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Date Night…

5 Jun

As some of you may have gathered from my Things I Know post on Friday, I was darn excited about going to the movies with Hubby for date night.

As it turned out, there was nothing showing in the cinemas that could entice either one of us (‘Hangover Part 2’, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean 4’ ???)

Besides, we kept the arrangement for our beloved Nulla Nanna to come over as she had happily volunteered for baby-sitting duties.  We just couldn’t waste an evening by staying home.  Despite the miserable weather.

Dressed in my new slinky jeans, Hubby and I decided to tread some old territory.  The past haunts of our pre-twinlet yesteryears.

We went to our old pub where we spent many a drunken Saturday night with other child-free couples – drinking, talking and socializing.  Nothing out of the extraordinary for Sydney savoir faire.

But six years on, things definitely felt different.

The same table was there to take our usual order.  Inviting us to still enjoy our familiar, favoured beverages.

Yet, the pub noise was a little too rowdy and raucous for what we were now used to.  I was appalled with the rambunctious crowd next to us.  Their arrogant behaviour was full of profanities.

What was really happening ?  I was just showing my age.

My inevitable lean towards becoming a, dare I say, conservative mother.

Four years ago at this very pub, my future husband and I would occasionally have a private, yet polite dinner together.  We would tip toe around the topic of commitment, marriage and children.  He wasn’t ready.  I was eager and keen.

Now we were comparing twinlet photos on our phones, discussing their latest learnings and most recent cute moments.

Tonight, we talked about our future: where were we going to move to, in a city that was already so unaffordable for young families to maintain an urban lifestyle; what were the best options for day-care for our boys; what were my career plans beyond motherhood.

Breaking into the surface of planning for a young family with all its potential choices and paths.

Keeping all options open, yet staying as pragmatic as possible.

What a giant leap four years can do.

And besides now being a mother and holding responsibility for two precious souls, I still could enjoy the thrill of having a drink.

The warm, tingly feeling of a crisp white wine and the comforts of conversation that come with.

Walking back to the car in the rain, hand in hand with my beloved, I could see how all that was familiar has stepped into a time capsule of the past.

Life now is good.  It’s not complete.  But it’s certainly happy and content.

The movies can wait until another time.

Musings of Mama Grace © 2011

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Chocolate Mud Cake Commotion

18 May

If you’re looking for one of those perfect mummy blogs with the equally flawless homemade cake recipe –  you’ve landed in the wrong place.

In fact, dear reader, you might as well click that little crisscross button on the top right of your screen.

Before we delve into this episode, there is a background.

Cakes, muffins, cookies – any type of baking foods – was not something I grew up with.

My Indonesian mum is a top notch cook…of Indonesian cuisine, of course.  But a baker, she ain’t.

I didn’t grow up knowing how a cake was supposed to rise or how to blend cake batter.  Even as a young adult, I still didn’t have an interest.

However, I can say this:  The fixation on learning how to bake…derived the moment I started having a family.

Over a short course of a week, three unrelenting attempts were made.

Monday night:

After my frisbee cake fiasco, I was adamant to give the “No-Egg” product another whirl.

As advised by a vegan friend who was familiar with the egg replacer, I decided to make a cake from scratch, using a recipe that another friend promised me was fool-proof.

Yes, but was it oven-phobic Mama Grace proof ?

After much preparation and reading through the recipe thoroughly, there was momentum.

I was mixing.  I was blending.  I was in the zone.

The kitchen and the baker were both humming along nicely.

Then, finally, the crucial moment…

I thought it looked alright.

Had it risen ?  Check.

Did it smell like a cake ?  Check.

Most importantly, did it look like a cake ?  Checkity check check.

I even did that skewer test thing and – to me – the skewer seemed to come out clean as a whistle.  So I thought.

Excited and thrilled with the result, I called on Hubby to come over to try a piece.

I thought I’d cut him a slither to surprise him.  As I did, this happened:

Wednesday night:

I was in a “Bake or Die” fatalistic mode.  The self-determination to see a cake creation of my own was at its peak.

But somehow, this second attempt  was even worse.  I won’t even begin to go into the sordid detail.

Suffice to say, it rose.  It fell.  Then it was burnt.  With the middle completely doughy.

The sheer frustration even got the better of Hubby who started scouring the internet for answers and would type into Google questions like:

“Why doesn’t ‘No Egg’ work when baking cakes ?”

I couldn’t for the life of me figure it out, because the instructions of the packet couldn’t have been written any clearer than a cloudless blue sky:

“One Egg is equivalent to one teaspoon of No Egg with two tablespoons of water”

So, what was I doing wrong ???  Why wasn’t the cake binding ???

Finally, I found the answer on Amazon.com’s product reviews.

One consumer wrote:

“You need to double your ‘No Egg’ portion to two teaspoons.  Then mix with warm water.  Make sure you whisk for at least three minutes until foamy.”

Right.  Why didn’t anyone tell me that ?

It felt like that scene in ‘Friends’ where Ross finds out Rachel is pregnant with his baby, but doesn’t understand how it happened because they used ‘protection’.  Then, Rachel hits him with the harsh truth and reveals that condoms only work 97% of the time.

“They should say that on the box !!!”

My sentiments exactly.

Image taken from 'Wikia'

Thursday night:

Hubby couldn’t believe that I was going to give it yet, another try.  Well, actually he could.  He has witnessed me crazed up and obsessed with other projects in the past.

Over the years, he has learnt to stand back.  Otherwise, he gets his head bitten off.

This time I was even more particular with the process.  I mixed the batter a little longer.  I took more care in melting the butter and mixing it with the cocoa.

I doubled my “No Egg” portion and made sure I whisked it until my wrist was sore.

I waited anxiously – checking every 20 minutes.  I patted the oven a couple of times.  Told it I desperately wanted to be friends and to be nice to me.

Then, I realised that my oven’s heat doesn’t circulate properly.  It sits at the back.

I discovered that the front of the cake wasn’t cooking through and the back ?  It was starting to burn.

I was ready to pack it in.  I was sick of having my rubbish bin filling up with mushy, half baked chocolate dough.  The kitchen was in a constant array of cocoa powder, flour, sprinkles of sugar and chunks of butter.

But somehow, I perservered.  And although, it wasn’t the most ideal, for the most part, it worked out.

I discovered that cake can be like people.

Flaws exist, but can be covered.  Bless chocolate frosting.

So, to summarise, here’s what my humble little Chocolate Mud Cake taught me…

One cup of butter, two cups of sugar and a pinch of patience:

I was in such a rush to get to the end result.  Frantic even.  I forgot that the biggest ingredient missing was patience.

With anything new and unknown, it was better just to take things slow.  To take time and thought in what I was doing.

Remembering that as the cake needed time to cool down before I could frost it, so did my temper.

There is always a solution.

Despite a crappy old oven and the obstacle of having to bake without egg, with a bit of research, talking to friends, scouring the internet, you can somehow work it out.  Eventually.

Working the oven.  Make it my friend.

Ovens, I have decided, are as individual as people.

Some only blow heat from behind.

Some seem to spread their heat quite evenly.

I discovered that you treat an oven like you would a relationship .  Whatever type of implement you’re stuck with, you gotta know your oven.

Give it the right amount of maintenance, check up on it once in a while to see if everything’s okay.  Sometimes it needs more attention than other days.  It will have flaws but you will somehow work around those.

Making the most of what it can offer.

P.S  Like Ross and his condom company, I plan to write a complaint letter to the company of  ‘No Egg’…

The official cake testers having the final say...

Twin-tuition…

12 May

Recently, a good friend sent me an email suggesting some great ideas for future blog  posts.  One topic she wanted me to cover was how the twins communicate without being able to talk yet.  She asked whether that old myth about twins being able to read each other’s mind is true.

For me and my twinlets, I’m discovering that it’s not so clear cut.

They definitely understand each other’s existence.  They are also very much aware when the other one has been taken away to another room or has wandered off down the hall – out of the other’s sight.

"Ship Ahoy !"

Then, there is a more complex factor to the equation.  As they are independently developing their own distinctive personalities, they still mesh this with constantly checking that the other one is nearby.

The other day, Little N was lying on his back, having a bit of a daydream on the lounge room floor while Little K was in another corner playing with some blocks.  Both happily engrossed in their own activity.  After some time, Little K comes along and jumps on his brother’s tummy, playing horsey on top of him.  Surprisingly, Little N wasn’t even bothered.  They were both actually having a bit of a giggle.

Then there’s their own private powwow that reminds me of “Marco Polo”

For those who aren’t familiar, it’s a children’s game that’s best played in the pool.  (An enclosed park or field also works well).  The person who is “it” has to be blindfolded or close their eyes while the other players  are scatttered around.  When the person who is blindfolded calls out “Marco”, the other players have to answer with “Polo”.  By trying to guess where those voices are coming from, the objective of the blindfolded child has to try and tag one of the other players whose has to avoid being tagged.

"Marco !" "Polo !"

The boys have their own version.  From memory, I think it started when they were around ten months.

On family outings, when leaving the house, Hubby and I would carry a twinlet each to the car, usually with one of us ahead of the other.  Whether he was ahead or behind his brother, Little K – the younger but bigger twin – will usually start the conversation:

Little K: “Yayayaaa, baaaaaa !!!”

Translation:  “Dude,  I’m right here…Don’t fret !”

(Looking over at his brother…sometimes pointing)

Little N: “Dadadadadaaaa !!!  Wawawaaaah !”

Translation:  “Gotcha.  Where do you think they’re taking us ?”

(Not even looking to see where the voice is coming from)

Little K: “Babababaaa !”

Translation:  “Ooohh…hopefully it’s that park with the cool slide  !”

Little N:  “Dudududududu !!  Dah !”

Translation:  “Awesome !  Okay, see you in the car…”

"Get your motor runnin', Head out on the highway..."

So, perhaps this is how the twin-tuition starts.

Making sure that your constant is never too far away.  Or if he is, knowing exactly where he is.

That from the earliest stages of life – well before the spoken word – the only person that you can mutually communicate with is your twin.

A very exclusive club, indeed.

Who Loves Ya, Pretty Mama ?

9 May

Coming up to my (barely scratching the surface) second year as a mum, for Mother’s Day, Nulla Nanna baby sat the twinlets while Hubby and I escaped our uniform of drabby tracksuit pants and sloppy joes and actually got dressed up to head out to the city for a special Mother’s Day matinee of “Jersey Boys”.

This was a far cry from last year’s Mother’s Day.  I remember it well.

I was bowled over in nipple thrush pain.  Lying in bed, disillusioned from sleep deprivation, I was battling conflicting emotions.

On the day dedicated for mothers, a day that was supposed to be especially memorable because it was my first, I actually didn’t feel any joy about being a mother.   And I felt guilty for having these thoughts.

The boys were barely three months.  Motherhood thus far had been overwhelming and daunting.

On that particular Sunday, I just needed some peace.  I wanted some relief from the constant pain in my right breast.  I was desperate for some quiet.  To appease and to avoid the wrath, Hubby took the boys out for a long walk.

So, this year, I was pain-free and far more lucid in my sentiments.

Which in turn, helped me realise that my own rocky road in parenting has made me further appreciate my own mum.

On our drive to the city, I called her.  Within the nano second I heard her voice, I teared up as I wished her a Happy Mother’s Day.

The current status of the relationship with my mother is bittersweet.

There were many, many tumultuous years of trying to live up to her expectations.  Then, early in adulthood while living overseas, I kept myself at a safe distance from the pressure.  As such, I ended up continuously clashing with her uptight, conservative Asian views on marriage, family and having children.

She always wanted to know what was the hold up.  I kept telling her to mind her own business.

Suffice to say, now that I am married with children, we have somewhat reached an equilibrium.

Mum watching me walk down the aisle...finally

Yes, there are still moments when she pushes my short-fuse button.  But ultimately, she is a devoted and doting grandma to my boys.

So, for the part that’s bittersweet ?  It does break my heart to see that it’s taken me all of my rebellious teenage years and most of my young, stubborn adult life to truly understand and respect her.  As much as I think she made it tough for me as her only daughter, indeed I’m sure I have sent her around the proverbial twist.

With my mum welcoming her 80’s in the next couple of years, it’s always in the back of my mind how I wish we could have mended things a lot sooner.

But then I think, my life has to run its own, perhaps unconventional course for me to eventually be grateful for those who have always been there.

On our wedding day: Mum bestowing us with her blessings; Me telling her I love her

Don’t they say it’s not the destination, but the journey that counts ?

A Letter To My 32 Year-Old Self…

17 Apr

How engrossed – or dissatisfied – I was with the pursuits in my single life depended on how often I wrote in my diary.

The other day, I came across one of the many volumes – one that I had written during my early-30’s.

It wasn’t actually that long ago, but a lot has happened since then.  It feels like another life-time away.

Just arriving back in Sydney after living many years in fast-paced Tokyo, I was desperately missing my friends and feeling completely lost. Dealing with the trepidation of starting from scratch but without the luxury of time to get to where I wanted to be: a mum and someone’s wife.

So, here I am today.  Writing back to that confused self.

*****

Dear single gal Grace,

Marriage.  Children.  Family.

You’re constantly racing yourself against that blasted biological clock and you’re wondering if all this pursuing is helpless, right ?

But hey.  Chill.

Life’s going to be okay.  Trust me.

This is going to sound unbelievably crazy, but rather than chase customers all over town for purchase orders; one day you will be chasing two little munchkins up and down the hallway, trying to change their nappies.

Yes, you heard me.  T-w-o munchkins.  

Honey, you’ve never been one to do things in halves.

Hang on tight to those fabulous girlfriends of yours.

They may be far away, but they are your constants.

They will even be there on your wedding day.

Yes, YOU !  A bride !  Get outta here !!!

In all your jitters and nerves, they will cheer you on as you walk down the aisle.

Despite the distance and the time zones, they will also be there for you when you become a mum.

They will see you beyond your daggy mummy Target tracksuit pants and the pumpkin puree in your hair.

Because they remember you as the fun-loving girl in Tokyo who loved karaoke and hopelessly wore her heart on her sleeve.

Then there is your mother.

Yes, unfortunately, she still nags.  Constantly badgering you on all your flaws – like an orangutang picking at nits.

Yet, somehow this complicated, at times volatile relationship finds its way into a somewhat happy medium.

I KNOW !  Shocking, right ?  

Guess what ?  She’s going to be there during moments of despair; when you’re too tired and exhausted to meet the needs of your own children, she’s going to swoop in.  Settling them back to sleep.  Waiting beside them in the dark, until she’s certain her job is done.

Surprisingly, not only will you let her intervene, you will actually be thanking her.

Above all, take it easy on yourself.

Switch yourself off from society’s pressure cooker.

Despite what they say, the odds aren’t against you.

So, enjoy what you’ve got now – your solitude, your independence, your freedom.

Keep traveling.

Enjoy the thrill of meeting new people.

Embrace the exhilarating free fall into love and…heartbreak.

For this letter is your safety net.

A steadfast promise that all – family, love, relationships – will fall into its rightful place.

Chin up,

Mama Grace

Lost in Love; Lost in Translation

7 Apr

I have a memory of an elephant.  I retain every piece of stupid, irrelevant trivia.  Quiz me on Michael Jackson song lyrics and I will leave you in the dust.

Alas, this memory bank of silly garbage also holds onto past wrong doings of others and misunderstandings.  I can’t seem to let them go.

Now, I can just write about them.  Reverting to cathartic blogging.

Around seven years ago –  in a single gal version of my former corporate self – business reasons took me to Tokyo for a 6 month stint.  There, I had befriended a Chinese female colleague.

Besides her native Mandarin, she spoke fluent Japanese while her English on the other hand, was rusty.  Meeting in the middle, we conversed in Japanese.

Miss J was a spruce, young lass in her mid-20’s.  Several years my junior, she was over-the-top keen to marry her Japanese boyfriend.

"Love"

Yet, most mornings she would come to work unhappy because he was struggling with commitment issues.

Attempting to prompt a marriage proposal, she had brought him back to her hometown in the Szechuan Province to meet her folks.  Miss J had even arranged professional couple photos in preparation for the engagement and wedding invitations.

Although, back in Tokyo, he kept avoiding the topic of matrimony like it was bad sushi.

One Monday morning she came into work almost in tears.  By lunchtime, we found a quiet place to talk.  There, she opened the floodgates.

Why won’t he commit ?  We’ve already had the professional photos done, so why is he stalling ?  I want to start booking wedding venues before the wedding peak season starts, but why won’t he co-operate ?

And so the discussion continued.

I suggested that it might be better to slow things down.  Perhaps he needed more time to be comfortable with a life decision such as marriage.

Being an intelligent girl, I thought she would see reason.

Instead I found myself in the middle of an emotional firing line.

Between sobs she cried, “Grace-san, the thing is…I just don’t want to find myself at your age and in your situation.”

Wham !

I thought, maybe, just maybe, my Japanese listening ability had temporarily gone haywire and I had misunderstood what she was trying to say.

But no.  I had heard correctly.

Because she then retorted, “I know that sounds rude and terrible, but it’s true.  I want to be married before my 30’s.  Live in an apartment big enough to have a dining table.”

DOUBLE Wham !  Ker-pow !!!

I knew my single status at the time wasn’t the most ideal.  A month prior leaving Sydney, I had started dating someone.  With my impending departure, we somehow decided to keep the relationship going.  However, since arriving in Tokyo, our communication had deteriorated.  Rapidly.

"Life"

It was highly probable that I was returning to Sydney to face heartbreak.  Of course, there were no other potential prospects to speak of, either.

As a 30-something lost in love, you could see why an ambitiously keen-to-be-a bride-Chinese girl would not want my life.

Later that evening, I had a dinner date with my fabulous girlfriends who were an eclectic group of married and singles.

Coming from different walks of life:  Japanese; American; Eurasian.

Calling from different fields of professions:  Lawyer;  Account Manager;  Pre-school teacher.

All confident, smart and fiercely independent.

Reassuring me that my life of singledom wasn’t dire, they were my perfect audience.  They were my cheering squad.

When I told them about my bizzare lunchtime musings, the reaction was unified.

They were aghast.  Appalled.  In disbelief.

After double checking that yes, I had heard her correctly.  And no, I didn’t have a temporary Japanese language amnesia moment, we came to some insightful conclusions.

"Friendship"

Obviously, there was something far more deep seeded there.

It wasn’t about me.

Then, we all established another verdict.  One that simply involved cultural differences.

Although said with little eloquence, it seemed that Miss J was expressing her own disapproval of the Western approach towards finding love and marriage.

Frivilous dalliances and casual dating without a set schedule to the altar was too risky.

Originating from a culture where there were stringent rules and strict direction to reach goals and achieve social status, the Western way was too complacent.

After all, in past conversations, she had mentioned her  demanding Chinese Tiger Mother who had been hounding her to set a wedding date.

Talk about rice cooker steaming pressure.

As such, she was sticking to her agenda.

While, I was going to stick to mine.  (Or lack thereof).

Right up to my last day in Tokyo, Miss J stayed oblivious about that fateful lunch hour.  There was not even an iota of acknowledgement.

I returned to Sydney to officially end what was already a doomed relationship.

2 weeks later, I met my future husband.

Meanwhile, I heard she ditched her Japanese bloke, moved to New York and is now happily married in suburban New Jersey.

I’m sure there’s a nice big dinner table involved too.

It’s a shame we don’t know each other now.  I do wish her well.

Leaving cultural contrasts aside, I would remind her that when it comes to the confusing maze of finding love, heartbreak is universal.

That the journey isn’t as straight-forward for some.

I would tell her that maybe back then, my life was pretty wayward.

But it’s not these days.

It’s actually pretty good.  Awesome, in fact.

Okay, now, I can let it go.

"Double Happiness"

 

If I Were A Carpenter

3 Apr

One of the most delightfully delicious experiences in life, is of falling head over heels in deep, consuming love.  Nothing quite beats that floating sensation during the early days of courting.

Spending every single possible moment in each other’s pockets.  Those brief, yet torturous moments apart.  Going about your day in clouds of daydream, counting down the seconds until you see them again.

Then the delectable icing on the cake:  Falling in love when you least expect it.

My friend, Ms B is the girl about town.  I dare say, that she is well connected because she is constantly bumping into someone in the street.  Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if you know her too.

I fondly call her my little social butterfly because as frustrating as it is for me, I love how she constantly keeps herself busy.  So much so, that it can take weeks for me to finally “book in” some quality time with her.

Among the hustle and bustle, an Irish carpenter entered her life.  In the form of a flat-mate.

Since he moved in, the two had become steadfast chums.  They would often cross paths – mainly in the kitchen and the lounge room – sharing jokes and stories of polite interest.  Not an inkling of romance.

Although unsure of when it precisely happened, there was definitely a build-up of innocent flirting, mixed in with making each other cups of tea and interludes of late night lounge room drinks.

Sure enough, Ms B suddenly found herself attracted to her friend.

Confused and seeking advice from close friends, Ms B eventually made the firm decision to confess her feelings.

But how does one open one’s heart and manage to ignore the fear of rejection ?

She chose to do it with a gesture.  A dinner voucher.  For two.

One Friday night she was about to muster the courage.  Finally, she was bold enough and ready to pass on the invitation.  While he himself, in fact, had some important news.

Work was calling him.  He was leaving for Melbourne.  That following weekend.

Heartbroken, Ms B tried to keep her composure.

Although nothing was said, at that moment, Mr Carpenter knew how much the news had hurt her.

The week progressed with Ms B carrying the  heavy weight of sadness to work every day.  The day before his departure, along with mutual friends, they all went out for final drinks.

Despite the imminent parting and the uncertainty they faced, both did their best to stay up-beat and jovial.  Jokes were shared to ease the tension, yet thrown in were mutual puzzled looks.

The night soon ended and looking for a taxi together to return home, he took her by the hand.

Mr Carpenter simply whispered, “Don’t worry.  I have a plan…”

Back at the apartment, Ms B nervously gave her boy a parting gift that she had carefully picked.  Knowing the drive to Melbourne would be long and tedious, in her typical pragmatic, yet thoughtful nature, she bought a road atlas of Australia.  Along with it was a heart-felt written card.

Filled with anxiety, Ms B needed an excuse to leave the room.  So, she offered to make some tea.  Wandering into the kitchen, she hoped that Mr Carpenter would open the present while she wasn’t there.  Taking as much time as she could to make that simple cup of tea, she finally made her way back to the lounge room.  Only to find him waiting for her.  With the present on his lap.  Still unwrapped.

Nervousness and excitement took to its new heights for Ms B.  As this is when it happened.  He leaned over for a hug, then a kiss.

Their first kiss.  Sealing the mutual attraction.  Reassuring the other that despite the unknown future, things will work out.

When Mr Carpenter packed his van and tools the next day, he promised Ms B that he wouldn’t be away for more than two months.

Despite his absence, the communication remained constant.  In fact, it didn’t even take being apart for 24 hours when Mr Carpenter came to a realisation.

His instincts told him that he was in the wrong place.  Without the right girl.

He drove back to his beloved Ms B.  Just in time for the weekend.

As we speak, the two are blissfully tucked away in their own little world of new found love.

In this story, the message is two-fold.

For all you fabulous single gals out there:

Keep doing what you do best;  Stick to doing what you love most;  Stay in your equilibrium of content.

Because that’s when you shine in all your glory.  Then, when you least expect it, such magnificence will surely be noticed.

In a whisper, you will be swept up in the warmth of true love.

Without fail, love always creeps up on those who are too preoccupied with the bits and bobs of life to be looking for it.

Now a message for the debonair single men:

All it takes is some love and a plan.

Make that special someone a cup of tea.  Tell them how you feel.  Then never let them go.

Let this be a story be a celebration;  The wonder of being pursued for love.

Ms B, this one is especially for you. With already a fulfilling and happy life, here’s to the one who has given you even more.

No one I know right now deserves this more, than you.

 

“Love sought is good, but given unsought, is better”

–William Shakespeare

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