Friday, 28 February 2014

The Morning Writing Ritual

The days are getting lighter (I simply love this time of year) and getting up in the morning is getting easier. We are fast approaching half-term, when D and I get a chance to regroup our thoughts, catch up on home chores, run errands, pay bills and all the other things that working 60 hour weeks makes you neglect. 

Last week my morning were taken up with exercise - my morning walk or run, with or without the dogs, or some yoga. This week, due to illness (I blame it on the kids at school!), it has been mainly writing. 

Although I find writing a pleasure, I cannot quite pinpoint which part of it gives me that pleasure. I have a feeling it is completing my writing and the feeling of accomplishment, rather than the act of actually writing. 

I have been reading a lot about Flow and how an activity does not have to be pleasant to induce this state of flow, but it has to be challenging, and meaningful. 

My writing can be meditative and sometimes a struggle to get out. I love the ritual of it all, I love sitting at my (very messy) desk, sipping my tea, contemplating what to write. I hate the blank page... but it soon fills with words. 

So here I am, this morning too, trying to put my thoughts on the screen, enjoying the quiet and the 40 minutes of morning bliss, in my fluffy dressing gown. Soon it will be time to get dressed, drive to school and face the needs and wants of twenty seven year olds. My desk will be here waiting... until tomorrow morning. 

Thursday, 27 February 2014

The Queue of Life

I'm not sure why (could it be the British part of me?) but I spend a lot of time in my life feeling as if I'm in a queue. Things should be done in an order, most things should be first-come, first served, in my mind at least. I realise, of course, more and more as the years go by, that life is definitely not like that. However, there is a child inside of me, a small voice that shouts: "Wait a minute, that's not fair, I was here first!"

This has particular significance when it comes to parenthood for me. I always knew I wanted to be a mother, which is one of the reasons why I chose to become an Early Years practitioner - it was a family friendly job and I love being around kids: a win-win situation if there ever was one. My university tutors were not quite as enthusiastic as I was, as they felt that I was "wasting my degree" going into teaching, but I was adamant - I wanted to be a teacher (so that I could later be a mum). 

In my mind, at least, we got in the queue for a baby when D and I got married. We had a stable home-life, our own home, and D was just finishing his post-graduate degree to also become a teacher, for very similar reasons to my own. We were ready! 

The queue didn't seem long - surely to get in, you wait a while and then a baby arrives in your life - that seemed the pattern those around us what followed. Most people I knew were pregnant within the year after getting married; a baby soon followed. 

It didn't quite work like that for us. Yes, we did get pregnant. But a baby didn't follow. And that was the time when I started looking around me and realising that either there was no queue, or people were blatantly queue jumping!! 

In next few years, it became more and more obvious to me: people who had not even met when D and I joined the queue, had overtaken us, sometimes by a long way. Some of them had managed not one, but two kids! And here we were, standing in this queue that only got longer and longer. 

I guess it is often the sentiment of those involuntarily childless. It often feels like everyone is having kids with ease, overtaking you in the queue of life. It is especially the case when you work at a school, surrounded by families who obviously did manage to have children...

It was a bitter time. It was a difficult time. It was also the time that made us realise that what we wanted in life was not to have our "own" kids, but to be parents and ultimately, it was the time when we decided adoption was the way for us. 

Why am I writing about this now? Memories of being in the queue of life have been dredged up, involuntarily, by our adoption community. We are waiting with several couples at the moment, most of which we have become friendly with. 

Yesterday we were told that two of them have received a court number. We are still waiting (as you well know!) and every day that goes by I lose a little bit of my ability to be patient. One of the couples in question had not even started their home study until after we had had a match! This feels like queue jumping!

I realise, in my rational mind (yes, I have a little bit of that left. Just a little) that it is obviously not their fault - it was luck, the gods of bureaucracy were on their side etc. But it doesn't make it any more fair to me. I don't begrudge them their court number - the quicker any child gets our of an orphanage the better. But I can't help feel, a little like I did when women who were pregnant the same time as me eventually gave birth, a little cheated by life. 

And so we wait. As our little boy gets bigger, we wait. As our little girl grows taller, we wait. As he moves onto solids and starts sitting up, we wait. As she looks at our photos, wondering when we might come back.... we wait. In the queue of life. 

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Home is a mum

cat and kitten
I have been very lucky in my life. I have been lucky that I was born into a family who knew how to look after me, who made me feel safe and valued. I was lucky to have a dad who believed in me, no matter what. I was lucky to have a mum who made me feel secure in who I was. 

In this process of waiting to become a mum myself (more on this soon) I have had a fantastic ally in my mother. When we mentioned adoption to her, a few years back, she was enthusiastic and supportive from day 1. It was what I needed to hear. 

What I start to realise more and more is that my mum is already a grandma. She loves these kids already, she has their pictures in her wallet and all over her house. 

One evening, not long ago, I went to see her. She was sitting by the fire, knitting. "It's for him," she said to me. It was a little blanket. It now sits finished on her sofa. 

I mentioned to my mum how I was looking for a black doll for her, but that I hadn't found one that I liked enough. Here is what I found some days later...

multicultural dolls

Complete with bracelet and baby brother! 

Monday, 24 February 2014

10 things I love about not having kids (yet)

I would never have been able to write this two or three years ago. As some you may know, through direct experience or otherwise, involuntary childlessness sucks! It can suck the life of you and your marriage and it is definitely the bed-fellow of depression...

For one reason or another, however, people tend to keep reminding you how happy you should be that you don't have kids. Remember now that I am surrounded by children (I am a teacher...) on a daily basis and it seems that parents like nothing more than tell you, at every opportunity just how lucky you are not to have kids. In times like those, while being told for the millionth time quite how lucky I am not to have the one thing that I would give my left arm to get, in times like those it is tough to be grateful. 

I am in a different place now, though. If all goes well (and believe you me, I frett a lot about that too) parenthood for D and me is not far. The little three letter word in my title, the 'yet' makes all the difference. In fact, it has only been since getting confirmation of our match that I have started to enjoy being childless... I have started looking at life in a different light, knowing (hopefully) that I will not have to be the crazy dog lady, when I am 60 (because between you and me, I was getting scarily close to it with four dogs...)

So without further ado here are the ten things that I love about not having kids (yet) and that I will dearly miss once our kids are here:

1. One on one time with my husband
Definitely top of the list. I love spending time with D, I always have and in the seven years we have been together there's been no change to just how much I enjoy his company! He is great to hang out with and, for sure, I will miss just being the two of us! (For more on my lovely husband look here)

2. Time with my dogs
Again, I love spending time with our four pooches. They are lovely and one of the reasons why I hate working so many hours is that I don't get quite enough time to play, lie around, walk and simply spend time with them every day. Weekends, however, are at the moment quite a good time to go for long walks, or lie in front of the fire with them... I will miss that! (Not that we are getting rid of them, of course, but I do envisage a period of readjustment... Any advice on this very welcome!)

3. Running
I love running. I go out several times a week (either very early in the morning or late at night). I love the freedom I feel on the road, or more often the mountain. I love planning, preparing and taking part in races and I will definitely miss the freedom of being able to do one once a month or so...

4. Running with D and the dogs
You are probably thinking that I am being lazy here, but actually running with D and the dogs is my most favourite activity, the highlight of my week! We used to be able to go three of four times a week, but because of various logistical reasons (to do with current lack of dog-mobil) getting four dogs, plus the two of us on the mountain for a run has become quite tricky. Still, we manage it once a week. I imagine that getting four dogs, two kids and two adults on the mountain might be a challenge...

5. Quiet tea in bed
It is a ritual in our household, to get up early and have twenty minutes, in bed, just the two of us and a pot of tea (digestives optional). Each of us gets up early on alternate days, to prepare the tea, and then sneaks back into bed, where we sit, sip and look out of the window at the mountain or the sunrise. Sometimes we chat. Sometimes we sit in silence and enjoy a quiet and lovely start to the day. I am pretty sure that this will not be happening once the kids are here...

6. Cinema night
We don't go out much. Once every three weeks to the cinema is about as much as we can manage (as it involves a 40 minute drive and costs about 30 euros for tolls, snacks and cinema for the two of us). But I do enjoy our cinema nights and I will miss them. (Saying that the local summer cinema is open to all ages... Parents often bring their young children with - maybe I should add this to this post

7. Writing
It's not like I can write whenever I want to - I have to be very strict in scheduling my writing time (most of it happens before sunrise or before bed...) But even so, I know that when D and I are no longer alone in this house, writing time will be like gold dust. If I am lucky it will be squeezed between naps and cooking, or between their bedtime and mine (and dare I say, at the moment I can hardly keep my eyes open past 8pm...)

8. Coffee date
Once a week I have a coffee date with myself. Once a week, between school finishing and my next lesson starting, I have about 40 minutes all to myself. I go to a local coffeeshop and... well, I have a coffee and a croissant and I read, or write, or listen to a podcast. I love my Thursday afternoon, because of that 40 blissful minutes... I am guessing that too will have to go. 

9. Not having to cook every night
When I am sick, or tired, or sick and tired, or simply don't fancy cooking... well, I don't. We have pizza, or D cooks, or we simply have a toasty and a yoghurt. I am guessing that I might not be able to do that quite so often...

10. Travelling
I am not saying we will never travel again. I am not even suggesting that we travel quite a lot (because we don't...) We tend to do one big trip a year, usually to Italy, one or two trips to the UK and some small trips around Greece. Well, I am guessing that for a while at least (and partly for financial reasons) we might have to limit all the travelling. 

And yet... even after acknowledging all the things I will miss... even then... I cannot wait for them to get here! Hurry up, kiddos (lawyers, judges etc etc etc). We can't wait!! 

Saturday, 22 February 2014

A Warm Welcome

A few days ago, I shared with you this post on Additions I spoke about the purchase of a little toy. It was only a small gesture, but for me it was huge - in a way it solidified in my mind that I will (hopefully, fingers crossed) be a mum before the summer. 

I am totally rational person (99.9% of the time) but this adoption has brought with it a host of superstitions. This is strange for me. I have never take to magical thinking and, I realise, in my rational brain that my buying this toy (or starting to think about the kids' room, or any other host of normal activties expectant parents indulge in) has no bearing on the outcome of this adoption. I know it. But do I really know it? There seems to be a part of me that retains the superstitions I laugh off in others... 

Anyway, the new additon came back with me, carefully wrapped in my pyjamas for the trip over. I showed him to D and he was pleased and we placed him on our dining room table for a couple of days. 

On Friday morning I woke up to find that Hardy, one of our four lovely dogs, had decided to make him feel welcome. Very welcome. Here he is, in safely tucked into her basket. 

She must have had him in with her overnight and, as she does with a lot of her stuffed toys, must have spent hours grooming him... He looked sticky and smellt... of dog. 

Nothing to do but a warm bath:

Some time to dry in the basin:

And a little sunbathing in the garden to dry out those wet ears:

Of course, under the watchful eye of Flynn, our youngest doggy:

All's well that ends well. He is now safely on my desk, out of reach of dogs, fully dry and happy to have had such an adventure (I would like to think...)

It is all bringing home how two kids and four dogs might be quite the challenge... 

Friday, 21 February 2014



While the other side of the world is buried under snow, and the UK is getting storm after storm and flooding, Greece has enjoyed the mildest winter we have certainly experienced since we moved here. 
It has been strange, not getting a proper winter. It has been great in many ways, mainly in the fact that we have saved hundreds of euros not heating our house. On the other hand it feels like we have skipped something - a whole season has passed us by. 

At the moment though, our garden is blooming! And that is fantastic. It is time to prune the olive trees and hope that this year, they will bear fruit. Our trees were burnt back in 2009, when a forest fire devastated our area - our home narrowly escaped being burnt, but our garden didn't have such luck. They have since started growing again and we are hoping that this year they will bear fruit for us to get some olive oil and some eating olives. 

Our orange and lemon trees have done better and we have had a lot of fruit this year.

As you can see we have been particularly bad about picking them... 

I love spring. I love the smells and I love the way that it gives me hope... Better days are coming! 

Thursday, 20 February 2014

The world of little girls

It's been a while since I was a little girl... A very long while for sure! I grew up in the 80's, when it was safe to spend the whole day out of the house, go for lunch in friend's homes without my mum knowing and then turn up for dinner, exhausted and happy. I grew up when riding my bike to the bakery was very normal and opening a "shop" on the road outside our home was fine too...

I played with lego, I had some dolls too, but my main preoccupation was cycling and playing "chase" and "hide and seek" with the other kids in the neighbourhood. Life was good. I felt safe and looked after, not just by my parents, but by the older kids, by their parents and by the community. 
It never occured to me, at that age, that I was too fat or too thin or in any way not "just right". It never crossed my mind that I was not pretty enough, or that my tummy was too big. Maybe it is blissful ignorance or maybe rosy retrospection, but I don't think I thought about my body as anything other than what it was - a tool for me to do things with -I played basketball for a local team for years- and a vehicle for the rest of me: my mind and soul. 

Maybe I am forgetting things, but I cannot imagine that the most important thing about me was ever my looks. And yet, almost three decades later, I see it everywhere and it really upsets me. 

It upsets me when I ask little girls what they want to be when they grow up (by the way, I wanted to be a pro basketball player for years, before I realised that 5'7" was not going to cut it) and the answers is overwhelmingly: models and singers. (And let's be honest, most female singers that these girls see are, in my opinion, at least glorified models/strippers.) 

I am a teacher of young kids (7-8 year olds) and every Friday we spend sometime doing 'circle time'. It is a social activity, where we sit in a circle and discuss different things. This time I simply wanted each child to say something positive about the child they were sitting next to, and so on, until everyone had heard something positive about themselves. 

By the end of it all I sat there in complete shock: the girls had overwhelmingly received commenst such as "you have pretty hair" or "you are so beautiful", while the boys had been told how fast they were, how good they are at football or at maths. It really saddened me, but I am not sure how to fix it. 

We are soon to become parents (hopefully soon, anyway, I cannot stand this wait much longer) and it is something that is so often on my mind. How do I help to change this, in my pupils and in my kids? How can we value girls, not just for their looks, but for all the other things they can do? How do we change this idea that looks come first and everything else is secondary? 

I have few answers at this stage...

A full rainbow of emotions

I received a phonecall last week, from one of the women in our adoption community here in Greece. We call each other fairly frequenty at the moment, mainly to offer support, or to exchange any news. As I have mentioned in other posts, it is a big help to be able to talk to someone who is going through the same things, as opposed to some people who have no idea (and, it seems, very little empathy) and make statements like: "Don't worry, if this adoption doesn't work out, you can have mine"... and other such useful comments, without realising the importance of this decision. 

And so this lady, let's call her Mary for simplicity's sake, called me up quite late at night to have a chat. Only, it turns out she did not just want to chat. It became quite clear fairly early on that what she wanted to do was lecture me on my "attitude". 

As it turns out a few nights before that, I had spent quite some time on the phone to yet another prospective adoptive mother (let's call her Helen) sharing my distress upon learning that the Minister for Women's Affairs had called a press conference, to announce that Ethiopia will soon put an end to intercountry adoption. On top of that, I was having a whinge about various other things, including simply, that I had had the week from hell. I was worried, worn out, sad and quite simply fed up. 

I know, I know, it is not often that people admit to all of these emotions in public and I thought I wasn't when I shared them with Helen. Yet, Helen spoke to Mary about it, and Mary, I guess with every good intention in mind, called me to tell me that "I should pull myself together" and (the other helpful phrase) "I should not worry". 

I gave her a piece of my mind, but very gently, but I went to bed furious. I felt judged and I also felt that someone, who hardly knew me, or in fact my circumstances was criticising my attitude, or thinking less of me for worrying. 

Well, here is what I think:

I believe in all emotions, not just the positive ones. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) our lives will be full of all of it, happines and grief, sadness and joy, frustration and calm, worry and jubilation. It'sonly  natural. And life is all the better for it. 

Worrying is normal. Without worrying you will be eaten by the tiger, or fall down a cliff. Without worrying you will not do well in the exam, or prepare for the marathon. Excessive worrying, well, that is called an anxiety disorder and I completely understand if you don't want one of those. 
But no worrying, that too is abnormal. It is called apathy and it's a sign of many bad things. So please, don't tell me not to worry! 
Same goes for a lot of other so called negative feelings: anger, sadness. I have news for some of you: those too can be normal responses to stimuli! 
I went to a funeral last week- it is normal for me to feel sad. Not feeling sad would be abnormal. I have also been waiting for two children that I have met, felt, played with, hugged and fed for over five months and on top of that I hear that the process might fall apart any day now. How can I not be worried? And I am tired. I have worked over 60 hours this week, plus kept a home, four dogs and a husband happy. 

So, dear Mary, excuse me if, once in a while, I indulge in a little whining session, over a glass of wine. And, please, do not judge me. I have a full rainbow of emotions, thank you very much! 

P.S. I tried to find a picture of a rainbow but did not... So you get the view from my morning runs. Yes, that is what I have decided to do with my extra hour in the morning these days - I have felt so sluggish without my daily dog-running sessions. I am sure my dogs are excited too! 

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Why the Wait is so so painful...

Nobody likes waiting, I guess. Unless you are a Buddhist monk and enjoy flexing your patience muscles, the rest of us find waiting quite difficult. Especially why this waiting involves one of the biggest changes you are ever likely to experience in your life: becoming a parent! 

And so we have been waiting, for over five months now and I, probably because I am slightly crazy, have been looking at different research into waiting. One of the pieces of research I came across has made things clearer for me. In a paper entitled 'The Psychology of Waiting Lines' David Maister talks about the different effects that different types of waiting have. 

For example, and relevant to our situation, indefinite waiting times seem longer than definite ones (which is probably why at Greek tax offices they give you an average wait time, which is usually widely inaccurate, but - it seems - psychologically soothing). We have been indefinitely waiting since day 1, and we are only now inching closer to a more definite waiting time, as we get a court number and the wait times become around 4-6 weeks. 

Also relevant to us is the difference between the pre-process wait, which seems longer and the in-process wait. I am not sure which of these two you would place us in - somedays I think we have been in-process since the match, on the other hand, until our case is filed in court, it does all feel like a pre-process wait...

Of course what all this has done is bring into very sharp focus just how much of our life we have spent waiting to become parents. And although I know we should be "relaxing and enjoying the process" as a lot of people have suggested, as well as "enjoying our pre-child time with each other" it is becoming increasingly difficult to be in this limbo. 

Here's hoping for some good news this week... or next... 

Sunday, 16 February 2014

10 things I love about the UK

(Through the prism of 5 years in Greece)

I am visiting the UK for work at the moment, as you might have gathered from my previous posts. There is a strange familiarity to this country and I love it so much - yet both my husband and I have consciously chosen to live elsewhere for the last five years. I do, however, think that the UK is a simply wonderful place to live and work and here are some of the reasons why (worryingly I could come up with my list of ten a lot more easily than my list for Greece...):

1. Opportunity
The UK is full of opportunity. Compared to Greece you can be anyone and do anything in the UK. Part of it is the economy - it allows for people to be able to quit their day jobs and follow their passions in more ways than you could ever do in Greece. There is also a culture of entrepreneurship  and a willingness to look at new ideas, in a way that I have not encountered elsewhere. For me, the UK really is the land of opportunity, where one can really flourish. 

2. Diversity
London especially must be one of the most diverse cities in the world. Diversity is normal, accepted, expected, celebrated. It is a multi-cultural, multi-racial society very open to integration. 

3. The Law
Again, I am seeing this through the eyes of having lived in Greece for a while now, but there is a certain respect for the law that I love about Britain. D calls it my love of "yellow lines" in reference to the beautifully painted yellow lines on the roads, indicating whether parking is allowed in a certain area. 

 4. The NHS
A lot of Brits complain about the National Health Service and in many ways I guess it is not perfect. But it is what it says, a national health service that does provide for those who need, when they need and usually what they need. My experiences of the NHS have been varied, but always worlds ahead of the health services I have experienced in other countries. 

5. The Food
I know, right? You are wondering whether (or what) I've been drinking this morning. But bear with me on this one. Yes, English cuisine is not known for its delicious recipes. The standard meat and two veg tends to be executed in several different versions - variations on the basic theme. However, most places in England have an amazing variety of international cuisine: Indian, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, French, Greek. It might not be very authentic, the Indian might not be as good as the one you would get in Mumbai, but it can be very tasty and the variety itself is exciting! 

6. Public Transport (and walking)
Unless you live in a very rural area (which I did for a year when I was a teenager) public transport links tend to be wonderful. This means you don't need a car, which is good in itself, but also you get to walk a lot more, as service is seldom door to door. And I simply love walking! 

7. How polite people are
Ok, not everyone, not everywhere, but being polite is expected. Only two days ago I stepped on someone while crammed in a tube carriage and they apologised to me! I also, of course, apologised to them, but the Brits do tend to say "sorry", and "excuse me" quite a lot. Not to mention the "please" and "thank you". 

8. Driving
I learned to drive in London. Understandably I was nervous, as every new driver might be, but the predictability and order of the roads helped. I actually got my license while in Greece. The driving there is chaotic and a lot more difficult to negotiate. I love the way the English drive, negotiate roundabouts, generally stick to the speed limit, obey traffic lights etc. I know, it sounds ridiculous, but it's not! 

9. Green spaces 
What it says. I love the fact that even the capital has an abundance of well-looked after green spaces. Not to mention the rest of the countryside which is ideal for hiking, cycling and running. Not rugged and wild like Greece, but pretty, predictable and usually well-looked after (and sign posted)!

10. Education
It might not be the best in the world, but it is darn well close. I had the privilege of attending two of the best institutions in the UK (and possibly the world) back in the day that it was (means-tested) free or very nearly free. Things might have changed a bit, but the quality of the higher education institutions remains high and the research coming out of most of those institutions is still cutting edge. That is something that I genuinely love about Britain!

So, that is my list. It was surprisingly easy to write, and I sit here, on a crispy England morning, at Terminal 5 in Heathrow, waiting for my flight to be called, I really do miss living in this country. It might be on the cards in a few years for sure... 

Saturday, 15 February 2014


I have been spending a few days in the UK, first a couple of days in London, for work and now a day and a bit in Cambridge, with my dear friend J. 

Part of today was a shopping trip, into Cambridge to get various things that we cannot get in Greece, like the great variety of teas, which I have unpacked and repackaged into small ziplock bags and stuffed into my suitcase. 

We also went into Baby Gap, something I have not done before - not to buy anything anywyay. 

I am proud to announce that I have bought the first real item that is meant for the kids. In fact this little dog is meant for B, the three year old girl we have been matched with. When we met her back in October we had brought a small photograph album with us to leave with her and had taken several pictures of the dogs for her to look at. She was delighted at it all and kept on calling "wo-shaa" which is the Amharic for "dog". 

So here it is, the first toy I have dared to buy... Still in the wait, but feeling more confident it might happen soon! (A couple of families who have been waiting with us have now been given dates, hence my guarded optimism...)

Does it remind you of anyone?

Thursday, 13 February 2014

10 things I love about my husband

(A Valentine's special...)

Ok, smug-post alert! It is Valentine's day today, and I am away from home for work. I am generally not one to think much of Valentine's day, and as a couple we normally don't plan very much, maybe a longer walk with our dogs, maybe a nicer dinner. But this year we are most likely celebrating our last "just -the-two-of-us" Valentine's day. Apart. Here's a post just about my wonderful husband and the big and little things that make him great:

1. His wisdom
D is incredibly wise. He has a feel for life, a sense of perspective that others (including me quite often) lack. He is able to retain his composure and have perspective at the hardest times. He is also able to share that with me, when I need it most!

2. His generosity of spirit
D is a generous person, no doubt. But it is his generosity of spirit that was evident to me from the first day we met. He offers up his time, effort, energy, wishes, help so freely and to everyone who needs them. 

3. His sense of humour
He makes me laugh. That's all.

4. How he does the shopping, makes me dinner when I'm home late and shares the household chores
If you know me well, then you know how I hate grocery shopping. I don't know why, I just find it incredibly boring and unfulfilling as an activity. While we lived in the UK we had all our shopping delivered from one of the local supermarkets, to our kitchen every Monday night. It was great! I did all my shopping online (well, I actually had a repeat list from which I added or took away things as needed). Alas, Greece has no such luxuries, and so the grocery shopping was quite a chore for me. For the last few months D has taken that over, while I have one of my private lessons. He has now become an expert shopper and I am a lot happier that I don't have to walk around the fluo-lit aisles for an hour every week. On top of that, he makes me dinner when I get home late and shares all the household chores with me. What's not to love?

5. What he looks like first thing in the morning
I simply love waking up next to him. A few months after our wedding I was talking to a friend and mentioned this. She warned me I had another six months of that, before I would stop noticing, or even worse, start being bothered by him being there when I woke up. Well, I am glad to announce that after five years I still love waking up next to him. I love the way he looks when he wakes up, and how he looks at me. And I love it when, three times a week, I get a cup of tea in bed! (We take in turns - the other mornings are mine...)

6. How great he is with children
D is a teacher. He has been teaching for three years and is great at his job. He is an inspiring teacher to have, I have little doubt. But even before that, he has always been attentive, caring and calm in the way that he interacts with little people. I simply cannot wait to be a parent with this guy!

7. His manners
He has great manners. I noticed very early on after meeting him that his manners, on and off the table, are impeccable. 

8. How he makes me feel
He grounds me, he calms me and excites me at the same time. With him I feel like I can achieve anything!

9. How he loves animals
He is incredibly playful, caring, and firm, with our dogs. To me that's a sign of a great person. 

Here he is, bottle feeding our little pup, Hardy (who is now 15 times that size)!

...and finally...

10. How he loves me
He loves me unconditionally and with all his heart. He makes me feel that every day. 

There is no doubt in my mind that I have won on  the husband lottery!

The Kindness of Strangers

For the well-travelled amongst you, you might be able to recognise that this picture is from London. You might be able to tell from the phone boxes in the distance... Only these ones are not the usual red ones! These two phone boxes in London's City district, have been painted green to celebrate 60 years of the Samaritans in the UK. And today, I too met a good Samaritan...

I flew into London late last night, for work. After we had boarded the plane, on time, the captain came on to tell us about the journey ahead. Apparently, due to the high winds and impending storm hitting the UK, our flight would be delayed. For safety reasons the flow into Heathrow slows down in extreme conditions, he continued, and so we would get a later slot. He also warned us that the 40 mph winds currently blowing in from the Atlantic would make the flight and especially the landing "a bit bumpy". 

I have to say that I am not usually scared of flying - I have been a regular flyer for many years. I have been flying less since moving to Greece, but still manage three of four return journeys a year. I have never, however, had a bad flying experience - nothing remarkable anyway. Plus, ever since meeting D and more so now that we are ready to adopt, I have been much more scared about my personal safety. So, understandably perhaps, I felt a little uncomfortable. 

The man sitting next to me, an American living in London, made a comment about the news the pilot had just delivered and we got chatting. I confessed my nervousness for the coming flight. Very quickly, in a very mild but firm manner, he explained to me that he is a small-aircraft pilot and that, really, I had very little to worry about. He went on to explain, in quite simply language luckily, all about avionics and landing procedures. (He also suggested that I had some wine with my dinner; advice a duly followed!)

The flight was fairly uneventful, with some mild turbulance on the way into Heathrow. It did takes us a while to get a landing slot, but, despite the pilot's warning the waiting and circling around time (I am sure there is a term for this...) was reasonable. And then it came to landing!

It was windy - we could feel it from the dipping and diving once we started out descent into Heathrow. We had been warned and I had had the glass of wine as prescribed, but I was still very nervous. 

The guy next to me, a total stranger, was simply wonderful! He coached me through the whole landing, explaining why we were accelerating, what the wing flaps were doing (yes, I was seated right by the wing) and what each noise and dip meant. He told me things before they happened (like "we will accelerate now") which was very reassuring, because it meant it was normal! He coached me through it like an expert, and I felt safe in knowing that it was not that strange a situation: that aircrafts land in horrid weather all the time. As we bounced around the landing tarmac I was happy to be on terra firma. 

After we landed there was a clap. I thanked him for his help. He smiled. 

There is something very powerful about the kindness of strangers. Something great about someone who hardly knows you taking the time to tell you that it will be OK. Something deeply human and deeply humane. We get glimpses of the possibilities of the human spirit at times like this. 

And so with a little help from my good Samaritan, I made it to London safely. 

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The Extra Hour

I have been working pretty hard lately. Leaving the house usually just after 8 am (or sometimes just before) and getting home most nights after 8 pm. It's a choice and it is only temporary, I hope, but it is still making me feel tired and grumpy. 

One of the reasons why I have been grumpy is that I feel I am not doing the things that I would like to, like exercise, writing, reading and spening time with my dogs (how spoilt does that sound? Mothers of young kids please look away now)!

As a childless couple, or maybe I should say parents in waiting, we are quite spoilt with our time. Yes, we work hard, looking after other people's kids for more than 10 hours most days, but when we get home our time is our own. That's what most people think, anyway. It is not always that simple, as the planning, marking and preparation, added to the simple headspace that teaching takes up, leaves us with little free time. That paired with the fact that my natural off switch is around 8:30 pm, means that for the last few months I have had no free time...

Well, the solution was found. It is an obvious one, one that I know many busy mums employ. It is in fact something that I have done many times in my life when I felt there was too much to do and not enough hours in the day. It is as simple as setting my alarm clock to go between 5:30 and 6. And then not pressing the snooze button. In fact, this last step might be the most crucial in the process. 

So, here I am, in my spare hour of the day, writing, feeling decidedly smug with myself, while watching the sun slowly rise over the sea. It feels great to have gained an hour!

This morning's sunrise. 

And yesterday's: 

Ready to start the day! 

Monday, 10 February 2014


"They grow up so fast!" 

If I've heard it once I've heard it twenty times already. You don't even have to have a baby on your lap for people, usually older women, whose children might have flown the nest already, or are at the 'not-so-cuddly' stage, to offer up this advice. And really, as much as I appreciate advice (ok, so maybe I don't very much) what does it really mean? 

I understand the implicit meaning to someone whose kids are there, with them, to someone who might be too trapped into the nitty-gritty of parenting to appreciate the unique developmental stage their kids are at during that precise moment. I understand that and in a way, I believe that too: enjoy your children as they are right now (even if the way they are right now involves trantrums and snot, hmmm). Mindful parenting, immersed in the moment, is something that I too, aspire to. 

But telling a woman, like me, whose (prospective - that word again) children are half a world away, on a different continent, well, that to me sounds as a simple, and maybe rather cruel observation. She might as well have said "Look how they're growing without you!" or "He's a little boy already and you will never get to live the baby-stage with him". 

We have a friend who is currently in Addis Ababa, visiting his prospective children as him and his wife are waiting for their paperwork to be finalised. He very kindly visited the orphanage where our kids are at, and took several pictures and a few videos for us to see them. 

I knew he was going to visit yesterday - he had told me and D and I had sent him a little video of us, taken on Saturday in our garden, our three dogs around us, saying hi to our little girl. I had also sent him some pictures we had taken with her while we were there in October. October... that was five months ago... The mere thought makes my heart sink.

The whole day I scanned my phone obsessively, even during class (which I don't normally do) waiting for an email, a picture. I was on the way home from my early evening lesson when my phone started pinging. I ran up to the house and then sat next to D while we opened the attachment to our children's pictures. 

We watched them, several times and we laughed. And we cried. And we laughed some more. We scanned the pictures, we scrutinised every second of the videos, for little signs of them - for something more than just a picture. For the funny way she moves her mouth, the way she tidies her bear on her lap, her assertive manner. For his first proper little laugh (in front of our eyes, at least), his, now chubby, arms poking out of his shirt. For his lovely hair, that has grown curly and plentiful. And for the way he looks at her. We watched them again and again, feasting our eyes in the sight of the two little ones that will hopefully be in our arms soon.

Telling me that they grow up so fast was like a punch in the stomach. Like I don't know. Like I don't realise that the three month old infant I left behind last November will never be the same. That this bubbling, smiling 8 month old will not even be the same tomorrow. That by the time we manage to go and get them, by the time our court date has come they will have changed again, into different little children. 

A bitter sweet evening, with over 8 attachments of my children. In all honesty, not the sort of "attachment" I was hoping for at this stage, but precious all the same. 

We wait...

Saturday, 8 February 2014

The Wait - Part 2

I wanted to write a post about surviving the wait. I wanted to give advice on it. But in reality it might be better if I ask for advice... We are still very much in the midst of it all and we have by no means survived it.

We have done well. We have waited 4 months (post-match) for various reasons, mainly to do with bureaucracy, procedural changes and general international adoption waiting. We met our (prospective - argh, what a word!) children in late October. Now, in mid-February, we know that we are close, although we don't have a court date yet. So we wait...

How do I cope with it? Not very well, I think. I have good days and bad days. I keep busy. Very busy. I think if I can be so exhausted that when my head hits the pillow I fall asleep instantly, then that's a good day. 

My list on how I am surviving the wait. It is personal and I am in no way advocating that it's for everyone. But here it is:

1. Keep busy. 
That is my number one strategy. I work full time as a teacher, in a primary school with 37 teaching periods a week. For anyone who knows teaching, that is a lot! On top of that I am also the school's curriculum coordinator, which adds a bit of time on top of it all. Since January I have also taken on several private pupils, something I am hoping I can continue once the kiddos join us. It is only 5 teaching hours in the evenings, but also involves some preparation and commuting. To top it all off, I do freelance translations, for five or six hours a week. In total, I think I work around 60 hours a week. 

It is certainly not sustainable and when I started I hoped it would only be for a few weeks or so. The weeks have turned into months and here I am, a little exhausted, but having made some extra money to put towards the adoption and to have afterwards once the kiddos are here! The upside is that it is giving me less time to think about the adoption, and all the things that could potentially go wrong (I am an expert at worrying and finding potential disaster scenarios)!

2. Build a support network
Some of my support network is online, in the forms of blogs and forums (fora?). I really enjoy reading about other people who have been through this and have come out of it unscathed. It really gives me a boost to read about other couples' waiting periods, how they coped with them and how they eventually managed to bring their prescious, longed-for children home. 
Some of my support network is real, although none of them (bar my family) are face-to-face contacts. We have met some other families through our social worker and from our trip to Ethiopia in October and we spend a lot of time on the phone. It helps!

3. Take up writing
I write a lot. I have written a lot about the adoption and have relished every single word of it. I am even hoping to publish one day, although I wonder if anyone would actually want to read it... I keep this blog. I keep a journal. Generally writing keeps me sane and keeps things in perspective. It helps me see that, no matter what, this period is but a chapter of my life...

4. Run
I have always been an athlete and I have been running for the last 10 years or so. Despite a chronic injury that keeps me from running as much as I would like, I still try to keep to two-three runs and week. Most are up the mountain with my dogs and husband - there is aalways perspective to be gained up on the mountain.
A couple of races also keep things interesting...

5. Do the things that I will not have time for once I become a mum
Like having coffee with my husband. Lying in on a Saturday morning (fine, until 8, but still...). Have long baths. Write in the middle of the day. Go mountain biking with D. Go to the cinema. Have a meal out. All these things that will become a challenge once there are two little people in our life. 
6. Eat crisps and drink wine
Nothing profound here... Just a coping mechanism. Comfort eating and the odd glass of wine. Surely that's normal.

There are a couple of things I wanted to do, but have not got round to:

1. Learn Amharic - my loaded schedule has not allowed me to find the time to meet with the teacher I had found. I will have to make do with awkward phrase-book Amharic. 

2. Decorating the kids' room - the uncertainty over when and sometimes if this adoption will go through has kept me from buying anything kid related. Yes, we run the risk of having the kids sleep in a box for a couple of weeks. (I am joking here. Mostly...) But at least I do not have to look at an empty crib every hour of the day... Swings and roundabouts. 

3. Making the photo album that I wanted - with all the pictures of the children we have, from our referral pictures, to the ones we took while we were there, as well as the ones we get sent periodically from the orphanage, or when people visit. Hmm, maybe I should get a move on with that one...

4. Clearing out my wardrobes - Yes... that is still on the to-do-list... I've done the odd bit of throwing away that jumper that I have not worn since I was 17 (yes, I had one of those, doesn't everyone?) but I have not had that brutal one-on-one with the wardrobe yet. It's inevitable, but I am putting it off...

I hope the wait will come to an end soon. I hope we get our court date, so that we can start all the preparations on the way to becoming a family of four! In the meantime I am off to have that glass of wine...


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