20 months: Climbing, sliding and somersaulting

Baby N has now passed his 20-month-old birthday and is now hurtling towards two years old. Up until now when people asked me his age I would reply in months but now I say “he’s almost two”, and then I think to myself, how is he almost two and where did the past two years go? I also think I have said from about nine months old that each milestone is my favourite age group so I think all age groups except for the newborn phase are pretty awesome in their own ways.

Right now N seems to be growing in his intelligence and capability literally by the second. His awareness and ability to observe something and then replicate it is remarkable. He watches everything I do and is obsessed with then doing those things himself, particularly chores around the home. He will regularly pull out the broom and sweep up the crumbs on the kitchen floor, or grab the step ladder and drag it to the kitchen sink so that he can reach to “help” wash up the dishes. He will also take the cats’ litter scoop and start shovelling cat litter in the vicinity of the little bin I have for cat poo. Unfortunately he does make more of a mess than anything else but I’m thinking this is good training for the future so I can get him to clean up after the cats. Haha!

Meanwhile, his love affair with food of all kinds shows no sign of abating and a few days ago, in a particularly hungry moment where apparently I wasn’t preparing dinner fast enough, he went to the bin and fished out a nasty strawberry I had discarded and started eating it! Obviously I was appalled and took it from him mouth before getting him something else to munch until dinner was ready, but seriously my kid is taking food from the bin?!! WTF?!!

N is continuing to be a head taller than all other children his age and I generally buy clothes for him that are for a 3-4 year old now. He wears European size 25 shoes, which I think is about size 8.5 in US sizes. His appetite matches his size and I am having to constantly carry snacks just in case he gets the munchies while we are out and about. Thankfully he has pretty broad tastes so will happily eat fruit as a snack which is fantastic. Top favourites continue to be strawberries and grapes, but he likes most fruit from bananas, apples, pears, kiwis, watermelon and the list goes on.

These days he is especially delighted to eat any food with a fork, stabbing the food and then feeding himself completely self-sufficiently. I honestly feel like this is one of my greatest parenting triumphs the fact he can mainly eat self-sufficiently. I try and give him as many foods as I can that can be eaten with a fork as it makes him so happy, so things like small pieces of chicken, frittata, cucumber pieces (peeled) and even cheese can be eaten with a fork. The other day I even caught N eating corn kernels individually as he managed to stab one of them at a time with his fork. I guess this is the way to diet effectively! Haha!

He is getting better with a spoon though and when he’s really, really hungry he will spoon food into his own mouth quite effectively. If he’s not so hungry or bored or not in the mood, he won’t do it himself though so I do feed him on these occasions.

Other things that make N super-happy these days are as follows:

  • Being outdoors generally – he cannot be contained inside and so bad weather days are a special kind of nightmare. He is also super-high energy so I literally have to run the beans out of him each day to tire him out.
  • The car – he insists on sitting in the driver’s seat and “driving” the car before going anywhere and on arriving back home. This is something his dad started with him and I curse him for it every day. Some days I don’t let him do his few minutes sitting in the front seat and he gets so upset with me.
  • Climbing the sofa and doing somersaults off the sofa (it’s a nightmare whereby many, many cushions have to be employed for safety reasons)
  • Buttons and switches, being turned on and off repeatedly. He is also getting more capable with operating our phones, daddy’s computer and the TV remotes. He now knows what specific buttons do and can select them consciously.
  • Slides – he can climb the stairs and slide them completely independently, although sometimes on the steeper ones we have to catch him at the bottom before he shoots off it and bumps his head
  • Water, any kind of water – this includes the bath, running taps, puddles, water I may be trying to drink out of a glass or even the bowl of water left out for the cats
  • Electric gates opening and closing, very exciting
  • Buses and the rubbish truck
  • The moon, also very exciting and requires a lot of pointing at it
  • Ducks, geese and turtles at the local lake
  • Little Bunny Foo Foo
  • His monkey cuddly toy – he has two of them which are completely identical but one is older than the other. He knows the difference and will not accept the newer one
  • Specific dummies/pacifiers. He will pick them up and inspect them individually like a an antiques dealer inspects your grandmother’s old jewellery and will only accept them if they are one of the approved dummies (no idea why some are acceptable and others are not)

On a regular day where he is well slept and happy he is a ray of sunshine and I’m so happy to have him in my life. I have recognised that when I’m around him I am more happy and it does help with my grief. It doesn’t make it go away but it helps me to focus on the bigger picture and that is my responsibility to help him grow into a capable, happy person.

My health has improved over the past few weeks which is due to a few things including my doctor reducing the dose of my medications and also trying to get some more sleep. I still look pretty crap with steroid-induced puffy cheeks and big bags under my eyes. Also, my body looks pretty flabby right now as the steroids make you get a bit frumpy around the middle. I stopped caring at some point as I was just so sick and eating well seemed to be quite low down on my list of caring. But now that I’m starting to be a bit more well again and summer is coming I’m thinking maybe I should try and work on my fitness and figure again.

Mentally I have been see-sawing a bit. Some days I am mainly fine and able to cope. Then I have found I have been having some rage moments where I have a disproportionate response to something that has annoyed me. I am definitely not zen so I now think I need to work on that and just try and choose my fights (and maybe not shout at everyone when I do feel the need to fight). My inner mamma bear has been turning into my outer mamma bear a bit too much recently.

Then I have some days where I just feel completely devoid of energy because I am just so damned sad. Being sad really drains you of energy. I miss my mum so much and I cannot overcome the feeling of how unfair it is that she’s not here anymore. I try and talk about her a lot, make jokes about certain things that she wouldn’t approve of. For example, my husband was trying on jeans today that had rips in them and we both agreed my mum would not approve of not only the fact they had rips in them, but actually having to pay extra for the rips. I have many photos of Mum at home and it’s nice to see her face every day but it does feel surreal. Like she is still sitting at her home and doing her thing there and all of this has been a terrible dream.

Does anyone out there have any experience with grief? How on earth are you meant to get over such a loss? It seems like it will just follow me around forever.

 

 

 

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A Tree With No Roots

A tree with no roots is how I would best describe myself right now. If you were to pass me in the street, or to see me at work, or on Instagram you would get the impression that everything is pretty normal. It looks pretty normal. That’s the weird thing that when someone dies for the rest of us life still goes on, even if we don’t really feel like it doing so. And with a toddler in your life this is more true than ever. But I am only just hanging on. One tiny blow of the wind and my tree comes crashing down with leaves going everywhere.

I’m not sure how much of my fragility is down to grief, to illness, to the medications I’m taking or just to life in general – I suspect it is a mixture of all these factors. I think things are slowly getting better though. If I assess how I was a month ago to now then I have made progress, albeit I get so frustrated by how “not me” I feel right now. It doesn’t help that every time I look in the mirror I see a new face that I don’t like looking back at me. The steroids have unfortunately caused my face to go moon-shaped – or in other words I look like a chipmunk who has been storing nuts in my cheeks for winter. I have also thought to myself more than once I look like I’ve had some really bad fillers done to my face! The good news is that my skin is clear and I think the puffiness actually reduces the appearance of my wrinkles. Every cloud has a silver lining I guess!

Hubby and I returned Wednesday from a short break to Vienna which was without toddler N – the first time we have both left him for a trip together! I have left him several times, for work and obviously when I was in Australia when my Mum passed away, but daddy has always been there for some form of continuity. This time we both left him simultaneously for three nights. He was perfectly fine staying at the Grandparents’ House and enjoying daily play-time visits from his 3-year-old cousin. We received one particularly touching video while we were gone of the cousin feeding N slices of strawberries with a spoon which was incredibly cute, even more so with N clapping with appreciation. I’m sure they are both going to be so embarrassed by this video when they are teenagers, but really it is so adorable.

When we arrived back N heard us coming to the front door and peeked out from behind the curtains with such unbridled joy it was lovely. Toddlers have beautiful souls. It makes you wonder when we all lose this innocence.

The break itself was good and important. We did a bit of everything while we were there; some sightseeing, walking around, eating loads of amazing cake, shopping and just generally hanging out. The past few months have been intense and it is so easy to forget that we are indeed a couple and so it was a chance to reconnect. And yes, we actually had sex. That certainly had not happened since my Mum died but it was time and I’m glad for it on every level. We even had sex again since coming home again (in the middle of the night while I was sleeping, but it still counts!) which is some kind of new record for us.

We had actually booked the trip to Vienna especially to see singer Jason Mraz in concert as I have been a big fan for 10+ years and we even danced to his music at our wedding. One of the (many) drawbacks of living in a small island country is that such concerts just are not an option. We get a lot of the famous DJs during the summer playing huge beach parties, but the days when the party starts at 2am are long gone for me! Haha!

Anyway, Jason Mraz has a really earthy, zen quality to him so his concerts a almost a spiritual experience for me. One of my favourite songs of his is called “93 Million Miles” and it has some intense lyrics which I have always really appreciated, but which really touched me extra deeply this time.

…sometimes it may seem dark,
but the absence of the light is a necessary part
Just know, you’re never alone, you can always come back home…

It triggered all these emotions in me about where is home for me now?  I’ve lived almost more than half of  my life outside Australia now and the “home” I  did have there is gone now with my Mum’s passing.  So for the first time in my life I realised I can’t go home.  Or maybe I should redefine what I think of as home.  It was a deep thought which still troubles me.

Jason also paused during this song and encouraged everyone in the audience to think about someone who has supported them, and given them good energy, including those no longer with us. At this point it is fair to say I lost my sh1t and promptly sobbed for the rest of the song and the next one too (the one we danced to at our wedding). But it was good in a way because I felt better afterwards.

Side note: on our return to our hotel after the concert we pulled up in our Uber to a wall of paparazzi who were VERY disappointed by our arrival.  Curious as to who they were actually waiting for (the hotel staff wouldn’t tell us) we hovered about until the mystery was revealed as being Elle MacPherson who was there for the Vienna Opera Ball as the guest of honour.  As a fellow Australian Elle has been a huge celebrity for as long as I can remember and in the flesh I can honestly tell you she is a goddess.  She’s 54 and looked freaking amazing.  And as my husband so observantly said, “She’s really tall.” She was also incredibly polite thanking everyone and smiling for photos endlessly. Full respect to her for being such a decent person.

Since coming home N has been a bit of a handful though which has not helped my tree-swaying-in-the-breeze situation. He’s always very well looked after at the grandparents’ house but they do mess up his schedule very badly and we pay the price for it on our return. For the past three nights N has absolutely resolutely refused to go to bed as normal. He is entirely happy and cheery running around the place but the second you try and put him in bed he howls the place down, sobbing miserably. And for a baby that really doesn’t cry much it is especially hard to deal with. He’s been finally crashing out anywhere between 10.30pm and midnight which is not cool for anyone!

I do suspect he has a bit of an issue with teeth at the moment too as his canines are either on their way down or doing some shifting. However, the situation was certainly not helped when he paid a visit to the grandparents’ house for a few hours in the afternoon on Friday so I could go have a stupid abdominal ultrasound (as per the orders of my specialist who is checking for all kinds of cancer in me but kidneys, gall bladder, liver etc are all fine) ,and the lady who looks after N did not give him an afternoon nap at all “because he wasn’t tired”. Errr… hello! He’s 19 months old! That’s way too young to not be needing a nap! So what happened instead? He fell asleep in the car on the way home, slept for an hour once we got home and put him in bed and then woke up ready to party the evening away again from 7pm. Grrrr! Hubby was not happy and made it very clear to his parents who then started giving us unsolicited advice on how to get N to sleep, all of which was completely useless when all the kid needed was an afternoon nap so this did not help my frustration levels!

Having had enough of all of this, today I woke him up nice and early in the morning (regardless of his late bedtime the night before) and we ran a daytime schedule as we would on a regular day. As it is Saturday today, daddy was with us and we had a lovely time at the park and a DIY shop in the morning before nap time around lunchtime. I woke him up after 1.5 hours (his allowable nap duration) against his will and then he had a delicious pasta lunch, followed by a visit to a Dinosaurs of the Ocean exhibition (which confused him hugely with the dark lighting and strange noises), and a visit to a special coffee shop for kiddies which had a nice play area and other children to interact with. We came home just before dinner and bathtime etc, and you know what happened tonight? He was happy to go to bed, where he is currently looking incredibly peaceful as he rests. So I am feeling deeply satisfied about all of that.

What about N generally? When he’s not having an all night party, he’s seemingly learning new things before my very eyes. Everything I do he copies and it’s so cute, but also keeps me on my toes as I don’t want to teach him the wrong things (aka swearing). One of the funniest things he does is that he copies me doing the laundry. So he takes clothes (dirty or otherwise) and puts them in the washing machine, closes the door and gets the detergent out while he pretends to pour it in. Then, because he is terribly annoying switching off the machine while it is in the middle of a wash (child lock does not lock the ON/OFF button) I always tape a small plastic container over the ON/OFF button. He’s so observant that he now goes to the kitchen drawer where the tape is, gets it out and starts taping up the washing machine! Oh how I laughed the first time he did this!!

I have also been trying to teach him for months how to blow bubbles in the bath and he has finally mastered it! He now spends about a third of the time with his face in the water making bubbles and it is the cutest thing ever. Toddlers are the best!

His language skills are coming along slowly now, although I think he is a bit behind some of his peers. He jabbers endlessly in his own language which is fully adorable and then occasionally he says a word that makes sense – and in context – which is wonderful. Weirdly, any time a phone rings he says “Papa” which I guess says a lot about his association with phones and his dad. The other day a big bus passed by the car as we were driving and he very clearly said “bus” so I think we are slowly getting there. When reading books he likes to point to certain animals such as the tiger, monkey and lion (also he points to a picture of a Queen and given that I always describe the Queen as Beyonce perhaps I should stop doing that – hahah). He certainly understands everything I say so he is not a nonce and the words will come with more time.

He is great with eating with a fork and a spoon these days and tonight at dinner he was eating entirely independently, forking food into both his and my mouth.N can do the odd scribble with crayon or chalk these days but no drawing on walls (yet). He is getting interested in puzzles now and I bought him a great toy when I was in Vienna that is all these little wooden pegs you have to put in holes. He really likes putting things away in their rightful places (like mummy) so it’s right up his street!

Today went smoothly enough that I even did some baking! HOLLA! I had some disgustingly over-ripe bananas that made me want to gag (I am not much of a banana fan generally) so I turned them into banana bread. I used this recipe which is for small people and big people and it is GORGEOUS! Both hubby and N loved it so maybe my tree roots grew a bit deeper today.