2013 Review

I remember the 1st January 2013 very well because I spent a lovely, happy day with my boys watching DVDs at home and out in the park in the mild sunshine and I thought at the time it bode well for a good year ahead… which for the most part it was, despite tiredness, some sadness and plenty of challenges. Here’s a quick look back at the highlights of life at Casa Azoitei through my eyes…


Gabs had been given planets and planet decals and a globe for Christmas and from the moment they went up in his room, his Space/Astronomy obsession ramped up a notch and hasn’t come down since. The boys played a lot of violin and we had a lot of snow:

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On 2nd February, my heart stopped when I read that a fellow blogger’s baby had died of SIDS. The blogging community rallied around her and somehow Matilda Mae’s brave mummy Jennie and I became friends and supporting The Lullaby Trust in Matilda’s memory became a new passion. My obsession with work, and indeed anything else fell away and all I cared for the whole month was spending quality time with my two beautiful boys and counting my very many blessings every day. We spent most of the month in the park, on the swings and painting…

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My March started super-well with two nights in Paris with Remus where we got snowed in and did zero sightseeing but had a wonderful time. I worked as a violinist a bit mostly with BBCCO, did a concert in memory of Matilda Mae for Mother’s Day and raised £200 for her Bliss Charity Precious Star Fund and Classical Babies turned 3 years old. Remus found out he was to be decorated Officer of the Order of the Royal Crown (a kind of Romanian MBE) by King Mihai of Romania! But mostly my theme of amazing time with my boys continued, the firsts signs of Spring appeared and Lucian’s terrible twos kicked in.

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I spent a week in Cornwall at my parents’ with the boys having fresh air, R&R and some amazing Reiki sessions which put paid to my cluster migraines. April continued trickily for us, with a major errm, I shall call it ‘misunderstanding’ (!) with a family member in Romania whose privacy I’ll respect because it’s not necessary to name them and anyway, said relationship looks to be going forward positively in 2014. But it happened to occur just before we left for a family trip to Bucharest and caused stress and sadness for all of us, not just at the time but subtley in the background for the rest of the year. However, we did have incredible weather over there, the boys had a brilliant time bonding with their cousins and Remus played some great concerts. In the end a trip I had to literally force myself to take ended up being pretty great! This was also the month Remus played an amazing Lalo ‘Symphonie Espagnole’ with the George Enescu Philharmonic and was decorated by the King.

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On 2nd May I drove down to Kent to meet Jennie, Matilda Mae’s mummy for the first time at the Matilda Mae Mile in Memory Walk and I played and took little violins. Lucian and I reached an emotional end to our breastfeeding journey when he had his last ever feed the day he turned two years old, 18th May. He also had a wonderful Winnie the Pooh party and got a scooter. Generally the combination of his terrible twos and Gabs’ above average naughtiness just about gave me a nervous breakdown for most of the month, yet somehow we still had a wonderful month.

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Nothing much happened in June. We took a lot of sunny walks around my favourite streets in our lovely neighbourhood and enjoyed what we didn’t yet know would be our last month there. We all stayed up late to watch the Super Moon. Gabs enjoyed his last month at the nursery he loved. June was sun, playgrounds, ice creams, lollies and Regent’s Park. The boys ran, and ran. It was just perfect.

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July was just NUTSO. The 1st was my birthday. Remus was away but hid my new violin case in the wardrobe, I had my last acting class before  a 6 month break and did this scene from ‘The Graduate’. The 3rd was Gabi’s last ever day at nursery and the day we found out we had to move. The 4th was our Gabi’s 4th birthday, his first morning at primary school and the day we found our new house! We threw Gabi a kick-ass Space Party, went for a holiday in Cornwall with my parents – got detoured to N. Ireland when my Grannie died, then back to Cornwall. Remus and I spent our 5th wedding anniversary apart while he packed up our entire flat in London and I holidayed with the boys on a Cornish beach. I was attuned to Reiki Level I, by an old family friend in the village before travelling home. I took the boys and the violins down to Jennie’s for the twins’ Gruffalo Party and also played at the BBC Proms in the Concert Orchestra. Crazy, crazy month.

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August. Moving month. Emotional upheaval. Endings. Gabi’s nursery ‘graduation’ on the day we moved. We explored our new home and garden, Childs Hill and Golders Hill Parks and Gabs and I had a series of “Mummy & Gabi Days” before him starting Holy Trinity Primary in September. I pretty much “love-bombed” him (as I later found out it’s called!) and loved every minute of it. I also played a second Prom with the BBCCO.

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There’s only one event that stands out for me in September and that’s Gabriel starting school. He was so, SO excited and really loved it. Because of his Aspergers traits we started to have more and more trouble with him as more and more children joined the class until it was full (they stagger the start dates with the youngest first) and he got overwhelmed. It took him a long time to settle but the school were fantastic and proactive about getting him assessed and on the special needs register. The month was full of meetings, form-filling and ‘incidents’ but somehow his enthusiasm hasn’t waned. We threw Remus a 42nd birthday party with the biggest violin-cake you’ve ever seen! and I played solo in the Vivaldi A minor double concerto at St. Martin-in-the-Fields with Remus in the audience watching me for a change!

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With Gabs at school I started enjoying some time alone with Lucian which I hadn’t really had… ever! He’s a cheeky little monkey when he’s out of Gabi’s shadow. I was out a lot playing with the BBCCO and working incredibly hard for Classical Babies. The excitement of the month was two days in Reykjavik with Remus seeing his recital and one of my bestest old friends Silla, who I miss so much. I love Iceland, we will go back soon. We celebrated Halloween.. some of us enjoying it more than others. 😉

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The 1st was the end of half-term and I took Gabs to Tower Bridge. It was a wet but wonderful day. We got soaked but he absolutely loved it. 2nd November was a special day. I went with the boys and some wonderful friends who agreed to play in a quartet with me at the Matilda Mae Welly Walk at Beale Park in Reading, to honour 9 months since Tilda died and to raise money for The Lullaby Trust. It was a truly fantastic day. We filled most other weekends with trips to our local park and messy play like Leaf Rubbing, painting and playing in the garden. On 28th Nadine and I went, as Classical Babies to the Theo Paphitis #SBS Winners’ Event in Birmingham and met the man himself!

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My first school nativity! Gabriel was an angel – “double irony” as Mrs Pillay and I both said … Oh how we laughed!! Despite his struggles to blend in to the class this term, he sat nicely, did all the actions and sang all the songs. I was most proud. I bravely took both boys to the school Christmas Disco and started to really feel part of the school community and felt truly at home and settled in our house for the first time all year. We got a kick-ass Christmas tree and posted a stupid number of photos of it on facebook and ate a hell of a lot of sweets. The Classical Babies Christmas Concert and Party 2013 was a great success with 56 people turning up with kids attached (that’s over a hundred bodies in the room!) … coincidentally the same number of times we watched ‘The Snowman and Snowdog’ on repeat. We had an amazingly quiet and happy Christmas at home just the four of us and I nailed Christmas Dinner. Yeaaahhh! What a fabulous end to the year.

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Happy New Year 2014!

1st December

(Disclaimer: This post starts in the style of Scrooge and positively melts into Christmas wonder by the end… i.e. Bound to please no one.)

So is it my imagination or is everyone getting Christmas-crazy incredibly early this year? Now wait a minute, lest I lose you at this point already… I’m not talking about Christmas Adverts appearing on the telly in late September to wide derision, such as my husband loves to moan about, or the usual decs in shops going up mid-November. I’m talking You and Me, the average Mr and Mrs in the street, students, professionals, families, all starting up the festivites pre-December and being fully tree-ed up, decorated and ready-to-go before I’ve eaten my first advent calendar chocolate. I went out today, OK maybe 24 hours too late, to buy my boys their advent calendars, and from my lunchtime coffee until the bus home for tea, I passed person after person carrying Christmas trees and bags of presents down the Finchley Road. Sainsburys, Waterstones and WH Smiths had all completely run out of advent calendars… Does NObody out there forget every year like me?? Thank goodness for the eminently sensible and civilised people at Waitrose who keep their shelves properly stacked and had lovely Snowman ones and plenty of Lindt reindeer. Sometimes it’s worth letting slip the mask of pretence that I’m not prematurely middle-aged, upwardly-mobile upper middle-class and owning up that I just make myself shop in the O2 Centre but secretly yearn for John Lewis. Sainsburys just had a scrum of people stocking up on already depleting supplies of cheap-looking baubly things and a few mangled Mars Bar calendars with some doors ripped opened but otherwise empty shelves. I’m not that desperate and I like to shop somewhere that doesn’t force me into panic-buying. So for the rest of December I’m going to be raising my loyalty-card-holding hand up and shouting, “I LOVE WAITROSE!” to the skies. So sue me.

Anyway, we found two Snowman calendars in the nick of time before an about-to-be-distraught Gabs started to cry and I got a lovely traditional-style picture one with Father Christmas and only a tasteful amount of glitter on – something I regretted later when the boys opened theirs and I didn’t have any chocolate. I thought I was adult enough to deal with that but apparently not. By this time we were exhausted from walking from shop to shop searching for the holy grail of calendars and  all the trees and lights and possible present ideas leaping off the shelves at me started to suck me into the whole early-Christmas thing. Heck, it’s been a long and challenging year and now I’m older and tired-erer-er, time passes faster – I’m ready for sparkly lights and mulled wine… Bring it on!

So we had a little light dinner in Yo Sushi as a kind of “Yay! It’s December!” treat…

…bought Gabs some new felt-tip pens as his two hours a day of obsessive solar-system drawing wears them out, and squeezed onto the bus home.

It’s not exactly decorated, but our kitchen feels a trifle Christmassier than before and while I made dinner with a glass of prosecco we listened to some of my favourite carols:

I have to confess that there have been years where I’ve listened to ‘Carols from Kings’ on my iPod in secret from about late October onwards in bursts of forward-looking, won’t Christmas be great when it gets here induglence… But I had the decency to hide it and even in years when I reigned myself in until the beginning of advent I still got told, “Turn it off, it’s too early!!” So I reeeeally don’t think I’m imagining this pronounced shift in cultural norm when I scroll down my facebook feed and see ten or more pictures of my friends’ kids gazing wistfully at their magically-lit trees and work Christmas party photos… Yes, that’s right… Christmas parties that have ALREADY HAPPENED, meaning they must have happened in November. (Really? You’re going off work now?!) You know it’s a bit bonkers when I – childlike, excitable little elf at Christmas time that I am, who usually has to pretend not to be in the Christmas spirit already, tutting and rolling my eyes at the jingly music with the rest of them – find myself completely behind. Behind with the presents and the decorations and the merriment and the tasty mince-meat related foods. But for the most part, I quite like this new trend. I’m bored of the recession and being drab and complaining about the weather and now December can be a long, steady steam-roller of a relaxed journey into Christmas, with more time to chill and enjoy it all in between bursts of organising, and rather less of the “no, not yet.. no, no it’s too early, no, turn off those carols…OK, it’s NOW! Go, go, go!” panicking that gets foisted on me every other year.

Happy December 2013 Everyone, It’s Christmas-Time!

I love …

Being home alone in my flat on a quiet, rainy afternoon (happens rarely)

My husband, who wants me to be free and have a creative life and work I love

My gorgeous boys

A hot bubble bath

Walking in Regent’s Park

Autumn in London

To have peace and quiet to cook in my kitchen with a glass of red wine and the radio on

Me and my two boys snuggling up to watch a DVD in bed

A quiet cappuccino and a copy of Red magazine

Lavender – the plant and the smell

Trips down memory lane via photo albums

Acting class

Clean white cotton bedding, especially if I didn’t have to put it on the bed myself

Morning coffees made by my Dad in Cornwall, with my feet up, overlooking the sea

Long family drives with Remus and the boys… could be going anywhere, as long as we’re all out together, which is rare!

Dinner out with my husband – again, rare!

Watching my boys play in the garden

Long chats with Mum & Dad on the phone

An exciting project to work on

Buying presents for my children

Planning children’s birthdays and Christmas

Planning concerts

Drinking champagne with good friends

What things do you love, big or small?