Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Science of a Smile

Mornings are an extremely busy time. I don't find it stressful but it is definitely hectic. On Friday morning, we were stopped at the lights and I smiled to myself. All of a sudden, I felt my whole face relax. I didn't even realize how much tension I was carrying around on my forehead, cheeks and scalp. In fact, I thought I felt that relaxation move down my spine. It felt really good. The lights, changed and I drove off.

At the next lights, I smiled again and once again, I felt some sort of release emanate from my mouth, across my face and scalp and down my spine. After that, I tried a few consecutive smiles and I thought felt the change each time although it diminished with each subsequent smile.

This got me thinking about the simple smile. We like being smiled at - genuinely smiled at and not a leering or crazy looking kind of course. And, I believe most people like smiling - and having the reasons to smile. Its such a powerful little gesture. And probably more powerful than I initially thought after my little experiment last week.

I came across two interesting articles about smiles. Both of them discuss the why and how we smile and its impact on other people. They also talk about fake smiles and how we intuitively recognize them. Unfortunately, neither one really goes in depth about the benefits of a smile to the person doing the smiling - that'll be my experiment. They are longish articles but worth a read through.

The first article, More To A Smile Than Lips And Teeth, is about a team that has tried to build a new scientific model of the smile. This supposedly accounts not only for the source of smiles but also how people perceive them.

Interestingly, the second one was published just 10 days ago and has almost the same title as what I have put on my blog here. Our Social Nature : The Surprising Science of A Smile is an interview with Marianne LaFrance who is the author of "Lip Service: Smiles in Life, Death, Trust, Lies, Work, Memory, Sex and Politics". I learnt something new from here. There is a single muscle that determines the sincerity of a smile - the obicularis occuli. This encircles the eye socket and is what causes crows feet wrinkles. Supposedly, most people can't deliberately cause a contraction of this muscle. It only happens if you smile from your heart!

Even if you don't read the two articles, try summoning a genuine smile the next time you're caught in traffic or waiting at a check out. You might feel a little silly smiling at nobody but then it might make you laugh and help you make a more genuine smile. See if you feel that release of tension.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Flash Back To 1988

During the drive to Aaron's school this morning, I heard a familiar name come over the radio - "Roxette". Roxette!!! Two seconds later, I hear "1927". Does anybody else remember these two bands? There will be a Roxette concert, featuring 1927, next February 14. Will I be there? That is the question.

This takes me back to Grade 8. I was 12 and they were my absolute favorites (before, New Kids On The Block). I think I still remember the words to "The Look". And the 1927 album "...ish" is still one of my all time favorites. Oh wait, I should put my favorite song here so you can all listen while reading.

I know I only had tapes of Roxette and 1927. Did they even release the albums on CDs back then? It was just yesterday that I was telling a friend that I never really feel older. This doesn't exactly make me feel old, it just makes me think that some of my memories were from a long, long time ago.

It was fun to be reminded of the music that used to be part of my younger life. I've gone through several clips on YouTube, and it looks like I like the songs as much as I did 23 years ago. To show that I do keep with the times, I also looked through some Usher stuff.

Apart from nursery rhymes and other kiddy music, what was your first favorite song?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Off To The Doctor's Again

Aaron has had four major breakouts of ulcers in his mouth these past two months. I'm sure we all know how much pain a single ulcer can cause and this poor boy has had to endure three or four ulcers at the same time during each of those breakouts. We were initially told that it was 'normal' in some people or it could be a food intolerance but finally, a younger GP flagged it as strange enough to refer us to a pediatrician. While she explained the need to see a specialist, she casually rang all sorts of alarm bells in my head by mentioning words like 'sinister' and 'auto-immune diseases'. Thank you very much for the gray hairs, doctor!

So, off we went yesterday. Surprisingly, we didn't have the usual 30 minute wait for an appointment at a doctors clinic. We only waited 10 minutes and the doctor was very apologetic about that wasted time. Maybe thats what the higher doctor's fees buys you.

As expected, we don't have any answers yet but at least an x-ray of his lymph glands has minimized the chances of it being any auto-immune disease. Phew! I hope those chances stay slim. To try to find out whats causing these outbreaks, we had to take Aaron for his very first blood tests. I was prepared for a traumatic time (for both him and me) but apart from a little nervousness, he was very brave. He just watched as they stuck the needle into him and sucked his blood out, something I can never do. We'll get those results next Wednesday.

I hope that bravery and all the bragging he did afterwards boosts his confidence because I have another order for blood tests in my bag. If he has another outbreak of ulcers, we're supposed to get some tests done during the painful period. I can't even get him to play during those times.

In the meantime, we now have another referral from the pediatrician to an E.N.T. specialist. The pediatrician took one look into Aaron's mouth and seemed blown away by how massive his tonsils were. I believe his exact words were that "they need their own postcodes". Great! Something else to help the production of gray hairs.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Working Together With Aaron

My favorite day in each of Aaron's school terms is the day that we get to work with the child. For one whole hour every term, I get to see what he gets up to in his classroom. I wish they would make it a full day.

In the past, I've left it up to him to choose our activities but I've grown a little wiser and suggested we did one activity from each of the four areas (Practical Life, Sensorial, Language and Numbers) in the classroom today.

Remember that post about Flip Flop Competitiveness? Well, since then I've probably been a little too keen to find out from Aaron what he's been up to every day. I'll admit that I've been pushing him a little and getting frustrated because I was getting the impression that he isn't interested to learn new things. Thankfully, my mind is at peace again.

The one hour was incredibly enjoyable and was over too soon. With about 20 minutes left, I noticed that I did bring my camera and couldn't resist taking just a few photos.

He didn't initially show me his work with the South American map. It was lying, neatly, to one side of the class when we walked past and I asked him what sort of game it was. Then, he told me that he had been making labels for the South American countries today. Ah....I felt proud. We sat down at it awhile and then put it aside again for him to continue tomorrow.

After the map, we went to check the laundry that some other children had hung out to dry.

Aaron showed me his newly acquired ironing skills.

I wish I could have spent more time with him there. Better yet, I wish that our home was setup that way and I could be his teacher! Its so much fun.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Grossness With Grace

Sometimes, I have to be gross. So if you're eating or don't feel like going 'EEWWWW!', you'd better come back another day.

Its a dirty, dirty job but someone's got to do it. Yes, of course I'm talking about motherhood. Everybody knows that along with the baby comes dirty nappies and spit up. But nobody can really imagine the type of gross situations that these little ones can put a parent in. So, this post may be gross but its also part of every day life in many households.

So far, I've had 'EEWWWW' situations like finding a smear of you-know-what next to Aaron's lips.

And, I've also had totally gross panic-turned-to-sheer-horror situations like when I thought Adrian was bleeding in bed next to me only to have my hand quickly covered in squishy you-know-what as I tried to check for where he was bleeding from.

After 5 years of work experience now,I think I've graduated from the Grossness Class. I may still think 'EEWWW!' to myself but those gross situations are handled as easily as wiping a snotty nose. There is no more apprehension, gagging and general squeamishness.

Last week, we had a nappy that wasn't fastened properly. This was only discovered when I noticed little brown gobs polka dotting the floor. It was a Modern Cloth Nappy which actually ups the grossness factor when it come to cleaning up. And don't forget that its winter here and Adrian had track pants with the tight ankles on. But, I didn't feel any stress about it at all. Lots and lots of wet wipes got Adrian and the floor cleaned up in no time. High powered spray of the clothes got that mess sorted.

And today, Adrian cried so hard that he vomited all over my lap. That cheeky little guy managed to keep himself completely clean. Immediately, Richard tried to take him away so I could clean up but I said "No no, he's too upset. Let him get happy first." I had him on my hip for a good 10 minutes after that, cuddling and playing with him. The smell was awful and it looked disgusting against my black pants. In the end, it was Adrian that pulled away and I think it was because the smell was getting to him.

I honestly, did not feel even the tiniest bit disgusted with all of that smelly stuff on me. That realization felt incredibly strange and I felt a strange sense of pride. I'm one of those experienced mothers. The disclaimer here is that I think my new powers only works if the situations were created by my own children.

C'mon parents, leave me a comment about your most disgusting situation.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Aaron had his 5th Birthday on Sunday. We had planned for a quiet day with the family but it ended up being a fun, and somewhat more noisy day, playing with sand. It was all put into action at the last minute. I baked the cake at 6am and then we all went to Mass at 8.30am. After Mass, I asked one of our Sunday hang-out friends if they were free to join us for a bit of play. They were, and an hour later, we were all by the beach. We had the cake for morning tea and continued with more sand castle building. The kids were still having fun at lunch time so we bought some fish and chips for lunch.

It was a simple, no fuss birthday 'party'. There is always a lot of hype around birthdays and its even more intense since Aaron started going to kindergarten. I want Aaron to feel that birthdays are special but aren't only about birthday parties, presents and being the center of attention. While he's little and his family are still the most wonderful people in the world to him, I'd like to make birthdays an extra special family day.

As I looked through the photos from the day, I was reminded of the birthdays he had in Palembang. (We did organised the whole party thing but that was because the rest of the days were so mundane.) More specifically, it occurred to me that the older he got, the smaller his cakes were. Of course, this last one had the added ingredients of all my love and best wishes for him.

2nd Birthday:

3rd Birthday:

5th Birthday:

At this rate, it won't be long before he has a birthday cupcake!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Breaking All The Rules

WOW! Since putting up my last post, I've more or less been asleep for the past three days. And when I wasn't asleep, I was breaking almost every rule I set for my parenting self.

It all started on Tuesday morning when I just couldn't get myself warm. I stood in the sun with two jumpers on and still, I was freezing. After that, I couldn't keep awake! I had no choice then but to put a DVD on so that I could snooze while the TV babysat. And, on top of not being able to stay awake, I also couldn't keep any food in me. I was miserable!

Aaron and Adrian were the ones that 'benefited' from it all. I don't think they've ever watched so much TV and not needed to pick up any toys, brush their teeth or finish their meals. Its all a bit of a blur to me and I'm not sure what else they got up to.

I do remember vaguely that Aaron saw a clip of Julia Gillard on the "7pm Project" (30 minute talk show on whatever is in the news). After that, they had Dani, one of the Masterchef contestants on and he asked the question "Why is Dani on the government?

He was so confused. He knows who Julia Gillard is and must have thought that the 7pm Project setting she was in was 'the government'. My poor son. I haven't had the energy to clear that mess up yet.

I think I need another nap now, just in case. Aaron will be turning 5 this weekend and I have plans that I need to be fit to carry out.

Monday, August 1, 2011

If I Had My Child to Raise Over Again

I don't look for poems to read but every now and then, I come across one that really speaks to me.

This poem by Diana Loomans was in the second chapter of the book "The no-cry discipline solution" by Elizabeth Pantley.

If I Had My Child to Raise Over Again
by Diana Loomans

If I had my child to raise all over again,
I'd finger paint more, and point the finger less.
I'd do less correcting, and more connecting.
I'd take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.
I would care to know less, and know to care more.
I'd take more hikes and fly more kites.
I'd stop playing serious, and seriously play.
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
I'd do more hugging, and less tugging.
I would be firm less often, and affirm much more.
I'd build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I'd teach less about the love of power,
And more about the power of love.

I don't need a grown child to realize that I want to enjoy and absorb every second of Aaron's and Adrian's childhood. Just thinking of Aaron turning five in a few short days is enough for me to miss his early years.

At the same time, I can't leave it up to Adrian to smack himself and need to get better at my disciplining skills.