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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the things N loves now:

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

 

And some of the things N does not like now:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words update:

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

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

Favourite things:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why walk when you can run?

Why walk when you can run? This is our new life motto. Things have certainly upped a gear in the past couple of months as baby N has fully thrown himself into life on two legs. I absolutely love this age, even though it is kind of crazy and draining. I mean you literally can’t leave children this age alone for two seconds as sure enough they’ll be up to no good, usually in the form of something dangerous.

Baby N is now quite capable not only of going up the stairs to our first floor apartment by himself, but in case he doesn’t fancy that he can also push the button to call the lift, wait for the doors to open, go inside, push the button for the first floor and take himself there.  I guess we are fortunate in this regard that we don’t live on a higher floor as he can’t yet reach any numbers apart from 0 and 1.

We had a bit of a horror run a couple of weeks ago though when baby N just flat-out refused to go to bed each night for I don’t remember how many consecutive days, but TOO MANY! I mean it was getting to the point where I had anxiety just thinking about bedtime.  He would howl the place down every time we took him into his bedroom and we even tried to let him cry it out in bed, but turns out this kid has endurance so he would just cry and cry and cry until neither my husband or I could bear it (for me that’s approximately 53 seconds, but daddy can hold out longer).

For a few of these days he was definitely a bit sick with a mild cold but then once he was well again I just couldn’t figure out what the issue was as he’s always been so good at going to bed. But it was getting bad as we were pulling out the tricks that you only do when all other sensible options have been explored and discarded.  Take for example one night when he was still wide-awake and in party mode at 3.30am and I had to be up at 7am for work. I was beyond exhausted at this point and so I took him for a drive for about 25 minutes.  That relaxed him enough that I could scoop him up out of his carseat and pop him in the bed, but it’s not a long term strategy!

The solution finally turned out something a whole lot more simple than anything I had tried before that.  I gave baby N a shorter daytime nap.  During these episodes he had been having 2-3 hour afternoon naps which is wonderful when you’re wanting to get some stuff done at home. BUT, it seemed like they were such good naps that he wasn’t that tired at night.  By simply shortening his nap to 1.5 hours, he is MUCH happier to go to bed at about 8pm most nights and wakes up at around 7.30-8.00am. Oh my goodness, it was life-changing!

We also somewhat changed his bedtime routine as I read somewhere that you need to keep the bedtime routine quite short in case you need to repeat it during the night.  So it’s bath, a couple of nursery rhyme videos with daddy (don’t ask how that got started) and about 2 or 3 books, followed by bed.  Baby N continues to sleep in a sleeping bag so I pop him in that for the stories (it’s getting colder here so this helps him to feel cosy), and then I place him in his bed and read one last book to him each night while he’s in bed.  It’s always Goodnight Moon as it seems to have some magical ability to make him relaxed.  I also have a little teddy bear toy thing that projects stars out of its belly for 15-20 mins that was gifted to me as a birth gift but has suddenly found its use!

I also have a small nightlight in the shape of Olaf from Frozen that we “stole” from baby N’s older cousin.  This thing is so wonderful I have no intention of giving it back.  You tip Olaf upside down and the light comes on for about 5 mins before turning itself off automatically, by which time I have long since departed the bedroom! Haha!

I turn on the teddy bear with the stars and Olaf when I read Goodnight Moon and then I say goodnight and I’m out that door!  Sometimes Baby N does a small cry out of sadness that the day is over (I assume) but he usually settles quite well with his soother toys.  A few times he wakes up at the end of his first sleep cycle (usually 45 mins) doing a bit of a cry, but if I pop in there briefly and rub his back and say soothing things he usually goes back to sleep really rapidly.  I wonder if it’s bad dreams or something else?

In other areas of life, I’ve just been asked to add more hours to my work as we have a new client that our CEO wants me to lead on.  It’s a compliment that they want me to run this account and I will get extra money working additional hours, but I’m a bit sad about it as it will be more  busy (stressful!) and I will get less time with baby N. I’ve really taken on work on a different frequency since returning and now I feel like they are progressively trying to bring me back to full time and I’m not happy about that.

We are also building a new house, albeit it is taking so much time that I’ve lost enthusiasm for it.  My husband says it will be ready by next summer but even given that summer lasts here until practically the end of September I think that is optimistic. The timing of the house build is important though because I think we are pretty likely to try for baby number 2 next year and we currently don’t have space for any more souls in our apartment (3 humans, 3 cats is the current tally). I just had to go pay for our embryos to remain on ice for another year which was 200 EUR!! I jokingly refer to them as my frozen babies but it makes me sad that they’re just sitting there chilling (haha) together.  But apart from the freezer rental cost, I’m about to turn 40 so I think next year is really the year to be getting onto baby-making if there is going to be a sibling.

Then there is my lovely Mum who is in and out of hospital and her quality of life is quite low, but she is still hanging on in there.  She’s really incredible!  I don’t say too many details about her situation here but she is so tough and so optimistic.  I am inspired by her on a daily basis.  We have a pretty open dialogue about her dying, which I know some people might find a bit odd, but as we are all pretty aware of it to not talk about it all would be weirder.

Anyway, she is trying so hard – as she says – “not to die at Christmas” because my Dad died at Christmas and she said we shouldn’t have to have two parents die then.  Such a beautiful sentiment that I’m grateful for, although even if she does happen to die at Christmas I would never be resentful of her for it.  My mum loves Christmas and bakes all these wonderful goodies every year.  I’m a terrible baker but I think I’m going to have to get on it as I am very sad about the potential of never having my mum’s mince pies ever again.  She has some in her freezer from last Christmas that she saved for me when I visited in July, but I just couldn’t bring myself to eat them then. She says they won’t be nice to eat for much longer, but you know I just didn’t want to eat them as I know she’s not strong enough to make more this year.

I wonder if Baby N will have such thoughts when he’s older.  Probably not about my baking, but I wonder if he will also associate happy Christmas memories with something that I do as a kind of tradition. Maybe it will be a new tradition that I haven’t even worked out yet, but I really hope he gets to love Christmas as much as I did/ do thanks to the efforts of my parents.

 

 

Baby steps and the big 4-0

And just like that, baby N has taken his first few unassisted steps! He’s well on his way to walking now and I’m so pleased for him.

What a delight it is to watch him learn and grow into a small boy. I have spent so many moments recently just looking at him in wonder that the small baby who seemed like he would be a baby forever is now already a little boy. I can remember in the early days and weeks after baby N was born when I was in the deepest of lows and I just kept questioning repeatedly why people have more than one baby?  What makes them go through all of the sleepless nights (errr…. sleepless months) and all of the yucky stuff that happens to your body and all the changes to your lifestyle?  What I didn’t bank on was that at some point I would think ohhhhh this is kind of nice watching your child grow into a proper human.

I love his little baby talk that is in full sentences these days.  He makes this ridiculous noise when he’s really happy that sounds a bit like “goodjaaah, goodjaaah, goodjaaah!” It makes me laugh so hard!  And he’s finally enjoying his soft toys as he loves to cuddle them like they’re his best friends. He’s not that bothered by many toys these days as the true excitements in life are cruising around the furniture, taking those early steps and emptying the kitchen cupboards and drawers.  He also LOVES the washing machine, especially to press the on/off button.  This is all super cute until you have a load of washing in there and he turns it off mid-cycle…

He really enjoys going about on adventures outside the house, even things we would find mundane like grocery shopping or walking the local streets is fun. He is definitely king of the slides too as the launches himself down them with such unadulterated glee.  It makes my heart explode with happiness!

I don’t want to sound too crazy or anything, but the concept of another baby is not totally off the table these days.  It won’t be moving past the concept stage though for a bit of a while yet as my Mum is very poorly and I think now is not the time for going through IVF/pregnancy/newborn days where you more-or-less have to shut out the rest of the world to provide the focus you need. It absolutely breaks my heart that I can’t be there for my Mum right now and I know that if I didn’t have Baby N I would be there. She is not mad with me or anything but the guilt is immense. My sister is doing her best but she has her own issues and so she can’t just stay with my Mum and take care of her basic needs for her.  It’s a really big issue, but we are trying to find ways to best support her. The reality is that I will be surprised if she’s here for Christmas.  She has surprised us many times over already though so I know not to write her off. She’s at a stage now where she is not able to enjoy even the small things in life so it just makes me so sad on so many levels.  I am super grateful for our time together in July as if I went now she wouldn’t be able to enjoy us like she did at the time.

Also lurking on the horizon is my big 4-0 birthday which strikes in December. I can’t help but think about it, but not in the way of oh-my-god-I’m-turning-40-I’m-so-old (although that does also play a part) but more in the way of what a crazy 10 years I have had. Just to recap, when I turned 30 I had broken up from a long term live-together relationship 6 months before in order to hook up with a guy who blew my mind and then broke my heart by breaking up with me three days before my birthday. I felt as though I had achieved nothing of the things you are “meant” to achieve before turning 30, I was living in London and had no roots to speak of. I came home to Australia for my birthday, crying on the plane about the break-up for the ENTIRE journey (no exaggeration), had a small birthday party with family and a few friends before passing out from too much champagne and jet lag at about 9.30pm. Hahaha! A mere 5 months later I met my husband and…. two years later we moved from London to his home country.  I didn’t speak much of the local language, knew no one, had no job… nothing. It was quite a shock and I was pretty unhappy for a long while!

Two years later (!!!) he finally proposed to me and six months after that we were married We married quickly as my Mum had gotten her leukaemia diagnosis around the time of our engagement and we were not sure she would live to see our wedding. Well that was 5.5 years ago so well done to her for defying them all!  Then came all of our infertility issues – the fibroids that had to be surgically removed, the IVF, the miscarriages, the … and finally on 17 July 2017 there came Baby N. So it’s really been a big 10 years!  Because of all of this and perhaps because I am acutely aware of my own mortality I am actually feeling like I should embrace turning 40.  Be proud of what I’ve overcome in the past 10 years and how my life has improved so much.  From that scared, rootless 30-year-old I really feel like the past few years has made me into a stronger, better person.  I am a bit more cranky and feisty about things than I was 10 years ago so there is a lot of room for improvement for sure, but I am going to try my best to be fearless at 40!

Five little ducks go swimming one day…    

… over the hills and far away.

Is it just me or is this baby song also semi-permanently lodged in others’ minds? I’m loving every second of this age – 14 months – as baby N is such a fan of ducks that he literally quacks whenever he sees one. It is so cute!

After worrying for quite some time that baby N had no interest in age-appropriate video content, he is now quite taken with the various different versions of 5 Little Ducks on YouTube, with also quite a fondness for 5 Little Monkeys. Old Macdonald Had a Farm is not quite as possible but there is one video where he does a pretty nifty little dance for an old farmer that has me transfixed at least. I have also FINALLY convinced him to show some interest in The Wiggles with the hope that he adopts a tiny bit of an Australian accent. Keeping my fingers crossed on that one.

Today Baby N went for his MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccination so I am hoping that doesn’t kick off too badly with symptoms. Apparently he may get a fever in 5-10 days along with a small rash and his testicles may swell a little too. Ugh. We’ve had a bit of a tough run recently with the Roseola, followed by his first molar coming in and then he had a cold for a few days so I am dreading more illness, even though I truly believe in the benefits of vaccination. If anyone has any experience with MMR reactions (that are not terrifying) please feel free to share!

They also measured baby N today as part of the vaccination process and I swear he’s going to end up in the Guinness Book of World Records for the tallest baby ever as he’s grown 2 centimetres in a month and now he’s 84.5cm (33 inches). I mean that’s the height of a 2 year old and he’s only 14 months old now. His weight hasn’t changed much (12.3kg) so basically he’s just becoming long and elegant as my paediatrician likes to say. I’m often out and about with him and I can see other babies his age and he is almost a full head taller than them. I love him being tall and elegant but I’m sad that cute tiny baby phase for him was approximately 10 days in duration. Haha!

He is not yet walking (still) BUT he is making excellent progress. While I’m excited for him to walk and so watching out of curiosity, I am not actually concerned. I guess I want him to walk because I recognise that it will open so many opportunities to him and he seems ready for them. My husband and I find ourselves constantly talking with other parents of similar aged children when we’re out and about, and it’s funny as they are always telling us such a wide range of ages of when their kids walked. One lady has two children, both boys, and one walked at 10 months and the other at 16 months. She said the one who walked earlier took a lot longer to get the hang of it properly, whereas the older one basically got up and walked one day and was running the next. The spectrum of “normal” is huge.

Until about Thursday last week we went through a particularly trying phase where baby N was being really difficult to put to sleep at night and he was also waking up for several hours at night. With this stretching over a couple of weeks and my work being super busy as well both hubby and I were at our wits end. I eventually reached out to some mum friends who all united in their replies to me that this is normal, it’s a phase, probably related to teething and it passes. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t believe them. But I did what they said, one of which being that baby N was not allowed any naps after 3pm, and then low-and-behold he’s been sleeping like an angel again ever since.

I remember when baby N was a small munchkin of a baby and other parents would tell me I would miss those days when all he did was eat, sleep and poo, and I thought they were mental because I felt so miserable during the newborn phase. BUT, they were right on some levels. There is some kind of golden period from when the babies can sit up around 6 months until when they learn to crawl when they are so cute and fun and DO NOT MOVE. Once they start moving it is a real game-changer. They need more entertainment. They get into everything. They jam their fingers in everything (literally everything) or stab themselves with your pot plant cactus (true story). And they are constantly FILTHY. However, I love this phase. I love all the dirt and the sticky fingers jammed in stuff. I love the learning that happens so dramatically quickly and I love, love, love how much baby N loves slides.

Seriously, slides are life.

Baby N has fully got the hang of them and I put him on top of one and he shuffles his butt forward so he slides down. He has his hands in the air, his face is FULL of delight. There is truly nothing better in the world than slides right now. I have a wonderful video of him that captures all of this and I love it so much. I mean swings are so last year. It’s all about slides these days.

We take him to a huge indoor play centre which is mainly for kids a bit older than him, but it’s all soft play so he just goes about and plays with the stuff he can. It’s like Lord of the Flies in soft play though with kids screaming their heads off, full of sugar and the energy of youth. I last maybe an hour in there and then I have a headache. Hahaha! How life has changed.

Mamma-life has been a bit up and down lately, but that’s not really been due to baby N, more just life’s challenges.  My mum has been in hospital for a new drug trial so we’re all crossing our fingers this might help her a little bit.  Unfortunately her sister (my aunty) is also very, very ill right now and not expected to last much longer so my poor mum is in pieces at the moment.  It is so hard being away from home.

I also had a pretty big falling out with my brother-in-law and subsequently his wife (Baby N’s godmother) over the weekend over an incident with the brother-in-law trying to smoke in our car. I am quite a passionate anti-smoker generally but I find it beyond rude that someone should think it appropriate to smoke in someone else’s car (especially a non-smoker’s car) and even more so knowing that car carries a baby in it. I lost my cool big time over this which caused a big scene.  Thankfully my husband, who was driving at the time and turned around to take his brother home as a result, is behind me in my position, but he did point out to me that my delivery could have been better (losing your cool is not good for family dynamics it seems). Anyway, I’ve felt quite vulnerable and fragile since this incident so I’m keeping a very low profile.

I’ve been having some pretty serious issues with my anxiety again so I think this may partially explain my “bad delivery”, but still I need to sort myself out so I handle difficult situations like this a bit better. Or maybe not, because frankly he deserved it! I’ve had some crazy things to manage at work this week too with stuff that you cannot believe fellow professionals actually do.  Sometimes I wonder about the universe, I really do.  But every time I’ve felt down over the past few days, do you know what I do?  I look at that video of Baby N going down the slide and EVERY SINGLE TIME it makes me smile.

Slides are life, everyone.