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! 

 

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Two years + one month – All change again

Does anyone else fall into the trap of learning about something that children do at a certain again and deciding “oh my child won’t do that”? I think this must be some kind of survival mechanism of our brains to think our child will be immune to whatever difficult stage of their life this refers to. I mention this because I think I’ve suffered it throughout my parenting experience, always thinking privately, that “this will not be the case with our son” as though he is somehow excluded from the less attractive aspects of growth and development.

Well, newsflash, seems like I was a bit naïve!  Our lovely N had his second birthday and then days later (seemingly seconds later) he started making some big changes. I wouldn’t go so far as to say we have experienced the full power of the Terrible Twos just yet (something to look forward to) but out of no where N went from being quite a good sleeper to absolutely point blank refusing to go to bed.

It was mad.

I was scratching my increasingly exhausted head about it as each day went on with no great solutions appearing in sight.  This also coincided with our summer break so N’s schedule was a bit messed around with, but if anything, I would have thought all the sun and swimming would make him more tired and inclined to sleep rather than the opposite.  Anyway, we persevered with it all and tried to make him absolutely physically exhausted at bedtime so that there was less of an argument. We had mixed success with that but we did fully wipe ourselves out. 

Then just as quickly as it started, it pretty much stopped. Just like that. So I am guessing that this was a sleep regression.  There is one at 2 years old so lucky us! In our attempts to “cure” the sleep issues we did make a couple of changes, one of which being that N’s daytime nap has now been shortened to only 1 hour in duration.  I am starting to think that in 6 months time or so he might have no daytime naps.  I guess if he’s sleeping well at night that at some point he might not need them anymore.  

He starts nursery school in early September so I suspect that will make him more tired.  The timings of his school are such that I can pick him up anytime until 2.30pm but there is no napping during school.  He can stay awake that long without a nap but usually there is a knock-on effect from a late nap time to a late night bedtime, so I think some experimentation will be required during this phase.  And, just to complicate these things further, I will be on a business trip a for 3 nights right when he’s starting school.  Honestly, working mum life is hard! We will be ok, but that’s not to say that the bumps are pretty shitty sometimes. 

Anyway, back to N and his development, we are seeing some words emerging ever so slowly, but they are coming.  He says “mummy” a lot and in context – usually when he wants something.  He also says “kaka” which is Greek for “poo”, but he doesn’t say it in context. I think he just hears it a lot and so repeats it. Yesterday he said to me “mummy pee pee” but I don’t think he actually meant he had gone pee pee or that he wants to, or that I should, just that this is something he has heard his nearly 4-year old cousin say he was going to do. I also think he is pointing to things and saying “that but he sometimes says it wrong.  I don’t know.  

He is able to follow instructions and do what you ask him, such as “give the TV remote to daddy”, “put the nappy in the bin”, “climb in your chair for dinner” so he obviously understands. 

He has really gotten into toys in a big way and he has become more emotionally receptive – he actively cuddles into me now where he really didn’t for some time.  For example I will pick him up to take him somewhere, the car or something, and he will rest his head on my shoulder.  Oh my goodness, it melts me EVERY TIME.  He’s started noticing babies and so whenever we come in contact with a baby (whether they are strangers or not) he will peer into the stroller to have a good look. 

He is also really cheeky and aware that bathtime comes before bedtime, which also means bedtime means no more playing. So during the pre-bathtime period he becomes kind of manic trying to use the slide a lot and play with all the toys, dance, sing, shout etc – I guess to show me that he’s not tired and definitely doesn’t need a bath or to go to bed.  Bad luck, buster! Haha! 

My husband lost his job a few weeks ago so he’s been around at home a lot these days, which has been really nice for him and N, although financially it would be helpful if someone decided to employ him!  Anyway, N and daddy are now thick as thieves and it’s really beautiful to see. I think my husband also has a deeper appreciation of the things that were previously my responsibility, such as the challenges of changing the nappy and/or getting him dressed in the morning while he tries to run everywhere. Also he’s been doing a lot of the grocery shopping and chores and he keeps complaining every day that he doesn’t sit still. Every time he says this I simply laugh. 

So a little summary of all things N.

Things N likes:

 Daddy, a lot
 His monkey comforter 
 TV and phones, but only Cocomelon videos.  If anyone would like me to perform a repertoire of nursery songs by Cocomelon I am available at good rates
 Turning light switches and other buttons on and off, and on and off, and on and off…
 Running, fast
 Toys that do stuff – I got him a parking station for toy cars and they go up in an elevator and down a ramp, with noises etc. He loves it. He also is fascinated with a drum that my friend has so I am looking to get him one of his own. 
 Blowing kisses to everyone – so sweet, long may it last
 His cousin who is nearly 4, the two of them are always exhausted after playing together
 Drinks with straws

 

Things N does NOT like:

 Any kind of TV/video that is not Cocomelon, not even Peppa Pig or equivalent toddler TV 
 Open-toe shoes / sandals.  He takes them off as he prefers bare feet or closed shoes/trainers.  So weird. 
 Toenails that catch – if his toenails get a bit damaged and need clipping he will not leave them alone until I fix them. 
 His bath – overnight he refused to get in the bath (this was simultaneous to the refusing to sleep phase) so we have been giving him showers ever since. While kind of sad at least it saves time and water. 
 High chairs that have a tray rather than direct table access.  We have the Stokke high chair and I took off the tray a long time ago so that he can sit directly at our dining table and I think he prefers it as he feels like a big boy. 
 Either me or daddy leaving to go somewhere.  It is hard as he clings to me like a barnacle, at the same time it is so sweet so I always pause to enjoy it as I keep thinking he will stop doing this and I’ll be sad
 Ditto the same situation at bedtime.  He hangs onto me so that I don’t leave his room so I stay a moment longer just so I can enjoy the feelings of love. 
 The size 18-36 months pacifiers/dummies.  I tried to upgrade him to the bigger size when he got older (as you’re meant to) and got him a bunch of really cooldesigns.  I made a big error though as he can tell they are different not only by the feel but the designs and he flat out refuses them.  So I have found one that is the same design as the smaller size and have managed to trick him into using it.  Seriously, the things we do! 

 

As for good old me, I think my health is mainly stable but I’m not feeling so great.  I think my issues are mainly emotional these days and I’m trying to be kind to myself but it’s hard.  My hair has started falling out and I lost some weight so now I am actively trying to make sure I eat better.  My dentist told me I’m grinding my teeth and that it’s from stress/anxiety.  No shit! I’ve started back at yoga this week and I’ve done some acupuncture too so I think I’ll try this for a few weeks and see if I feel any differently.  Otherwise, I’m just trying to be kind to myself and not sign myself up for things that are too demanding of me.  Let’s see how I go!

22 Months – Baby you can drive my car

I took a bit of an accidental hiatus from blogland just recently and so thought I better pop back to show that I’m all ok. It has been such a weird time in so many ways and I’ve had so much to say, and yet said none of it. A few weeks back what can best be described as a shitstorm erupted in my husband’s family and it really hit me hard. I probably shouldn’t go into it here, but it has really made me reevaluate my approach to his family and likewise all of us have taken a step back from interacting with any of his family members subsequent to this.

What all of this also highlighted in bold to me is the complete disregard that anyone in his family has paid to my situation – with being a foreigner in the country (and a foreigner in the family it seems), to losing my mum, to my illness, and to the fact that I don’t have a support network in this country. Now I am exceptionally grateful for the many, many blessings I DO have in my life which helps to balance me and to keep my spirits up, but I am not in the frame of mind to give extra energy to anyone (family or not) who are bringing negativity to my life. This mental seachange that I made was made a few weeks ago now and has helped me transform my mood and given me the space to feel a bit more like myself. I have focused on putting our family (my husband, son and me) at the forefront of everything and also done great things like go to the gym a bit more often and just generally be more on top of life. I feel better for it.

I am now taking a lower dose of the steroids – just 8mg a day, whereas I was on 48mg per day at one stage – and I think the reduction in the steroids has also helped with my mood as well as my face (it is no longer quite so puffy finally). Also going to the gym helps so much with feeling good about myself. Two weeks ago I went to the gym twice in one week which was the first time I’d been able to do that this year, mainly because of the illness. Then what did I do? I fell over a week ago Friday and did a nasty sprain of my ankle so I’ve been unable to go to the gym since. Luckily, I have been able to see the irony and laugh (through the pain) about this. Maybe in the next few days things will improve and allow me to go back…

In the meantime it was Mothers’ Day in these parts a weekend ago and I found it really, really hard. I think I cried most of Saturday about how this was my first Mothers’ Day ever without my Mum. As I couldn’t bear not to buy her flowers I sent some to her best friend instead, and then I went out and bought an orchid (my Mum loved orchids) in a colour I thought she would like and now I’ve got to try and keep the thing alive. Eeeek! I had hoped my husband might help my son to get me something – a card or similar – but he didn’t and it upset me more than I thought it would. I did address it with my husband late in the day on Sunday and he said he had thought about getting a card (???) but didn’t find the time. This did not make me feel better. So I will just have to wait until N is old enough to source his own stuff or for him to ask his Dad to help him with this kind of thing. I did wonder if he thought I didn’t deserve it, but I know that I’m a good Mum so that’s ridiculous thinking. The more likely case is my husband is just lazy and crap at these things.

Anyway, the point is though that N is going through another really fascinating phase and I love him so deeply that it helps me to get over these disappointments. I wouldn’t say they go away, but I just look at his cheeky face and remind myself to be grateful for his good health and overall wonderfulness.

We’ve had some good times recently with N and his development is huge. While he’s still not very good at talking, he is muttering nonsense (his own language) non-stop so the words are just going to turn up one day perhaps. I am pretty sure he said “no more” the other day when his snacks ran out. So cute.

These days you just need to ask him where the moon is and he runs to point to it for you. I can give him lots of instructions and he can follow them, such as bringing different items for me and helping me feed the cats. The other day he got some washing from the dirty laundry basket, took it to the washing machine, put it in and shut the door, pretended to put in washing detergent, turned on the washing machine, selected the correct setting and started the washing machine. I stood there and watched the whole thing unfold and was deeply shocked by his competency. Who knew you could convert your children into little helpers at such a young age?

N goes absolutely bananas for swings, slides and the park that has ducks and geese. He laughs and laughs so loudly at ducks and geese and it makes my heart swell. I am so happy my little guy is a nature and animal lover like me. I’ve tried really hard to foster this in him and early indications suggest this is paying off.

And while it does all sound like sunshine and roses, the tantrums are starting to show themselves which is a bit frightening as to what the future brings. The funniest thing about his tantrums is that he throws out his bottom lip in exactly the same way I used to. This child is definitely getting revenge on behalf of my mother. Haha! These days N insists on “driving” my car each time we get in or out of it, which is cute the first time and then highly irritating from that point onwards when you actually need to go somewhere on a timeframe. I have now built such requirements into my timings.

We have an electric gate for the parking area of our building which has a remote control for operating it. I can sometimes appease him if I have to hurry him up by giving him the remote and he is entirely capable of opening the gate on demand for me, which I must admit is handy.

I also made a return last week to the playgroups at the nursery school he will be going to from September. The first time we went last week he absolutely howled and clung to me for the first 20 minutes but then was more-or-less fine. It didn’t fill me with much confidence for him starting in September! But I took him again this week and he only howled for about 2 minutes which was GREAT PROGRESS! I stay for the playgroup sessions too and it was so good to see him actually getting used to how they work, sitting for story time and clapping along to the songs. When you consider the songs and instructions at playgroup are in Greek and he primarily gets access to the English language that is especially good to see. I also met some other mums of kids who will be in his same class so hopefully we can become good mates with our kids hanging out together.

Summer has hit now so I am so looking forward to spending time at the beach with N as I think he will be at such a good age this summer for enjoying himself, with less eating of sand. He loves, loves, loves water so I feel good times are ahead, finally.

22 months – things N loves:

  • Monkey – it’s official. He cannot sleep without his monkey cuddly and so I get such anxiety that we are going to accidentally lose it one day
  • Opening the electric gates of the carpark at home with the remote control
  • Baby shark do do do do do do
  • Drinking out a proper glass, although it rarely ends with dry clothes
  • Opening and closing sliding windows and doors and/or throwing monkey or the AC remote out the window
  • Swings and slides – he’s a daredevil!
  • “Driving” my car including pushing every single button in the car, opening and closing all the windows and the boot, turning the volume on the stereo up offensively loudly and steering furiously
  • Being chased and tickled
  • Pointing to the moon
  • Being carried by mummy (why not daddy???)
  • Drawing artworks with crayons
  • Having bubbles blown at him

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the road to recovery

Wowsers! It’s been a rough time of late, but I am glad to say that I am now doing a lot better. After a barrage of medical tests and being poked, prodded and zapped (yes, with electrical currents), the doctors finally settled on my diagnosis of Polymyositis  (as discussed in my previous post) and started to give me steroids. Ironically they are exactly the same steroids as I had in the first trimester of my pregnancy with baby N. That is Prednisolone, the brand name in my case being Medrol.  BUT… the big difference is they gave me 4mg daily when trying to grow baby N and now I am on 48mg daily, taken in 3 doses after each meal. Eeek!

Anyone who has had the misfortune of taking these meds knows that they seriously mess up your sleep and it is quite a lot worse on a higher dose.  Actually though I am dealing with that ok at the moment, maybe even enjoying all my bonus energy, but what is most annoying is that the meds also trigger heavy night sweats.  And when I say night sweats I mean my entire body soaked in sweat, including my hair and my pillow. It is 100% gross and necessitates multiple changes of pj during the night (I now keep a stack of light t-shirts next to the bed so I can easily make the change) and a morning shower.  I am Captain Stinky otherwise!

It also makes me want to eat every carbohydrate in the universe pretty much 24/7.  It’s a bit like being pregnant but no baby inside. I confess it’s fun because yum, but it is a bit risky in terms of possible weight gain. Also because the steroids affect your blood sugar levels and there is a genuine risk of developing type 2 diabetes (no thanks).

And yet despite all of this the damned things are working and I am doing better!  I am slowly getting my energy and some of my strength back but I suffered “muscle necrosis” so basically I need to grow my muscles back properly to regain my full strength.  This will most likely happen, but it will take some time – weeks or months.

I went again to see the specialist doctor today – a rheumatologist – and it was quite overwhelming. There was good news and some less positive news. On the positive front he is happy with my rapid improvement and this means he will be reducing my steroids dose progressively from next week. In addition, he is adding a new drug which also targets the immune system to reduce inflammation, but it is a slower acting one and is more long term.  There is one special side-effect of that and it’s mild hair loss, but the aspect that is most saddening to me is that while on these medications it is not a good idea to get pregnant.

Of course I also can’t or shouldn’t be trying to get pregnant when feeling so poorly anyway, but the doctor indicated I could be on these medications for a year or more so that effectively puts me into being 41 or 42 at the earliest before we can even consider baby number 2. Even though I didn’t enjoy being pregnant or the newborn days, I still have a feeling of responsibility that he should have a sibling and the clock is ticking.  Thank goodness there are 15 embryos in the freezer that were conceived with my lovely 38 year old eggs!

Despite this though, I am refusing to let this bring me down strongly as the very most important thing right now is getting better so I can be the best mum ever to baby N and enjoy all his achievements. Having lost both of my parents now I achingly feel even more committed to this.

And what about baby N?  Well I think I’ve got to stop calling him a baby now!  He’s 18 months old and more accurately described as a joyous hurricane.  Toddlers are incredible!  What the world needs to do to solve the energy crisis is to channel the energy of toddlers into electricity.  Oh my goodness can this boy just go and go and go and go!  I often wonder where it comes from and I’ve decided it’s naps and bananas.

Every day he wakes up full of happiness and thirst for life!  This morning I couldn’t get him to get out of his bed because he kept doing rolly-pollys in it!  Other favourite activities include:

  • running around in circles until he falls over laughing with dizziness (warning: high risk of hitting his head so it’s both funny and terrifying to watch),
  • switching any kind of button/switch on and off repeatedly x100,
  • opening cupboards and drawers, taking out whatever is inside them and possibly putting them back in the right place thereafter
  • unscrewing lids off bottles, preferably of water or juice and then tipping it all over himself in an attempt to drink it
  • taking the dirty nappy/diaper and placing it in its special bin (which is located in a kind of laundry room away from his bedroom as poo stinks!)
  • taking dirty laundry from the basket piece-by-piece and delivering it to the washing machine, pretending to add detergent and pushing buttons on the washing machine to make it go (thank goodness for the child lock)
  • gently touching things that are hot like the heaters or a coffee mug and exclaiming “It’s hot!”
  • sitting on daddy’s lap in the driver’s seat of the car and “steering” as well as pushing every button that exists in the car
  • chasing the cat and trying to grab his tail (my cats are both fast and patient thankfully)
  • reading the book “Where is the green sheep?” and being super-excited to find the green sheep on the last page
  • climbing on everything and anything, constantly
  • swings and slides at the park – he can now independently climb the slide and sit himself down with his feet facing forward and then slide himself down
  • eating – he loves food!

I feel like I say this at every stage of development but I absolutely love this age.  He is so funny and curious and intense.  I mean, it’s completely exhausting (even before you consider my illness) but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Toddlers teach you so much about yourself, patience and endurance mainly, but to look through their eyes at the world is a beautiful thing.

I can’t thank toddler N enough for being my rainbow through all of my clouds of late.  I really think I would have been even worse mentally if it wasn’t for him.  I mean, I could have done without the chaos of a toddler while trying to recover but knowing that there is more to life than just me and my introspection is actually very cathartic. It also helps me to see there is a way forward, even though it is shadowed heavily by the loss of my Mum.

So now I know what I have to do for my recovery I can focus on getting physically strong again – staring with getting back into yoga and maybe some acupuncture – and also I think I may look into some counselling. Not just for me, but so I can be a positive influence for toddler N as he grows into a beautiful boy.

 

My Mum died, and other news

I’ve been wondering how to title this post long before I even tried to write it, so I’ve gone with the direct option because frankly this is the sentence that sits square at the front of my brain right now: My Mum died.

My Mum died and my heart is broken.

She died at around 2.15am on Saturday 8th December with both my sister and I by her side. I had arrived late Wednesday night and came directly from the airport to the hospital as during my flight she had deteriorated significantly to the point where she was unconscious when I arrived.  I think she knew I was there though as her eyes flickered a few times when I spoke to her. I told her many times that I was there and that everything was ok now.  In the morning I got on her bed and gave her a cuddle too and she seemed to rest her forehead on mine as though she knew I was there.  By about lunchtime on Thursday she was completely unconscious and we didn’t see much response from her thereafter.

Both my sister and I stayed at the hospital in her room for the entire time.  The only time we left her room was when the nurses came to tend to her and freshen her up. By Friday we were both losing our minds but also we knew that it was more kind for her to go, than to stay in the state she was and we started willing her and giving her the “permission” to go.  She was such a feisty, strong woman though that she really, really hung on. Her heart was so strong that even the nurses couldn’t believe she was still alive on Friday.

When she finally left us early Saturday morning it was a blessed relief that she was finally at peace but it was truly awful.  Towards the end she looked so ghastly that I was afraid to look at her.  I realise that is terrible but it is quite traumatic to watch someone die in increments. When she died I was stroking her hair and holding her and my sister was on the other side holding her hand.  I guess as far as deaths go it’s the best you can hope for in such a circumstance.  She was surrounded by love.

I guess there is an argument that we all knew that she was gravely ill, but it doesn’t actually make it any easier to deal with. I’ve lost both of my parents now in vastly different circumstances – one as quite a shock and one not-so-much – and the trauma is no less in the latter scenario.

The days that follow are now some kind of blur.  Maybe I should have written something at the time but I didn’t feel able to. Almost immediately after my Mum passed away I developed laryngitis so here I was trying to organise a funeral with no voice. Apparently it is a legitimate reaction to grief to lose your voice.

People were very kind to me and my sister but it was a strange time.  I was living in my Mum’s house for a few days alone but without her (my son stayed back home with his dad and grandparents which was weird in itself). The funeral was the Wednesday following her passing, during which I recalled some happy and funny memories as part of the service. My voice had partially returned then but was not 100%. I remember feeling afterwards that a 45 minute service, lovely and heartfelt as it was, it just not enough to pay tribute to her life.  It almost seemed rude to have such a short amount of time dedicated to such a full life.  I still can’t get over this.

Also, I found the funeral to be a massive exercise in managing other people’s grief. While many people were certainly keen to support my sister and I, it really felt like we were doing the heavy lifting with looking after other people. My husband didn’t come over to Australia as we jointly agreed that it would be better to have him stay with baby N so that there was some consistency there. I had good friends supporting me so, while I missed him, I was ok.

Then at the funeral, I had two completely unexpected guests turn up – one was a girl I went to school with and practically have had nothing to do with since, and the second was an ex-boyfriend of mine from when I was 19. We have remained excellent friends over the years as we have some bond that is hard to put in words.  We definitely have a connection as he lost his mum to cancer at a young age as I did my dad, but we also have a special something between us beyond that.  It’s all above board, my husband knows about it and I think we both recognise we are not a good romantic match, but I do love him. Anyway, so he’s this tall, gorgeous, blonde surfer and he just strolls into the funeral and you know what?  I lost it. I had kept it together so nicely until then but I was so very touched that he came that I just hung onto him for dear life for about 5 minutes. It was kind of at the point where someone almost had to tell me to let the poor guy go.

Afterwards about 80 people came back to my Mum’s house for the wake. It was so bizarre.  Everyone is so convivial and yet you can’t hold down a conversation with anyone for longer than 1 minute because someone else comes to ask you something else. Also, because I think people realised we would (eventually) be selling Mum’s major items they started asking me if they could buy things.  At her wake, they started asking to buy things.  This still blows my mind.  So here I am in the middle of all the post-funeral feelings and someone is asking me how much for her sofa.  Seriously, WTF people?!

And then you know what happened the day after her funeral? I turned 40. Yep, it was my 40th birthday, which I was meant to be spending on a romantic trip in Milan with my husband. But instead I spent it at my Mum’s house with my sister and friends crying and drinking champagne.  Actually, somehow it turned out to be a great birthday full of love. I missed my Mum ENORMOUSLY but given the situation we did try and smile and celebrate in a low-key way.

The following Sunday I said goodbye to Mum’s house, and goodbye to the town I grew up in from the age of 3 and full of all the pain and emotion headed back to my boys.  And for the first time in my entire life, I got upgraded to business class on the plane.  I cried.

My return back was a blur.  Baby N was a bit strange with me for the first couple of days – he wouldn’t sleep the first night which was great with jet lag! But he soon got back into the swing of it and seems no worse off thankfully.  He’s at a beautiful age now – 18 months – and I adore him.

I don’t remember much what happened next.  There was Christmas and New Year, which was a blur. I didn’t feel much up for anything so we kept a pretty low profile, doing simple things as a threesome. I was exhausted too and couldn’t really seem to catch up with myself.

About two weeks ago I started to feel a tiredness in my muscles that was similar to how you feel after a really, good, tough workout.  Except I’d not worked out. This progressively got worse over several days until I found one night I couldn’t get out of bed as my muscles were so weak and I was in so much pain.  After I vomited a bit with the pain it completely freaked my husband out and so he sent me for some blood tests.  Long story short it seems I had a viral infection of sorts.  Nothing very exciting or unusual about that in winter… except that this viral infection seems to have triggered something far worse which is called Polymyositis. This is inflammation and weakness in your muscles and if not treated it can be very dangerous.

It has rendered me quite disabled in that I have no strength in my body to do basic things such as holding my hairdryer above my head to dry my hair, or pouring the water jug, or lifting /caring for baby N. I can’t walk very well or very fast and I’m in a lot of pain. At the moment they are trying to confirm the diagnosis – I’ve had a bunch of blood tests and an MRI so far, but they also need to do some kind of neurological test and a muscle biopsy so it’s not over yet. So far 2019 has sucked so very much!

Many people seem to think my immune system was compromised by my grief.  It all sounds believable but I’m just so unhappy right now.  Meanwhile my sister-in-law has just announced that she’s pregnant with her second, a girl.  You may recall that my husband and her husband are brothers and our relationships are not at all strong.  Throughout this she and her husband have been completely unsupportive and downright rude so I’m struggling with that too.  My parents-in-law, however, have been incredible and baby N has half-lived at their house as I’ve been incapable of caring for him alone.

Right now I’m trying to focus on getting better.  My treatment is high dose steroids – the same ones I took for the IVF but at much higher doses. On low dose they made my face fat and me kind of psycho so I am freaking out somewhat about what kind of nightmare I will become on the strong dose.  Either way I have to get better so there is no option.

Please someone tell me I’ve had enough drama and I can go back to a quiet, normal, boring life again soon?!

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These are some special tulips my Mum grew and tried to live long enough to enjoy (which she did)