Life is made of these…

Yesterday was quite surreal. My brother found a video recording of my dad, taken during a family holiday. It was startling and fascinating to watch. It was a short video, but his voice could be heard clearly and his face is focused. i listened to it over and over again. I closed my eyes whilst doing so, and for a second I imagined he was next to me talking. I had not heard that voice for nearly nine years, and try as I did, my recollection of my father’s voice was next to nil. It is easy to remember a face because a photo and a dream easily trigger the memory. But the voice is a different matter. The voice is perhaps the first memory of a person to fade away. And after nine years, my father’s was a very distant recollection.

I can not believe that in two months time, he will be gone for nine years. So many things happened and so many things changed that it’s difficult to think about how much he missed out in the meantime.

Which makes me affirm our decision to move back to Malta. England was great. England was about new experiences, opportunities, new friends and horizons. But Malta is where our roots our. Our family is here, our friends are here, our familiar places are here. And having children only made us want to settle down here more and more. It was not easy, I’m sure you all remember my posts back then. But over time, we have come to adjust quite well, and even though England will always hold a special place in our heart, Malta is home now. And perhaps the one thing which reaffirms our decision again and again is seeing both sets of families with our children. All faces light up. It is chuckles all round and smiles as big as that of the Cheshire cat itself. Having them experience both children growing up on a daily basis made each difficult step of this journey worth it. We didn’t want them having a weekend every month. I didn’t want the children seeing our families a couple of days a year, not knowing who their parents families and friends are. I have to say that one thing that always puts a smile on my face is seeing Cesca play and interact with children of our friends, and knowing friends who had children around the time Bettina was born. It feels as if a full circle is being drawn and things are being completed.

Because I have learnt that life is all about memories. Small snippets of happy moments is what makes a life worthwhile. And although we may have missed out by moving back to Malta, it definitely does not feel like it. Because my children are making beautiful memories with our families, and the grandparents are in seventh heaven in the meantime. We meet up with old friends and laugh, and have learnt how to be a couple again, with some proper ‘us’ time. My dad’s demise taught me that. It’s all about the little, simple things. The rest does not really matter after all.

And although my dad is not here to experience Cesca and Bettina first-hand, I know and feel that he is their guardian angel. Which makes them lucky children. From every aspect.

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Motherhood. Parenthood. Sisterhood.

Bettina is four weeks old tomorrow. It’s been four weeks of trying to find our feet and adapting to the experienced, yet somehow new lifestyle of having a newborn in the house. We have all been enchanted by this new member of our family. She is small, perfect and happy. Two children means more than double the love.

But I have learnt that two children are more than double the work of having one child. Two children means extreme time-management, hastily-grabbed snacks, less than perfect meals, showering at odd hours in the day, and waiting three whole days to eat a pomegranate, because the time spent peeling it can be better utilised doing something else. Like going to the bathroom, for example. Or putting another load in the washing machine.

Cesca has taken to Bettina without any problem whatsoever. Everyone asks me how she’s taken to having a younger sister, and I can honestly say that there has not been one moment where she’s shown any sign of jealousy or aggression towards Bettina. On the contrary, I have to keep an extra eye out for her because all she wants to do is hold her sister, pat her head and of course, play with her ears. Bettina is her sister, her property and I thank the higher powers that I’ve seen nothing but love towards her.

However it has not been all easy-peasy. Cesca has had some difficult moments, episodes which I think are school-related more than anything else. I think she was more effected with going to school than having a younger sister. Don’t get me wrong – the majority of times she is the old Cesca. She never had the easiest of characters, but we know her so much, for us it’s all normal. We know that giving her choices works wonders with her. We know that we always have to start with the right shoe, or the right sock – never the left. We know that she is a head-strong girl and if she says ‘no’ there’s no use trying to convince her otherwise.  But lately, she’s been having full-blown tantrums over the silliest of things. At the moment it’s twice a day – one usually after school when it’s time for her nap, and one right before bedtime. She says ‘no’ all the time, even when we know she badly wants something. Suddenly everything concerning her is ugly. She has ugly hair, she has an ugly bed and her room is ‘an ugly mess’. Cesca was never a people-pleaser, but she never had these types of ugly episodes, where she screams and cries so much for the better part of an hour. And it is trying on us. Very very trying. Especially with a newborn in the house. This past week has been horrible. I’ve shouted at her everyday, left her to cry herself to sleep every other day, and I’ve had moments where I’ve lost it completely and smacked her – something which keeps me awake at night with regret and sadness because I never was and never wanted to be that sort of mother.

With motherhood comes the guilt feeling. The sensation that you are doing something wrong, that you could have done more and that whatever you’re doing is not enough. I have been thinking and rethinking past episodes over and over in my head, I have been reading online articles on what to do and how to deal with these situations. However the more I do that, the more guilt and remorse I feel.

So today I turned to Instagram with a photo, and got an overwhelming number of messages from friends, near and afar. All offered words of encouragement, and most importantly for me, everyone shared with me the fact that they had passed from my exact situation, and lived to tell. And that, more than anything else, is what is helping me. Beautiful friends gave me advice on books to read, some shared their blog posts with me wherein they went through what I’m going through now, people I’ve never met gave me virtual hugs and cuddles. And I cried. It seems I spent the whole day crying. Crying for the moments I allowed myself to lose it, for the moments where I forgot that she is all but three years old, that in one month her whole life as she knew it was shaken and disappeared completely. I cried because I look at her and still see her as she was at Bettina’s age, so small and vulnerable and my heart goes out for her and the change she has had to go through. And I cried because I love her so much and I don’t want her to remember me as the parent who was always shouting at her, who was always angry at her. I cried so much I felt spent. And when the tears stopped, things suddenly became much clearer.

So today I made a pact with myself. I promised myself that I wouldn’t shout or smack Cesca, even when another full-blown tantrum happened. I would distract and distance myself when the screaming and shouting became too much. And I would live one day at a time, I would take care of myself and therefore be healthier and happier of my children, and I would not let one episode throw me back in doubt and insecurity. Sure, today she had an after-school tantrum where she did not want to change out of her uniform. She removed every piece of clothing I put out for her. So I ignored her. I ignored her running around naked, still suffering from a slight cold she has, and carried on as if nothing happened. I ignored her putting her dummy in the fridge and refusing to eat anything. I kept my calm, counted to hundred hundreds of time, and sure enough after a couple of minutes she stopped screaming. She came to me with her socks and top and asked me to help her put them on. She went on the sofa, drank her milk and asked for a banana. And within minutes she was back to her normal self, the Cesca I love so much. The one who never ceases to chat and ask questions. The one who mentions all the children in her class and tells me what each and everyone of them does in school. The one who wants to know everything, who amazes me with her stories and makes me laugh with her goofy voice and silly dance moves. And even though it was a silly episode, I feel somewhat proud of myself, of this one moment which I’m happy passed by without much ado.

So thank you my online sisterhood of friends. Thank you for your words, for your advice, for your support and for not judging me. Sometimes I write these posts and ask myself why I ought to share my thoughts and life with my readers. What do you get out of reading my experiences and what do I gain from it all. Maybe some people read these posts out of curiousity, maybe it offers them some moments of good gossip or a hearty laugh. It certainly is not easy writing a blog in a small country where everyone knows you and your family. But for me, in many situations, it has offered me support and the knowledge that I am not alone in my worries. I don’t know you all, not personally, but I feel I know you that bit better than others because of your words and comments.

Parenthood isn’t easy. Motherhood is perhaps the toughest job out there, utterly rewarding but hard. And sisterhood? Ah, sisterhood rocks. Sisterhood is the helping hand in times of doubt and problems.

We act silly and we smile :)

We act silly and we smile 🙂

Love, love, love.

Love, love, love.

Eat. Sleep. Ask. Talk. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Toddlers are inquisitive. I have just realized how curious a nearly three-year old can be. Cesca is going through the fascinating, yet sometimes headache-inducing phase of asking questions all the time. And I mean constantly, without pause or rest for us.  She has always been a talker, and lately her phrases have turned into full sentences,. Conversing with her is fun. She learns new words and phrases every day and sometimes bewilders us with the things that come out of her mouth. We try to keep straight faces when she is talking, but that’s sometimes difficult especially when she comes running up to us, starts gesticulating with her hands whilst explaining how rectangles have two short sides and two long sides and how circles have no corners and no sides.

She has lately started differentiating between a boy and a girl, and everyone she sees is classified according to their sex. Even her teddies get this treatment.

Lately though, it’s all about questions. She has started questioning everything and everyone. It is a cute phase, but after hours of it at a go, I am usually begging her to hold back on the questions for a while.

“Mama’?”

“Yes Cesca, tell me”.

“Is papa’ a dentist?”

“Yes he is”.

“Am I a dentist?”

“No, you’re a baby”.

“No mama’! I am a little lady”.

– Pause for a minute…and then

“Mama?”

“Yes?”

“Am I a girl?”

“Yes you are”.

“No, I’m a little lady”.

“Okay you’re a little lady”

“Are you a girl mama’?

“Yes”.

“And papa’ is a boy?”

“Yes he is”.

And this usually goes on for every person she knows.

 

The most tedious of talks though has to be the one with colours.

“Mama, what colour is the rainforest? Is it blue?”

“No, it’s not blue”.

“Is it red?”

“No, it’s not red”.

“Is it black?”

“No, it’s not black”>

“Is it green? Yes, it’s green! Hurray”

Followed by lots of jumps and giggles. She loves answering her own questions at times.

She now is fascinated with car brands, so her new question is something along the lines of “What car is that?” She’s now memorizing car names, which is cute yet sightly embarrassing when she points at a Kia and shouts “The Kia is very slow”, and then sees a Volkswagen and excitedly says “The Volkswagen goes very very fast!!”

If we meet you and she waves her finger at you and asks you “What’s your name?” and “How old are you”, or “Are you a boy or a girl?” or “What is that?”, please be warned that it’s a phase she’s going through. Don’t feel obliged to divulge any information 🙂

 

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For any mummies out there, I strongly recommend the Brainy Baby episodes which can be viewed on YouTube. Cesca loves them so much so that she now knows them  nearly by heart, and half her phrases and questions come straight off these epiosdes! They keep toddlers occupied and give parents an hour’s rest every now and then 😉

 

 

Any Trace, Gone

Anyone who has a child will confirm the fact that once the little angel has arrived their life changed. Some reasons for this are obvious – you fall in love with someone from the moment you first find out about their existence, or from the first moment you feel them inside you, and then when they make their appearance you know that you’d walk to the moon and back for them. It’s definitely a case of love at first knowledge, feeling or sight.

Once you’re settled in at home with the baby, nothing is recognizable anymore. Your tidy house, and your quiet corner are suddenly gone. Instead a hiatus of baby apparel descends on your home and it suddenly becomes a stranger’s house. Baby cribs, muslin cloths, baby creams, nipple creams, baby pumps, mummy pads, breast pads, books you still believe in (before you realize that nothing beats your maternal instinct), sterilizers, Molton tablets, formula, tiny dummies – that becomes your house. Normal conversation ceases to exist and suddenly all you can talk about is your baby.

Baby grows up a bit, starts appreciating and playing with toys, and the real mess starts. You can forget about ever seeing your floors cleared out. There is always something on the floor. Whilst you are tidying up one corner of your house, rest assured that the baby who’s suddenly gone quiet is making a mess at the other corner. Do not bother clearing up the toys before the baby goes to sleep – they are experts in making a mess.

Then weaning starts, and the stains and smells and stickiness begin. Baby-grows which until now have only been sometimes covered with milk and still practically brand-new, now have orange stains so stubborn no amount of Vanish can remove! Your recipe books starts filling up with baby recipes and the kitchen cupboards are full of emergency food jars. Planning trips and travels becomes ten times more difficult. You have to calculate how much milk and food to prepare, the number of nappies to take and outfit changes of course are always a necessity.

Babies grow into toddlers and then there is the greatest change. Any trace of your self is gone. Our iPad is no longer ours. Our television is no longer ours. My writing pad is now Cesca’s drawing book. My handbags are full of toys and cracker crumbs. Baby-less Me would thrill at ordering clothes and shoes online. Nowadays the packages which arrive are baby books and baby clothes, which strangely get me more excited than any package of mine ever did. My precious necklaces and bracelets are now half-missing and half-destroyed. My lipsticks are all chipped and my expensive bronzing powder now has a hole right in the middle. Mobile phones are found in the washing machine and creams are placed in the toilet. That’s toddler life for you.

Any trace of a baby-less and carefree life is gone once children are born.

And with a toddler, any trace of a baby in the house is gone as well.

The crib goes, the cot goes, baby starts sleeping in a proper bed, the high-chair is gone, the toys are now grown-up blocks and figures. The apps on our gadgets are now more complicated and less cartoonish. My once-BabyTV-loving baby now can’t get enough of Mr. Bean and she cries with laughter at each episode. The 7-month old baby whose first word was ‘mama’ now talks ALL THE TIME. Simple words have become replaced with ‘laryngoscope’, ‘meteorites’ and ‘synagogue’ (don’t ask). Sippy-cups are gone, as are food worries. She is her own person, she knows what she wants and she is suddenly much more independent than you want her to be because in your eyes, she is still that small baby you brought home from the hospital.

It’s a nostalgic time when babies become toddlers. They’re suddenly not ‘yours’ anymore. Living in Malta I don’t spend as much as time with Cesca as I did when in England. The reasons are obvious, but a part of me misses the exclusivity we had going on. More than about sharing Cesca, I know that what it’s really about is Cesca growing up and needing me a bit less everyday.

I can’t imagine how I’ll feel next year when Cesca starts school…

From this...

From this…

...

…to the messy part…

...to the inquisitive part...

…to the inquisitive part…

...to the part where you realize that your baby is all grown up.

…to the part where you realize that your baby is all grown up.

Scream

My daughter screams.

If you were ever in the unfortunate position of being around C during one of her Screaming Sessions (SSs), I’m sure you’d have winced, look horrifyingly at her and then asked me the million-Euro question…”Why does she do that?”

People:  I don’t know!

I’ve had all theories thrown at me.  Expert-sounding non-experts have all given me their two-pence worth of opinions.

– “She’s not used to being around people”.

– “She’s going through the Terrible Twos phase”.

– “She’s doing it for the attention”.

And then I’ve had the silent accusations which I’ve never heard but can definitely read on some people’s faces.

– “She’s spoilt-rotten”.

– “Her parents have lost control over her”.

– “What a horrible, noisy brat”.

The first three explanations may hold some grain of truth in them, but I can confirm that C is not any more spoilt than any other two-year old out there, I’d like to think that we have not lost all control over her at just two years of age, and she is a sweetheart. A loud one at times, but nothing less than that.

We have learnt what sets off her SSs. The busier the place, the less rested she becomes.  And whenever lots of people all gang up on her at the same time, she becomes flustered and nervous. Add some tiredness and crankiness and then the SSs start. I know her tricks. I know that wherever we are, whenever a certain time sets, it’s time for her bedtime. So she may scream like a maniac till she’s fastened up in her pushchair, but she will eventually calm down and sleep. It’s a long road at times calming her down, but we know that once there, she’s good.

Thankfully these SSs don’t occur that often.

As for the rest of her screams, C just loves screaming. She never says ‘no’. She screams. Be it one scream, two screams or a minute of screaming, that’s just what she does.

We are used to it. In my opinion, parenthood bestows onto parents the best quality of them all – the ability to not hear that which you do not want to hear. I am an expert in shutting out her screams and protests. It is only when I pop out of my silent bubble do I realize that perhaps she is making a bit too much noise.

Of course it’s not hard popping out of that bubble when you get smirky looks and frowns from complete strangers the whole time.

My little sweetheart is a screamer. I know it’s a phase – she’s gone through them all! She’s a loving screamer, a noisy, energetic little girl who can’t sit still for a minute and who needs to be doing something all the time. She doesn’t bite, she isn’t rude, she just screams at times.

So to whoever whispered, “Ugh, you can’t even talk to this child without her screaming” behind my back,

1. I heard you.

2. I don’t enjoy it either.

3. You can keep on walking.

4. You can try talking to her again and I pray she’ll scream the hardest right in your face.

See, she has her peaceful moments...

See, she has her peaceful moments…

Have a lovely weekend 😉

Back in the Day: A Rant*

Do you remember your past birthdays, way back in the day when you didn’t need to use three sets of hands to indicate your age, but one hand was enough? I am trying to remember my younger-years birthdays and all that comes to mind is the simplicity of it all. I remember my mother baking me an almond and vanilla cake, taking it to pre-school with me and cutting it and sharing it with my friends. In the evening I’d have another smaller cake waiting for me, and I’d cut it up after dinner with my family. Any leftover cake would be handed out to the grandparents who couldn’t make it to the grand ceremony. As for presents, I would normally receive one from my parents and a monetary gift from my grandparents. My close friends would hand-make me a card – in fact I still have some from the 80s back at my mother’s home! With the little I had going on on my birthday then, I was so happy and content.

Everything was uncomplicated and simple. There were no frills and no hassle about the whole thing. As I grew older my parents used to invite my cousins over and they’d help cut and consume the cake and the presents would grow in number, but there was still a relaxed attitude about it all. It didn’t matter if the cake didn’t rise properly or if the pizza came out a bit burnt in the edges. It was just an excuse to meet up and play with my cousins and close friends, and there was nothing more to it than that.

Nowadays everything seems to have grown into an exponential materialistic affair, and I think the whole thing is in dire risk of exploding into a million shreds. Children’s birthday parties have become the next big thing when it comes to satisfying out inner materialistic ego. Very few families I know celebrate children’s birthday parties with a low-key affair. The majority of parties are planned and executed with a scary precision. Whatever happened to spontaneity and  going with the moment?

Cesca will turn two in less than a week, and I’m currently planning her second birthday party. As with her first birthday party, only immediate family will come celebrate with us because the way we reasoned things out, she is still a baby. She won’t care if there are fifty or ten people coming over to sing her ‘Happy Birthday’. In reality, she won’t know that anything’s different than usual apart from the fact that she’ll get a few extra gifts on the day and she’ll be at the receiving end of more-than-usual attention. Any party planning I do is mainly for my own selfish reasons. I love having a theme and working around it. I purchase the party apparel and I plan things out way in advance, although not as early as I did last year. I get unnaturally excited setting things up and I try to involve a nonchalant Cesca into the whole affair. But like I said, Cesca does not really care about any of this. Just give the girl some extra attention and  you’re her best friend.

For the time being, we are keeping things as low-key as we can. We’re lucky that we still can. Though the tempation is there and will increase with each passing year. Because if we’re really honest, who doesn’t enjoy planning a party and becoming overly involved in it all? For that is the lure of birthday planning. Each year you can hold a different themed-party. One year it can be Micky Mouse, then it can be some princess or some TV show, and of course these days you find everything you need for the party in exactly the precise theme you choose. All you need is some time to choose a theme and a purse full of cash. Or plastic.

Because apart from the decorations, the older the children get the more elaborate the whole party setting becomes. You barely go to a birthday party nowawadays and see the children spend an entire party play or draw round a big table. Oh no. These days there are animators, bouncing castles, elaborate settings, face-painters, the whole lot! Do you think that children these days would be satisfied with some finger food, a cake and some pencils and paper to draw at a birthday party? Most definitely not! The children would get bored stiff, the birthday boy would end up being teased about his plain party and the poor parents would end up being snubbed and talked about for their choices. Peer pressure starts at a very early age it seems.

I know I will most definitely try fighting off the parenthood peer-pressure bug. I see it so much nowadays. I see young children dressed up like mini-adults. I see teenage girls wobbling around on heels so high, I’m always scared they’ll fall flat on their face before my very eyes. I then notice they’re wearing a full face of creams and make-up and I worry for their break-outs. But it seems before all this, before they even know it, before their own parents maybe realize it, life with children becomes dictated by peer pressure. It’s then life as a teenager, as a grown-up and eventually our whole life.

But kid myself as much as I want to, I know that I will most probably end up organizing an overly-planned birthday party someday in the future. And as much as Cesca and the other children will enjoy it, a small part of me will be screaming ‘coward’ the whole way through for not having chosen the simple way of doing things.

*I guess this post is really a rant about simplicity. And enjoying the unassuming things in life.

And I met my little, funny, silly ball of energy x

I wish she’ll always remain as happy and cheerful as she is today with the simple things in life x

Remembering It All

We have just started our last full seven-day week here in England. Chaos is ruling and it sometimes feels as if every single thing which can go wrong, is. Some decisions still need to be taken and last minute alterations are occurring. I feel as if I am drowning at times, my days are full of list-making and jotting down notes in my diary. Circumstances are not helping. Potential house-buyers have now started to mix up appointment dates and times it seems. The awful grey English weather is now hitting me hard and my headache never seems to cease. Cesca seems to have a bit of a cold and is coughing and waking up freezing cold at night. Small things. But added up, they seem to do grave damage to the mind and spirit.

And amidst all this craziness going on, I’m finding moments of stillness. I now find myself seated on the sofa. There is absolute quiet because C is sleeping. She is due to wake up any minute now and the moment that happens, my zen calm will be shattered. But until then I am sipping a glass of water and thinking. Thinking of what’s been and what will be. Thinking that I will most probably never have these moments ever again. Moments of the three of us, all alone, living our life and setting our own pace. Days at end when C is my only company, when she gets to be my listening-board, my audience and my confidante. She does not complain or protest for having to put up with me every single day. A and myself are her only constants, and I truly cherish that. I may be selfish, but whenever we do have company, I get a very satisfactory feeling deep down inside whenever I see her looking out for us, catching our eyes and see her light up with joy and love. My heart seems to tighten up and I very nearly burst out with all my love.

How lucky this little munchkin is. She has two parents who would walk to the end of the earth for her. She has everyone wrapped around her little finger and she is the protagonist wherever we go. I get to see her grow up and become a little girl. She is a baby no more. Her language is expanding at an alarming rate, and we are being constantly copied, both in words and gestures. She names all the animals she sees, counts to number ten by herself (except for number five which she sometimes skips) and is now learning her colours. She has her little habits – she will grab her ‘buddy’ (dummy) and Baba and start playing with her ear whenever it’s time to sleep. It is just like an invisible and automatic switch going on. When she wakes up from her nap, she needs to spend a couple of minutes in the quiet before properly waking up. She insists on sucking her dummy upside down. Whenever we’re out for a walk, she insists on walking the opposition direction to where we are headed – and she will scream ‘walk walk’ whenever we carry her up (those reins mentioned a couple of weeks ago – nah, they just make her worse!) She giggles and says ‘pfff’ whenever we change her nappy…and then proceeds to kick like crazy when we try and put a clean change on. Her favourite toys at the moment are her coloured pencils and her toothbrush. Yes toothbrush – definitely a dentist’s daughter!

The ear-flicking moment just before she's down for her nap <3

The ear-flicking moment just before she’s down for her nap ❤

I know her every move and can understand every look she gives me. I comprehend every word she says and every gesture she makes. Her giggles and laughs melt my heart and her cries break it. I’m at her constant beck and call, and my days are no longer my own. Whatever we do and wherever we go, she is the one we think of first and her needs are attended to immediately. Saturday and Sunday mornings have an early start and our TV/mobile phones/iPad are not our own anymore. She paints on the floor and walls, spits food one minute and eats it the next, she drives me up the wall when she’s in a stroppy mood and insists on drinking from an adult cup only to then pour it all over herself.

She now just 'daws' all the time. Everywhere.

She now just ‘daws’ all the time. Everywhere.

And I will miss these intimate moments with her. It will never be just us three anymore. I will love having family around, I can never thank them enough for their help and support, and I know that not being together all the time will help both me and C. But I know certain times will come when I’d give anything for a brief time-out and be somehow transported back to this life where it’s just us three. To be in this house, on this sofa, sipping some water and being my daughter’s everything, and she mine.