October 29, 2009

A year wiser?

Today is my birthday. Unlike many birthdays I had in the past, this one has an aura of solemnity about it. I guess the reason is obvious. I am thousands of miles away from home and being nostalgic about my birthday is simply a normal reaction, don’t you think?

Having said that, I do not want to make this post a sappy one.

So I am going to reflect on my 31 years of existence and come up with the things that make me happy. I am too lazy to compose these thoughts into coherent sentences and paragraphs so I hope you’ll settle for this instead. 
What I am thankful for:
  • Having a very loving and supportive family. A bit dysfunctional at times but they made me who I am today.
  • Being married to a great guy who loves me very much.
  • Having 2 beautiful kids - a pair! What more can I ask for?
  • Having really great friends who genuinely care for me. Not plastic ones.
  • Owning this virtual garden and having you to read my ramblings every now and then.
Life doesn’t always go my way, but when that happens, I think about this list and my world will be fine again. Hmm...after that reflection, I feel more eager to go out with hubby and the kids tonight. Post-birthday post coming out tomorrow :)
And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years -Abraham Lincoln



October 27, 2009

These boots are made for blogging

Like so many women, I am the type who gets adrenaline rush when the word SALE is thrown in my face. The simple four-letter word is so powerful; it can make me forget the entire world. I transform into this hypnotized creature whose mission in life is to get a good bargain, no matter what. I haven’t been out shopping for quite some time, so I have almost forgotten what it feels like to be well, high.

Yesterday, as I walked into Warehouse, I was struck by that same feeling of giddiness when I saw a pair of ankle-boots in the MID SEASON SALE bin. When I tried them on, I knew it was destiny that brought me to the boots. The only pair left and it was in my size! I held the boots like a treasured trophy and scurried to the cashier to swipe my EFTPOS card. The cash register closes *TING*, the lady handed me a shopping bag and suddenly, I was hit by the familiar feeling of euphoria. Pure bliss! The kind of bliss you get from getting a good bargain. The price? Only for $4.97 after an 85% discount.

I’ll let that sink in your head for a while :)

The price seems to justify my spending don’t you think? After all, a woman can never have too many pairs of gorgeous shoes.

*I'm planning to adopt one of these styles to go with the boots. Experiment!

Short Skirts and Ankle Boots
This look is definitely a little more difficult to pull off, because a lot of women don't like their legs. But it works well because instead of showing no leg, you're showing a lot of leg -- the real trouble comes in when you only show a little leg. Look for skirts that are a couple of inches above the knee or shorter and skip anything that's too full, lest your outfit start to like a figure skating costume.

The Best Pants for Ankle Boots
This one is nearly a no-brainer -- ankle boots work with any kind of pants. The advantage to wearing them over shoes or taller boots is that you get ankle coverage without the bulk of a knee-high boot. But -- and this is a big "but" -- the only pants that work well tucked into ankle boots are very tight ones. Wide-legged pants tucked into short boots create a very unflattering balloon effect.

Ankle Boots with Leggings or Tights
I mentioned before that cropped leggings don't work well with ankle boots. Long leggings or tights however, look great -- assuming of course, that leggings look good on you in the first place. If they don't, pairing them with ankle boots isn't going to make the situation any better.

Clothes to Avoid Wearing with Ankle Boots
• Cropped Pants
• Cropped Tights
• Mid-Length Skirts with Bare Legs
• Pencil Skirts
• Shorts
• Capris

Source: http://shoes.about.com/od/whattowearwithshoes/a/wtw_ankle_boots.htm

October 24, 2009

Bedtime Story

When kiwi moms ask me what time Alden goes to bed, I always find myself in a dilemma - Should I give them a heart attack or just tell a white lie? More often than not, I'd do the latter. I'd smile weakly and squirmishly say "ermm....9-nish?" I have been telling white lies  about Alden's bedtime routine to avoid getting the accusative, "she's a BAD mother" look from people. You see, when I do tell the truth, I instantly become an alien mother from outer space. It's just incredibale how many terrified looks you can get when you tell people "Oh, my son goes to bed at 11.00 pm" Their response: eyes bulged out, jaw dropped, tongue twisted and words just fail them. Pretty amazing huh?

So what time do Kiwi kids go to bed?

It's  either 6.00 or 7.00 pm. SEVEN o'clock! If you're having a brain freeze, now rest assured that it's normal. That's how I felt when I was told "Children in NZ go to bed at 7.00 pm Alice". So what time do they wake up? 7.00 am of course! They sleep for 12 solid hours. There's no waking up at night, no milk bottle in bed, no midnight tantrums or any of that sort. 

As your toddler starts becoming more and more independent and doing so many things for himself, it's tempting to think of him as "beyond babyhood." But keep in mind that he still has many of the same needs he had as a baby. He still needs a lot of attention, a lot of cuddling, and a lot of sleep. Toddlers need between 12 and 14 hours of sleep in total, usually 11 to 12 hours at night and another one to three hours during the day.

Adapted from Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night's Sleep by Dr. Jodi Mindell and JOHNSON'S® Your Baby and Toddler, From Birth to 3 Years, DK Publishing Inc., 2004.

Fine. So the book says tots need a LOT of sleep. I can't agree more. But where sleep is concerned, Alden is nowhere near the normal range.

For many many months I have endured Alden's abnormal sleeping habit. He has the capacity to stay up until the wee hours of the night, sometimes up till 1.00 am. I've tried putting him to bed earlier but we always end up having a mommy-son battle in bed instead.  Alden just doesn't like sleeping. He likes playing and he loves cartoon and he loves  running around the house. He can indulge in these activities for hours and hours until his energy runs low. Let's put it this way, just imagine that other kids are EVEREADY and my son is the long lasting ENERGIZER. While the other kids get a recharge, my Alden keeps on going like the ENERGIZER bunny. His recharge time comes much much later.

Having said all that, there's a twist to this entry.

A week ago, a miracle happened. Alden came home from school one day and asked for a meal, "mummy, momom" he said. After a feed and a hot shower, he asked for his bottle and started lying down on the sofa. I figured he was probably over exhausted after a long day at playschool. So I put him to bed and started singing him a lullaby. In less than 5 minutes, he was fast asleep! At 7.05 pm! He slept through the night and only woke up at 7.00 the next morning. As I was saying, miracles do happen :)

Since then, Alden has become more of an EVEREADY and less of an ENERGIZER. His new bed time routine has continued for two weeks now and I'm starting to enjoy peaceful evenings at home. I no longer need to tell white lies coz now my son goes down at 7 (well sometimes 8) and wakes up at 7 just like every other Kiwi kid. Ahh...victory never tasted so sweet :)

October 16, 2009

For better or for worse, in good times and in bad

Back in 2007, I attended a research methodology course designed for PhD candidates. The aim of the course was to provide us with a basic knowledge of post-grad research and  give us an idea of what to expect as we embark on the journey. One of the speakers made quite an impression on me when she stated  "Your PhD is like your marriage; if you don't work at it, it'll end up in a divorce". After dropping that bomb of a simile, she went on saying that life will be tough, complicated, challenging and hectic. Basically, all the negatives. At that time, I didn't think much of it and thought she might have exaggerated a little. Well, after what I have gone through this week, I must admit her words rang true.

I am taking a deep breath now. I just need to get all this frustration out of my system.

I know I've been talking in riddles and some of you might be asking Helloooo, apa ba ko mau cakap ni? So I'm going to start my story chronologically so you'll understand my disposition. WHY do I want to do that? Because it gives me a sense of order and because at this moment, every part of my study is NOT in order. So stop questioning me (I'm talking to myself).

My data collection was scheduled this week and I have been planning, preparing and anticipating it for months. The first session was done on Monday, during the students' orientation day. I was told by the Programme Coordinator that I could take one of the slots during the orientation sessions scheduled at 2.30 pm. My aim was to recruit as many participants as I could for my research and get them sign a consent sheet. Sounds so simple right? NO. I waited for almost 3 hours for all the sessions to end. The Programme Coordinator was supposed to sell my research to the students and help with the recruitment. Unfortunately, he did not keep his promise and I had to sell myself to a roomful of uninterested people. They didn't take the bait. I ended up looking like an opportunist who was up to no good. Needless to say, very few volunteered and signed the consent sheets.

I am frustrated not because of the low turnout. I am more disappointed in the fact that my time was wasted after all that careful planning. You see, since hubby has started working, I have lost some of my flexibilities and now every appointment needs to be planned carefully.  On Monday for instance, I had to book a casual (expensive) half-day session for Alden and asked for Es' help in babysitting Alva. In the morning, I had to send hubby to work (together with the kids) and get back home to get them ready. There's the feeding, the shower, the lunch box, the back pack, the baby bag, the milk bottle and a zillion of things to do and prepare. Then, I had to send Alden to school and drive all the way to Kaiapoi to send Alva. I then drove back to UC only to be disappointed by a low turnout. That was Monday.

My roomate and part time babysitter, Yuki
On Tuesday, I was all geared up to meet my participants who had willingly signed the consent sheets. This time, I couldn't afford to trouble Es so I asked Shidra, my colleague to help me babysit Alva in the office. I was that desperate. After everything was settled, I rushed to the Rutherford building on the other side of the campus. I was given a slot at 10.30 am and upon reaching the lecture room I see my participants rushing out to have a coffee break. Now why would the Programme Coordinator give me a coffee break slot when he's well aware that students wouldn't stay to do my survey? Baffling and equally as frustrating. I could practically feel my face crack in disappointment.   

Excited and happy....

before data collection...
I didn't give up. I asked for another slot and was given a 12.30 session on Wednesday. I sent Alden to school and brought Alva to the office again! This time, I asked Louise and Marilyn (from my Tulip story) to help me with the babysitting and to my relief, they were happy to do it. They are just the coolest people in the college! Anyway, after that was settled, I went to the Rutherford building to meet my elusive participants for the third time. You must be tired of reading this plot over and over again. But that's what happened. There were only three participants waiting  in the lecture room. A pathetic THREE. What could I possibly do with THREE students?  NOTHING! I decided to reschedule and told them to go home.

Kathy and Marilyn babysitting
As I walked out of the building, I felt sooo....sooo...sooo...??? Hmmm....there isn't a word to describe what I felt. Let's just say I felt robbed. Let's just use that expression for the time being ok? So as I was saying, I felt robbed and all alone in a cruel cruel world. And out of nowhere my mind started playing Celine Dion's "All by Myself" song and for the hundredth time, I was having that moment again. I never told you this but the truth is, when I'm in the blues, my mind seems to have a will of its own and it will always, always play that horrid song.

Livin alone, I thought of all the friends I've known,
but when I dial the telephone, nobody's home
All by myself, don't wanna be,
all by myself anymore...

I felt like I was in a sad music video.

This went on and on until I reached the office. All this to say that I was deeply affected by the students' no-show.

Now that I've written about it, I feel so much better. My mind is clearer (barangkali la) and I no longer feel 'robbed'. I guess the speaker was right. I am married to my PhD for better, for worse. And no matter what happens, in good times and in bad, I have to work at it and not give up. Divorce is not an option. Thank you for reading.

October 8, 2009

My Gray Week

I’ve been out of the blog world radar for exactly 9 days as I had too much going on in my life…..AS IF! Okay, the truth is, I was too lazy to even write a coherent sentence in my blog. Yup. I was feeling rather crappy. The somber weather’s to blame for my lack of mood: dark, gray, cold...basically all adjectives associated with the word GLOOMY. That’s how I’d describe the weather last week. It was so gray, it almost felt like winter.

Anyway, here’s a running total of what my gray week consisted of. (In the interest of not boring you to tears, I’m only highlighting the significant ones. Overly mundane activities such as changing diapers and usual office work will not be listed)

• Alva had her first visit to the Plunket centre
• We attended a Malaysian student gathering
• My little princess was baptised over the weekend :)

Alva's first visit to the Plunket clinic

Plunket is the country's largest provider of support service for health, development and well being of babies. Even before Alva was born, I have decided to enrol to Plunket care because it is the most established and popular support service in NZ. Upon enrolling to the Plunket programme, a registered nurse named Jane was assigned to provide support and care to me and Alva. Jane had initially made home visits to the house, but after two visits, we were asked to continue the scheduled checks at the Plunket centre instead.

Last Wednesday, we paid our first visit to the centre in Riccarton. I was particularly excited as I was dying to know Alva's weight. The check up started with a routine Q & A regarding Alva's development;  her sleeping habit, feedings and achievements. So much to keep track on and she's only 3 months! Anyway, after the Q & A, it was time for the physical assessment. We had to take her clothes off and weigh her on the scale. My heart flip-flopped when I saw the numbers on the screen: 5.5 kilograms! She'd gained another 750 grams since the last check up. Seeing this, I couldn't help but smile proudly and look at hubby with this expression that said "thanks to me and my breast milk!".  Okay, so maybe I was a bit too much there. Anyway, to make this story short and less corny, let me just say that all is well where Alva is concerned. Jane assured us that her growth is within the normal range and that we are doing a splendid job so far :)

This is Jane
Moving on to the next event...You might want to get a cup of coffee to go with this post, coz this is quite long.

Free Makan
So this happened last Saturday - 3rd October 2009. (Forgive me for my obsession with dates and time. I have this absurd sense of obligation to record each event accurately). There I was in our messy living room, still groggy at 10.45 a.m. I slept very very late the night before as I was busy decorating my virtual farm in Farm Ville - Octavia, if you're reading this, you should know that I owe this new addiction to you ;). That explains my waking up late on Saturday. So, as I was saying, I woke up late and started  planning our activity for the day. The plan was to shop for a special candle for Alva's baptism on Sunday. Other than that, there wasn't any other agenda. Since there wasn't any hurry or anything major to do, I started checking my mails on my UC student account. There was only one message in the inbox, sent on Friday. It read:

Hello Alice 
I wonder whether you know that tomorrow ada meeting KSU KPM or KPT with M'sian postgrads at Afghan Restaurant (Colombo/St.Asaph Street) at 12 -2p.m. You're invited and hope to see you there.

Of course I didn't know coz no one told me! I glanced at the clock, 11.00 a.m. already!! "We have to get there in an hour?!" Mayday!Mayday!Mayday! I hit the panic button and just went to pieces. As you can imagine, the next 50 minutes was spent running around the house in a mad rush. Kelam kabut with a capital K.

We managed to get ourselves ready in record time and dashed to the city. It was fairly easy to find the place and luckily for us there were plenty of parking spaces. We got out of the car and started making our way to the restaurant. When we finally made it across the busy road, we found ourselves facing not a restaurant but a door leading to a staircase. Funny, I thought. Since hubby was pushing Alva in the stroller, I had to go and check to see if the restaurant was indeed upstairs. Alden and I took the stairs and made it to the 1st Floor. I peeked inside and saw what appeared to be a fancy restaurant filled with many hungry-looking Malaysians. I told hubby, who was still waiting downstairs, that we were at the right place.

I pushed the glass door open and made my way into the crowded restaurant. It wasn't easy as I had this 15kg toddler in my arms. Alden just refused (vehemently) to walk into the restaurant and in an effort to avoid an ugly scene, I resorted to carrying him like a baby. When I walked in, conversations came to a shuddering halt and all eyes were on me. There was a minute of silence in the air, like malaikat/ angel limpas kind of moment you know. I was so thankful I had Alden in my arms because he served as my defense mechanism against those judgmental eyes.

They were staring not because I was wearing something fancy or anything. No. It was because I came with a toddler. Everyone else came solo! How could I have known?  I quickly found a table and sat down. Phew! After a few minutes, imagine their surprise when they saw hubby pushing Alva in the stroller, making his way towards me. They must have thought "What? Another baby? Who are these people?" Once again there was a momentary silence. Hubby joined me at the table and we looked at each other, both asking (in telepathy) "What the heck have we gotten ourselves into?" Talk about awkward!

After awhile people started ignoring us and we were happy again. Lalalalala..The guest of honour (a big shot in the Ministry of Higher Education whose name I forgot) came at 1.00pm and everyone stood up to welcome the Datuk and Datin. How very Malaysian! The lovely emcee then delivered her wonderful welcoming speech and to our surprise, included a plea (addressed to the Datuk) to increase our living allowances. Everyone cheered and applauded in support of this. Ha! ha! Then, it was the Datuk's turn to give a speech, taking an agonizing 15 minutes. Finally at 1.35 p.m. lunch was served buffet style. Free Malaysian food for all!

My free meal

The food was simply marvelous! You know that Anton Ego's revelation scene in Ratatouille, where Ego had a moment of euphoria eating the peasant dish? Well, I had that moment when I took a bite of the Tandoori chicken. Terus balik kampung. All the waiting and morning kelamkabutness was worth the effort because we had a really great meal that day. End of story.

This is the last one, I promise :-)

Alva's Christening

I promise you this is going to be brief. Alva and Ryan (Es' son) were baptised last Sunday at St. Patrick's Catholic church, Kaiapoi. It was done during mass and Carmille (Es' friend) had to stand in as a proxy because Alva's real godmother couldn't make it to the baptism (she's in KK!). Everything went really well. She didn't even cry when the priest poured the Holy water over her head. She was an angel! Too bad there were only 3 photos taken during the baptism - and I looked fugly in all of them.  After mass, we had a BBQ feast at Es' place to celebrate our babies' Christening. The End. I told you it was going to be short. I'll let the photos do the talking :-)

Rev. Father Michael, a Malaysian from Kelantan. Small world huh?

Alva and mommy :)

Princess Alva :)

Till the next post, God Bless!