April 6, 2013

Honey, has it been half a decade already?

Moments before the sun melted into the horizons. Taken in Auckland during our honeymoon in 2008.

Time flies when we are having fun and the seasons are seamless, one rolling into the other. Today, Terence and I celebrate our 5th anniversary with so much to reminisce on and even much more to look forward to. We started off as friends when he was 15 and I was 16. Young and green. Sparks flew, friendship brewed and love grew. We took our time growing our friendship and living out our singlehood before we got together. We learned the value of friendship and did not just jump into a relationship with strings attached. We discovered ourselves first before discovering each other and to this day, I’m glad we took the slow road to love because we are first confident of our identity in Christ and who we are as individuals. The journey has been long in retrospect, especially when I delve into my stack of journals and revisit our wedding website – but it’s never been tiring or a drag.

When we tied the knot, we did not expect the first year to be so tumultuous. I had to re-learn a lot of things and realize that marriage is not making the other person just like me, but accepting and celebrating the differences between us. Just like a puzzle, you will never find two pieces in the exact shape that fit perfectly. It’s always got to be two pieces in different shapes. Similarly, if I had my way in the first year, our marriage would have been rather stale, boring and predictable and it would not have worked. Year 2 was more smooth sailing, but not without it’s fair share of life lessons. After 5 years together, I can safely say that I don’t know everything about Terence and I’m more than happy to keep that element of surprise for when I discover something new every now and then.

While it’s only been 5 years, compared to couples who have been married for 15, 20, 30 years, it has dawned on me that it’s easy to fall into a comfort zone once married, especially when everything is clockwork and routine. While it’s incredibly reassuring to run back to a safe place, there is always room for expansion and renovation. We consciously work at creating ‘healthy’ havoc in our lives. From planning ad hoc holidays, to random dinner dates, to challenging ourselves to do more for people and God’s kingdom, to working on new projects together. And these self-created havocs allow us to challenge, inspire and spur each other onto greater heights.

A year ago, when we celebrated our 4th anniversary, it was a trying time for us when we told that our first 8 week old lil bub didn’t make it. We pulled through and came out stronger. A year after that, a new season comes knocking on our door as we anticipate the arrival of our little baby boy! God in His matchless grace made ‘all things beautiful in His time’. Yes! This is yet another healthy ‘havoc’ we created and we can only anticipate more growth as individuals, a couple and a family.

As the journey continues to unravel, a Scrabble ensemble stuck to our fridge reminds me of the very things that we live for as a couple… things of eternal value.

April 5, 2013

A long awaited dinner affair

I have waited 30 years for this to finally taste my first home-cooked by my mom. I usually get funny expressions when I tell my friends that I’ve never tasted my mom’s cooking before. They would be in absolute shock, disbelief and would often laugh, assuming that it was all a joke. “No? Really?” trying to get me thinking of at least one meal my mom had cooked. My reply, “No, really. Not even a fried egg.”

While growing up, mom and dad had full time jobs and we were blessed to have a really great helper cook our meals. She was an elderly lady, about 60 years old that stayed with us, helped us with our house chores and cooked wholesome meals for us. We called her ‘Gu Poh’ and she was very much part of our family. When my brother and I entered secondary (high) school, we bid Gu Poh farewell and the chores were left to us. We catered all our dinners which came in tiffin carriers and on weekends we would explore different restaurants as a family. Now that we’re all grown up, my parents have another wonderful Indonesian helper to cook their meals.

When I first got married, I have to admit that I wasn’t very domesticated, especially not in the kitchen! I was grateful that Terence did not demand for home cooked food since his mom is a fantastic cook. One that can make a boring porridge into a dish-to-die-for! Soon enough, eating out becoming a bore and I ventured into the kitchen, an alien space and put my cooking skills and taste buds to the test. I made lots of pastas, grilled meats, veggies and stews – easy meals. The love for cooking and eating simple home cooked meals latched on. Suffice to say, I discovered my love for cooking a little later in life. It was in the flavours I tasted, the limitless ingredients found in the market and the liberty to experiment with different concoctions that I find extremely exciting.

Although mom never thought me how to cook, I’ve learned so many other priceless lessons from her. She taught me other life skills and the joy of loving people and life. Above all, she feed my soul and spirit… and this week, she feed my tummy!

She cooked us a feast when we had anticipated a simple meal. The table was laden with food – braised black bean pork ribs, lettuce spring rolls, stewed chicken, stir fry bittergourd & egg, tofu and soup. Needless to say, I was beyond amazed. I can now tick off another ‘must do’ from my bucket list of things to do before I die. Mom fulfilled her promise, we had a wonderful dinner – a full family affair with baby in tow and wrapped up the night with a slice of lemon brownie made by Rachel. (Her love and talent for baking is another amazing story in itself. When we step out of our comfort zones, we find new love, passion and talent which otherwise would be hidden from our grasp.)

March 28, 2013

Keeping active

(Written at 23 weeks)
I’ve been very blessed to have an easy pregnancy thus far. The bump is visible but I’ve yet to buy any maternity clothes. Thankfully most of my clothing is loose enough to fit an additional few inches in the front. I’ve also been keeping myself physically active and am mindful that being active throughout the pregnancy will help me in labour. I reckon the labouring process will be ‘THE’ most vigorous workouts of my life and there is no way any woman would sign up for it without any training!

Thanks to Terence my workout buddy, he’s crafted several workout plans for me. I interchange it with walks in Kiara, an uphill 45 minute walk. Yes, I do get bored easily doing the same thing. For my legs, I do squats, squat holds, pelvic lifts, side squats and walking. For my arms, I hold light weights and do 45 degree lifts, half push ups, presses and dips. Finally not forgetting the abs, I do planks and improvised sit ups.

So far it has been very effective gauging from the feel good factor of endorphins released after every sweat session. It’s important to keep hydrated and fuelled before and during every workout session. A bottle of H20 and a munch on a muesli bar or fruit before the workout is the best solution.

January 13, 2013

Passing the halfway mark

40 weeks seem like a long time to wait. 9 months feels like a lot of time to prepare for the arrival of a baby. But when you hit the 20 week mark, things accelerate at a surreal speed. The bump is growing bigger every waking hour. More clothes now don’t fit and there’s no doubting it. Some workout regimes are more difficult to accomplish and don’t even think about sit ups.
I’m constantly amazed at the fact that life is forming inside of me. I remember threading so carefully during my first trimester. I recall thinking, ‘when will my baby bump start showing?’ And before long, I’m 23 weeks and progressing well into the second trimester of my pregnancy.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, from books to magazines to online articles. And I’ve noted that at 16 weeks some pregnant women will begin to feel their baby’s first kick. I was expectant and excited to feel it for myself. At 16 weeks while chatting with some friends, I felt a light tap. I wasn’t waiting for it, it wasn’t timed, and I definitely wasn’t thinking about it. So it all came as a very pleasant surprise. I had to admit that I was second guessing whether it was a kick or just gas. I suppose for first time moms, somehow you need double confirmation and assurance since everything is new. So I waited. 1 day, 2 days, 1 week passed… nothing. I decided to wait it out.

18 weeks came along and all the doubts evaporated. The kicks were more obvious now but still very sporadic. Every little kick made my heart leap. It felt like taps from within or ripples swirling in the stomach. My baby was moving and I was overjoyed! We even counted his little fingers at a recent gynae’s appointment. 1-2-3-4 fingers and thumb on one hand and the same for the other. His tiny hands were wiggling on the ultrasound. How precious!

I’m really enjoying this magnificent journey of pregnancy and pre-parenthood. I can’t help but realize that my heart swells with so much thanksgiving, appreciation for life and wonder at our Creator.

January 12, 2013

2nd trimester glee!

It’s been a long way coming. At 17 weeks, I’m at that twilight stage where the nasty pregnancy symptoms like nausea, vomiting and headaches are practically gone! My clothes still fit and I’m feeling super energetic. At times I forget that I’m pregnant, especially when the little bump isn’t that visible. Timing wise, it’s just perfect with Christmas round the corner. The last thing I want is to feel all lethargic and sluggish.
On hindsight, the pregnancy so far hasn’t been too difficult and I’m extremely thankful. I’ve also been traveling in my 1st trimester (5 destinations in 3 months) and all is good. At times like this, I needed divine protection and that’s what God gave me.

Here’s what I was up to for the 1st trimester:
Week 3 in Battambang, Cambodia

I was there with a team of youth and young adults to complete the painting of a school building we started building a year ago. In 2011 we laid the foundations of the school building and this time around, we returned to a 3-storey school block complete with windows, doors and classrooms. We sanded down the walls, painted grills and walls and travelled to local villages for Sunday services.

Week 5 in Penang, Malaysia
Took a bus to Penang for a work related project, stayed in a beautiful heritage hotel and walked the streets of Georgetown.

Week 6-7 in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Another travel escapade with Terence, we had initially planned on biking to the outskirts of HCMC and staying with local villagers – but since we found out I was pregnant, we decided not to take the risk and retreated to less physically taxing activities like roaming the streets of HCMC, wriggling our way through the Cu Chi Tunnels and taking in the sights and sounds along the Mekong river.

Week 9-10 in Mulu National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia

Was there for a work related assessment and I had to experience the place as a tourist and an assessor. There was a list of activities to choose from, among which are the notable climb to the Pinnacles and adventure caving which involved abseiling and repelling. I was aching to join in on these activities, but knew better that I’d have to wait a second chance to go back to Mulu to rough it out. Instead, this trip, I did a lot of walking, climbing stairs into caves and cruising down rivers on long tail boats. Amazing trip and amazing workout for a newbie pregger!

Week 11 in Singapore

Again, another work trip to attend a trade show and organize some events for on responsible tourism. It was an enjoyable trip with more walking, catching trains and having drinks at the bar on Marina Bay Sands overlooking cosmopolitan Singapore come to life at night.

December 19, 2012

Turning 30!

Somehow the 30 mark is always more significant for a girl than for a guy. Or at least that’s my general observation. For guys, the 40 mark is undeniably a more significant milestone. For me, turning 30 meant that the 20s are over – really over. It’s a new digit for the next 10 years! Yikes…! But all in all it’s just a number. To be honest, I don’t feel any different – no gloom or doom. But excitement for what lies ahead.

The last 30 years has been a blast and nothing short of that. I’ve had the privilege of growing up in a close knit family, surrounded myself with inspiring, nurturing, adventurous people, worked with people of the like-mind, travelled to places I (actually) dreamt of going to, did a bunch of crazy stuff (that I’d think thrice repeating), learned many lessons the hard way, had my heart broken several times, married my best friend and built a home & family together.

And in this somewhat short and meaningful journey, I’ve harvested a few nuggets that I consider more precious than gold. It’s in reflections like this that turned experiences into wisdom. Here are a few I’d like to share:

God – is and forever will be my first love. Apart from Him I am nothing. I can’t imagine a life without God because I’m fallible but He is able (yes, even in the impossible).

Family – There’s nothing more powerful than a family that sticks together. It’s the foundation of life and a safe haven to run back to. It’s where identity is birthed and issues are sorted. And somewhere along the way, we (may) meet people who find themselves in our family fold. It’s when something happens in the heart.

Marriage – It a lifetime journey. It takes (a lot of) work! It’s like a seed planted in the pot – without water and sun, it dies although the pot remains. But when we sow and give it time to grow, the relationships blossoms and bears fruits. Occasionally the plant needs trimming as well – that’s when we learned to bare it all and work through issues, although it hurts.

Work – Work not for money or status, but work with passion and in something that harnesses your skills and talents. Yes, at the end of the day – we need money to survive, but I’ve learned that if we place priorities ahead of the paycheck all things will eventually fall into place. And many times it’s not about finding the dream job but finding your position in the workplace.

Giving back – If we lived our lives just for ourselves – sooner or later we will reach a point where we realize that it’s all very worthless. Empires, bank accounts and material goods will fade away. It’s only when we learn to give of ourselves that our lives become more meaningful and rich. I’ve learned that the little I give always returns to me multiplied.

Living life to the fullest – I’ve been met with many disappointments and survived many unexpected events that crushed my heart, but life really is too short to waste or wallow in our little bubbles. Take chances, don’t be afraid to fail because without failure we will not know the taste of success, step out of your comfort zone and don’t be afraid to dream (God is bigger than the sum of our dreams)!

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November 3, 2012

Two favourite questions

Before you’re married, most people will hound you with the inescapable “So, when are you getting married?” question. Almost immediately after you tie the knot (before you go off on your honeymoon) friends are already asking, “So are you planning to have children?”. We survived 4 years of that and now that we’re expecting – here are two questions that top the list:

Q #1 : So is it a boy or a girl?
A: If I knew I would have already told you so that you can start shopping for our lil bub! We have no clue and will find out in a couple of months (or less).

Q #2: Any baby names yet?
A: No, we are keeping our options open and maybe even a secret until his/her arrival. Some names are a definite no-no ; Manchester, Rooney, Cantona, Trafford. You get the drift. But if you have any names that you can’t go without us hearing about it – let us know!

November 2, 2012

When it all began

Starting a family is not an option for us even before we got married; we knew individually that we wanted children.  Instead, “How many?” was the question. And it became a running joke that Terence wanted a football team and I was less enthusiastic about popping that many babies. [Note to all men out there: It’s harder than you think!]

So when we found out I was pregnant, we were elated! Our 2nd visit to the gynae at 6 weeks was beyond surreal as we heard the lil bub’s heartbeat for the first time. Everything came to a standstill for that few seconds and all I heard was a racing dub-dub-dub-dub-dub…  For a moment I didn’t know if my heart was faster or lil bub’s.

What an amazing miracle it is to see life forming inside of you. How amazing is our God! Our joy was doubled especially after experiencing a miscarriage a year back, receiving the devastating news on our 3rd anniversary. It was an ordeal and not something you’d expect. But it happened to us and we fought through it, cried our hearts out, dealt with our fears, pulled together and came out stronger. God was in control and it is in these seasons that we learn to trust, really trust the One who holds our lives.

Our lives changed forever when we heard lil bub’s heartbeat. I was instantly connected and it was then that we became parents.

Recently we went for our 13 weeks scan and lil bub’s growth has been thriving. Lil bub’s is expected to arrive on the first week of May next year. We can’t wait! But in the meantime, we’re planning for a few getaways before the arrival. A great reason to feed the travel bug!