The Witching Hour”.

Hark, there’s one of the twins squawking stirring now. My undesignated free time is officially up.

Until next time, I bid you all: Adieu.

My mother attempting to deal with "The Witching Hour"

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“Watch Out ! Here Comes Mama Bear !”

26 Nov

With the risk of sounding overtly sappy, I have been struggling with how best to describe this in-built “Highly Sensitive-Over-Protective-Mama-Bear” function that I have developed since becoming a mother.  People who know me personally will testify that I am a demonstrative person who wears her heart on her sleeve, anyway.  But this is far deeper.  Much more intense.  And because of it, I am surprised at the times I have turned into a blubbering mess.

The other day, as I collected the mail from our letterbox, I picked up my husband’s latest copy of “Surfing Life” magazine.  As a birthday surprise for him, I had ordered a year’s subscription.  But my heart sank when I saw the cover.   The photo was of 3 times World Surfing Champion Andy Irons with his arm casually around his long-time rival, (but eventual personal friend), 10 times Champion Kelly Slater.

At the tender age of 32, Andy Irons suddenly passed away earlier this month.  From the perspective of a new mother, what makes this story truly heartbreaking to me, is that at the time of his death, Andy’s wife, Lindy was 8 months pregnant with their first baby – a son.

Unexpectedly, the tragic news shook me up.  I couldn’t understand it.  I had barely cared much for Andy Irons or his career.  The little that I had followed of his life had been through my husband’s interests in the surfing world.  But for some reason, I put myself in Lindy’s shoes.  I couldn’t bear to think how she was going to face child birth and child rearing as a widow.  I had also read that despite his fiery competitive nature, Andy was looking forward to becoming a dad.  In hearing all of this, my Mama Bear mode was turned on: full-throttle.

Seeing the magazine cover bought up all those emotions again.

When I passed the magazine over to my husband, he could see that I was visibly upset.  He had one look at the cover and he knew immediately – that damn switch was on…again.  Bless my husband.  He has perfectly figured out how to deal with these melodramatic incidents.  As if it was part of the routine, he just calmly asked if I was okay. Between sobs, I mumbled, “It’s so, so, sad…he was going to be a father…”

My hubby turned around and gave me a hug.  It was all I needed.

Almost anything can trigger off that emotional explosion.  (It’s for this very reason, I cannot stand to watch the news on television).  The severity of the situation is irrelevant.

This is going to sound utterly ridiculous (deep breath), but I was completely beside myself when watching the Pixar animation “Up”.  But come on, with main themes such as unconditional love, devoted friendships and the struggle to find self-confidence ?  Well, that’s just a guaranteed recipe for uncontrollable floodgates.

Then, there is the most dramatic episode to date.  The big clincher:  The day I was discharged from the maternity hospital and had to leave behind my premature babies at the Newborn Care Centre.  A Mama Bear being sent home without her newborn cubs.  I was inconsolable.  A complete emotional wreck.  Just writing about it, still tears me up.

In writing this blog post, I am well aware of the dangers portraying myself as a neurotic, highly-strung mother.  That’s okay.  I know I’m not.  I am a new mother becoming attuned with her heightened feelings of love, joy, happiness, gratitude – mixed with a deep desire and need to protect and nurture.  I’m going to sit back and let these emotions over-ride me.  And that’s okay too.

The late Andy Irons with his wife, Lindy

Nulla Nanna: Our Twinnie Groupie

22 Nov

Worlds away from the general mayhem of their Indonesian grandparents, my twin boys are the apple(s) to their beloved Nulla Nanna’s eye.

Nulla is the abbreviated term fondly referring to Cronulla, a beachside suburb which is located in Sydney’s south.  Its coastline is scattered with sandy beaches, rock pools and nature parks.

So going from Northern Sumatra to Cronulla, lies the stark contrast of grandmas. Whilst their Opung (Indonesian grandmother) yearns longingly for the boys to finally be able to enjoy her spicy homemade Indonesian cooking; Nulla Nanna is keen as mustard to see her grandsons hang ten and ride the waves at her nearby surfing beaches.

To say Nulla Nanna is besotted by her grandsons would be an understatement.  Like a loyal teenage fan admiring her favourite pop star, she has all of the twins’ memorabilia; There is the “Proud Nanna of Twins” tote bag, the “Proud Nanna of Twins” key ring and the “Proud Nanna of Twins” compact mirror.  Not to mention the growing kitchen wall collage that is completely dedicated to photos of her little rock stars.  I won’t even begin to start on her computer screen saver…

Being a tech saavy senior citizen, she possesses all the gadgets to help her capture and collect more grandkiddy memories – the digital camera, the computer, the blessed digital photo frame, even (though we don’t know why…) the paper shredder.  Since the boys started crawling, there has been serious talk of upgrading the digital camera for one that will take better quality videos (Watch out, Spielberg !).

From the day the twins were born, our Nulla Nanna’s love and devotion has been unwavering.  Typical of new parents, my husband and I were overwhelmed by the responsibilities and demanding schedule that were expected of us – especially as there were two newborns to take care of.  But Nulla Nanna took it all in her stride.  Without a moment’s hesitation she offered her full, undivided assistance.  In our bleary eyed state, she always came to our rescue.  And for that, we are forever grateful.

For the first 6 months of our boys’ lives, twice a week, Nulla Nanna would make the hour long commute from Cronulla to our home.  Even when she was caught in peak hour traffic or had a car accident (twice !) – she would always arrive at our doorstep in good spirits.

You may think that such duties are the standard obligations of a grandmother.  And you may be right.  But Nulla Nanna’s wait for her first grandchildren had been a little longer than anticipated.  Thus, their birth was all that more special to her.

Being a widow for over ten years, most of her family and relatives live interstate or overseas.  So, Nulla Nanna keeps herself busy by catching up with friends, going to the  movies, seeing plays and going to the gym.

Indeed, the arrival of our sons have created an even busier schedule for her.  But as an observation, I think they have given her a little more fulfillment too.  Her days seem to have that added “sparkle” and perhaps, unfortunately, the occasional baby mess.  Nevertheless, she soaks up every single moment with her little super stars.

During one of her visits, whilst cuddling one of the twins, Nulla Nanna had the misfortune of having this little gromit regurgitate his chicken, pumpkin and zucchini puree lunch all over her pristine, crisp, white shirt.  Later that day, when talking to her on the phone, checking to see she made it home safely, I quickly apologised for my son’s accident that had left a nasty stain (and smell !) on her shirt.

“Oh, don’t be silly,” Nulla Nanna said cheerfully.  “I would rather have a filthy shirt and two gorgeous twin grandsons instead of a clean, untouched one and no grandchildren.  In fact, as a keepsake, I might not even wash it.”

On the other end of the line, I smiled secretly.

Now, there’s a die-hard fan for you.

The Early Days: Our 'nulla Nanna with her little rock stars

Balloons, Rainbows and Fried Chicken: The Love of an Indonesian Grandma

17 Nov

Along with the growing number of bi-racial families here in Australia, so too will my twin sons be raised in the surroundings of  two diverse cultures.  Without a doubt, their Indonesian grandmother will play an integral part.

Despite my own complicated relationship with my mother (Another story, another blog, another six years in therapy…haha), over the years I have learnt to accept and appreciate her endearing qualities that derive from the fact that she is Batak.  Bataks are an Indonesian ethnic group hailing from Northern Sumatra.  Their women are famous for being feisty, robust and hardworking.  True testament to this is that my mother is well into her mid-70’s, yet she is still holding down two jobs (one being a night-shift employee at Australia Post and the other, a physically demanding cleaning job).

With her preference to being addressed by the Batak term for grandma, Opung (Pronounced: “OH-poong”), my mother makes no qualms over her disinterest in baby-sitting duties.  Forever the working woman, my mother followed the standard set by Indonesian culture and whilst growing up there, my brothers and I were predominately raised by a nanny.  (Being the fifth most populous country in the world, with 220 million humans, you’re gonna need some hired help !)  Instead, Opung takes merit in other shapes and forms.

A Grandma's Touch: One of my boys asleep in his Opung's arms

When my boys arrive at their grandparents’ house, there is great fanfare; They are flooded with LOTS of music.  (Ask any Indonesian – Bataks are renowned for their love of singing).  It’s not long until Opung starts passionately singing Indonesian nursery rhymes about balloons and rainbows.  This is accompanied by animated dancing and rhythmic movements.  Grandpa is in the background, either playing the ukulele or the electric keyboard.  The lounge room depicts a Kuta Beach nightclub gone beserk.  Barely ten months old, my twin boys are always amused by all the commotion.  I swear I see them stare at each other as if to say, “What IS all this madness ???”

Along with her love of music and dancing, Opung is the foremost cook in our extended family.  Indonesian friends and relatives will travel far and wide to come over and relish in my mother’s accomplished dishes – her Indonesian fried chicken and her beef rendang (an Indonesian dry coconut based curry if cooked correctly, the beef is so tender, it melts in your mouth).  At the moment, her little grandsons are still adjusting to their bland chicken and veggie purees.  But I can see she is waiting in anticipation for the day that they can enjoy her spicy culinary delights.  As even my husband discovered – to please Opung means to reach for that fifth helping.

From the early days, our boys have for the most part, learnt to self-settle when it comes to naps or bedtime.  But as every parent knows, nothing is ever certain and there are days when, for whatever reason, either one or both boys cannot, will not, sleep.  Enter Opung.  She rocks them.  She cradles them.  She sings to them.  They are asleep in nano seconds.  How DOES she do it ?  I don’t know.  It’s one of those unexplainable Grandma qualities, I guess.

Immersed in Indonesian song and dance, while being fed full with fried chicken and beef curry, my little half-Aussie, half-Indo boys will be taught by their Opung to be proud in their heritage and background.  In this valuable lesson, I hope that they will also grow up to embrace and respect the culture and customs of others.

Batak Fanfare: My family performing traditional singing and dancing at our wedding reception

The Moves and Grooves of Married Life

9 Nov

Our Wedding Day: Cutting a groove to our bridal (disco) dance

Last Sunday, my husband and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary (Woohoo !).  To commemorate, this blog post will try to record some of the highlights of our special day.

Early in the planning stages, my husband and I decided that we wanted to make our wedding day as personal as possible and for it to reflect our personalities.  Hence, ours wasn’t the most conventional of weddings.

Besides the traditional church ceremony, everything after was pretty non-“bridal”.  For starters, the bride was 5 months knocked up, with twins 🙂 Then, there was our wedding cake (chocolate mud, thank you very much).  The figurines on top were of a groom in board shorts, whilst holding a surfboard.  The bride was holding a microphone which perfectly depicted my great love of karaoke and the spotlight 🙂

There was no romantic, mushy, soppy slow waltz for our first dance together.  No, no, no.  Instead, we went with…DISCO, baby !  “Got To Be Real” by Cheryl Lynn was our tune of choice .  And despite the countless dancing classes at the Arthur Murray Dancing School, on the night, we still failed to “cut a groove”.  (Picture:  Bride with a HUGE bowling ball up her wedding gown, being flung around the dance floor by groom with two left feet).  John Travolta would’ve hung his head in shame.

Nevertheless, keeping in line with the moves of the disco theme, the bride (ahem, yes me…), took to the microphone and, in loving tribute to my teenage idol (R.I.P MJ), performed with the band, “Blame It On The Boogie” (Not very “bridal” at all !!!).  No alcohol involved.  Just pure adrenalin and the sheer thrill of taking to the stage and having my five minutes of fame at my own wedding 🙂

What the heck, you only get married once, right ?

Our Wedding Cake: The Avid Surfer Groom and the Karaoke Fanatic Bride

A Mother’s Zen…Or A Lack Thereof

7 Nov

Me...about to lose my Zen...

Like the early rumblings of an earthquake, I could feel it approaching.  First, there was the rush of blood to my head, then my heart began to quickly pulsate.  The inevitable was happening.  I couldn’t fight it.  I was losing my Zen.

The boys were due for their mid morning sleep and they were just about over the edge. Normally, my boys were great at self-settling.  All it took was getting them snug and zipped up in their sleeping bags, “plug in” the pacifier and in seconds, everyone was in dreamy la-la land.  However, for some unknown reason, this particular morning was doomed for disaster.  Breakfast had been a struggle and the boys had been restless ever since.  It had been over an hour since I had put the twins in their cots but the situation was dire.  Screaming banshees had taken over my house…and my mind.

Shaken up with stress and with no one around to help me think straight, I left my children’s room and firmly closed the door.  I ran to our laundry which is located at a safe and sound-proof distance.  To be completely sure that I was locking myself out from the world, I shut the door tight.  I couldn’t contain myself any longer.  Whilst yelling all sorts of profanities at the top of my lungs, I gave our washing machine three mighty, solid kicks.  The crashing, loud noise was what I needed to get the frustration out of my system.

With my heart still beating wildly, I took a couple of deep breaths.  I closed my eyes and stayed in the laundry room until I collected myself.  I couldn’t believe what had just come over me.  Since the boys were born, I had never experienced losing so much self-control.

Let me further explain – I may not have much time or tolerance for telemarketers who call during dinner or people who drive while talking on the mobile phone…but when it came to my two little munchkins, I was confident that motherhood had taught me the valuable virtue of patience.

So, what was the cause of the outburst ?  Later that day when I had a moment to reflect, I discovered a cold, hard truth.  In all my efforts to be a perfect mother, I had failed to realise that there were going to be unforeseeable moments where motherhood was going to take my temperament to places I had never been.  Hence, losing my Zen.

What actually is a Mother’s Zen, I hear you ask ?  In fear of sounding esoteric or “spiritual”, I will define it in laymen’s terms.  The epitomy of a Mother’s Zen is what you see on the Huggies nappies ad:  The picture of that sweet, gentle mother smiling lovingly down at her placid, perfect baby, with a light and airy version of “It Must Be Love” playing in the background.  (I used to really love that song).  When I first entered motherhood, I thought that this benevolent saint type figure was what I was supposed to be aiming for.

After that washing machine morning , I finally figured that it was all a farce.  I don’t know who initially conjured up this flawless, perfect image.  And if I wasn’t a mother, I probably wouldn’t notice it. But I am and it’s everywhere.  In all the baby shops, on the packaging and labeling of baby products, in the celebrity gossip magazines: The misleading notion that a mother is always tranquil. Holding an inner peace.  In a complete state of serenity.  Geez…some days, I’m lucky to be in a state of sanity, let alone serenity.

Now, let’s return to everyday life and tackle the issue at hand:  If we lose it, what does it take to get our Zen back ?  This is how I look at it – alongside the concept of Zen, is the practice of meditation.  For me to avoid further damage to our washing machine (That was a one-off incident, I might add), my form of meditation is exercise.  Twice a week – rain, hail or shine – I work it out, sweat it out and punch it out.  It’s only a short absence, but I finish up the session desperately missing my munchkins and rush back home.  I always look forward to being greeted by their welcoming, smiling faces.  From that moment, I know I’ve regained the confidence and energy to be the best mother I can be to my beloved boys.  I get my balance back.

It would be nice to always be a Huggies mum but I know that’s not my world.  I have my days when the pressure of being a responsible and providing mother takes its toll. Yet, I am now comfortable with that thought because I have also discovered what I need to do to try and put things back in perspective.

So now, I hand the floor over to all fellow mothers out there.  I’d like to hear your stories.  When have you lost your Mother’s Zen ?  But more importantly, what does it take for you to regain balance and perspective ?

We are all too exposed with the pretty, fluffy side of motherhood.  Let’s delve into the realities.

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