Archive | March, 2011

The Simple Things…

31 Mar

Despite having done a community college course about blogging over the past two Wednesday nights, I have come out…uninspired.

Well, it wasn’t a complete waste of time.  One of the other ladies sitting the course told me that she learned more from me in five minutes than the entire four hours of the course.  Talk about nice ego boost !

Well, either that, or the course was just a total shomozal.  Take your pick.

In any case, I have been suffering from writer’s block.  Not the best timing as I am trying to publish one more post to reach my personal goal of 10 posts for this month.  Yes, I know, I don’t need reminding.

Today is my deadline…eeks !!!

In desperate times such as these, we get back to the basics.  We return to what drew us here in the first place.

Why did I set up this blog, anyway ?

I started all of this for my family.

To record and remember the mundane, every day stuff because as we all know, it’s the little things that count.

With that in mind, I’m going to post one of my favourite videos.  We had just bought the twinlets their first high-chairs (Ikea ROCKS !).

You may have already seen this on Facebook and that’s okay.  I will argue that you can’t go wrong with re-runs.

Again, it’s the simple things.  The little things.

Japan: Crying on the inside and the out…

28 Mar

I was talking to a good friend the other weekend about my blogging.  As much as she enjoys reading my posts about family and parenting, she mentioned that perhaps, I branched out a bit.  You know, talk about something else other than baby poo and DIY disasters.

With the extended time I’ve studied, lived and worked there; Considering it’s the country where I’ve made life-long friends; She suggested I write about Japan.

(Geez, I might as well start up an entirely new blog, in that case).

But, for now, I will talk about one important aspect about the Japanese people:

The expression of emotions.

There is a popular belief among Westerners that the Japanese people do not show much emotion.  If any.  We picture Japan to be a society where bowing or kowtowing is as expressive as it gets.  Very rarely are there hand-shakes.

Hugs and kisses are totally out of the question.

Furthermore, within the Japanese language, there is a particular verb, Ganbaru

It means:

‘to bear’; to persist’;’to hang in there’; ‘to do your best’, ‘to persevere’.

It’s a term you use during sporting events to cheer on a team; to encourage a school child to do well in an exam; to wish someone luck when venturing out a new project or challenge.

It’s a way of telling someone to stay focused, to keep your personal feelings at bay and concentrate in achieving the task or challenge at hand.

It seems that it is a word used broadly.  Yet, ironically, for Japan, it’s also used under present excruciatingly difficult times.

Indeed, the devastating past events of the earthquake, tsunami and continuing nuclear power plant nightmare would be testing an entire nation beyond human control.

In the nine years of living there, I have only seen my Japanese friends cry a handful of times.

This earthquake has been one of those harrowing moments.

Four months pregnant, a dear friend of mine was on the 20th floor of her Tokyo office building when the quake happened.  Scared, frightened, seeking protection under her office desk, she watched her entire office sway with her roller-wheeled chair cart itself from one end of the office to the other.

In a brief moment of calm, moving quickly before the next after-shock, my friend found herself walking down the 20 flights of the emergency staircase to reach safe grounds.  Then, as all trains had stopped, she was left with no choice but to walk two hours to get home.  Picking up her little girl from pre-school on the way, she had to wait the next morning for her husband – who was on the other side of town – to make it back home.

In the meantime, her younger sister, who was on a business trip in one of the hardest hit cities in the north, was stranded.

Talking to my friend on Skype soon after arriving at home, she broke down.  Seeing her so devastated was not only so hard for me to witness, but made me feel so stupidly helpless.

Yet, as terrifying as her story was, she and her family are more fortunate than countless others.

The long standing effects of all these disasters have taken its toll for many homeless and destitute families.

And as we all know, the harder we try to cling on, to keep going; We will eventually crack.

After all, we are  just human.

This is when we discover that the notion of Japan being a nation of mysteriously ‘closed books’ is misconstrued.

During my time in Japan, what I have learned about its people, is that it’s not about the inability or the social taboo of exhibiting one’s true sentiments.

For a nation known for its resilience and super-efficiency, I think, it’s in their nature to be able to stay strong.  Through the thick and thin. Fleeting, fair-weather problems or inconveniences barely get a mention.

For the Japanese people, raw emotions are reserved for circumstances that have reached the pinnacle of trauma and tragedy.  When something is completely breaking their heart .  When it’s hurting them beyond repair.

It is in fact, about holding onto intense grief until all that is left, is to open up and reveal – in all its pain – that the burden is finally too much to carry.

Please keep praying for Japan.

A nation who can no longer go through this ongoing crisis on its own.

Wooden Prayer Plates, 'Ema' at Meiji Jingu, Tokyo. (Photo taken during a trip in 2007).

Clueless Parenting…

25 Mar

Happy Friday, folks !

Something light and silly to welcome the weekend.

I was going through our photos folder this afternoon and came across this video taken a year ago.

The boys were barely 7 weeks old and had been home from hospital for just over a month.

Hubby is trying to keep them happy and entertained.  Hoping to get a coo or a first smile out of them.

No.Such.Luck.

It is the epitome of  the “L” Plate Parents:

Earnestly trying to look after two little people, yet not having an iota of an idea in how to actually do it.

Full of nerves, excited and terrified all at the same time.

Oh, and that rhythmic deep honking type sound you hear in the background ?

That’s me.

Well, actually it’s my best friend at the time – the breast pump machine.

But me.  Pumpin’ away.

So, come on, people !  ‘Fess up !

What’s your “Clueless Parenting” story ???

“Ticky ticky…”

Just lettin’ y’all know…

It’s almost 4 minutes long (Stupid iMovie won’t let me edit anything but an iPhoto video…frustration !!!). So please bear with me.

I remember once a long ago my time in the corporate world.  Friday afternoons were either a mad panic to get last minute business in or a case of sitting at the desk counting down the minutes until “beer o’clock.”

(Oh my, how distant those days seem !)

Finding whacky videos on the internet was also a fun pass time.

So, here’s one back for all of you.

Make sure you turn the volume right up.

I’m sure the boss could use a giggle too 🙂

The Inevitable Rush

23 Mar

 

A year ago today...

As the season slowly turns,

Childhood’s gentle wave of change unfolds,

The baby innocence makes its transition,

Shaping their little faces,

Now curious, playful and bold

What’s the rush ?

Why the haste ?

There’s no need to hurry.

Today...

Wobbly legs take cautious steps,

Then confident strides quickly follow,

New feelings of dew and grass between their toes,

Yet another sensation,

Something different is in store tomorrow,

What’s the rush ?

Why the haste ?

There’s no need to hurry.

The great, vast intimidating world,

Full of expectations with milestones and goals to meet,

Losing the joy of small discoveries,

Put it quietly to the Universe

To delay its fast paced beat,

What’s the rush ?

Why the haste ?

There’s no need to hurry.

A Touch of Classic…

20 Mar

With all the stories I’ve written and shared about gastro, our rickety rack home, our beaten up, family car – as the reader, it is highly likely that you could come to either one of the below conclusions:

1.  The author is a highly-strung, neurotic drama queen

or

2.  There is simply never a dull moment in Mama Grace’s household

In fear that there will be too many of you choosing option 1, I will not be taking a survey.

So, as luck, blessings, fate (pick what you believe in) would have it, amidst the family humdrum and commotion, a small little poster at our local coffee shop had caught my eye.  I had initially ignored it.  But then, the same poster popped up at the counter of the local butcher and then at the newsagency.

It was as though Someone was gently nudging me to pay attention.  To act on the invitation intently waiting before me.

The poster was advertising a one time only concert at the Sydney Opera House.  The Cologne Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra was playing pieces by Bach, Tchaikovesky and the clincher – Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

After much coaxing from Hubby, I bought a ticket.  Just me.  Hubby’s not a big fan of classical music.  So, for this one, I was going solo.

You know how everyone has a “I know it’s daggy, but I love…” ???

Well, one of mine is classical music.  Particularly live classical music.

I know, I know…for some, I’m sure many of you would prefer to watch the cricket *ahem*.

Yet, here’sthe beauty about a chamber orchestra concert:

Its simplicity.

It’s an intimate musical recital between 12 musicians and you.  The rest of the audience just seems to disappear into the oblivion.

No roaring, raucous crowds.  No grandiose stage props or blinding laser light shows.

Still, seated at the very front row, with only strangers around me, I felt utterly free and liberated.  I had the freedom to feel, enjoy and celebrate the emotion of the music.

I was beaming from ear to ear like a giddy school girl when they played the opening bars of “Summer” from The Four Seasons.

Overwhelmed, I had to catch my breath as the orchestra grabbed me for the big crescendos and the rush of complicated, melodic trills.

I watched in awe and amazement as to how their body language and nuances created a perfectly succinct performance.

Each musician carefully paying attention to the timing and dynamics of the other.  Even making sure that their breathing was in unison.

By the interval, I was hooked.  I was a groupie.  I skipped right over to the CD stall and earnestly waited in line to buy a copy.  Signed, no less. (Gush, gush…)

Then, out of pure perfect timing, in full view outside, were the fireworks to celebrate another amazing event – the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras:

After the concert, exhausted but still on an excited buzz, I went home to my family.  Back to my role as the stay at home Mama of twins with all its craziness and dramas.  (Voting lines have now opened).

In any case, that will always be the Saturday night I managed to step outside.  On my own.  Enjoy my own company.

I let the rest of the world show me what it had to offer.

Four Nights, Three Days…

18 Mar

Doesn’t seem that long, does it ?  It’s not even close to being a full week.  But when it proved to be the longest time our family had ever been apart, it really did seem like an eternity.

When Hubby was first assigned with an overseas business trip, we had thought about going together as a family.  However, logistics and the mere fact that domestic travel with one year old twins is tough enough, we gave up on the idea.  We opted for the boys and I to head out to the Big Roundabout and stay with my parents.

I don’t know who found it tougher saying good-bye at the airport.  Hubby remained stoic and strong but I knew he was tearing up inside with the thought of being away from his boys for the first time.

Getting ready to send Papa off...

Putting things in perspective, it was only for a short period.  Probably nothing to get too emotional about.

But for me, Hubby is my crutch.  When it comes to raising our twinlets, he sweeps in and takes charge of the tasks that are just too much for me to bear.

How was I going to do all of this on my own ???

Suffice to say, I had a tough time of it.

Somehow, I got through.  (Hey, I’m here – typing about it, aren’t I ?)

Four nights and three days, isn’t a long time at all.  Especially when it was all planned and we did all that we could to control and manage the disruption to our normal schedule as best as we could.

This past week, while I was missing my husband, I thought of the importance of belonging and family.

Our family is young.  Since being a married couple, only a year and a half has passed.  And since having children, we’ve just reached a year.

This first instance of absence and separation (pardon the pun) hit home.  It has made me extremely aware of not only how fragile each of our existence is.  But also, how each member of a family has their irreplaceable slot.  Their permanent fixture.

We are all – in some way – an indispensable crutch in our own families.

Then, with tragic stories constantly in the news, it was inevitable that I also turned my thoughts and prayers to the countless of families who were affected by Japan’s devastating earthquake, tsunami and the continuing chaos of the Fukushima nuclear power plants.

On the Friday afternoon that the earthquake happened, I had friends in Tokyo who were separated from their children and their spouses overnight.  Sometimes longer.  As the weekend progressed and Japan tried to recover, I would receive Facebook status updates from friends as they were finally reunited with their loved ones.  Messages that were touching beyond words.  Expressions of relief, happiness but most of all, love.  Pure unconditional family love.

The brief division of our family is nothing by comparison.

Yet, on Thursday morning, when we greeted our Papa at the airport, there were tears of joy and gratitude.  Admittedly, mainly from Mama Grace.

"Welcome Home, Papa..."

That morning, I learned that reunions – no matter how brief the time apart – are one of the biggest blessings for any family.

It’s a poignant moment when we are reminded who needs us the most.

Where we naturally belong.

A Bit of Ink Does Hurt…

12 Mar

This post was written before the tragic news in Japan happened.  I felt that I couldn’t post it without making an acknowledgement.  Especially as I’ve lived in Japan for almost 9 years.

The Japanese people are – unfortunately – forever in fear of earthquakes.  They happen so often, although at a much lower-scale than this recent one.  They would frequently say that the “Big one is overdue”.

Well, this earthquake – it’s devastating beyond words.  Heartbreaking.

I am thinking of and praying hard for my beautiful friends in Tokyo as well as Northern Japan.  My  loving host-family are also in Northern Japan.  The area most hardest hit.

At time of publishing this post, I haven’t been able to reach them.  I’m praying for their safety.

*****

6 weeks ago, an unfortunate incident involving red hives, itchy eyes and a birthday cake prompted us to get the twinlets tested for allergies.

We finally found a paediatrician who specializes in children’s allergies.  The clinic was a good distance away –  over an hour and a half in the car via Sydney’s notorious M7.

But we were desperate.  It was either facing an arduous trip or wait until July (!!!) for the next available appointment in the city.  And I don’t think you can compromise on your little babies’ health.  Especially when it comes to the unknown world of allergies.

Finally , last week, the day arrived for us to head out to our appointment.  We were relieved to finally talk to a specialist who could help give some clarity to our concerns.

But to get to some resolutions there was the process of immense pain for the boys.  If seeing your sons get their 12 month immunisation shots is difficult to bear – skin tests are heartbreaking.

The boys had their arms “stamped” with a matrix of boxes that indicate what will be tested ie ‘egg’, ‘soy’, ‘cat’, ‘dog’.  Then, in the box the doctor dabs a sample of that allergen and administers a prick test in each box.

In total, there are 20 boxes.  10 on each side.  And yes, that means a total of 20 sharp razor slits in their pudgy little arms.

Little N's right arm after the skin test

You learn very quickly how strong your little 13 month old munchkins are.

Hubby had the unfortunate task of holding the boys’ arms still as the doctor was conducting the test.

His face went bright red from keeping the feisty, screaming little twinlet’s arm straight.  It was like he was having an arm wrestle.

And he was on the verge of losing.

 

Little K's arm and his "ink"

Alongside the pain and the tears, we were made aware of a whole range of the  “Do’s and Don’t’s” to allergy prevention.

For instance, there are  apparently 3 common “mistakes” that parents make:

1. Not reading the labels on food packaging

(Did you know that food manufacturers have no legal obligation to label an ingredient that does not contain more than 25% of a product ???  Pretty scary when studies show that all it takes is 1/200th of a single peanut to cause a reaction…)

2. Implicitly trusting other adults in feeding  your child

(Managing allergies becomes instilled in a family’s lifestyle.  All it takes is for an outsider – a baby-sitter or even a relative to be absent-minded about  your child’s allergies).

3.  As a form of prevention of allergies for a future baby, studies have actually shown that a pregnant woman is best to avoid bingeing – particularly during the second half of her pregnancy and instead, eat a variety of the food groups.

(Makes things a little tricky when trying to deal with those pregnancy cravings for dairy ice cream-filled Magnums or chocolate…)

So, the test outcomes ?

The good news is that Little N is allergy free.  Yay !

The bad news is that poor Little K has an egg allergy and possibly a peanut one as well.  Bugger.

Obviously, not the most ideal situation to be in.  Luckily, we’re not at a stage where we require the Epipen.

From here on until, well…whenever, it’s all about management, being hyper-vigilant with what the boys eat and even preparing a safe, home environment.

Despite Little N’s results were negative, there is no point in allowing him to eat the foods that his twin brother can’t.  Especially in the case of nuts where – in some circumstances – having it on one’s hands, even after washing them, can trigger off a serious reaction.

So, you will find that – for the time being –  our home is a completely nut and egg-free zone.  We have also changed our lounge room rug to further prevent a dust-mite problem.

Are we being paranoid parents ?

Possibly.

I don’t care.

Scarily, there is still so much undiscovered with children’s allergies.

The extreme of allergy reactions – Anaphylactic shocks – are unpredictable and can be fatal.

I ain’t gonna risk a thing.

So, boys as sad as it may be…no Pavlovas or Opung’s Indonesian peanut sauce based gado-gado salad.

On the way home after a very dramatic, long morning

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