Before You Were Born Meme

I was tagged by My Mills Baby with the lovely idea of a “life before the children” meme.

I will try and answer the questions proposed as accurately as I can :-)

1. What was your favourite holiday destination and why?

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We went on two cruises before we had Emma. Actually, I was three months pregnant on the second so technically, one and a half cruises :-). I really enjoyed our first cruise. The intimacy of the small cabin, the playfulness and naughtiness induced by the late-night free drinks. The sense of adventure given by the arrival in a new port/country every morning. The carefree feeling of pampered, laid back holidays with your loved one. The late breakfasts, sumptuous dinners and walks in sun-bathed locations. The relaxation!

2. What is your funniest memory pre-children?

Oh, dear, hubby will be embarrassed by this one. ..We got married in Romania a few days before Christmas and decided to celebrate our holidays/honeymoon there. The Christmas Eve we were invited to my mum’s village, to visit relatives. We were offered home-made drinks and cold meats which hubby was too polite to refuse..Long story short, we spend the early hours of our first Christmas day together in the A&E, with a very unsympathetic doctor. I still remember her telling Alex he would have been better off if he was “the puking type”…Took him two days to recover. A great start to our marriage, right ;-)?

3. What was your favourite thing to do in the evening?

Oh, dear, watch TV!! I used to watch all these documentaries and series, I haven’t watched anything systematically in the last 4 years. Oh, I lie, I did watch “Call the Midwife” on catch-up TV but I have lost the “right” to access any of my favourite programs while little girl is awake.

4.  What hobbies do you have that you can no longer do?

Well, I still love reading and I haven’t lost the habit. Actually, I remember the utter shock I had in the first weeks after having Emma of not being able to read at the speed I used to( I think it took me around a whole week to read through a Tesco magazine!) but I have learned to read at night and I still go through around 100 books per year on average.

5. What do you think you took for granted before having children?

My freedom! Doing what you feel like it, when you feel like it! Now, it all has to be carefully planned, prioritised, risk of meltdown-assessed and then carefully fulfilled. And I am taking here about simple things like a girls’ night out, a grocery trip and sometimes even a trip to the loo :-)

So who am I going to tag next?

Sara, @Mumturnedmom

Kim, @Northumberlandmam

Emily, @AMummyToo

Otilia, @RomanianMum

Vicki, @HonestMum

What Oana forgot

Otilia, from Romanian Mum inspired by MrsB, from Mind over Matter wrote a lovely post the other day that got me thinking.

The whole idea came from the book MrsB is reading at the moment, “What Alice Forgot” and the amnesia that the heroine goes through following a fall, causing her to forget the last 10 years of her life. That caused a blog roll, in the true sense, and here I am, considering myself my life and the many changes I have been through in the last 10 years!

If I was Alice and woke up tomorrow morning thinking it was the 20th of November 2003, I would be:

  • Totally bewildered that I no longer live in Romania, in the same apartment I used to live with my parents and younger brother.
  • Surprised I am no longer a university student, as I was back in 2003.
  • Pleasantly surprised to find a handsome, loving man calling himself my husband :-)
  • Mesmerised and over the moon with this beautiful and clever girl who calls me mummy and my growing bump. I had always wanted two children and here, my dreams are coming true!
  • Probably have to re-learn to drive. I only learned to drive after I moved to Northern Ireland, in 2007!
  • Re-acquainting myself with all our Irish friends and our church. I would be pleased to find out I’m attending a lively church, with caring members, as I’d imagined I would be back in the day.
  • Surprised to find out some of my old friends are no longer my friends, not as close as we used to be, anyway…
  • Overwhelmed to find out we have moved house 7 times in the last 7 years, one house for every year I was married!!
  • Disappointed that I haven’t managed to secure a steady job as I had imagined myself I would by this age but amazed with the versatility and adaptability I had proved over the years as a substitute teacher, blogger, wife and mummy.
  • Have forgotten all the important life lessons I have learned in the last 10 years:
  • Not remember, for example, that life passes you by whether you choose to live it or not, so don’t sweat the small stuff!
  • Have found out that God can make up for the “years that the locusts ate” and give me the love of a man I still believe I don’t deserve and a beautiful family I am grateful for and try not to take for granted.
  • That, on the other hand, addictions like the one my dad suffers from, can drain a family totally of resources, energy and emotions and NEVER have a happy end. This would be actually the only static thing in my life if I was to wake up amnesic, the situation my dad has been in for all these years…
  • Surprised I have learned to use make up and own now a good few pairs of high heels. I used to be such a tomboy back in 2001.
  • Shocked that I am a few kilos heavier than I used to be. But then, I would put it down to the pregnancy, I suppose :-)
  • So pleased I live in a nice big house, as I hoped I would, with plenty of room for guests and children to play.
  • Utterly surprised that I have suffered from postnatal depression and that I now suffer from hypothyroidism that makes me tired and moody, especially when around children. I always imagined myself to be a natural mummy and would be shocked to find out it hadn’t been the case!
  • Pleased that I still like to watch old movies, like “The Sound of Music.”
  • Relieved to know I still LOVE books and reading and find it the most relaxing activity I can think of.
  • Not surprised to find out I tried skiing but was rubbish at it.
  • Pleased to find out I am good at cooking and feeding my family nutritious, tasty and healthy meals.
  • Over the moon that my mum is still alive, I would pick up the phone to call her at once, as I still do daily!

Well, that’s my list. I don’t have a picture that goes back as far as 2003, I left them all in my parents’ apartment but I have dug up a picture from 2006, when I first met hubby. Can you see the difference :-)?

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Healthy Living Challenge: Day 36 – Happy Romanian Easter week!

I know, I know, even my blog didn’t recognise me as its owner today and needed me to sign in. Total neglect would be the feeling it would have, if blogs had their own feelings :-)

Anyway, I am back to say hello and enhance your cultural knowledge by informing you it’s pre-Easter weekend in Romania. Meaning that from Monday this week people in Romania have been cooking up a feast. Mentally and literally.

As a child I experienced mixed feelings during this week. I dreaded the Monday before Easter because my mum would have gone into a (totally uncharacteristic for her) cleansing frenzy involving lifting carpets, washing windows (with a mixture of soapy water and vinegar and drying them with newspapers until they squeaked!!), dusting every crook and cranny in the house, washing curtains…etc.

Tuesdays were generally reserved for beating the carpets. Oh yeah, that was waaaay before we owned a vacuum cleaner(by the way, she owns one now but she’s told me this week that she still doesn’t know how to use it…) and they had to be dragged outside and beaten into shape with a “carpet shaker.”(a plastic rod with a hand-like shape at one end). Aha, before you roll on the floor laughing, imaging me doing the beating let me tell you the work of carpet beating was not for the faint-hearted. My dad was dragged outside alongside the carpets, huffing and puffing and in a couple of hours the carpets would have been beaten, brushed (again with vinegar, we seem to love the stuff in Romania!!) and left to get the fresh air while we scrubbed the floors and primed the house.

Wednesday would have typically been “curtain day.” By this time the curtains would have been washed, dried and smelled nice and then it was time to get them ironed. Again, not an easy task as they weighed loads due to the heavy fabric and were terribly long (to fit the tall rooms). My mum would have been assigning tasks: mine was always to do the interminable ironing, my brother’s to hang the blooming things. My dad would have been un-draftable by this point due to imaginary injuries caused by the carpet beating sessions…He would have usually escaped the chaos cleaning frenzy by going to the open air market to source fresh products like eggs and cottage cheese for the cooking in the days to come.

Thursdays things took a more religious turn. Because mu family was Orthodox and attending a local church Easter week evenings were dedicated to attending services. Thursdays marked the beginning of the festivities with the reading of the “twelve gospels”, twelve readings from the Bible, all related to Jesus’ last week on earth. Thursdays marked also the beginning of the baking/cooking for my mum, with the kneading of the sweet bread (locally known as “cozonac”). Oh my, I LOOOOVED Easter Thursdays. I loved the anticipation of the celebrations to come. The subtle smells wafting, seeping through the open windows, coming down the block’s staircase: fresh milk, raisins, cinnamon, cocoa powder…the magical making (for me as a child) of tons of cozonac that would be consumed in a few days by every living soul in the land till satiation…

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Fridays took a more sombre tone. It was Jesus’ death day. There would have been a morning service my mum always took time off from her now full-steam ahead cooking to attend. A public display of sorrow for His death. Mournful songs, the epitaph carried out, covered in flowers, meant to soothe His bruised and bloodied body. Subdued voices. Silence. Intense praying. That would have culminated in the evening with a full mourning service that involved singing and praying. I still remember the tunes. The solemnity. The sorrow.

Easter Saturday meant cooking madness day in my household. By now my mum would have worked herself into a state fuelled by the late night cozonac baking, service attending and house cleaning order marshalling. Saturdays meant dying dozens of eggs. Cooking ahead at least a three-course meal for Easter Sunday. Changing bed linen so that we could sleep in fresh smelling, starch-pressed linen when we came back from the Easter night service. It meant a lot of effort for my mum.

A lot of effort that she thought went unnoticed. But it never did, really. We’ve always known she was doing all these things for us. Showing love through serving. Creating memories… And they will probably stay with me until the day I die. Or I get Alzheimer’s.  And no matter how fancy or glam a life I will live, it will never be able to replace my mum’s genuine efforts to create living memories with us and for us.

I miss Romanian Easter. ..And I miss the cooking, the eating and the celebrating together. Maybe we’ll make it next year…

Back from holidays

At least, for a while :-). It’s been a great summer and because I have been too busy enjoying myself promises have been broken(what, PostADay?, yeah, I know,I screwed up!) and Alexa numbers have dropped. Oh well, not to worry, I have the whole winter to make it up to myself, to Alexa and to PostADay.

What have we been up to in the last three weeks?

1. Had another set of family visiting. Brothers in law, to be more exact. Precise on diets but not very good with keeping the time…yeah, I prefer girls, thanks!

2. Spent time with a friend who goes way back to my student days. Reverted to the careless, silly and giggly girls from back then for a whole of two weeks, can you imagine???

3. Visited more of Greece and loved every minute of it! Greece is gorgeous and I am glad I married a Greek man so O have a lifetime to discover it!

4. ATE!!A lot of good food. Became almost a connoisseur. Which is good when you’re in places like Thessaloniki, where they know how to cook(I can give you an extensive list of places to eat and sweets to try :-). And bad when you’re heading back to places where Indian is the local speciality.

5. Spent a lot of time outside with Emma. Walks and open markets. Evening swims.

6. Tried to fill my batteries with good memories as we prepare to head back to Ireland at the beginning of October.

Right, enjoy my gallery and talk soon!

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What to expect when you’re expecting

I can’t remember last time I saw a movie in a cinema. Oh wait, something vague is coming to mind…it’s been a few months at least. Anyway, last night I just decided to go solo, left toddler with hubby for the last half an hour of her awake time and fled the house. Quite literally. Gooodness knows when I’ll be able to do this next, with us travelling to a different country and all…

I didn’t have much time to check reviews on what’s good of all the movies that are out at the moment. What to expect had a cute trailer. Although seeing it I didn’t expect much ,to be honest, as I know trailers generally contain the best bits in the movie and I wasn’t particularly impressed by it.

Okay, it had a large number of cliches ( all American movies do, I’m afraid): the rich and famous father who married a slut much younger woman and the scarred for life by his father’s behaviour son; the clueless father-gang thing protecting each other’s back sides(Daddy Day Care popped to mind); the bitches more fortunate women for whom pregnancy means a healthy glow and an almost instant delivery;  the mother/monster type of woman whose life centers around baby and keeping husband on tight leash.

It also had a lot of truths in it and as a woman who’s been through pregnancy, delivery and the lot I was actually impressed by how accurate the movie was in pinpointing them:

1. Forget about what all the pregnancy books say you should look, feel and expect when you’re expecting. Every woman is different and she will look, feel and process things in her own unique way. Some have it easy, some have it tough, it’s the way life is!

2. Becoming parents doesn’t happen only one way. The movie follows a couple through the emotional(and a tad hilarious) process of adoption and very candidly includes them in the parenthood gang. As I see it, adoption is way underrated as the less acceptable way of having a child and the movie manages to raise awareness on the subject in a very natural way.

3. Losing a baby during the first stages of pregnancy is another almost taboo subject because of its delicacy and intricacy. Another point from me for including the couple who loses the baby and their pain and struggle amongst the other couples until the end.

4. For those of us who had a “normal” pregnancy and delivery, the girl who “calls pregnancy glow for what it really is: bullshit!” is highly inspirational. You can have it worse, girls, we, at least, didn’t pee ourselves throughout the pregnancy :-). But we got everything else, from tiredness to hemorrhoids to…okay, better stop there, right?

5. For those of us who had a “magical” pregnancy and an easy delivery, well, it’s not like you did anything to deserve it, right, it’s the way your body worked!!!

I was surprised that an American movie designed for a very wide audience offered a bit more depth than expected. And it probably offered those giggling teenagers in the audience a better view of what it really means to become(or be unable to become) pregnant, with all its array of joys and deep issues. Although judging by their careless giggles later on in the toilet and by the instances they chose to recall(“I peed myself, I peed myself!! Hihihihi”) I had this overbearing feeling  it didn’t really sink in. It never really does,anyway, does it,  not until you’re there :-)??

Book Review:The Girl Who Came Home – A Titanic Novel

Okay, I was going to hold on with this till Sunday the 15th, to commemorate 100 years since the Titanic sank. But I am planning on a trip to the new Titanic Quarters in Belfast this weekend so why not start the commemoration now with the hope of adding pictures during the weekend?

Right, I came upon this novel on Kindle and I was skeptical at first. I mean, is there anything else to be said or felt about Titanic after Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet’s rendition of the tragedy? Plus, with this year marking 100 years from the sinking, we have been literally bombarded with Titanic themed series(ITV I’m talking about), expositions(Ulster Transport Museum in Cultra, county Down has opened one recently, called Titanica) and now the re-release in 3D of the 1997 Titanic movie.

I was impressed with the book. Okay, we all know what the story line is so the author had a very delicate and difficult task at hand to begin with. As I said, I felt we have been somehow desensitised by the abundance of emotions in the Americanised 1997 movie version. I for myself felt all my emotions regarding the sinking had been spent with the movie and I was plain curious of how Hazel Gaynor was going to make me “feel” again. And admirably, she managed very well!

I loved the way she intertwines historical facts with fiction and brings it all to light as a very credible story. I loved the complexity and the decency of the characters she creates starting from names of actual survivors. Loved the Irish wit and twang resonating almost audibly through the book, making it regionally plausible, not only historically credible. Loved the delicacy of feelings and emotions captured and the imagery she faithfully used to draw us back to the actual Titanic and recreate it vividly in my mind’s eye.

My favourite bit? The scene of the arrival of Carpathia and its emotional depth. Brought a tear to my eye.

My least credible bit? The parallel story of Grace Butler. Quite an endearing character herself and a lot of emotional maturity there as well but not essential or necessary to the story line’s development. The book would have done well without it as I felt it didn’t add much to its emotional depth.

All in all, a very enjoyable read with a lot of historical data to get you in tip-top shape for all those Titanic conversations around the dinner table!

Easter pics-past and present

I am reminiscing today through pictures about what Easter looked like before we had a child  and how it is these days for our wee family. Enjoy these memories with me!

Easter Monday, 2008. Short stay in Dublin before we headed for Greece to celebrate it with hubby's family.

Easter 2008- day trip in the mountains with two of hubby's brothers.

Easter 2009- I must have been three months pregnant. I was looking forward to her arrival!

Easter 2010- baby at four months, having a go at an Easter egg! A preview of the days to come, little did I know!

Easter shots, April 2011- matching hairbands and happy girls!

Nom, nom, Easter 2011- that Easter bunny was tasty!

Easter eggs, 2011- I had help with those from teenagers in church.

Easter 2012

Oh, I almost forgot! This Easter I discovered a Romanian grocer's here in Northern Ireland and bought all these goodies to remind me of home! My daughter and my hubby were even more eager than I and we finished a big, massive Cozonac(Romanian cake) in 10 minutes!

Movie Review: Rabbit Hole

The only way out is through

It’s established: Saturday nights are movie nights in our house!

Last Saturday this movie jumped at us in the video shop. We were in a rush, toddler was amassing  chocolate star bags and Peppa Pig DVDs off the shelves at an alarming rate so we didn’t even have time to read the clippings on the back. It was enough to see Nicole Kidman was in it, we knew we couldn’t go terribly wrong.We did expect complexity of plot(which we got) but we didn’t expect a message of hope out of such a sad case.

Storyline? A young couple who have it all going for themselves (big house in an affluent suburb, important jobs,the kid and the dog!), face indescribable loss when their six-year-old boy is hit and killed by a car in front of the house. The movie observes the aftermath of the tragedy and the very different  coping mechanisms the parents resort to. It’s almost a clinic observation of  techniques on “How to deal with the death of a loved one.” The only thing that surprises the viewer is its conclusion.

Let me expand on it a little bit. Mum completely shuts herself off, even from her own mother and sister, and lives an a recluse having occasional outbursts of rage at whoever catches her eye. She is furious with God to the point that she stops believing in His existence. Dad has a totally different approach to the situation  and he clings to everything that reminds him of his son: the car seat, the boy’s drawings on the fridge and his toys. But things need to change because the human soul was not created to contain and sustain such an amount of pain and devastation. So they try to find solutions to pain: the mother(Nicole Kidman) finds the teenager who killed her son and tries to get some sort of closure. The father thinks he can have an affair with another grieving parent but realises last minute that it would be a mistake.

The title of the movie comes from the comic book the teenager who has killed their son puts together. It is a parallel world story in which a father has to get through a rabbit hole to try and find his way into a different dimension where his son has gone. Symbolically for the bereaved parents, this father finds his son but “not really, because he’s in a different dimension now, he has taken a different form.” Just like the parent in the comic book, they would have to dig their way out of the rabbit hole in which they buried themselves and live with the pain of losing their son as a substitute for the real thing.

I found the moment when the parents reconnect extremely touching. No big formulas to their pain, no magic wands to make it all better. Just learning to live again, baby step after baby step, re-learning to be part of the world without their son. Extremely touching.

What I learned? To have a lot of respect for people who have experienced a loss and are still together. A loss carries so much emotion with it that the “natural” response would be to disengage from all meaningful relationships which remind one of it. To stick with it and see it through TOGETHER involves a lot of courage, especially when the spouses’ responses to it can be dramatically different.

Movie Review: Doubt

Doubt…

We watched the movie last Saturday and it kept us awake into the small hours of the morning.

The story line is quite flat, just like bad gossip: a superior nun,who’s also the principal of this Catholic school, suspects a newly appointed priest of inappropriate behaviour towards one of the pupils. She doesn’t have any evidence, only a few incidents brought to her attention by an eager and easily impressed young nun. But she convinces herself and everybody else involved that the priest has wronged the child somehow and makes him leave the school and the parish.

The movie is on the other hand brilliant in exploring the human mind and its intricacies: it makes the viewer aware of how easily a “reality” can be created out of suspicion and self-justification.  As, indeed, nothing is explained in the end and the viewer is left battling a sea of endless possibilities and scenarios. Was the reality Sister Aloysius Beauvier constructed veritable or was it all in her head and she  blamed an innocent man? Or were there clues one has missed  (there is a very confusing conversation between Sister Beauvier and Donald Miller’s mum, the pupil in question) that were there to incriminate Father Flynn? Is there more to the story than what meets the eye?

I have been in similar situations myself, when somebody interpreted the reality from their perspective and then declared my acts as intolerable. The devastation doesn’t come only from the complete and utter destruction of that relationship but also from the doubt that is left hanging over the “accused” person in everybody else’s eyes. People are, I’m sorry to say, much easier influenced by bad reports than by good ones.

What have I learned from my past experiences that Doubt reinforced in my psyche?

1. Petty people are to be treated with respect as they can cause a lot of damage.

2. There is always another side to a story, be wise and listen to it carefully before you pass judgement.

3. Always gather evidence before throwing the stone.

4. If you look to find fault in people you’ll always find some dirt to dig out. A more applaudable approach to life would be to look deep enough in everybody’s soul to find something good to bring to light, despite “obvious” evidence!

5. Never base judgement on feelings, either yours or anybody else’s, no matter how heated the argument is. You are not in the right just because your feelings tell you so!

The movie ends brilliantly with Sister Aloysius doubting her judgement and treatment of Father Flynn. For me, it’s an open end movie, the best I’ve ever seen. Because if Sister Aloysius was right but acted too hastily and didn’t allow herself time to gather evidence then she might have released a child molester into a much bigger community and school…If she was wrong, her actions still deprived a child of the support of a vitally needed father figure  and possibly left their mark on Donald Miller’s destiny…

Conclusions? It’s sooo, sooo easy to feel self-righteous and justify an act of meanness. So easy to wrong back when we feel we’ve been wronged. But meanness is not to be taken lightly and made use of easily because it will always affect someone’s life, to a smaller or a greater extent. Use your influence wisely, girls, that’s all I’m saying!

Weekend fun

The weather has been surprisingly good the last few weeks so we made the most of it, by going to a farm and a museum. Have a look at what Northern Ireland is like in the sunshine!

Open Ark Farm, Newtownards

Buffaloes enjoying the dry weather(and hay). Same farm.

Ulster Folk and Transport Museum,Cultra

Taking off in an antique tram. Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.

Toddler spotting airplanes

It's warm but not that warm yet!

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