Little Y is a Big 5!

My beautiful, darling boy, you are 5 years old today!  I never cease to be amazed at how the time flies, how big you get, and bigger.  You have grown a lot in this last year, it has been a really big one for you in terms of finding your place in the family, learning to express yourself better.

You are a very typical second child.  Gregarious, adventurous, daring even, loud and boisterous, confident and sharp as a tack.  You wear your emotions on the outside, everything you feel is broadcast to the world through the amplifier of your enormous heart. You are soft and sweet and cuddle with your whole body, arms and legs wrapped tightly around us. Sensitive to moods around you, the slightest scolding sends you into a spin of dejection and upset but you also notice when others are sad, or tired, and need some extra love and care and you give it wholeheartedly.  You burst into tears when something sad happens in a movie, real sobs of genuine sadness, you FEEL so much and so deeply.

Last year you finished your first year of preschool and it was a hard one for all of us.  You found it hard to express how you were feeling and this often resulted in explosive moments of anger that spiralled out of control.  We tried so many ways to deal with the behaviour but nothing worked.  Your tantrums were EPIC. We made so many mistakes, especially when you were even smaller, giving in and letting you have your way for a quiet life.  It got to the point where we felt like one of those families on Supernanny, where the house is ruled by the toddler and his emotions.  When I started getting treatment we realised we would have even less emotional energy to deal with it, not even starting with how you might be effected by the potential changes in the house.  So we sent you to play therapy for a few months and it was marvellous.  I still don´t know how she did it, or whether it was just you growing up a bit more, but the change was remarkable.  You started this new school year happier and so much calmer.  You still have moments, when you are happy you are ECSTATIC and when you are cross you are a force to be reckoned with.  But you calm down quicker, you are easier to reason with and we handle it better, giving you firmer and clearer limits which make you feel more secure.  It is not perfect, WE are not perfect but we are a very happy family, you are a very happy child, I couldn’t ask for more. 

This last year you finally gave up ‘ti-ti’ (pronounced tea-tea). 

Quick aside: this word has no connotations at all in spanish, it wasn’t until my sister asked why on earth we had named the dummy ‘titty’ that I even made the connection. Hey ho. When mixing languages this can happen.  I often shout ‘Basta!’ instead of ‘Enough! and more than one friend/family member has asked if I am really calling my child a B*****d*!!! Hahahahaha. No. I am not. 

So giving up Ti-ti was a big deal. You were very attached to it and though we did wrestle (greatly) with worries of dental problems, speech delays etc etc in the end we really felt you had to be ready to give it up yourself. As such a highly emotional kid it was the one thing that calmed you down and as such VITAL.  In retrospect yeah I recognise that maybe that was partly the problem, that you didn’t learn early on to regulate your emotions by yourself, you just dampened them by sucking. I don’t know.  I am sure I read an article that suggested this, and it did worry me, but weighing it all up we decided to wait. So we did. Halfway through the school year there was some pressure from your teacher for kids with dummies to bring them in. You weren’t stupid, you knew it was in order to throw them away. A couple of times you steeled yourself and then, at the last minute, lost your resolve. By the time you turned 4  I was starting to despair a little that you would still be carrying it around on your wedding day (what is a mother without some dramatic exaggeration?!). Then one day you declared you didn’t need it anymore. And that was that. No tears. No tantrums. No dummy fairies or swaps with santa for presents. Just no more dummy. It was amazing. You expressed once or twice that you missed it but only in a sad nostalgic way, you never asked for it back.  

Last summer you also cracked that Holy Grail – night dryness. Woohoo!  This was major. You tried so hard, so so many times since you were 2 years old and after a week of nightly (big) accidents we would encourage you to wait a bit and try again in a while. It wasn’t for lack of wanting to, you just weren’t ready. And then you were. 

So this really has been the year you moved away from more ‘babyish’ things and became a not-so-little boy. Last year you hung on your brother’s coat-tails, preferring following him and his friends around than being with kids of your own age. Now you have a core group of friends and are very popular.  You like having friends but you are very independant.  You will play with them if you want to but if you don´t you are more than happy to do your own thing, or find older kids to play with.  You are not a follower. 

You have a lot of qualities that are difficult for us,as parents, to deal with in a preschooler but which I can see are going to serve you well as an adult.  You are confident and stubborn – if you want something you will not stop until you get it.  And not just ´things´ like sweets or toys but learning a new skill or sport. You learned to ride a bike with only two wheels when you just turned 3 because you wanted to and no matter how many times you fell you got up and did it again until you had it.  At the same time you learned to swim purely because you refused to let us hold you in the water, or wear wings. Scary times. 

You do a gym class twice a week and the instructors rave about how physically strong you are, you have amazing coordination and just great awareness and control of your body.  You do somersaults and a mean cartwheel (this is new).  You hang on bars and can use your abs to pull your knees almost to your chin, over and over.  When you run you look like a little powerhouse.

You love animals, particularly Birdie, and babies. Birdie, for her part, is not the friendliest cat and you do both get into scrapes when you want more love than she feels like giving.  BUT she tolerates you picking her up and lugging her around more than you realise, and certainly more than anyone else in the house.  She does nip you when you make her cross but she could do it harder (you usually deserve it).

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In the picture above it was a roasting hot, 39 degree day in August but your cousin had a wetsuit and you were going to wear it, heat be damned!  You also swam to the shore and back unaided.  At 4! Your sheer willpower is going to get you far in life my love.  You are a total clown and love to make us laugh, which you do, a lot.

Parenting you is not a walk in the park, you challenge us and keep us on our toes. But that does not mean we do not enjoy you because we do; Oh how we do.

Happy Birthday gorgeous boy.  Molt d´anys!

Mami xx

Mmmmm Cakes

It is Y´s birthday soon, my little one is going to be 5!  The place he chose for his birthday party doesn´t let us bring our own cake (Booooo) so I am making him one today to share with some friends this afternoon and this seemed like a good moment to round up previous year´s birthday cakes.

I created this particular monster when O turned 3.  He was obsessed, OBSESSED, with Firemen, Firetrucks, Fireman Sam.  My mum sent me this article and the sponge recipe has been my go-to birthday cake recipe ever since.  Wisely, I thought it best to do a trial run and it came out perfect.  Really not a million miles from the picture.   So the day before his party I set to and OH. MY. GOD. The stress.  The icing would not turn red.  It just went pinker, and pinker, and pinker.  I couldn´t figure out what was going on.  In the end I had put so much colouring in, to no effect, that it tasted absolutely horrendous.  Cue a late night panicked run to the shops to stock up more butter and icing sugar.  On the next round, the same happened.  No red, just pink.  I still have no idea what happened.  In the end H stepped in, attempting to avert the impending nervous breakdown and suggested we add yellow to make orange.  So we did.  I was furious.  An ORANGE firetruck? Totally ridiculous. Unacceptable.  But at 10pm with the party the next day it was really the only option unless I ditched the cake completely.  In the event of course O was thrilled to pieces though I am not sure any other adult realised it was meant to be a firetruck.

YEAR 3-O

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(I have no idea what device took such a shocking photo) 

This was the beginning.  The very start of a tyranny that would last for years.  Suddenly O, and later Y, had me as a master baker/artist who could create whatever their heart´s desired.  As you can quite clearly see they are no masterpiece, but in their eyes my cakes are one of the grand highlights of their birthday.  Every year they make their request and I sweat and worry and panic and worry some more about how on earth I will make it work, knowing my skills fall somewhat short of the standards they aspire to hold me to.

YEAR 4 -O

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The year of Pirates, one of my favourites.  So simple & looked great, minimal stress involved

YEAR 5 – O

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The year of Star Wars (it is meant to be a lightsaber)

O was quite the obsessive as a kid.  Every year he has been totally consumed with one main theme.  Firemen, then pirates, then star wars.  The entire year revolved around the chosen subject.  Cartoons that he watched, favourite dress up, presents he asked for, birthday theme.  Year 6 was an unmitigated disaster.  The Year It All Went Wrong.  The superhero year. O requested a Captain America shield.  Looking online I decided that my old favourite buttercream icing might not do the trick and decided to try my hand at fondant for the first time.  With a shocking and quite unlikely confidence I decided I didn´t need a trial run and ON THE DAY OF THE PARTY set about icing the cake.  Suffice to say tears may have been shed (mine). He got a cake covered in buttercream icing and smarties and, luckily, being the absolute sweetheart he is, consoled me ´you tried your best Mummy´.   Photo withheld due to traumatising memories.

Moving swiftly on to year 7.  This year we were abroad for Y´s 3rd birthday so he had a very ordinary cake at a very small family celebration, not having any friends to invite to a party at the time.  When we moved home after our short sabbatical away it was in time for O´s 7th so we did a combined party with a couple of friends for Y to make it up to him.

YEAR 7 – O

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The year football took over our life

Still burnt from the Great Fondant Debacle I returned to my old faithful to crack out a quick football pitch cake (with dyed coconut to imitate grass).  This was the year football officially became the overriding obsession in our house.  Sigh. I need to take a moment here to pay my respects to those beautiful years of imaginary play, of fireman and pirates and star wars and superheroes and police and all the other characters that used to share our home on a daily basis.  All gone.  Because football.

YEAR 4-Y

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Look at it. LOOK AT IT! I did it! I totally did it.  I cannot tell you how proud and excited I was.  Relatively little stress this year.  And followed a couple of months later by

YEAR 8 -O

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Okay with the blurring of names and details this does lose quite a lot but it is the logo of the club the boys play football with and although my lines are more than a little wobbly it was another fondant success. The kids were crazy impressed and they are, after all, my audience.

So here I am again, preparing another cake.  A football pitch again, but this time in fondant.  Nothing like challenging myself.  Keep it simple?  Stick to a winning formula that has been tried and tested? Me? Please.  What would a birthday be without me panicking in the kitchen, trying to make straight lines with shaking hands?  By now it is part of the tradition.   Wish me luck.

Spring is everywhere

Winter has not decided to join us so far this year.  We have had about 3 days of rain in as many months and the temperatures have generally hovered around 20 degrees (C).  This is stressing a lot of people out but I am loving it.  In the last couple of days we have had a sudden drop and there was even a hint of snow on the mountains so maybe it will arrive after all.  In the meantime we are making the most of the weather with lots of weekend meals with friends out in the open air and scenery like this:

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Big meals with lots of family, friends, and lots of kids, is a big part of our life.  Almost every weekend there will be at least one get-together.  For years and years we ate lunch every saturday with H´s family.  This was his mum, his aunt, his brothers and sisters, spouses, kids and also a cousin and her family.  This was the core group and came to about 20 people.  In a fairly small flat with kids (and adults) shouting and screaming.  It got pretty crazy.  My feelings about these gatherings has changed a lot over the years, the obligation and madness weighed heavy on me sometimes before we had kids.  But once we had one, and then two, they took on a whole new meaning.  A very central part of our week. Sadly his Aunt died in 2014 and then after his Mum died in 2015 we lost the central meeting place and they have become more bi-monthly then weekly.  I find I miss it a lot, I guess a lot of that is also the significance of WHY things have changed, losing two such central figures in the family, or just change in general.  BUT it does free us up a lot more and makes way for MORE MEALS with other people!

This weekend past we got together with some friends at their house in the country and enjoyed ´Arroz Brut´ – Dirty Rice – cooked over a log fire.  It is a lot tastier than it sounds, or looks but you might have to just trust me on that.

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This is an aspect I adore about life here.  Lots of time with friends and family.  Lots of food and drink and noise and time outdoors for the kids, playing in the dirt, hiding away from prying eyes and making potions and secret recipes with whatever they could find while the grown ups talk and laugh and gossip.

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How disgusting? They were having the time of their lives, left to their own devices.

Patience is a virtue

Ok so we have made a breakthrough on the homework dramas which is such a relief. I was chatting with a friend who suggested some positive reinforcement and isn’t it so often the case that when you are IN a situation you lose all perspective and can’t see the woods for the trees?? It was like *facepalm* well, of COURSE.  Why couldn’t I see that it had all become nagging and berating and negative and all we needed was a bit of incentive and, for want of a better term ´POSTIVE PARENTING´.  Luckily almost-9 is not too old, apparently, for a good ol’ sticker chart. He wanted to make his own and we decided that he would get a sticker every day he brought home the right books for homework.  5 stickers gets him a pack of football cards. As you can see it seems to be having the desired effect:

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(Sundays are on the back, OBVIOUSLY, if you are wondering about the missing days)

Everyday now he comes running in, shows me his homework diary, shows the books, and claims his sticker. Fab. Parenting made easy. If we could only figure things out that bit quicker and save stress and drama, wouldn’t that be even better?! But that is certainly the pattern in my parenting and I am sure I am not alone.  You finally have one stage figured out and along comes something new and you are floundering again.  I have almost always found that when I want to change something (night feeds, general night waking, coming into mummy and daddy´s bed in the night- yes ALRIGHT sleep issues have been one of our biggest issues can you tell?)  there is this almost inevitable process of pushing against the flow, trying various ineffective ´quick fix´ methods before I accept that if I take it slowly, with baby steps, it will all come right. It just takes PATIENCE.

This has absolutely been my biggest challenge/ lesson in parenting.   Before I had kids I genuinely would have said I was a patient person which, in retrospect , is hilarious.  I quickly found – don´t we all? that becoming a parent takes many preconceptions you had about yourself and turns them on their head.  My concept of myself as essentially a Zen and chilled person was the first casualty.   I like things to be done well, and speedily.   I am a consummate multitasker and actually find time wasting kind of stressful.   I have worked on this A LOT over the years and I have a long way to go but I am trying.  My beloved boys, please know I am trying.

To you, my boys, I want to say that I know I mess up all the time.  There are some days where we all end up shouting. Sometimes even crying. I am constantly reevaluating how we do things, whether we can do them better. Much to H’s chagrin. He is not so much for the ‘we are doing it all wrooooong’ wailing and chest beating so beloved of mothers everywhere. He is much more of the ‘look – they are clothed and fed and happy and if we mess up, suck it up’ school of thought. And don’t think I don’t see the merit in that viewpoint.  Despite it all you will probably still feel like I did it wrong. But just know I am always giving it my all.  I try my best to do the right thing and if I do it wrong I am sorry. But no one tells us how to do it and often we are so busy trying to not make the mistakes we think our parents made, so we make a whole bunch of new ones.  Not only does each kid come out totally different, with entirely different personality and needs, EACH KID KEEPS CHANGING.  The goalposts are constantly moving while we try to keep up.  It is not easy.  But all in all we are happy.  You guys are happy.  And you are so very loved.  So I guess we are on the right track.

 

Animal heads

My sister gave me this book for my last birthday. While majorly overestimating my crochet abilities I do love it for the gorgeous pictures.

I had a go at the mouse and, although initially daunted by the instructions, I actually got through the ‘head’ section without any trouble. However I am stumped on the ‘shape back of head’ bit. It goes from working in rounds to working in rows and slowly increases and I just. Don’t. Understand. Is there anyone out there that might be willing to give this pattern a whirl and explain to me what the heck is going on?

EDIT: I messaged the author Vanessa Mooncie and she was SUPER nice and helpful and pointed me in the right direction…I am off to see if I can crack it…