Trip to the American consulate and more moving prep…

Tuesday was a big day… we finally took the boys to the American consulate to apply for their American birth certificates and passports! They are now on their way to officially being American citizens. Since we’ll be living in Ireland, they won’t be Irish Americans, but American Irish! Strange to think that I didn’t even have a passport until I was 20 and my two boys ages 2.5 and 6 months, will have not one, but TWO passports and are already international travellers! Crazy to think how different they’re childhood experience will be from either Richie’s or mine, although I suppose that’s true for most kids in one way or another. Things change fast!

Next I have to sort out dentist appointments for myself and Richie, because doing that here will be much cheaper than in Ireland. Besides, we haven’t been to a dentist for YEARS and it’s just way past time we got that done. And then I have to do a bit more research on shipping our stuff. It looks like we won’t have enough to go with an actual moving company, so we’ll just send things with UPS or something like that. This move is a great opportunity to minimize our possessions again. We arrived here in Istanbul with two rucksacks and two carry-on bags. We won’t be able to go with quite as little as that, especially since we’ve added two people to our travelling party, but we’re only taking and shipping the necessary stuff. It’s hard thinking of leaving things behind, even stuff that wasn’t ours to begin with but we inherited when we moved into this apartment… possessions become an extension of yourself and symbols of your life, but at the same time, it will be liberating to leave behind unnecessary clutter and try to just stick to the essentials. Besides, we’ve got quite a bit of stuff back at Richie’s parents’ house, from our ‘former life’, so it’s not like we don’t own anything at all! I bet there are loads of things packed up there that I don’t even remember having! It’ll be like getting a load of new stuff!

Well, Fred’s awake so that’s the end of this post!

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So, is it seriously February of 2014?

How did this happen!? Time goes too quickly. Also, the weather here in Istanbul has been very un-wintery (which I’m not complaining about!), so it is a bit difficult for me to actually get my head around the fact that is is February. Woah.

Well, life has been pretty good around here. I won’t even bother trying to do a proper re-cap of the last month + since my previous post…. just too much to say, and if I start along those lines, let’s be honest, I’ll NEVER finish this post!

So, everyone is happy and healthy. Liam is now 2 1/2 and Fred turned 6 months last week. I did a couple of weeks of work (teaching a one-to-one lesson with a teenage boy at my school), and it was a bit rough the first week, but better the second week. Fred is not big into the whole bottle thing, which isn’t a big surprise since we never tried to give him one until about 2 days before I started work! Ooops. That’s procrastination for you. Luckily, I wasn’t gone for long each day, so taking a few sips from a cup was enough to keep him alive until I got home!

Other big news!!!! We booked our flights back to Ireland! This whole move thing is really happening! I’m really excited about, but it is sort of a bittersweet sort of thing. There are so many things about Istanbul that I’ll miss and it will be hard to leave behind this part of our lives. We’ll miss our lovely friends and wonderful relaxed lifestyle most of all. Being in an amazing beautiful crazy busy interesting city. Delicious food, gorgeous fresh produce, street markets, etc. Having a real summer with sun and heat (and sometimes fantastic holidays to the sea and that sort of thing). Lots of things. It’s hard to list them all.

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Looking at this photo makes me feel like I might die of the cuteness!

One thing I think about a lot is how lucky we’ve been to start our family while living here. We’ve been able to comfortably live on one income since Liam was born (although I did work part time before Fred was born), and I know I’ll always have fond memories of our tiny little cramped and sort of crappy apartment, with it’s lovely windows, sunshine, amazing view over the city, sparrows darting past in the summer mornings and evenings, and even more than all of that, I’ll miss all this time we’ve had together. First the three of us, and then the four of us, just spending so much time all squished in here together, talking and playing and eating and reading stories, and snuggling together for naps, having the luxury of family time ALL THE TIME! How many people get to enjoy that!? Not too many I’d imagine. I know that our current lifestyle isn’t sustainable, since we have no savings (and actually, no jobs at this particular moment!), no insurance, you know, that grown up stuff that you need, especially when you have kids to look after! But the four and a half years we’ve spent here have really shown me that it is possible to live simply and just enjoy the people you live with, make lots of time for friends, find pleasure in small things like cups of tea, visits to playgrounds, picnics in parks. I haven’t even shopped for clothes for over two years (apart from a couple of maternity items), and I don’t miss the shopping at all! In a way, I just feel liberated! Don’t get me wrong… occasionally I’d love to go out for a fancy meal and a bottle of wine like Richie and I used to, but I know we’ll do that again someday, and for now, I’m very satisfied with life. Doing with out all the fluffy things also makes me appreciate it more when we actually do get a treat, which is nice too.

Anyway, I am looking forward to a new start, a new job, hopefully having something rewarding to work at, a new direction, etc., but I know I’ll miss our magical, free-and-easy togetherness years in Istanbul.

On that note, I’ll head off to bed. Here are a few photos and more to come!

New directions, changes on the horizon and Christmassy fun…

Well, I’m going to try and actually WRITE a post, instead of just putting up photos. I feel like I’ve had lots to say, but no time or energy to say it!

First of all, I’ve started a training course to become a doula, aka birth assistant. I’m so excited about it! I had two such great doulas for Liam and Fred’s births, and their help made such a big difference in how I experienced the births and the overall outcomes, I basically want to be able to give that same help, encouragement and care to other women during their childbearing experience. Right now I’m doing some online studying, learning lots about the physiology of labour and birth, as well as lots about nutrition during pregnancy, routine hospital procedures during labour and birth, managing pain in labour, breastfeeding, etc. It’s so fascinating and I love it! I never would have imagined I’d find this stuff so interesting until I started doing research when I was pregnant with Liam. Since there’s such a high c-section rate here in Turkey, I was really nervous about what would happen when it came time to give birth. I wanted a natural, unmedicated birth and the more I read, the more I was convinced that that was the best option for me, and with some luck, a few helpful connections from friends, and a bit of persistence, I found a way to have a natural birth here, and in the meantime, found a topic I’m pretty passionate about! Anyway, it feels so refreshing and energizing to be starting on a new path. I haven’t decided that I won’t go back to secondary school teaching in the future.. it’s just that with the uncertainty in the job market, I don’t want to have all my eggs in one basket. It feels great to be taking a real step to hopefully giving myself a better chance of finding work when we leave Istanbul. If I can get started as a doula when we get back to Ireland, I have a sort of multi-step plan for the next few years… I’d also like to train as a breastfeeding counsellor and childbirth educator. I’ll still be in an educational role, working with women and their families in a caring and supportive role, doing something important that I can feel good about! The brilliant thing is that, even if I end up as a secondary school teacher, I could still do some of this birth related work too, maybe not much, depending on my schedule, but a bit here and there. So, either way, it’s a win!

Besides new job/career options, the other big thing is that Richie and I are planning to move back to Ireland next year! Richie’s brother is getting married in June and his sister in July, so we’re going to be spending a bit of time back there anyway for the weddings, so we decided we should try to find work while we’re there. It’s nothing against Turkey… Istanbul has been very good to us. But at the same time, I miss Ireland and with two little boys, it’s really hard to be so far from both our families. And I suppose, realistically, it’s time we got going on a more sustainable way of life. It’s been great here, Richie having so much free time to be home with us, having a comfortable standard of living on such an easy work schedule, etc. It’s been a great few years and I’m really thankful this is how we got to start our family. However, in some ways it feels like things have stagnated and we need to make a change. Also, there will be other things to think about in the not too distant future, like Liam going to school, us needing to save a bit of money, have insurance, more stable jobs… grown-up stuff like that. Basically though, it just really feels like it’s time to start a new stage of our lives. It’s a bit terrifying at the moment, because we have no idea if we’ll be successful in finding work or what exactly what is in store for us in the next year or so, but it’s exciting and it’ll be so great to be home, with family and some of our closest friends, and all that kind of thing.

Hm, I guess that’s about it for now. Fred’ll be awake soon and Richie will be back from work any time now. Tomorrow afternoon/evening, we’re hosting our little Pre-Christmas cookie party with a few friends, so I’ll be heading out when he gets home to get some delicious cookies from the bakery, some wine and odds-and-ends for mulled wine, and that sort of thing. Yum. I’ve never made mulled wine, but I’m really looking forward to giving it a go and having such an indulgent festive treat tomorrow. I think it’s going to be a mix of this recipe and this recipe, so we’ll see how my improvised version turns out! Also, I know one of our friends, Marijke, has been slaving away in her kitchen, making about 5 kinds of treats for tomorrow and I can’t wait to eat all those goodies!!!!!! On that delicious note, I shall finish up here! Hopefully I’ll have some cute Christmassy photos of Fred and Liam soon!

Visitors, growing baby and toddler kisses…

Well, I’m super tired at the moment, so I don’t really know how coherent this post will be. I just know I’ve had it in my head all day that I really want to post something, so here goes!

First of all, I just want to say what a fun autumn we’ve been having. Obviously, it’s been fun (of the hard-work variety) having Fred with us. Then Richie’s mom came to stay for a week and a half, followed by our friends Phil and Anouk over from Hamburg, and just this past week my best buddy Jen and her friend/co-worker Nicole visiting from Kenya! It’s been so delightful to have the company, the chats, to have a houseful of people, and then it’s also been great to get out and about, visit some restaurants with guests, share the sights and tastes of Istanbul. Having a small baby is lovely, but being home so much with two little people can feel a bit isolating at times, so it’s really saved my sanity to have some fun and enjoy our visitors… makes things seem a bit more normal and all that.

Well, my last post was a Liam update, so I guess now it’s time to catch up on the news with Fred. He’s just about 3 months old, which I feel is a big milestone, the end of him being a newborn. He’s so smiley and adorable, I love it. I love the way he gives a big open-mouth smile when I tickle him and sort of scrunches up his whole body, legs and arms in the air… it’s kind of like a whole-body-smile. I love his baby ‘kisses’, which is what I call it when I’m giving him a kiss or nuzzle and he reflexively opens his mouth and licks my face. I love his sweet baby breath too. Yum.

I think he’s getting cuter and cuter all the time, filling out a bit, working on those chubby baby cheeks. He’s getting better at holding his head up and I think he’ll be pretty stable soon. I’m looking forward to being able to have him in the wrap while he’s awake, but not having to be watching and supporting his bobbing head all the time. He’s close now, but his neck just isn’t quite sturdy enough. Once it is, I’ll be ready to make it over to my friend Katherine’s place on my own with the two boys, Liam in the buggy and Fred in the wrap. I’m looking forward to having that little bit of independence. I still won’t be able to do much or go to far on my own, but getting over to her place will be a big accomplishment. He’s also doing a decent job holding up his head when he’s having tummy time, especially considering I still haven’t had him on his belly all that much.

I’m still swaddling him at night, because I think he’s prone to startling a bit too much still. He’s upgraded from his newborn size Woombie and is now in the ‘big baby’ size. He’s also wearing 3-6 month size clothes. It seems like it was just about 2 weeks ago I started putting the 3-6mo stuff on him and in the sleep suits his feet were getting all bunched up when he kicked because they were still too long on him. Already now it seems like he fills them out lengthwise! Crazy how fast babies grow!

I also started doing EC (elimination communication), aka ‘baby pottying’ with Fred about two weeks ago. Lucky for me, Fred on average just poops once a day, and almost always at the same time, and is really obvious about it because it’s in the wee hours of the morning after a feed and he wiggles and kicks like crazy. So, no surprise when he goes. Since he’s still so small, I’ve started out with a plastic bowl in my lap while I sit cross-legged on the floor and hold him over it to poop. We’ve had pretty good success so far, and I’ve only had to change one poopy diaper since we started! Anyway, we’re just keeping it simple and trying to get those obvious poops for now, and I feel really happy just doing that small bit for now. Next I really want to get the cloth diaper stuff sorted out and get him in those. I’m not sure if it really saves money compared to disposables, when you factor in water and electricity for washing, etc., but I enjoyed using cloth with Liam so I just need to get organized and get to it.

Fred is now happier doing a wider variety of things, which makes life easier and means I also have a bit more time and attention to give to Liam. Sometimes Fred will sit in his bouncy chair for ages, and I can get something done, or play with Liam for a while or whatnot. He also likes laying on Liam’s bit mattress and the three of us can look at books, or Fred will now look at toys and he likes being played with, sung to and tickled. I love holding him a lot, but it’s also great to have more to do with him while he’s laying down, if for no other reason than to give my body a rest! Liam is still doting on him and gives him kisses and hugs. It’s so sweet!

Actually, on a side note with Liam, I just have to say how cute and loving he is, because it’s just the best thing ever and I have to share it. Just yesterday he was giving EVERYTHING kisses. He kissed my two cheeks, my two ears, my nose and my hair. Then he kissed Fred. Then he kissed a pair of Richie’s trousers and a towel. Then his car. And on and on it went. He’s got love for everyone and everything! Today we were playing football with this really soft ball he has, kicking and throwing it around, and then we’d both race to get it first. Well, at one point I kicked it and it hit the wall. Liam picked it up hugged it very gently and then held it out for me to kiss because I’d injured it by kicking it so hard. He’s just so adorable and loving, I just want to eat him up. (I’m adding this the morning after writing this post- This morning when I gave Liam a piece of bread, he cradled it lovingly in his hands, kissed it and then took a big bite! So funny!)

Well, now I’m so tired I have a bit of a headache, so I better head off to bed. Fingers crossed Fred will have a very sleepy night and very short wake-ups, because I don’t think I’ll have much energy tonight!

And this photo doesn’t have much to do with this post, but I thought it was cute, so here it is…

The professor

What has turned into a Liam update…

Well, again, it’s been weeks and weeks since my last update. Crazy how the time flies!

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So, first of all, Liam turned two over a month ago! My little baby is now a two-year-old! Boy oh boy do I love that kid. He’s just the sweetest thing, and we’ve had such a great two years with him. He’s still a very snuggly guy and likes pinching our elbows (and my flabby belly!) as a sort of comfort thing while he’s snuggling with us or laying down to take his nap. So, he’s still pretty snuggly overall, but he’s also turning into a bigger boy who doesn’t want his mom kissing and hugging him all the time. Boo for me! Now sometimes he pushes me away, or if I kiss him and he didn’t want me to, he’ll wipe it off rather emphatically. Sigh. I knew it would happen eventually, but it’s kind of bittersweet, him starting to outgrow all my mushy mommy loving! I guess I just have to tell myself it’s better than him growing up to be a big mama’s’ boy, haha! On the flip side, I was just thinking that a few times recently, he’s given me a hug and sort of stroked my cheek very gently, like I do to him a lot. I saw him do the same to Richie today too. It was such a loving gesture!

He’s talking more and more, still just words, but slowly but surely, he’s figuring out the whole language thing. Just the other day, he finally referred to me as ‘mama’! It was a major breakthrough and made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. For ages he’s just called both Richie and I ‘dada’, but two or three days ago he was pointing to a photo of Richie and called him ‘dada’ and a photo of me and said ‘mama’! Yippee! I have finally had a name/title bestowed upon me!

Liam is still being a great big brother. Any time he sees Fred’s pacifier/soother laying around, he picks it up and tries to give it to him or wants us to give it to Fred. He gives him hugs and kisses, touches his face or head very gently and will sort of snuggle up next to him for a minute and say hi to him. It’s adorable. I hope they’ll be great buddies with each other when Fred ‘grows up’. It is such a heart warming thing to see Liam being so kind to little Fred. It’s the best.

Liam is currently glued to Richie pretty much any time that Richie is home. Boy does he love his ‘dada’! Since Richie’s been home all this week for Kurban Bayram, I have actually started missing Liam and feeling like I’ve hardly had any real time with him, apart from giving him some of his meals. Today was great though because I put Liam down for his nap and got to snuggle with him and after lunch I took him up to the playground for a bit, and we got to hang out for a while in his room even while I was holding Fred. It was lovely for me, feeling like I got to ‘reconnect’ with him a bit. Now that Fred’s a bit older, I’ve decided we have to make more of an effort to get Liam out to play just about any day the weather is good. The last couple months have been tough for him, I’m sure, with all the changes, and he’s been cooped up in the apartment too much. I was so happy today watching him have fun at the playground. He loves climbing up the stairs and going down the big twisty slide, exploring everything and going up and down on the see-saw. There were some very nice bigger boys (maybe 9/10 years old?) at the playground today and they were talking to him and going down the slide with him. It is such a nice feeling to see other children being so kind to your own kid and feeling like he’s being validated by those other kids, if you know what I mean. It’s just really heart warming to see him so excited to play with the big boys and he was just cracking up laughing with one of the kids in particular. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but Turkish kids are so amazingly kind to younger kids. I’ve especially noticed it with boys here. I really hope we can teach our boys to be as kind and thoughtful with other younger kids when they themselves are big boys. It’s just so lovely to see and it’s one of the cultural things I absolutely love here in Turkey.

Hm, what else. Well, we’ve started having story time in the evening before bed, which has been great. I’d been relying on films a bit too much in the evening, especially when adjusting to taking care of Liam and Fred on my own in the evenings when Richie’s at work and dealing with dinner and bedtime, etc. But Liam recently got some lovely books from both of his grandmothers, so it’s been a good excuse to start reading before bed instead of watching movies. So far, sometimes Liam lays down to listen, but sometimes he’s in the room, but bouncing around or playing with toys during the story. But that’s okay; at least we’re all together interacting and not staring at a TV screen. And quite unexpectedly, Fred LOVES story time. My mom sent over some Dr Seuss books for Liam’s birthday and they have quite boldly coloured pictures, some even with the black, white and red that small babies are said to like best, and Fred will just lay there and look at the pictures for ages, his eyes wide, kicking his legs and looking all intense and excited about it. It’s so cute! I really never thought a 2-month-old baby would be so into story time!

Well, anyway, I’m sure there’s more to tell, but that’s all I can think of at the moment. I’m too tired to post photos tonight, but hopefully I’ll get some up tomorrow.

Granny came to town!…

Well, as is usually the case these days, I don’t have much time for a real post. But Richie’s mom was here with us for a week and a half (she went back home on Monday), and I want to at least post the photos in a timely manner! We had such a great with her here and it’s been tough the last few days getting used to ‘normal’ life again without her! We had some nice outings, went to a couple restaurants, playgrounds, etc. I was very happy for the boys to have their granny around, and Fred especially got lots of snuggles, which was great (not least because my arms got a rest!). We ate delicious food, including Irish goodies we’ve been missing since our last trip to Ireland in January, such as sausages, rashers, cheddar cheese and black pudding. Since we were all in the holiday spirit, we also indulged in lots of sweets, which was amazing. I really need to cut down on all the sugar now though; I am seriously addicted at the moment! I really do think that chocolate and caffeine are necessary drugs when you have babies/small children. I don’t think I would have made it this far without them!!!

Anyway, back to the point… It was so fun having such delightful company, lots of chatting and all that good stuff. It was just so nice having her around, even though with two little people, we didn’t ‘do’ a whole lot. It just felt very homey and lovely and I wish she could have stayed longer! I feel quite lucky to have such a great mother-in-law!

Anyway, here are the photos…