Wednesday, December 22, 2010

We Lurve Gingersnaps!


Over the weekend, Zara and I attended the launch of this fab new mummy-baby clothing store in BSC called Gingersnaps.

Because we'd been to BSC quite a lot over the last week, we did pass the store a couple of times, but seeing as it looked so swanky I had done my utmost best not to peek inside - I didnt think my credit card could handle it.

So when I was invited to the event on Friday, I really was in two minds about it. Eventually, the curiosity got the better of me and I thought to myself... why not? I'm just there to make an appearance; I'm sure I can avoid the temptation.

So... WRONG! And I should have known that was a lousy excuse *wink*

I was pleasantly surprised though - because despite the fact that the baby clothes were so unbelievably cute (and we all know that usually means a hefty price tag), I did manage to walk away with quite a few items for Zara at just under RM100!  (Yes, yes... my willpower, and my credit card succumbed.)

So if you happen to be in Bangsar for some Christmas shopping this week, do pop in to Gingersnaps for a peek - it'll be worth your time, and your kiddo will have the cutest Christmas outfit ever - guaranteed!

Yes, we succumbed!

Zara's Progress Report - 10 Months

Hello World!
It may be a cliche, but never so true as when I realise how quickly time does fly by when you have a baby.

Just like that, 10 months have crept up on us and in 2 days, my Zara will be officially 2 months away from her FIRST birthday! Wow!

Since my last progress report, Zara's skillset has grown by leaps and bounds. I'd like to say her weight has too, but unfortunately - according to Dr Adrian - at just 7.8kg, she is technically underweight for an infant her age *sniff*. This worried me terribly during our last check up, because I was so sure she had at least surpassed the 8kg mark, thanks to her voracious appetite and the fact that she seems pretty happy in general.

Much to our relief, after checking on her motor skills and other milestones, he concluded that though she is underweight, she isn't under-nourished, otherwise her progress would have faltered considerably. Instead, her low weight is most likely due to a high metabolism and lots of activity!

It's true that Zara is a very active and expressive baby. From what we're starting to learn about her, she's:

1) Stubborn, cheeky and a go-getter like Abah
2) Bad tempered, silly and enjoys testing people's limits like Mummy
3) Quite the adventurer, loving her brief 'fact-finding' missions outside the playpen
4) Patient, when she's learning a new skill, like putting a cube in a cup...
5) But Extremely Impatient, when Mummy's not feeding her fast enough
6) A bit of a drama queen, now that she knows that a convincing cry and a few tears will get her attention...
7) Yet, matter-of-fact when it comes to falling over and getting a mouthful of playmat!

Generally speaking, she can also be both a very happy baby and a very grumpy baby - depending on how much sleep she's had! It's not uncommon for us to hear phrases like "I've never seen such a joyful little creature!" and "Oh my, what a little monster you have there!" within a space of just two hours. Thankfully, I've learnt to deal with these moodswings quite well in public, options being:

a) a biscuit
b) a rattle, and if all else fails,
c) The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse "Hot Dog" theme song playing on my mobile phone. 

What on earth did mothers do before technology?! 

Mummy's secret weapon!
Anyway, I've gotten carried away as usual, so...
To cut a long story short,
Here's Zara's progress report!

Gross Motor Skills
Able to crawl well
Can stand on her own without support
Can walk comfortably and for long distances without support
Can squat to pick up things and stand back up
Can hold her own bottle and sippy cup while drinking
Can clap and dance to music
Can wave 'bye bye'
Can make music by banging tins and buckets with a spoon
Can hold up objects (like Elmo) to Mummy to 'sayang' i.e. kiss
Can give objects and take them back
Can climb stairs but still refuses to follow Mummy's lessons on how to get back down 'legs first'
Play Peekaboo

Fine Motor Skills
Can insert objects into cups

Note: Kindly ignore Mummy's overexcited jubilation at the end!

Can pick up tiny objects
Can press buttons that emit noises or lights
Can pick up moving/spinning objects 

Communication Skills
Jargoning - Can verbalise Gaga, Dada, Kaka, Bwah-bwah, Bah-boo, Gah-goo
Can understand 'No' but occasionally ignores it anyway... she sometimes even laughs at me when I say No with my fierce face.

Interests
Besides Sesame Beginnings, she now also enjoys Mickey Mouse Clubhouse - will 'talk' and react to the TV, even laugh when she sees something she thinks is funny. 
Loves ntv7 promos - will stop whatever she's doing and walk over to watch.
Will stare at books but shows little reaction
 Loves wheels - she will turn over toycars, toy planes, Mummy's shopping trolley, just to inspect and play with the wheels 
Enjoys car-watching with Ah Kong
Enjoys Malay nursery rhymes with Nanie

Feeding
Solids - 8 teaspoons cereal + 3 teaspoons bottled food twice a day
Milk: Breastmilk every 3-4hrs + one 8oz bottle of formula as part of her bedtime routine 
Loves food of all textures and flavours - she has yet to reject anything I've fed her.

She especially likes Japanese tofu!
Sleeping
Naps less during the day now as we've been on the go a lot lately, at most she gets 2 hours.
Sleeps from 10pm to 6-7am, and after a feed will sleep on til 9-10am.

Quirks
Loves blowing bubbles with her saliva
Razzes more than the average baby... and the spit goes quite far too!
Always sneezes exactly three times
Her favourite and silliest expression is what Uncle Farez calls "The Trout", when she purses her bottom lip over her top lip, usually while concentrating
Loves having her nails trimmed and ears cleaned - she will stop whatever she's doing and go a little cross-eyed

Teeth
None!!! Not ONE!

As any Mummy would be regardless of her child's progress, I'm very proud of Zara and absolutely adore watching her when she's engrossed in something and doesnt realise I'm around. These days though, there's another feeling that comes with peeking at my little girl... and it's fear.

Fear that she will grow up too fast and not want to cuddle Mummy anymore, fear that she will someday realise that Mummy isnt actually very funny at all - just silly - when I'm singing and prancing around, trying to entertain her. 

I recall Zara being 2 months old and how impatient I was about teaching her things. Now I just want to sit back and hope she'll slow down a little and keep wanting Mummy the way she does.

Arent parents the strangest fickle creatures?   

Mummy loves you Zara!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

It Ain't Easy...

I'm mad at you, and you better know it Mister!
If your kids are giving you a headache, follow the directions on the aspirin bottle, especially the part that says, "keep away from children."
- Susan Savannah

A child is a curly dimpled lunatic.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sometimes, I need to read funny stuff like this to keep me going during those times when it's really, really hard to be a parent.

Sure, I've written about the many joyous, rewarding occasions when parenting has been mostly bliss. Sometimes I'm pretty good at making it all look like the best walk in the park ever. But of course, the truth is that there are just as many 'down' times as there are 'up' times.

Take these last 24 hours for example.

Abah is stressed. He's been working day and night, day and night for weeks now and is exhausted. His phone rings constantly and there are countless emails to reply. All Abah needs is a good night's sleep and a little peace and quiet.

This would have to be the night that Zara wakes up at 3am screaming her lungs out, and all attempts to comfort her and put her back to sleep are futile. Poor Abah tries to wriggle under the covers to escape the screaming as frantic Mummy tries singing, rocking, patting, feeding, even Quranic verses, to calm the little tyke down. All to no avail. At this point, Zara is writhing, red in the face, mad as heck and making sure as hell that you know it! Abah sighs, grabs his pillow and heads off to the sofa to catch some much needed rest. 

After an hour of this, Mummy is not only exhausted herself, but frustrated and almost in tears because she doesnt know what to do. So she puts Zara in her cot, hides under the covers and lies very still for about 15 minutes. And whaddaya know? Zara stops screaming. Just like that. Mummy peeks into the cot and Zara is fast asleep.

Fast forward to this morning, and Mummy is woken by more screaming. It's like having a nightmare, and waking up to realise it actually isnt a nightmare - it's reality! Abah stumbles back into the room, with a sore neck and looking like crap, to find out what's wrong. Zara has no fever, doesnt seem to have a tummy ache or anything else wrong with her. It's as if she woke up from the wrong side of the bed and has decided today she will give her parents hell.

Believe it or not, she continued screaming all the way til 12pm, stopping only for breakfast and milk, and for now, thank God, a nap.

So yes, there are days when I wonder whether all parents can really be great parents when they are tested to this degree. God knows I try so hard to be the best, most patient Mummy that I can be, but there are times when even I crack and scream back because I'm so lost and tired.

I'm willing to bet that when Zara wakes from her nap in a bit, she'll flash me her sweetest smile ever, and I'll melt and forget all about this morning's episode.

And just like that, the nightmare - the reality - will be the sweetest dream ever.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hari Raya Haji

Happy to have many willing 'victims'!

This year, we spent Zara's first Hari Raya Haji at Tok's house, where Mama (my MiL) spent most of her formative years. These days, it's brimming with cousins of all ages (mostly babies!), and has become quite the playground for our little girl since she started becoming more mobile and finally being able to join in the fun.

Now that she cries less around strangers and allows people other than Mummy to carry her, Zara can be such a joy to have around (note I say 'can', because she has her fair share of moodswings too!). She particularly likes Aunty Nina, who's carrying her in the picture above, and Nanie Fa'i, whom she bullied into walking her around most of the day.

HRH is generally a more quiet affair than HRA, with the exception of an hour or two before Zohore when the poor cows were being slaughtered in a compound right opposite Tok's house! I found that quite traumatic and kept Zara well out of earshot for that. The rest of the time, when she was not with Nina and Nanie Fa'i, Zara entertained herself with the balloons left over from Ilhan's birthday party.

Oh joy! A yellow balloon!
A little chomp is mandatory...
I LOVE this balloon!...
...And now I hate it!
After tiring of the balloons and with Nanie Fa'i in hiding, Zara then pestered me into walking her around the house. This is a new favourite activity of hers - although she can crawl pretty well these days, she prefers to be on her feet... But because she tends to fall after 5 or 6 steps, she prefers to have her hands held, hence requiring willing victims to help her 'walk around'.


Once the festivities in Tok's house wound down, we proceeded over to Nek Pon's place nearby, which was also packed to the brim with relatives. Here, Zara spent plenty of time entertaining people with her new tricks, including clambering over a sea of legs, cruising around furniture, 'chatting' with cousin Hamzah and showing off her limited walking skills. 

Cruising around a captive audience.

'...And then Abang Hamzah, the balloon attacked me...'

'Abah, hands up!' 
Fending off the paparazzi...
All in all, it was a pretty eventful HRH, despite not having done very much at all... thanks mostly to our little entertainer, who has obviously inherited her Abah's outgoing personality!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Many Faces of Zara Aaliyah - The Eating Out Edition

I thought it would be nice to put together a little "scrapbook" of sorts, chronicling the many faces of my daughter as she ventures out into her exciting new world.

The first series of photos would certainly have to be at all the makan places Mummy and Abah have taken her to over the last 5 months. I never realised how many photos I've snapped of her at various mamaks and restaurants since she started being able to sit in a highchair. I suppose it's because Zara is probably at her funniest when we go for these kinds of outings, and because she's so cheeky (quite the attention-grabber), we always inevitably end up making 'friends' with the waiters and other restaurant patrons.

Like tonight, for example, she was playing 'chiak' with her Abah while he was trying to eat dinner, and everytime she got a response, would giggle at the top of her lungs, then grin like a naughty cheshire cat until the next 'chiak'. This went on throughout our entire dinner, and because she's a baby, people didnt seem to mind the ruckus at all; in fact most found it incredibly cute (!).

So here, I present to you, the first in the series of...

"The Many Faces of Zara Aaliyah".... The Eating Out Edition!
 
Around 4.5mths old at Alexis, Great Eastern Mall. 

At 5 months old, the Ah Pek pose made its debut in Cherating.

6mths old at the Hard Rock Hotel in Penang. Ini bukan rocker biasa beb, ini pose rock kapaaaakkkkkk brader!


At around 7mths we took her to our local Mamak Shop for the first time. As you can see, she felt right at home!

At around 7.5mths, she began to get very fidgety and annoyed when people began to eat in front of her. That's when we introduced the spoon as a distraction. This was taken at Subang Airport the day we saw Uncle Yean off.


Finally at 8mths, Mummy discovers the joyous distraction that is the Heinz Teething Rusk! And also, the miracle of the rubber band and string to prevent her from dropping that damn expensive rusk for the 100th time!

Sometimes, she gets so distracted by the rusk, she chews the string instead!
Note: I'm happy to report that we no longer have use for the rubberband and string, as the cheeky girl has since learnt to pass it back and forth between both hands and chew both ends without dropping it even once! Yay!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Zara's Magic Playpen!


Yes, I've been busy! Knowing me and my past life as a workaholic, I just had to menggatal and think up some ideas for a Stay at Home business.

And so, I am proud to say that I am currently taking orders for this fantastic playpen, which Zara loves to pieces.


It hasnt been easy negotiating this deal and I really am starting right at square one - having to learn from scratch how to run a business.

Here are more details about the playpen:

"This lightweight but durable indoor/outdoor playpen is made up of individual coloured pieces that you simply snap together to change the size, shape or even create a separate smaller playpen! Best of all, it's easy to remove, pack up and store until the next baby comes along!"

Suitable up to 5 years of age.
Delivered as two boxes, each containing 16 pieces (4 of each colour).
Each individual panel measures 30cm wide x 61cm high x 3.5cm thick.
Designed in Australia from baby-safe polyethylene plastic.

Please feel free to contact me at sheahnee@gmail.com for more info and thanks so much for your support!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

KakaGagaDada...Abahhhh.

Zara playing 'chiak' with Abah.
Since about two days ago, Zara has suddenly started vocalizing more. Previously she had always just had a repertoire of 'Aaaah' in various tones (from Cute to Screeching!) And then, completely out of the blue yesterday, a whole bunch of new sounds came out from her mouth...

Her new words... Kaka, Gaga, Dada and Abah... yes, Abah! But I doubt she actually does mean her Abah, though it would be lovely if that was her first real word!

Zara particularly likes the words Dada and Abah, and throughout my one hour grocery excursion today she was Dada-ing and Abah-ing all the way, with lots of drool thrown in for good measure.  

Now I wonder when "Ma.....ma..." will make an appearance!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Uncle Geev.


Dear Zara,

Mummy wants to tell you a story about a dear friend named Uncle Geev. Uncle Geev passed away three days ago - I dont want to tell you how it happened because I want this to be a happy story - but let me just say that it was sudden and a really terrible way to lose someone so close.

Mummy and Uncle Geev were high school sweethearts; we met at a Mamak Stall under a tree in front of Aunty Casey's house. We were both 16 and a half, very young and very naive. We started out purely as friends, seeing each other from afar at first, and as we spent more time chatting with each other and learning about one another, our friendship blossomed into young love.

I remember sitting with him in the rain at a bus stop near Aunty Casey's house, when he first told me he loved me. How innocent we were then... thinking we knew what love was! But let me tell you Zara, the best love is always the most innocent.

As we spent more time together, I discovered that Uncle Geev and I were very different. We may have shared many of the same friends but as I got to know him better, I began to understand that not everyone in life was as fortunate as Mummy was, to be brought up in a nice home by both parents and to always have pocket money.

For some people, like Uncle Geev, life was hard. Mummy always had a lot of free time to study and hang out with friends, but when Uncle Geev came home from school, he was always helping his Mum at her small restaurant, making Appams and Thosais, and delivering food to other people's homes. Sometimes, their electricity was cut because they couldnt pay the bills. And sometimes, they didnt have enough money to fix the old red van that Uncle Geev used to drive when he delivered food. I remember more than a few times when the van broke down and Uncle Geev had to push it as far as he could by himself. And he would often spend time fixing the van himself to save whatever money they had on more important things.

When the shop closed for a while in the afternoon and then later for the night, Uncle Geev would finally have some time with his friends, and that's when he would call me from a payphone to talk to me about his day. If he could get the van to himself, sometimes he would come to visit me at Aunty Casey's house after tuition.

When we all finished high school, Mummy went to a nice college, but Uncle Geev had no money to continue his studies. His dream was to become an automotive engineer, and because he knew he didnt have the finances to study that at college, he spent lots of time educating himself. Uncle Geev was always at the mechanic's shop, watching, learning and helping. He also spent a lot of time fixing my old car.

One day, your Nana decided to help pay for him to go to college. It wasnt much, but Uncle Geev was so grateful to get the chance. Unfortunately, we couldnt help send him to a college that taught automotive engineering, so Uncle Geev studied IT instead. Uncle Geev made many dear friends in college, and everyone loved him because he was such a funny guy. Soon after though, Mummy went to study in Australia and it was there that Mummy broke his heart.

When Mummy came back from Australia, Uncle Geev was so kind to give Mummy another chance. But it wasnt meant to be for us. After 7 bittersweet years together, we had grown up and grown apart, and Mummy wanted so many things that Uncle Geev could not understand.

Mummy will always be sorry that she broke Uncle Geev's heart. But looking back, it was the best thing for the both of us. After Mummy and Uncle Geev went separate ways, Mummy eventually found Abah, and Uncle Geev started working with AirAsia. It was there that Uncle Geev got the chance to study aircraft engineering - not cars, his first passion - but certainly close enough. Uncle Geev took this golden chance so seriously and worked so hard to pass his exams. While studying, he continued to work on his other job at AirAsia, and on his off days, always returned to Klang, our hometown, to help his dear mum with her restaurant. Although he was tired, he was always working hard to better his life and to lift your God Aunty Paramas' burden.

Three weeks ago, after so many years of hardship, Uncle Geev finally graduated with a Masters in Engineering and became a Licensed Aircraft Engineer. He was the happiest man in the whole world! He told all his friends that he was going to buy a house for God Aunty Paramas so that she wouldnt have to work anymore, and that he was going to marry his new sweetheart next year. Fate was finally beginning to smile for Uncle Geev, and he was overjoyed the day he received his first salary as an engineer.

Sadly, that same night, Uncle Geev went out with some old friends to celebrate and never came home.

It was the saddest day of Mummy's life. Uncle Geev was just 31.

Mummy learnt a lot of things from Uncle Geev's short, but full life. Despite Uncle Geev's many hardships and disappointments, never once did he complain about his life. Although he didnt have many material things growing up - no nice car, no nice house, no fancy degree - and having to work so hard to help his tireless selfless mum, he was always very pragmatic about things, he never gave up and never forgot to smile. Uncle Geev made friends every where he went - friends of all races and backgrounds - there was no one too beneath him or too high above him that he couldnt get along with.

The other special thing about Uncle Geev was that he was never too tired or too busy to help anyone - he would always be there whenever you needed him. Mummy would know... even after Mummy left him, Uncle Geev helped me many many times when I was down on my luck. He never forgot me, and despite everything, had only the nicest things to say about me. 

Mummy's two biggest regrets are that I never thanked Uncle Geev enough for being such a blessing in my life, and that he never got to meet you, my sweet angel. Mummy was always 'too busy' to meet up and because of that, you never had the chance to meet someone so important to Mummy's life.

Mummy wants you to learn some things from Uncle Geev's life.

First, always be grateful for what little you do have, and dont waste time thinking about the things you dont have.

Second, always be good to people, no matter who they are or where they're from. Good memories are the greatest legacy a person can leave behind.

Three, always work hard to be a better person than you already are. If you have a dream, pursue it! Dont let things like money (specifically, the lack of it) and hardship pull you down. If you really want it, you will and can find a way.

Four, never forget the people who sacrificed everything for you. No matter how hard Uncle Geev's day was, he never forgot to return home to help his poor tired mother.

Five, dont let heartbreak stop you from living. From what I know, Uncle Geev dropped out of college when I left, but it didnt stop him from bouncing back and trying to be a better person. In fact, he went on to become the best person he could be!

Finally, never take people for granted. Mummy had so many things I wanted to say to Uncle Geev, but never did. And now he's gone. Always remember to tell people you love them, and never be 'too busy' to spend time with those you care about.

I love you my little Zara, and I am so sure Uncle Geev would have loved you too. I wish you had had a chance to know him.

I hope you can offer him a prayer every now and then, that he may be happy in Heaven and that he knows he is not forgotten. 

May Mummy's story about Uncle Geev live on in you always.

R.I.P

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

An Act (or Two) of Kindness.

As of today, I am now thoroughly convinced that having a baby with you on an outing tends to bring out the best in Malaysians.

I find this funny because when I was heavily pregnant - 8 months and dependent on a walking stick to support my failing pelvis - I honestly encountered the worst. Hobbling in the rain from the carpark to my office one day, I slipped and fell in front of a car, dropping my laptop, umbrella and files all over the sodden wet concrete. And what did the driver do? Stop and help? Nope, he HONKED at me! Yep, that's right.

Oh, and the countless times I had elevator doors close on me right before I could enter, all because I was too heavy to move faster and the rude ass in the lift couldnt be bothered to hold the door open for me! Or... the times I tried to exit a lift and streams of people just came pushing through, regardless of the fact that I was the size of an elephant and needed plenty of time and space to get out!

So... it was with genuine surprise and deep gratitude that today, I encountered not just one, but two kind people who managed to change my mind about apathetic Malaysians in general. 

The first was at Ikea, as I tried to load a trolley full of stuff into my car while Zara was strapped to my chest in a baby carrier. Believe me, this is not an easy feat. She's over 8 kilos and lifting anything, even if it's 'flat-packed', is a challenge. Just as I stood there helplessly contemplating my idiocy at attempting to purchase such large items on my own, a nice gentleman came by and asked if I could use some help.

Ordinarily, being the bodoh-sombong prig that I am, I would say 'No no, thank you, I'll be fine", the way I used to even when I was 9.5mths and about to pop anytime! But this time, I knew Ikea had beat me and there was no way I could do this without assistance. And so, with a defeated 'yes, please', Encik Salihin loaded my boot for me and then went on his way, but not before I shook his hand and thanked him profusely.

I thought about this incident all the way home, and for the first time in a long time, my heart swelled with pride to be Malaysian. I felt so good I even let several cars potong me at a double line... that's how good it felt.

When I finally parked my car at home, Naz was already waiting to help unload the boot. As we discussed how many trips we'd have to make to get the stuff upstairs, another nice gentleman came over and offered a hand. I was really quite gobsmacked... TWO kind people in less than an hour? Allah must be smiling down on me today! And so, nice gentleman No 2 - Mr Raymond - carried up some of our stuff and then he too went on his way.

Back in my living room, I sat down to marvel at my fortune today. And I realised that, just from the simple acts of these two gentlemen, I had had a great day.

My perception of what it was to be a stranger, a woman, a mother, a neighbour, and most importantly a Malaysian, had changed instantly. I have always been too pessimistic about people (Rude Mr HonkHonk 10 months ago had served to cement that belief) but now I'm quite sure there are more good people than bad out there, and it seems that having a sweet innocent baby with you simply opens people up and makes you more approachable, less of a stranger.

These days, whenever I have Zara with me, I'm able to have conversations with the most random of people, and it usually starts with the phrase 'Berapa umur baby?'. And then the barriers that divide us, that made us strangers, miraculously melt away. Now if only people were that nice on days Zara isnt with me! But why cant we be nicer to each other? Why cant we hold lift doors for people and let others exit properly before we barge through? Do I have to carry a baby to have people do so?  I'm sure we can all do better. As for me, I will now make an effort to smile and be kind to people every day, because who knows? Maybe I might help someone's day go from being just ordinary to just great!

Thank you again Encik Salihin and Mr Raymond for helping me angkat my barang and most importantly, for opening my eyes.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Zara's First Raya!

This post is a long time coming but it really has taken me that long to get my Raya pictures in order!

Zara's first Baju Raya!

Our first Raya family photo!

 
 
Nanie let her try roti...


...And Zappel (!)...

...And even Ais Kacang! Naughty Nanie!
 
Passed out from all the excitement...
Yes, and as you can see, at just 6 months, Zara had already learnt that the Malaysian Raya experience was generally typified by new clothes, (lots of) eating, and plenty of exhaustion by the end of the day!

Oh, and we found that Zara just LOVES duit raya... chewing the packets, that is!


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Zara's Progress Report - 7 Months, 3 Weeks

It's wonderful how fast a baby can progress in just a matter of weeks, sometimes even days! The things Zara learns on her own and from watching other babies never cease to amaze me and I often find it hard to believe that 7 months ago, she was just a tiny grub who couldnt even hold her head up and didnt do much except cry and poop (a lot!).

Today, my tiny grub is a lovely little girl with lots of character who can make her Abah's heart melt even when his football team plays like crap. And she is the only thing in the whole world that can make her Mummy tear up when she flashes her goofy (gummy) smile while doing the Zarafunnydance.

In fact, one of the main reasons I quit my fulltime job was so I wouldnt miss those moments, and by golly, do they zip past fast! So it is with a great amount of pride and an equal amount of relief that I can present Zara's progress report to date, knowing that I managed to catch every one of her great milestones so far...

First Real Smile: 45 days

First Slept Through the Night: 2 months

First Rolled Over (Front to Back): 2 months, 1 week

First Giggle: 3 months, 3 weeks 

First Sat Up Unsupported: 4 months

First Stood Up Supported (by the sofa): 4 months, 1 week 

First Solids: 4 months, 1 week

First Drink from a Sippy Cup: 6 months

First Pulled Herself Up to Standing (using the cot): 6 months

First Crawled (after the remote control!): 6 months, 1 week

First Stood Without Support: 7 months

First Steps (from Mummy to Abah): 7 months, 4 days
*** Cant seem to load this video... must be too long :-( ***

First Jigged (The Zarafunnydance): 7 months, 2 weeks
Some people have commented to me that Zara seems to have developed quite fast for her age, but I always remind them that she is also the most ungraceful crawler (which she is!) and quite clumsy too (she's so gelojoh about doing everything that she's always falling over and getting bumped in the process). I believe the two main reasons she's gotten a headstart with things like sitting, standing and walking are because she's extremely impatient and that I'm always around to guide her. So I guess everything sort of evens out when you look at the big picture.*

Needless to say, as any mother would be regardless of their child's rate of progress, I am incredibly proud to be Zara's Mummy. I can already see myself standing in the bleachers when she's a teenager at her Sports Day, embarassing her terribly by waving about wildly and cheering her name. And then I remember my own Mum doing the same for me when I was a kid (though perhaps not to the same degree), and realise a Mother's greatest achievement is usually always her children.

Yes, Zara, you are by default already my greatest achievement, and Mum, thanks for embarassing me as a kid - I love you and always will!

*If there's anyone out there whose kid hasnt yet done any of the above, please rest assured that every baby develops at his or her own pace; it's perfectly normal and certainly not an indication of their intellectual development! 

p.s. Dont you just love phones nowadays? I think I took every one of these pics/videos with my Berry! Yay to being able to capture all baby's milestones on camera!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cabaran Ramadhan

At my conversion ceremony in March 2008.

2010 is my third year as a Muslimah and it was also meant to be my sixth year of fasting during Ramadhan. Since 2005, I'd done my best to never miss fasting during this holy month, because I had just started learning about Islam, and fasting along with my Muslim friends seemed like the right thing to do.

After taking the plunge and converting to Islam in 2008, fasting began to take on a whole new meaning for me, because unlike before, when I was just testing my personal limits and accompanying my friends, now going a whole month without food and water during the day suddenly became a spiritual experience - a time to be grateful for finding love, peace, and most importantly, God. 

During Ramadhan that year, I was still basking in the glow of marriage, finding my footing within my new extended family, and little did I realise, also carrying just-conceived twins! Fasting was so easy and joyful, and by the time Raya came, it hadnt even felt like a month had passed! 

When Ramadhan 2009 rolled by, so much had happened in my life, including losing the twins and thankfully, conceiving again, that there was so much more to be insaf about and grateful for. Unfortunately, because I was about 4-5 months pregnant at the time, and so ill and dehydrated from terrible morning sickness, I had to skip fasting on the doctor's advice.

Come August 2010. I am the proud new mother of a lovely little girl, and on all accounts, raring to get my fasting record back on track. Then, by the fourth day of Ramadhan, my milk supply dropped so drastically that the doctor recommended stopping my fast so that I could take medication to bring the supply back up. And since Zara was still around 5-6 months old at the time, she still required sufficient amounts of breastmilk to complement her semi-solid diet. So... that was that. Another Ramadhan gone to waste.

Some of my friends were surprised that I had even attempted to fast while breastfeeding, insisting that in Islam, it is acceptable for a breastfeeding mother as long as you pay fidyah. Still, I felt terribly guilty about not being able to fast for the second year in a row, and at the back of my mind, I also worried about having to replace a WHOLE lot of fasting days before the next Ramadhan!

On top of that, I had to endure a lot of snide remarks from other women about not fasting, ranging from "I fasted while breastfeeding, why cant you?" to "E'elek... it's not like you're gravely ill that you cant fast!", and even "Zara will survive lah, my kid did!" It made me doubt myself constantly and I wasn't sure whether I was doing the right thing.

Until today, I still look back at my Ramadhan, think about my many wasted opportunities to redeem myself in the eyes of Allah and wonder if I could have continued on. But... the month has come and gone, and I now have no choice but to wait until the next Ramadhan comes along.

Insyallah.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Daddy's Little Girl!

Found this picture in my laptop today, and blimey... will you look at that? Our Zara is a spitting image of her Abah!

Naz, aged 2 years, with his kakak, Nora

Now let's just hope she didnt also inherit her Abah's generous nose hehehe...

Still Sleepless?


Lacking sleep at night, poor baby would be
so exhausted during the day that she'd collapse onto
my tummy and knock out instantly.

And... there I go again.... AWOL for almost two whole months!

Although there are a lot of reasons for this (and some lame excuses too), the main one is that I've really been soooooo tired! *Yawn*

Yes, the Ramadhan and Raya frenzy did play a part in the exhaustion, but the truth is, I just havent been getting enough sleep since Ms Zara Aaliyah (The Boss) decided at 5.5months to stop sleeping so beautifully through the night.

Smart-a** Mummy and Abah thought we had moved past those pesky sleep issues when The Boss turned two months old. I had learnt from a dear friend that 4-5oz of either breastmilk or formula presented in a bottle could miraculously knock out a baby until 6, maybe even 7am, if you were lucky. We got even luckier: for 3.5 blissful months, The Boss slept from 10am right through to 8.30am every night! Needless to say, Mummy and Abah were very happy (thanks Yan!), and even managed to get some quality time together after 10pm *wink wink*

And then... as all things are with The Boss, everything went to sh*t and she decided to shake us out of our complacent reverie, waking up not once or twice but sometimes four to five times a night!

Now I know some parents out there are suffering far worse than I am (one poor lady shared with me on Facebook that she endured sleepless nights for TWO years... as a working mum too!) - so to these seasoned sleep"less"ers, my complaint is really peanuts. 

But as new parents experiencing real sleep issues for the first time, we really went bonkers. After a couple of weeks of sleeplessness, and seeing my husband conduct his morning show in what looked like a drunken stupor, I knew something had to be done... and fast!  

So I rushed out to the bookstore and invested in a few books on sleeping to see what the experts were recommending. From the feedback I received, Gina Ford sounded great, but when I read her solutions, I knew instantly that I (like many Asian parents) would not have the stomach to pull off most of her sleeping methods, particularly "Crying Down", which made me want to cry instead.

Jo Ryan of "Baby Bliss" fame also recommended a few ideas, which we tried but didnt seem to work for us. Internet searches revealed few practical solutions, with many other mothers offering sympathy and recommending just waiting it out patiently.

Finally, I read feverishly through my "What to Expect in The First Year" handbook (God's Gift to all new parents!) and chanced upon a name I had also seen mentioned in several other books (including Ford's and Ryan's). That magic word was "Ferber".

I had originally skimmed over that word in my previous research because at first glance, I didnt feel I could deal with crying of any sort (and Ferberization does involve quite a bit of crying, though not as much as the "Crying Down" method). But as I continued to read up on what it entailed, it began to look more and more do-able.

So the hubby and I set aside a week to begin sleep-training The Boss, with the agreement that since he had to work, I would be the one responsible for comforting Zara through the night.

That was over a month ago. And for the last two weeks, Zara has slept comfortably from 10am until 6am, when she takes a feed and continues her sleep with us in our bed, sometimes until 9 or 10am. 

There have been stops and starts though, such as when we had to move back to my in-laws for Raya, and when we went for a short holiday to Penang, which upset Zara's sleep routine a little and resulted in her waking up once or twice.

But overall, The Boss has finally learnt:

1) that a diaper change, a 5oz bottle and a dark room means that it's sleepy time
2) how to fall asleep on her own,
3) how to return to sleep after waking in the middle of the night, 
4) not to expect milk, patting, rocking or lullabies if she wakes in the middle of the night,
5) that Mummy will only pick her up for a feed at around 6am (and she is like clockwork, most of the time)
6) and... how to sleep in any cot anywhere, as long as the sleepy time routine stays the same.

Yes, Zara does still have her moments every now and then, where she'll wake at about 4 or 5am and cry for an hour (or two), so we revert back to Ferber and the next night she's usually ok again.

On the whole though, the experience has shown results, and as evidenced by my return to blogging, I am no longer fearful of bedtime because I know I will get at least 5 hours of solid sleep (yay!).

So here's hoping that Zara's good sleep continues, and that Mummy will finally be able to rest well enough to be able to stay awake and blog!

UPDATED @ 11:15pm, 27 September 2010:
Since posting this piece, I found an article on the net that is serious food for thought. The Ferber method may not be for everybody and it has its fair share of supporters and critics, so if you're planning to try any form of sleep-training, please make sure you read this opinion first.

I wish I had read this sooner; it may have greatly altered my approach to Zara's sleep issues, which I plan to start addressing a little differently from tonight onwards. Good luck to sleepless mothers everywhere!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Boob Juice Chronicles.

My breastfeeding experience so far has been a challenging one, to say the least. Granted, there are women out there who've had worse experiences, but I'll be honest when I say that I do understand why choosing to fully breastfeed can be a difficult decision for many.

I remember writing back in early March that I intended to exclusively breastfeed Zara until she was 2 years old. This meant that Zara would not be given bottles, pacifiers or infant formula. It also meant that on the occasions that I had to leave her with someone else, I would have to express my milk and have her caregiver feed her using a cup or spoon. Lactation consultants recommend cup or spoon feeding over bottles because they are believed to prevent "nipple confusion".

Nightmare in Semarak

And so it happened that I decided to go back to reading the 8pm news part-time at ntv7. Taking the advice of my lactation consultant and armed with all the research I had done on the internet, I bought a special cupfeeding device from Medela, expressed several bottles of milk, and left Zara with my mother-in-law.

The evening turned out to be a complete nightmare.

During the three hours I was away, poor Zara - about 2 months old at the time - screamed the entire time I was away, desperate for milk but unwilling to take it from the cupfeeding device. Most of the milk ended up on her pyjamas, and my mother-in-law (bless her!) was left so frustrated and upset from Zara's wails, she herself was almost in tears. 

When I returned from work, I was shocked to see my little one all purple in the face from crying, and when my mother-in-law passed her to me, Zara began desperately searching for my boob. After finding it, she drank as if her life depended on it. Emotionally drained, my mother-in-law suggested trying the bottle, but I - resolute in my beliefs - refused to give up or give in.

A Battle of Wills: Mummy vs Zara

Over the next few days, I tried to train Zara to accept the cup, but all that resulted was a lot of wasted milk and a very unhappy little baby. And when my turn to newsread came up again, the cupfeeding nightmare continued.

After three nights of the same drama, I realised I couldnt bear to see my little girl upset like that ever again. We had to find a solution... and fast!

From that day on, we tried everything we could think of to feed Zara. We attempted feeding her before she was hungry. We waited til she was too hungry. There was the spoon. That was as much a failure as the cup.

Eventually, we caved and tried the bottle. I bought her a special Tommee Tippee bottle that's supposed to resemble the breast as closely as possible. And after a few painful days, she eventually began to accept it. I felt like a failure that I wasn't able to stick to my "No Bottle" plan, but with my daughter's emotional health at stake, something had to give.

With the bottle, we thought we had solved our problem. A few weeks went by peacefully, and it seemed as if I would be able to go back to newsreading without worrying constantly about Zara.

Mummy Wins... Or So We Thought!
(a.k.a. "Take That, Mummy!") 

And then, our reverie was shattered. Out of the blue, Zara began rejecting the bottle. Try as we might, no one could get her to drink from it. She went back to crying for three hours, preferring to retire from exhaustion than take even one sip of expressed milk. It was the straw that broke Naz's back. He gave me an ultimatum - solve this problem or stop newsreading.

I decided to take a month's break from the roster, and formulated a plan to train her to accept the bottle. Everyday, after her evening bath, I would add a bottle of expressed milk to her routine. For a week, she screamed and spat out every drop of the milk I had spent valuable hours pumping.

But I persevered.

I would keep the teat in her mouth as she screamed, even if she drank none if it, hoping she would get used to it, hoping she would learn that no amount of screaming would remove that dreaded bottle. When she calmed down, as she usually did after sometime, I would remove the bottle and comfort her, before rewarding her with what she wanted - boob.

After about a week of doing this - a wretched week's worth of heartache from watching my baby cry - finally... finally... 30 seconds into her screaming, she stopped suddenly and lapped up an entire bottle. Just like that. I nearly jumped for joy!

It's been a month now, and ever since - touch wood - she has accepted the bottle calmly with no tears at all, even caressing it gently as she drinks.

Going...Going... Gone!

You'd think that with the bottle problem solved, everything would now be hunky dory, right?

Wrong!

Just when Zara started accepting the bottle happily enough, my menses returned after a year AWOL, and without warning, my milk production dipped to an all-time low. In panic, I consulted my ObGyn, who referred me to a lactation consultant.

Following her advice, I increased the regularity of my pumping to boost milk production, started taking calcium magnesium to supplement my blood calcium levels, and on my own initiative, began a regimen of  3 capsules, 3 times daily of the herb, Fenugreek.

I had taken Fenugreek before with great success. From pumping a measly 2oz per session, after a day of Fenugreek I could easily express 5-6oz.

But this time, it was different. No amount of pumping, calcium magnesium or Fenugreek could get my milk to flow. Zara began getting increasingly agitated during feeds, and to top it all off, I had an overseas wedding to attend, and not enough milk stored away in my freezer.

I went on a pumping frenzy, desperately trying to squeeze as much milk from my sore, sagging boobs as I could. And still, all I could extract was a pathetic 1.5oz.

Thankfully for Zara, her twice daily solid food diet was keeping her from starving. Unfortunately for me, my overseas trip - tickets booked and all - didn't look as promising.

The idea of going anywhere without Zara and not leaving behind enough milk was making me so anxious, I was almost in tears everytime I pumped less than an ounce. I told Naz to cancel my ticket, and to go alone for the wedding. But the dejected look on his face was so heartbreaking, I knew I had to find a way to get there.

And so, this is how, after all my well-meant intentions, we started Zara on formula.

Of course, Zara being Zara, she rejected it for a few days, but tonight, she finally accepted a 2oz bottle of Enfelac A+.

What I Have Learnt So Far...

I plan for this to be only a short term measure, until I get back from my trip and resume with full breastfeeding. But as with all my 'plans' so far, I am now also prepared to be realistic. I can say now that the most important thing I've learnt about parenting is that the best-laid plans - even the noblest - must make way for what's necessary at the time.

What matters most is that your baby is healthy and happy, and that you - as a parent - keep doing your best. If you fail, keep trying, and if you continue to fail, take heart that you tried.

This is why, in honour of World Breastfeeding Week, I urge all new mums out there to at least give breastfeeding a try. It's OK if you fail, but at least just give it a shot - a real shot - and be assured that you have put your baby's best interests first. And if, after all your attempts, you find it's not working for you, at least you know you've tried to give your baby the best headstart in life. 

Despite my own failures, and my overwhelming guilt at having succumbed to formula (albeit briefly), I wish all breastfeeding mums out there, Happy World Breastfeeding Week. Bravo to you all!

And to those who tried breastfeeding and didn't succeed, give yourself a pat on the back that you tried anyway!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Still Quiet of A Dark Room.

Tonight, as I tucked my little bunny into bed, I kissed her forehead and placed my hand briefly on her chest as I always do.

And suddenly... there, in the still quiet of the dark room, I felt her heartbeat - steady and strong... boop boop boop boop - and tears came into my eyes.

In that moment, I flashed back to all the times before she came into my life when I had seen (or heard) her heartbeat and wondered what it would be like when I could finally hold her in my arms.

I remembered the day I discovered I was pregnant. How I jumped for joy when I saw two lines appear on a pregnancy test I was so sure would turn up negative! How I ran and leaped on my husband as I frantically waved the proof in front of his bewildered and tear-streaked face.

The test I took on a pure whim. Because of my Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), we were due to go on fertility treatment and never once thought suspected I might be pregnant.

I remembered the day I first saw her on Dr Alex's ultrasound. She was really just a blob on the screen but I already felt so much love for this being Allah had chosen to bless us with.

 Zara at 6 weeks

I remembered the day I first saw her heartbeat register on Dr Alex's fancy machine. They were just a bunch of fuzzy lines, but to me, after having miscarried once before, those lines represented hope... hope that this time, my peanut would be something so much more.

 A heartbeat! - Zara at about 8 weeks

I remembered the day I found she had grown from a peanut into the beginnings of what finally looked like a tiny human being. And when I read that at that age, she was only about 3cm long, it dawned on me just how fragile she was, and how I would spend the rest of my life protecting her from the badness of the world.

  Zara at 9 weeks

I remembered the day we ooh-ed and aah-ed when she pulled her unborn hand up to cradle her face, the way she still does now when she's asleep.

Zara at 11 weeks

I remembered the day I caught a fleeting glimpse of her little hand, and counted five perfect fingers, right before she curled them into a fist and turned away from the attention. I couldn't imagine how it would feel to someday be able to hold that hand - the way I do now when she wants comfort in her carseat.

Five perfect little fingers - Zara at 13 weeks

Hello Mummy! Cant wait to meet you!

I remembered the day our cheeky girl first winked at us with what we knew would be large beautiful eyes.

*Wink wink* - Zara at 33 weeks.

I remembered the day I waited 20 long, agonising hours to deliver her, when the best comfort I had was the strong steady sound of her heartbeat, amplified for all to hear, cheering me on, lightening my load and easing my pain.

Minutes before Zara was born...

Til today, it still has that effect on me, in the still quiet dark of the room. 

I remembered the minute, the exact second she was born, and looked straight into my eyes. She looked as if she loved me already, as I had known already, what seems so long ago, that I loved her.

In the darkness, I spared a minute to mourn for the two peanuts I had lost more than a year ago, and thanked Allah for Zara, for her strong steady heartbeat, and for how that gives my heart a reason to go on beating too.

My little peanuts, who never made it past 3 months.