Happiness From a 4 Year Old

So I was tempted to pick up Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project each time I walked into the big bookstore chain that was a stone throw from where we lived in the States. It was one of the few surviving American bookstore chains, that have survived the fierce competition from online bookstores and digital books.

The happy looking book stood out on the bestseller rack. Call me superficial, but aesthetics matter. The look and feel of the book often decides whether I will pick up the book and purchase it. With its vibrant and cheerful colours, Gretchen’s book met the criteria and I bought the book just before coming back to Singapore. Obviously, apart from being attracted to the book cover, I was hoping to find some great insights on happiness. Unfortunately, since we were back, the book has been sitting on my Billy bookshelf collecting dust. It was only recently that I started reading it.

Gretchen’s Happiness Project was a pretty light read but I felt breathless reading through her endless projects. Though inspiring, it felt like an arduous task with numerous projects aiming at changing a whole slew of habits. It almost feels like she can’t be happy unless she changes her life completely. Okay, I am more stubborn than I like to admit; convincing myself to change any habits even if it would lead to greater happiness is an uphill challenge.

My 4 year old had the day off from school while his elder brother had to attend full day school. We decided to go on a coffee date at the new Starbucks near our place, just me and him. As the new cafeteria was still pretty undiscovered, it was empty on a weekday morning. It has a huge outdoor area; perfect for kids to run around while the parents enjoy a break. I decided to read my book and let my preschooler entertain himself on his 2 wheeler bike.

I could hear his squeal of excitement. He would occasionally call out to me, trying to get my attention to watch him do some new tricks. He is a speed demon with an excellent sense of balance. He could peddle effortlessly while standing and could put his butt behind the seat, like how a mountain biker would descend a steep and rocky slope. At 4 years old, his skill on the bike put mine to shame.

He was zipping around on his bike at tremendous speed, snaking around the pillars, obviously enjoying himself. While I was there, poring over a book on happiness, my little fellow seems to have totally grasped it.

So I sat him down and asked him and this is what he has to say about happiness.

Happiness is riding his bike, going fast;
Happiness is eating his favourite pasta;
Happiness is playing Lego and train tracks;
Happiness is jumping off the diving board;
Happiness is swimming;
Happiness is roller blading;
Happiness is finishing his work in school;
Happiness is playing fight with kor kor;
Happiness is saying fart and captain underpants;
Happiness is being silly.

As simple as that. Why do I even need a book to teach me how to be happy. A 4 year old already knows how to be happy.

It doesn’t matter that Daddy and Mummy scold him. It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t like doing school work. It doesn’t matter that kor kor fights with him. He gets over it and he is happy.

Happiness is choosing to be happy when we don’t have that toy (car), when we haven’t made that first million, when we can’t have all we want or even if we are simply struggling to get by.

Happiness is all around us. Voila!
It is a choice. It is choosing not to delay happiness to some obscure conditions like “if only … I would be happy”. It is choosing to be happy with what we have, instead of focusing on what we do not have, what we should have done or what we could have been.

Robert Fulghum said that ‘All you need to know, you learned in kindergarten’, well then, perhaps all I need to know about happiness, I can learn it from my 4 year old.



Army Half Marathon

I took part in the 21km Army Half Marathon a couple of weekends ago.

I was fighting an infection a few days leading to the run and woke up at 4 am on race day contemplating whether to call in sick.
But I went ahead thinking that I could stop anytime.
I realised it was a fine line between listening to your body and knowing your limit.
I confess I’m not good at both.

Anyway I thought I had my medic with me, aka my beloved husband; the race was supposed to be one of our dates. These days our couple time almost always involves some form of outdoor sports.

The event started at 5.15 am but I was too nervous to have a good night sleep.
The turnout was massive, about 40,000 people participated in the run and I found myself surrounded by testosterone raging young men who were half my age.
It was intimidating and I was glad to spot a head of grey hair among the crowd 10 minutes into the run.

The man was probably in his 60s, with a hunch back, not the best posture for running, and was shuffling his feet as if to conserve energy to last through the race.
He was obviously not the ultra fit kind but his look of determination was a touching and humbling sight. I was secretly cheering him on as I passed him.

I started to feel the strain in both my hamstrings at the 3/4 mark and I swear my legs would have given up if not for the copious amount of heat rub that I splattered on.
The last 1 km was painful, didn’t help that I got shoved and pushed over by faster elite African runners who were sprinting to complete their 10km.
I was just glad I didn’t fall over with my very tired legs.

After what seemed like forever, I finally crossed the finishing line.
And I think the proudest person wasn’t even me.
It was my husband.

He had kept at my pace throughout the run even though he was a much faster runner.
He was there to cheer me on, to help snap pictures along the way and to grab me drinks.

Someone asked me what was the hardest part for the run, I was quick to tell her that it was the last 1 km. On second thought, the toughest part had to be the registration.

My husband had gone ahead to sign me up for the run even before I could find the courage to say yes.
Could I have completed the run without him ?

I like to think yes but the fact is, if not for him, I wouldn’t be running, simply because I wasn’t suicidal enough.
I realised that to make a commitment like this can be scary especially when it involves hard work, discipline and some sort of rigorous training.
Multiply that by 10 if you are a mom and have passed your 40th milestone.

In any case, I am really glad I did it because I can now confidently tell my kids that,
sometimes all you need to be is like the little blue engine
I think I can, I think I can, I think I can …

This entry was posted in Fitness.

Rainbow Bath Salts For The Teachers

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The boys are celebrating Teacher’s Day in school today.
And we made bath salts for their favourite teachers.

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We made these 2 days ago when it was pouring outside.
It was too wet to go outside and this was fun enough to keep itchy fingers busy.
We had wanted to mix in some food colouring to make them pink, since all their teachers were ladies.
But it was so so easy to colour them that we decided to make rainbow colours.

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Then I found these Pink Grapefruit Bath Salts labels.
I know, our bath salts weren’t exactly pink but I was too lazy to edit the labels, so we just leave them as it is.
I packed them up using some bottles bought from Ikea and dressed them up with labels and tags.

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I couldn’t help smiling after seeing how beautiful they turned out.
And the benefits of these bath salts go beyond looking beautiful and smelling great.

Magnesium that is found in Epsom salts helps to fight stress and combat fatigue and is especially good for sore muscles.
Calcium keeps water retention in check, promotes healthy bones.
Bath salts also help detoxify our skin by drawing out impurities from our skin.

My boys couldn’t wait, they already helped themselves to the bottle we made for ourselves.
It was too wet to go out for a swim, but just nice to soak in a tub of wholesome goodness.

And I bet after making this yourself, you would think twice about buying bath salts from outside ever again.


Rainbow Grapefruit Bath Salts
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  1. Rock salt
  2. Epsom salts
  3. Baking soda
  4. Grapefruit essential oils
  5. Food coloring
  1. In a large bowl, mix 6 parts rock salt; 3 parts epsom salts; and 1 part baking soda.
  2. Add a few drops of grapefruit or any of your favourite essential oils, and combine.
  3. Add a few drops of food colouring.
  4. Mix the colour thoroughly by rubbing the mixture with fingertips until you achieve the desired shade. (The kids love this step the most)
  5. I worked with primary colours of red, blue and yellow to get the rainbow colours.
  6. Because the rock salt that I bought was a tad too coarse, I poured the mixture into a grinder and ground them to get the texture I wanted.
  7. Slowly scoop in each colour into a glass container.
  8. Flatten the layer before scooping in the next colour.
  9. Work all the way till the top.
  10. Tighten the cover to keep out moisture.
  11. Dress up the bottles with tags and labels.
  1. Epsom salts helps to soothe tired muscles and reduce inflammation.
  2. Baking soda helps to soften waters and alleviate skin irritation.
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Homemade Bath Salts
MalMal Our Inspiration http://4malmal.com/
This entry was posted in craft.
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