Monday, January 24, 2011

Not Another Boring SAHM

I've been flip flopping between 'contented' and 'boring'. More specifically, I've been trying to figure out if I've reached some sort of higher level of contentment or I've sunk all the way down to being plain boring! Maybe I've become a combination of both and oscillate between the two. The only thing I know for certain is that I got this way from becoming a mother to two.

So, seeing that I like being a mother I've been trying to convince myself that its contentment that I feel. And its because I'm so contented that I:

1. Don't feel that I need to go out with my friends (not that I have that many).
2. Don't yearn to go for a night out on the town.
3. Glance through the news headlines each day, have some sort of reaction to them mentally but never feel like debating any of them. I seem to spend all my brain power thinking of how to have more fun with Aaron and Adrian.

The list goes on with plenty more along similar lines. It almost seems like I'm not interested in having a life. However, I think my confusion over being contented and boring is influenced by the general view of what 'having a life' means. For a single person or even a couple without children, having a life very often means an active social life - satisfaction and enjoyment derived from interactions outside the family unit. By definition, being a stay at home mom means that you're in the home and interacting within the family unit. Its true that after awhile, time limitations mean that ninety percent of the time, it becomes the only type of interaction I have. Therefore, no outside social life, and by the general definition 'no life'.

But, is it really that bad to make your family, your life. Of course, they test me every single day but I love watching them play, and playing with them, and thinking up new things that we can do together. I like watching them sleep and watching them wake up looking groggy but fresh. Spending a carefree day out with Richard and the boys always leaves me feeling grateful for the life I have. We have only a few precious years when Aaron and Adrian are completely innocent and I just want to be a part of every second of it.

So, why do I need to convince myself that it is contentment I feel? Maybe its because the word 'contentment' is sometimes associated with 'complacent'. Well, whatever the reason, I think I should be thankful that I don't hate my life and I don't feel envy for the lives that other people have. There are always things that we can do to improve our lives and the lives of those around us so I think its more important to focus on that than to wonder (and hope) that I haven't become a boring old housewife!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sibling Squabbles

I recently introduced the whole idea of house rules to Aaron and so far, its had some success. He understands it all and I can see that he does try to abide by them. One of the rules that seems to be gaining notoriety is #4 - Share and Be Gentle. I should really congratulate Aaron on following this one because Adrian is really pushing him to the limits. The little guy is living by toddler rules at the moment - take what you want, throw what you want, and of course, cry when you don't get what you want.

Very often, I see Aaron giving in to him voluntarily but I do feel bad for him and try to keep things fair by saying things like "Aaron is playing with it. You wait." And for that, Aaron told me I'm the best mother in the world. He really did!

Other times, usually at the end of the day, all I get is Aaron swooping in like an eagle, grabbing what he wants and then running away. Leaving Adrian crying on the floor of course. Over the past week, I've seen this progress from just crying, to crying while looking at me and pointing to Aaron and finally today, to crying, looking at me, pointing at Aaron and saying "Mine".

I'm one step away from two way "It's mine" arguments between them.

And eventually, the "He did it" finger pointing will start and probably "Why doesn't Aaron/Adrian do it?" plus all the other sibling squabbles. I know its inevitable and no matter how much I prepare Aaron for it and how much I hope and wish they will be best friend brothers, I'm sure it will happen. I need to arm myself with....don't know what yet but, something....

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

After The Flood

Great! Our own internet is back again. Just when I was getting used to life without it....

The cleanup of Brisbane continues with many streets still looking like a war zones. The devastation to some areas is heart wrenching to look at. Today, we had some 'incidental rubbernecking' when we went to check on our microwave. The day before the floods, we took it to a shop to be fixed. Unfortunately, the first floor of that place was completely flooded to the ceiling and they have no idea if our microwave is amongst the saved items. No big deal....those people have lost so much more.

Anyway, the street that the shop was at was lined on both sides with the destroyed contents of all the shops in the area. There were excavators and dump trucks everywhere, moving back and forth to clear it all up.

I haven't gone to look at the news reports from the past week yet so I don't know if there is any mention of the thousands of people coming to the aid of total strangers during the cleanup. I mentioned that the devastation is heart wrenching but when you see the hoards of people lining up to volunteer for the cleanup, it is heart warming.

The council setup several volunteer sign up points throughout the city where people would go and then get bussed out to the areas that needed help. I think there were two shifts a day and over 12500 people showed up on the first day. The queue to sign up was over a kilometer long! People who owned bobcats, excavators, dump trucks and other equipment that help with the clean would just show up at areas and start working from dawn to dusk - at no cost. Other people who didn't sign up for the council volunteering effort either helped out in their neighborhood or made their own way to flood affected areas, walked into a damaged home and would just start working. There was no chatting or asking if help was needed, people came with their own equipment and just got working.

Each property that was damaged had to be cleared of all the contents of course. But, in addition to that, all the walls, carpets and fixtures were also ripped out. And then after that, we had to shovel, scrape, sweep and shoot out all the mud that was left behind. Needless to say, it was hard work and it was stinky!

Cleaning isn't the only way that people were helping out. The delivery of food and drinks was also clearly visible in many areas. One lady started Baked Relief and has been utilizing her blog, twitter and facebook to co-ordinate between hundreds of other ladies in Brisbane in baking and delivering food. Isn't that amazing?

People are good! Yes, there have been a few (very few) instances of looting, but overall, the people of Brisbane area good people!

Anyway, here are some more photos from some places around our house.

This is our street and the peak of the floods and then aftewards.

The house as the bottom of our street. Thats my brother at the end of the cleanup. It took just 4 hours for us to empty out everything from that ground floor, including the walls.

This is the convenience store that is a 2 minute walk from our house. It was an extremely successful little shop that was always full of people from the nearby commercial area. The water eventually reached the middle of their signboard. In the first photo, the shop is on the left. I didn't have photos from the same angle...

This is a photo of a different area that we happened to drive past.

I think what we all need to remember is that many people will continue to need help over the coming months, even when our streets are cleaned up and things look 'normal' on the surface.

Monday, January 17, 2011

2011 Brisbane Floods (Part 2)

What a week! These past few days have definitely been interesting. A couple of hours after my last post, we lost power. I was naive to say ‘hopefully we won’t lose power’. Of course we would! And we didn’t get it back for three days (although it didn't come with internet or our landline). The strange thing is that we didn’t complain about it and didn’t find it a nuisance. It sort of added to the experience.

Blogging about the floods now is old news because of the widespread coverage of it but I still have to get my story out. You all want to know how I spent my time don’t you?

My post last Tuesday was when the city started flooding. However, the peak wasn’t due until the early morning of Thursday. By mid morning on Wednesday, the little hill that we live on was basically cut off either because of flooded roads or the police closing off roads because of rising water levels.

The people in the lower lying areas evacuated but we chose to stay because we had plenty of food and, to be honest, we wanted to be where the action was. Our house is a good way up the hill and even though power was off, we still had water and gas.

What do you do when there is no electricity (therefore no TV, Wii or internet)? You get a lot of cleaning done in the house, you play Boggle and you walk and ride out to Coronation Drive in the early morning, after lunch and after dinner. We did this everyday from Tuesday to Friday. Coronation drive is one of the main roads leading to the CBD and right next to the Brisbane River.

We weren't the only ones out and about. All the people that had remained in the area were out there and we finally got to meet some of our neighbors. Without the TV and no easy access to a radio (we had to go sit in the car to listen to the news every so often), people were talking to each other and sharing information about what was going on. There was constant coverage of the flood but the people in it didn’t get to watch any of it and we had to keep asking the police or firemen what was happening, what they were planning, where the water levels were up to and where they were expected to reach.

So for today, I’ll share some of the photos from our daily ‘patrols’.

Wednesday morning on Coronation Drive:

Thursday morning (4.46am) view of the city from Coronation Drive. We heard that the peak of the flood was going to be at 4am on Thursday so my brother, Adrian and I got up and went for a walk.

Thursday morning view of the turn off from Coronation Drive that we take to get home. If you look on the left, the four white parking signs will give you an idea of the depth of the water. 0765

Thursday afternoon on Coronation Drive:

Thursday afternoon in Milton:

We haven't got our own internet back yet and I'm now using a borrowed pre-paid mobile broadband. More to come tomorrow if we get our own internet back.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2011 Brisbane Floods

As you've probably seen on the news, Brisbane is finally flooding. Northern Queensland has been dealing with floods for the past couple of weeks and hundreds of thousands of people have been affected. Southeast Queensland, where Brisbane is, started flooding last night. For all the serious stuff, there is plenty to read about here.

Naturally, this disaster has had horrible consequences for thousands of people and everyone is extremely sympathetic. Amidst all the sympathy and worry, there has also been some sort of excitement in the air. By mid morning, many offices were closing and sending staff home. So, it was peak hour, in the mid morning. After lunch, my brother and I went out for a walk.

We're lucky to be living on a hill but the road at the bottom was flooded and the park is now a lake. Actually, the parks are part of the water sensitive urban and designed to act as a catchment during floods.

There were lots of other people walking around with their raincoats, umbrellas and cameras. Everyone just wanted to capture the event for their own photo albums. The atmosphere was sort of serious but not somber. People were wandering around, almost aimlessly, just observing everything around them. Nobody was in a rush and it didn't look like anybody had anywhere else to be. In a strange way, it was quite peaceful.

After walking around for an hour, I went home to get Aaron so that he could see what it was all about. After all, this is going to be the flood that every one talks about for years to come.

This is a photo we took at around 5pm. As you can see, we could still turn right at the time. At 9pm, we excitedly went out to check on the water again and the road was completely underwater and there was a rescue boat sitting where the police car is in the photo.

Its raining as I type it and even though its expected to ease tomorrow, the peak of water from the dams is expected to reach Brisbane on Thursday. We've stocked up on food and movies. Hopefully, there won't be any power outages here...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

5 Activities For Four Year Olds

I'm always trying to come up with new and interesting activities that Aaron and I can do together. Sometimes, I'm after an activity that can keep him engaged by himself. Other times, I enjoy exploring and experiencing something new with him.

Here are 5 activities that we have enjoyed together in recent weeks. Perhaps this list will come in useful for another mother somewhere else in the world:

1. Leaf Identification and Exploration
Using a clipboard and a blank sheet of paper, we went in search of 10 different types of leaves. We did 5 leaves one day and another 5 the next. After selecting a leaf, and inspecting it, we talked about how it was different to the previous ones. Then, we sketched them as best we could and wrote down the name of the plant it came from. To identify the type of leaf, we turned to Google. That's also where we went to learn about the different parts of a leaf. Finally, we had a look at it under a microscope and tried our best to look at a cross section of it.

You may think that a four year old would have no interest in leaves but its actually all in the presentation of the topic. Its an investigation and we're botanists. Aaron had a great time.

2. Insect Hunt with Magnifying Glass

This is very similar to the leaf hunting activity above. The only difference is that we went about with a magnifying glass when looking for and drawing the insects. Again, we used Google to help learn about the various parts. We did use the microscope as well but only to look at the outside of the insects, not a cross section.

Personally, I thought this would be more interesting than the leaves so I chose to do this after the leaf hunting.

3. Snakes and Ladders Variations
Original way: We played it the normal way.

Variation 1: I introduced a die and we added the rolled number to the number we were on. As opposed to just moving the token along and counting the number of places to move.

Variation 2: We had two dice and had to sum up the numbers to determine the number of places to move.

Variation 3: We used a soroban to sum up the rolled numbers from two dice.

Variation 4: Once again using the soroban, we added the rolled number from one die to the number that we were on.

4. Memory Walk
This is a good indoor or outdoor activity. All you need is a digital camera and to make it more fun, let the child take the photos. Aaron and I went for a walk around the neighborhood and took photos of ten items. To help him remember what each of the photos were of, we stopped to talk about each item so that some sort of story could form and it would be easier to recall them. At the end of the walk, I scrolled back to the first photo and as he recited each of the items, we would look at the photo to see if he was correct.

5. Sorting a Cupboard
The classic two birds with one stone approach. Pick an easy and safe cupboard and have your child help you sort it. We picked the plastic containers cupboard a.k.a. Adrian's rummaging cupboard. All the lids had come off and it was in such a mess that things had a tendency to fall out each time we opened it. We found all the matching lids and then stacked the containers back in a different cupboard. The reason I did this was so that we could put together some new things for Adrian to rummage. Aaron felt very useful, responsible and grown up when doing all this. Of course, I used it as an excuse to bring up messages of "helping his brother", "helping me" and "helping his family".

And thats all I have for today. Hopefully, it will bring some fun to another mother/child pair out there.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Me, Interrupted 1000 Times A Day

Aargh! Its been one of those days....

If there is one thing that I just cannot get used to about motherhood, its the constant interruptions. I have come to terms with and accepted that being a mother can be dirty, sleep depriving, food depriving and even privacy depriving. However, the one thing that I still find hard is dealing with the constant interruptions.

Its not just that I'm constantly interrupted. I'm continuously, constantly interrupted for days on end. From the moment I wake up to the time that I go to sleep at night, I am interrupted in everything I do. There are interruptions at every meal. And then interruptions at the clean up. Interruptions when I'm trying to teach Aaron something, or when I'm playing with Adrian, or when I'm talking to my parents. I'm even interrupted (by Aaron, Adrian or both of them) when I try to talk to Aaron about not interrupting.

I know this is part of being a mother and its going to be my job to teach the boys not to interrupt but right now, its a huge source of frustration. To go day after day without being able to feel any sense of accomplishment because every task is done in a hurry in order to minimize the number of interruptions that have to be dealt with before finishing a usually half baked job. I'm not even talking about any activities for myself, I don't even get the satisfaction of completing the everyday things. Its no fun at all.

So here's the plan. I am going to start and end each day, alone with Aaron, doing something about the interruptions. I know he is more than ready to be taught and reminded about letting other people finish doing whatever they're doing. As it is, he is already feeling what its like to be interrupted by Adrian. I'm not going to work on Adrian yet because it will just add to me pulling more of my hair out.

Wish me luck and ask me about it in a couple of month.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Modern Baba

In August last year, I blogged about the Peranakan culture. I might (or might not) have mentioned that the reason that the culture has all but fizzled out is because it is so chauvinistic and had Nyonya women doing all the work. Their cooking and needlework skills was what they were judged on when being considered as a potential wife.

Anyway, a large part of a Nyonya's life would have been spent in the kitchen, pounding up spices. Its not as simple as it looks. You've got to have rhythm and just the right amount of strength to get the job done without splattering it everywhere.

Seeing that I have no daughters, I'm exploring this part of my heritage with my sons. So, here is my little Baba, pounding up some onions. They didn't need to reach a paste like texture so it was a fairly easy task for him.

My brother is always saying that I'm making my sons do girly things but I don't. They offer to come help me with this stuff and I'm going to make full use of all this helpfulness while it lasts.

Monday, January 3, 2011

2 Carriages of Brown Stuff

Happy New Year everybody! We've had two action packed days to the new year and its now time for some quiet time. On the first day of the year, our whole family spent nine straight hours playing Wii games. My right arm is still a little sore from the Bollywood dancing in "Just Dance"! Yesterday, we spent the day with Thomas and Friends at the Ipswich Rail Workshops Museum.

The museum is having a month long event called "Day Out With Thomas" and has "brought" Thomas and many of his friends for a visit. Sir Topham Hatt is there with 5 story telling sessions a day. There is also a play area setup with low tables and all the imaginable Thomas train sets. An under 3s area is also setup to keep the younger ones entertained.

During the story telling sessions with Sir Topham Hatt, he takes the children for short walks around the museum and also has songs incorporated. When he was leading the song "She'll be coming round the mountain", he'd pause each time to ask the children what the carriages were holding. Aaron stuck his hand up in the air each time and I thought to myself that he really has come along way in a year.

BUT. When Sir Topham Hatt asked him what the carriages were holding, he yelled out "Brown Stuff!!!".

That was when I activated my thick mom-skin and shrink to shrink and blend in with the crowd. What could he mean by "Brown Stuff"? My mind immediately went to the worst possible meaning. He made the suspense even worse when he giggled loudly as Sir Topham Hatt asked "What sort of Brown Stuff?"

"Its *giggle* *giggle* *giggle*....its...*giggle* *giggle*....WORMS!"


You can't imagine the relief I felt. Everybody knows that the only predictable thing about kids are that they are UN-predictable. Phew! again....

Here's Aaron telling Sir Topham Hatt that the Island of Sodor is not real...

Real or not, Thomas is still a favorite...

Photo op with Donald...

Here's a photo of all the little tables. I'll have to take Aaron back on a weekday when its not so crowded.

And here's a final one of Adrian...