January 2009

Can someone Chinese please explain to me why I shouldn’t describe Angus as cute (even though he is), label him as chubby (even though he is – I mean, come on, you only have to take one look at his big fat cheeks), say that he’s smart (even when he makes developmental leaps like grabbing his very first rattle) or – the worst offence of all – call him ‘a good boy’?

Okay, so I know you’re not meant to spoil your child, but surely positive encouragement and praise where relevant and appropriate is acceptable? Plus, why shouldn’t I be allowed to call my own baby cute and chubby if I so feel like it, especially when they are in fact true and accurate descriptions?

I honestly don’t understand this business of not praising your baby/child/infant for fear of them turning out to be the opposite of what you say.

Don’t know what I’m going on about? Let me explain with a very simple example:

Even though Angus is ridiculously cute (I know I am unequivocally biased as his mother but he is at the very least – cute), Chinese belief/tradition stipulates I’m not allowed to call him cute (much less ridiculously cute) because he might hear and understand me and deliberately turn out to be ridiculously ugly.

Allow me to point out a few fundamental holes in this line of thinking:

1) It is not logical.

2) It makes no sense whatsoever (oh wait, is this the same point as above?).

3) Little babies like Angus usually don’t have the capacity to understand words or language yet. I think? Maybe they actually do but they wait till we all go to sleep and then they wake up and phone each other on their baby iPhones and proceed to talk for hours?

4) Even if Angus was a super-smart and super-brainy Asian baby (see what I’m doing? I’m calling Angus super-smart and super-brainy in a roundabout, hypothetical way) and understood every single word that I utter, he doesn’t actually have much control over how his nose is going to end up, or how big his eyes are going to be, or whether he’s going to have nice hair or bad hair (without radical surgery anyway).

5) Even if Angus was some freak of nature and was able to control the abovementioned, why on earth would he deliberately make himself ugly just to spite me? Just so he could say, “Ah hah! You were wrong mum”?

6) Repeat 1 and 2 above. Ten times. No, a hundred times.

The amazing thing is that no matter how many times I explain this to my mum, she refuses to agree with me and in fact I’m sure she thinks that I’m the weird one for not following this historic Chinese tradition (more commonly known as plain old superstition).

So basically, if your child is cute, call him plain. If she’s beautiful, call her ugly. If he’s smart, he’s dumb. If she’s obedient, tell her she’s naughty. If he’s nice and chubby, you better call him a stick.

Welcome to Chinese mind games for little kids. You’ve just had your first lesson.

Poor Rick copped it tonight when I noticed that he’d re-arranged the shelving in the pantry.

He’d taken the initiative of moving the rice to the bottom shelf as it was getting a bit heavy for the flimsy plank of wood that was the second bottom shelf. However, in doing so, he’d also shuffled around our Pyrex containers and our Decor containers, and our platters were no longer nicely grouped together with the vases and other similar decorative glass ornaments.

“What…what…did you do?” I asked, trying to keep the shrill out of my voice.

He explained the rice thing.

“But…what… about… the…system?” I stammered, doing my best to stay calm. Surely Rick knew about the system by now.

He looked at me blankly.

Taking a deep breath, I dove into a ten-minute monologue about the system: the system determines where everything goes in our home, didn’t he know how long it took me to come up with the system, and yes, of course he could move a few things around but could he please consult me first before making drastic changes, and yes, moving containers, platters and vases around most definitely falls into the category of ‘making a drastic change’.

As I said, poor Rick.

Yesterday marked the beginning of the Year of the Ox. People born in the year of the ox are likely to grow two horns at some point in their lifetime so it is worthwhile not provoking them. They tend to prefer the outdoors and are suited to jobs that involve pulling something heavy and ugly on a field. Because they tend to be big in stature, people born in the ox year often intimidate others.

That’s my version anyway (no offence if you are indeed born in the Year of the Ox and are Chinese enough to take seriously ‘stuff’ like this).

Since my entire family was in Hong Kong for Chinese New Year, Rick and I made use of technology this year using Apple iChat to set up a video call to my parents and the rest of the Lai family empire most of whom were celebrating at my Aunty Eight’s apartment in Sha Tin.

This was the first time we had done something like this – mainly because my parents were keen for the family to see Angus on-screen so that they could show him off (not that they would admit this of course – they are Chinese after all).

So at 5.30pm our time, we began our preparations. Mummy took a shower, daddy put on deodorant, mummy put on her red dress (red being the important CNY colour), daddy put on his normal-coloured clothes, mummy put on her make up, daddy draped on the sexy red silk scarf he wore at our Chinese wedding banquet and then finally mummy put a little red bodysuit on Angus (actually, it was red and white striped with pirates plastered all over the front, but it was the best we could do).

At 6.10pm, we were hooked up and CNY well wishing via cyberspace took place like never before. ‘Kung hei fat choi, kung hei fat choi,’ we chanted excitedly to each other. Even Rick knew the words, despite his somewhat ocker accent. Everyone of course oohed and aahed at Angus, who was flying around like Superman behind me on his daddy’s strong right arm. He did look very cute, I secretly thought to myself as I caught a glimpse of his reflection on the computer screen.

After everyone had ‘left’, I convinced dad to leave his laptop running with the web cam in the living room so that I could keep watching how they were celebrating.

Surprise, surprise, the adults wasted no time in settling down to their mahjong tables. This great tradition clearly still runs rampant in the Lai family.

As I watched my aunties and uncles satisfy their insatiable addiction to mahjong and my cousins play Big 2 and other similarly ‘Honkie’ card games at the inferior coffee table, I couldn’t help but wish that I was there with them to participate in the merriment that is Chinese New Year.

I wished I was there to snack on the melon seeds and the multi-coloured Swiss branded lollies that are meant to symbolise something akin to good fortune, good luck or good prosperity (the third being a slight tautology, I know). I wished I was there wishing my uncles and aunties ‘kung hei fat choy’ in person and thereby collecting my red packets in person as well. I wished I was there chatting and playing cards with my cousins. I wished I was there sharing in the delicious Chinese pot luck style dinner that would no doubt be made up of many of my favourite dishes. I even wished I was there to tune in to the provocative (and often very entertaining) comments that were constantly being fired across the mahjong tables.

This is how I always picture Chinese New Year because this is how it’s always been celebrated in my family.

And though there are moments when I am truly anguished by some of the traditions and beliefs that run in the Chinese culture, Chinese New Year is a time when I dearly miss my Chinese relatives and my Chinese homeland (ie. Hong Kong). What’s more, during Chinese New Year, I find that I don’t mind being Chinese at all.

Perhaps there is a good little Chinese girl deep inside of me after all.

Happy (slightly belated) Chinese New Year!

Yesterday I got a haircut.

If only I could follow that sentence with ‘And now I look really good.’

Allow me to share my story:

I’d already had a haircut before Christmas but it wasn’t as short as I’d wanted and with the recent sweat and humidity, I decided about two weeks ago it was high time to go for another chop. Plus I’d been feeling unattractive and desperately needed a pick-me-up.

So yesterday whilst we were at the shopping centre soaking up the air conditioning on what was surely one of the hottest days that I have ever experienced in Sydney, I decided it was time to lose the hair. Rick was on board with the idea so off he went to Borders with Angus where he could read Landrover magazines to our unsuspecting little boy.

Thus began my afternoon hair ordeal, debacle, disaster, tragedy – whatever you want to call something that goes really really bad and that makes you want to tear your hair out, which in this instance was literally the case.

I first lined up at Quick Haircuts on the third floor, but within a few minutes developed ‘cold feet’, worrying that perhaps these Quick Haircuts hairdressers wouldn’t be able to reproduce the glamorous, Katie Holmes/Victoria Beckham look that I was after. Plus the queue was far too long – there were two tiny little boys before me. So I left, pretending that I had to make some random important phonecall on my mobile – very smooth, if I must say so myself.

Off to the John Brennan salon on the ground floor which looked very professional and very swanky. ‘Could I get a haircut please’, I asked. ‘No sorry, we’re all booked out.’ Funny, the salon looked almost empty to me.

Off to the other sassy-looking salon on the second floor. The sign outside read ‘No appointments necessary’. Things were looking positive.

‘Hi, can I get a haircut please?’ I chirped, cringing at the fake cheerfulness in my voice. ‘Sorry, we’re all booked out this afternoon.’ Great. Stupid sign. Stupid salon.

Back to Quick Haircuts on the third floor. Crud, now there were eight grown-ups lining up. What was going on? Why was everyone indoors wanting to get their hair done? Shouldn’t they be outdoors, basking in the sun, lying on the beach, getting a tan or something? Or were people finally paying attention to those skin cancer ads?

Then I remembered I’d seen a salon inside Myer some time ago. Perhaps it was still there. Trudged back down to Myer.

Approached first cosmetics lady: ‘Hi, do you know where the hairdressing salon is in Myer?’ Blank look. She has no idea.

Approached second cosmetics lady: ‘Hi, do you know if there is a salon inside Myer?’ ‘Inside Myer? There are lots of hairdressing places outside.’ You don’t say.

I figured that perhaps I had remembered wrong. Or perhaps the salon had been closed. Or perhaps you needed to be a wizard to see it. Or perhaps I was just going crazy.

Back up to Quick Haircuts. Grown-ups still waiting instead of outside tanning.

Wandered around aimlessly feeling tired, forlorn and lonely. Missed Rick and Angus. Couldn’t even text Rick about my misery because he’d forgotten to bring his mobile. I was also starting to worry we’d been apart for so long Angus might forget what his mummy looked like.

Suddenly, I spotted Just Cuts! It was like the Emerald City.

I peered inside and saw only three tiny little boys. I sat down to wait, this time determined not to get cold feet.

When it was finally my turn, I pointed to the picture on the wall. ‘I want to look like that,’ I said. The hairdresser seemed confident. So I trusted her.

Twenty minutes later, she said she was done.

I put on my glasses and cried a river inside.

I did not look like the woman in the picture. Nor did I look like Katie Holmes. Or Victoria Beckham.

Instead, I looked like a ball.

A very round ball.

And so I handed over my thirty-seven dollars, feeling crushed, exhausted, betrayed and defeated. I was not going to look like Katie Holmes or VB. I was never going to look attractive again.

Clearly, good things do not come to those who spend a good part of their precious Saturday walking up and down a shopping centre in a desperate search for a decent hair salon.

Always the dutiful husband, Rick has since been reassuring me how much he likes the haircut.

But I know the truth.

So the next time you see something round, please spare a moment and think of me.

In an attempt to beat the monstrous heat, we ventured down King Street today and advanced our way towards the institution that is Mitre 10.

There we encountered the magnificent Heller HVF45B 45cm High Velocity Stainless Steel Floor Fan with sharp metal blades, 3 speed control and ninety degree upright tilting for ventilation. It stood gloriously at the grand entrance to the store, beckoning us to draw close with its magical cooling powers.

Rick immediately knew that it was “the one”. The one that would save us from this sinister, sweltering heat.

I took some convincing. Where was it going to fit in our shoebox home? We hardly had any floor space to walk upon, much less to erect a monument that was this Heller fan.

‘What about this smaller, cheap, $24.95, made in China fan?’, I asked, pointing at a dull, grey, plastic fan that stood opposite to ‘the one’. Mmm… can’t say I’m not true to my Chinese heritage once in a while.

Rick gave me a look that made me feel like I was settling for some second rate vehicle (ie. anything that isn’t a Range Rover, Discovery or Defender).

So we left with the shining Heller beast of a fan.

On the way home, I offered to push the pram since Rick had his hands full – literally – with the fan.

Coffee in one hand, I discovered it was not the easiest task to manoeuvre the Phil & Ted’s with just my left hand. Not only did I manage to spill lukewarm coffee on the shade cover, but the pram inexplicably kept veering off in the wrong direction.

Rick kept peering at me with increasing apprehension – especially everytime a “Woa!” came from my direction – and repeating how he was really quite happy and willing and able to push the pram and also carry the ridiculously big, 10kg box.

Yeah, yeah, Mr I Can Do It All.

‘I’m fine!’ I kept telling him. Anyway, it wasn’t like I was that bad. I managed to keep the pram to the footpath, didn’t I, plus I avoided hitting anyone plus I remembered to stop at the road corners plus the little coffee I did spill got absorbed by the material almost immediately. It hardly left a mark.

As we retraced our steps back down King Street, I continued to ramble about my ever-improving pram-manoevring skill and methodology. Out of the goodness of his heart, Rick allowed me to go on and on and on.

No doubt he was persuaded by my somewhat incoherent rant, because as soon as we turned into our little lane, he zipped down the road and was inside our house within ten seconds, leaving me stranded – still one coffee in hand – to get the pram onto the narrow footpath all by myself.

“What the…? I can’t….do this…” I panted out, dripping with sweat and frustration by this stage.

Instead of rushing to my rescue, Rick poked his head out the doorway with a cheeky grin on his face. “You’ll be fine!”

You can do this, the voice in my head said.
How? I’ve only got one hand.
Put the stupid coffee cup down already!
Where?
There, on that car.
But…I…can’t….reach… (stretching as far as my inflexible body would allow)
There! You did it!!

Finally with two hands free, I was able to tilt the pram upwards and push it onto the footpath at just the right angle.

As I breathed my sigh of triumph, two strangers walked past giving me slightly strange looks. I was certain they’d witnessed the entire spectacle and were suitably impressed by my agility and co-ordination. I swiftly averted my eyes, grabbed my coffee and trotted down the path with Angus in pram and into our home. Safe at last.

And ‘the one’? Well, a magic fan it ain’t but it sure does a darn good job blowing the hot air out of our stinking hot home.

And that’s not bad for a happy ending.

Postcript: If my mother in law is reading this, please rest assured that it was not really as dangerous as it sounds plus your grandson is safe and was in fact contently asleep the entire time, oblivious to his mother’s array of incompetencies.

Where’s the mojo?

I think I’ve lost my design mojo. I spent more than ten hours on Monday and Tuesday working on some concepts for a research publication and still failed to come up with anything I was completely happy with. One could blame it on the subject matter I suppose (typical, I know) but honestly, I think it’s a mojo issue. Where has it gone? Luckily, the client was happy to choose concept 2 out of 3 but could I please not use the thumbprint on the cover? Eerr, sure, I guess, but, um, without the thumbprint, um, you kind of just have a blank page?

Anyway, this wretched heat is not helping anybody’s creativity – or productivity – for that matter. Watching Obama’s inauguration parade yesterday and listening to every single reporter harp on about the freezing cold made me just a teensy weensy bit jealous to say the least. Please let us do a weather swap: you guys send us some of that snow and frost and ice and wind and we’ll blast you some of this nasty humidity and sweat. I mean, imagine taking a shower and coming out only to feel more sweaty than you did before. Poor Angus can’t get to sleep properly in this heat and i can’t even sit on the ottoman downstairs without feeling the need to shake my fist at the room and stamp my feet at the same time like a three year old (age picked randomly, I have nothing personal against three year olds, if any of you happen to be reading this): “I want cold! I want air con! I hate hot and I hate sweat!”

At least I can report that Angus did end up doing some daytime napping yesterday, thanks to his very patient and sane daddy (sadly can’t say the same for mummy). He is falling asleep in daddy’s arms right this very moment (or at least he is pretending to). They make a very beautiful picture, bless them both.

I think I will go give them a kiss. And then order some pizza. Yum.

We can do this, yes we can!

Angus turned three months yesterday and in celebration of this exciting milestone, he decided to stay up for twelve hours. That’s right, he woke up at 7am and didn’t go back to sleep until 7pm at night. I guess he figures he’s a bit of an adult now. Wrong kiddo! Mummy’s going to make you sleep today. That’s right, we’re going to do all three day naps today: 10am, 1pm and 4pm. No protesting, thank you. We can do this together. Say it after me kiddo, YES WE CAN!

Rick has been so good with looking after Angus. Since that first week back at home, he’s generously taken on board the middle-of-the-night feeds. And he’s been doing a whole heap of other feeds throughout the rest of the day as well, whilst I’ve been strapped to the chair expressing breastmilk like a lactation machine. He’s such an awesome husband and father. Last night I asked him out of guilt whether he feels like I’ve dropped the ball on being a mum and his reply was this: “No, you haven’t. The only reason I wouldn’t want you as my mum is that I wouldn’t be able to marry you.” Yes, he could probably have phrased that a bit better (to make it sound a tad less Oedipus-like) but nonetheless, it was very reassuring. Thanks hubby.

So what’s the plan today in addition to Angus’ sleeping marathon? Need to wrap up an ad for one client as well as finalise three concepts for a research magazine for another. I was so stressed about this magazine that I hardly slept last night. And even when I managed to drift off into some compromised state of unconsciousness, I found myself dreaming of obscure colours and geometric shapes.

Time for a latte, I say.

Projectile experience

Prior to Angus’ arrival, Rick and I had both heard of the projectile poo phenomenon from other parents.

Some had spoken of poo hitting the opposite wall. Others had coined the phrase, “there was poo everywhere”.

Though somewhat apprehensive, Rick and I were mostly amused, even joking about the idea of purchasing a fish tank to change the baby in. For the most part, we were naively confident that it was not going to happen to us.

Surely, we were too speedy and too careful for poo to get the better of us.

It was perhaps our third week back at home and it was about three or four o’clock in the morning.

I was bleary-eyed, exhausted and still rather in shock as to how often Angus needed to poo.

I remember that I was kneeling down and in the middle of my second or third wipe when my keen sixth sense told me that something was wrong. Something was very wrong. Something was coming.

On reflex, I lifted the nappy flap to stop whatever was coming from ‘getting’ me, but tragically, I was a split second too late.

What can only be described as a stream of soft, mustard-coloured baby poo hit me square in the chest like water shooting out of a hose.

I did what any other mother of a three week old baby would do.

I screamed.

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrgghhhhhh…!!!”

Although I had a t-shirt on, I could feel the warm matter seep straight through the material and stick to my skin. It was not the best feeling.

The bulk of the matter, however, slid down my top and landed in my lap.

Angus was, of course, by this stage screaming at the top of his lungs whilst I had managed to reduce my own scream down to a silent mental one that only went off in my head.

There WAS poo everywhere.

There was poo in the nappy, poo all over Angus’ bottom, poo all over on my t-shirt, poo under my t-shirt and poo on my lap.

A million thoughts crashed through my mind.

What to do? What to do? What to do? How can there be so much poo? What if I got hit with more poo? Where was Rick? Why was this happening to me?!

Strategically, I decided to clean my lap first to try and prevent any poo from staining our carpet.

Holding Angus’ flailing legs with one hand, I grabbed a handful of cleaning wipes with the other and managed to sponge all of the poo off my lap without getting it onto the floor. Phew, i thought, at least we don’t need to replace the carpet.

Meanwhile, Rick had (finally) arrived on the scene and was helping to calm Angus down whilst mopping up his rear end at the same time.

About fifty cleaning wipes and a hot shower later, I was finally clean of poo and Angus was changed and back in his cot sleeping peacefully and contently as if nothing horrible had just happened.

I went back to bed somewhat numb, shocked and traumatised although begrudgingly slightly bemused.

Despite the phobia of middle-of-the-night changes I developed thereafter, it was nonetheless a worthwhile experience as it taught me a number of valuable parenting lessons:

1) You can never have too many cleaning wipes on hand. It IS possible to go through an entire packet of Johnson’s Baby Fragrance Free Skincare Wipes (with unique Embossed Software Fabric) in one nappy change.

2) It is best to point the baby’s bottom to the right (or to the left depending on whether you’re a leftie or rightie) rather than towards oneself.

3) If possible, always have spouse on hand to assist with poo emergencies.

4) Impossible is nothing. Poo CAN get you.

(And perhaps that fish tank idea is not such a ridiculous one after all.)

A new mission statement

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this year I intend to revive Pink Ronnie once and for all (I decided to add the ‘once and for all’ on impulse. Mostly because it makes the sentence sound more complete. What the phrase really means eludes me).

As a ‘mission statement’, I hereby declare that I will actually write about things that I:

a) have a passion for
b) find amusing/hilarious
c) believe are worth thinking about
d) want to remember purely for my own sake, or
e) think others might find useful.

At this point I could of course outline a list of topics that I am likely to cover, but I shall refrain for a number of reasons:

1) I don’t see why I should limit myself in terms of what I can blog about – that’s just a bit stupid
2) I don’t wish to mislead any potential readers with any false expectations – that’s just smart thinking
3) I am feeling slightly lazy today and am eager to just get this post up and get on with the rest of the day – that’s just the plain truth.

So there you go.

A new mission statement for a new year.

I welcome anyone who’s brave enough and bored enough to embark upon this – dare I say – “journey” with me to sign up.

Yes, sign up now.

Once and for all.