My priority ring (An actual ring)


One night about a year after I had Q, after a particular harried day trying to balance my incredibly full plate of obligations, errands and what have you, I had a massive meltdown. It was not your average huge cathartic cry type of meltdown; but a real questioning of “what the heck are you doing?” that I think shook the depths of my very being.

The full gravity of motherhood (having a tiny little thing fully depend on you is a scary scary reality to behold), the massive weight of growing a company, the colossal undertaking to constantly keep it together was simply too much to bear. I think most new moms, or even more seasoned ones, sometimes hit that kind of mountain. It makes you doubt who you are, what you are doing, your self worth and it’s a slippery slope.

Anyway, I waded through THAT quagmire and somehow found my footing again- yay to my amazing mummy support system; but I felt like I needed to find a physical anchor, like a reminder of what I needed and decided to design myself a priority ring. Also, another excuse for new jewelery (yay!).


The design is fairly simple: two distinct but connected bands (at the base). One thin and gravelly, one broader and smoother. The thinner band was to represent me and my “me life”. I asked for it to be sand blasted so that it was gravely to touch and textured to look at which represented my imperfections.

The thicker band was to be in smooth gold (though it’s now sporting a slightly more worn look) and represent my other identities: my being a wife to W, mom to Q (and now Ev), a daughter to my parents, sister to my sisters and a friend.

Both bands are joined at the base, ultimately, a connected life of personal space and growth and my life’s obligations, duties and priorities.

I deliberated over the order of the words for those became my priorities and it took me a long while to decide that my first priority is to be a WIFE, then a MOTHER. That whilst mummy duties take a lot of time, energy and effort, it is important that my better half is, well, my better half and kinda my partner in the whole parenthood business so, it makes sense that I remember that.

Of course, not to say I’m going to run off to do frivolous things with W while our poor kids languish at home like unwanted latch key kids. But that the husband has to matter. That its dangerous for a marriage to simply get caught up with being a mom, or parenting. So, yes, WIFE, then MOTHER.

I had wanted to write child-of-God right in front, but it wouldn’t fit hence I made the ring out of gold because I have always loved Job 23:10 that says:


So, the ring reads:

Wife. Mother. Daughter. Sister. Friend.

I never used wear the ring much, but I find myself wearing more and more, even daily, these days as I find that life today so often means we so easily lose track of what is important to us. We are so caught up with doing stuff, we forget to give weight to the things that should matter.

That amidst all the doing, I’d always be reminded of the being.

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That magic moment before bed

E asleep

As a full time working from home mom, I don’t have any defined office hours- not on most days, anyway, and work,  mummyhood and wifeyness all flows one into the other.

On any given day, I could be painting with Q one minute, then answering an email the next while waiting for him to take his bath, and then prepping my grocery list for a later-in-the-day grocery run while watching Evan practice his new fangled walking skills out in the garden. In between, I field calls, answer SMSs, pack the kids’ forever messy room and try and feather through the latest book I am trying to read, usually something on parenting, education or politics. I have help that sorts the unsavoury household chores (no more toilet cleaning, laundry and ironing! Yay!), and, for that, I never cease to be grateful. Small mercies eh?

But for all the here-and-there-ness that is my day, I relish when night rolls along cos there is simply something magical about bedtime with my boys. It’s a time that is different from all the other amazing moments in the day: quieter, calmer and more peaceful.

Evan sleeps earlier, usually about 830pm give or take and still has to be held pretty much to sleep. He snuggles into my neck, bounces himself (I joke that he needs to expend the last of his residual energy) and, for lack of a more accurate description, sings himself to sleep. It’s when this rambunctious child finally winds down, slows down and we spend those sacred quiet moments that are so far and few between in the day. Its when we say our goodnights, our night bedtime prayers and I talk about his/our day. And when he’s almost at sleep’s door, I put him down and he squiggles and squirms and enters dreamland.

The parade is the same with Q who now goes down at about 930pm, no thanks to school (yay!). We both squeeze in his little bed, he needs to arrange the stuff in his bed just so- the panda yiyi bought him, his blanket, the crocodile bolster Uncle James brought from Abu Dhabi… we talk about our day (I prod him along, he does the bulk of the talking), about what we are going to do the following day and funny things that stood out. Today, it might be Evan playing peek-a-boo, tomorrow might be a funny show he watched during TV time, sometimes its a made up story or joke. Then, we “say goodnight to God”, give thanks for the day, and pray for loved ones as we call an end to the day.

So, for a moment, or in my case, two- I get to slow down and go to a quiet place with my children. I get to go to a place where I  get to leave my crazy busy life aside for just a while- no emails, no calls, no interruptions; and just be mummy. It is a time that calms me down, allows me to catch my breath and soothe my soul.

Mummies don’t get to fall sick, not really.

images-1I am fortunate insofar that I really rarely fall sick. I may have one or two off days but I usually bounce back fairly quickly; life never even misses a beat, I am none worse for wear.

I do my fair share to stay healthy: I eat fairly well, loads of vegetables, fruits and juice. My one big unhealthy indulgence is that I love Lemon Tea- I have been told that too much tea is not great for the system. I reckon, too much most things are bad for any system anyway. Plus, I always joke with W; that mummies are usually not allowed to fall sick. So we rarely do.

It was probably culmination of a crazy work schedule meets travel demands, add a stint of not sleeping well, a dash of far too many activities and festivities and a sprinkle of an over active mind that never stops that finally did me in. Shortly after Christmas, as we entered the new year, not long after W and Q fell to some bug, my body finally gave out on me and left me- even after a two week course of anti-biotics, at the mercy of what will be the worst sinus infection of my life.

I had 38-39 degree fever (chills, shivers and all) for almost a week over the new year, and could only medicate with the usual over the counter Flu and sinus stuff because most medical places were closed and I really needed a specialist cos clearly the GP level stuff weren’t working. During which time, we still had to cope with W being ill, Q’s fever not bating (took him almost five days to be rid of the bug, night sponge baths and all) and Evan generally being unhappy because Mummy could not carry him, Daddy was flat out and Kor Kor was banned from playing with the bub. Gratefully, our helpers stayed healthy, as did Evan.

I was pretty much a wreck: days flowed into nights into days. And my fever persisted, my sinuses were clogged beyond relief and I was developing awful sinus related headaches. I barely ate, felt nauseous mostly (from backdrip) and lost weight that I didn’t have to lose.

I finally got to see my Ear Nose and Throat doctor (the wonderful Dr. Leong Hoo Kwong at Mt. E, if you are interested); second patient, on the second day of the new year. And he took one look at me and figured out I was probably hit by some super sinus bug. W convinced me to get a sinus washout which he (under) described as a mere saline rinse. I almost had a heart attack when the nurse took out two ice-pick looking things and explained the doctor would have to break some bone before being able to do the rinse. I’m sure there’s some cool fangled medical term they use, but, as far as I was concerned, my husband signed me up to be half lobotomised. If I weren’t already LA-ed, set up and in pretty much sinus hell, I would not have signed the consent form.

To cut the gross story short, they did the washout, sent stuff to get tested (its streptococcus pneumoniae) and I was sent home with a new course of antibiotics, more meds, orders to rest rest rest and a hilarious offer for medical leave. Looking back, I should have taken it and given it to Evan; maybe he’d stop being mad at mummy cos she’s suddenly always holed up in bed.

It took another two days for the fever to bate sufficiently, another two after that for my nose to stop bleeding (finally) and as I write a week hence, I am much better, but hardly in the all clear zone. I am still blocked up though my osteopath and Rolfer have done wonders to help with the situation and in helping me ease those awful sinus headaches. I still find myself needing more rest than my schedule can afford.

In between, Q missed his first week of school (he was sick, we were sick, and we didn’t want to be that family that sends the runny nosed, coughing kid to school; worse, with the nose bleeding, nasally congested accompanying mom).

Upside to all this? I got tons of readings done, caught up on all the world news (mainly politics, which is a lot) and spent oodles of time with W, who was also, like me, banned from being around the kids much. We even manage to catch up on some TV shows. Small mercies.

My lovely across the street neighbour- who feeds us ever so often, was quick to remind me that this was probably God’s way of making me rest, slow down and take time for myself. I do many things well, resting is not one of them. As a full time working from home mom, my days are choker-block full. In any given day, I barely have time to be mummy, wife, boss, much less, to simply be me. As is, that I no longer battle housework on the day to day basis, is already absolutely wonderful.

And as I take stock of these very difficult past weeks, and knowing it might be several more before I am completely right as rain, I am grateful the kids are none worse for wear, if only a little cabin fevered. And that W is getting better. And that I have somehow toddled through the worst of work stuff whilst sick leaving the rest of the year fairly easy going (I hope). We have also figured out our work stuff, gave up on some huge projects since we have decided to prioritise our bandwidth better and planned several well spaced family holidays.

Not the greatest way to start the year, but grateful anyway.

between the shadow and the soul

My friend S texted me the other day about a helicopter crash that claimed 12 lives, one of which was an acquaintance of hers; she is also friends with his widow, and his brother. He leaves behind a young wife (after a whirlwind courtship), a two year old son and there are expecting their second child in a little under five months.

She ponders how his widow would feel when she delivers, what it would be like to lose the love of your life after only being together for such a short time. She heart wrenchingly questions how things would be later that night as mother explains to toddler why daddy would never be coming back again. And she concludes with these words: “It’s a truly very big ask and I am thankful that God has not asked that of me.”

I recently said goodbye to a friend who was only 31; there was no “real” reason he passed away, his heart, brain and general physical being was in tip top shape- coroner ruled,  sudden death syndrome.  He was Possibility personified: he was successful, well liked and an all round amazing guy. He was a great son and brother and the world was his oyster.

I’m not yet 32 and have buried several friends called before their time: some to illness, some to accidents, some self-inflicted. Its hard to comprehend how or why things happen. The famous question we ask is :why bad things happen to good people. And really, there’s no answer except the belief that the “will of God will never send you where his Grace cannot keep you.”

The day I became a parent, the notions of life and death took on a different perspective completely. The frailty of life, the fragility of our humanity beckons at these moments and I find that sometimes I find it hard to breathe if I dwell on “what it all means”.

I look at my young sons and I learn that I cannot take tomorrow for granted- who knows what the future holds? But what I do have is Today, the now and for most days, that’s enough.

Letter of the week- We made it!

 

After 26 llllooonnngggg weeks, we finally made it through all 26 letters of the alphabet! We’ve been faithfully sticking them up on our cupboard and here you see it- all 26 letters, upper and lower case alphabets!

Its our first education milestone since we started the Growing Tree Project. And while Q’s been able to sing his ABCs for a while already, I think this take-your-time method has really helped us enjoy learning, learning the alphabets and its place in our lives more. Sometimes when I feel like maybe he’s not “quite getting it”, he’d surprise me by correctly identifying the alphabet in random words we come across: street signs, words in books, names of his friends… Interestingly enough, he seem to like some letters more than others!

We’ve been working on writing some of the alphabets and we started with the letters of his name. We’ve gotten through all the different letters of Q-U-E-N-T-I-N (not so steady on the E and N just yet) but we’ll get there soon enough I think. He writes the letter Q very well ( a circle and a line) and I look forward to hitting this new learning milestone!

Paradox of our time

The recent case of the Ferrari that rammed into the hapless taxi has caused a huge outcry and debate about affluence, racism, entitlement and a whole lot more.

It beckons wondering about the onslaught of capitalism, materialism and more on the physical state of our generation, the moral state of our humanity and it makes the parent in me deathly worried for the future of my sons.

Paradox of Our Times: Dr. Bob Moorehead 
We have taller buildings, but shorter tempers;
Wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints.
We spend more time, but have less;
We buy more, but enjoy it less.
We have bigger houses and smaller families;
More conveniences but less time;

We have more degrees but less sense;
more knowledge, but less judgment;
more experts, but more problems;
more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly;
laugh too little, drive too fast;get mad too quickly, stay up too late, get up too tired.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values;
We talk too much, love too seldom and lie too often.
We’ve learned how to make a living but not a life.
We’ve added years to life, not life to years.
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.
We’ve conquered outer space but not inner space.
We’ve done larger things but not better things,
We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul.
We’ve split the atom but kept our prejudices whole.
We write more, but learn less.
We plan more but accomplish less.
We learned to rush, but not to wait.
We have higher incomes but lower morals.
We have more food, but less taste,
We build more computers to hold more information,
to produce more copies than ever; but we have less communication.
We have become long on quantity, but short on equality.

These are times of fast foods and slow digestion;
tall men and short character; steep profits and shallow relationships.
These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare;
more leisure and less fun; more kinds of food but less nutrition.

These are the days of two incomes but more divorce; of fancier houses, but broken homes.
These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality,
one night stands; overweight bodies and pills
that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill.

These are days in which we can choose to stand up and make a difference
or pretend that we never heard these cries at all.

Raising an unscreened child? Nah…

I know of some friends that feel quite strongly that kids user the age of three should be unscreened. That is, they should not be allowed TV, computers, smart phone devices or technology like the iPad. They cite expert recommendations against the practice and there have been much debate on the matter.

And while I do believe that toddlers should most certainly not be given that much of said stuff, I and my technology loving husband, really find introducing these things to Q (and Evan when he’s a lil older) is not only quite alright with us, but something important given that they are mainstays in the future that he’s going to be growing up in.

So, yes, we allow Q to use the iPad/iphone/ipod and he gets a fair (but limited) amount of TV time too. In fact, since daddy upgraded to the iPad 2, Q even scored his very own iPad- all filled with apps that we have curated, reviewed and tried out ourselves and shows. No less, the iPad has been a god sent on our travels with Q seeing as it duly entertains him on board flights and on those long road trips between destinations we always end up having to endure.

We do have rules, of course. Like, he does not get the iPad (or the like) till past 4pm and when he does get to have screen time, its (kinda) supervised. I monitor the shows he gets to watch (I rather he watch on our home system than on TV, for example cos there are no ads), the apps he gets to play (since I pick them). And of course, we calibrate the brightness on the devices and enforce how far he has to sit to watch TV.

Our kids are growing up in a different era; a time where technology is not a luxury but a part of life. A time where learning and childhood is markedly different from any other generation. While we parents grew up in an age where “swipe technology” was a fantastical concept (remember how and improbable we thought it when we watched it in Minority Report), its a reality in our world today. The same Today our children are growing up in.

To the parents- and experts, that scoff at the validity and soundness of what we are doing since, you know, we all grew up not having technology and were perfectly happy playing with wooden toys and climbing trees, let me just put things in perspective: last time mullets were in and policemen wore shorts.