Another Year Wiser

About 2 weeks ago, I was reminded by the fact that time waits for no one, and without realizing, I was another year older wiser. I really do believe that time seems to fly much faster when you have a baby! Every day is just a mad rush in the morning and right after work. The only solace I have is actually during work in the office, where I have my own me-time, doing my own thing, without having to constantly look up to see where Little J has gone to, or whether it’s time to prepare his food, get him to nap, etc. I can do things according to my own schedule, not his, and it’s liberating, for that 8-9 hours a day. Right after work though, it’s a continuation of my hectic rush of picking him from child care, preparing dinner, feeding him and myself at the same time, doing the dishes, preparing his bath, milk and finally putting him to bed. Repeat this every day and night, and without you knowing, a week has passed, and then a month and now, a year!

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Birthday cake

Since my birthday fell on a weekday, Saucer and I decided to take the day off, send Little J to child care as usual, and have a day out, just the two of us! Yes, we have to resort to taking our annual leaves to have some alone time, now that we have Little J in our lives. Don’t get me wrong, nothing in the world makes us happier than he does, but once in a while, we need to have some adult time with each other too. And so it started with us watching a movie together in the cinemas. Gosh, almost forgot how that felt like! :) Then, we took the train to the city, and had lunch at Lowenbrau Keller at The Rocks. Being the birthday girl, I had my meal there for free! So generous of them indeed.

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Schweinshaxn / Oven-Roasted Pork Knuckle (AUD$36)

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Crispy pork knuckle skin

Upon the waitress’ recommendation, I had the Oven-Roasted Pork Knuckle that came with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut. The pork knuckle was huge! The skin was mostly crispy (except for some parts on the sides which were still chewy and rubbery) but we thought it was overly salted. Yes, I know that we have to salt the skin to get it to be crispy but I would expect the chef to remove most of the salt once it’s done. Other than that, did I mention that the portion was really huge? It was full of meat and even after 20 minutes of eating, Saucer looked at my plate and said, “It looks like you didn’t even touch the dish!”.

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Jägerpfanne /Charcoal-Grilled Veal Backstrap (AUD$31)

Saucer, on the other hand, ordered something different. We were well aware of the fact that German restaurants are usually good for pork knuckles, sausages and beer, but since we’re already having 2 out of the 3 specialties, he decided to go with the Charcoal-Grilled Veal Backstrap. It was served with home made egg noodles, mushroom sauce and melted cheese in a cast iron pan. When the dish came, I have to admit that it didn’t look all that appetizing because everything was mixed up into a mush. But it did smell amazing because of the cheese, and Saucer liked the veal too. So I was too quick to judge. But would we order this again next time? Probably not. We prefer sticking to the old favourites. :)

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Saucer and his dark beer

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Lowenbrau Dunkel (AUD$12)

Having pork knuckle in a German restaurant without a beer seemed like a crime, so we ordered one. The Lowenbrau dark beer was surprisingly very smooth and easy to drink, even for my standards. In fact, it was the perfect drink that day since it was quite warm in the afternoon, and the cold, smooth and refreshing beer was what we needed.

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Pork knuckle and I

In the middle of our meal, I was faced with yet another surprise with a 2-person band walked to our table and asked if someone was celebrating her birthday today. I nodded embarrassingly and they broke into a Happy Birthday song complete with 3 cheers. :)

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Saucer and his veal

After our long and filling lunch, we took a walk around Circular Quay and visited the Museum of Contemporary Arts for the first time. It was quite impressive that such a large and spacious building in prime location is used to appreciate modern arts with free entrance. We then walked to the city to get me my birthday present but the item that I wanted was out of my size. :( I guess I will have to make do with a belated birthday gift.

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Home-cooked dinner by Saucer

When it was time to head home, we took the train back and Saucer insisted to do some grocery shopping before picking Little J up. The sweet man wanted to make me dinner for my birthday! It was nothing fancy, but just knowing that he put in the effort to make my day special was enough to make me gooey inside. After dinner, we completed the celebration with a birthday cake. I insisted on waiting until Little J was back to cut the cake, because it wouldn’t be complete without him in the picture, would it?  We had a pretty tear drop shaped cake from La Renaissance, a famous patisserie in The Rocks. It was a mixed berry mouse cake encased in almond sponge and topped with glazed berries. Tasted as good as it looked too! Yum!

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Pretty birthday cake – Larme de Gaugin from La Renaissance Patisserie

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Mixed berry mousse, encased in a decorative almond sponge and topped with glazed mixed berries

Last but not least, a family picture for the album. We managed to take this self-timer shot after less than 10 tries, which was quite an achievement seeing that Little J is always so fidgety. My birthday celebration overall – it was nothing fancy, no romantic candle-lit dinners, no late-night movies, none of that. But we have our little bundle of joy with us, and that makes a whole lot of difference. I wouldn’t want to have it any other way, this year, and for many years to come. :)

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A picture of us <3

Applying for Malaysian Passport from Australia

As mentioned in my previous post, we went to Canberra just before the Easter break to register for Little J’s birth and to apply for his Malaysian passport. There were a lot of planning involved in that trip, not only logistics (Little J’s food, clothes, nappies, timing the trip with his nap/sleep time, etc) but also preparation in terms of the documents we needed. The last thing we wanted was to drive all the way there after making an appointment a month in advance, to find that we forgot to bring an important document needed to register his birth! That would really be a disaster and a waste of all the effort we (I) had put in.

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Nothing like a sleeping child on a road trip :)

Anyway, as with everyone else in Sydney, our nearest option to register for our child(ren)’s birth with the Malaysian Consulate would be in Canberra. All the information you need really is in their website. One key point to note is that to register for your child’s birth, it is highly recommended to do so before he turns 1 year old, because after that period, you would need more documents and have to wait for a longer application time (more than 6 months according to the website).

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We’re there!

For the list of documents required for the registration, you could check out this link. For passport application, check out this link. Other important key points to take note:

  • Make an appointment as soon as possible. Note that appointment times available are only from 9am to 10am, Monday to Thursday. So if you are making a day trip there, it means starting your journey from Sydney at 5.30am the latest. Or if you are planning to stay the weekend there, you might want to book a Monday morning appointment. For us, we managed to get the appointment on the Thursday before Good Friday, so we got to stay a night there after our official business.
  • Take passport photos of your child beforehand (if you want to save money). If you are like me, trying to save the AUD$15 for photos, you could take the photos of your child beforehand at home. It’s actually not too hard especially for babies who are not that mobile yet. Just lay them on a piece of white cloth and snap the picture with his/her eyes looking at the camera, mouth closed and head straight (not tilted). We did this and the officer accepted our photos! Printing the photos ourselves at the photo shop only cost us AUD$0.15 by the way. :)
  • Double and triple check all the documents required for the application. Most importantly, make sure all the original documents are with you. If you don’t/forget to make enough copies, as long as you have the originals, you could still make the copies there. But without the originals, your application might have to be put on hold.
  • Parking off-street in front of the consulate. Since it was our first time there, we were not sure where to park and tried to enter via the gates which were closed. After several attempts at the intercom, we then found out that public cars were not allowed inside the building. We had to park outside by the road or across the building. Entering the building was via a side gate which was unlocked.
  • Child registration and passport application are two different processes. Read more about this in my experience below.

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Posing in front of the Malaysian Consulate

We reached there right at 10am on the dot. We were worried about being late but there was actually another family in front of us still in the process of renewing their passports so we sat down and waited. There were 3 counters but only one with an officer. There was no numbering system so we thought we just had to wait until the family was done to get to our turn. That family actually took more than 30 minutes (3 adults and 2 kids) to renew all their passports and by the time the officer was available, it was about 10.45am. So we quickly went over to the counter, ready with documents. When the officer asked for Little J’s Malaysian birth cert/Borang W, I said I didn’t have it and that I was supposed to apply for it then. Little did we know that the officer that we were waiting for was actually in charge of passports ONLY, while registration of birth was handled by another officer who was freely roaming around in the office behind the counters. :( When he came out, he said “Oh I saw you waiting earlier. Why didn’t you call me?” I felt so stupid for waiting for 45 minutes with a hungry Little J for no reason. Stupid for assuming that everyone was supposed to wait for that one operating counter. Anyway, to cut the story short, we had all our documents ready, Little J did some thumb prints, we paid the fees and proceeded to the next counter for passport application. Thankfully, the officers were quite nice and fast, so we managed to submit everything within half an hour.

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Malaysian Consulate in Canberra

On another note, we kept hearing about the famous nasi lemak that was sold at the Malaysian Consulate before and I asked the officer about it. Unfortunately, since the processing of passports moved from Canberra to Melbourne, there were less applicants at the Canberra office, which resulted in declined market for the nasi lemak. Apparently, the nasi lemak was made by one of the staff in the office to sell to people who had to endure long waits for the passport processing back in the time where you could collect them within the same day. Now that passport processing is done in Melbourne (or Perth), we could only submit our application in Canberra and wait for a month for the passport to be ready.

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Are we done yet?

By 3pm on the same day, we were able to collect the Borang W (Malaysian birth registration certificate) from the office. For the passport, we had the option of providing an Express self-addressed envelope to the officer to mail it to us when it’s ready, or to go back to the office and collect by hand. We opted for the postage and within a month or so, Little J’s passport arrived in the mail! I have to say I’m quite impressed with the efficiency of the Malaysian Consulate.

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Little J’s Malaysian passport!

More Milestones Unlocked

Is it April already? Is it just me, or does time fly by when you have a baby? Well it certainly feels that way! Even though I do the same things every day, it doesn’t feel boring or routine like I would have pre-baby. Pre-baby, everything was just so… predictable. Wake up at the same time every morning when the alarm rings, take a shower, get ready for work, spend the day at the office, leave office, reach home, prepare dinner, have dinner, wash up, some TV or social media time, sleep. Weekends? Food-hunting mostly! Movies, dinners, walks on the beach, occasional trips to the coast. Yes, that was life pre-baby, and I have to admit, even though I like routine, I did feel that my life was uninteresting. Fast forward to present, and a small part of me actually misses that predictable routine. Fine, a big part of me. I guess it’s true when they say that you won’t miss what you’ve got until it’s gone.

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Life-changer, this little one

I do miss having my 8-hour sleep every night. I do miss leaving for office and going back home driving at leisurely speed. I do miss having my own sweet time to prepare dinner every day and to experiment with different recipes when I felt like it. Now? I will be very lucky if I get 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night. I am normally awaken by the baby even before my alarm rings. I drive to office in a rush because of the extra time I take to fetch Little J to child care in the morning, and I drive back in a rush too, so that I can reach the child care before it closes at 6pm. And dinner is now an express affair with a maximum of 15 minutes spent putting the rice in the rice cooker and whipping up a very simple stir-fry dish or oven-baked dish. I can’t even remember the last time I tried out a new recipe. Don’t even get me started on holidays. What holidays?

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Back when he still had not learnt to stand

On top of all this, there are also the occasional days when Little J gets sick at the child care, and I would have to leave office in the middle of the day, pick him up, bring him to the doctor’s and worry about him until he gets better. Seriously, MOTHERHOOD. It amazes me what motherhood has made me do, things that I’d never thought I could.

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Waiting at the clinic – check out his drool!

Can you blame me for missing my predictable care-free life pre-baby? On the other hand, every day when I go home to see this little bundle of joy, I am reminded of how lucky I am, and how much love I have for this little baby. It makes all the dark eye circles, the incessant yawning during meetings at work, the constant worry of getting a call from the child care at work, worth it. At 8 months now, he is so much more active. I have always known that he’s an active baby because he just wouldn’t keep still even when he was newborn. His hands would always be moving and his legs kicking. And now that he’s learnt to crawl, he is going everywhere! He’s also learning to stand, so he will pull himself up whenever he is able to anchor onto something – a couch, cot bar, TV table, you name it.

Every time I look at Little J, I am filled with pride and amazement, mostly from the fact that I have managed to take care of him full-time on my own for the first 6 months, and more than part-time once I start working. I never thought I could do it, juggling work, baby and housework at the same time, but here I am still alive, albeit exhausted. I really don’t know what a good night’s sleep feels like anymore, but I am sure it will come to me soon. It’s just a matter of time, right?

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Our precious cutie <3

Little J’s Latest Obsession

Is it December already? My, how time flies! I can still remember vividly my experience of giving birth to Little J in July, and now it has been more than 4 months already! As expected, with a baby around, our outings became less, which means less food posts. You must be thinking, that should give way to more recipe posts instead, since I’d be cooking most meals? Well, cooking has been a quick-fix affair – pasta, chicken rice, oven-baked dishes, anything that requires minimal cooking time/supervision gets my vote. I can’t tell you the many times that I would be preparing the raw ingredients to cook when Little J would choose to scream for my attention. Then, I would be darting to and fro the kitchen trying to keep him entertained for the next few minutes so that I could finish my cutting/marinating/cooking/washing. Really, if you want to learn multitasking, take care of a baby. LOL. Which explains why there would be less recipe posts as well, since my dishes are mostly a combination of what is available in the fridge.

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Little J at 4 months

When I scroll through my phone, I notice that more than 90% of my pictures are now filled with Little J (used to be food). This means it only makes sense that my blog posts would be focusing more on my baby, for now at least. Here are some of the pictures that I took when he just turned 4 months old and was in a good mood. I absolutely love the quiet afternoons spent with him, just the 2 of us, at home. Thinking about this reminds me that I would be starting work soon and would miss all the times that we’d be spending together. :(

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When he’s in a good mood, I always try to put him on his tummy to strengthen his neck and back muscles. Being a curious boy also helps in photography because he kept staring at my camera, perhaps wondering what it was. :)

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Tummy time!

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Love his rosy cheeks!

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For the past month or so, however, he developed a new obsession – sucking on his little fingers. I’m telling you, every waking moment that he has when he is not distracted, he would be gnawing on his fingers or sometimes, fist. When he first started, I thought it was because he’s hungry so I fed him. But immediately after feeding, he would place his fingers in his mouth again. So I am now convinced that it’s nothing to do with hunger and he just loves chewing his fingers! Obviously I can’t monitor him 24/7, so all I can do is to make sure that his hands are always clean whenever I place him on his play mat or when he goes to sleep.

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Suck suck

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Nom nom nom

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My latest obsession

I hope this is just a developmental phase instead of a habit that sticks!

Full Moon Celebration

It’s interesting to know that a baby’s full moon celebration is really only practiced by the Chinese customs when a baby turns one month old. Needless to say, when I talked about this tradition with my Australian colleagues, all of them were intrigued. To be honest, I am not very familiar with this tradition either but I learnt that a baby’s full moon celebration is sort of an unveiling party to present the baby to friends and relatives for the first time after he’s born. It is also held to celebrate the health of the baby, where visitors give their blessings and gifts. Little J had his full moon celebration a couple of months back, when my mom was around to help out. Since we don’t have many relatives here, we only had a mini celebration with simple home cooked dishes by my mom.

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Red eggs to symbolize fertility and harmony

On the night before the celebration, my mom prepared the pork trotter’s dish because she said that it would taste much better left overnight. It was a good call because it turned out that on the next day, there was so much to do that she just barely got everything ready in time for lunch. We only had a few relatives joining us – namely my cousin brother and his wife, my dad’s cousin and her family, plus my grandmother’s good friend, all of whom are residing in Sydney.

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Little J after he just woke up

Just before lunch, Little J woke up from his morning nap. As usual, he would expect to be fed once he’s awake. When he wasn’t fed after a while, he started getting cranky and started to protest with a cry. It was quite stressful to keep him entertained while we warmed up his milk, because this boy is not patient at all. If he wants something and he doesn’t get it, he will make it known with a big loud wail. Saucer helped by placing him in different positions to distract him, but it only worked for a while before he realized he wasn’t getting any milk yet!

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Little mister cranky

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“Where is my milk?”

Of course, once his milk was ready, he immediately gulped it down contentedly. That’s one of the reasons I found it hard to feed him with a bottle, because his wakings were sometimes unpredictable and it’s stressful to listen to him cry while waiting for the milk to be warmed. Staying with him at home meant that I could do without bottles for now and feed him on demand, thankfully.

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Saucer feeding Little J

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Little J with his first ang pow

When my cousin and his wife arrived, they presented Little J with his first ang pow as a blessing for surviving the first month. He was obviously oblivious to the fact that he was holding the ang pow since he was busy feeding. LOL! Once he’s fed, it was time for us the adults to eat. I thank my mom for putting in so much effort to cook up a meal for all of us within the same morning. We had the traditional Pork Trotter Vinegar, Chinese Wine Chicken, Red Eggs, some vegetables and Curry Chicken.

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Full moon feast

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Pork Trotter Vinegar

I know there are many other traditional dishes that are common during full moon celebrations, such as the Ang Koo (glutinous rice cakes) and pickled ginger, but we simply did not have time to do all that. It was a one-man-show for my mom, since I was in serious sleep-deprivation which meant I couldn’t help her out. But we had a nice feast all right, and most importantly, we had the company of our relatives who were there to give their blessings to Little J.

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Simple full moon celebration

Looking back at the pictures here when Little J was just one month old, I’m amazed by how much he’s grown! I have pictures of him with the same outfit now and it’s so snug on him, compared to the one above which appeared to be big and loose. Babies really grow too fast! I will attempt to document any significant milestones of Little J here in my blog, with the hope that he would find them interesting to read when he’s older. :)

Life with A Baby

It has been more than 3 months since the life-changing morning when I gave birth to my baby boy. It was life-changing indeed, where do I even begin?? For starters, I was never prepared for a baby to be crying so much, to be feeding so often and to be sleeping so little (well, at first). I still remember the night of the delivery itself, it was around 3+am when it was all over and my baby was placed in a bassinet next to me. Saucer was lying down on a nearby chair as he was also exhausted having been up and at my beck and call.

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The boy who changed my life

At one point, the medical team left and the midwife told me to get some rest. I was still in disbelief that I had actually given birth to a baby, so it was hard to fall asleep. But soon, fatigue kicked in and I started to doze off, and that’s when it started. Baby’s second cry (the first was when he just came out) resounding in the room. Saucer went to pick him up and rocked him, which worked. Then he put the baby back in the bassinet, and within minutes the crying started again. Saucer carried him again and repeated the process until he ended up holding the baby in his arms instead because the little rascal would start wailing whenever he’s placed in the bassinet! We took turns with the holding so we could get some rest and this continued until the wee hours of the morning. Needless to say, our sleepless nights had already begun.

The next morning, Saucer went home to freshen up and rest while I was transferred to the maternity ward. As expected, baby was crying most of the way there in his bassinet, which was really starting to stress me out. Once we were there, a nurse taught me how to breastfeed him, which managed to settle him down. But putting him back into the bassinet had always been a tricky thing to do – gently and slowly so that he would not wake up. Throughout the first night, he woke up quite a few times crying loud and my only way to console him was to breastfeed. At one point, I fell asleep while breastfeeding him, just because I didn’t have any sleep at all for that 2 days. And I startled myself waking up worried that I had dropped the baby off my bed. Yes, it’s true and it’s not funny. I was actually looking forward to go home because at least my mom and Saucer would be around to help out.

The next few days at home were similar – baby cried, breastfed baby, held him and rocked him to sleep, put him down in his cot and he started screaming again. Repeat the above. I carried the baby so much that I eventually developed the De Quervain syndrome / mummy’s thumb. (As of now, I am wearing a thumb splint every night before I go to bed hoping it will make my thumb better.) It was beyond tiring! And having to do this the whole day and night made me a constant, moody and grumpy mother. I couldn’t even tell day from night because that’s how often the baby woke up. When she’s not cooking, my mom helped with the rocking part so that I could rest. But not for long, because he would start screaming every 2-3 hours, which, after deducting the 1 hour or so of feeding him, eating my own meal, going to toilet, shower, etc, I was really only left with 1 hour or less to rest. I used to be someone who was able to sleep easily and soundly, but ever since the baby was born, my ears became so much more sensitive. I would be startled awake with the slightest noise, and even mistook the chirping of the birds as the baby crying. I became this paranoid person who was afraid of the slightest sound. Every time I had the chance to lie down on my bed, I would force myself to sleep because I knew that the baby would be awake at any time and I simply needed to sleep while I could. But of course, the more I stressed about falling asleep, the harder it was to actually sleep. And I ended up not sleeping at all before the baby woke up again. And when I did fall asleep, I would sometimes startle myself awake thinking if I was still holding the baby and whether I had dropped him. Yes, I think how I felt was pretty close to depression, and I wasn’t shy to admit it. That’s why when my mom left after the first month, I thought I was going to be miserable on my own with no help during the day.

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Thumb splint for De Quervain syndrome

But surprisingly, having forced to be on my own actually made things easier. During the second month, I had more time to observe the baby’s signs and cries without distraction from others, and very soon I managed to get him into a working routine. It was mainly eat, play (awake time) and sleep. The sleeping part was the most challenging of all, for he still refused to sleep on his own without being carried. I just had to persevere and repeated the process of putting him down on his cot over and over again until he finally got the message. And when that happened, I couldn’t tell you how liberated I felt. It was as if I had achieved something extraordinary! Many people had suggested me to use baby sling or carrier, but I was adamant. I wanted to try to get him to sleep on his own instead of having me to work around him. And I was glad I stuck to it because now he is able to nap on his own in the cot, while I was free to do house chores/rest.

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Play time

That was just with the day time naps. The night sleeps were still horrible. Saucer was the designated baby rocker, where he would hold the baby and rock him to sleep then place him down. However, there were still times when he lost his patience, especially after repeating the process over and over again only to be met with a wailing baby whenever he’s put on the cot. It took us the longest time to be able to break the habit of holding him to sleep, but somewhere after the 3rd month, I was able to get him to sleep on the cot without rocking. Don’t get me wrong, he would still be whinging for a few minutes, but that’s much better than a resounding cry at night. And slowly but surely, I was becoming a much happier person with better mood. I stopped startling myself awake in the middle of the night now, and I am much less stressed about going to sleep. Indeed, when people say that it can only get easier, it is quite true.

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Tummy time

Little J is quite a stubborn fella. Whenever I put him on tummy time, he never stopped struggling to get up. The longer I let him on his tummy, the more angry he became and he would start yelling. That’s why I could never put him to sleep on his tummy even though I wanted to give it a try. And now, his latest obsession is sucking his fingers. Whenever he had the chance, in his fingers went to his little mouth. I’m guessing this is a sign that he could be teething soon, which is another stage that I should prepare myself for.

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His favorite hobby

As of now, it has been 3.5 months since that fateful morning when little J was brought into this world. From being a stressed and moody person, I gradually learnt to accept little J for who he is and to always stay positive. I am much happier now, and it shows in him! :) During the first couple of weeks of having him around, I used to look forward to going back to my ‘old’ life, to go back to work, to have a normal social life and to send him to child care. But after spending so much time with him now, I am dreading the day I return to work and not having him around. I have tried short trips out on my own without him and they are just miserable. I can’t imagine how it would be when I start working full-time again. I guess that’s a bridge that I will only cross when I come to it. For now, I’m happy to wake up to little J with his big smiles every morning! :)

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Little J and his smiles