Little Lessons: To be a better mum

Successful parenting means: One, becoming who you should be. And two, staying close enough to the children for it to rub off. – Anne Ortlund, quoted in Homepreschool & Beyond

Parenthood may be causing me to grow in ways I never thought possible.

(Maybe it’s because we often find ourselves in situations where we need to think on our feet, solve problems, come up with a smorgasboard of ways to occupy the kids and keep them happy.)

Four years ago, I never thought I would be a mum-blogger or writing my own online articles.

I never thought I would be designing lanternsmaking goop , gifts with recycled scrap, or attending workshops to learn about art.

So I’ve come to this conclusion…

Our children are our biggest source of inspiration (and motivation) on this side of earth. Although I must confess, more so on good days than bad ones.

When I see them running around happily, deep in the midst of learning something, exploring something they’ve never seen before, or being loving and kind to each other, it warms me to the belly. When I watch how they progress and grow, it also inspires me to be a better person for them. I suspect they are the ones who’ve taught me to appreciate beauty, nature, and creativity more.

I am also inspired by fellow mums, dads, and fellow bloggers. The love they have for their kids. Their commitment to living and eating well as much as they want their kids to live and eat well. Plus all the tricks and tools of the trade they arm themselves with to better organise their lives and their kids’. 😉

All this talk about inspiration makes me wonder: What do we want to inspire in our children? What do we want to breathe into their little lives?

Which leads me to the next question. Have I been inspiring as a mother?

Gulp.

Am I living my life well? Have I worked hard? Am I growing as a person? Am I successful in the things I deem most important like love, faith, and the upkeeping of family ties?

More than the latest gadgets and toys, books and whizzy educational material, I think what our children need most is to see us live life with zest and faith, love and kindness. They need to see us walk the talk, and live out the values we want to them to breathe in: things like love, determination, perseverance, courage in the face of the storm, grace and forgiveness.

It’s scary knowing that we are our children’s main role models in life. Deep down, I know I desperately need to keep growing and learning from my mistakes. I’m after all a work-in-progress…

I’m starting to start a new linky every Thursday called “Little Lessons,” which could mean:

  • lessons inspired by your kids (these little guys do teach us something or two…)
  • lessons learnt from your spouse / friends
  • things you pick up from daily parenting experiences
  • things you’re learning with your children / teaching them
  • something you read, saw, or thought about

It could be a picture post, or a wordy post. It doesn’t really matter what form it takes, the main objective is to share so that we can learn and grow together. I hope you will join me this Thursday onwards.

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On photography and writing

A good photograph anchors the story you’re telling, and helps to give it weight.

I’ve never been more aware of the relationship between photos and words than I am now, as a writer, a mum, and an amateur (read iphone) photographer.

Photography is one of the skills that bloggers or writers tend to pick up while doing our art. In the past year or so, I think I’ve grown more attuned to aesthetics, placement of subjects and the space around them, and the networking of colours.

And obviously the kids make naturally awesome subjects to practise on.

God knows how much I covet a DSLR…For the record, I haven’t found the courage or time to pick up a DSLR. I heard it’s a route that one will travel and not turn back on. Plus lugging the kids around is weight enough for me, and so I’ve been content just playing around with my iphone.

I’ve also found that apps make cool toys. I’ve started falling for picfx, which is the app I used to edit Vera and dad’s hadouken moment. And of course instagram, which almost everybody is on these days. I think apps like these satisfy our need for beauty, as well as  community, as exemplified by the avid usage of #hashtags. And perhaps a bit of narcissism, since we all get to prettify ourselves and earn likes for the most adorable pictures of our children. But I try not to think so much, and just enjoy the process. Anyway the cute/fun/funny/lovey pictures will be more for us to reminisce and savour in old age, no?

But I digress. (See what apps do to me?) I wanted to talk about the relationship between photography and writing.

For me, my photos are often the main starting point of a blog post. Like the picture of Vera and her granny walking in the park. Or the lovey-dovey one with dad and daughter holding hands. Or dreams by a window. They give me the spark of inspiration with which I need to start a post and the focus so that I don’t digress.

Sometimes, like the hadouken example above, the photo IS the post. On all other occasions, they embellish a post and help bring out the essence of the story.

I love taking shots of the kids outdoors and at play. It’s where they’re in their zone, and where I can feel comfortable running about in shorts and doing silly things like experimenting with angles, focus, lighting and so on. I also secretly love the green and blue backgrounds that come with those shots. Where there is sunlight highlighting the subject, all the better.

Here are some of my recent favourites, all instagrammed or picfx-ed.

JJ’s selfie, all joy at being able to hold the iphone and seeing himself on the screen.

a joyful boy

Happy boy at the top of the slide. Photo taken literally through a hole in the floor.

shining happy boy

Another variation of the hole-in-the-floor shot.

Just chillin’ (also the cover pic on my facebook page)

Defying gravity.

defying gravity

Like I said, I’m amateur-ish and there’s still lots to learn. Here are some of my inspirations: 6 tips for better instagram photos, scissorspaperstone for her photos of crafty and yummy things, and photographers like Project Alicia and Steph Tan.

I harbour a hope that one day I’ll make that leap into the DSLR world, and never look back, except to perhaps laugh at my own naivety at thinking the iphone was ever enough for me. (But hey it’s all about my own growth and development, so no judgment calls are being made here.)

If I may say so myself, I think I’ve grown in writing and photography in the past few months. I feel as if one passion feeds the other, and creates a giant snowball.

What do you love about photography and/or writing? Do you own a DSLR and why or why not?

In its time

As parents, we find ourselves troubled whenever we’re having difficulty with the kids, we get stressed out by family affairs or even family members themselves, and we get discouraged when things just refuse to go smoothly. During such times, it’s really hard to find joy and hope in the everyday.

But like the rainbow that only appears after a storm, so God’s bigger purpose will come through and become clear after a period of waiting and testing.

Though we may feel like giving up at times, my prayer for us is to keep trusting, keep clinging, keep praying — and know that His love and promises will break through the dark clouds like the rainbow. He will take care of things, in its perfect time, if we would only entrust ourselves to Him.

We recently went through a tough period of waiting and wandering, but finally today we received some good news. We are seeing the beginnings of a new rainbow, and I’m really excited. It may still be an uphill climb, but it’s progress all the same.

Here’s the verse again, from Ecclesiastes 3:11. And I hope it encourages you no matter what you’re going through.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Writer, in progress

So the old saying goes ‘Success is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration’.

Well what about writing? To me, it should be 50-50; half inspiration, half hard work. I’m not undermining the fact that writing is hard work. I’m just trying to say that inspiration doesn’t just drop from the sky, and that if we are truly inspired, it shouldn’t take a whole lot of striving to write from that place of abundance.

Some days, I feel I sweat at the computer desk more than I should. At those times, I can press on and keep going, but no matter how hard I squeeze, the words at most come out at dripping speed. So I usually get up and go for a walk, spend time with the kiddos, or just get some household chore done.

And then an idea strikes me. And I try to drop whatever I was distracting myself with, and write. (That’s where the phone or iPad usually comes in handy, as with a trusty notebook.)

But where do the ideas come from?

From where do words surface and bubble up into full form?

I like to think that it comes from above. By that, I mean from our creator God.

Then it comes from life itself. From personal experiences and events that combine to form an explosive mix of adrenaline, emotion, and a desire to spread the word. Something, some thought, someone, somewhere has to trigger that writer’s response in us. (Just as this post was triggered by a sudden urge to write about writing.)

Sometimes, I find inspiration in the most mundane things. Like a leaf falling from a tree, or an old man sitting with a cigarette in hand, or something innocent my little girl said.

But regardless of where you find your inspiration, I thought I’d share a little of what I know about writing:

Write from passion – Just as “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks“, so it is with writing. If it’s something that you feel strongly for / against, your writing will reflect that enthusiasm and passion, and that will help you connect with your readers.

Write what you know – Whatever life experiences you’ve been through, you are the expert of that experience. No one else has gone through the exact same experience as you and came through it the exact same way. So long as you have drawn one or two lessons from it, share about them, and let your readers take home something.

Find your anchor – Sometimes I use pictures as an anchor to my story, like the one about the grandies. It really helps to add focus. Try asking yourself that gazillion dollar question “what do you really want to say?“, and just wait for the lights to bling on. Oh yes, a great title helps too.

Draw on experts – We can never know it all. Read up on the topic you’ve chosen to write about. Google it, read what others have said, draw from experts’ opinions or books. I sometimes link to other blog posts, but only if the entire post is relevant and if it serves to add greater dimension to the topic.

Big picture, small details– Let’s say you are reviewing a play. By all means share the colourful moments with us, but remember to zoom out and give us the bird’s eye view. It will help us see why you chose to write about it, and what it means to you.

Be ruthless – Anything that doesn’t add value to your story? Cut it. In general, short paragraphs work better than long ones. Same with sentences. And yes, edit your work. I never publish a draft that I haven’t re-looked at and edited; there are always typos and grammatical errors to be weeded out, and there’s always a word that can be replaced with something better.

Keep writing, keep improving – One of the reasons why I started a blog was to improve my writing. This brings me back to the title I chose, ‘Writer, in progress’ – because I’m always learning, always wanting to improve. Let’s all try to be sponges, so that we can absorb the good stuff from the many good writers/bloggers out there. And yes, may God grant us more inspiration too!

Do you have any writing tips to share?

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