Category Archives: marriage

Learning to swim, learning to love

Last month, B swam a few proper strokes with his face down and holding his breath in the water. No big deal, right?  Yet something this trivial was a breakthrough after years of stops and starts.

B loved water since young, and I was so inspired by this book, I tried to follow it but failed miserably. Our swim time together was constantly interrupted with my string of early miscarriages, full time work, frequent travel, and lack of “substitutes” – aka the grandparents who also faced several health setbacks.  That led to a 1.5 year hiatus where B lost water confidence and regressed to saying “I can’t swim,” “don’t want to wet my face” and “too scared.” At parties, B’s friends would dive in pools and take big water slides, and he’d feel left out… So this year, we decided to try again. I intentionally planned more water play, bath tub or pool time together, and hubby signed them both up for Saturday morning class, which proved great 1-on-1 time to bond too.  There were happy tears when he passed his latest Duckie level last month, and is transitioning to learn freestyle and breaststroke – swimming on his own!

B’s journey to learn to swim made me think about my journey to learn to love in our marriage. As we celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary today, I’m reminded how tough marriage is when you bring two imperfect people together in an imperfect world. We start highly motivated with great intentions and textbook ambitions but life’s ups and downs get in the way. We tend to compare with others, only to feel shortchanged or discouraged. We lose faith and confidence, think and eventually say negative things. We’re tempted to quit after all the pit stops and detours as the effort seems too time consuming, emotionally draining, isolating – and too often, not worth it.

But the breakthrough comes when we presevere. Be it a challenging milestone or moments in marriage, don’t give up for it’s never too late to turn things around.

For updates, reviews and more, follow Finally Mama on Facebook and Instagram.

Advertisements

Joy. Peace. Hope. Love.

My annual leave starts this week. I look forward to disconnect (as much as I can!) from the day-to-day hecticness, and reconnect with who and what matters the most to me.

“LOVE makes our friends a little dearer, 
JOY makes our hearts a little lighter, 
FAITH makes our path a little clearer, 
HOPE makes our lives a little brighter, 
PEACE brings us all a little nearer.”  

JOY: While passing through US airport immigration last week, I flashed a smile to the duty officer, relieved to be done with my 15+ hour flight. I was taken aback when he aggressively challenged me “Why did I smile? Was I not taking him seriously? I can decide to let you in this country, or not!” How do we remain joyful in a world filled with suspicion, superficiality and self-centredness?  B may be little, but he is one of my biggest sources of joy as he reminds me to keep a cheerful disposition, and don’t let negative moments or thoughts ruin your day.  Christmas is a time to make spirits bright, to laugh and sing, just like this song says!

PEACE: As I spend more time than ever with my parents in their golden years, I’ve been reflecting on the peace of mind that only family and community can offer, and also the inner peace that comes when you care for and center yourself.  It could be as simple as sneaking in some self-reflection, reading a devotional like this or this, expressing gratitude and praying each day.  For busy bees like myself,  Christmas is a time to place the important ahead of the urgent for a change.  Let’s look in, up and outwards – and gain perspective and a measure of peace as we do that.

image.jpeg
A family that holidays together, stays together
Developing peace of mind by staying mentally and physically fit

HOPE: Harsh words, unexpected news, broken promises, lack of trust from others or self-confidence are difficult issues to deal with. In those moments, I’m encouraged by how my siblings stand by each other through life’s ups and downs.  Two weeks back, I placed a tearful call to my sis after a particularly rough day, and she gave me exactly what I needed – a listening ear and affirmation.  We pay her a visit when things come up, and don’t let her be overwhelmed alone.  I also look forward to catch up with my brother and his family everytime I’m in the US for work. For me, Christmas is a time to cultivate those relationships and build a faith that give us assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen.

IMG_0167
Bonding over design and engineering 🙂
Aunty and her pumpkin 🙂

LOVE: I’ve been tugged in many directions by my various commitments this year, and often felt that I’m running on empty with no reserves left to give. As we prepare our hearts and our homes for Christmas, I’m thankful for the man who walks beside me in this journey of love. It’s not been easy, as we are both so imperfect. I appreciate his support to let me refuel on me-time and the things I’m passionate about – causes, family, good friends and new discoveries.

Christmas playdate
Christmas playdate
No, mama isn't kissing Santa Claus
Sorry Santa, mama ain’t kissing you

Wherever you are this season, here’s wishing you a blessed Christmas filled with joy, peace, hope and love. Do share with us how you’re celebrating this season and holidays too as we continue this blog train on:

PrayerFull Mum

Next up is Valerie:

MG_2594.jpg

At Mums In Faith, she shares her passion for books with other mums through a convenient book-lending service and reviews on good Christian resources. She also writes articles giving an encouraging Christian perspective on issues pertinent to modern-day mums. Together with her co-founder Danessa, she hopes to build a vibrant community of Christian mums who will love and pray for each other, providing the support we all need as fellow warriors in faith.

For more updates and reviews, follow Finally Mama on Facebook and Instagram.

This is my daddy!

Busy mama almost forgot that it’s hubby’s birthday today.  Thanks to awesome tech, we whisked together a DIY birthday card just in time for a very special man when he came home from his overseas business trip.

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 9.54.28 pmScreen Shot 2015-03-05 at 8.00.49 pm

Daddy’s portrait and writing done 100% by B on the Kids Doodle iOS app, edited on the birthday template on Pages for Mac with added text and printing by mama, all under 15 minutes!

IMG_0020

For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook.

Try something new this Goat Year

新年蒙福, 新年蒙恩 – Blessed Year of the Goat!  I’m sneaking in my post for the Things I Will Do Differently blog train in between house visits and prep for another overseas work trip. In the spirit of Chinese New Year, here are my reflections on what to do differently this year, inspired by 春聯 (spring couplets), which is quite a new feat for me too given my preschool level Chinese :).

心想事成 – Last year was quite a fruitful year – getting CRIB off the ground, transitioning B to full-day childcare and the grandparents to help more as I moved from entrepreneur back to corporate life. Yet, there was always this underlying frustration around our failure to conceive #2. With each passing month, I kept burying my emotions under a cover of busyness. This year, I’m focusing on enjoying what we have and not dwelling on what we don’t.

岁岁平安 – When days get busy, inner peace tends to flee, and we fall in a vicious spiral of stress and sleeplessness. This year, I aim to give 100% in areas that matter and not split all my time, focus and energy on everything everyday. No matter how early I wake, weekday mornings are always rushed, so I’ve settled on a new routine: After my son and I end his nighttime routine with his daily devotional, I linger in his room with lights out to reflect and recalibrate for the day ahead. I know once I walk out, I’ll start attacking my to-do list again, so this is precious quiet time for me.  Philippians 4:7 The peace of God will guard our hearts and minds in Christ

笑口常开 – A related change I want to make this year, is to be more JOYFUL. When I do pause to take stock of things, I realise there’s so much to be thankful for but why aren’t more of my waking moments “happy?” When I look at my son and see such unadulterated joy in him (most of the time), I find that my happiness is more a function of choice than circumstance. This year, I choose to nurture a more positive, cheerful spirit which can hopefully affect every aspect of my life.  Laughter is the best medicine, right? 😀

事业有成 – Planning is in my DNA. I tend to live by “a failure to plan is a plan to fail.”  I’ve worn the planner hat for so long though that I forget to release control in my personal life – ironically, I’m better at delegating and bending at work than at home.  This year, I’ll go with the flow more in my leisure time, entrust the big dreams to God, and corporate goals to the collective team. Stop filling up my evenings and weekends with work or schedules – take detours like evening walks in Pierce Reservoir and Bishan Park near the office. Less nagging the hubby on his lazy weekend mornings – join him instead!

身体健康 – Those of us whose love language is acts of service, tend to give and give till we run out of gas. This year, I allow myself to be responsibly selfish – to carve out specific ME times, to ask for or outsource help, to not skip meals, to actually complete my Pilates and spa packages, to leave B at home so that hubby and I can dinner date each together.  I believe if I “eat what nourishes my body, do what nourishes my soul, and think what nourishes my mind,” I’ll be a better wife, mom, daughter, colleague and friend…. and stay forever 羊 ;). Who cares for the carers? It starts with us.

恭喜发财,万事如意,金玉满堂,步步高升,青春美丽!

Family CNY 2015

new button

The next stop is at Meeningfully which is run by Shermeen, a fellow working mom to a 2.5 year old, a day-dreamer and closet romantic. She often tries to do too much in her attempt to juggle her multiple roles, and at the same time hopes time will slow down as she does not want her “cheeky monkey” to grow up so quickly. At 35 this year, read on about what she is going to do differently to acheive some of her goals.

Shermeen

For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook.

World peace begins at home

What does it mean to live a peaceful life? IMHO, the key is to work towards peaceful relationships in your home – with your spouse, kid(s) and if you have any, your domestic helper. But how to do this when we’re struggling with being at peace in our own lives? As parents, we’re often busy, stressed, sleep-deprived, sick whenever the kids get sick, and lacking any personal time or space. Here are some thoughts:

With your spouse: Sometimes, a little time out gives much needed perspective when emotions are frayed. There are days when I still struggle with giving up a traditional corporate career and the (seemingly lack of) ROI on all my years of education – resulting in a rather bitter attitude towards my constantly away hardworking hubby. I’ve been trying to reflect and approach situations with a more peaceful and rested heart. Also, as parents, we should TRY not to let our issues (anger, disappointment, concern, etc.) with each other surface too frequently in front of the kids. The very young ones can pick up on the emotion but may not understand the context or even think it is about them, i.e. something they did wrong. For me – someone who often wears her heart on her sleeve – this is hard. Just as we teach our kids to use their “indoor voice”, I too need to remember that being peaceful means to talk and not shout, to smile and not frown.

With kids: Give our kids the foundation to develop and learn to be a child of God – peaceful, cheerful and contented. As B adjusts to nursery drop off and soon, taking his mid-day nap there as well, we’re trying to re-establish a routine that provides comfort yet fosters independent growth. Kids thrive in a secure environment with familiar surroundings, playmates and caregivers, regular healthy meals, designated quiet times with spaces to play/read on their own, unique yet diverse experiences AND perhaps most importantly, adequate sleep – ideally by 9p. I’ve ALWAYS been asked about B’s early bedtime, as in “why can’t he come out, stay later, wake up later instead” To me, sleep is sacred. When kids sleep well, we all sleep well, so why change what ain’t broke?

With the helper: Let’s face it. We are lucky, spoilt even, in Asia to have foreign domestic workers who assist us in chores and if you need, babysitters and nannies at a reasonable rate, be it part time or live in. Yet too often I find employers who do not treat their helper in a way that leads to a peaceful living and working relationship, while they maintain high expectations on their deliverables and attitude. B asked me once: “mama, daddy, ama, kong kong is family. What about aunty (our helper’s name)?” I told him “We live together in this house, we should treat her like family too.” I wonder if he understood that, but he does now include her in his prayer requests at night and asks where she is when we go out on our own or on her days off.

The more centered we are on Christ and not self, the more we’ll be at peace with others and ourselves.

Want to receive updates, reviews and more? Like me at Finally Mama on Facebook

mamawearpapashirt

The elusive fourth

A week ago, my life turned upside down.  I thought I’d be ushering in the 2013 Year of the Snake with a happy “I’m pregnant!” announcement to family and friends, but ended up spending the first few days of Chinese New Year with intensifying cramps, spotting, clotting, bed rest and alas, a confirmed miscarriage. Our baby would have been 8 weeks now.  Physically, the pain and bleeding have passed but emotionally, it’s been a rollercoaster ride to recovery.  It’s hard to explain why such an early pregnancy loss can leave emotional scars.  Some days I do feel better but other days, it still hurts  – esp. when I meet others who “accidentally” conceived another baby when they didn’t plan or necessarily want to.  That said, I’m thankful for the support of those who’ve gone through miscarriages/ still births and gone on to have healthy deliveries.

I’ll revisit my obgyn this week to verify that a D&C procedure is not needed as the tissue from the blighted ovum had passed naturally.  Despite seeing the gestational sac at the initial ultrasound scan around week 5, the embryo had not grown as it should, most likely due to chromosonal defects, so this was considered a clinical miscarriage from an anembryonic pregnancy.

Last night at our rather bittersweet Valentines dinner, we reflected how this has made us appreciate B so much more and acknowledged the need for closure. We’ll definitely try again when the time is right, approx. 3 months from now.  In a small way, there’s some relief that I don’t have to mind two kids under two… and there’s less pressure for B to grow up into the big brother he will be one day.

I woke up in the wee hours this morning feeling a little down but was reminded of this song.  The joy of the Lord will be my strength!

 
I’m trading my sorrow
I’m trading my shame
I’m laying it down for the joy of the Lord
I’m trading my sickness
I’m trading my pain
I’m laying it down for the joy of the Lord
 
And we say yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord
Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord
Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord Amen
 
I’m pressed but not crushed persecuted not abandoned
Struck down but not destroyed
I’m blessed beyond the curse for his promise will endure
And his joy’s gonna be my strength
Though sorrow may last for the night
His joy comes in the morning

For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook

Month 5 Week 3: Routine matters

In a week’s time, B will be half a year old. Motherhood hasn’t necessarily gotten easier but perhaps I’m learning to adapt to (and to some extent, accept) this new “lifestyle.” I started a regular newsletter of highlights, tips and photos with B’s caregivers and closest family members, got to know more moms with similar aged babies in my condo complex, church and also through the local Meet Up groups.

Mommy lessons:

1. Mutual weaning: There are many days when I struggle to find my equilibrium. It’s almost like I need to wean myself from B just as he starts to wean from breastmilk to solids. How to ensure I have time for other stuff including self and couple care? First things first. After a quick breakfast, I go into his room to watch him and join in a short cat nap, check mail and do my QT.

2. Elusive sleep – Just when you think you’ve cracked the “schedule,” it changes 😦 – B used to sleep through the night from 9p to 5a but now wakes up intermittently, usually crying out loud and needing help to settle back down just like his first few months. It could be that he’s subconsciously processing all the stimuli. Some babies have difficulty sleeping when they’re facing major developmental milestones like rolling, sitting, crawling, walking, talking and new people or environments. Meanwhile, I’m re-tweaking his daily routine to hopefully help: 6a wake up, 7a brekkie, 8a bath, 9a nap #1, 11a lunch, 1p nap #2, 3p milk, 5p nap #3, 6p outdoor time (weather/baby permitting), 630p dinner, 7p sponge bath/quiet down, 8p bed time – with one late night/early morning milk feed as needed … and mommy pumping and getting her own stuff done in between. Wish us luck!

3. Mosquito magnet: The weather has been insufferably hot. Even though we live on a high floor, there was an outbreak of mozzies (and roaches), and B got 4 nasty bites on his left leg, right elbow and chubby cheek (!) despite all our best attempts. He hasn’t recovered as quickly vs previous bites/cuts, and sadly, these have left quite a scar too. We’ve tried turning on the aircon, using spray, lotion, patches, those-things-you-put-below. Maybe we’ll get a baby-safe fan next…. Help?

B milestones:

1. Check up: At 5.5 months, B weighed 8.5 kg (18.7 lbs), 69 cm long (27″) with a 42.5 cm (16.7″) head circumference — over 90 percentile now!

2. Eating 3 “meals” a day with milk and water to supplement: So far, so good. Has tried cereal (rice, corn, buckwheat, quinoa), carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, green beans. Next: Fruit purees

3. Physical: He stands with support, in fact, B tends to always push up when/wherever he can; sits tripod style – propped up on arms and/or rests on his elbows, lifts head 90 degrees and scans 180 degrees; rolls tummy-to-side (though it’s still one sided for now); wiggles forward; uses a two-handed embracing reach; significantly improved dexterity with his fingers and legs (reaches, grasps, transfers from hand to hand/mouth), cranes neck forward to see or eat. Next: Block play, sorting, crawling?

4. Language/social: Shapes mouth to change sounds; mimics sounds, inflection, gestures; blows bubbles; laughs hilariously when tickled, makes motions for attention (flapping arms to be picked up, babbles, coughs, even shrieks; develops better depth perception; gazes intently; tracks accurately

5. Cognitive: Interested in colours. In the mornings, I read his Scholastic baby colourbook and then point out all the items that match the colours around us. Forms mental images of what to expect when given a cue (baby signing will pay off soon I hope); Becomes aware that people and things have labels (who’s your mommy, B?); learns which sounds and gestures get a response; shows decision-making expressions with mouth and hand; figures out objects; Changes hand position to touch objects.

For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook.