My granddaughter is two! – Flashback Friday

Today Gracey, my granddaughter is 2 years old and for those two years of her life I have only seen her for 28 days and I’m not at all happy about it but it is something I have to put up with having made the decision to leave Italy and return home in 2004. My two older children were born and bred there and they have made lives for themselves of which I am only a small part. It’s not ideal but we make it work for us; sure the pain of not being close to them never leaves.

But on to merrier things, Gracey my darling sweetheart who I wish I could spoil as much as I want to is two and that landmark cannot be missed. In actual fact a week ago I started the birthday present hunt on the Italian Amazon site knowing that if I ordered earlier enough I could get free delivery. It works very well for families like mine that are scattered across different countries. I chose a small kitchen with pots and pans, spoons and plates and food to pretend cook with and for good measure I ordered our favourite book Meg and Mog too.

I have already spoken about how Megan broke the news she was pregnant When she gave birth to Gracey, I was one of the first people to be phoned and straight after that phone call I booked my ticket. My son Tommy was here in the UK and decided to go back to Italy for a week’s holiday and so I roped him in to helping me with my one year old twins on the flights. Thankfully it was ok, both girls were fine and settled down for a quick snooze whilst they were a mile high. However the toughest week of my life lay ahead of me as I was about to discover.

The need to get out to Italy to see my daughter and be on hand to help her in those first weeks was so great it turned me into some kind of superwoman, ‘I can handle the twins on my own in Italy, after all I do every day here whilst you’re at work.’ How I was to eat those words.

Megan was in true ‘new mum’ form – a kind of hazy, lovey-dovey, porridge-brained darling. She was so in love with this beautiful creature she had given birth to that she couldn’t keep a complete thought in her head at all. She jumped from shopping lists, to tidying away her baby gifts to generally not having a clue what day it was with such ease it was mystifying. I knew I had to step in and lay some rules guidance down.

For the longest, toughest week of my life, I helped Megan learn how to bathe her baby, breastfeed her and settle her for a sleep. I tried to show how she could use baby’s sleep time to wash her own hair, write the shopping list, put the baby’s gifts away and even run a mop over the floor where her two dogs had been drooling.

Meantime the twins aged 1 were in their element. New house to explore by crawling into anything and everything. Mum’s attention elsewhere and there was no cage playpen to put them in! I was so glad to get them into bed at the end of the day. I slept with ears on elastic, listening out for them to wake so I could run in and get them before they disturbed the happy household and trust me by the end of my week I was exhausted and in tears of thankfulness at the thought of going home.

I loved every minute spent with Megan and Gracey but my goodness was I happy to see Paul and pass over his girls to him.

A pirate party is what the little lady would like so thanks to Asda and John Lewis I was able to send over a parcel with eye patches, treasure to put in a chest, candles for the cake and party bags for her guests, I just wish with all my heart I could be there to celebrate her too.

Happy Birthday my darling.

I’m joining in Karin’s Flashback Friday, head over to Cafe Bebe for more flashbacks

NASA Space Shuttle – The final mission

NASA space centre FloridaFinal is a sad word and today in just under 7 hours as I write NASA will launch Atlantis on its final shuttle mission. I am lucky enough to have visited the John F Kennedy Space Centre in Florida in June 2007. Paul and I were on a tour of Florida and we were only a day or two into the trip of a lifetime starting in the north, reaching Key West on the most southern tip and ending in Orlando, home of the fun parks; 21 days of immense fun after going through such heartbreak.

To be honest, when I saw this stop in our program, I turned my nose up, thought, boys stuff, bound to be boring but heyho, let’s check it out. It was a coach tour so I had to check it out anyway! I was so excited to be in Florida and to be going on to Miami after that I would have gone anywhere, add to that I love visiting new places too. I sat back ready to see the John F Kennedy Space Centre. Crawler track NASA

Entrance to this centre is set up very much like a theme park, enormous car parks, and coach stops, turnstyle ticket booths that then allow you through to the centre itself set out with rocket gardens, shops and ice cream stands.

After a quick peek in the shop and a fill up of water as it was a very hot day, we were guided through to a bus stop where we hopped on a NASA bus which tool us on a lengthy tour around their massive plot. We drove past an extensive flat gravel roadway where we learnt the crawler would literally crawl for days from the ‘hangar’ to the launch pad.

The crawler transporters are 131 feet long and 113 feet wide, with a flat upper deck measuring 90 feet square — about the size of a baseball diamond — that serves as the carrying surface. They move on four double-tracked tread belts, similar to those on a military tank. Each contains 57 “shoes” weighing more than a ton apiece.

NASA space shuttle hangar

Each transporter is powered by two 2,750-horsepower diesel engines. The hydraulic system includes 16 jacking, equalizing and leveling cylinders, which keep the crawler’s surface level at all times. This leveling system keeps the shuttle from deviating, only allowing the top of the orbiter to move in an arc about the diameter of a basketball during its journey — even as the crawler climbs the short hill to the launch pad.

We climbed a station and were able to view the launch pad  and on the way back down we were directed into a large air conditioned room which was very refreshing and we could see various models of how the crawler worked and the engineering magic that went into making it.

A trip to an enormous hangar which housed a massive rocket stretching the entire length of the room, a moon buggy and a model of the international space centre too was utterly gob smacking. The sheer size of these things is unbelievable until you stand up close. we feasted on American burgers with the rocket hanging over us which was really quite something.

Before I left the centre, I popped into the shop and bought some moon rocks, a brochure to read up on and a couple of souvenirs and I left the whole experience a lot wiser and extremely happy I had visited, I never would have guessed I could have been so blown away by a space man!

I am linking up with Karin over at Cafe Bebe today in her Flashback Friday where you can find many more flashbacks

 

Together…

I’d like to take the opportunity whilst I am on holiday to reblog some of my old posts, favourite posts that may have been missed and here is one of my favourite photos of Thomas and Megan probably spring 1994 judging by Tom’s missing teeth! A bittersweet day for me as you can read below

Meandering through the wonderful world of Blogs I went back to an old friend’s to see what she was up to and Lo and Behold a writing workshop…what a brilliant idea!

Now that was a week ago and I have missed the deadline – let’s blame the flu for now, but here I am back in the driving seat and prompt 4 shouted out at me as The One For Me – Togetherness

A while back I was sorting through my family albums going back 23 years and as it is impossible these days to keep them all I was sharing them out and making ‘Life albums’ for my two older children Thomas and Megan who now have lives of their own. Of course each photo held it’s own memory that was special in my heart and evoked an emotion deep within me but the one I am about to share was taken in roughly 1994 on the northern shore of Lake Garda in the beautiful town of Torbole.

It was a glorious May day, school wasn’t far off  from breaking up for the three month holiday the Italian children enjoy and Thomas, Megan and I were going to watch Megan perform in her first ballet dancing end of term show put on for proud parents and family.

The morning had been spent in the village hall for a last minute practice and now, on our lunch break we were on the Torbole promenade.  If you looked out over the vast expanse of water you could see the windsurfers zig zagging across the lake making the most of the cold Ora wind coming down from the Dolomites in the North. They added a rainbow of colour and movement as they powerfully surfed the surface.

Tommy and Megan were excited. They were spending a day that was different to usual and they were running about and laughing with each other, Megan looked particularly beautiful as I had taken her to the hairdressers that morning and her unwashed hair (apparently it’s easier with unwashed hair) was pulled back into a perfect ballet dancer’s bun and tiny white, cloth flowers had been gripped around the edge, her pretty little face was a picture in itself.

Tommy, my mischevious lad with a heart of gold, then 6 years old, was a flurry of movement. I had no idea where he got that energy from but he was dashing in and out of the crowd of tourists with his sister chasing him and laughing out loud. That bun was holding strong but for how much longer?

To any passer by it must have looked the picture of happiness and the three of us were truly enjoying our day together but once again Daddy wasn’t there to share it with us.

I don’t remember the excuse he gave for missing his daughter’s ballet show, he just didn’t deem it important enough for him to spare his precious time.

It broke my heart for me, for her and for Tommy and once again I faced the reality that this relationship was dead. Again I went over all of my sorry options in depth and again I came up with one, leave him and start again.

I knew with no doubt that sooner or later this would happen I just didn’t know how I would accomplish it all and without breaking my little one’s hearts.

Tommy was getting over excited as usual and a calm down was needed so I suggested ice creams and cheered on by the whoops and wows I led them to the parlour with the never ending fridge of tastes on the side road.

For the moment allowing myself to savour being together.

Don’t forget for many other Flashback Fridays head over to Karin at Cafe Bebe

You’re expecting twins!

My tears had halted momentarily, had I heard right? Was she saying that to me? I looked over at Paul who was still holding my hand as tightly, I could see the excitement, disbelief, incredulity under his skin, his face was twitching ever so slightly and he looked as if he was about to boil over with joy.

*****

As I lay down on the bed and lifted my top exposing my bare tummy to the scanologist (sorry can’t think of the right name for the lady scanner!) I went into panic mode. I was 8 weeks pregnant and the last two times I had reached this stage I had then discovered they were blighted ovums, where the baby had never formed in the sac or had been reabsorbed early on and therefore ending in miscarriage. I was shaking, in my heart I knew this was our last attempt. There was no way I could keep on putting myself through the agony of  joy-hope-failure. The scanning room for me held bad memories and I wasn’t feeling comfortable. In a desperate attempt to reassure myself, I surrepstitiously squeezed my boobs ‘Ouch!’ Good they were still painful and that meant pregnancy hormones were still in my body. I told the woman my history, a devastating loss at 5 months when we lost our little girl followed by two blighted ovums.

‘Thank you for telling me that.’ I’m sure I detected an Australian accent and then the room fell silent as she started to move the contraption over the gel on my tummy, the air heavy around me with suspense. Paul’s breathing was faster and our hands were held in a tight grip. I couldn’t bare him to go through the disappointment again and I was alreadystarting to feel a failure, my heart bomb diving into a black abyss. May Day! May Day!

I watched the lady looking intent at the screen moving the scan back and forth across my midriff. My bad voice piped up matter of factly ‘Nothing there again.’ and the tears started. Very slowly, very silently and I gripped Paul’s hand even harder trying desperately to make everything ok and hold on to positivity.

‘I’m so sorry to keep you waiting,’ she said. ‘I was just checking there aren’t three in there!’

‘Three?’ (I know! I’m so slow to get stuff – it had never dawned on me that I could possibly be a mother of twins even if Paul is a twin, I’d only ever asked for one!)

‘Yes!’ she exclaimed gleefully, relieved herself that her news was so good for us.’You’re expecting twins.’

‘How are their heartbeats?’ I immediately went into concerned mode wanting to cross all the T’s and dot the i’s.

‘Wonderfully strong heartbeats.’ Everything looks to be absolutely perfect.’

‘Can’t be!’ – that was the bad voice picking up again trying to ruin the moment but I was so shocked and utterly stunned I took no notice of it for once focusing on the good TWO WONDERFULLY STRONG HEARTBEATS. More tears fell but this time they were warm and tears of joy, the lady handed me some paper to wipe away the gel put I couldn’t care less about the gel I was pregnant and what’s more I was expecting twins, Paul took the paper and cleaned my tummy for me as we waited for the print out and our photos.

She gave us more photos than she should have done for our £4.00, I imagine she was very relieved to have been able to pass on our wonderful news and felt generous, after all who would find out her crime? I certainly wouldn’t have told a soul and these images I treasured for the following 8 months whilst I waited in angst until my beautiful little girls entered the world safe and sound.

This is my Flashback Friday for this week inspired very much by Karin at Cafe Bebe who is expecting and asked when I first found out I was expecting twins. Many women in pregnancy often get a thought ‘Maybe it’s twins?’ during the first months until the first scan can verify who and how many are inside. That thought comes from no where. Thrown at you casually from the universe to leave you wondering for weeks. I did get one of those thoughts but I was so anxious and so focused on just having ONE healthy baby I ignored it and let it go so it was a massive surprise that day to be told. In fact that day we both walked around stunned. Even the following few nights I would wake in the early hours and just ask Two? and reply Two! and fall back to sleep again in disbelief.

I kept a dairy throughout that pregnancy it was an online diary which also talks of many other things happening in my life during that period (teenage daughter living at home anyone?) I’m currently going through it and making it readable and focusing on the twin pregnancy and then I will post it for any other pregnant mum who may want to read it.

Now head over and see all the other Flashbacks over at Cafe Bebe

Barcelona: The time I accompanied a school trip!

School trip to Barcelona 1996

Easter time and happy Good Friday to everyone, may your day be filled with Hot Cross Buns!

This is a time of year when many schools are taking their students on an annual trip, an educational trip and back in the 90’s I worked as an English teacher in a language school in Trento twice a week. It was a small school and it was private so the classes were manageable and the students liked my lessons as I solely concentrated on their speech, getting them to read and speak as fluently as possible. We had to study James Joyce, Virgina Woolfe, Shakespear and Dickens but I also interjected fun pieces into the lessons using magazines from the UK such as NME, Smash Hits and other fun teen-related reading material.

sagrada familia

When I was asked to accompany them to Barcelona I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I knew it wouldn’t be a problem for my children as the hotel was shut and Enrico could look after them. We were to travel overnight by coach along the Italian and French coast arriving on the Spanish border in time for breakfast. The journey was uncomfortable but at leat being a ‘prof’ meant I had two seats to myself to spread out and try to get comfy.

Our first stop was at a stunning monastery, Santa Maria de Montserrat, a fabulous Benedictine abbey built into the jagged mountain and a favourite religious retreat where young people hike to overnight to watch the Catalonian sunrise. A memory that has stuck in my mind from that visit was a small chapel where parents had left momentos, prayers, pieces of clothing asking the monks for their assistance with their poorly children. It made me thank the Lord that my children back home were healthy and led good lives and reminded me that we’re not all lucky.

gaudi

Our 3 night stay in Barcelona was amazing and although in the position of Prof I couldn’t get out and see everything I would have done we managed to walk the Ramblas, do a coach tour of the city where I stood in awe at Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia and skipped like a child through his Parco Guell and dance flamenco in a local restaurant one evening.

barcelona parc guell

We visited Picasso’s museum and art gallery which was utterly fascinating, how a 14 year old boy could have produced such masterpieces in oil was mind blowing to me. I adored Dali, was fascinated with Gaudi and amazed at the amount of art and architecture in this vibrant city. I haven’t been able to go back again yet but it is a firm favourite on my list and as soon as the girls can walk enough to sight see we’ll be off to sunny Spain.

One last photo that cannot be missed – when the students called the flamenco dancer over to dance with me! Another very embarassing moment to add to my long list, you can tell by my fake smile as I just hope it’s all over and done with quickly – no teacher wants to be ridiculed for her dance moves, especially not flamenco ones!

Please make this end soon!

This is my Flashback Friday for Easter and for many more head over to Karin at Cafe Bebe where you can have a lovely peek at people’s past and maybe reminisce in some of your own good times.