Wednesday, 25 January 2012

mucky scrub

Today we went looking for the great outdoors. The throws of monsoon season never grant more than twenty fours hours without a torrent flooding forth, so to find a dry patch of Earth can be tricky. Slightly damp underneath would suffice though. As we reach the Tanglin Gate of the Botanic Gardens, the heavens often tease us with a light sprinkle of the wet stuff that leaves just enough time to run to the mall for cover, though the hospital, mid-way, is always ripe for taxis. Today, the sun was high and bright so we slathered on the sunscreen and splashed some mozzie repellent around, and hurried through the city building site to the calm and serenity of the gardens, where we like to track lizards and talk to turtles.
Carried away in the throws of our mission and bouncing away in the Bjorn on my chest, by all accounts mine could be called a happy baby. But as soon as his little knees hit grass, there were big, wet tears.

Why hasn’t anyone ever written a chapter on weaning baby from clean interior floor to alien, mucky scrub?

If I’d known, I would have ventured forth into such territory sooner, ripping up the miles of yoga mat off our floors at home - these lay scattered below every hazardous table edge, in a bid to prevent severe head injury on the marble underfoot - cultivating fresh play pens filled with grass and bits of dead leaf instead. Condo living definitely has its downside and although there are wonderful, little lush spots of grass here and there, they are all exposed to an obscene amount of fertilizer and pesticide, giving it a wonderful rich tone of green and promptly killing any unsuspecting insect that might find it homely. So I suppose we remain confined to admiring the ground's greenery from afar, rather than sweeping a barefoot, or little knee for that matter, through it. Upon cheerfully asking the building manager for the lowdown and ready to laugh the danger factor off, the big jolly Indian fellow wiped the smile from his face, stepped in exceptionally close and told me,

Never to be taking the baby on the grass, No.

So now the sun is shining, baby's belly is full, two hours until nap time and tears well forth as soon as we settle ourselves into the great outdoors. It seems these little knees have been hidden away inside an overall for too long and I may have my work cut out for me..

Monday, 16 January 2012

EASY peasy, little bit teasy

Is there anyone else out there that gets enormous satisfaction out of a rollicking great burp? I find the stability of our daily routine can be determined by the length and depth of a great, loud belch or two. Without, and nap times are almost certainly disturbed by an elusive one sneaking up and lodging itself, quite painfully, before little shrieks of discomfort allow it’s great escape into the ether. Our daily routine and the ratio of sheer chaos throughout are defined by just this: a long, satisfying and rather loud burp following a bottle. Sometimes it even takes two.

A parenting book that I took great delight in burning as we left Geneva once told me the following: If your child is prone to waking consistently after the same period of time into his nap, rouse him just prior to his waking, and this will re-set his sleep pattern, sending him deeper into his next cycle. As a new mum, I was horrified to read anywhere that I should wake my baby. After the whole episode verging on the olive oil (earlier blog), a sleeping babe was high on my list of lifetime’s greatest achievements. And besides which, the thought of rousing him from his long awaited sound slumber terrified me. With a few hundred more hours of practicing under my belt though, and a morning wiped clear of appointments, I took a step into the wild west of motherhood and added my own twist. Sleep Cycle One was rapidly approaching its ascent into full state of consciousness, soon to be followed by rollicking great burp with only minutes to spare. I bent down, heart pounding, arms shaky and gently but firmly scooped J up in a one smooth manoeuvre with a dash of gentle shushing and rocking thrown in. Holding him close, knees bobbing softly as I shush-rocked, I swept my forearm from his middle back upwards to his neck and Success! Rollicking belch set forth, job done. Roused just enough to smack his lips together in satisfaction, I placed him back in the cot and he rolled over asleep. I suddenly felt pangs of regret in having thrown the book into the flames – what else did this miracle children’s worker have to say, and what was the name of the book again?

If a sleep-deprived peer is needy of a possible handy hint on how to have their child sleep longer than twenty minutes, post a half marathon stint of getting the child to sleep in the first place, I am wary. Each bub is so different and I needed to experience sheer desperation before having the smallest ounce of faith in this tidbit of info floating around my weary head. Most mums would yell EASY at me, which is the recommended routine for young babies that states they should: Eat, (be) Active, Sleep/ (have) You time. As I was released out into the wild after the birth from a very regimented Swiss public hospital, the practice of EASY, which wasn’t really, had been bludgeoned into me for the first five day’s of J’s tiny life and so I was regimented about it too. Until the rocking to sleep after play time took its toll and I befriended the whole lawless bottle-to-bed thing. Retrospect shakes its head at me and tuts, and now it’s telling me Controlled Comforting would have down the trick. But retrospect lives in the past, so bottle to bed wins.

Monday, 9 January 2012

little bit yoga

Little bit Squat-ter. This I now understand as Deepen the stretch or Squat a little bit deeper, which I now find tricky, as muscles slipped off the back of my shoulders, and a left shoulder that has stumbled forward and become trapped in front of a rib, prevent me from doing so. All for the joy of cuddling and carrying and nursing a bundle, and not one moment of which I would have done differently. Though perhaps introducing the Controlled Comforting a bit earlier may have served to leave a stray muscle in place on a poor, unfortunate blade.

Summer, Good Pasture. His eyes are on me.

Though it was always felt like summer in Singapore, I hadn’t seen any pastoral land, and what had that got to do with an Asana on the eighteenth floor of our Orchard building anyway?  Suddenly I'm on the inner circle and Summer hits me like a sudden, inspirational yogic revelation as Some More (stretch deeper, that is). Good Posture replaces my image of a farm, and frankly, I can't feel my toes when I stand like this.

Again. Now his breath is on my right ear lobe. No! GOOD Pasture.
Are you kidding me? My hammies are as tight as leg room flying Economy.

Yoga reminds me to breathe. There is a breath called Ojai that can be used when practising that sounds like the class has passed out on their mats post lunch, with a good bottle of red. The light snoring technique that purrs at the back of the throat at each inhalation works to keep your mind focused on the breath, instead of holding it whilst mapping the best route home and attempting Little bit Squatter into Warrior One.

Since my late teens, I’ve been a cardio nut, so to join a yoga studio upon moving to Singapore was a move out of left field. Any time I had an hour to spare, I would head to the gym. Though the further back up memories' steep slope I crawl, the more I admit to hating it. Coming from a strict Sydney girls’ school, I had a plethora of places to hide my bloomers so as to opt out of sports class, and it was me who needed the loo break when captains were picking their teams. Physical challenge just wasn’t in my dna. I used to wonder whether going to the gym was akin to how I felt being asked to go to church on a Sunday morning as a child. Though this was rare. As was the gym for some time. As Sunday approached, the thought would creep up and start to rub like wearing a sand shoe, sock-free, and stepping in a big puddle on your long walk home. Then the morning came and the desperate yearning for a sleep in from beneath a warm, comfy doona knowing that as soon as I convinced mum that I had contracted something undoubtedly contagious, I could whip out the Coco Pops just in time for a Video Hits countdown. The temptation was enough to get the palms sweaty. But as an adult with a paid up gym membership and the ability to calculate my bmi post a few nights out, and post party guilt would take control. Straight out of bed, bound for a lycra tight and a gym shoe.

But yoga is less guilt than the sheer unadulterated need for physical therapy. Bubbies need rocking and that fabulous left arm plank hold that I discovered when his weight was akin to a couple bunches of very big bananas, now leaves me for dead. I could whip him up, wedge his tiny legs between my elbow and the edge of my hip, lay him along the length of my arm and cradle his head confidently in the palm of my left hand. As our bundle grew and the three kilos became ten, the rocking and cradling are taking its toll. Right now, Summer Stretch urgently required. Bad Pasture today but little bit squatter and a few more classes should do it.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

bring us some figgy pudding

I was once shocked to find myself reprimanding my mother over the fact that she hadn’t baked more when I was a child. I felt truly lacking that there hadn’t been the warm, soft notes of lemon cake or rich, delicious tones of chocolate wafting through the house on a lazy weekend afternoon, my little tummy not filled up with an afternoon’s dregs of sweet batter that had been lining the bowl on it’s way to the sink. It’s important here to note that my mother raised me on her own and worked full time. I have no doubt that as a lazy weekend afternoon approached, she barely had the energy to slump bum on bed and swing tired legs up to lose a few hours in a good book. And no one was more deserving. Quite often there is a trusty grandmother hiding in the wings to whet the appetite of a little person searching for a mucky cake tin to shuffle over to a corner with. Mine was certainly ever present and the most wonderful a girly girl could wish for, but the value she placed on health and nutrition in our diets, and a wonderful new world of microwave convection ovens with their plethora of new recipes on offer had this girly girl hungry for dessert. As a seven year old, I was lucky to find an expired block of cooking chocolate wedged behind a crock pot of apricot chicken. Though I once did, and suffice to say that nibbling down on a corner edge, unsure as to why a sizeable chunk wouldn’t break off between my teeth, sent me cold turkey off dessert for some time.

As a teen, I jumped on the skinny bandwagon obsessing over my waistline, so baking lost its sparkle for a while and took a back seat. Then I met J and believed that a tried and tested ways to a man’s heart was though his stomach. Little did I know that this one's culinary expertise far outweighed my own. I didn’t stand a chance against him and his quieter weekend afternoons practicing how to perfect the chocolate soufflĂ©'s fluffy pouf. Malcolm Gladwell tells me I’m about ten thousand hours behind him on the whisking and avid precision of oven temperature perfection. The days I spent planning my first meal for him seemed so romantic. Granted permission of his house keys the night before so as to access his kitchen before he was due home, each course had been meticulously thought through and I was convinced the night would be a huge success. Armed with every possible cooking utensil, I expected that his recent shift from firm bachelorhood would guarantee the kitchen drawers to be sporting just a few stray pieces of cutlery, and I was frankly quite impressed to find an extensive array of all things that yelled Bloody Good Chef. This is the point at which I should have retreated, tail between legs, white tea-towel raised high. The night ended on a less than happy note though, where I made it clear I would not step an inch beyond the boundary line of his kitchen again unless he was elsewhere and not eating. Looking back on him intent on finding the right melange of honey and vanilla bean with which to blanche a pannacotta, I am now the first to decanter a nice bottle of red and exit the kitchen.

Until now. Announcing that you’re having a baby leaves you an open target for all adages about life no longer being your own. But I feel a strong motherly urge to make the time and step back in the direction of a mixing bowl and preheated oven, and take up where my last two generations never had the oomph or inclination to. There will be the warm, rich aromas of afternoon tea wafting from my kitchen when my seven year old brings his friend home from school, and they will not belong to my husband! Christmas has seen me raid a friend’s kitchen for cake tins, all in the name of silly unprepared Western expat who can’t seem to find a department store in the country who can cater to her needs. Perhaps my fresh-off-the-boat Aussie twang is too much for the local Singaporean, or my suspicion is right: no-one in my generation, or another one that comes even remarkably close, has ever stepped big toe in a kitchen unless it’s to dish up takeaway.

Can you help me? I’m looking for a cake tin.

Can can. Cake tin made from what?

Oh dear.

The Chrissy pud looks good. Though it’s still under lock and key to allow for the brandy to do its thing. In fact, it’s so well tucked away that I lay in bed last night wondering where on Earth I’d put it. Cooking it certainly wasn't without a trial and tribulation or two, quite possibly because for some reason I took to reading the recipe like I do a magazine – backwards. So when it said mix dry ingredients together, I did, and isn’t sugar dry? Then because my measured quantity of flour got mixed with the sugar and should have been blended with the butter, I’d run out. So off out again to buy more. The zests I carefully zested in with the mixed fruit, because isn't zest fruit? Only to discover a few lines up that this is to be added last. Dilemma. But it came together in the end, looked the part and smelt lovely, wafting through the oven door.

They tell me that pud improves with age. As I write it sits, wrapped up and tucked away, and I ponder.. Is there an easier way next year? If I was to gently nudge it to the furthest reaches of the cupboard below the kitchen bench, could the brandy do its thing for another twelve months? Perhaps the proof really is in the pudding. If Stephanie Alexander knew her recipe had fallen into my hands, no doubt she'd have a thing or two to say. Get Out Of The Kitchen would be my guess.