Potty training and looking on the bright side of life

One of the things that the enforced lockdown of the coronavirus has helped me with is being more grateful for what I do have, especially my health and the fact that both my husband and I have kept our jobs without being furloughed or worse. There are millions of stories all around the world of people far less fortunate and I grapple with this every day, sometimes even feeling guilty for not suffering as much as they are.  I realise this is a bit daft, but it just feels like there is so much tragedy surrounding us all right now.

Amid all this chaos, life has a strange way of just keeping going on and never is this more apparent than when you have young kids in your care.  I find my son excellent at grounding me and helping me to see that sometimes the most important thing you can do is jump on the trampoline with him.  I highly encourage everyone to jump on the trampoline at least once a day, with or without a toddler in tow. 

I also have a small confession to make.  I think the lockdown has been good for me in many ways.  It slowed me down.  I got some more sleep as I wasn’t in such a rush in the mornings.  Sometimes cake became a meal.  And I just cut myself some more slack than I usually do.  I follow a few blogs here and I sense a running theme throughout them (and in mine too) that we set such high expectations for ourselves when actually we really just need to strip it back and stop thinking we can be freaking superstars at every last thing in life.  

Some days you will be killing it at work, some days you will manage to bake a cake with a toddler and some days everything will be a total disaster.  But and if you take the attitude of a toddler, the sun will set and rise again and a new opportunity to do better presents itself.  This is what lockdown has taught me. Be kinder to yourself and expect less of each day.

I absolutely freaked out at the beginning of lockdown as to how I would keep N entertained at home, but it all worked itself out and he’s very happy to play with his toys at home now.  In fact, he’s probably more comfortable at home than he ever has been definitely helped by an influx of new toys during this period as well as a recognition of the simple things in life being enough.  

And I would like to particularly highlight how I have seen absolutely zero, none, nadda blog posts or mummy media stories about screen time guidelines for children.  A gigantichallelujah to that because sometimes you just need a few minutes of screen time to reset and get back on track. I for one rejoice in screens as one of my tools in my kit. N has not been so bad with screens.  He has his own small iPad and he does like to use it but he also likes to do other activities, so it doesn’t (yet) rule his world.  Sometimes he even instructs me to sit next to him on the sofa and look at my phone while he watches his iPad.  He will rest his feet on me during these sessions and, if I’m honest, I find these moments sweet and intimate.   

He has also developed a borderline obsession with the rubbish truck which visits our neighbourhood.  When we see it coming we have to sprint outside to watch the truck tip out the rubbish into the back and say hello to the rubbish truck men.  I bought N his own rubbish truck toy and it is his favourite toy by far!  The rubbish truck men really love him so it’s a super fun moment.  He also really into playdough and a marble run toy where you set up pipes for marbles to run through. Most of the time though he just wants to help at home, so he’s become very competent at using the cordless stick hoover and I bought him a small broom so he “cleans” with that too.  He helps get food out for meals, puts away shopping in places that I don’t want it, and even tries to peel cucumbers for me, albeit we are still finessing his technique with that. 

We had an insane heat wave a week ago with temperatures of around 40C (100F+) for a week and during this time I took N and his cousin in his grandparents swimming pool.  This was the first time N had experienced arm bands and he was so delighted!  He was entirely able to bob about in the water without me doing much other than obviously monitoring his safety throughout.  He is so comfortable in water and I am getting him swimming lessons ASAP that such things are allowed again. 

I have also used the unexpected period at home to go through some big transitions with N.  Early on we transitioned him to his big boy bed (his cot bed, reassembled into bed format) and this was absolutely a non-event.  He has not been troubled by this whatsoever and sleeps wonderfully in it. And then I had a crack at potty training over the Easter break and this was unexpectedly smooth too.  I had gotten myself in a bit of a funk worrying about this so the ease at which we managed to get him potty trained still surprises me. 

N’s nursery headteacher had supplied us with some instructions on potty training and I found them useful, albeit I didn’t follow them prescriptively. Her guidance said on the first day of potty training to remove the nappy and not put it back on at all apart from at night for sleeping in.  You are meant to take the child to the toilet/potty every 40 minutes and sit there for a few minutes in the hope that something is delivered in the toilet.  This sounds very straightforward, but on day 1 N peed on the floor every single time.  Each time he peed himself I took him to the toilet and sat him on there (even though he had clearly emptied himself nicely on the floor) before wiping him and putting fresh underwear on him. 

By about 2pm on day 1 I had had enough of cleaning up wee on the floor and put a nappy on him.  I highly advocate when you’re losing your mind to take a break to restore some zen.

On day 2 we made better progress as N started to tell me he needed a wee at the exact moment he was actually weeing.  This may not sound like progress, but it was! Each time he peed himself I would again take him to the toilet to clean him up.  The nappy went on again for a few hours at the end of day 2 too.

On day 3 N got it.  He told me he needed a wee in sufficient time to make it to the toilet (aka 5 seconds) and he made his first wee in the actual toilet.  We have a toddler toilet seat that fits on our regular toilet and he was fine with this.  He absolutely rejected the potty outright. From that point onwards he has always been able to tell me he needs a wee and we have had no wee-based accidents.  One of the advantages boys clearly have is the ability to wee standing up and – assisted by his 4-year-old cousin – by day 5 he was weeing standing up.  This is extremely helpful when you are out and about without easy access to a loo (hello watering the trees!)

On days 1-4 we did have a bit of a poo issue, aka there was no poo.  I started to get a bit worried as he usually poos once a day and I have heard horror stories of potty training and constipation, but he ended up doing a poo in his pants on both day 4 and day 5.  We were at the building site of our new house on both occasions and I think he just didn’t really know what to do about the need to go so let it out.  This was a bit of an admin headache and mildly traumatic for me but overall everything was fine. 

And then on day 6 we had success! A big plop of a poo in the toilet and we were all so delighted, no one more than N(actually, maybe I was the most excited one)!  There was a lot of congratulating him and he very much enjoyed looking at his “yucky poo” in the toilet.  Since then, it has been a daily delight for him to see the “many brown” of his “yucky poo” in the toilet before flushing them away by saying “bye bye yucky poo!”.  I’ve never been so happy to celebrate poo in my life! 

Since then, N has even stopped weeing in his nappies at nighttime so last night we successfully went entirely nappy-free, even at night.  The biggest lesson to me in all of this is how capable N is now. It’s hard to process that he is so independent and grown up now! 

I also got a LOT of pushback and unsolicited comments from my husband’s family telling me he wasn’t ready for potty training so I cannot begin to describe my delight when he took to it in days. No one said a word after that!

On the practical front, our lockdown measures have been eased and there have been a couple of days recently where no new cases of Covid-19 have been diagnosed. At my work we begun to progressively return to the office from last week, and this week everyone is back to normal.  There are some various measures about hygiene and keeping your distance, but it’s business as usual.  The only hiccup to this has been that while schools are open now, nurseries/kindergartens/daycare remains closed.  There are rumours that they may open in June, but I’m not sure yet if that will go ahead.  I’ve had some help at home which has made it possible for me to continue to do my work but it’s been enormously difficult overall for working parents (usually mothers) to juggle the childcare requirements.

I can’t help but wonder how the pandemic has changed the fabric of life as we know it.  I don’t have any real insights into this but I do feel that it has helped me to reset in a way that was REALLY needed.  Perhaps most of life will return to how it was before, but I think I learned a few new skills during lockdown that will be useful to reflect on for other difficult moments in the future. But most of all I realised that sometimes you just need a glass of wine at the end of a very long day.

Parenting: Corona-style         

Wow!  Parenting in these lockdown times is fully wild!  At first the idea of staying home – which mainly means being inside with apartment living – really freaked me out, but we are finding a way. It’s been a month now since schools, kindergartens and nurseries all shut and the biggest issue I see is trying to convince our children to return to school when they open again. Every time I ask N if he would like to go to school he replies with a resounding “no” so I am going to have my work cut out to get him to go back.

The most important thing though is trying to stay well as good health means everything.  Sure, this whole situation is really frustrating, but the alternative is far worse. That’s not to say I am not envious of those folks who have the freedom to stay home and binge-watch Netflix while simultaneously doing online workout videos, baking fresh bread and cleaning out their sock drawers.

Life at our house is run on 3-minute intervals, be that playing hide and seek, jumping on the trampoline, playing pretend kitchens, squeezing fresh orange juice, playing cars, riding the scooter, eating lollipops,  drawing, painting, and arts and crafts. Every day is full of action over here! I hear some people are having trouble sleeping during isolation.  I do not suffer this fate.  I am exhausted at the end of every single day! I will say a big thank you to iPads and Masha and the Bear as a little screen time can sometimes save the day when you have just had enough.  There is a time each day where we sit on the sofa and just re-set for a while.  I have not heard any “experts” dare to mention recommended amounts of screen time during this period! I wonder why!

As our regulations here restrict us to only leaving home once per day, we save our one trip outside for a walk around the neighbourhood each afternoon which is actually really lovely and not something we would have done as a family frequently in regular life.  As we walk we chat and debrief the day, as well as greet all the neighbourhood dogs. It’s the highlight of my day.

In general, N is getting a lot more time with both of us, but especially his dad and the impact is clear to see.  He has started asking/demanding that daddy do certain things with him that were previously things he did with me.  For example, he now demands that daddy sits and has breakfast with him and if daddy tries not to, N goes and drags him to the table.  This is a great result for me as I finally get to eat my breakfast in peace!

The biggest challenge is trying to get any work done which, frankly, is impossible to do with N around.  We have worked out a timetable so that I can do some work in the mornings so we are doing better than others, but it’s not ideal for anyone.

In the midst of all of this though, N is a delight and a source of constant entertainment.  His vocabulary has grown enormously and now he commentates on absolutely everything.  He is really keen on doing everything for himself these days and so one of the most commonly used phrases is “Mummy don’t touch!”  It makes me laugh every time.

He speaks full sentences, can communicate what he wants, loves to talk about colours and likes to count. He can now get to 20 in both languages, so that’s a gigantic leap for someone who four months ago was saying practically nothing.  Some of the words he pronounces with a really Australian accent and others he is more English (my accent also swings because of the time I spent in the UK) and it’s so funny to hear him chat to himself and say a really Aussie-sounding “nice” (Aussies out there know what I mean!)

He’s growing again and is now in 5-year-old clothes and wears EU 28 sized shoes / size 10 UK, despite not turning 3 until July. Hopefully then the lockdown will be over so we can have a small party for him.

A couple of weeks ago we switched him to his big boy bed, expecting that there might be some troubles getting used to that, but actually he has been wonderful.  He accepted his big boy bed immediately and once he’s in it and sleepy he doesn’t (yet) get out of it in the middle of the night and roam around. Long may that continue! This boy likes his sleep (like his daddy) so I expect that is the main factor.  I don’t think I did any magic parenting to make him like this.  Of course, if he’s not sleepy then he’s a total nightmare to keep in bed!

The next big development is that we will be attempting potty training in the next couple of weeks. I have some time off work and so I will be able to focus on helping N transition to potty life.  I have been putting this off until warmer weather arrived and now it is getting more Spring-like here, and I have some ideal circumstances for it so I am going to give it a shot.  I may well be writing here again in a few weeks saying it was a failure, but sometimes you just have to give something a good try and if it doesn’t work out, try again later.

Wish me luck!

IMG_6313(Some top class hiding going on here)

Chatterbox incoming: 2 years, 7 months

Well hello to all these new words! Finally, our small guy is becoming quite the chatterbox and it is wonderful!  He has so much to say and has an exploding vocabulary. He now commentates his own day and likes to give me instructions too, such as informing me when the traffic light turns green, “GREEN! Go, go green!” and asking me to pretend that I’m sad, “Mummy sad” (which then requires me to cover my face with my hands and mock sob), and telling me which gate to exit from at our apartment complex carpark “No, no! Gate 1!”

We are genuinely delighted that he’s enjoying finding his words and growing his vocabulary every day.  It’s been a significant trend since just after Christmas which sees new words and phrases enter in his speech every day.  Which is why it came as quite a shock when a family member of my husband’s decided to inform me they are concerned with N’s speech development and implored me to seek specialist help with a speech therapist for him. The person that said this considers themselves a self-designated expert (I do not agree with this designation at all) and so no doubt their message to me was well intentioned, albeit completely not requested and not well received.

Meanwhile, the same day, another member of family approached my husband saying very similar things and it became entirely apparent that some serious levels of collusion are going on here. My husband is such a strong character that he immediately shut them down and informed them that we are monitoring N’s language development in conjunction with his teachers at nursery school and if we feel he needs it we will seek professional advice, but we do not require unsolicited advice in addition.  There are many people close to me who I would be glad to hear their opinion about N’s development and for those people I will ASK them their opinion.  For everyone else, I would prefer if they F off and show some respect.

I also think the “advice” would have been better received by us if it was given by someone who actually invests in spending time with N and engaging him in conversation so that they could accurately gauge his abilities. I find it so frustrating that these judgments are made by people whose first choice activity to do with him is to watch videos on their phone and yet they are the ones complaining about his speech development.

I shall conclude this rant for now, but place it a reminder to us all to stay in our own lanes!

Anyway, so much is said about the “Terrible Twos” that I approached this age group with trepidation. We are more than halfway now and – save for a few choice moments – I have found this phase to be completely hilariously funny. I really love the huge leaps in development and N’s thirst for independence.  It can be a lot messier and slower to allow him to do things solo but it’s so beautiful to see him learn and take pleasure from being able to do new things.

Just this week he has decided that toast is the greatest item of food in the entire universe (he is correct), I think primarily because he likes the process of putting the bread in the toaster and cooking it. He does eat it afterwards though so it’s all good.  He also really loves to drink tea because I am a keen tea drinker.  The other day we had afternoon tea which consisted of tea and toast and I felt like perhaps I have converted him to be a Victorian schoolboy by accident.

We also took another visit to our local camel farm on the weekend and N confidently fed the camels their approved snacks like a champion. I am so delighted he loves animals and has a natural capacity to communicate and interact with them. There are many other animals in addition to camels at this venue and N was interacting with a llama at one stage that was making some pretty funny whiny noises.  N thought it was hilarious and started making similar noises back to the llama (which the llama seemed to like) and it was then I realized he has such empathy for animals and my heart exploded a little. He is excellent with our three cats and I’m struck by how he interacts with them differently.  Our youngest cat, Lucy, is the one most obsessed with me and he is always chasing her and trying to mess with her.  Meanwhile, he treats the other two, slightly older and more sedate cats with a lot more respect, gently stroking them and patting their heads.  I think both N and Lucy realise they are in a battle for my affections.

I’ve not yet toilet trained N but I think he could do it from now. The challenge is it’s the thick of winter right now and it’s a bit complicated with so many clothes to deal with.  I think we will wait until it warms up a little in a couple of months and then we will go for it.  Same with the dummy.  I have reduced the use of it significantly, but he REALLY loves the dummy for going to sleep and who wants to ruin his sleep? Not me!

I have now introduced a kiddie pillow to his bed and he really seems to love it. We are also starting to think about taking the side off his cot bed but haven’t done it yet.  He isn’t bothered about not being able to get out of bed and he’s always been very good at communicating his needs, so why rush him? I’m sure these things will come in good time and when he’s ready.  Like his speech, FFS! I have brought him to our bed on a few occasions recently in the small hours of the night when he’s been a bit upset. He’s had a bit of a cough but also I worry he is cold as we have had a big cold snap recently.  In any case he sleeps really nicely in our bed between us and there’s something really beautiful about snuggling and waking up together as a family!

Things he loves:

  • His scooter – he rides it all the time now
  • Toast
  • The cats
  • Telling me the colours of things, including informing me of when the traffic lights turn green
  • His classmates – primarily the girls. I think he has two clear favourites!
  • Anything with a light on it, toys, torches, the lights at home, the list is endless
  • Counting his bunnies and monkeys (bedtime snuggle toys). He says “bunny one, bunny two…”
  • Indoor soft play centres – he loses his mind when we drive past KFC near our home every day and can see their soft play
  • His trampoline which he calls “jump”
  • The song “Uptown Funk” with Bruno Mars (“Bruni”)
  • Washing his hands – so much soap used but better to have clean hands!
  • Likes to pretend he is sad or sleeping, or wants you to pretend these things
  • Likes me to tell him “Ready, set go” when he’s doing something active, like riding his scooter
  • Loves to blow out candles while singing happy birthday and wearing birthday hats
  • Our new house! He has been to it many times (even though it’s a construction site and it is terrifying to have him walking around it) and seems to really love it.

 

His vocabulary now:

  • His own name, although he refers to himself as his nickname (BooBoo) not his real name, so if he makes a small spill he says “BooBoo messy!”
  • Names of family members
  • Names of his friends and teachers
  • Colours – only struggles with yellow, which he calls lemon
  • Body parts – head, feet, toes, hands
  • Animals – bunny, wolf, mouse, dog, cat, pig, bear,
  • Various nouns – such as mummy car, daddy car, boot, car seat, bag, hat, pants, top, bed, book, milk, juice, apple, banana, ipad, dummy
  • Various verbs such as eat, jump, sleep, wake, wash,
  • Counting to 10 in both English and Greek
  • He can say short sentences such as “Turn on the lights” or “Daddy at work” or “The pussy cat is running away” or “sit on the chair”
  • Repeats some words after he hears them
  • Obsessed with talking about the electric gates at home, known as Gate 1 and Gate 2

New year, same me, but better!

I generally believe that New Year’s resolutions are deeply flawed and set you up for failure, but after The Year of Sh1t Things Happening (how we refer to 2019) I have used the transition into a new year and a new decade to try and get myself back on track.

I’ve been tuning into a few different resources to understand the best ways to make such changes and the best piece of advice I’ve found is to keep the goals small.  The idea behind this is to make very small, do-able, incremental changes in my schedule that ultimately make me feel better.

For most of last year I was doing practically no scheduled exercise.  The main exercise I had – once I recovered from my illness – was to go for walks with N and/or just generally chase his energetic butt around.  On some days this was MORE than enough exercise anyway, but I really missed the luxury of an hour doing something for myself here and there. Meanwhile, my husband has been going to the gym after work 3-4 times a week since forever. While I think that’s great he was staying fit and well, it was really disheartening to know that he wouldn’t set aside one day a week so I could do something for myself.  His excuse was always that I could take N to his parent’s house if I wanted to work out. I guess it’s true that I could do that, but it added a whole layer of complication and sometimes that was too much – and it’s also a layer of complication that he never has to face as I don’t make him take N anywhere so he can enjoy his leisure time.

Some people advised me to stand up to him about this, but it just ended in gigantic rows about how unreasonable I was being, all of which fed deeply into a feeling of resentment and unbearable sadness.  It’s very hard to adequately represent those arguments here, but suffice to say that I became defeated about it and just recognized that my own free time would have to be sacrificed until I came up with a better plan.

Then 2020 rolled around and a better plan was found!  I now have someone helping me at home which means I am less weighed down by home duties and more free to do nice things with N.  It also means that I have the flexibility to leave N at home for a short while to do something, such as pop for a manicure or go to work out. I would really have preferred my husband to step up but sometimes it’s better for long-term harmony to look for a solution, rather than bang on about the same gripes forever.  The flip side for him though is that he now has to pay for someone else to help at home.

With this new structure in place I have kicked off the new year by starting to do some sessions with a counsellor on a weekly basis. It is an EXHAUSTING and overwhelming experience – it is definitely a can of worms situation!  I think I might need to keep going to her every week for a whole year to get through all of my stories.

Some of the early observations are that I’m lonely (no surprise) and that I have a lot of emotional pain that has been unprocessed (also so far, no surprises). During the last session she asked me if I am being my authentic self, which I later looked up online and seems to mean if you are being authentic this is not to allow a situation or person to change you, unless for the better. I guess she feels that I have allowed myself to be changed, and not for the better, which I do agree with to an extent. She also observed that it’s as though I have given up, which unsettled me a lot.

On the flip side, I’m a little amused that over three sessions we are still so far back in my story that the counsellor hasn’t heard anything about my husband yet.  She’s in for a ride when she gets to hear about all the fun and games of moving countries, getting married (with his parents and family members not coming to the wedding in Australia), infertility, IVF, miscarriages and then obviously my Mum’s illness and passing.  I think she’s definitely going to earn her fees!

I’ve also been able to go to yoga once week since the start of the year.  One week I went twice! This has been really good for me and important to my overall wellbeing.  My next step is to start working out properly as I am unhappy with the impact of gravity on my butt, so I will be working to address that. I decided that evening gym classes do not work for me in this phase as that’s N’s dinner time and it gets complicated, which then puts me off attending.  Instead, I’m hoping to arrange to go once a week to start straight from work in the afternoon (I work part time).  I can then go straight home, have a quick shower and be fully hands on for N.  The only drawback to this scenario is that my husband will need to collect N from nursery school and bring him home, which will no doubt result in me needing to present him with a trophy for his tremendous efforts. I will see how it goes and if there is too much drama associated with that scenario, I will come up with an alternative plan.

I do feel better already, but I am still exposed to the variables of everyday life like everyone.  My marriage is better, but certainly not going to win any awards right now. There have been fewer monster fights in recent times, but the house build is still ongoing, and this is a regular source of tension.

The most recent issue is that I am feeling rather down about how small our green areas of the back yard will be and that there will be not so much space for N to play outside (there is loads of space inside), and certainly less than I had expected.  We have a rather large pool which is tremendous, and I am delighted about, but our house is quite big and perhaps we should have factored this in.  I wasn’t part of the discussion process during the period the pool/backyard design was implemented as I wasn’t capable, so I am cross and disappointed.  Where we live is a very hot and dry climate where things don’t grow so well, i.e. lawn grass is not a viable prospect, and it’s often so hot that it’s difficult to play outside anyway unless you’re in a pool or by the sea so maybe it will all be fine. I am from a rural area of Australia so having so little outdoor space is unfamiliar to me.  Also, I find myself better grounded in nature and each of these factors is playing its role in my anxiety about this.

I am aware this sounds super-princessy behavior (I have a chat with myself about this on the daily), but when you invest so much time and money into something and you’re not satisfied with the outcome it can be hard to overcome. Someone please tell me it will all be ok and that kids will adapt no matter what? I am quite down about this. But also, yay pool! You’re all invited to enjoy some wine by the pool with me if this house build is ever finished.

Meanwhile, N has been really lovely recently.  His vocabulary is exploding and it’s so much fun. Amongst other things, he can now count to ten in both English and Greek.  When you consider he was saying very little at all before Christmas, this is a big development.  Right now he loves his scooter so much and is a daredevil when he rides it.  I love his courage!  He also has a girlfriend in his class who he talks about non-stop, but literally doesn’t care for any of the boys in his class at all.  You can say their names and he doesn’t even blink.  Say the girls’ names though and he’s got so much to say in response.

Other favoured pastimes include colouring – he loves to draw (washable) marker pens all over his fingers, which I think is him trying to make coloured nails like mummy – playing with balloons, jumping on the trampoline that our neighbours kindly gifted us (in perfect condition, what a result!), going for walks to the park and patting our cats.  He now talks to the cats in a high-pitched “cat voice” and it’s the funniest thing ever.

He is continuing to resist bedtime, which seems to be some kind of wonderful phase of a two-year-old, but patience and not allowing an afternoon nap seems to make this mildly more manageable. He is also increasingly fussy over mealtimes which is a bit of a stress but we do a top-up on any dinner not eaten with banana. Considering he’s almost grown out of his car set which is allegedly suitable for up to 4 years old, I think the amount and what he’s eating doesn’t seem to be too much of a concern.

N

99 things to do but sleep isn’t one – Life with a two-and-a-half-year-old

My cheeky little monkey, small guy N, is going to be 2.5 years old on Friday! Life is busier than ever these days with N no longer having daytime naps which means little downtime between morning wake-up and evening bedtime, and he is a very physically active child! We haven’t fully finessed the routine for bedtime as his sleep schedule has varied as we go through the transition of ending naps.  Some days he still has a short nap, but now it is more likely to be in the form of a power snooze in the car or on the sofa. If he has a power-snooze, they are usually late in the afternoon and that will push his bedtime a bit later as a result.

No napping does have benefits as it gives more flexibility for adventures and visiting friends, but some days mummy used to enjoy naptime as she also got a cheeky bit of shut-eye too.  RIP naps.

This past month or so has been hectic.  N feel sick before Christmas, first with a kind of flu (fever for 5 days) which then improved before it merged with an ear infection (pain, more fever). N is so stoic when he’s suffering that it’s difficult to understand what specifically is the problem, but when his fever returned and showed no signs of diminishing I suspected an ear infection, which was confirmed by his pediatrician.   Poor N got antibiotics for Christmas!  He was a bit improved by Christmas Day but still poorly so wasn’t on good form for all the presents and fun of the day.  It only took a few more days and then he was better, when he then suffered a suspected spider bite. He got a nasty bite on his ear – I suspect when sleeping – which developed into a blister, as well as two big bites on his hand and three smaller ones on his face.  He really did look a bit of a mess for a few days.

This all took place across about three weeks and when he was really sick he was pretty much silent, just wanting to be cuddled.  Once he got better though it was an explosion of words and now he doesn’t stop talking.  Every single day there are new words emerging and he’s getting really good now at repeating new words that I teach him. I think he must have a vocabulary of over 50 words now in English and an unknown number in Greek as he doesn’t speak Greek to me generally. He says the names of most of the people close to him, can tell me all the colours (except yellow, but he can identify it) and has a few full sentences he uses, such as “turn on the light” and “the tree is gone” (this relates to us taking down the Christmas tree, which was clearly a big disappointment as he’s still talking about it 10 days later).

He is also able to very adequately express when he doesn’t want to do something, which is quite a lot of the time these days! I get told “No no mummy!” a lot!  I find it funny that he says no in English but for yes he prefers to use the Greek version.

One unfortunate bi-product of the period of sickness is that N is now obsessed with his dummy/pacifier.  I had been really strict up until now that the dummy is only for sleeping but he had it throughout the day when he was sick and now just wants one all the time.  One way he has tried to use cuteness to get me to give him a daytime dummy is that he will bring me one of his dummies – one of the ones he doesn’t favour, obviously – and inform me that it’s a “mummy dummy”.  He will also bring me one of his monkey cuddlies too – again, not his favourite one – as though if I have a monkey and dummy too then it’s acceptable.  I like his thinking even though it doesn’t get him what he wants.

Some of the things N loves now:

  • His new kitchen he got for Christmas – he plays with it every day and likes to make me pretend cups of tea. We also make real cups of tea together and he has his own mug of very lukewarm, weak tea.  Most of the time he drinks it nicely without spilling much.
  • The trampoline (he calls it “jump”) – our neighbours gifted their perfect condition trampoline once their daughters got too big for it and he is obsessed by it
  • His scooter, which generally lives in the boot of my car. He instructs me “boot” when he wants to ride it which is every freaking time he sees my car.  May need to have it live somewhere else as “boot” is not always a practical option.
  • ipad – uggh, ipad is both a savior and a nightmare. N is quite competent with saying the word “ipad” now.  Fav things to watch are Masha and the Bear, as well as strange YouTube videos where people record themselves slowly running a car tire over different objects and crushing them. It is bizarrely compelling to watch. Cocomelon is still a fav too.  During the illness phase I nearly went insane watching Cocomelon videos. I think I could write an academic essay on interpretations of the videos now.
  • Dummy and monkey (see above)
  • Mummy – yep, all the cuddling when he was sick means he is now more obsessed with mummy than ever before.

 

And some of the things N does not like now:

  • Going to bed. Yep, we have hit the phase where everything is more fun than going to bed.  However, if/when you do get him into bed and settled he is usually fine. We do quite a dance some nights to convince him it’s a good idea to go to bed and I’m hoping this is a brief phase.  Ditto this is one of the reasons why naps have been generally scrapped.
  • Being told no. Meltdown will ensue.
  • Getting off the “jump” to go to school. Cue crying.
  • Help with doing anything difficult – he is stubbornly independent which is 100% his daddy coming out of him
  • Being rushed. Toddler time is a thing so I have to balance giving him the space that he needs while actually getting the places I need to go in a good time.  This is not simple or predictable. Some bribery ensues at times.

 

Mummy update: I went for my regular doctor check up this week and my recovery has been so good that I am being weaned off the nasty medications that made my hair fall out.  I should be clear of those by March, although I will stay on the low dose steroids for a while yet. The steroids don’t bother me these days so this is not an issue.  This also means that after a period of three months following stopping the meds that I am clear for having another pregnancy.  I am really unclear in myself as to what I want to do with regards to a second child. It is quite a stressful thing to consider.

If I am truly honest, I am not keen to go through another pregnancy and newborn phase.  It was difficult and lonely for me.  I know this is not everyone’s experience and the shock factor of the first child will not apply for a second, however having a second child will definitely involve some new stresses. BUT, I know that it’s nice to have a sibling and someone to go through life with.

Then I think about the age factor.  I am now 41 and realistically the earliest I could potentially give birth would have me at 42.  Is it negligent to have a child at this age? My father died when he was 50 and while hopefully that’s not my fate too it does make me worry so very much that having a child at my age means that they will likely lose one or both parents when they are not so old themselves.  I’ve experienced that and it’s hard and I don’t want to knowingly inflict that same trauma on my own child.  Please share opinions on this as I am torn!

In other good news, I have seen a counsellor! I have only gone once and so all I managed to do in that time was set the scene, but I’m going again this weekend with my intention being to heal myself in 2020.  Hubby and I also took a short trip together after the new year, without N, and it was really nice.  We took it slowly and just enjoyed ourselves.  I bought myself a too-expensive handbag because I thought WHY NOT?!!  I never do such things, but I feel after the past year or so that I need to shake things up. Life is for living and so I’m making a conscious decision to do the things that bring joy, wherever possible.  It’s not all sunshine and rainbows and life is still hard but I am doing my best to not just survive but to thrive.  It’s not going to happen overnight, but I am doing my best to change my attitude.

Sleep is key to my happiness it turns out.  I know some people can survive on less sleep, but I cannot.  I am physically incapable if I have a run of no-sleep nights.  So, as part of my healing process I am trying wherever I can to prioritise sleep and making sure I am well.  This is not always possible, for example I think N is growing his two-year old molar teeth this week and he’s been sleeping terribly and waking up due to the pain, and so I have had to forego the likes of my yoga class yesterday to have a nap instead.  It was a great decision as it has helped me get back on track today.

I feel like something new is on the horizon for me.  There are still a lot of variables in there and I have serious work to do, but I don’t want another year like 2019.  I know this comes from me so I am trying, step-by-step, to make improvements to set myself up for good things.  Let’s see…

Gastro, birthday parties and little sharks – 2 years, 3 months

It has been QUITE a month! Are you even really a parent until the entire family gets gastro? Yes, that was our reality a few days after I wrote my last post.  I came down with what I thought initially was food poisoning on a Saturday afternoon and by Saturday night I was begging my husband to find some kind of medication that stops you from vomiting as I had thrown up 20+ times by then. Two hours later he finally listened to me and said medication was procured so I was able to stop throwing up some time in the early hours of Sunday morning. 

I was desperately trying to make a recovery from the “food poisoning” as N had his first birthday party invitation from a classmate and it was at a fancy venue.  I thought to not attend would be very poor form so spent Sunday in bed trying to get strong enough to stand up so I could go to the birthday party.  God knows how but I did get myself to that party and spent most of it sitting on the mat at the bottom of the inflatable castle/slide. This was the first time I was meeting most of the mums so I do wonder what they thought of me but I was just too weak to stand up.

Fast forward to Monday night and then both my husband and N started to come down with the same bug.  It was then that I realized it was not actually food poisoning but was really gastro.  OH MY GOD, THE HORROR!  I had taken my contagious self to a kids’ birthday party when I had gastro!  That is so not cool that I am still feeling wracked with guilt about it.  The only small thing to console myself with was that when we called N’s school to explain why he wasn’t coming for a few days they said no one else had had gastro at the school.  I did not tell any of the mums about it as I was so worried of being blacklisted!  I believe a general gastro stomach bug is going around and I did hear from one of the other mums about a week later that they also had the bug but I don’t think we gave it to them.  I certainly hope we didn’t.

Anyway, poor N it was his first time at vomiting and he was a champion.  He was very confused about what was going on but he would only cry just before he puked.  It was actually very helpful as I knew when to be on standby to catch the vomit. As he’s too little to puke into a bucket I was catching the mess with towels.  On that night I was so glad to have an extensive towel collection as we used practically every towel in the cupboard!  The next day was a full day of laundry and cleaning to eliminate all germs in the house!! The vomiting was for a few hours and then he mainly slept off his illness in our bed with us. It is comforting to have him in bed with us when he’s sick even though he does take over the bed like the giant giraffe that he is. 

It took a few days, but we all eventually regained our strength and our ability to eat food properly again and I think we are much, much more careful about washing our hands ever since. 

There have now been four classmates’ birthday parties to attend since starting school in early September.  Apart from it being expensive with having to buy gifts each time and kind of exhausting to chase N around at them, they are really fun.  Birthday parties are serious business though as it seems that most people around here either have the party at a venue (playground, inflatables etc) or they host it at their lavish house and bring in children’s entertainment. I am glad N’s birthday is not until July as it gives me lots of time to think about how on earth to do this. I have also met some nice mums so that’s good. I quickly discovered which mums were good to hang out with as they are the ones that drink wine at these parties!  It’s a good filtering system! Haha! 

The headmistress at N’s school has informed us we should start potty training this weekend.  She has a system that’s kind of a more direct method.  You apparently just remove the nappies from one day to the next and take the kid to the potty every 45 mins.  The only time they wear nappies is to sleep. I am not sure how this will go, but they’ve clearly been teaching him about the toilet as he’s OBSESSED with sitting on the big toilet, albeit fully clothed.  Wish me luck.

It has been a rough time in my relationship too.  My husband lost his job in early July in not-so-nice circumstances and it’s been a bit more challenging than he thought to find a new position that was relevant to his level of expertise. As is reasonable, he has found this period very challenging and has had the associated moods to go with this. There have been some positives to his time of unemployment – he had more time to devote to focusing on our house build which is near to completion and he’s had more time to spend with N, picking him up from school etc. I also worked full time in September, rather than my usual part time, including a trip abroad so this was a good thing that he was around. BUT, he has been quite awful at times and it has and continues to be a real strain on our relationship. We have had some deep conversations about this and every time we have one I think ok it’s going to be better now, but then something new happens that throws me.

He is in week 2 of a new job now and I think he is happy there, but it’s very exhausting for him in this phase and he’s being awful. There was an incident between us yesterday, which I won’t go into here, but since then he has ignored the existence of both me and N and I cannot wrap my head around this. To ignore me, yes fine whatever, but to ignore your son is so disgusting and immature. N noticed too and I could see it made him sad.  It really hurt my heart.  

I have spoken a bit about my relationship here but have tried to dial it back recently, but I am at a bit of a crossroads.  Where do you draw the line? What is something you can work on and what is over the line?  It’s so hard to decide and I’m trying to stick with it, especially after the terrible year I’ve had, but I’ve got to confess I am struggling with mental health. I have lost about 7 kilograms (15 pounds) since the start of the year, I’m not interested in food (even bad food), my hair is falling out and my skin is full of cystic pimples.  I am clearly breaking down and yet I don’t know what to do about it.  

I am trying to just hang in there as I feel like a change for the better may be around the corner.  Once my husband settles in his job a bit he should be able to manage his moods better.  We are getting a lady in a few weeks to come and help me at home with chores and looking after N from time to time.  And the house should be ready to move into early next year.  I keep telling myself good times are coming, but I am worried I will not be able to hold it all together for that much longer.  I don’t mean to be dramatic, I’m really mainly ok and it’s good to be thin again (sorry, but it is) but I am struggling big time. So if you see me on social media all seeming fabulous, don’t be down on yourself because for sure for every fabulous photo I pick there are 23 other moments throughout the day when I think what has my life come to? 

Thankfully, N is a delight.  Occasionally he does have a two-year-old tantrum and that’s mainly manageable but most of the time he is funny and clever and sweet. I love his happy face. I am so grateful to have him as my son and to have the chance to be a mum, especially after all the challenges I’ve faced to have a baby. N is the best!

Words update:

The words are coming now, albeit slowly.  These are the regular word and phrases that he likes to use. I think there are others in Greek he says but I am not fully aware of them as he speaks to me in English. 

Mummy, Papou (grandpa), Papa (daddy), Yiayia (grandma), hiya, bye bye, yes, nono, socks, car key, gone, run, touch, I don’t know, what is it, last one, that one, it’s hot, 1,2,3 (in English and Greek).

Favourite things:

Washing his hands – he loves liquid soap dispensers generally, but I bought a new one recently that is an automatic dispenser that if you hold your hand under it the soap comes out in a regulated amount. This has been very effective at encouraging N to use soap, possibly to an extreme degree as I have to take the soap dispenser away from him. Using one bottle of soap every week is definitely preferable to having gastro though!

Lollipops – known as “mm-yummies”. There is an ice-cream shop walking distance to our home so we have to visit it on a daily basis to get an “mm-yummy” from it. I now carry a collection of lollipops in his bag and I just present one outside the shop so as not to have to keep buying them from there.  He sucks on them for 1-2 minutes and throws them on the ground anyway, so any dentists reading this don’t worry as he does not eat a lollipop a day. 

Watching the “Little Sharks” video by Bounce Patrol x 1 million per day -it has a section of the song where the little sharks swim slowly and then they swim faster, at which point he runs all over the house squealing with delight, preferably with one of us chasing him. So cute. So very over that song though.

Toys – he’s really starting to get into toys now which is a delight.  We have a few different favourites, but one stand out is a toy microwave I got a couple of weeks ago.  It has different buttons and settings to set for the different food and has lights and makes microwave noises.  Great fun for hours.  Annoyingly, I had to go to the “girl” section of the toy shop to find it.  I also found him a shopping trolley there and finally I found one that is green and not pink.  Seriously, the gender divisions on toys are out of control! 

The fridge and kitchen cupboards – these have always been popular but I’ve recently noticed a step change in the interest in them.  Some days he opens the fridge so frequently and takes things out (aka takes the lids off bottles and tips the liquid on the floor for fun) that I’ve gotten a plastic bag and tied up the doors of the fridge for a few hours so he can’t open them.  No such ability to do that with the kitchen cupboard doors sadly but I have had to rearrange the location of certain items in there so he can’t tip an entire box of cereal on the floor too easily. 

Pushing buttons for pedestrian crossings – he’s mad for these but thankfully there is a park close to our house which is for kids to learn about traffic rules.  It has a course with traffic lights and pedestrian buttons for children to go about on their bikes and scooters.  I just let him loose there for ages as he loves to repeatedly push the pedestrian lights buttons and then cross the road when the green man appears.  

Going over speed humps fast – he is a speed demon and loves when I drive over speed humps a little too fast so that he gets some air in the back seat.  He laughs his head off.  Should I happen to need to brake hard he also says “ooooooh”  asthough I’m a bad driver, cheeky monkey! He also likes for me to run when I’m pushing him in the stroller so it ends up being a bit of an interval training session for me.  Good for the endorphins at least!

24+2 – We have got lift-off!

Bless him, N has finally learned how to jump! For many weeks now he’s been trying to jump – on trampolines and beds and other such bouncy surfaces – and despite his best full-body efforts had not managed to get any space between his feet and the ground.  All that changed recently and he’s delighted.  Bouncing is fun!  Bouncing while dancing is expecially fun.  I don’t think there are many things more full of unadulterated joy as a toddler feeling the groove to his favourite tunes (currently they are I Like To Move It, Will.I.Am / Madagascar version, and Pokerface by Lady Gaga).

The past month has also seen N start nursery school for the first time.  I am so very glad we eased him into this with summer school because it seems to have made a big difference.  The first week was pretty traumatic with crying at drop-off, but now he is quite pleased about going to school and even insists to carry/drag his own bag into the classroom.  I am really happy for him experiencing new things and getting stimulated, and I can already see the difference.  He has expanded his vocabulary in both English and Greek (Greek is exclusively spoken at school) and he now does cute things like say “Shhhh” when he sees a baby or a cat sleeping.  It is adorable. 

He does not seem to be suffering any bad effects of having to go to school, other than the fact he was a bit snotty for the past couple of days and now I also have a sore throat.  School germs are yuk! I would even go as far as to say I think he’s a bit more easy-going in the evenings as he’s burnt out some of his high-octane energy at school. 

We have also reduced his daytime naps to no more than 1 hour, sometimes shorter and that has made some differences too!  As he doesn’t finish school until around 2.00-2.30pm it is a bit hard to juggle the timings of naps but I think once the winter nights start to set in he will probably be more inclined to shift his night bedtime a bit earlier.  Right now he sleeps around 9.00-9.30pm and I would like that to be earlier in winter.  I guess also he might drop his nap at some point in the next six months, at which time I will need to bring his bedtime even earlier. 

I went away for a four-day international work trip last week and I had such a good time.  Ok, I was super-busy, but on a work trip you pause from being mum for a few days and I began to feel like my old self.  I was taken out to dinner a couple of times and, although they were not actual “dates” – my husband was not with me – it was nice to feel nice. I now semi-jokingly refer to this year as “The Year of Shit Things Happening” and my trip away helped me to see that actually the old me was still there, but just buried underneath the weight of all that has come my way in recent months.  Of course, I then returned home to have to put to bed an overtired toddler and to a mountain of laundry that needed doing, so welcome to #mumlife. 

It was nice to come home to N though and he clearly missed me. I arrived home late Friday night and all day Saturday he had eyes only for me and said “Mummy” at a rate of approximately 100x an hour.  I can’t say I hated it!  Poor Daddy who had been looking after him for 4 days got no love. Haha! He was a really good boy on the weekend, he played nicely and even gave me a nice lie in on Saturday.  

Usually the bedtime routine is that I will read him some stories when he is in bed before lights out.  Obviously with me being away, daddy had to step up and take on that job.  I was so delighted to get a message from him after bedtime on the first night that simply said “I love Gruffalo”.  Apparently he had never read or had The Gruffalo read to him as a child and he was discovering it for the first time.  So cute. I also love The Gruffalo! 

Things N loves this month:

 Jumping, dancing and feeling the groove to music and songs.  
 Lollipops – OMG he is obsessed with them, but they do seem to solve most crises. 
 Phones – pretending to talk on them (loudly) and/or actually taking one of our phones and calling us on them.  Most calls go like this: “Hiya, hiya, HIYA!”
 Toys with wheels – cars, tractors, trucks, his scooter, his stroller, his tricycle – wheels are great
 Opening the fridge, finding a drink in there, taking it out, drinking a mouthful of it, putting it back in, shutting the fridge, repeat x infinity or until I get sick of the fridge door being slammed and / or whatever liquid he’s chosen to drink being tipped willfully onto the floor
 Slamming doors, all kinds
 Throwing things off the edge of the balcony.  This is usually the remote control that operates the balcony’s blinds, but has also included a football, his brand new car I’d bought him from my work trip (needed gluing back together), and washing pegs.  I am worried that one of our phones will go over the edge next. 
 His cousin who is almost 4. Because N is so tall and his cousin is more on the smaller size, they are now practically the same height and make quite the double-act when together.  However, they are at different stages of development so it can be challenging at times to keep them both interested in the same thing.  Generally, they do well at playgrounds and open spaces where they can chase each other, eat lollipops and shriek a lot.  It’s so cute!