Liberation of the 30-year-old brat

As the year draws close to an end, I’m once again emotionally charged as I do with the turning of each new year; looking back at 2013 is somewhat spiritually satisfying, yet sordid in its ways.

The Coming of the Storm
The year started like every other – typical of my stay-at-home mom lifestyle – yet with one significant difference: I was undergoing psychiatric help for postpartum depression. You know what they say about the rainbow after the storm? I think that is how I am living now each day; fresh air in my head and rainbows in my heart now that the storm is finally over. It has felt like a long journey, from the start of my pregnancy with Lisa until she was around 9 months old. The accidental pregnancy came as a joy but reality (and my somewhat unrealistic expectations) slowly turned my life into a painful dread, dragging along the lives and emotions of the people around me…

I don’t remember exactly how or why it happened but I would believe it started when I had to be on bed rest due to a low-lying placenta that was threatening to fully detach itself and kill my unborn child. Forced to stay home each and every day brought on a sense of loss I cannot begin to describe… All the living I was missing out, and how much more I would continue to lose out on after having a third child… Almost all my “good years” had already been given to my first two children, and turning 30 wasn’t going to make things better. I had always dreaded the big three-O, and arriving at it as the main caregiver of 3 kids, still no driving license (let alone a car), no stash of cash parked away, no fancy things to my name… It grew into something I could not live with.

Throw in the handful of (eventually broken) promises Hubs made when we found out about the pregnancy, life seemed out of control and pointless. It was as if I would never get to where I wanted to be.

The Daily Storm
For the first six months of Lisa’s life, I spent most of my time escaping reality through slumber. Whenever I was awake, I would either be yelling or crying. I was always angry, lost, upset. I would look at my beautiful baby girl and feel a mixture of awe and awful. Days blurred, I lost track of time, each day was a challenge on its own.

My marriage started falling apart because I couldn’t let go of what Hubs had promised but did not deliver: the doula he said he would get for me, a vacation, more time and attention for me during my pregnant days. In stark contrast, the reality was him working overseas several days at a time, back to back around major Southeast Asia cities during my pregnancy. One time I had to carry the 19-kg firstborn to the doctor for his HFMD when I was seven months pregnant.

Then when the baby arrived, Hubs left me home alone with my freshly healing third C-section operation and a wailing newborn on the first day I was discharged from the hospital. Imagine that! I was popping powerful painkillers every 3 hours just to not feel like dying. (On this topic, I would like to add each consecutive C-section is more painful and takes longer to heal. True story.)

He said he would take care of me throughout the duration of my pregnancy, but the truth was he did not (and could not). We went through two bouts of HFMD – in Nov 2011 and March 2012 – and both times he was not even in the country. There was only so much a weak-willed woman like me could withstand without crumbling. So we started fighting. Each and every day, there was always something I could bring up from yesterday or 8 years ago that could start a row. I was unhappy and I made sure he knew it.

The fights brought us to the brink of divorce. The in-laws were told, the close friends knew. Everyone told us to mend the relationship, but I was too far gone into my own self-afflicted sorrow. I even went to the extent of throwing him (and his things) out of the house.

Then one day, my mom-in-law handed me a stack of dollar notes and said (in Chinese): “Shelly, be good. Go see a doctor for this. There is something wrong with you emotionally and we are not going to sit and watch you spiral. Before you decide if this marriage should be ended, you should still get yourself better. For yourself and for the kids.” 

So I did. And it was the best damned thing anyone has ever told me to do.

Mending The Soul
With my emotional healing, there came a need to heal the marriage that was now basically torn to shreds by my vindictive bitterness. There was essentially nothing really wrong about my husband, just the usual male-oriented carelessness and a myriad of other little issues. As a father he’s great, but as a husband there is often a lack of affection and *ahem* resources. I cannot begin to count the number of things he said he would get for me but still have not. (9 years and counting for some.)

So he took us to Bangkok in February 2013, just the two of us (and Lisa because she was breastfeeding). Finally we went on this “honeymoon” we had talked about so much through the years but never got round to doing. There was always the issue of babysitting and finances. ALWAYS. I came back a new woman. It was like an invisible boulder was lifted off me and I could breathe again. The numbness in my heart started fading away with the completion of one of the many promises we had. Finally, something had been done. There was hope again. Maybe this man isn’t just full of big words and little action. (But sad that it had to take a major emotional breakdown to finally kickstart something.)

The recovery process could not have been possible without the support of my bestie. She would sit through entire nights with me, talking it out with me until dawn broke. She lent me her eyes for a different view of the situation, something that was sorely needed. Through her eyes, I saw the beauty of my accidental daughter and how damn lucky I am to have what I have despite of it all. Sure, things could be better, but it could also be a lot shit worse. Why compare with the grass on the other side since you’re not on there and can’t ever be?

And while I can never regain the precious first 9 months of my daughter’s life that I’ve unwittingly thrown away, I have the rest of my life with her. I’ll be damned if I am going to live it out with guilt and screw that up again. Ironically, while I initially cursed at God for granting me an unwanted child, I now cannot give thanks enough for bringing this beautiful little angel into my life. Daughters are so precious, everyone should have one! :mrgreen:

Growing The Mind & Heart
While my relationship with the mom-in-law had been decent ever since I gave her grandbabies, we grew closer than ever after my ordeal. Now we often talk on the phone about everything and nothing. She’s become the mother that I always wished I had! The husband and I have also grown closer and our marriage is stronger than ever. The kids, well, they’re still the same kids except they now know mom has the ability to go “all loco” too just like on TV. 😆

And as the pieces of me starting falling back into place better than ever, there came a change in attitude. I got myself a work-from-home job that pays fairly well, started going to the gym again, cooking for the family, spending more time with the kids, keeping in touch with friends. You know, the stuff that actually matter. I stopped pining over the things I couldn’t have and couldn’t be, and started trying to be a better version of me. I even started a small sum of savings, something I never could have done previously due to my “shopping to fill a void” habit.

With all the little changes that took place over the span of 2013, I have become a better and happier me. Someone who finally has her priorities right: Family, friends, finances (in that order); and no longer needs to be a mean bitch to get her way because she can look past it. To let go is to let myself live happily. I don’t know why that took so long to get into my thick head, but I’m glad I finally got it. I have never felt more carefree in all my years, now that a lifetime of bitterness has been laid to rest. I see with renewed clarity and resolution, especially on the things that matter. In celebration of my (way overdue) wisdom, I got a new tattoo that also serves as a reminder of what’s important.

An EKG-inspired design that reads “love life”: symbolic that as long as my heart is beating, I will love life for what it is.

Christmas of 2013 – The Best One Ever Had
This weekend, as our family of five celebrated Christmas with a Swedish dinner buffet at IKEA and festive partaking at Universal Studios Singapore, I was overwhelmed countless times by the simple joy of us being together. We talked and laughed throughout our 2-hour dinner, despite the oppressive diners who insist in snatching up food and us initially not even having a table. Josh muttered to himself with a smile several times throughout the meal: “It’s a good day! It’s a good day!” Kee had an extra bag of his usual funny antics and was impeccably well-behaved. And Lisa, oh our dear Lisa, was just happily stuffing her face with chocolate desserts and giggling from the sugar high.

At Universal Studios, as we huddled together under the (fake and foamy) snow, surrounded by cheery festive tunes, my eyes welled up. Our children full of glee marveling at the “snow” and I was there to share it with them. We shouted Merry Christmas to each other and exchanged kisses. It was a beautiful moment. This is what life should be about. This is what living should feel like. Sure, there will always be shitty days, but THIS is what I am going to live for.

The boys experiencing “snow” for the first time at Universal Studios Singapore!

Dinner at Chili’s was enjoyable again as well, heaps of laughter and good spirits going around the table. The boys had free flow drinks with their kids’ meals, and Kee was up to his usual nonsense saying he was going to drink “soooooooo many cups of Fanta Orange because can top up what.” We tricked Lisa into eating the mashed potato even though she had made it very clear she hated it and wanted the fries instead. Everyone laughed at her expense, and yet she giggled along with us, even making funny faces to entertain us.

Lisa being funny during dinner. Hehe.

A post shared by Shelly (@whimsg) on

Then to keep the festive mood going, we came back home and opened presents! No one received anything expensive or fancy (Hubs didn’t even get a gift at all *gasp*) but everyone was happy. Josh received an Angry Birds pajama set, Kee got a dark grey hoodie jacket (so that he can look that Darth Vader or Batman he says) and Lisa loved her new dresses and Hello Kitty bracelet. Hubs got me the GUND Boo plushie that I had been eyeing for months but refused to buy because it’s a non-essential. It’s a good Christmas, the best by far. 😀

Merry Christmas & Happy 2014, everyone. I hope the new year brings you spiritual abundance and the best days you will ever live. I know I’m looking forward to more great moments like these!

Mother’s Day 2011

All that was achieved on Mother’s Day 2011: I slept the whole Sunday away.

No, seriously.

Hubs and I popped by the Pineapple House to join in the “Election Party” in the wee hours of Saturday night, thereafter we went for a late night screening of Fast 5 at Cathay Cineleisure. (Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson, woohoo!) We had supper at breakfast time, then we went home and I slept in the whole day. Shiok, even though waking up with massive muscle soreness wasn’t exactly comfortable.

All this would not have been possible without extremely understanding children and a devoted trustworthy domestic helper. The boys understood that Daddy and Mommy wanted to have “alone time” and (somewhat grudgingly) agreed to let us out for the night. (Though truth be told, we would have sneaked out after they fell asleep anyway if they did not consent.)

And all this understanding and support would not have been possible without our Heavenly Father.

Thank Lord for wonderful loving kids and our ever-dependable helper, Joy. 🙂

Blessed you shall be.

Out of nowhere, as I was on the toilet, God’s voice entered my head and said: “You shall quit smoking when you are pregnant again.”
But um, no, we’re not too sure if we’re going to have more children. So NUH-AH.

A couple of days later, His voice entered my head again as I was taking the bus. This time He said: “You will have a daughter.”

OMGWTFBBQ. You win.

I have no idea how, when or why we would have a daughter, or how we would raise her cos girls are just so not my forte. But whatever, you cannot challenge His plans for you. I only want to challenge that I have a smooth painless natural delivery if and when I have my daughter. I stand on His word for this and I know He will make it good if it is His plan for me to have a daughter.

He’d better.

Religion & Remembrance

The new tatt.

5 hours of dedication from talented Deborah, the tattoo artist. Minus the prior time to draft out the design because I have no talent at drawing.
5 hours of patience on my part. This is the single most painful tattoo I literally had to endure.
My first personalised tattoo; currently the biggest piece of art on me.

A physical reminder to keep the faith.
A remembrance piece for those who have gone home to the Lord.

Dear Lord, please make my stretch marks vanish.

And the door opened…

Just a couple nights ago, Hubs and I were talking about how to recognise an opportunity when it presents itself. We’ve agreed that most opportunities don’t present themselves blatantly and beg you to take them, they’re usually subtle hints that attempt to nudge you onto the right path in life but often fail seeing how most of us are thick in the head.

Hubs then proudly proclaimed that in order to avoid scenarios as such, what he does is to pray (yes you read me right) for clear signs; for God to open the doors that he should walk through and close the ones that he shouldn’t. “Make it obvious, Lord, for I am thick in the head”, he reiterated to me.

So I said my prayer aloud, in like fashion as he does, and asked for obvious signs for the roads I should take. Knowing myself, I would be able to detect subtle hints (spiritual ones or otherwise), but sometimes choose to ignore them because of my narrow-mindedness and/or unwillingness to change.

Then today, the strangest thing happened.

I was approached with a very decent job offer. When I wasn’t looking for any – consciously or subconsciously – and when I never expected something like this to happen. I mean, it almost feels as though I was head-hunted, just that it was an offer direct from the company and not from a headhunter. And by all counts, I haven’t been working full-time for more than four years now, so it was certainly the last thing I’d expect to happen!

So here goes, a clear path for me to walk onto; an evident route for me to take, even when it wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for when I said my prayer.

Sometimes, Lord, You amaze me with the things You do (and the speed at which You do it)! Please continue to make my weight loss efforts fruitful, and grant me with wisdom and patience to prosper in all that You have planned for me. Amen.

 

Facing it with Faith

It’s an annual “tradition” that we have – having the whole family fall sick in the month of December. Some years it was consecutive and we’ll fall sick one by one in quick succession, or we’ll all be down at the same time.

This year, Josh and I were down with flu and food poisoning. Hubs was down with a bad cold and Kee was plagued by teething pains and the fever that accompanies it. Fever that went up to 39.2℃ and got me into quite a panic mode.

The only difference between this year and the past few is that I kept the faith. I viewed it as an annual “cleansing” of the body and mind – detoxing through the removal of viruses within us, and the opportunity to learn appreciation for a healthy body. I don’t know if that was what shortened the misery this year, but everyone got well much faster this year. Kee took 2 days, Josh took 4, Hubs took about 6 days and I am just out of it after about 10 days. (Naturally, right? Since I’m the one who fell sick first and still had to take care of everyone else when it was their turn.)

Instead of cursing about it this year, I took it as a good reminder from God to have faith and keep on keeping on. And as I have mentioned earlier in another post, I believe my perseverance will eventually pay off. 🙂

Signs.

I wasn’t looking for one; just idly reading up on my blog subscriptions when it hit me.

I shall keep on keeping on like the way any decent mother/wife should (except I’m hardly “decent”) and await to reap what I have sown. Dear Lord, don’t punk me on this one or I will have to pull out “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”.

Meanwhile, I am still learning how to quietly swallow the utter displeasure towards not having a childless getaway. Or even a child-included one.

*pouts and flails arms in discontentment*

The Truth About Parenting (My Version)

#1 – There’s no such thing as the “Perfect Parent”

No one’s perfect, so why would there be perfect parents? Humans are not all-knowing and faultless. Graciously acknowledge any mistakes you may have made as a parent (and as a person), learn the lesson, and impart the wisdom to your children. That knowledge is more valuable than being a picture perfect Mom/Dad. Your children will learn that it is perfectly normal to be wrong sometimes, and they will learn humility and the importance of being honest.

Taking the pressure off yourself will also make you a fun parent to be around, because you won’t be uptight about needing to be “right” and “good” all the time. The result is happier children who are comfortable being around you because you are comfortable being yourself. They will also learn how to accept themselves to be “less than perfect” because you would have shown them how to live in harmony with yourself and others even when one is not perfect.

 

#2 – Good parents say “Sorry”

This is closely related to #1, but yet an entirely different matter altogether. While an erred parent may admit to committing mistakes, it does not mean he or she would seek forgiveness from their children. Many parents find it hard to admit their wrongdoings to their own children, seeing how Asian society tends to place the parents in a hierarchy above the children, let alone seek forgiveness. “Your parents are always right”, you’d hear people saying. But is it really true?

I know this may sound insane to most parents, but if you view these little people as individuals, apologies are necessary when required. Children are humans too – not an extension of their parents – and they deserve the same respect you would give to another adult. And while you’re at it, tell them exactly what you did wrong (though they would most likely know what it was), why and how it happened, and wait for forgiveness. Teach them not to commit the same mistakes that you did, and teach them to have a gracious heart knows how to forgive.

 

#3 – Your child is an individual of his own possibilities

Despite the genetics, strange habits and quirks inherited from you and your spouse, your children are not extensions of neither parent. They are individuals with a unique blend of preferences, talents, goals, limitations and a mind of their own. Do not assume you can read your child’s mind thoroughly. Sure, you can predict he would want to do a certain something based on his hobbies, but when it goes deeper into the capabilities he feels he possesses, it is an entirely different ball game.

Do not impose what you feel he or she is capable of. Do not try to make them live out your dreams. Do not assume you know what’s “best for them”. Even if you may be right, trial and error is a crucial part of growing up. Do not deny them of their right to make their own choices and, most importantly, their opportunity to learn from their own mistakes. We only fully learn a lesson after we’ve been through it ourselves; it’s just how the human mind is programmed to work. Allowing them to make their own judgment will only make them wiser and more self-assured.

 

#4 – Accept, and celebrate, uniqueness

What works for someone else’s child may not work for your child. What is considered as “conventional parenting” may not work for you either. (I am a classic example.) If you have strong reason to believe that going against the norm will do your child good, then by all means, DO IT. When Barney sang that all children “are special in his or her own way”, it was meant to be taken at face value – gender and societal stereotypes aside. If your girl wants to play with cars, she might grow up to be an outstanding mechanical engineer. And if your boy wants to buy (and wear) a girly bead bracelet, he might just grow up to be a famous jewellery designer. (He might be gay too, but does that really matter?)

Yes, I am actually referring to Josh who had desperately wanted to buy a $3 bead bracelet from Cotton On Kids, and has been wearing it for the past week whenever he’s not in school or in bed. Am I freaked out? Nope. Is Daddy freaked out? A tad, I believe. He refused to buy the bracelet for Josh citing that “people may laugh at him”. Well, who gives a hoot about what other people think? If he’s happy wearing it, and he feels it expresses his individuality, those people can laugh their heads off for all I care. He knew what he wanted (he picked it out from the bottom of a clear plastic box filled with similar bracelets) and he relentlessly pursued it (insisting I took out that specific one for him when I passed him a similar one). I was merely assisting him to achieve his goal by paying for it. If he applies the same tenacity to everything else that he does in life, he is going to be one successful person!

 

#5 – Be a friend

Before you think I’m leaning towards the Western liberal approach towards parenting, let me first say I am 100% for punishing children who misbehave. We have a rattan cane at home, and we do use it occasionally – mostly just to threaten the kids. But over the past year, I have come to realise that it does not work. Maybe my children are special, and immune to the pain of physical punishment. But when I gave it some good thought, it occurred to me that it was simply because it does not make sense to the child.

For example, Josh hits Kee. We punish him by hitting him. He must now think that hitting is allowed in this house then, since we’re doing it to him. Then what’s so wrong with what he did to Kee? In another (hypothetical) example, Josh plays with his food and makes a huge mess. If we mete out physical punishment and clean up his mess for him, he will never fully understand the consequences or why we are angry about a dirty table/floor. An appropriate punishment would be for him to clean up on his own (even if it wouldn’t be done properly) so he learns that he must take responsibility for his actions. Thereafter ask him how he would like to be cleaning up our mess every single day. (The answer will almost definitely be negative.)

That’s a bit of digression there, but it’s somewhat necessary to illustrate my point.

If you are a friend to your child, you would advise on what is right or wrong. However, it is up to the child to choose his path (see point #3). If he chooses the wrong path, he has to bear the consequences on his own. As a friend, you have every right to be angry that he did not listen to your recommendations, but you can also choose to support him through his decision (ie: helping him clean up the mess he created). As parents, we are the most important friends our children will ever have, and we will always be held in the highest regard. No child in this world who would want to make their “favourite best friends” angry at them and put the “friendship” at risk. When you truly love someone, you will always want them to be happy and you will do everything in your power to get them there. A child would naturally behave the same way towards his parents, and not want to be the cause of unhappiness. This “punishment” is the most effective and teaches the most valuable lessons to a child.

Another aspect of being a friend to your child is about sharing. You share your triumphs so they may partake in your joy and celebrate with you. You share your failures so they may learn the lessons without having to live with the consequences. You share your feelings of fear and sadness, so that they may in turn share their worries and sorrows with you. Relationships are two-way streets and it is no different for a parent-child bond. To be a good parent, you have to first be a worthy friend; only then can you learn and teach effectively and live together harmoniously.

::

These are my own views on parenting, so I don’t expect everyone to agree with my school of thought. But judging by the amount of empathy the boys show to me, these points must be beneficial to creating a close-knit parent-child connection. As I had sat on the kitchen floor sobbing during one of Hubs’ overseas trips, Josh reassured me that “Papa will be back” and that I shouldn’t cry or worry. And this happened just minutes after I had yelled nastily at both of them for not going to bed on time. If that isn’t love, then I don’t know what is. 🙂

Sometimes you cannot ignore the signs.

Not too long ago, I embarked on my Project 1K. (Which I must mention is still quite a failure til date.)

Strangely, after I announced my plans, I starting putting on 1 horrendous kg every single week, for 3 weeks on end. I was told that it was due to Kee weaning off breastfeeding and switching to the bottle, causing my metabolism to dip drastically. (I was also told it was due to my constant complaining about being right smack between size 10 and 12, so God give me 3 extra kg to make me a proper size 12.) My boobs also concurrently shrank and went down a whole size (from 38C to a pathetic 36B now). While I’ve managed to keep my weight in check since late September, it’s currently still hovering around 70kg. GAH!

So… now I have to lose 4 kg in 3 months’ time, instead of the initial plan of 1 kg in 3 months. I’ll be darned if I hear remarks of “Are you pregnant again?!” over Christmas or Chinese New Year. Project 1K is now retitled as Project 4k (4000 grams), due by X’mas. Talk about pressure!

Which brings me to my point: Whatever I had put away for the monetary aspect of Project 1K has now gone into getting an exercise bike.

OTO zooozh

Now, don’t ask me why I can’t just slip on my running shoes and hit the pavement. I’ve never been the runner sort – having my fats jiggling around in public while feeling the sweat sting my eyes isn’t my idea of an enjoyable workout. It only works to scare me off any form of exercise. But cycling is something I enjoy and used to do long distance from East Coast to Tampines and back. But I can’t just take off and cycling long distance nowadays (given my commitment to the kids and the horrid weather), so this is my next best option.

So today, while I was on my way to buy the bike, I erm… did the usual thing of browsing the shops. And would you believe it, there wasn’t a single piece of clothing that I fancied! (Except for those gorgeous coats, fur-lined jackets and sweater dresses, but those are insane for tropical weather so I wouldn’t have bought them anyway.)

I dug and I dug, rack after rack, shelf after shelf, in complete utter disbelief that there wasn’t a single item that took my fancy. Finally I found a lovely top – on sale at $29.90 – that only had size 14 left!! This was when I finally got the point. God says: No new clothes for Shelly because she’s supposed to lose 4kg and that’s when I’ll give her some nice new (and cheap) clothes to buy.

I couldn’t even fight it even if I wanted to. God says NO.

But when I got to the OTO store to get the bike, the sales guy told me there wasn’t any left in the warehouse; they’re completely out of stock.

So ok, that got my panties in a knot. I was all like “Hello God?! So what are you trying to say now?!” until the guy made some more calls and found me a bike –a red one (yippee!) that’s supposed to be an export model, but they’re willing to sell to me.

Ok. So God is very clear. This is my only chance to lose the flab and slim down (hopefully forever). And also, no new clothes until I’m down to a perfect size 10. Sometimes, you really can’t ignore the signs.

 

The Journey Of Self-Discovery – Living in Music

After a few episodes of pure exasperation and being on the brink of giving up on this whole life I’m living, I’ve been putting the last two weeks on the back burner, just plainly figuring out what is so wrong with the life I’m having right now.

Logically, it would make no sense if I said my life sucked. I have fairly well-behaved boys, my husband gives me my way most of the time, and I lack nothing – a roof of our own, good general health, family bliss… Yet, it is something I constantly declare aloud because I just don’t feel it being any other way.

You may probably put it down to me being spoilt. Simply by not being able to have certain materialistic things in my life makes me scream about life being horrible, etc etc. Well, maybe. (Like I said, I’m still exploring my inner self, right?)

Isn’t it sad that when you should be the one who knows yourself the best, but yet you don’t? Ironically, it seems to take time to know yourself and to allow yourself the freedom to express your desires. And my desire, is simply to be able to live in music. Something I should have known more than two decades ago, yet it took me two weeks to figure out.

The realisation brought along with it tears.

I had recalled (fondly) how I threw all caution to the wind as I danced – on stage when I was in school, at Pitbull’s recent concert, even in the smoky confines of nightclubs. And all those wayward years I had thought I enjoyed the nightlife simply for the sake of being able to overindulge in drinking and smoking. Ha!

It also shed light on why I’m always wearing a stupid grin when I strum on my pathetic plastic guitar replica as I play Guitar Hero. Not because it’s really so goddamn fun, but because I was “making music” and living in it at that precise moment. (And also because my pristine piano-playing fingers can’t play a real guitar for shit. Calluses form and I refuse to let it become a permanent part of me just to play a stupid string instrument.)

It also made me understand why I would cry each time I saw a piano. As some of you might recall, I donated mine away to make space for Joshua when he was a wee bub crawling on the floor. I had never ceased being sad about it. I still haven’t. We kept talking about getting an electronic piano (ewww) to replace that one, but it just never materalised. Honestly, I don’t even know where we can put an electronic piano when it is already so much smaller than a full size wooden piano. But since we’re not even close to getting that now, why bother thinking about it?

So that’s my “life happiness” point 1: To live in music.

Well, at least that’s something. Now the question is: How to live it?