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…

Two years old!

Happy Birthday to baby N who turned 2 on Wednesday!  TWO YEARS OLD!  I’m so proud of what a great boy he is and somewhat at a loss to getting to grips with the fact that I have a two-year-old.  I am trying my hardest not to verbally mention the “terrible twos” because I don’t want to make them into a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ve definitely seen huge leaps in his development and capabilities recently so I guess the “terrible” parts might come hand-in-hand with the good things.

N has been going to summer school since the start of July at the same nursery school he will go to properly from September.  Summer school is only from 9am to 12 midday so it’s a good warming up process for him ahead of September, but also it’s the same school we have been visiting for playgroup sessions – so I think all of these things combined have helped make the transition easier.

Even with only 3 weeks of summer school under his belt I can see that N is now better at following instructions and his talking – still months behind what would be considered average/normal – is improving.  He now even says “Mamma” and not just randomly, but usually when he wants something.  I know that most children are saying this a lot earlier, but you take your wins when you can get them.  N does talk a lot, but it’s in his own language.  The actual words are getting more clear now but as his nursery school is Greek language I’m wondering if his Greek vocabulary will grow before his English. Let’s see.  What I am happy about though is that he understands absolutely everything and is able to follow instructions which means the words should follow.  Here’s hoping.

For N’s birthday I organised a small party at home for family and some friends. It was meant to be intimate and relaxed but the whole thing spiralled way out of control with a row between my husband and his parents, which escalated to them not coming, and me hysterical because the party was falling apart.  I don’t really care about the argument (though I do support my husband’s reasons for the argument) but believe you should look past your disagreements and just turn up FOR THE CHILD.  My parents-in-law are N’s only grandparents with both of my parents gone and the absence of my Mum was so, so raw on his birthday.  The fact that they CHOSE not to come absolutely tipped me over the edge.

I have been on the edge for a few days now and I don’t really know the reason for it.  I think it’s just the vast accumulation of too much on my shoulders (husband was fired from his job recently, my work is overwhelming, we’ve sold my mum’s house, N hasn’t been sleeping so well, life etc), but this not-coming situation from the grandparents made me lose my shit fully.  Around 2.30pm on N’s birthday (N was not at home) my husband came home to find me in our bedroom, in the dark, sobbing my head off at high volume.  He did manage to calm me down and the whole scenario did finally break me down a bit so that I could regroup but I was exhausted by it all.  Later, we had a very nice time at N’s small party and he absolutely loved it, screaming his head off in delight, but I will not have such shadows cast on his special day again.  They have lost their rights to birthday parties now.

But, for anyone looking to play a 2 year-old’s birthday party, let me tell you that the biggest hit of the party was about 20 balloons that I blew up by hand and put in N’s playhouse.  The kids LOVED THEM.  They loved discovering them and then they ran around for a very long time throwing them at each other, sitting on them, and generally being delighted by them. Balloons for the win.  I also have lovely, decorative helium balloons that he cares nothing for, but I like them a lot!

N did a fine job of blowing out his candles and I was very pleased with him.  He was though too excited by his party to actually eat any cake.  Ditto gifts: zero interest in them. When the guests left he seemed quite sad but also exhausted (parents as well) so we bathed him and tucked him into bed and then, literally, 30 mins later we also went to bed, without even having dinner.  That’s how exhausted we all were.  Resolution for the next 12 months: less drama!

So time for an old-fashioned update, me thinks!

Age: 2 years + 2 days

Height: 96cm (almost 38 inches) – the boy is the height of a 3 year old! He wears size 27 EU shoes (that’s size 10 in US sizes)

Weight: 15.5kg – and the weight of a 3 year old, but he’s not chunky at all anymore

Feeding: N eats almost like a grown-up now.  There are very few things he can’t eat and he is quite the food thief meaning that if you are eating something he will absolutely demand to eat it too. He eats a full 3 meals a day and at least 2 snacks, usually more.  He loves fruit so they are his main snacks.

Sleeping routine: N sleeps at night at around 9pm and we wake him around 8.00-8.30am in the mornings for school.  He has one nap in the afternoon at around 1.00pm for about 1.5 hours, although I’m thinking of shortening it soon as he seems to be struggling to go to sleep in the evenings.

Hair: Curly dark blond hair, like a proper beach bum.

Eyes: Light brownish in colour

Things he loves:

  • Balloons
  • Daddy
  • The Smart Trike – he can pedal himself!
  • Colouring with pencils, sometimes the walls even (ugh)
  • Turning lights on and off, and on and off….
  • Bubbles
  • Drinking all drinks with straws – minimum 2 straws required, maximum witnessed in one glass was 6
  • Sleeping with his monkey – god forbid we lose the monkey
  • The beach, swimming pools, the shower, the bath – this kid loves water!
  • LooLoo kids videos on YouTube – he has zero interest in any other kind of TV sadly
  • Running everywhere
  • Escalators and lifts
  • Stealing all the fruit at the supermarket to eat without paying for it
  • Singing the Lady Gaga song “Shallow”

 

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.