Archive | February, 2011

Home (Not Quite) Improvement

28 Feb

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you will know how much I just luuuuurves my Hubby.

He’s a hands-on dad, sharing the heavy burden of parenting without complaint or a grudge.  He juggles all of this with full-time work and if that isn’t enough on his plate…he makes sure that I’m happy and content.

However, in this family, we have all come to a general consensus on one matter:

A handy man, he ain’t.

Goodness knows he tries.  Bless him.  He really does.

As a gentle nudge of encouragement, one year, for a birthday present, Hubby’s brother gave him a complete tool box.  All the screwdrivers – different sizes and colours.  Then, for Christmas, he got a super duper electrical drill set.

Yup.  There is no doubt.  There are no excuses.

My Hubby is… well-equipped.

Yet, for some unbeknown reason, like a gardener unknowing of his black thumb, or an oblivious tone deaf karaoke singer (no such thing !!!), Hubby’s little home improvement projects just don’t seem to quite materialise as initially conceptualised.

This has created some concern in our household.

Of course with Hubby’s permission, I thought I’d share with you some of his “undertakings”.

Saving Mr. Turtle:

A beloved toy of Little N&K’s, Mr. Turtle’s shell lights up in different colours, blue, amber and green to depict the star constellations on the wall.  There are very few toys that get the boys as excited as Mr. Turtle:

Alas, like with many a cool toy, Mr. Turtle is battery-operated and desperately needed resuscitation of late.

Hubby efficiently whipped out the trusty tool box to find a suitable screwdriver.

Yet it’s been over a month now that Mr. Turtle has been sitting on the kitchen table, waiting to be revived.

I hate to say it, for now, Mr. Turtle is still…kinda…dead:

The trials and tribulations (?) of building an Ikea bookshelf:

Ikea equals guaranteed non-failure.  Yes ?  No.

Years ago, when we were still just courting and I needed to furnish my single gal apartment, Hubby offered to build a bookshelf for me.  I swooned.  No man had ever built anything for me before.  It was more exciting than getting roses.

It didn’t take long for the romantic connotation to evaporate into an Ikea disaster and doom.

For the first time, I witnessed my then boyfriend fret and fuss in the sun room – with all the shelves, panels, screws, nuts and bolts – sprawled all over the floor.

Like he was studying a rocket science manual, there was my future husband – in full concentration – trying to make sense of the worldless, pictures-only instructions, whilst holding intently onto the crucial Allen key.

“Poor bloke.  I don’t think he’s done this before…” I thought to myself.

Indeed, he hadn’t.

I was his guinea pig.

So, hours later, in what was as almost as dramatic as the barn-raising scene on “Witness”, we slowly lifted the bookshelf up.

Hubby was completely chuffed.

Then, there it was.  To me, it was blaringly obvious.

On the final shelf at the very top of the bookcase, he hadn’t switched the plank of wood around before screwing it in to the back panel.  Thus, showing the ply-wood, instead of the painted surface.

I was devastated.

Hubby didn’t think it was THAT big a deal.  To this day, that’s how it’s remained.

No. Big. Deal.

Instead, this very bookshelf is now legacy.  A constant reminder of our early innocent courtship days… and Hubby’s first tackle with Scandinavian industrial engineering.

Ask for a spice rack;  Get a shoe rack:

One evening, as I was busily cooking, storing and freezing the 5 kilos of pureed food for our hungry boys, I started getting frustrated to how seemingly smaller our kitchen had become.

“Lovey, how can I make the kitchen more functional for you ?  Tell me, what do you need ?” asked my ever loving, thoughtful husband.

“I would soooo love a spice rack !  So I can just get to everything easily, rather than go on my tip toes…” I replied with relief and delight.

So, after deliberation and discussion as to where this magical spice rack was going to be built and installed, off Hubby went to K-mart.  And he came back with this.

A shoe rack…

The joys of baby-proofing:

Phew.  Okay, where do I begin ?  This is where photos will tell stories far better than I can.

When we began baby-proofing our home, our first priority was to ensure that all cables and wires were out of sight and reach from the little toddler twinlets.

But for us, the task wasn’t so easy.  It took a couple of attempts.

Before we were able to get to this stage:

This happened:

What has left me completely baffled is not how he managed to take a huge chunk of our wall from one little adhesive taped hook.  That wasn’t the big surprise.  Instead, I was intrigued with how Hubby was able to hide the massive gash on our wall by strategically placing it behind our television.  For months, I was clueless.

The Irrepairable Door Handle:

To no avail, Hubby has tried to fix the broken door handle to the boys’ bedroom on many, many, many an occasion.  No matter what the anecdote, the door handle always seems to fall off.  As such, we have seemed to taken a “short recess” from this project:

So, there is an interim solution.  Naturally, a door handle replacement has to be an ugg boot.  Right ?  Right.

Who needs a working door handle when you can simply tug on…an ugg boot, instead.

Yes, our rickety rack home may have ripped walls and ugg boots instead of door handles.

That’s okay.

We know that this is the sum of it:

Inconveniences ?  Imperfections?  Life is full of them.

The tricky part is how we ride through it all.

To come out the other end.

Hopefully, smiling…


A Special Kinda Playgroup

26 Feb

I know that there are some Mamas out there that will “Tsk, tsk” me when I say this:  I’m not a big fan of mothers’ groups.

However, there is one particular group that I do my best to go along to every second Thursday.

It’s the Miracle Babies Foundation NurtureGroup which is especially set up for mums and their premature bubs.  There, I feel most comfortable because I’m surrounded by other women who have gone through the same journey of having an untimely birth and have dealt with the roller-coaster ride of the NICU (Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit).

Even when your premmie babies are finally discharged from hospital, there are still endless hurdles to overcome.

For instance, for our family, we went to extreme measures to avoid infections or contagious illnesses from the big, bad world outside.  We pretty much kept our 5 week premature twin boys quarantined at home until they were 3 months.  (Cabin fever much ???)

2 litre pump bottles of anti-bacterial hand gel were a big staple in our household.  If you were a visitor unwilling to co-operate in using the stuff…at the front door you stayed.

From the advice of doctors, we got our whooping cough and swine flu shots, we made sure that grandparents got the same jabs.

Then there is the constant concern of wondering when your baby will reach a comfortable position in that blasted percentile graph – badgering you that you’re child is still “catching up” to other “normal”, average-sized babies.

It is piece of mind that, for us mums of premmie pumpkins, there is a support group to turn to.  A crutch where all these worries are shared by all the mothers in the same room.

A couple of weeks ago, a television camera crew came along to one of the group sessions to do a story.  It was then aired last Monday morning on Channel Nine.  Hence, the attached video.

Even Little N&K managed to squeeze themselves in the limelight.  (Don’t blink though, you might miss them).  It’s just a shame that it was for a cheesey program like the Kerri-Anne Show…*ahem* *cough*

Anyhowdy-hoo…as they say, any publicity is good publicity.

No doubt, the Miracle Babies Foundation is deserving of every ounce of attention and community awareness.

Gastro Drama

24 Feb

“It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times…”

Last week was an interesting combination of dealing with gastro (myself and the boys) and actually trying to recover in order to manage a rare social outing.

We greeted Valentine’s Day with two irritable 1 year old boys with unprecedented rancid nappies.

Valentine's Day: Right before "Mr. Gastro" came to visit

 

Not long after, there were throw-up sessions.  In particular, Little N had impeccable aim and timing.  Crawling on top of my chest, he decided that then and there was the perfect moment to release all sorts of chunky bits from that tiny little tummy.

Warm, gooey regurgitated milk dripping down my top and into my bra.

My job as a mother ?  Undignified.

Amongst all this commotion, an old friend from my Tokyo days contacted me to let me he was in town.  Was I interested in catching up ?

Does a crazy cat have claws ?

It was a tricky case of juggling projectile vomit clean-ups and finding a free night in the limited time he was in town.

Mr B is a friend through mutual acquaintances.  We hung out among group dinners, karaoke sessions (What else do you do in Japan ?) and would get quietly drunk together on many an occasion.

Would I say we were “close friends”?  Regrettably, the casual socialising left little opportunity to be anything more than ex-pats sharing the same social circles.

As I drove into the city to meet Mr. B,  I was certain that it would just be a simple night of polite conversation.  Nothing too deep.  Nothing too thought provoking.

Mr. B walked into the restaurant and it was like we were both back in Tokyo.

Reminiscing stories of the past, we also caught up on each other’s present lives.  A doting uncle, he showed me photos of his nieces and nephew.  I pulled out my mobile and played some videos of the boys being raucous and their usual energetic self.

By the time our main course had arrived, we started to talk more honestly and openly about family, careers and life.

“They sure keep me on my toes !  And they’ve had gastro…oh my gosh…it’s so disgusting…”  I started to whine about the crazy week I was having.

“You know, Grace…I don’t think I ever told you I had an older brother,” he mentioned, out of the blue.

Unbeknown to me, Mr. B was only a month old himself when his older brother died of leukemia at age 5.

At around the age of 2, Mr. B’s parents had noticed bruises all over their eldest son’s body before detecting the fatal illness.  They hold fond stories of a brave little boy.  Staying courageous, he would comfort his distressed mother who had to witness the giant needle going into his own spine for bone marrow examinations.

Mr. B recalled a conversation his father had with a relative, after his brother had passed away.  This particular relative was talking about how much of a handful his kids were.

“If they’re a handful, then you know that they’re healthy.  And that’s always a good thing.”  Mr. B’s father had replied.

I was suddenly conscious how trivial my complaints must have sounded.

Mr. B  concluded the story saying that his brother died on the 23rd of November, 1969.

“But you know what ?”  He gave a subtle smile.

“Exactly a year later to the day.  23rd of November, 1970.  My little sister was born,” Mr. B beamed proudly.

In all the years I had known him, in all those times we spent enjoying the nightlife of Tokyo, we had never sat down and had such a profound conversation about the importance of family and the curve balls life throws at you.

Many years later, in another city, at different stages of our lives,  it felt that we had re-connected.  Even reaching a deeper bond.

How ironic.

I went home that night filled with a renewed sense of appreciation for life’s little surprises.

You know, that warm feeling you get when you’ve unexpectedly had an exceptional night out ?  A perfect chemistry of  fine conversation and great company, albeit no alcohol.  (Eeks !  Is it possible ???)

In the car, I traced back again to the past week’s dilemmas.  But this time I remembered my conversation with Mr. B about his brother and I quickly realised that there could have been other  – far more serious – outcomes.

Day 4: On the road to recovery

Too often we  get locked in – what seems to be at the time – the intensity of a situation.  I am guilty of this.  I forget that it only takes a moment to realign the issue at hand.  To reassess what really is worth the worry or anxiety.

When we finally sort it out in our head, that’s when it hits home.

What’s a little stomach bug, anyway ?

Gastro ? What Gastro ?

Birthday Brouhaha

20 Feb

Phew !  Just when we thought when we have all been completely wiped out and bowled over with excitement that comes with the big milestone first birthday…the festivities actually continued.  (My boys, they sure know how to party).

Anyhowdy-hoo, I won’t bore you with the finer details.

Instead, we’re going to try something a little different.

We’ve ramped things up a bit here at Mamagrace71:

We’ve added a wee bit more bandwidth and completed a video content software upgrade…woohoo !

So…sit back, relax.  Grab some popcorn and enjoy the show.

Ready ?  Here we go !!!

“I’ve Been To Bali Too”

16 Feb

“Indonesia ?  Hmmm…where is that ?  Is it near Bali ?  I’ve been to Bali…”

Growing up in Australia in the 80’s, this was the response I would constantly hear when I would tell people where I was from.  It left me puzzled.  Yes, even at the age of 9.

How can we Australians not know that Bali is a part of Indonesia ?

So here’s a quick refresher:

Indonesia is not that far away.  It is Australia’s closest Asian neighbour.

Although we couldn’t be any further apart culturally or demographically, we need each other.  Both economically and for the sake of national security  (Dare I say, in regards to the latter issue, Australia is more reliant on Indonesia).

The problem is that we don’t know enough about each other.  And what we do know, is sadly, only the negative depiction on what we see on television – the bombings, the natural disasters, the extreme poverty, the harsh judicial system that still enforces the death penalty.

Last week, the question of the Indonesian – Australian relationship was raised again. There was much ado from politicians regarding a 450 million dollar project that the Australian government provides to the Indonesian government in aid to build Indonesian schools.  There has been talk of cutting these funds.

I understand that when it comes to foreign aid and what the Australian government provides to developing countries can be a sensitive issue.  However, along with many Australians, I believe that by ending this funding – which is for the betterment of Indonesia’s education system, – would in fact, in turn, be detrimental to our relationship with Indonesia.

An Indonesian school boy's daily commute to school - through the rice fields

Here are three very simple, yet crucial facts about the country that is Australia’s closest channel to the rest of Asia.  If there’s anything you can take away with you from this post, please take this.

Indonesia is:

  • The fourth most populous country with 240 million people
  • The 3rd fastest growing economy in Asia
  • Australia’s 5th largest market in ASEAN and 13th largest trading partner overall

A prominent professor at Melbourne University who specialises in Asian law and is fluent in Bahasa Indonesia made an interesting point.  He says that those who have a personal or private interest in the Australian – Indonesian relationship are tolerant and understanding of both sides.

Enjoying some fresh coconut with a mountain village family near Candi Dasa, East Bali

 

Well guys, being born Indonesian and raised Australian, I can only say that the relationship between these two countries is a topic that is extremely close to my heart.

Educated in Australia, I feel damn lucky and proud:  The abundance of free educational resources from pre-school right up to high school; the freedom to study whatever I wanted, wherever I wanted; and most importantly, knowing that I wasn’t hindered by finances when it came to my tertiary education because the government had a system that I could pay back my university fees when I was financially capable of doing so.

Yet, when visiting relatives in Jakarta during my childhood, I was reminded of just how tough my cousins had it.  (And these guys were the lucky ones as they were able to have an education).

During some of these holidays, I would go to school with my extended family and saw how exhausting the two hour commute (each way) to school was.  I would sit through classes with them, sweating from the stifling heat and dense humidity as there was no air-conditioning. The playground was a concrete courtyard.  As for the school toilets – this is where I learned how to hold my breath, shut my eyes and do my business with great expertise.

Yet, I don’t ever recall them complaining about homework, their teachers or their insane early 7 am starts.

So now, to make things even closer to home – to help you understand how the future of these two very distinct cultures and countries is important to me – let me introduce you to some of my family.

This was at our wedding reception.

My family were performing a traditional ceremony where family members offer the newly wed couple their sincere wishes and blessings for a prosperous and happy life together.  Accompanied by (rather loud and raucous) traditional music, each family member holds up the colourful, woven cloths as they dance towards and around the couple before wrapping the blanket as a sign of protection and love from the family:

Hubby and Me: Bombarded with blankets, blessings and love

And here are some cousins, a brother, a niece and a crazy, yet loved, sister-in-law (can you guess which one she is ???):

Lastly, but certainly by far not least, the most important reason(s) – to me – why our two countries need to get along…my half Aussie, half Indo munchkins:

Okay, I’ll step off the soapbox now.

But just before I do, I hope that I’ve shed some different light about a country that we know so little about, yet sits so close to us that there are domestic flights to get there from Darwin.

I hope that by giving you a glimpse of the warmth, colour and laughter of my family, you can see a more personal side to Indonesia and realise it’s not a country that’s all about political and social turmoil.

I hope you can understand that by helping to improve Indonesia’s education system, Australia is making a long-term investment.  It’s work in progress to build a relationship with a vibrant Asian country that offers great economic potential.

Beyond Flowers and Chocolates

13 Feb

You know, I was never a big fan of Valentine’s Day.  It was up there along side Christmas in my list of least favourite public holidays or special days.  Before married life, I always found myself unceremoniously single on this special day for lovers.

Cupid always seemed to have lousy aim when it came to me.  Instead, he managed to fling straight past me and target the beautiful, leggy blonde (or brunette) next to me.

Pah.  Thanks, Cupid.

Anyhoo, these days there’s lots of love going around.  It’s a happy mixture of being all loved up in married life (Awwwwww….) and swarming in all these cozy, warm, fuzzy feelings of maternal love for my boys (Double awwwwwwwww).

So, on this day of what’s usually filled with flowers and chocolates, I’m going to share some literature instead.  No, none of the racy, salacious, grab-and-pin-each-other-down Danielle Steel or Barbara Cartland stuff.  (Everybody, get your mind out of the gutter.  You’ve got the wrong gal…).

Although, what I am about to share is kinda romantic.  Mostly silly.  Hopefully funny.  It was printed on our wedding day.  On the back of the Order of Service, actually.

Hubby and I wanted to let our guests have a peak at our depiction of good ol’ fashion love and what it takes – for us – to be committed to each other.  The more humorous side of it. For some light entertainment.  Just in case, you know, people got bored…

So, here it is.  Just bringing back some fun memories and wanting to share it with you all.

Here’s wishing that – wherever you are in the world – Cupid will grab your beloved right in the bull’s eye of their heart.  For keeps.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Mama Grace.

*********

Just for the record … despite what Hubby* says:

  • Yumcha chicken feet and beef tripe are appropriate Sunday brunch delights.
  • There will be no surfing movies played in the background during the wedding ceremony.
  • After five years of courtship, Grace’s four-year-old niece has a greater vocabulary of Indonesian words than Hubby.
  • Grace always beats Hubby when walking up Mt. Ainslie in Canberra, even when he has a 10-minute head start.
  • Eating Cheese Twisties while watching surfing DVDs is not considered ‘working out’.
  • Hubby is still unable to play one single song on the guitar from start to finish.  He can’t keep time either.
  • Hubby and Grace’s children may not necessarily become an AFL football champion or a professional surfer.
  • Wet soggy beach towels left for days and days and days on end will not automatically make their way to the washing machine.
  • It is not standard practice in the finance industry to wear obviously unmatched socks to important business meetings.

Just for the record … despite what Grace says:

  • The song, “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera is not an Indonesian folk song that is traditionally sung every night before bedtime.
  • Singers such as Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey do not have any Indonesian heritage and as a result, are not Grace’s long lost cousins.
  • The band at the reception did not ask Grace to sing backup or to join them on the road for their next national tour.
  • Even though Grace had spent almost three years in the ski fields of Japan, Hubby was a better snowboarder after only two lessons.
  • By simply adding the “S” tile on a 10-letter word that Grace has just placed on the Scrabble board, does indeed make Hubby the legitimate Scrabble Grandmaster.
  • Leaving the kitchen looking like World War III does not necessarily mean Grace has cooked a gourmet meal.
  • Grace’s children with Hubby may not necessarily become an Australian Idol champion (continually referring to their mother as their inspiration), a professor in linguistics, fluent in 594 languages (including all 583 Indonesian dialects) or a winning contestant on “So You Think You Can Dance” (again, continually referring to their mother as their inspiration).

What is not in dispute is that Grace and Hubby love each other unconditionally …… flaws, warts, pimples and all.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of innocent victims who have been succumbed and have maritally committed themselves to Mama Grace as well as her incurable addiction to karaoke and Yum Cha chicken feet…

Aussie Summer Mornings

11 Feb

It is unfortunate how easily we forget what a lucky country we live in.  If we get some heavy rain, we complain.  If it gets way too hot, we whinge.  Somehow it slips our minds that there are many (ie the rest of the world) who don’t seem to be as blessed with the heavenly summers that is – usually – bestowed upon us.

Us, Aussies…we are the Goldilocks of weather:

We want it juuuuuust right.

So during this past tumultuous season, on those mornings when schedule, sleep, heat or rain have all been forgiving and life falls into place for us, my family and I would head down to a little bay near our home.

We camp ourselves under a tree.  The twinlets have their morning milk…

Then, as a family, we sit back and soak in all the sights and sounds that make up a beautiful Australian summer’s morning:

The splish splash of the ocean, the chirping of lorikeets, the bright blue sunny cloudless sky and the gentle sway of gum trees.

Before heading back home, Hubby and I take turns in going for a quick dip.  I particularly enjoy this part of the morning because I get to run and jump off this wharf:

As they say, “You’re as young as you feel” and when I hit that crystal, cold water – I am that adventurous 12 year old again.

I admit.  There could be worse scenarios to start the day…

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