The End

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Toasting (the end of) 2013

I hate to say it because it saw the arrival of my adorable boy, but 2013 was quite disappointing and very difficult. Between leaving the UK (tears), struggling to settle down in Malta (more tears), the battle with the Maltese gynae system (so many tears), learning to cope with two kids (tears), facing up to the fact that we are still struggling to settle down and not completely happy here (you know it... more tears), it's been a somewhat emotional year.

However, there have also been positives. A fantastic summer, relationships with my little brother and sisters have absolutely blossomed, I've gotten to know David's parents better, our parents have gotten to know the children, I've come to respect myself as a mother in the face of a lot of adversity, David and I have been reminded how to have fun together, and what our priorities are. All precious positives that will stay with me for a long time to come.


Some pictures of the best moments of 2013, because this is the way I'd rather remember it:


Emily's 2nd Birthday

Revisiting old childhood places


Family time

Fantastic summer moments

Visits from best friends in the UK


and more great friends!

Emily starting school and meeting her first proper best friend


Getting to know this little monkey

Time away with my best friend

 Adam's first Christmas

And Emily's first Christmas that she truly understood. Magical. 

2014 doesn't promise to be a quiet one either, but hopefully it'll be a better, happier one. 
Happy New Year dear reader.

Not the Liquor Cabinet

(Thanks Audrey!)

I found the missing "spirit" in the end. Well, a while ago now. I think what helped was Emily's raw excitement about everything. At almost 3, it's the first Christmas that truly has any meaning to her. She's been preparing for the season for weeks at school, has been busy crafting and even made a crib! It's hard not to pick up on at least some of that enthusiasm.


One of my favourite Rochester-bought decorations. Always guarantees a smile.


The balustrades had to be babyproofed with perspex when we moved in as the gaps between the uprights
were too wide and the first thing Emily ever did upstairs was almost walk straight through them.

Despite this, I managed some basic decoration along the staircase.


Bunting made by my Rochester neighbour Maria! She'll be pleased to see this ;)


Emily's Christmas card to Mummy and Daddy, and pine cone decoration,
along with our little crib that she visits on a regular basis.


The crib she made at school. 


My original angel. I have several more Christmas angels but this one has a very special place in my heart.


Emily's gulbiena.
"I put in a seed and I watered it and it grew!"
We'll make a gardener out of her yet.



Our version of the elf on the shelf. Until a few weeks ago, I had no idea what was so special about the Elf,
then some twitter friends enlightened me. I had always planned to have something in the house acting as
Santa's messenger. Emily has named him Pat.


I am thrilled that I found a "matching" stocking for Adam.


And this ebay personalised purchase is another thing I'm thrilled about!


The larger of our TWO Christmas trees! The old UK-bought one is on the upstairs landing,
just outside Emily's bedroom. It is specifically hers and Adam's tree, whereas this one is
Mummy's and Daddy's because she's not allowed to touch the decorations.


Adam's First Christmas tree decoration, thanks to HollyBerry Boutique once again!


Yesterday I decided to risk it and while both kids were napping, I hid all the presents under the tree.
I say "hid" because the tree is so big, they are literally hidden under there.
The kids don't often use that room, so I wonder how long it'll take Emily to notice they're there!


So yes. Christmas spirit: check!

Funny Boy

Adam is almost 9 months old now. Desperately trying to crawl and finding himself hilarious. He has an incredible sense of humour, and an increasingly mischievous side. These two pictures sum him up perfectly at the moment.


His "I know I shouldn't be trying to climb out of the bath(/insert several other situations),
but I really really want to try anyway" look.


And this is his "I want that phone/remote control/fork" look/shriek.

(In fact, this Christmas list may as well be written by him.)

But then he is also incredibly snuggly and has become so very affectionate. He's even trying to blow kisses.

This little boy has added light in my life in a way I didn't know could exist.

Bespectacled

Over the last month or so, we (well, it was mainly David) noticed that Emily's right eye was starting to turn in towards her nose (the Maltese "titlef ghajnejha"). We dismissed it at first and put it down to tiredness. She was after all getting very tired recently. We even reintroduced naptime after it had completely stopped in October. 

Then slowly we realised that the eye was turning more and more often. Yes, mostly when she was tired - but this was becoming more often too. We also realised that she was acting different. Angry, almost. There were tantrums (very unlike Emily), and lots of attitude. 


We decided to face up to it ASAP and made an appointment with an ophthalmologist. We prepared Emily for this appointment with the "eye doctor" and she was excited. When we got there, she froze and wouldn't cooperate - or so it seemed. She'd be shown a picture of a flower and say i was a boat, etc. The ophthalmologist checked her eyes, said there was nothing wrong with them, advised that we work on Emily's concentration, and dismissed us. 

We were his last appointment that day. He was out of the clinic before we had even paid for our visit. Something wasn't sitting well with us. He'd treated us like the village idiots. And anyone who knows Emily well will also know that she has an incredible attention span. It just didn't add up, but we didn't want to be the paranoid parents, so we made ourselves feel happy about it and tried to leave it at that.

It lasted a weekend. The turn was getting even worse, and Emily was covering her right eye to watch TV. When asked, she'd say she saw better that way. 

We turned to a friend with contacts in the field and made an emergency appointment with a renowned ophthalmologist. 

Within moments of looking at Emily, he said yes there is an issue. Relief mixed with fear rushed through me at that moment. I didn't want anything to be wrong, of course - and I wish nothing was, but I knew something was off, and didn't want to have to keep hopping from doctor to doctor to get to the bottom of it.

This doctor was patient and helpful. His attitude with Emily completely different and it showed - she responded immediately. She read him the letters this time, not pictures (!) and he was impressed with how cooperative she was. She sat on my lap through the appointment, in full concentration, and when the letters became too hard for her to read, she sunk into me and said "I'm sorry Mummy, I don't know it" My heart hurt for her, there was nothing to be sorry about, I said. This is why we came to the eye doctor. 

It turns out she's extremely far-sighted. She'd need a +5 strength lens but her brand new (pink, of course) specs are a +3.5 for now, to be reviewed in February. On hearing she'd need glasses, I excitedly told her she'd be like her Nannus now. Very exciting to wear specs. She bought it.

Those were the facts. But behind it all, David and I were finding it very difficult to swallow. Our perfect little girl didn't feel quite as perfect any longer. It hurt on a level we couldn't quite understand. I blamed myself for her inheriting what is probably my poor eyesight, and for not noticing it earlier. We could barely look at her in her specs. I kept up the positive act when she was around, then she napped and I was in floods of tears.

I happened across a "support group" on Facebook, which was a lucky find - seeing so many pictures of littles in glasses (and some with far more complex situations than ours) somehow made it a bit easier to face. 

As they promised me would happen, a few days on, Emily's glasses are already so much a part of her, it is becoming a little bit strange to see her without them. And I'm happy to report she's still my perfect little girl. 

As for her, she initially didn't want to wear them. I began preparing myself for a battle of wills. Then, within half an hour of us getting back home, I overheard her mutter to Adam "Wow, I can see you much better now!" and that was the end of the battle. She now takes them off to change her clothes, or bathe, or other sensible reasons - and goes right back to put them back on. 

And within half a day, the attitude had melted away and the tantrums ended. She became the happy, laughing child I knew her to be. Again, I felt a stab of regret to know how frustrated she must have been all that time and we never clocked it - but we did eventually, and it's still well in time to help her, and that's what counts. 





Escape

A few weekends ago, one of my very best friends in the whole wide world and I went to Venice for two nights. The last time we travelled together was in March 2006, a few weeks before David and I moved to the UK. It was high time we did it again.

We travel well together, we're both relaxed tourists. We don't have lists of things we have to see and we don't do organised tours. We're both happy to sit in a cafe and watch the world go by. The unique version of the world of whatever city we happen to be in.








At first I wasn't sure I'd even be able to sleep being so far away from my babies. But then, once I relaxed slightly and some facetime assured me David was coping, I let go.

There were perks.

I could eat ice cream without having to stop to think "Has Emily had her lunch yet? Will it ruin her appetite if she inevitably eats half of mine or wants her own?"

I could stay out over their bedtime.

I COULD GO TO THE LOO ALONE.

I didn't need to stop and think about the salt content of my food (to be able to offer it to Adam).

I had no nappies, or wipes, or bottles, or magic cream (arnica) in my bag.

I shopped for clothes for me. JUST ME.

I had time to wear my lenses every day, and make up.

I drank HOT coffee. And had to go back for more because the stuff is just so good when it's not cold.

There were probably more. But I did miss them, and the looks on their faces, the hugs, and Emily spending almost two weeks telling me how glad she was that I came back, were enough to make me really glad to be back. Doesn't stop me from hoping there might be another little break on the horizon though...